Tuesday, December 06, 2005
Today was a marvelous day. It started out with the most restful happy sleep I’ve had in a good many days. I was up until 1AM unpacking my final misrouted suitcase, (a week late). I sorted all my papers and make a bookshelf of all my books. Just looking at them all lined up, waiting for me to read them made me happy inside. I took Melatonin and slept like a baby. This morning I woke happily, ate sweet Ns/ns coffee that Baba Houssane promptly prepared for me upon my appearance, took more vitamins, wrote out my homework assignment and headed off to class.
Class went well. Touria had to leave early, but that gave Antoine and I more time to do what we wanted. Strangely enough I’m quite content filling the days with my own agenda and almost dread having to go to the association for more of my days soon… kinda holding off on that. We went to coffee to discuss our weekends and make a plan for the week. We met Abdusamed and made plans to hike Kisane on Sunday. I can’t wait; that mountain reaches out to me every time I walk through the streets. I gaze upon it and get lost in its face. I went home for lunch and had the strange sensation that I had been comprehending quite a bit with the people I’d met in the morning and with my family during lunch. There was a talk show on the television. I stared at it, realizing I could pick out a good number of words. The sensation never left all day.
I went to visit the Gendarmes finally. He asked for more copies and notarization of all my Attestaciones. I skipped off to accomplish the tasks. In the Balidina, I chatted away with the notaries – who all knew my family. I came home to ponder my life here and then went on a walk in the Palmery with Antoine. The Palmery is glorious. We walked all the way through until we came to the clearing below Mt. Kisane and discovered a gorgeous river separating us from the mountain. It wound out of the palm trees in the distance and swept past us. I was mesmerized.
Antoine and I had yet more stimulating conversations. He is very wise in many matters, over a decade my senior and I am taking advantage of the opportunity to learn from him. We discussed my frustration with being unable to articulate. I explained a conversation I had with a fellow volunteer. (This friend was very emotional and erratic in responding to everything I said, not really hearing the point I was trying to make before raging off about an almost completely unrelated and emotional topic.) I just shut down when I encounter similar characters: people who are highly opinionated and passionate on certain topics, but seem to have a skewed perspective, or one that blindly holds fast to a (American political) party line without stopping to ask questions or consider the many facets of an issue.
Most political issues are complex. Most historical accounts have many components, not all of which are included in any given account, but many of which are important. I explained to Antoine how I feel that I lack an opinion many times, because I am confronted with someone who strongly holds to one view while I realize they do not grasp the whole story; yet neither do I feel equipped to defend a forgotten aspect with my limited knowledge. I just want to shut myself away for years and study many historical accounts and current political figures. However, no human has time for that… unless you’re privileged enough to hide away in one of America’s “Ivory Towers” with “Daddy’s money”. That was a nice stereotype. (Speaking of, that is another subject that I want to write about soon.)
Anyways, I really appreciate Antoine. Many times I feel uncomfortable discussing political ideas with many people because they are either too forceful with their own perspectives or condescending when I appear to lack adequate knowledge of the subject. I seem to either have friends who think I know volumes and volumes about current world affairs or people who make me feel stupid and tongue-tied.
It is true, I’ve determined, that I cannot articulate well. It is a fact that I have tried to ignore or prove false for years, but after failed attempts in the debate team, frustrations as a sales rep, and as a norm, a weak conversationalist when I least wish to be, I am coming to accept the fact. It doesn’t have to be detrimental. Maybe facing the fact will allow me the chance to more seriously work on articulation. Maybe speaking slower and clearer might be a good start.
Today does not end there.
We returned in a hurry to meet a young gentleman named Zachariah.
I had met him the day before on the street near my house.
He introduced himself and said his family knew Maureen and Elisabeth well and extended and invitation to me for the following day to come for tea in the afternoon at 5 O’clock.
I had up until this point refrained from much conversation one-on-one with males, but he seemed genuinely friendly and knowledgeable about Peace Corps volunteers.
I made introductions with Antoine when we found him waiting and all headed off to their home.
Again, I chatted away in Dirija until we had arrived at his house and I realized there had been little to no awkward silence.
Maybe I was talking too much… poor Antoine is struggling with Dirija and my chattering and interpreting probably makes him more dependent, not less.
The family was very welcoming and sweet.
We talked for almost two hours with little silence, looked at pictures of Elisabeth’s family, and explained our new jobs here in Agdz.
It was rather strange to look at the intimate photos of the life of another American whom we’d never met, but they were quite eager to share them.
The father, Abderrahmen, trained with the U.S. Military for two months in Errachidia back in 1985.
He proudly displayed his certificate.
They also told us about their grandfather… a man who is apparently 130 years old.
I asked them to repeat his age several times.
They kept showing me on two hands how he had outlived seven Moroccan kings.
