.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

La Vita Grassa

My Photo
Location: Aarhus, Denmark

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Leid Sghir... happy moments

My new site mate, Mona and I spent the first holiday morning of Leid Sghir - celebrating the end of a month of Ramadan fasting (we weren't, they were ;) - by touring the neighbors' houses. If a it's possible to get drunk on mint tea and cookies ... we did. By the end we were groaning and looking at each other with these eyes, "no more, please, no more... ?"

My good friend, M'barak, from the campground ... happy to be home for once and pouring tea to a literal stream of visitors. The entire time we sat in the Bue Omar home, we held a cookie or cup of tea in one hand, and performed various greeting rituals of kissing shoulders, kissing hands, kissing cheeks, tapping our hearts, and gushing "Labas, Bixer, Mabruk Ahawashik, Laya bark fik! Mabruk Leid, Laya Bark fik! Labas? Bixer? Humdullah!" (Translated: I'm well, I'm fine, happy holiday! Happy Leid! Thank you and God bring blessings on you too, you are fine? You are well? Thanks be to God!) to dozens of strangers and acquaintances. Often when we moved on to the next house, we'd find ourselves greeting the same persons again.

Fatiha and Mona

(Mona is my new site mate. If she looks Moroccan, it might have something to do with the fact that she's half Guyanese and half Egyptian. Martin, my other pseudo-site mate is full Guyanese. What are the chances? Poor Mona is often mistaken for a Moroccan, meaning people might shove her around quicker than me and go on about her Arab blood and how she should fast ... but they also might accept her quicker than I.)

Little Hamza.. he's grown up in the two years I've lived here. He was so proud of his fancy new outfit.

Nawal ... she's been a good friend to me. Though if I ever want to visit her, I know I have to head over to her family's kitchen where she will be slaving away preparing every meal for six to a dozen people at any given time. In her spare time she goes to harvest feed in their palm plot for their new cow and donkey, or cleans house. That is her life as the remaining unmarried daughter (in a household of probably twelve children).

Fatiha's father makes us bamboo furniture (shelves, baskets..). She is twenty and still has two or three years left of high school but hopefully plans to finish. And then get married.

We wrapped up with a long, lazy lunch at our host family's house.. it's fun to have another "sister" in the family now.

My wonderful family (except Iman, Ikram and Baba Houssane): L to R: Soumia, Nzha, Me, Si Mohammed (Nadia's husband), Nadia, Mama Kbira (it's her real name and literally means "big"), Nawal (engaged to a French guy now), baby Rahab (Nadia's), and Mona.

Including Mona, Mama Kbira has eight daughters now!

Me with the adorable (albeit spoiled rotten) little munchkin, Rahab. We couldn't get her to smile for photos unless I tickled her tummy.

The Little Princess and her mama's cell phone

Sunday, October 14, 2007

There is a reason why..

I fully realize I have not posted in a while, and minimally before that. There is a reason why. Morocco has become my home. I no longer wanted my frustrations bared before an unknown public. It made fantastic the daily life. Fantastic, versus commonplace or normal. My little world in Agdz has become my world. My private world. My angsts of work and friendship, the joys and spills in life: I coveted their ownership. To continue writing seemed to exacerbate the feeling that my existence in this world is akin to watching a fantastical creature flitting about in it until she finds the escape hatch. The things I've dealt with, over time, became more the struggles of a normal life (in my mind), not extraordinary, and thus, I kept them to myself and intimate friends.

Now I walk through the streets - seven weeks from waving goodbye for good - and I have to recognize that I am still a foreigner here. As long as I live here and try to make Agdz my home, I will still be a foreigner. After two years of greeting them in their native tongue, the children on my street still shout "Bonjour, Ca Va!?" to me as I pass. I wonder how many times people still internally groan as I try to explain something in Arabic or inquire how to say another word. I still get exhausted on marathon holiday mornings of tea and cookies (the Muslim world is celebrating Leid Sghir right now, the holiday capping Ramadan, the month of fasting). Close acquaintances still look at me with those cautious eyes: friendly but not fully understanding or trusting, as one gazes at a stranger living in one's community whose habits, though becoming familiar with time, are still not wholly comprehended. I still feel at a loss as to how to explain that traveling about Morocco is also work, that I'm not simply operating on an extended-vacation plan: survey work in Figuig, training new volunteers in Ouarzazate; Warden & Security or Volunteer Advisory Committee meetings in Rabat. And now I have holed myself up to study for the GRE. How do they know I'm not simply sleeping or hiding away? I have three days left to study, before I take off again for more trainings in Ouarzazate, and then End-of-Service Medicals in Rabat, followed by the GRE exam at the end of that week. To locals, I simply travel a lot. I think about projects I'd hoped to pursue much further - such as exporting hammocks, which due to summer, Ramadan and my travel and other work, never matured. So I have to accept the realities. There will always be more I could have accomplished. There will always be things I wished I had done. And I will never completely belong here. That is not to say I may ever completely belong anywhere, but it is a reality here I wanted to deny.

I will miss Agdz. I will miss my adorable girls and my host family. I will miss laughing and groaning about the heat and flies over a cup of mint tea with the Ben Mammas family. I will miss the slow, leisurely days of reading and gazing out at the palm trees. I will miss the undeniable exoticness of living in Morocco. I will miss many volunteers who have become dear friends and more.

Leaving will be bittersweet.

These days my plan is to focus on each week's goal (right now it's studying vocabulary words and taking GRE practice tests), and try to keep my head from swimming in the many things I have to emotionally deal with or accomplish before I fly away home - to savor the moments here and cherish the thought of home and parents, siblings, friends, and a niece and nephew (whom I haven't met yet) awaiting me, and the conveniences of "the promised land", as I've taken to calling it ... America.

I feel I might fly home, wake up in my own bed, and wonder if the last two years was a dream.