11/4/2005 7:40 PM
Ahhh… I thought my computer was gone for good. About a week ago I left it plugged in all night and the morning when I tried to turn it on it wouldn’t work. I tried several days later with the same result. I just had a feeling all day, however, that there might be a chance something was funny and I gave it one more try tonight. Wala! Full battery and everything!.. or wait, looks like 64% now, but good enough. I’ll write until it dies (Jesse has my converter). Thank you Lord that it is not broken. This is an important tool for my work here, as well as a blessing for relaxing.. journaling, listening to music, movies, etc.
Today was like Christmas … except not. It was the Laid sgiria (small feast) celebrating the end of Ramadan. The air was full of excitement, everyone stayed up late last night making cookies and shopping and doing Henna. (Naima created beautiful designs all over my hands and feet.) Early in the morning you could hear kids in the street blowing their little whistles and showing off their new clothes to each other. Everyone rushed about from home to home, eating a few cookies and mint tea before rushing off somewhere else.
We had developed extensive plans for today that humorously fell to shreds when I awoke this morning. We planned to spend the early mornings breakfasting with our families, and then meeting around 10am to go around to each other’s homes to visit. My family informed me that we would be leaving around 10AM for what I thought was a big affair at La Fontaine (a coffee shop in town). I rearranged with everyone to come earlier, but wasn’t quite sure who was coming. Andrea, Jesse, Carolyn, Saadia and I went out to buy stockings and goodies for the children to surprise them this morning. My “siblings” asked last night if they could go with me, and when I said no, it was a bad idea, I got the silent treatment from all of them. In addition, Omar (baba diyali) asked if I wanted to wear a Kaftan today. I heartily agreed and then he received a glare and hushed wispers from Mama Amina. I felt stupid and didn’t know how to explain that I would love to, but would be quite content if she had no extra Kaftan to offer. Then I asked Omar and Amina about our plans and tried to work in when my friends could come over earlier and she seemed still more frustrated and tired of accommodating my schemes with PCT’s.
Everything started getting better in the evening when I returned and experimented in making chocolate chip cookies without a recipe. The first batch looked like crap, but everyone liked them. The second batch were perfection. Then we had girly time with Sara, Hajar and I crowding around Naima for Henna. It was like doing nails in the states. I like it better, I think. I don’t like painting my nails and I don’t like the feeling afterwards. However, as far as functionability while waiting for it to dry, the process is much more extensive. First you sit, with arms in the air, and feet carefully placed … I, who rarely get cold was quite freezing but couldn’t cover most of myself. I realized that I must move around quite a bit, if an hour of not moving arms and legs left me so cold. Then came the sugary syrup tea dabbed on with cotton (pulled out of one of their pillows) in several sessions, leaving precarious henna lines and sticky skin … I went to bed as such, finally around 2:30 AM (after having stayed up until 3AM the night before doing homework and socializing).
I turned off my alarm (set for 6:30) and rose at 7:15.. not quite sure what stage of breakfast and morning events I was missing. Anis was in the bath (I never saw him today), Hajar offered to let me go next. The rest of the family besides Amina was no where to be seen. By the time I finished bathing and scraping all the green gunk off me, Saadia arrived for breakfast, shortly before 8;30. I rushed to finish, but realized none of the family was returning and no friends were arriving. Amina was panicking, however, about the fact that no one had arrived yet, and yet we still wanted to tour all the houses. I didn’t know where the kids were and when I should give them their stockings. I also wanted to take a photo of everyone in their new Ramadan clothes. That never happened. I realized that none of our plans made any sense, scrapped them all and spent the morning going back and forth between Malika’s and my house with Saadia, meeting friends in the street and bringing them in for tea. Finally, around 11:45 AM I was summoned by Sara that the family was ready to depart for wherever. I rushed off, looking forward to a fun lunch at La Fontaine. That never happened either.
The Aarab’s friend drove us the city outskirts on the far side of Khenifra, the road slightly bending up into the surrounding mountains. We got out, walked a couple hundred yards (in heels) to a poorer home where more family awaited us. Omar had dropped us off and I never saw him again until he picked us up at 6:30 tonight. I entered the small salon and there I remained most of the day.
