Monday, December 14, 2009

Top 12 for settling in.... (cont.)

59. So I loved it when the taxi driver on Friday told my roommate and I on Friday night, "I am glad that I can help you today...did you know that I am the ONLY taxi driver here who speaks English?! I will take you where I you are going and you are very beautiful yes! How is my English?! I can speak French, English, Spanish and more, but just for communication... I am the only taxi driver who speaks English here, yes?!" My roommate and I laughed as he confidently boasted about his multilingual skills. As we drove we were behind a bus that unbeknown to the bus driver was carrying four roller blading teenage boys who were slapping the sides of the bus while their friends aboard the bus looked back and laughed at them. The taxi driver then said,"....take out your camera get a can be like a journalist...the traffic here is crazy...." I wanted to take a picture, but the bus and our taxi was swerving from side to side and the driver suddenly put on the breaks and cursed in English! LOL We finally reached our destination and the taxi driver wished us a good time in the city and much success. LOL

60. Last Friday I attended a wedding of two coworkers. I realized quickly ( 30 minutes into the reception) that I should have taken a moment to rethink the three shirts and long john's worn under my keftan to keep from being cold. As soon as the almond milk and dates were served we all started dancing and with so many people in a confined space the temperature rose rapidly! The wedding was beautiful and I am so glad that I had a chance to be a part of such a blessed event.

61. I am making friends here that remind me of my friends and family members back home. I never thought that would happen, but it is helping me adjust in a new culture.

62. I am learning new words from my students each day. They really enjoy correcting my broken French and my Arabic (Darija).

63. Everyone in my neighborhood speaks to my roommates and I as we pass in the street. Our neighbor who lives above us loves to stop us in the street or on the stairs to invite us to tea at the moment she sees us which always seems to be at an inconvenient time for both of us....when she recognizes this she says in Arabic (Darija) '....wa ha incha allah...'which means 'ok! God willing!' we will have tea with her.

64. So there is some semblance of Christmas here! My friend went to Marjane (the equivalent of Walmart here LOL) and found that they have a small section at the end of the household isle with tinsel, lights, ornaments...and a plastic Christmas tree! The sad reality is that I have decided not to purchase one due to my roommates plans to travel over the winter break.

65. I will make short day trips to neighboring towns over the winter break but I also plan to do the following in this order:
1. get my hair trimmed and styled by a trusted beautician (cross your fingers for me! LOL)
2. finish writing postcards to my friends and family
3. celebrate the holidays with new friends here
4. play and sing my guitar at a Christmas program (wish me luck :)
5. buy meat for the first time from a butcher's shop in my neighborhood instead of taking a taxi to a convenience store 10 minutes away from my apartment
(wish me luck again!)
6. read the two books that a friend loaned me a while ago (The World is Flat and another written by Brenda Salter McNeil)
7. plan a trip to Paris to meet my sister over Spring Break.
8. find a shoe store that sells shoes in my size. (see #66 below)
9. cook a new recipe (Tagine, Cous Cous, a new dessert!?)
10. skype with friends
11. pray for my future plans
12. journal
13. read up on ancient history (Mesopotamia, Egypt, and China) to teach my students in January
14. catch up on email
15. catch up on world news
16. wander through the Medina for apartment decorum
17. try a new food in town
18. go on a winter hike in the atlas mountains
19. run on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean again (Rabat)
20. learn more Arabic (Darija) and review French

66. So I went to buy shoes because my shoes that I brought with me from Illinois have taken a beating on the city streets... Some roads are paved and some of the streets have gaping holes or uneven sidewalks my shoes are not holding up to well. Last week I went to the Medina and a shoe salesman kept handing me shoes that were a fashion faux pas and too small for my feet yet he insisted that I try them I did and they did not fit. I kept asking for a bigger size and he said that he did not have another size larger. I asked him kindly to check once more and he came back and said that he would try his best to get shoes for my feet 'incha alla' ('God willing!') which basically means tough luck lady! LOL
I went to a neighboring shoe shop and I asked the young man for shoes in a size 43 here which apparently do not exist here! LOL He said, "This is N.Africa! N. African women have small feet!" So I said " mean to tell me that I will not be able to find any shoes for my BIG feet here?! anywhere?" He replied, "Miss, you can go to Spain...they will have shoes for you there." I turned to him and said, "Sir, I think that it would be good for your business if you ordered just a few larger shoes for all of the tourists and foreigners who come to this Medina, because all of them would know that you have BIG shoes for their LARGE feet and increase your sales!" He laughed and tried to find another shoe for me to no avail. So I left and have been told by friends that if I go to another business district in town I can have shoes specially ordered for my BIG feet! LOL If I find some shoes I will be sure to post a picture for you all! LOL

Monday, December 7, 2009

Top 12 for settling in... (continued)

