Day in the life

October 23, 2010 § Leave a comment

No time to be original today because we’re putting in windowpanes in my room and changing out my bed for a smaller one! Most exciting part of the day so far, Aoufiya and I were moving my wardrobe and talking about the cockroaches when all the sudden, WHAM! The caulking gun fell off the top of the wardrobe and hit me in the face, knocking off my glasses and giving me a small gash. With yellow stars circling around my head like an outwitted cartoon, I made sluggish steps to my bathroom for some toilet paper. Aoufiya quickly fetched a different remedy, black pepper. So far, the pepper and pressure seem to have stopped the bleeding, but Aoufiya keeps scolding herself for letting me help move the furniture. I try telling her that its mushi mushkin but she still feels guilty.

Yesterday, I kicked off my field research for my undecided topic in women’s studies by carefully shadowing Aoufiya from 9am to 9pm. Sorry for the bland recap, but here’s 12 hours of shadowing Aoufiya:

I had gotten up at 7 and convinced Robert to walk along the beach as I ran up and down the jetty, ran circles past the beachfront, and did 2 steps of hills up the ramp to the Kasbah. That might seem like a lot, but it was probably only about 25 minutes at best. Anyway, by the time I had gotten back and showered and upstairs for breakfast, Aoufiya had already made sure the kids were off to school, set out bread and coffee for breakfast, started the couscous, and was peeling vegetables. She called for Hamedi, and he brought her a bowl of water. She’s happy that I want to learn to cook. However, learning the secrets of Moroccan cuisine is just an added bonus, my primary target is to observe female daily life.

After working on the couscous for a bit, she grabs her foulard (headscarf) and we head out the door. She notices the empty trash bin on the street and runs it back inside the house. The we’re off to get more vegetables for lunch and dinner. On the way to the market, she points out a “bad man” and the shop where she pays the electricity and internet bills. Just outside the Marché Centrale we see a delivery truck unloading. Aoufiya walks to the back of the truck and buys 6 cartons of milk, directly from the distributor. We walk into the market and I watch, half-repelled and half-mesmerized, as a butcher hacks off 50 dirham’s worth of meat from an enormous carcass hanging from the ceiling. He shows Aoufiya checks the cut, she nods excitedly and looks at me with a smile as if to say, “isn’t it wonderful?” I gulp, but have to admit it’s a good-looking chunk of meat. We move on to a produce stand.

He's asking me for money for taking his picture

We detour on our return trip down a side alley for potatoes, cabbage, squash and bananas. Further along, we drop off our groceries at a street side morning food cart serving Moroccan crepes and rounds of a hearty cornbread-esque thing that I love. Aoufiya buys me one, and the women sliced it and smother it with something like nutella. We go into a hospital because Aoufiya has been complaining of back pain. She gets her blood sugar checked. I’m not as squeamish as I might be otherwise because I just watched a man saw off a piece of dead cow.

Back at home, the couscous is ready to be oiled and buttered again before we chop and add the rest of the vegetables. In between steaming sessions, Aoufiya offers the woman renting the lower level a ride to the taxi depot. They have been staying here while their house in Salé is being remodeled.   After parking, we grab some steel wool for dishes and some shial, brown couscous, at my request. I don’t want to give away all the secrets to couscous, but it went a little something like this: 

a ripped plastic bag gets wrapped around to trap the steam

brown couscous

about to get fluffed, oiled, and buttered

brown couscous

When it was finally plated and served, Aoufiya was disappointed because Hamedi hadn’t brought any guests home. She was appeased a few minutes later, when Hamedi’s friend Khalid showed up. The comment I knew would come sooner or later, Khalid said I was ready to be married to a nice Moroccan man.  Aoufiya came to my rescue, “La, he-ya habibi zwayn fee amrika” and I nodded and  “Nam! nam!”ed my way to safety. After the plates were cleared, Aoufiya got ready to go to the hammam. I had no desire to get my skin scoured, especially since I had already showered that morning. But not wanting to loose track of her, I escorted her to the hammam and posted up in a café down the street with some Arabic vocabulary. For the first time since I’ve been here, I ordered strictly in Arabic.

شاي بنعناع بيدون السكر و كاس ماء

We also started a tagine for dinner. At one point, she deserted me in the kitchen while she started to rearrange the lower level. For about 25 minutes I was alone with a pairing knife and 2 kilos of ginger-shaped potatoes. At one point, while hauling a rug up the stairs, she turned to where I was in the kitchen and said “Be careful, the water” which I later learned meant “add 2 cups of water and chopped parsley to the tagine pot”. The tagine cooking went something like this:

dicing the onion


To which you add:

peel these

chop this

After dark but before dinner, we hopped in the car to Salé, but the people we wanted to see weren’t home. On our way back, we stopped to visit another family in the Mella, the old Jewish quarters that today is a sketchier section in the outskirts of the medina. They also weren’t home. On our walk back to the car, Aoufiya grabbed my arm saying “shor-tah, shor-tah” I thought that meant we were running from a police man, but quickly found that we were running to walk directly behind the police man for added security.

you've got something in your ear!

Not much else to report from yesterday, other than dinner and watching Diablo, Morocco’s beloved Spanish soap opera. At tea, I got shuma! ‘d for taking a picture of these pastries without presenting them on a plate.


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