Hajar’s (“my”) cousins were more girls and two young men who I was a bit wary of from the first. We all sat around and they all tried intermittently to include me in conversation or get me to say “Shiki Biki ul BistHam Howie” (which roughly translates ‘I’m lookin good, but I ain’t got no money’). I was served yet another round of cookies and tea. That was what my diet consisted of, mostly, today and from the first, I had little appetite from it. I guess I was used to eating less in the mornings and mid-day during Ramadan, even though I wasn’t fasting. I grew tired of straining to understand conversation and attempted to lay down on the the ponge and sleep. Hajar instantly summoned me to take a walk. I followed like a dumb child, but we were called back immediately and told to wait until after another round of tea and cookies. A group of us finally wandered out to the hills and Amina mercifully offered her flip flops to me so I wouldn’t ruin my heals. The brisk air and welcoming mountain ranges surrounding me were a wonderful interruption from the salon affair. One cousin, the one whom I had to rudely wave at out of my room early one morning and often ignored (to avoid being smothered), was constantly clinging to my arm or grabbing my hand. I ran out of excuses to remove her extremities and gave up until Sara and I picked up our pace and left everyone in the dust.
We climbed up a rocky hillside, scaring a flock of sheep and shepherd out of our way and sat on a boulder overlooking Khenifra. Hajar tried to teach me a clapping game, but my brain shut down. I was exhausted from trying to think and respond in Dirisia all day to so many different people. I became sullen and silent.
We returned to the salon. A few more hours, more cookies and tea, spaghetti, lamb and figs, dirisia and dranglish and I was struggling to remain contented (in appearance). I tried to sleep and everyone instantly indicated that was not an option with the men in the room (even though my sisters laid down and Mama Amina said she had taken a long nap while we were gone, and my male cousin was currently laying down.. I seemed to be the only one the couldn’t appropriately lay down or close my eyes). I scooted in a corner and prayed to be ignored. It mostly worked. My cousin kept persisting on talking to me with three words of bungled English (probably how my Dirisia sounded to everyone else) and kept saying something about doing the website for Peace Corps and could he contact me another time. He said that “we should move somewhere sometime together”. I think he meant go out for the afternoon, but I was quite infuriated by the impudence of my “cousin” hitting on me at a family affair. If I could not feel safe among my Moroccan family, where could I? I responded more and more rudely and he must have finally got the point because he stopped talking to me and let me be.
They asked me if I had every seen a Moroccan wedding and when I responded in the negative, they produced a DVD (the marriage of the woman next door, I soon found out). I laughed at the belly dancers and cheering crowds, but the expression changed to horror when I saw the beautiful bride. She was in tears and obvious agony. The groom was little better. They told me it was a forced marriage and neither the groom were happy. They didn’t even attempt to smile most the time except for during a photo or two. She was still crying and they had to take breaks between photos to let her dry her eyes. It was a bizarre scene. She was absolutely gorgeous, decked out in an elaborate dress, dramatic makup, henna and jewelry, but miserable. He was quite intelligent looking, and somewhat handsome, but obviously frowning.. they were the only two people not celebrating. A couple minutes later, this same beautiful lady walked in the salon. I was a bit taken aback. Her husband is apparently in the army and works in Italy right now. I stared at her, curious about her life and if she was happy now. I couldn’t quite tell, she didn’t stay long.
Seven hours after arriving Amina got a phone call from her husband, Omar, and we gathered ourselves and hiked back across the rocky dusty field to the waiting car. I thought he had been upstairs all day with the men, apparently neither he nor Aniss nor any of the other men where there, they were out all day at coffee shops and friends houses while we were stuffed in a salon .. women and children. This made me more irritated. Omar tried to make friendly conversation and I tried my best, but halfway through my brain stopped computing anything but English and I just said, I’m sorry, I’m tired and Amina explained that my brain was exhausted of a full day of Arabic.
When I finally climbed the stairs to my room, relieved myself in my own bit-l-ma and changed into Pyjamas, the world seemed a much happier place. I gave Sara and Oosama their sockings full of nuts and candy and bid them all goodnight. As I brushed my teeth I realized that having my own room, my own house eventually, was crucial to my survival here. I am slightly worried that so many cultural issues and just living here, even in quite the posh setup, has proved so difficult emotionally. What a day it has been.