31. There are so many correlations to life in N. Africa and the setting of the book of Acts.
32. The men at our local hanut and fruit stand insist on teaching us more Darija (Arabic) by asking us questions we don't know the answers to and laughing until through charades and broken French we finally figure it out. Who would have ever thought questions like, 'Where have you been? or Where are you going now? would be so difficult to understand. One night in particular the man at the fruit stand told me to put my money away quickly because there are people watching me who might steal. So I told the man in French that I appreciated his advice and that my God watches over me. He smiled and put his hand on his heart and said “hamdullah” which means thank God.
33. The Roman Ruins at Volubulis are so beautiful especially when the sun is setting and you can see the moon in the sky simultaneously.
34. Apparently my afro hairstyle is something to write home to mom about...while looking at the Roman Ruins a young man asked if he could take a picture with me. I told him that he could as long as he paid me 5 dirham. He laughed and thought I was joking. We took the picture then he started shuffling through his pockets. I laughed and told him the first picture was free. Ha ha ha!
35. Panache means "mix everything together" so Jus du Panache is a delicious smoothy and a sandwich panache is a sandwich with beef, turkey, chicken, etc. The two are not to be confused. LOL
36. When I asked one of the students at school if he had recess he replied, "Yes Miss. I have recess. I not lie because I not want to go to the fire!" I then told him that another reason why I hope that he wouldn't lie is because people won't be able to trust him if he lies. He nodded and walked away.
37. Another friendly greeting from the men on the streets here...
" Bon soir Les gazelles!"
"Hello. You speak English?! I can speak English better than you?!"
"Hello Spicegirls!" to which I said "Spicegirls?! What?!" Then he proceeded to say, "Oh well you are a different color of Spicegirl!" and I said "C'mon, is that really supposed to work. Idiot. You've got to be kidding me?!" ( which was rather harsh for me to say...I honestly don't know what came over me...guess it was a bad moment for him and I both...)
"I like black woman."

“ I like the curly!” a young man with gorgeous curly locks yelled across the Medina in reference to my hair.
"My heart? Where is my heart?"
Our all time favorites: "How are you fine!?" Hola! Ca va? Columbia?! Espagne?! Where are you from? Obama!"
38. Skype is easing my's that unexpected chat with friends and family that makes my day.
39. A few of my friends and I celebrated another friends birthday by singing and prayer on a hilltop in town behind McDonald's and out of the blue little boys came making kissing noises and laughing loudly. One of my friends proceeded to ask the boys what they wanted in Arabic and they said, “What are you all doing up here?” My friend then said, “We are listening to God? Would you like to join us?” So the boys were quiet and just stared at us while we sang and prayed and after a few moments my friend leaned over to the boys and whispered…. “so did you hear anything from God?” and they chuckled to themselves shaking their heads from left to right. Then the boys followed us for most of the rest of the evening… they were just staring at us as if we were the strangest people they had ever seen before….

The Chicken Bus

40. I have now learned after waiting for over and hour and a half that finding a petite taxi to the Medina on a Friday night is a test in patience that I failed miserably. The craziest part was that I was unable to get a taxi to meet friends for tagine (stew) and ended up taking a ‘chicken bus’ for the first time. The ‘chicken bus’ is usually overflowing with appendages and limbs hanging out of the windows because there are so many people riding along. I stood in front of the window and 6 dirham were placed into a tray while the attendant stared blankly at me as if to say ‘hurry up and move so other people can get on the bus’. I managed to find a handgrip hanging from the ceiling posed for a few pictures (I had to savor the moment of being less than two inches from all of the other passengers while trying not to fall over or knock someone else over as the bus lurched forward at each intersection). Then someone yelled “No pictures on the bus!” When I arrived at Bat ha I noticed everyone pulling out small slips of pink paper. I panicked because I realized that I didn’t have one and the bus driver was checking each passengers slip before letting them off of the bus. I turned to find the clerk, but the crowd was so large and everyone was shoving to get off so I walked forward and the driver requested my bus slip. I replied in English, “The clerk never gave me a ticket?!” The driver kindly asked me to speak in French, so I told him in French and he told me to wait near the bus seats with other stowaways who didn’t have the pink bus slip. After looking out of the window at my friends who were waiting at the bus stop and making faces at them to pass the time the driver begins to lecture all of the passengers who didn’t have pink bus slips. He was loud so I raised my voice and said in French that I paid but the clerk did not give me a pink slip. All of a sudden the bus clerk comes from the back of the bus that is now almost empty and yells,” NO! NO! NO! You did not PAY!” (in Arabic) I was filled with righteous indignation and began to yell back, “That is not true! I paid! YOU never gave me a slip! Why? Why?” (in French) Then the clerk proceeded to stand on the bus seat yelling that I did not pay while a baby grabs my braids and tugs quite hard. All of a sudden the bus starts rolling forward. I then began yelling, “Shnu brighti? (What do you want?) SAFI!?! (Enough!)” and then I just started yelling, “…. let me off of this bus! I don’t know where this bus is headed! I paid you! What do you want?!” Meanwhile my friends were chasing the bus and banging on the bus windows. After a few minutes the bus stopped and I pulled a few dirham out of my wallet which I hadn’t even counted and placed them in the drivers hand and bustled off of the bus infuriated that I had to pay double. I walked quickly away from my friends and let out a slight growl that probably sounded something like, “Aaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrgggggghh!” One of my friends offered me the chance to relieve my stress by punching him in the shoulder with the most serious expression on his face that I have ever seen. Then he said, “Oh Candace, I know let’s shadow box! You wanna shadow box?!” Then I burst out laughing so hard. ONLY in N. Africa right?! Gotta love the transportation here! So now every time I ride the ‘chicken bus’ or any bus for that matter I am always sure to get a bus slip so that I don’t get busnapped again! LOL

41. I now know that ‘chicken buses’ are good for one thing. Before the fiasco with the bus slip occurred I was standing close to a girl who spoke English and asked if I was from the UK. I told her no and she proceeded to tell me that she was a student studying English and business. She had a bus slip by the way and disappeared into the Medina…thirty minutes after we got to the Medina we saw her walking down a corridor and she ran up and kissed my cheeks and grabbed my hands and was so happy to see me again ‘instant friends’. Later that week I was walking home from work and I saw her again. She gave the kisses and handshakes again and then we exchanged phone numbers so that we could meet at a cafĂ© in the future. She was very helpful and gave me advice about living in town. I guess bonding with strangers on the ‘chicken bus’ is a good thing and therefore I have decided to try it again sometime soon!

