Saturday, September 12, 2009

Girl, You Walk With a Purpose…

So I am living in a country non-native to myself and my friends …and of course it goes without saying that American women (around the world) have been portrayed with a certain stigma (due to our lovely entertainment industry)…and just case you don’t know what I am talking about it means the entire world thinks that we are EASY. That being said I have had some interesting encounters with Moroccan men. A lot of times it’s just “yahlla yahlla, jameela w bella w leilla” really just anything to call you pretty and get your attention or other times it has been as forward as "Oh my goodness, you are very hot. Welcome to my country".

Last night Armaan and I ventured out for the first time alone-- by alone I mean our house mom refused to let us walk alone so she walked us to where we were going, pretended to say goodbye, and circled us without us knowing until we found who we were meeting…I spotted her and I can only imagine how dumb we must have looked to her.

We met Ally and Marguerite for qahuwa (coffee). Our wait for them we had very little attention drawn to us. We try not to speak very loud so no one hears us speaking English…and as of yesterday we decided speaking Spanish was a better idea…there were some creeper looks but no cat calls of any sort. When the four of us began to walk together our creeper looks increased by a margin of 85% (ok, I don’t really know what that means…but it was a lot). Marguerite is a really beautiful blond and apparently there aren’t very many of those around here. Someone got close enough to Ally that they whispered “hot” into her ear, all really harmless yet disconcerting at the same time.

The trend around here is to scare you. People intentionally get in your way and bump into you. We were warned this would happen and a lot of the times they don’t even touch you. But it’s annoying as hell and I’ve mastered the smaH lee- mashe muskee (excuse me- oh, it’s ok) dialogue. Most times we just ask our house brother to go with us…and not gonna lie he does a banging job protecting us. No one looks at us and we get a nice little tour.

Last night when we parted ways from the other girls we began the walk home. We had some creeper eyes but nothing too bad. The most hilarious thing is the blowing kisses (even from twelve year olds, because even they think its ok) and the pre-pubescent boys who serenade us while were walking. We were serenaded three times in just our walk home.

So in the USA let some little boy try and serenade me…in a flash he’d know what I was thinking. But when not in the USA you have to take a different approach. I have mentally noted the things to remember.

Notes to self: ignore, act like you know where you’re going (even if you don’t), and girl, you walk with a purpose. People tend to leave us alone after that.

Armaan put it best after going through our last group of guys/song before reaching home “it’s like a gate that we have no choice but to go through it.”

Thursday, September 10, 2009

When in Morocco...

I feel as though I've been living in Fes for months. One week since I’ve left and I have made some great friends and feel as though this is an adventure I started a long time ago.

The other day we took a tour of the medina in Fes. We were told several times that we had to look for the five different elements. In Islam there are five pillars. Shahada (Testifying to God's One-ness), Salat (Prayer), Zakat(giving charity), Sawm (fasting), and Hajj (pilgrimage). My entire time here in Fes so far has really help me understand the depth of Islam and the Islamic culture thus far. We saw the 4th largest mosque in the world. Its elements were mosaic, arches, cedar (intertwined being able to see out without being seen), the fountain/river, and the minaret. I felt as though I was walking around the marketa in Mexico with all the people and the many stands of goods to be sold. It was definitely a highlight experience. My favorite eye opening adventure in the medina walking was seeing all the fresh chickens waiting to have their heads cut off...or maybe it was almost being ran over by a donkey…

Fasting for Ramadan...My roommate is Muslim and for the sake of solidarity I decided to fast with her. It has its hard days and its easy days…but I definitely can see the community and spiritual aspect that comes with not eating or drinking sun rise to sun down. I do pray my own prayers at least five times throughout the day. I feel very close to my Christian God through this Islamic practice. My roommate and house family are very encouraging. My house family is very excited to see me fasting. It makes me feel definitely closer to the people in general…because even the least spiritual of Muslims fast.

My host family is amazing. They laugh at me and my roommate Armaan when we practice darija (Moroccan Arabic)...but are so excited to see us try. The darija is so much more difficult than the fusah (standard) arabic that I learned. But this whole thing is about experiences and challenges...taking them in and accepting them.

I wouldn’t say that I am used to catching a cab…but I am confident in saying that cathching a cab in Morocco is not anything like the U.S. It took us 30 minutes to find a cab that would take us to the Asima (market) where we needed to pick up supplies to refuel. By the time we had reached the cab we might as well have walked (but of course we didn’t know that). The little red petit taxi drivers have power. They can refuse you…and they decide which pedestrian they’re going to pick up.

