Sunday, November 28, 2010

Dining and hosting are experiences that I am beginning to cherish here. We often go to each others homes or invite others to our house to eat. These times are full of laughter and stories which make memories. We also thoroughly enjoy the process of preparing meals for each other. We are learning the art of the N. African meal. The photo of the full table is from a meal prepared a few weeks ago. We began with cakes and pastries with tea. Next, we had salad and afterward we served the main dish chili con carne with breads. Last, we shared fresh fruits. The meals here are flavorful and nutritious. The meals are full of foods from the five food groups and the balance is great! We need to take the opportunity to expand our list of new recipes...meaning try to use the pressure cooker...dun dun dun! Ha ha ha The other photos are from a local restaurant that serves French cuisine the presentation of the dishes was so aesthetically appealing that we had to take pictures to attempt replicating some of the food arrangements. Will post that when we have new experiences to share. I now understand a little more of what Hebrews refers to when it says "Don't give up meeting together...spur each other on to love and good deeds..." well who would have thought that food would provide such experiences of togetherness.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A need to Communicate

In the past two weeks I have had experiences that make me very curious about the culture where I live. There seems to be this desperate need for the local people here to communicate with my roommate and I as we walk about the town. The means with which communication is attempted often leaves us scratching our heads, frustrated, or bursting in laughter, but often after all of the initial shock has faded we are often bewildered due to the sporadic timing of these gestures of 'kindness'. Here are a few examples of attempts at communication:

Last week while eating dinner at a corner cafe two boys approached our table selling DVDs, pocket tissues, key chains, etc. we smiled and said no thank you. The boys walked away and return 20 minutes later, the older boy lingered at our table asking us to buy goods from him and as we were telling him we would rather not the little boy walks up behind my chair and pinches the back of my neck and runs across the street as I let out a surprised yelp and the waiter yells at the little boy from inside the restaurant lobby. I rubbed my neck and looked across the street and the little boy smiled a mischievous smile and stood there watching us as we finished eating our food. What was he really trying to say to me? Was he upset that I wouldn't buy from him? Did he want me to chase him? Did he want to play? Did something about my response before the pinch communicate that pinching was appropriate? The others with me just shook their heads and chuckled to themselves.

The other day my roommate and I were walking in the Medina and a small man said "Hello!" We kept walking as he tried to block our way. He then said, "You will not answer me....Why?" Walking after us he then said, " Hey, it is my color..." Then directing his words at me he said,"Wait, YOU are my of my will not answer me....." as we walked away. We often do not speak to men on the street here unless we know them from work or through friends due to our commitment to respect the culture and wisdom, but what was this man wanting? Why did he single me out? Could it be that this man wanted more than just a hello, but a full on conversation? If he wanted a warm greeting, why didn't he approach us in a different manner? What judgments will he make in the future of foreigners who don't speak to him on the streets?

Another man in the Medina greeted us at the large main door saying, "Hello! You are welcome here! Hey Mama Africa.....Jamaica.........Rasta.........Hey Rasta.." as he faded into the crowd behind us....I didn't know why he found it necessary to call out to me. Why does my ethnicity drive him to act in such ways? What response does he want from me? Why didn't he say anything to my roommate who was walking with me?

In the rug shop one of the helpers wanted to know if my roommate and I knew what the word "gazella" meant, and we told him that we did. This was after a few minutes of over hearing a conversation between the shop owner and the helper which was all about how beautiful we were. When the shop owner realized that we understood what he was saying he shhhhhshed the helper and told him "Shhh.....these girls know a little Arabic!" and laughed out loud and proceeded to ask me if I was Muslim. What was his point? Do these men tell every woman who enters the shop that they are beautiful? Do they ask every woman who enters the shop if she's Muslim?

Another young shop owner saw my roommate and I and watched us come down the road and said," Come to my shop and see many things! You will find nice things there." When we said "Not today, Thank you." He continued to gesture and tell us to come in with command in his voice. As we walked away he said "Ok another time..... see you later alligator, after while crocodile! You are welcome.....I like your body!!!!" We walked faster and decided to take a different route home. What did he really want to say to us? Did he think that his comments would really get us to come into his store and buy goods?! Who taught him colloquial phrases? Could he have been more convincing with a different tone or words?

Last Friday, my friends and I were walking to get candy at a corner store and we saw other friends we knew at the corner before our destination so we hugged them and kissed their cheeks excitedly when all of a sudden a group of young boys walked by mocking our words and expressions. As we continued to greet our friends the boys began yelling and laughing and one boy picked up a few small rocks and threw them. One of the rocks hit my hand. As I tried to figure out what happened the boys all turned to look at us with surprised looks on their faces pointing to each other to place the blame on the other boys. What did they want? Did they think that we were too loud? Did they want to talk to us? Did our language sound funny to them?

