health hazard

November 7, 2010 § Leave a comment

They (meaning the experts) told us that the plastic in our water bottles would give us cancer; so we switched to kleen kanteens. They told us the charred hull on our marshmallows was full of carcinogens; so we made sure not to burn our hamburgers either. Smoking causes lung cancer; so we enforced state-wide restrictions. Sugary foods cause diabetes and carbs make you fat; so we guilt ourselves away from Dunkin’ Doughnuts and opt for Jamba Juice.

None of that is applicable here. Cigarette smoke is as inescapable as gravity, the common cold, or Oprah. Last night I analyzed the opacity of our drinking water that we drank from of an old plastic olive oil bottle as we used hunks of white bread to grab hefty pieces of generously singed meat off a platter. I was sitting in the upper-level of a crowded dive-restaurant with Meryem, Aoufiya, and 3 other female relatives. We were directly above the kitchen, and at the end of our meal, my clothes reeked of meat.

Before our late-night meal, we had come from the Mohamed V Theatre for a program in honor of the 1975 Green March, commemorating Morocco’s annexation of the Western Sahara. If I had known what I was clapping for, I would have kept quiet.

There was a brief history of Morocco, excluding of course the years of lead and other politically sensitive subjects:

Some Allahuakbar’ing…

And of course, a dance party erupted with some national favorites…

My 2nd grade teacher, in preparation for a field trip, made her expectations of “concert etiquette” explicitly clear. We were to be quiet, be angels, be respectful, and NOT be “an embarrassment.” There exist no such guidelines for Moroccan theaters. While the nature of the highly religious, highly patriotic show amused me, my attention was mostly occupied by the audience around me. House lights up or no, performers in their element or not, our congregation assumed a perpetual “audience participation” segment. Patrons of the theater may smoke, take videos, add their commentary, and answer cell phones. Except, of course, when the King was addressing the nation on the television to which everyone flocked before the seating began.

road block

Before that, Meryem, Aoufiya and I cashed in on the customary hospitality by stopping in at sister’s house for some sugary tea and biscuits, mostly because the food at the funeral party we went to wouldn’t be ready until 1am. Oh ya, the funeral party. We drove for 45 minutes to reach a neighborhood almost identical to Rabat. There was an enormous, empty tent set up in the middle of the street. Like most Moroccan houses, the tent was relatively plain on the outside, but elaborately carpeted on the inside.

We entered the house and made our rounds. I received more greeting cheek kisses by old ladies last night than I can count on my fingers and toes.  The only thing I could think about, as dozens of women sat in female solidarity along the low and lengthy couches, was having to endure the same cultural kisses on the way out. I don’t want to go into too much detail because there may be a “Part 2” today.

I don't even know where to start



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