Sunday, December 02, 2007

An Open Letter to the Old Lady Coughing Next Door:

Please do not die. I know that I am American and you are Moroccan and we do not talk much so I will make my request short and easy to understand. I do not want to bend social moors and sit down next to you on your stoop as the sun goes down, but I have grown to respect you during the last year we have been neighbors. You have seen such changes in your day, and now are left holding together a traditional life in the new house your son Braheim built for you. I am new to the neighborhood, I do not yet have your confidence and respect. I am rather doubtful of ever breaking down some of these barriers between us, but that does not make my wish any less.

I can hear you each night, as I lay in my garden and you in yours. The wall is only 9 feet high, I listen to your Al-Jazerra news and you listen to my Jay-Z. I know that each night, you wake up coughing spitting choking and I worry about you. Please do not die.


Gone to the Dogs:

I have writen before (or at least I intended to) about the relationship between Moroccan people and dogs. It usually is mixed but mostly mixed badly. The Koran says that dogs are unclean, and most towns end up with a lot of feral strays that get rocks thrown at them then become angry etc which only keeps the cycle going. Orne guy in town told me a long and rather convoluted description of what one must do when they have been touched by a dog, I think it included washing your cloths 7 times in the dirt. At which point, any reasonable person would just throw away those clothes.

M'ssici is a little different. Our two feral dogs are really nice. Joyfully jumping up, eager to play, desperate for human affection. We have one white one and one black one, and they sorta roam around the perefery of town sleeping though the day and being active at night. They had children.

Last week I was walking behind our kasba, when some children came out carring a big ball of fluffy white fur. Puppy. We talk about it, and as I was in a poor mood I took the dog to have someone to talk to while I was writing a text message. Its a cute dog. I think so, the kids think so. Old men think so. A concensous is reached, its cute. We walk to the edge of town where there is some cell phone reception and I think about making an adoption. Could I keep a dog? I called my friend and asked her to talk me out of it. About a half hour later, mother shows up and takes her baby back. I was a little sad to see it go, but value family so was happy to see them reunited. Also, unlike the mother, I am not lactating. But, a bond has been established.

Two days later I am coming home from a bike ride and run into a families group of children. These are the boldest children in town, some would call them just rude and ill manored, though their father is a nice guy. I am part of that some. They have the dog again. Where is mom? "She's gone!" I take puppy, drop my bike at my house then walk though town to the fields. Mistake. Now all the kids have two facts connected; foreign man and puppies. On our way, kids find me the brother puppy. Now my arms are filled with white whimping dogs and Im trying to duck excited children on our way for a mother and child reunion. I put them deep in a stand of corn figuring that mom will sniff them out. I checked back an hour later, it was rainbows and sunshine.

Im still pondering adoption. I do not mind living alone, but a little friendly puppy would be fun. At least it seems fun. Lots of friends have cats, I know another guy with a canine. AT this time of this writing, I have not seen mama, papa, or the kid for a few weeks. I hope they are safe. Updates at this spot.

We recently had elecions here in Morocco. Not for King, thats a lifetime gig. Legislative elections.

As a Peace Corps volenteer I am not allowed to get involved in any of this in any way.

The election calander has very tightly structured start and stop days. We went from no campaigning to vans and trucks plastered with posters and handbilling in every cafe. Even my small town would be invaded a few times a day by workers from Rissani or Alnif affiliated with one party or another. It was good entertinment for us, thought I think some of the workers felt like they had entered the boonies.

Parties like to distinguish themselves with symbols, not much different than our donkey and elephant. The car party. The doplhin party. The open door party. The apple. The car and key. The lightbulb party (not to be confused with the oil lamp party). All in all I was told there are 33 parties in Morocco. Or 44. So many that people did not even know them all, or know how many there were.

One party (mustanges just like my highschool), ran a women who did not wear the headscarf. When they came to flyer my town the teenager down the street told me she wasnt Muslim. It should have been obvious from looking at her. Enough said on that.

Election day came and went. I was told I couldnt vote without my official government card by some over zelous poll worker. People seemed excited to vote, to participate. Women and men, which I thought was an overall good sign. Im told that the moderates won, I am not political I have no openion about that.
Talk like Moroccan with your Hands!

Moroccans love to talk with their hands. Not just to provide visual cues, but to communicate real information too. Here are a few way that will have you talking (or gesturing) fluently in no time. Right is right. Left?'s sinister.

Hand wildly flapped over right shoulder: Something happened long ago. Ex: "Sure, I ate sweet delicous other white meat porkchops. Pan fried with some onions and apples, little fresh cracked black pepper...but that was a very long time ago"

Making like a tea pot. Pinky is the spout, thumb sticks up as handle: Tea as in "do you want me to pour you some tea"

Thumb outsteached as a bottle neck, other other fingers curled as in a fist: Beer. "Do you drink beer?". Often accumpanied by snickering, knowing looks, and a vauge sence of transgresing social order. This might have to do with the low quality of beer available or person drinking.

Thumb is a spout, hand is a fist. Tipped into the mouth: Water. "Im thirsty, please can I have some water". Also used by bored impoverished shepard children to get tourists to stop for their entertainment and enrichment.

Thumb and pointer finger making a zero: Of no value, worthless. Ex: "I do not like Merzuga. It has to many tourists and jerk faux-guides. Its a zero".

Hand extended, middle finger down: Figure it out.