42. Who knew that bed sheets could be used as a table cloth!

43. Saying goodbye to people in the community has become common practice. The town where I live is a language center for many students. So as soon as you begin to get to know someone they have to return to their country or another country to use the language they learned here. So I am learning how to say ‘see you later’ as I hope to travel to visit some of the friends that I have made who share many common interests.

44. Who knew that Christmas gel clings could bring so much joy to my heart!

45. I have started running in the mornings after receiving my running shoes in the mail from IL in preparation for a half marathon. I have two options, a race in Marrakech in January or in Casablanca later in the Spring. Marrakech is flatter, but the spring will be warmer hmmmm….. As I run I often want to hold my breath when the buses, cars, and mopeds go speeding by with a trail of black smoke behind or thick gray smoke that results from burning trash which happens every few days. The haze of pollution hangs in the air like fog sometimes and that haze is residing in my lungs every time I go running. I am still processing the pollutions effect on my goal time. LOL

Taxis: Part II

46. My roommates taxi driver noticed that her family members who were visiting from the states were writing down the taxi number when she got into the taxi just in case something were to happen to her on her way home. The taxi driver leaned over and asked my roommate “Are they writing down the taxi number?” She told the taxi driver that her family was writing down the taxi number. So he stepped on the gas, peeled out into a U-turn, rolled down the window and yelled, “ I am going to kidnap her!!!” and he sped off with his tires screeching all the way to our apartment swerving and driving recklessly. When she arrived home she told me the story and said that after such a crazy ride she wasn’t sure if she should have paid him taxi fare but to reduce any chance of further drama she just paid and quickly departed the taxi! Only in N. Africa!

47. I was on my way to a friend’s house for dinner and told a taxi driver the name of the pharmacy nearest to her house and the taxi driver agreed to take me to the location. After about 10 minutes or so he pointed his finger toward a pharmacy and said something in Arabic that I couldn’t understand, but I knew that the pharmacy he pointed to was not the name that I had told him at the beginning of the taxi ride. The taxi driver pulls over and keeps pointing at the pharmacy building. I called my friend and she had no idea where I was and told me to take another taxi. So I hailed another taxi and this driver nodded as if he knew where the pharmacy was but after about 15 minutes my friend called asking where I was while the taxi driver took my phone and repeatedly asked her to tell him the name of the pharmacy. After another 10 minutes he said, “You have the personality of an American. Where are you from?” I didn’t know if this was a complement or not so I told him that I was an American. He looked puzzled and said, “But you speak French and you are American?!” I then told him that many people in America speak more than one language. Then he tells me that he has travelled to many places including Russia. He said he worked for the fishing and boating industry there years ago. So I began speaking the little Russian I remembered from years ago and his face lit up and he replied in Russian. We finally reached the correct destination 15 dirhams later and I saw my friend walking to meet me. Only in N. Africa would you be able to speak Darija (Arabic), French, English, and Russian in one taxi ride. LOL

Christmas Special

47. a. Tonight we were in a taxi and our taxi driver was very quiet for most of the ride. After he dropped off the older man who was sitting in the front seat he turned on the radio. The first song was Moroccan Pop music. Then, he scanned through a few stations until he found Mariah Carey’s All I want for Christmas is YOU Baby”!!! We started to laugh and sing along loudly and he just chuckled to himself as we said thank you and he picked up another passenger who I am not sure would have enjoyed the song as much as we did!

Visa Hop to Spain

48. In early November I went to Madrid, Spain due to delays in receiving necessary documentation to reside in N. Africa after 90 days. The following is a list of things I found interesting while site seeing:

When you are in a new city/country you must figure out a few things in order to settle in. For example, you must figure out:

-how the toilet flushes. (Do you push the silver knob? Do you twist the lever? Do you pull a chain? Do you just walk forward a little? Do you stand and wait to see if it worked? Do you pour more water down before you flush? What do you do if it gets clogged? What do you do if it overflows? Sometimes you just have to learn the hard way! LOL)

-how the keys work in the key hole. (Do you turn clockwise or counter clockwise? How many times do you turn the key? Do you hold the knob while turning the key? Do you pull or push while holding the knob? Do you turn the knob while turning the key? How do you lock the door from the inside? It looks easier than it really is I can tell you that! LOL)

-where the light switches are located in the room and how the light switches work. (Do you push the switch or turn the knob? Is the light switch on the wall outside or inside of the room you are entering? How do you turn off the lamp that appears to have no switch in plane view?)

