Sunday, August 23, 2009

Adeventures are available at any and every turn in Rabat, even during the Holy Month (not Elul)

Couldn't bear to disappoint my readers, so I'm writing about my first day with the AmidEast Rabat crew.

Here was my day in basic nouns. For all of those who have taken Kaufman's US History class, this could be terms to combine for IDs. One potential thesis might easily be the title of this post.

Ancient Romans
Baby Storks
Pottery Wheel
Carpet Souk

Now allow me to elaborate:

Today was the second day of Ramadan. [Ramadan is a time of elevated spiritual attentiveness and focus. Fasting every day from sunrise to sunset, Muslims are careful to pray the requisite five times a day, and abstain from such practices as eating, drinking (obvi), smoking, procreating, among others. Approximately three restaurants in the area are open, and the streets are relatively dead during the day, but if you are a Muslim male you will not be served at any of them unless you have an official government note stating that you have a medical condition. OK, moving on.]

This morning we trudged through the humid August air to arrive at the AmidEast Headquarters, a lovely 5-story blue-and-while tiled building with lots of classrooms, computers, and even a small library for our the study abroad students' exclusive use on the penthouse floor. We were "oriented" which meant that we were told a lot of information that a) we had already read in the packets they gave us b) was mostly common sense and c) tended to drag itself out due to the healthy enthusiasm shown by the interjecting staff (who are wonderful, don't get me wrong).

Then we had our first class in "Survival Moroccan Arabic", also known as our first class in Dairja, or the dialect of this region. The class was unexpectedly quite fun, with our peppy pink hijabed teacher popping from one of us to the next asking us to repeat the phrases we'd just learned, and it made me realize to what degree much my summer CLS program advanced me. Lets just say I have my Fusha (MSA) placement exam tomorrow morning, and I'm not studying.

So then we were supposed to go lunch. But nothing was open. Even the fancy French place was closed. Not because it was Ramadan, but because it was Sunday. I had brought a lunch, so I ate - by myself, in a corner (as we all must on Ramadan) - on the top floor of the AmidEast building and then was whisked off to what's called the "Chellah" (pronounced "Shae-LA) castle. It's an ancient Roman castle that the Muslims built - if I'm not mistaken - right on top if it.

Anyway, at this castle there were all sorts of crazy things to see. I saw beautiful flowers, lots (LOTS) of cats, which I've come to refer to as the "rats of the Middle East" (but so cuuuutttee), and it it was here that I obtained two grotesque mosquito bites. I saw the mosquitoes as they were biting me and destroyed them but still had the horrible bites to deal with...I later was able to put clay on them and they deflated quite rapidly. I will explain.

I even took a picture with incredible old door that looked like it'd been plucked from "A Secret Garden" which, most likely, this had been at some point or another:

But the COOLEST thing I did at the Challah was to hold a baby stork, which was maybe the weirdest animal I've ever seen up close. They were all over when we were walking around, so I snapped approximately a bazillion pictures of these furry dinosaurs, but then when our "guide" was talking to us at one point, he picked one up! And I was like "YO!" - (in my head) - and then when he saw the shine in my eyes and the enthusiasm in my stance, he handed it to me. It was WEIRD. Mostly because it looks so sinister yet is so damp, wretched, and helpless. Probably because it had just fallen out of the nest. I mean its likely. And those nests are HIGH. Not to mention ALL OVER the place!

Anyway, that was the highlight of my day. Used some hand sanitizer, got back on the bus, and headed for the pottery makers where I was one of about 6 or 7 people to get my hands (and clothes!) dirty behind the pottery wheel. It was worth the filthy white skirt I had to wear for the rest of the day.

On our way to the carpet souk we were warned not to buy anything. I think they didn't want us making any outrageous purchases since we're still just "stupid Americans" and don't know anything about anything. Which is partially true. Though, somehow, I wasn't tempted to purchase anything....I'll leave most of that to Grandma and Co. when she comes in October (YAY!!!!)

Tonight we went to a host family for Iftar, the traditional break-fast meal after a day of fasting during Ramadan. It was an elaborate affair. They had the most wonderful dates. I ate nine. And they had glorious sweet tea with na'ana (in Arabic it has an Ayin), or mint. But I only had one glass of that. And after dinner we all got henna on our arms. Mine started annoying me by the time we got on the bus, and most of the chunky stuff is off by now, and my arm just looks an unhealthy shade of orange jaundice.

During that dreary orientation this morning, I made a list of things to do. I have, thus far, done none of them. I probably won't. At least not tonight. Its 11pm and I should go to bed. Or read a book, or do something other than blog. So here's my song, based on a converation I had about Kabbalism and Sufism over Iftar, and while I will admit that it's not the greatest piece of musical or lyrical genius, and it's probably Christian rock to boot, I kind of like it. Here's Glory/Us by Acceptance.


  1. that picture of you and the stork made my day. amazing. when can i visit?

  2. Catching up here...I love the "I DESTROYED THEM" (mosquitoes). Clay?