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………