I find figuring out these things quite entertaining especially when my roommate and I are laughing with tears streaming down our faces trying to find a solution to these necessary amenities. LOL

49. Street performers should be a staple in every town square. There was a painted person who looked as if they were frozen to a chair, a man crouched under a blanket of tinsel with the head and legs of a gazelle poking out from underneath who was wearing brand new white tennis shoes, a headless man, a man who blew humungous bubbles that went floating by on the street, an pleasantly plump Spiderman, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, a strange looking Winnie the Pooh, a cross dressing man painted green in funny clown clothes, a man playing classical guitar outside of the Prado, another man playing Alleluia by Jeff Buckley outside of the cathedral on a little amplifier, a woman singing Crazy by Patsy Cline on the metro with a little karaoke machine, a man playing the accordion on the metro, a mariachi band at Plaza de Mayor, and a man playing the xylophone on the metro for about four stops. What an interesting dedication to keeping people entertained as they walk the cobblestone streets of Madrid.

50. As of November 7th 2009 I have missed the second flight of my life. The delay to the airport was due to getting off of the Metro at the wrong terminal and having the correct shuttle blocked by a semi truck for a pain staking 10 minutes. Arrrghh! Another day in Spain wasn’t so bad after all. We made the most of it!

51. Gelato is still my favorite especially when it is served over a freshly made waffle with chocolate drizzled on top. Yummy!

52. I had a roasted chestnut for the first time. You know I think that Christmas song has highly overrated the taste! But, Jack Frost was in Spain that weekend nipping at my nose! LOL

53. There was a man on the Plaza de Sol with a Bible in hand yelling in Spanish, “Repent. You have a second chance! Make your decision today!” That was all the Spanish that my roommate was able to decipher as we walked by the Plaza. The interesting thing is that I have seen the exact same thing in Illinois and Indiana of course the men there were speaking English.

Back to N. Africa!

54. You know that you have arrived in N.Africa again when someone pushed you in line and yells, “Avance!!!!!” as you scramble to keep a good hold on your belongings and fill out an immigration from for the second time on your returning trip from Madrid.

55. La Petit Prince is a very interesting piece of literature. I am reading the book in French to help me understand what it must be like to be required to read and comprehend in another language that I am not proficient in speaking.

56. I am grateful for a washing machine, but sometimes I think that its alive and coming to get me as it bangs around loudly in the kitchen. Some nights I come into the kitchen after a load of laundry finishes and find the washing machine two feet away from the wall. I find it quite entertaining, but if this becomes too entertaining I think I’d better get out more.

57. Aid El K’bir has come and gone. I now know how this special day is celebrated in commemoration of Abraham’s sacrifice. I never knew how sheep were slaughtered or about the process of skinning a sheep, but now thanks to my neighbors I do! You can believe it, I was awaken to ‘baaaaaaaaa’ and bleating for almost a week! LOL I guess it wouldn’t have been so difficult to watch if there hadn’t been twelve sheep and if they hadn’t resided in the courtyard below my bedroom window for four days and if I hadn’t fed them apples from the window one morning, which made me sympathize with the poor animals because they had no idea what was going to happen to them in the days ahead, but I thought if they were going to go they might as well depart from this world with a full tummy! Good times! J

More to come………

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Ode to Audrey Hepburn...

While in Madrid I saw interesting fashion trends and styles. Boots with leggings, stockings or tights, shorts with suspenders, baggy hammer pants etc.... everyone men and women alike were dressed so fashionably (tres chic), but I never would have guessed that I would have seen Audrey everywhere! So I decided to dedicate this blog post to her (just for you Mindy!) Audrey was quite the actress in her day! I love her movies and her fashion sense. My favorite scene from Funny Face was the scene when she discovers "empathicalism" and dances out her feelings! I always feel like dancing like her when life
gets too stressful!

The Cathedral in Madrid, Spain

We traveled to Spain in early November due to delays with our immigration documentation. The temperature was considerably chilly when compared to the weather in N. Africa. So we bought hats scarves and gloves! We walked around Madrid and found little pastry shops and cafes. We ate churros con chocolate and tapas! It was amazing to see the difference in the architecture and the organized efforts of sanitation and cleanliness. But as we walked down one street we saw a large display of flowers dedicated to a patron saint and realized that we were outside of a cathedral. There was the faint noise of a man playing and singing 'Alleluia' by Jeff Buckley on a little guitar with an amplifier. We walked in and I was immediately struck by the beauty of the buttresse, carving, gold engraving, thrones, candles, statues, and multi-color stain glass window depicting Christ's life death and ressurection. The following pictures are a small glimpse of the wonderful aesthetics of the cathedral.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Top 12 for settling in continued...

13. It's funny walking down the streets and hearing men call out "Hello!" How are you,fine?" Africa Mama! Jamaica! Where are you from?" Obama...Michael Jackson!" Hola! Great you want some fish and chips?!" Do you need a tour guide?"
which I am learning to ignore, but some days it catches me off guard and I want to burst out laughing in their faces. So random!

14. I have an official farmers tan on my toes! Didn't know that could happen.

15. Fivelle the mouse wouldn't survive here because there are so many cats everywhere you go! If you know the song sing along," There are soooooooooooo many cats in N.Africa and the streets aren't filled with cheese!!!"

16. Entertainment includes walking down a lighted walk way to stare at a fountain that has a choreographed light and music show!

