October 20, 2010 § Leave a comment
Another October 19 came and went. 6 X 365= too many days of missing you, CRU.
Tuesday morning I got up for my second surfing lesson. I hardly consider 10am as the early morning, but graciously most beach-goers do. The past few times I’ve gone for a lesson, I’ve been the only one to show up, getting the instructor and the waves to myself. Ismael has the characteristic ease and patience that only years of surfing brings. He loves to laugh at me when I squint to see the waves without my glasses. After the wetsuit waddle back to the surf club, I hand over the board and leash and hit the showers. Encouraged by an inkling of progress on the swells, I was determined to successfully attend the class I’ve been chasing for the past few weeks. I caught an afternoon train to Kenitra with time to spare. Most days, I pay 50dh to Aoufiya for breakfast, lunch, tea, and dinner. When I skip a meal or two (as in the days I have class, meetings, want to eat at Lisa’s) then I get a bit of a price cut. As a rule of thumb, I try not to let myself spend more than I would have paid Aoufiya for any given meal; that’s 10dh at breakfast and 20dh for lunch and dinner. It’s a new favorite pastime to find filling, interesting meals on a dime. Sometimes I can’t help but use Rachel Ray’s “$40 a Day” adjectives to internally describe my food finds. Yesterday I found a new favorite lunch spot, near the station of Kenitra where I bummed a “yum-o” bowl of spicy lentils, bread and “e-v-o-o”, and fresh avocado juice, right on budget.
Belly full and muscles sore, I made my way to the correct building, at the correct time, for the correct class. Even with being absent for the first 3 lessons, it didn’t take long to realize that “Culture et Civilisation” is more or less a course globalization. To hear of such a topic in a country at such geographic, cultural, and social crossroads was a treat. The professor has asked me to share my thoughts on the country later on in the semester.
I’ll fulminate the French-influenced Moroccan pedagogy later, but for now, I owe you a story about taxis. The moment that the scores of commuters de-train, it’s a mad dash to the taxi zone. It’s really more of a war-zone or breeding grounds where the petite blue Peugeots are prime nesting real estate, and us travelers fight with each other as though the survival of our strange species depended on getting to the taxi first. The poor people trying to pay and get out of their taxi have it the worst as people desperate for a lift (myself included) claw our way in. Last week, embracing the “survival of the fittest” mandate, I sprinted off the platform and by snagged the first taxi in sight. My first clue was when the driver whistled at a friend to push on our car, giving us a rolling start. On the third turn of the ignition, the taxi sputtered to life and lunged forward, backfired twice, then came to a pitiful, wheezing halt. Defeated, I joined the other poorly adapted creatures on the verge of extinction and waited 20 minutes before my luck changed. The return trip didn’t treat me much better. A policeman waved my taxi over to the side of a crowded roundabout, and questioned the driver while I exchanged panicked looks with the other passenger. I’m not certain what his violation was, but after the policeman asked our destination, he grudgingly allowed us to get back into the taxi. Less than 2 minutes to the train station, the driver demanded to use my cell phone and waved at the other angry drivers to pass us. He gave me my phone back with a gruff Shokran to which I replied Baraka, yallah (essentially: “here’s fine, I’m out”). If my crazy taxi rides came with trivia questions and cash prizes I might be inclined to keep it up. For now I’ll be ok saving my cab-fare with a 25 minute walk to campus.
Today was another big school day. After my morning class I showed up to an empty UNESCO office. I was supposed to have gotten there at 10, but my “grammaire corrective” teacher kept us half an hour past our usual dismissal time. I eventually found Mme F.R., who had been waiting to give me some news and feedback. We had a funny dialogue where she told me about some upcoming conferences and I asked her about repudiation. By the end of our conversation, I had a better idea of what’s expected from me. I am to decide what I want to research and report on with the understanding that my theme of choice will incorporate the Moudawana and women and culture and inter-religious notions and citizenship etc., etc. etc., and is something requiring field research and observations. She would very much like me to exploit my residency in the medina, one of the more traditional neighborhoods in the city. And of course, there’s the random translation work she’ll be sending me. I don’t want to be too objective, but it seems my biggest asset is having the eyes of an outsider, but the relative phenotype of a local. I read different UN reports in the office for the bulk of my 4-hour time gap with a small mug of instant coffee and a dictionary. They claim we’ll have wi-fi soon.
1:30 rolled around, and I finally found a chance to grab some lunch as the UNESCO secretary kicked me out so she could perform the afternoon prayers. For the first time, I didn’t have enough time to leave campus to get lunch. My stomach didn’t allow me much deliberation, so I ordered the first thing on the menu at the school snack bar, an omelette sandwich. While I was waiting, a short, veiled girl tapped my arm and told me in French to wait for her after I got my food. I got my sandwich, AKA french fries and an egg in a hoagie roll, and stood off to the side. That’s how I met my new friend, Soukaina. We picnicked on our sammies while she told me all about her interest in English and her farm in the country. Before I told her anything about myself, she told me “I want very much to be best friend“. If she were a boy I might have said “Whoa whoa whoa, let’s not rush things!” but since she’s a cheerful girl I said I’d love to. All too soon, it was time to take off for my second class so I reluctantly swallowed the rest of my french fry sandwich and gave Soukaina my phone number. She doesn’t have a computer or a cell phone, but promised to get a hold of me this weekend or next so I can accompany her to her parent’s orange and tomato farm, possibly for the upcoming holiday.