These mysteries of communication still boggle my mind....we'd like to think that having so many people wanting to interact with us would be a positive thing but sometimes we just don't get it.......

One experience last week made the difference! My roommate and I went into a clothing store in our neighborhood that we walk pass everyday on our way to and from school. We wave at the shop keeper and she always smiles. She often laughs as we gape at the new clothing in the window. We point as we walk by and give thumbs up at the new line or an ensemble that we like and she always smiles. On Friday we went into this shop and she greeted us warmly and made suggestions for us holding up the latest fashions, and since we didn't seem to excited about her choices or the prices of those choices she mentioned that there was a sale to get rid of all of the old collection in the store. So she then showed us clothing with 50 percent reductions of the original prices. We tried on a few items and had a few laughs as she patiently waited for us to make decisions or give pointers about what would look best with our figures etc. When we finally made a decision to buy one item, she was so ecstatic that she just grabbed the two nearest shirts near her from the sale rack and said, "Take for each of you....a gift!" We were so overtaken with her kindness and tried to refuse, but she wouldn't take them back and told us to go with health. We left smiling and she introduced me to a little boy who kept running in and out of the store and we told her that we would have to come back someday and shop again, which she welcomed. We enjoyed her kindness and hospitality...she didn't allow us to stand but made places for us to sit, made conversation with us about fashion and where we were from. This experience was more like what we are accustomed to in terms of communication. Why was this experience such a contrast to the other attempts at communication over the past two weeks? She did not inquire about my ethnicity, I wonder why?

I guess the better question would be: What do I communicate with my words and actions daily? How are they perceived? Are my attempts to communicate misconstrued as well?
More pondering to come...

Monday, September 27, 2010

New Reptile friend on the Kitchen Window, Old Friends at School, New Developments in my Life

More Questions

So I went back home for the summer and had time to reflect on spending 9 months or so and I have decided that I can't help but ask more questions than I did last year. I came with the mind set of being hard and soft like water and I was convinced that I was going to be water upon the rocks of everyday life making an impact for positive change, but what if I wasn't the water at all last year....what if I was the rock in need of the water?! What if this is the case again this year?

I often think that being away from home is an opportunity to see myself and others through a different lens. No masks, no excuses, no sugar coating....being away makes everything REAL! I have had the best conversations over the past few months with friends and family who are ecstatic about taking new risks and trying new things. So much changed over nine months. Will this nine months be similar?

My attention feels divided this year as I focus on being the best teacher that I can be, while balancing contact with friends and family and constantly learning new tidbits or nuggets everyday in a new culture. Recent changes in my life have made me value divided attention and realize that divided attention is inevitable in life and that I like everyone else can learn to enjoy finding the rhythm in this balance.

Other random questions:

What do you do when you are teaching and you look up and see a child eating her markers?
Answer: You praise someone else who is listening and you try to contain yourself from laughing until you get a moment to burst out laughing on your own time.

What do you do when you mistake 1 on the oven for 5?
Answer: You apologize to your roommate and eat the tops of the burnt cookies! ha ha ha ha ha

How do you react when you see a toddler (less than two) crawling up the roof of a vehicle parked in the middle of traffic?
Answer: Thank the heavens that a man came to get the toddler before disaster struck.

Why would a teenage boy walk into a fabric store carrying a flaming napkin?
Answer: beats me!

How can I better appreciate my concierge who shows up at random hours and asks everytime "Were you sleeping?" and then gives us a language lesson that he wrote down in a notebook (French-Arabic), attempts to rearrange the appliances in our kitchen because he doesn't like the set up unannounced, or drags tree branches through the apartment 4 days in a row from a tree that fell a month ago?
Answer: We smile, nod, and say thank you (oh and we tip him too!)

What do you do with a three foot piece of tree that juts out of the patio wall?
Answer: Decorate it for the holidays! (Pictures to come soon!)LOL

How can I be prepared to respond to people on the street who ask for money at almost every corner?
Answer: Give when I have and be faithful in giving.

How can I make the most of the next nine months?
Answer: ...still figuring this one out, but pretty sure I am already..well most days....

New Recipes Cooked Successfully:
1. Chili Con Carne II
2. Crepes (with nutella and bananas)
3. Stir Fry with Eggplant/Green beans
4. Spanish Rice
5. Chewy Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies (boyfriend cookies)
Check out this website below to know the story behind the cookies ha ha ha

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Settling in for year two in N. Africa....

It has been nice to be back but there have been some unexpected new adjustments. I moved into a new apartment, which I like, but I am still figuring out a few items of business.

1. Where do you put your trash?
Answer: At 9pm put it outside your door and it disappears (seriously the concierge picks it up and takes it to the dumpster).

2. What to do when your shower is cold?
Answer: This question is still unsolved, but the 100 degree temperature makes the showers more bearable.

3. What to do when a tree falls down into your patio?
Answer: The concierge will move it after Ramadan which will be another week.