17. I saw a run away donkey down one of the corridors of the Medina. It was quite entertaining watching the owner run after the donkey screaming in Arabic!

18. Now I know what shwarma is and I like it! Thanks J and AM!

19. Surprisingly I am loving the Dannon yogurt and Gouda cheese! It goes great with just about everything.

20. Singing with other people brings such calm to my soul, especially from the rooftop in the Medina!

21.We met a little girl who followed us asking for money. When we kept walking because we had nothing to give she became aggressive and began pushing and shoving us and grabbed my friend's wrist. I asked her if she was hungry in French and she looked me in my eye and said "La!" which means no in Arabic. I told her "safi!" which means "enough!" as I walked away. The next day I was to meet a friend and got lost, by the time I turned around and found the meeting place I saw that my friend was not there. But I saw the little girl from the day before running down the street after me. I didn't know what to say, but as she got closer she yelled "sac! sac!! agee! agee!" I began to say I don't understand in French but she proceeded to yell and began to show exasperation with me. She flailed her arms and pointed in the other direction and there I saw my friend in the distance. So I quickly walked with the little girl and when I met my friend she told me that she sent the little girl to the meeting place to get me because she had been robbed and was going to go to the police station. I was very startled and a little confused but grateful to the little girl who helped us in our time of need. I have seen her here and there in town and now when she sees us she will come up and hold our hands gently and ask for a dirham.

22. We were walking down the street the other day to get photos for our school documentation and saw a man with a little monkey on a chain! The monkey looked old and dishevelled with orangish reddish grayish hair and a little pair of turquoise shorts with yellow lining. Let's just say we walked away quickly to avoid any uncomfortable encounter with the old little monkey.

23. What's up with me going into places and totally blanking out on what to say....It's hilarious! I spend the whole walk to the shop rehearsing my lines or what I will say and then the shopkeepers will say something really quickly that I wasn't expecting and my eyes get really wide, time stops, and my mouth just hangs open......until some sweet person next to me either yells or laughs snapping me out of my language coma and they even ask me what I want to tell the shopkeeper in English or in French! Thanks to all of the kind locals!

24. Every now and then we see men and boys dressed in brightly colored clothing with drums and instruments who play in the streets at night. But one day there was one man who waited for us to come out of a shop walked up to my friend and began playings a rhythmical piece right in her face. He finished his rock show and then held out his hand in her face! She just stood there and then stared at me. He then began to play again and extended his hand again! LOL We walked away and began to wonder what it would be like if when approached again by a street musician if we let them finish their show and then busted a move like the 'running man' or 'The Charleston' with jazz hands if he would pay us for entertaining him. We haven't seen him since but we will be ready for him for sure! LOL

25. I have finally learned, at the end of Ramadan, that going to the grocery store 30 minutes before F'tour is not the best idea (mind you, this is after the fourth trip after school and the place is crowded with many angry people with low blood sugar!)

26. Taxi drivers here are something special! One taxi driver wanted to take us to the Ruins, but didn't know the way so he persisted to get on my cell phone to find the location while other locals surround the taxi loaded down with packages. He was so determined to get our taxi fair that he hung up the cell phone and then told us that he would drive and we were to tell him when to stop and drop us off. So we are on the route to the correct location and he keeps trying to pull over way too early so my dear friend in the back seat keeps saying "zeed! zeed!" which means go higher/continue in Arabic but he just trying to keep pulling over as we motioned for him to go forward. Then all of a sudden I remembered the word for 'go straight ahead' and yelled out "Neeshan!" He was so excited he repeated me and gave me a high five! LOL I immediately panicked because I wasn't sure if a high five was culturally appropriate! We saw the place and told him to stop the taxi. After we got out he says in French 'You girls really need to carry a map with you with pictures and an Arabic phrasebook!" We told him thanks for the advice but we had left our maps and phrasebooks at home. He smiled and drove away!

Another taxi driver saw my friend and I with multiple bags of groceries close to F'tour time and decided he would wait across the street for us. We made it to the median amongst the speeding cars and mopeds. All of a sudden a white car full of people slams on his breaks in order to allow us to cross the street. Meanwhile the cars behind him weren't aware of his gesture of kindness and ran right into the back of another car! We were like deer in the head lights until the drivers began to yell and honk at us to get across the street. The taxi driver who had been watching the whole ordeal laughed and said "Welcome to N. Africa!" Then he proceeded to talk to us the entire time about how Harira is the best soup in the world and how this city is the best place to be in the entire world.

Other taxi drivers like to entertain us by turning on music very loudly as we ride along. One driver in particular turned on music that was quite delightful until he began singing in a strange falsetto tone the entire ride home. We did everything in our power to keep from laughing out loud. As soon as we got out of the taxi and around the corner we laughed and try to reenact the scene on a daily basis!

27. My classroom for first grade is a small little room in the basement of the school building with marble tiled walls and concrete floor which is great for the summer because it's nice and cool, but the dilemma lies in how to get posters and teaching tools to stick to the walls. A fellow coworker was kind enough to buy me a set of plastic shower hooks that have worked wonderfully well! ( I will post pics of the classroom soon!)

28. I now know that homemade pita sandwiches are great! You can put just about anything in pita and it tastes great! Not as great as Muhkooduh (which is a delicious potato pita sandwich that you can get in the Medina) but pretty close! Why didn't I think of this before?!