He walked by foot to Casablanca in 1896 to see the king (when he was inaugurated or died or something??).
(I later confirmed the fact with my family, but my sister said she thought he was 120, not 130.
I really want to meet him.
If it’s true, he’s one of, if not the oldest person in the world!!)
The father also showed us a painting that Elisabeth had made of American and Moroccan flags and hands shaking .. with Peace Corps, Acuna written below. I don’t know what Acuna meant, nor did they, but it was beautifully done and framed.
When we finally pulled ourselves away from the sweet family, with promises to return Friday lunch for Couscous and hopes that Zachariah would join me Sunday to hike Kisane, I even more strongly wondered at my ability to understand and converse. I have only been in country three months. Not even, actually. A week and a half ago when I returned to Agdz my family asked if I’d forgotten all my Dirija. Now I understand and speak more than ever. I’m guessing tomorrow will be a downer day... but maybe not. The happiest thought on the matter is that in learning Dirija, I will be here, immersed for two years, so I cannot help but improve. The idea that someday soon I will be quite fluent is bizarre. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be fluent in another language. Now I don’t have to hope, I will know, Enshallah (God willing). I thought that would be a naïve hope for two years, but even Jessica, who has only been here for six months already converses extremely well (fluent to my ears), in Tashelheight – an even more obscure and complex language. I hope that eventually I can make similar progress with French and maybe Fusha (Classical Arabic, spoken throughout the Muslim world, but very difficult to learn)..! Enshallah.
We departed and I floated through the door of my house, a bit mentally exhausted but quite content. Imane was preparing to leave for our sister Nadia’s house. She insisted I join her. I tried to beg my way out, with excuses of studying and being tired, but didn’t want to be rude or spend too much time away from the family. I’m already concerned that I spend too much time in my room or wandering around town, not with the family. They seem patient enough. I went. Little baby Rahab was sick: she had her vaccinations today. Her little brown eyes flitted about and lips puckered until there was a hole just perfect for a nipple. It is amazing how God created babies; how beautiful they are. I sat for a bit, toured Nadia’s house (which was quite impressive, I must say), and then received a call from Antoine. He was with Aendir, a gentleman he had met over the weekend and was preparing to go tour two new apartments. I readily agreed to join and rushed off to meet them in the town center.
The apartments proved a match made in heaven. We were first shown a pair that invited little appreciation. The view was bad, the windows few, the layout poor. We went around to the other side, to find two apartments overlooking the palmery and beautiful Kisane ... and high enough to gaze over other apartments. A canal of sorts ran in front of the house and when the dam was closed, the river was channeled right in front of the apartments. The first apartment had a large L-shaped room, several other nice rooms with windows, a larger kitchen and open area with a large skylight/courtyard of sorts. The bathroom, however, was tiny. I liked it but had the feeling the best was yet to come. The second apartment in the set, on the second floor, offered an even more glorious view of my lovely Kisane and the palmery. Even in the dark my heart leapt. The rooms were laid out well, the large skylight area was surrounded with a wall.. (which I hope they can lower somewhat) and I imagined lining the top of it with hanging plants. The kitchen was delightfully large, with a an L-shaped, white-tiled countertop. There is a perfect space for a kitchen table; the rooms had windows from one room to each other and added delightful character. The bathroom was huge! (as bathrooms go here) and the builder still planned to put in a water heater (a rare commodity) and shower. The rooms were spacious with windows to the mountains in the East, meaning I would get morning sunshine, but not during the hottest part of the day. Then they took us up to the roof. It was a roof privy to just the two apartments. There were openings gazing out upon the same mountains and palmery, and the builder said he could widen them even more. In addition, the roof was divided, so that ugly satellite dishes and a laundry line were hidden on the far side; the rest of the roof was painted clean white with high walls to promote privacy. I conjured images of me laying out in my bikini, or staring at the stars late at night, or hosting glorious parties boasting a bottle of wine or two without displaying our sins to the surrounding Muslim world. It was a glorious oasis. I almost squealed.
We turned on our heels, hearts beating fast to inquire of the price. 1000Dhs ($100ish). My heart dropped. Our budget, to my knowledge lay somewhere between 400-700 Dhs. I sadly explained our limited budget and he lowered the price to 900 Dhs. It was still too high. We agreed to return on the morrow to see the place in the daytime (and negotiate a better price). Antoine and I rushed back to my house murmuring that there must be some way to make it work. I checked my papers, but didn’t have the latest limit requirements from Peace Corps. He left, and texted me from his house: the last volunteer put 800 Dhs as a normal price in her COS report. If we could reach 800 Dhs that was only 100 Dhs difference. Maybe we could budge Peace Corps up 50 and the builder down 50. Hope stirred. Tomorrow we will find out if it’s possible. My heart melded with the place, just as it had instantly with my apartment in Cincinnati. There must be a way.