Both hands in front of body, rotating at wrists. Confused look on face: What are you doing? Where have you been? Whats up?

Thumb rubbing against pointer and middle finger, palm up: Money. Lots of it.

Thumb rubbing against pointer and middle finger, palm down: Salt. As in "Please put some salt on my french fries".

Thumb under chin, forward movement: Too much or its full. Ex:"There is no space on the bus, its full" or "That jerk wanted 1000dh for the carpet. Way to much".

Pointer finger aimed at the heavens: Talkin' about the man upstairs.

Hand at temple as though making to screw a lightbulb into ones ear: Crazy. Often directed at another who is speaking, or a third party.

Stroking chin as though one has a beard: Older man, or an actual beard.

Hand on back, left on an imaginary staff, body hunched over: A very old man, or even some object very old. Ex: "You need a new cell phone Scott. Your's is very old".

Pointer finger extended and rubbing along chin cleft (for those blessed with one): Older women. Referencing facial tattoo's sported on many older females.

Both hands in front of body, moving in small circles as though one was using them to ride a bike: Bike riding. Note: Moroccans use their feet to ride, but hands to mime the motion.

Pointer finger pulling skin down under right eye: Sinful,wrong, hsuma Ex: "That guy was talking about drinking Jack Williams brand wiskey. Sinful!"

Hand in chopping motion. Hand flat, or as holding something: A whipping. Ex: "That kid through a rock at me. He needs to get wacked".

Left pointer finger, turgid. Right thumb and finger in a circle. Left is inserted into the hole formed by right: An immature way to reference a mature subject.

Throwing food into an open mouth: Food. Used all the time.

Hand in a fist, pumped enthusisticly in front of the chest: Forcefully. Often used by males to reference "the marital act", wherether under that auspice or not. Not used by females, who have no interest in that stuff anyway. :)

Hands together, under head tilted sideways: Sleep, or sleepy. Ex: "Scott, are you sleepy? Did my braying mule wake you up last night?".

Fingers coming together in a pinch. In front of ones mouth or directed: Quiet, or be quiet.
When you live in a mud house a certain...comfortability with the animal kingdom developes. Im am now fairly flexable, so it brings a little smile when insect-a-phobes (i think this has a real name), come visiting. A small list of my ark.

It is my beliefe that if you have a garden in the middle of the house, and your walls more closely resemble the ant farm i got for christmas a few years ago, that ants are going to be my friend. I keep my food sealed tightly, and whatever they get to is my fault. But, ants lead to...

Roachs. I had some. I know some PCVs who employ a cat to solve their roach problem. I had a "wig out" and went a little nutter with some insecticide. It wasnt pretty, but problem solved. However...

Ive been visited by a plauge. Or at least some confused grasshoppers who would rather be devouring a field of wheat but who are despertaly bouncing around my living room. This makes them perfect prey for...

Lizards. Last year I had one lizard I named Gorden. I dont think he was a real gecko. But, sadly I found him dead and being visited by my ants. This year I have more lizards, but Im not naming them.

Bats. I had one fly in yesterday. No confusion. He flipped upside down and took a little nap in my hallway. Live and let live.

Birds. I watched one make a nest in my rafters and being rather tender hearted I let it stay. Birds wake up early, and while they were in residence so did I.

Scorpians. My friends have so many of these ghouls. I dont know whats going wrong. If anyone should have some, its me. But so far so good. I had two last summer, and one baby one this year. Thats it. T

Spiders. Not many either. I do need to get a photo of those camel spiders. Those are huge and scary. I almost walked over one in the road a few days ago and it scared the crap out of me. I found one inside my house, lets hope he does not return.

Flies. So many I lost count.

Weirdo's. There are a lot of flying, hopping, buzzing and humming bugs and I do not have a clue what they are.
It was Ramadan again!

From an outside viewpoint the entire Thanksgiving to New Years time must seem pretty strange. One holiday after another blending in to a smooth commercialized campaign that runs for months.

That said, Ramadan is strange. A month of fasting during the day. No water, no food from very early (like 4am) until sundown (6pmish). Its hard. But the fast breaking is a riotous affair, with sugar and fattening foods proliferating. Its easy to see how some people put on weight during this holy month.

Im not fasting this year. I tried some last year, found it didnt strike a cord with me and did not see any reason to give it another go. Im not sure what I expected last year. Did I seek salvation, or a feeling that I was paying off some penance? Did I think it would help me grow closer to a higher power? Or closer to my town? I felt hungry and thirsty, but that is about it. People in town still like to ask me on a daily basis if I am fasting, I think for children it is just another way to be reminded of the infidel that lives down the street.

Being a luner month, a person can keep watch each night for the progress. I have never seen the moon wax and wane so slowly in my life.
My parents visited my town in early june. Our timeframe was very rushed, and we only spent about 16 hours in town. Most of that time was spent in my house, cooking, sleeping, or just spending a little time together. To be honest, most people in town didnt even know they had visited, which seems to have some odd results now.

I had the following conversation in early September with ladies at the end of my street:

Me: Peace be with you!

Lady: Also with you!

Me: How are you? Your are good?

Lady: Yes, good. You?

Me: Great

Lady: Are your parents in your house?

Me: What? In my house?

Lady: Yes. Parents in your house?

Me: My parents?

Lady: Your parents.

Me: Now?

Lady: Yes. Now.

Friend of Lady: He understands nothing.

Lady: Go to the store and buy your veggies.

Me (silently): They understand nothing.