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La Vita Grassa

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Location: Aarhus, Denmark

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Laid L'Kbir

9 hours straight of visiting neighbors, dozens of glasses of tea, more-handfuls-than-i-care-to-share of cookies, visions of shiny blades flashing in the streets and pools of blood everywhere in the aftermath of the mid-morn sheep slaughtering. Today is Laid Kbir, the biggest holiday on the Muslim calendar. They are celebrating Abraham's sacrifice of the sheep, and every family is required to purchase and slay their sheep. The girls hover about with faces covered, "eeww".. or at least, that's what I kept saying. Parent's buy their kids new clothes and gifts. It's like Christmas. Except, I don't recall the whole bloody sheep scene..

Si Mohammed snitching cookies..

Nawal's new kaftan

In between visits, I convinced my host family (the girls and mother) to take a ride on the ferris wheel and bumper cars. I don't believe you would find these particular pieces in law-suit-happy America, but we had fun screaming our heads off and I tried not to think about how easy it would be to tip ourselves upside down and or reach out and cut an arm off. It's fun being one of seven sisters. And I thought having three sisters was a lot!

My girlies (all except Nadia), home for the holidays:
Nawal, Ikram, Aunt Touria, Iman, Soumia, Nzha.

This year it just happened to fall on New Years. However, I'm a bit too tired to care about staying up until midnight.

Ikram and Nzha whirring through the air

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Saturday, December 30, 2006

Christmas in Berkane

I took an epic trip up to Berkane for Christmas with loads of friends. There were Moroccans, Americans, and Frenchies.

We spent an entire day baking a Christmas feast. There were a team of boys who were sent out incessantly to buy more garlic or butter, shifts of dish washers and bakers flurrying about. I learned how to cook chickens in a tiny butagas oven: break them into several sections, slather in an herb rub and bake in a pan half-filled with a sugar/salt/water brine. It actually worked. It's amazing what one can make when you are resourceful. Apple and pumkin pies, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserolls, baba ghanoush, etc. Then came the secret santa and white elephant gifts.

On Christmas Day I saw the Mediterranean Coast and Algeria (just the border) for the first time. Beautiful place.

And of course.. we found ways to entertain ourselves...

Merry Christmas in the sand..

Kareem, our Secret Santa himself. (I promise he's a volunteer and that is his real name.)

Andrew couldn't decide if he should keep his old duct-tape/cardboard camera case or accept the new one his secret santa brought him.

A melange of nationalities celebrating together.
We really did see snowflakes on the window pane!

My dear friend Jesse. Her site is 26 hours, so this will probably be my only visit during my service to Berkane. All her Moroccan friends kept laughing when she would introduce me, claiming that we must be twins. Two freckled blondes in Morocco, speaking Arabic.

We cranked Christmas tunes and then realized that we actually appreciated them. In America the radio stations wear out the tunes for a month before the holidays actually arrive. Guess you have to come to Morocco to appreciate "Walkin' in a Winter Wonderland".

Anass, Hajar, Zarah, me.

On the way home, I stopped in Khenifra to see my old host family. It was certainly a treat to see them over a year later. They kept marveling, "she can speak now, she can speak!" We just chatted and laughed for hours, played around on the internet at their house, cooked, ate, quoted poetry to each other. I love them all dearly and feel blessed to have so many loving "families" in this country. Also certainly allowed for contemplation on all that had passed in the year since I last stayed under their roof - how I was paranoid about cultural issues or communicating or not wanting to eat cow brain. These are happy days.

Saturday, December 16, 2006


Last Wednesday afternoon, I smiled and shook Dr. Hamid's hand and walked out of the PC Medical Office with a clean bill of health, better-than-average pulse, clean teeth, no weight change, etc. I had successfully completed our routine Mid-Service Medicals in Rabat. I was delighted.

Despite this, I'm beginning to think my Peace Corps service is turning me into a hypochondriac. Every day I have a new physical ailment. Last weekend I was sick with a fever/cold and had to stay in bed for days. I blew my nose so much it started gushing blood. In one day I took motion-sickness pills for traveling, Ibuprofen because my body ached from the sickness, Doli rhume (sick pills), and an allergy pill so I wouldn't sneeze and get bleary-eyed from my friend's cat. I have had sharp pains throughout my chest, stomach and abdomen randomly for weeks. My wrists are to sensitive/weak to do many push ups or crack some one's back, and if overstressed, require that I wear a wrist brace for several days to strengthen it again. I could go on.

