Sometimes I have days that are way up; I feel capable of raising the world on my shoulders while dancing a jig. The next day might be the worst of my Peace Corps experience because of some side-of-mouth comments made by my community members or just because I’m living in a community where I don’t share the culture or the language. I try and remember that a few months ago, I would have no idea what people were saying. I have come a long way since then.
Last weekend was a collection of small experiences outlining the rise and fall to the pattern that is my Moroccan life. I take note of both positive and negative moments; it helps me to remember to value the little things.
Last Wednesday, I had my first in a series of English classes. I made a poster to hang in the Dar Chabab, I went to my favourite bakery and joked around with the women so they would remember to send their kids. As a last resort, as I was leaving my house, I grabbed 3 of my neighbors girls and asked if they wanted to come to my Beginner English class. They said, “yes”… because I was the adult who could walk them across the street. Luckily I did, because they were my only students. I had them fill out surveys, draw pictures of what they want to be when they grow up, and sing and act out the alphabet song.
For my second/advanced class, I had 3 students yet again. One came 30 minutes late and was a university student in town for the holiday. The other two were some kids who had (bothered/harassed) me while I was at souk shopping; one of them was bothering me in English, so I suggested he come to my advanced English class. He brought a friend, and I found out he lives close to my house. He is a really great student when given the chance, and exceptionally motivated. This is his first year of English in school and he is practically fluent because he learned English from watching TV. He has stopped his friends from harassing me and always has his 12-year-old grin a-waiting.
My plan for the next class is to do exactly the same thing; I want to get their schedules, find out why they want to learn English and see how we can extend English class into Journalism club or Health club, etc… Inshallah, we’ll see what happens.
Fast-forward to Friday.
I was invited to my friend’s wedding–a wonderful and sweet Moroccan woman who I worked with back during the summer at SOS camp. After 3 weeks of back-and-forth–should I go? Do I have enough money? Can I make the trip in a weekend?– I decided to go for it.
Friday afternoon saw me eating couscous with a favourite family, followed by a souk bus (read: trashy and cheap) to Ouarzazate, my next major city.
In Ouarzazate I met up with an old CBT-mate and new friends doing a project, and spent the night there. I woke up early early early to take the first souk bus (trashy and cheap) to Agadir, a city on the sea.
Unfortunately, I had some time to kill before the bus, and a guy saw me wandering around, looking for the correct bus. He asked if he could sit with me; he saw I was going to refuse-angrily-and said he would be like my brother. To cut a long story short, over an hour he propositioned me, proposed to me, told me he loved me and tried to convert me. It was an interesting hour, and I appreciated the Darija and diplomacy practice. Though, as soon as it was time for the bus, I got the heck out of there.
6 hours later, I was in Agadir with my super-cool-awesome friend; she dropped me off at the beach and I wandered around til I got blisters on my feet and bought a collar and leash for Amalu. I blasted music in my ears and for once didn’t care what people thought of the strange American on the beach in a long skirt dancing to her music while walking through the waves.
The last hour or so before meeting up again, I let my feet soak in the water and read my kindle as the waves lapped at my toes. As the tide slowly chased my toes, I had to keep readjusting, but the cold water was a welcome relief.
My friend picked me up and we headed back to the bride’s house for the party. I dropped off my bag in the back room and went to another house to meet a family. As always there was tea and kaskrut–cookies–but this time there was also a tagine. Recognizing that I don’t eat red meat, they gave me all the onions and tomatoes, which were deliiiiicious. Nom nom.
Returning to the wedding, I changed into my kaftan and rejoined the party. My 14-year-old friend who had adopted me saved me a seat, for which I was extremely grateful. The wedding was held in a beautiful purple and silver tent in the alleys between the houses with carpets spread across the floor. Several of the plastic chairs were decorated with a matching purple fabric, but it was clear that the majority of plastic chairs were borrowed–extremely typical for Moroccan culture, where people are extremely generous and the community contributes to major events.
I was lucky to have a chair because, as I found out, no matter how many plastic chairs are contributed by neighbors, only so many people can fit inside a 150 person tent when you’ve invited 300. Fortunately, that was managed by an extreme amount of dancing around on dance floor; shaking our booties, and the like. It was a bit odd, because there were men looking in and coming in every so often to dance; the men of the family even danced with the girls. It was fairly dissimilar to the separations of gender I’ve been experiencing so far.
I exercised my patience and I waited; I danced, I sat back down, I chatted idly; I practiced all of those new skills I have gained through an (almost) uncountable number of tea times and lunch tajines.
The bride had started the evening in a sofa seat feet for a queen, because for the evening, that’s what she was. Her wedding planner/fixer that accompanies and manages all Moroccan brides watched the chairs sort themselves out while her Henna-artist covered her fingers and toes. As well as her hands and feet. An hour or so passed, and the bride went out while dancing resumed.
The bride entered again, this time decked out in a white wedding dressed, bedazzled and bedecked and be-everything; she was gorgeous. She walked, hand-in-hand, with her fiance; after a brief song for the bride and groom, she stepped onto a platform and was carried around the tent, cameras flashing in her eyes. Her groomsmen wore outfits of white and blue with the bride on their shoulders, and her groom led the parade. It was a tight walk; not much room to walk with the fan club of friends. Still, we danced and sang around the happy couple. Pictures were taken, and they left again.
Dance, dance, dance. An hour later, there was an announcement by the DJ (they played the music AND played the instruments/sang to accompany it) that the bride and groom would be entering the tent for the first time–as husband and wife.
After that, I lost track of the specifics, other than that there was tons of dancing and smiling and laughing and photos and singing and all the other present continuous verbs that occur at happy events.
We could’ve danced all night, danced all night to this dj
I spent the night at a hotel in town to be close to the CTM (nice, air-conditioned, slightly pricey) bus station; when I went in the morning, I found that tickets home were sold out that day. And the next. And the next. Public transportation for the win! Returned to the hotel and had a solid breakfast of white bread, jam and coffee before heading to bus station.
The non-air-conditioned buses are *not only* not air-conditioned, but they are cheaper and more likely to have annoying youth as patrons. I met my fair share when I found my seat surrounded by 20-somethings going to Ouarzazate to join the army. At first, they were exceptionally sweet, especially when they found out I knew Arabic. Later on in the bus, I found gum on the back of my sweater and saw gum being thrown at me–and ducked. After a sharp reprimand in extremely basic and angry Darija, they apologized profusely (most of them) and I moved to the front of the bus.
Other than that, pretty basic trip back to Zagora. It was nice getting away, but being away from home made me realize how much I missed it.