29. I am LOVING the new golden lion statue in the middle of the lighted walkway. We noticed the lion yesterday and as we got closer we noticed that the paint was still wet and that the odorous fumes meant that the statue was brand new to town! It represents the official soccer team or something like least that's what the night watchman said. Many people gathered to take their photo by the statue so we thought we would join in! Now that I think about it the lion looks a lot like Aslan! (will post a pic soon!)

30. I am really enjoying getting to know my coworkers. We are so different, but when we are together great things happen!

.......More to come!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Cooking our own F'tour
I have found that cooking is a great way to relieve stress and save money while living in the city! Upon arrival we found many cheap meals close to our apartment, but with Ramadan many of the restaurants are closed until about 8:30pm except for McDonald's which is expensive and not very appetizing. We go to the market about every two days or so and buy fresh fruits and vegetables. We use our Arabic the best we can and sometimes we mispronounce words, but many of the shop owners are very patient and forgiving.

Last week we wanted peaches and the shopowner pointed to nectarines. All we knew to say was 'la' which means no and we pointed at the peaches. He then proceeded to say the name of the peach and hold out his hand saying "khoh" and he said it until we repeated. Then he pointed to the nectarines and said "shehdiyah" and repeated the word until we did. It was just like being at school. He smiled and told us to write a list for the next time we came so he could serve us more quickly the next time we needed fruits and vegetables.

After shopping we wash all of our vegetables and fruits and then we prepare delicious cuisine. The following meals have been made in our kitchen: pasta with meat sauce, stirfry, chicken salad, guacamole, (a novice) couscous, pita pockets, omelets, pizza, Harira (soup) etc. The only meal that we haven't made successfully is hummus which turned out to be chunky! LOL We didn't realize that the blender wasn't strong enough to mash up our garbonzo beans. Someday I will post recipies, but really all of the meals we have made have really been made up on the spot in the kitchen. We cook our meats with green and red peppers, onion, garlic, etc and then we add a sauce or noodles and rice. I will admit that I really miss seasonings like Lawry's Seasoning Salt or good old Mrs. Dash! We bought a wonderful greenish mixture of spices called 'hannout spice' or lazy cook spice. The lazy cook's spice is a mixture of forty some spices and tastes pretty good on just about anything!
Experiencing Ramadan...cannons and all...

Now that we are approaching the end of Ramadan I thought I should share what we have heard each day for the past few weeks right before eating dinner in our apartment. Listen closely to the videos posted here to see if you hear "allah akhbar" meaning "God is Great!" When the streets clatter with the sounds of cars speeding home to break fast and all of a sudden everyone vanishes into their homes and the only sounds you hear are from the neighborhood cats we know that F'tour is coming. A cannon fires from the Medina and then we hear the call to prayer. We gather to pray and eat as well at this time knowing that many who live in the city are feasting together with their friends and families in celebration and devotion to their faith. After an hour or two the streets begin to come alive again with many people old and young who appear content. Loud music plays in the streets and the crowds gather around contemporary looking fountains and lighted walkways until after midnight. Soon after people return home to sleep for a few hours to arise at 4:00am to eat breakfast before sunset. I am deeply impressed by the commitment of my new friends and coworkers that are fasting as each day of Ramadan passes. Eid- al F'tour is coming on Sunday where people will celebrate the month of fasting and the forgiveness of transgressions for the past 11months before Ramadan.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Random finds on the rooftop
The other day we were taking in the view from a friends rooftop and I was awestruck by the expanse of the land and buildings. I was taking deep breaths and thinking, "did I ever imagine being in such a beautiful place?" Then I turned around and saw countless satelite dishes, laundry, a tray of onions, and even a couple of bikes. My immediate conclusions were that laudry would get direct sunlight on the roof, a tray of onions would maybe taste better after being baked in the sun or maybe the heat would kill any bugs, but I am baffled by the bikes. Do people ride them on the roof? How did they get the bikes up there and why doesn't anybody else have bikes on the roof? Any guesses? I guess I am used to roofs serving as solely shelter, but storage or entertainment are all reasonable uses as well.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Some days begin by dropping your doughnuts

The other day at around 9:00 am we were going to the Medina and a friend offered for us to try a Moroccan dougnut from a vendor. So we walk over, purchase, and she dips the aromatic goodness into a plate of nearby sugar. Now you would think that I would have remembered that these doughnuts were fresh, meaning they had just come out of the hot oil when I reached out to take one off of a ring made of a long stalk of some green plant, but I didn't remember...I put my hand on one of the five doughnuts hanging on the string, burned my finger and caused all five doughnuts to fly off of the ring and into the street. I quickly rushed to pick them up and almost dropped them again because they were so hot. Then I looked around and saw my friends laughing which made me begin to laugh until I cried and almost drooled because my mouth was hanging open. So there I am standing on a busy sidewalk laughing, crying, and all the while trying to switch the doughnuts from hand to hand without dropping them again. Eventually we got the doughnuts back on the plant ring told the vendor thanks again, as he looked at us in a very bewildered manner, and we walked into the Medina. The rest of the day was pretty great!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Top 12 for settling in....

Well I have unpacked most of my suitcases. We are also beginning to recognize landmarks close to our apartment. N. Africa is beautiful in so many ways. I will post pics very soon!