The latest: a toothache. For those who care to know the history of this tooth read on. A few weeks before I was to leave for PC, I was still not medically cleared. The Washington Office kept returning my paperwork with an obscure code/number scribbled in. I was quite nervous to be cleared so that I would not miss the leave date. I went back to my dentist for the seventh time. She finally realized that PC D.C. had noticed a slight shadow on a back molar. She looked closely and supposed that this might be yet another cavity. She started drilling. My mouth is sensitive. Very sensitive. Every time they drill for a cavity, they give me two to four Novocaine shots and I am usually still praying that the torture will cease, face grimaced, knuckles white. this time it was even worse. No amount of Novocaine helped. "Oh no.." She frowned, peering deep into my mouth. "What?!" I wanted no trouble, I just needed papers completed. You need a root canal. Right. I had to be cleared that week or I would be passed up for PC Morocco. She and her assistant called every orthodontist in Cincinnati. No one could get me in for two weeks. My eyes misted. Morocco faded. "But," she said with a glimmer in her eye: "I have one more idea. I have an old friend who services a poorer section of Northern Kentucky. She does excellent work. And her life mission is to help poorer districts. She might be able to get you soon. Would you like me to call her?" "Yes! Please." I could hear her sweet voice speaking in low tones at the front desk. Soon she returned. "You have an appointment at 2PM today. And the cavities we filled today are free, in gratitude of your future service in Morocco." I broke into tears and hugged her. Never dreamed I'd be hugging a dentist.

The root canal was completed without a crown, the dentist judging a crown unnecessary at the time. I made medical clearance in time to secure my spot in the Moroccan team. I was satisfied.

In the past year, the tooth has dully pained me from time to time. I used mouthwash or just ignored it and it would fade after a few days.

At my consultation with the dentist last week, I asked him to carefully examine the 12-year molar. I was curious whether it was weak and in danger of cracking: if a crown might be necessary now. He said it appeared the surgeon was skilled and the tooth was in no danger. (Even more details that you don't care to know: due to an excessively small mouth, I have had 10 teeth pulled in the course of my lifetime. One of which, was the lower corresponding 12-year-molar. The dentist was concerned that the upper molar in question had no contact when I masticated. We checked. Me previous dental work had taken that into consideration. One corner of the tooth contacted a lower pearly-white. All was fine.)

Now up-to-date: the day before yesterday this same tooth began aching again, slightly. Yesterday the pain increased. Last night, as I was watching "Rent" with a few friends, the pain grew into a jackhammer pounding away at my brain. I dismissed myself from the movie and went into the bathroom. I tried to floss it. My tooth punished the action. I clung to the bathroom sink and sunk to the floor. Despite eyelids squeezed tightly, tears moistened my cheek. I took to Ibuprofen and tried to return to the movie. A few minutes later, unable to bear the pain, I got up again. This time Jess tried to find some way to help. She grabbed some ice out of the fridge for me to suck on and numb the pain. It only temporarily helped, but after each freezing cube, the pain returned with more vengeance. I stumbled about the house in silence, trying not to disturb my friends. A thought came into my head: what if they knocked me out? How problematic would that be? It might be worth it. Okay, enough with silly ideas. I swallowed more pain-relievers and drank hot milk. Eventually the pain subsided enough to allow a few other thoughts to enter my head and I returned to the movie scene, ignoring the dull thud in my skull.

This morning I woke to the same dull pain, took more pain killers and called the doctor. We will consult with the dentist on Monday. In the mean time, I carefully ascertained how much pain medication I could take without risk. So, as I wait for the next step, I'll just revel in becoming a druggie. Who would have thought.

Curious what my next faux maladie will be.

War of the Bugs

After reveling in the pretty pink Oleandras and crimson Hyacinth flowers gracing my roof, I was horrified to find sticky yellow bumps covering blossom and bud: Aphids! My flower buds have ceased flowering due to the invasion. This would not do.

I researched online and realizing that many of the complex-named pesticides recommended were probably not available at my local Agdez drugery, I kept reading for other options. Manual removal. Not really an option unless I have half a week to devote: they're swarming at this point. Next option. Lady bugs. Right. I had yet to make acquaintence with one this side of the ocean. I let the issue rest for the time, unsure how to procede.

Yesterday Jessica and I were strolling along through farm plots in the palm oasis. "Oh look!" She exclaimed, "Lady bugs!" "Where?!" I pounced. Cherry red little ladies patted about the dirt and grasses. "Here's another one, oh and another. I've never seen one in Morocco." I explained my flowerbud crisis. We quickly set about collecting them with sticks and fingers, and stuffing them into my jacket pocket, along with grassblades to keep them happy. After a dozen or so began perusing their new surroundings, I called off the mission. Jess was so caught up in the excitement, that I had to physically encourage her to cease and desist.

This morning, I commissioned the Lady Bugs and sent them to their first mission. They are actively attacking the targeted enemy with only one or two desertions so far.