4. What to do when you find a little furry friend in your kitchen?
Answer: Scream and yell until it climbs out the window!

5. Where do you go when everything is closed during Ramadan?
Answer: Your own kitchen or Mc Donald's

6. How many times can you almost get hit by a bus?
Answer: Apparently three times if we count today! Crossing the streets is not as difficult in the states!

7. Who is in charge of traffic when there is an accident?
Answer: No one! Everyone just yells and honks!

8. What is the best little snack to accompany meals?
Answer: CRAX ( a light floury treat with seasoning that tastes like a bullion cube)

9. How many F'tours can you go to in a week?
Answer: Three! We went to share the breaking of the fast with three families who fed us well. The tables were covered with delicious harrira, pizza, Malawi, and sweets.

10. How many times can you be welcomed in one day?
Answer: Still working on that one, it happens countless times on the streets. Most of the time it puts us at ease, but other times we just have to wonder what the motive behind the kind gesture might mean.

11. What do you do when taxi driver with an empty taxi tells you no when you ask him to take you somewhere?
Answer: Just stand there looking helpless or grumpy until he wheels back and waves his hand at you to get in!

Despite these many questions I am extremely excited about this upcoming school year! The new teachers are enthusiastic and we feel such a sense of unity, despite the short time we have been together. It has been fun showing them around and teaching them the ropes at the school. It is nice to be a veteran now (well kind of)!...more to come...

Friday, July 16, 2010


So I have been back in the states for almost a month and am realizing just how LOVED I am by my family and friends! It's not that I didn't know that I was LOVED but every conversation seems so fresh, new, rich and time is flying by so fast that I just keep looking up and it's 11:00pm again. I have been able to take time to enjoy the things I missed over the year in random order:

1. ICEE s -( You know the one with the Polar Bear on it) oh and lemonade
2. Ham/ Bacon
3. Riding a bike
4. Running at any hour of the day I choose :)
5. Good Pizza
6. Chicago
7. Standing in a line without being yelled at or cut in front of...
8. AC- but sometimes it's just cranked up too high and I am freezing
10. BBQ
11. Wearing shorts
12. crossing streets and not fearing for my life
13. naps
14. Humidity- ha ha never thought I'd say that
15. getting errands accomplished quickly
16. dancing in public- oh yeah watch out now?!
17. English- a break from constantly trying to say things correctly in another language
18. Public parks to read in /walk through/ picnic in
19. Public Libraries!
20. Lake Michigan- BEACH!
21. My guitar
22. Mr. Hatchett- pet frog R.I.P (died right before I returned)
and the list goes on. I have had a chance to reconnect so easily with family, hold my new nephew, ride in new vehicles, play and sing music, and most importantly play music with the people dearest to me. I have also been able to meet up with friends that had a year full of interesting challenges, triumphs, etc. The entire time that I am able to spend time with those who know me best I am overwhelmed with gratitude and joy at the fact that these people have always been there and will most likely be there when I return from just about anywhere. They are there to embrace me and hear the stories that I don't get to always share about the experience. They are there to teach me about the things that have changed or things that I have missed. They are there to help me reflect and prepare for another year overseas. They are there to remind me of who I am and why I do the things I do each day. They are there to question the aspects of my life that have recently changed. They are there to pray with me for guidance. They are there to make me laugh until I cry. I am so blessed to be a part of so many wonderful peoples lives. I just hope that I am and will be just as good a friend to them as they have been to me. My mom would always say, " A friend LOVES at all times." and this is true of so many. I thank God and all of those closest to my heart!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Rude Awakening

When I first arrived here we were often awaken by a rooster at about 4:30am without fail until the rooster was most likely used for someones dinner. Months of mornings without the rooster's charming calls has been wonderful, however, about a month ago we have acquired new friends. Yes, there are pigeons who are about the size of chickens who fly into the rod iron caging around my window to make the most bizarre noises I have ever heard. The crazy part is that the pigeons don't come everyday just at those times when I need sleep the seems. My roommates and I have grown accustomed to shaking the window or banging on the window in order to get the pigeons to leave, but they often forget how to get out of the rod iron structure and take several attempts to get out. One of my roommates just told me that there are usually two pigeons in her window in the morning and one day she looked out after they had flown away and there was a large pile of q-tips on her window seal. We figured that they were going to build a nest. My roommate, after receiving counsel (LOL), decided to brush the q-tips off of the ledge quickly to avoid being awaken by little pigeons. I keep trying to imagine the shock on the pigeons faces when they returned to see pieces of their barely constructed house scattered all over the ground below. She still gets serenaded in the mornings and sometimes it's so loud that it wakes me up as well. Maybe it's their revenge. I never even knew that pigeons sang! Ha ha ha I will try to record the pigeon wake up call and post it, so you can hear too! :)