1. I just have to tell you that we found the school supply store today and it was well WONDERFUL! Of course it wasn't exactly like walking into Walmart, but there were pens of many colors, gluesticks, erasers, graph paper (which will take some getting used to), and markers, pastels, crayons, etc... ) But there's nothing like schools supplies to warm a teachers heart!

2. I went to the market for the first time and ordered a sausage and cheese sandwich, yogurt, and water in Arabic (woot-woot!) The salesmen are very patient! I can't wait to buy apples and other favorites that I can find here!!

3. I almost ran straight into a donkey today!!! The cars and other modes of transportation (mopeds, bikes, scooters) are aggressive and fast! It's like playing frogger (ATARII video game from the 80's) LOL but kinda scary.. We've decided that if we follow other locals then 'they can't take us all!" LOL This is a very verbal culture the volume of noise is incredible.. there is always innumerable events happening at once and sometimes I forget that I am walking down the street because I am distracted by everything.

4. We went to this crowded market place that used to be owned by the Jewish community and we saw anything that you could think to buy from tea pots, to hijabs, jllebas, shoes, sweets, towels, potato chips made fresh. All of the sales men are yelling and the people are just hustling and bustling by without caring if they bump into you or what!!!

5. Did I mention it's blazing hot here?! Did I mention I might regret bringing the snow pants?! Oh, but we did hear today that we can go hiking in the mountains, maybe I can wear them then. The mornings are very cool here which maybe a precursor to what a glimpse of winter might be........I am stretching this as far as I can, can you tell........

6. We are now used to hearing the call to prayer.

7. We took care of a small insect that snuck into our apartment as we were coming up the stairwell tonight. With lots of screaming, throwing of multiple shoes, running as it chased us, and some courage we took care of the situation and will be placing our first notch in our beloved "bug terminator"Bass Shoe size 9 donated by our dear friend Laura! :) Bring it on we say! (We've decided to buy bug spray tomorrow, just in cast!)

8. I will be teaching 1st grade and sharing 3rd grade with Suzanne! School begins on Sept. 8th, and inservice begin September 1st! :) Here comes the learning curve!

9. I can read french apparently. I was able to install the ASDL internet on my laptop after three tries! What do they say...the third time's the charm?!

10. I have observed that sometimes you can't be shy here, even if it takes leaning into a cab, rushing to a sales counter and speaking louder than three other people in a crowded area! Oh and we were advised today to bargain as much as possible on a variety of foods or items. I may need a little prayer and encouragement in this area...maybe that little talk about assertiveness in high school will pay off afterall! I'll let you know!

11. I learned how to properly greet women. It's very french. I place my cheek to her right cheek making a kissing sound in the air, go to her left cheek and do the same three to five times. The first night I was told that if I only greet with two or these then I am not perceived as being excited to see the woman I am greeting! This will be fun to try in the states someday! Just kidding! :)

12. I saw the palace of the king today! We heard that each tile was hand crafted and assembled! The entry doors are golden and had knobs that can only be reached from the height of horseback. There were soldiers standing guard. We took pictures and tried to peak in the sliver of sight b/w the doors to see a glimpse of gorgeous gardens!!!!! (I will post pics soon!)

Thank you for your warm wishes, prayers, and thoughts as I transition into life in N.Africa!
Couscous, Tagine, and Olives galore!
I have been in N. Africa for the past three days and I have already eaten a lot of delicious foods! The first afternoon we stopped at a tourist cafe and had mint tea (very sweet to the taste, it reminded me of the sweet tea from Kentucky, but this had the mint leaves right there in the cup!) I ordered Tagine with chicken which is a stew like dish with peas, carrots, red olives, onions, garlic, etc. The best thing about Tagine was that we learned how to eat it with our hands and scooping with a small piece of bread. I laughed to myself thinking about all those years of my mom telling us not to play with our food! Well eating tagine without utensils was fun and somewhat liberating. Small pleasures in life are what make life worth living, right?!

The first night after unpacking my suitcase I walked with friends to a McDonald's....but we all decided it would be better to try authentic foods to immerse ourselves in the culture. So we walked a few blocks and stopped at a nice restaurant that had tables outside and we ordered couscous with chicken. The plate was piled high with raisins, carrots, potatoes, chicken, beans, and grain on the bottom. Every bite was delicious, but I was so stuffed that I took leftovers with me.

The second day we went to a local fast food restaurant that served us eggplant with peppers, greens with artichokes, and wonderfully seasoned cuts of chicken and beef. Again, I got to eat with my hands!

The third day, today, I had a chance to eat a meal prepared by a good cook in a local cafeteria. Earlier in the day at tea time, I saw her massaging the chicken in a marinade. An hour or two later after taking care of some business, I returned and there was a table set with cooked green and red peppers, cucumbers slices, rice potatoes and carrots, and in the middle of the table there was....the chicken covered in layers of green olives, onion, garlic, parsley, celery, etc. Carrying on with the theme, I ate with my hands again which I am really getting used to and really enjoying! was absolutely delicious!!!!! I am getting hungry just thinking about that meal. :)

So far I think that this part of adjusting to the culture is a plus which gives me hope for three things:
1. that I will learn how to cook these meals and therefore broaden my repretoire of recipies.
2. that the dishes prepared with fish will be just as satisfying!
3. that other adjustments will have their liberating aspects.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Great Expectations

Time is flying and all preparations have been made. In less than a week I will be 'leaving on a jet plane' to go to N. Africa! I have been asked many questions over the past few weeks. For instance, many people have want to know if I am excited or nervous. Some have even asked if I am afraid. I never feel like I have enough time to process my answer within the length of time provided in the conversation. To be honest, I have felt a range of emotions as I have read many texts, attempted to speak Arabic/French, and plan lessons for the year, so trying to melt it all down in to one sentence is a difficult task. I am greatly anticipating living in a new culture, yet I know that it will take time to adjust and find my place. My brain has been filled with fears and questions concerning my ability to handle the stress that major life change presents, but about a week ago when grappling with those questions in prayer a deluge of scripture came to mind.