Today it rained for the first time since I’ve been here. It by no means was a heavy rain…but lucky enough for all of us we have zero rain gear. In my flip flops and Air Jordan backpack we walked the streets in search of a taxi. Me and Armaan flagged one down and were pretty proud of ourselves. Turns out we got creeper #1. He guessed Armaan’s ethnicity off the bat (which is unusual because everyone we have met thus far assumes that she and I are Moroccan) and proceeded to ask her all about what she was doing and where her family was. I thought to myself… Self. This man is not too bad. He is farely nice in fact. Well he turned to me and said “nti jahmeela” (you’re beautiful). It just went downhill from there. He wanted to know if we were married and said that I was written into his heart. He then proceeded to tell us that he was from Afghanistan (and he wasn’t) and that he loved bin Laden. He said his car was one from the Taliban and that he had a bomb. Yup. I pretty much can say that I was more than ready to get out of that vehicle- despite the fact that he was so nonchalant about it. Also street signs are the worst guidelines ever. Cab rides are usually the times that I pick to pray…

A lot of times we go on these 30-40 minute walks around the town…and that’s light walking. I love the empowerment that walking has given me. Getting to the market I know that I will be walking for at least 15-20 minutes. Getting away from the attachment to technology and luxuries has definitely been an empowering thing.

I realized at dinner yesterday that people other than most Moroccans get their luggage checked going through the Casablanca airport. Because I looked native I did not :) This weekend we have a trip to the desert…and I couldn’t be more excited

Favorite quotes so far… “…but I am a famous Moroccan. Let me show you!”, “bella sha’kalat”, “you have black hair like me?”

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Days 4,5,6...

It's been a little crazy here. I felt like I did not stop moving since the day I boarded the plane for Houston. Now that I am slightly settled it will be a little easier to keep updated.

My aiport experience was not a bad one. I had a really long layover in Dubai...but of all the places to have a 14 hour layover Dubai isn't a bad place to have one.

I met friends (you know because I'm so shy).

I met this really amazing 17 year old Norweigian girl who had been living in Canada and was on her way to live in South Africa for the next two years. She was a pro at the airport thing and I really felt like she and I were best friends for those 10 hours spent together. Despite my stealth ways I met Tris, a British college student catching a flight to Korea...where he would spend the next year working and studying business. He never really understood anything I said...but was hilarious nonetheless. Besides the few random people I also met the nicest Persian man. He gave me tons of advice and eased my nerves having to be in the airport for so long. He never really said goodbye. I blinked and was gone. I looked all around and he was no where to be found. CREEPY. I know. But he helped me :)

Dubai to Casablanca was another 7hours. I was flat out exhausted by this point. Going off a 30 minute nap. We took the bus to Rabat...I was given 30 min to take a shower and come down. We did the stressful task of getting Dirham (Moroccan currency) and a phone that would work. 340 dirham spent and we were off for a tour. And bytour I mean we were taking laps around the city...at the least 5 miles and I feel like I'm shooting wayyy under. We went to the market and bought food then took another hike to the Boregreg River for a picnic. There are no words for how beautiful my first sunset in Rabat was.

I had kous kous for lunch. Imagine a foot wide and 8 inches tall piled with vegetables and chicken...mezenine indeed.

Today I am in Fes. We took strolls through the Medina and watch the livliness that comes with breaking fast during Ramadan. It's surreal. I am living with a house family that are more than hospitable with a roomie (Armaan) that is probably more down to earth than anyone I know. My whole group is probably the best group of people ever (I mean it doesn't hurt that they laugh at my jokes). Even today when a cat jumped on my crotch...and allowed me the chance to share my knowledge of toxoplasma gondii...we just had some good ol' conversation.

I'm excited for my first class of Colloquial Moroccan Arabic tomorrow :)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Day 123...

This time change is throwing me wayyyy off. It's currently 2:29 p.m. in KC and 11:30 p.m. in Dubai. I missed Thursday. It got dropped somewhere over the Atlantic...the plane pooped it out with all the turbulence (sp?) I'm sure.

I mean it is hitting me now. I am gone and I won’t be back for a while. I’ve never really gone anywhere. I've never gone more than a month a way from having my parents near or at the least a phone call. My parents, my sisters, my siblings…I feel like I’m going to be missing out on so much…but it’s just something that I just have to do.

I’m scared. I’m excited. I’m nervous. I’m ready…

Of everyone it’s hardest for me to leave her. I hope she knows that she’ll do fine. She’s stronger and smarter than she gives herself credit for. For 20 years we’ve never really been separated from each other…and now we’ll be an ocean apart. I’m missing her already. I know that I’ve put this off as long as I could, but now is the time for me to go. I’ll be back before we know it.

God led me here. Everything I’ve ever done God has led me there and this is no different. He will keep me. He will protect me. He will provide. He’s answering all the desires of my heart. Thank you, Jesus.

I have all these mixed feelings about leaving. I know that this will be good for me…I know that this is all in a plan that God has for me.

So now that I've been to Houston...took a 14 hour plane ride (which for a 14 hour plane ride it was pretty awesome), met some cool friends in Dubai...I'm ready to ride a camel.

I'm totally taking on Morocco...head on. Keep me in your prayers, all.