checkmate

March 15, 2011 § 1 Comment

$3.73 can buy you a bus ticket to Meknes, but if you toss in an additional $1.86, you can make it to the mountain town of Azrou. A pittance for a weekend getaway. Every now and then, time away from computers, porcelain toilets, and warm weather can be just what the doctor ordered (except that now I’m back, I’m feeling a little under the weather). With two exceptions, it was a relaxing handful of days. I very much appreciated being hosted by Ilias’ friends and family, but on the second night it put me in a strange position. How do you argue with someone who has welcomed you into their home, given you a bed and food? After the ritual evening chess match, the father of the family took the concept of a direct, inescapable attack on the enemy’s king to a different level: Obama and an abrupt, “is there democracy in the United States?” I’ve never been good with letting rhetorical questions pass unchallenged, so I tested the waters by an indirect critique of Moroccan political freedom. Somewhere between his comparison of the current Libyan revolution to the American Civil war, his positing that “blacks” in the US don’t have all of their rights (based on the film Malcolm X), and his hypothesis that in the 1980s the United States instituted political shifts in EVERY African state, I gave up arguing. When he accused all Americans of supporting the state of Israel, I laughed at the irony of the summer of overtime shifts I used to finance my trip for the purpose of better understanding another way of life. I don’t think I could change his mind about Americans. He seemed like the type of guy who would’ve been known by his initials as young kid, and who would’ve dabbed on a bit of stale cologne before going to class and drawing on the desks. I’m guessing he’s spit sunflower seeds at some point, and he’ll do it again. He was a man with cemented ideas, so I let it be, thanked the wife for dinner and went to bed.
The next guy wasn’t so lucky. An old friend of Ilias invited us to coffee, and ended up getting an earful of unpolished sermon on gender equality. I tried not to be too harsh, but when someone says that God gave men more strength than women, the legacy of a billion marginalized women lashes out.

Meknes water reservoir

mcdonalds drive-thur

for sale

underground prison where they filmed parts of The Passion of Christ

Moulay Driss mosemleum

atlas

azrou

We returned in a whirlwind, hopping the 4am bus to Rabat so we could make it to our respective appointments. My hair still dripping from the downpour, I stammered out a brief explanation of my project to my internship director and a visiting UNESCO woman. I talked about the interviews of the weekend, hot off the press. Compared with approaching university students who are generally talkative and open, finding uneducated girls, or rather not current students, willing to be interviewed has been somewhat complex. I only did 6 interviews, but I’m proud to say I conducted them all in Arabic! I still don’t understand all of the responses, but slowly I’m becoming more easily understood. That doesn’t mean the interviews pass snag-free. I brought my tape recorder on our 22-km hike, just in case. We crossed paths with a mother and her children. At 16 years of age, left school after a few years of primary, both parents illiterate, I desperately wanted to interview the girl. She was extremely skeptical and sensitive, and I think I almost blew it when my batteries died. In any case, I think it will have been one of my most meaningful interviews, when I finish the translation. The other interviews of this past weekend were mostly with girls in their 20s who have finished their studies and are working.

Ahead, another trip. This time, I’m heading to Tiznit, the pearl of the Moroccan South. And yesterday I told my landlord that I want to move, so I’m back on the house hunt.

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