-" I am with you until the end of the age..."

-"I will never leave you nor forsake you."

-"I am the Lord your God; I will hold your right hand saying do not fear for I am with you."
Isaiah 43:10

-"When you call I will answer and while you are yet speaking I will hear."

-"Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go, I will help you speak and teach you what to say."
Exodus 4:11

-"God is not a man that he should lie; nor a son of man that he should change his mind. Does he speak and not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?"

-"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert...I provide water in the give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise! " Isaiah 43:18-21

And finally I read this verse:

" The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail." Isaiah 43:11

I have come to the conclusion that the Father has gone before me and it will be HIS strength that I will rely upon when I face any difficulty. My confidence will be in HIS ability because I know that I have limitations and that it's normal to fear the unknown. But the great thing about my limitations and fears is that HE can use them to show others how great HE is...I am honored to be considered worthy of such a divine audience.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

From the Airplane Window

I flew from Illinois to California a few days ago and had no idea that I would get to see the Grand Canyon from above! I've never had a chance to see the Grand Canyon in person but was delighted to have a peek at a beautiful and expansive part of nature. I have since been in California training with my team. I am learning Arabic, social customs, traditions, and reviewing Teaching English As a Foreign Language (TEFL).

I was challenged today in a cross cultural training session to be like water as I face the stresses of adjusting to life overseas. Water has many beneficial qualities. Water is transparent, flows easily, can bend, fill space or adjust to what it is contained in, and can uphold enormous amounts of weight. The speaker in the session stated that the Grand Canyon was carved out by the force of water. I immediately thought about the view out of the window of the airplane. The deep grooves in the rocks throughout the canyon were so easy to see from miles above, and hopefully some day I will see the canyon from the ground level, but to think that water had such an impact or impression upon solid rock is beyond my understanding. How can something so soft change the properties of something so hard? I am sure there is a geological explanation dealing with erosion and pressure over time, yet I am having difficulty fathoming how the Grand Canyon was formed. (Now I'll have to google the Grand Canyon tonight to find out, right?!) I am not sure how this challenge to become like water will manifest itself in my experience in N. Africa, but I really think that this speech will resonate with me during my time away as well as in life.
This challenge to be like water also makes me recall a passage from Jeremiah 17:7&8 that says, "But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and puts his confidence in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."

I guess I have always pictured myself as the tree in this passage, but I wonder what would happen if I thought of my self as the stream instead. Which qualities of water will I exhibit most over the next year while living in another culture?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Preparing for North Africa

I have spent the last months preparing to teach in North Africa! I am taking a leave of absence for one year from Bottenfield Elementary School to teach first through third graders in North Africa. I will be teaching math, science, reading, and writing in English! My dearest friends and family have showered me with their kindness, generosity, and support throughout this whole process (i.e. packing my apartment, moving my 'stuff' into a friends basement in the pouring rain, organizing my documents (there was a 'method to the madness' of my filing system, but I have reluctantly been shown a better way...thanks MK :) , countless meals, offers of housing until I leave for training, etc). I am overwhelmed with gratitude. Everyone has been so wonderful and many people have asked how they can help or be a part of my journey. One way you can help is by praying for my coworkers and I as we learn new curriculum and build relationships with the students we will teach.
Have You Ever Thought About Teaching Overseas?!

This is the question I was asked in the fall of 2003 while dining with friends! I was a senior in college and ready to 'change the world' by challenging my students to be leaders and lifelong learners. Interestingly enough I had never considered the possibility of going out of the country with all of the responsibilities that come with entering 'the real world' (i.e. my first car, loan payments, etc.) After applying in three locations in the states I decided to stick close to home and I began working at an elementary school in Champaign, Illinois teaching second grade. I am very privileged to work at Bottenfield Elementary School because many of my students are from families who moved to America to study at the University of Illinois from countries around the world. After two years of gaining experience, much prayer, and encouragement from family and friends I decided that teaching overseas would be a great way to serve others and learn about another culture. In 2005 I had the opportunity to teach English in a small town in Russia for one month. Talk about a learning curve! I taught middle school students conversational english. It was so wonderful being greeted with loud "Hellos!" and questions like " What is Disney like?" or "Why would you want to come here to teach?" from the neighborhood streets which usually led to meaningful conversations that I still remember today. I ate borscht (hot and cold), saw many historical landmarks and memorials. The last week in Russia my team and I even had a chance to tour St. Petersburg and I saw the Hermitage! I decided then that the longer I teach the more I realize how much I can learn and if I ever had the chance to teach in another country again I would!