(I realize the name of this post is odd and sort of unclear. To clarify: Each word corresponds to a paragraph in this post.)
BREAKTHROUGH: Due to their French skills, Moroccans can pronounce the letter "V"! This means my name is not "Shefa" and is, instead, "Sheva"! I'm thrilled. Oh, also for the record, the saccharina that we're fed in our tea by Baria every morning and afternoon is actually aspartame. I find this every so slightly hilarious.
Beggars here are incredibly disturbing. More so than Egypt. They said it was a sort of industry - people pretend to have disabilities, etc. but even if they are pretending - their images haunt my dreams. I've seen eyes clouded by massive cataracts or skin growths, I've seen metal wire through deformed feet, I've seen stumps of every shape on every limb, and its hard to sleep sometimes. I've now also seen a few Maybedead People (I spoke too soon), but I think that one of them isn't Maybedead, and instead just sleeps every night right outside our Bab ("door" or entrance to the Medina) every night.
In other, more uplifting news, Casablanca was great.
We had a disastrous first few hours in which we were ripped off (we paid 4x the price of a 5 dirham We took a hike (~2 hrs) to the beach on Saturday. It was a gorgeous day. Almost too gorgeous. I was wearing a highish necked shirt and I put on another shirt after we got back I had such an absurd tan line that it literally looked like I was wearing two shirts. Even better: I had been wearing a necklace all day and so I had a large white dot right in the middle of chest. Anyway, our hike was leisurely and we stopped for a bit to admire the Hassan II Mosque, the 3rd biggest Mosque in the world. And its really new. Ground was broken for it in the 80s and it was finished in 93/4.
There were three best parts of being in Casablanca. 1) Our hotel was located off of Rue Colbert. I took a picture. 2) When were at Hassan II's Mosque, we saw a group of kids, ages ranging from 6/7-17/18, jumping off of the side of the Mosque's plaza that hung out over the water into the crashing waves below. It was probably a 30-foot drop, but the water was deep and the weather was hot. I desperately wanted to join them. Some of them, the older one's, did backflips or would hang off of the edge of the side of the plaza and push off of it with their feet. We watched them - along with many others - for something like 20 minutes before everyone was kicked off for prayer (I think). 3) Rick's Cafe is just about everything I thought it would be. It feels luxurious. Velvety. It has a sheen that I thought was only possible in the 1950s. The waiters are older Moroccan men in tuxes who speak English and wink at you, as though to say "Here's lookin' at you, kid." It was also the only bar in Casablanca that was selling alcohol. And this wasn't just alcohol. This was nice, expensive, beautiful alcohol. No one got drunk, don't worry, it was just a lovely time from another time.
Popular Sufism is like Kabbalah. It's also like Catholicism. I've been thinking about it a lot. It has saints and shrines and a desire to fuse oneself with God. So it's got the same trappings of mystery as any religious mysticism, but instead of either being just for the hippies, crazies and bandwagoners (as it is in Kabbalah) or kept in the hands of the few (as it historically has been in Catholicism) it has been an extremely popular form of Islam and as such is the basic force "battling" against political Islam in here Morocco. Orthodox Sunnism, like Orthdox Jewry when it comes to the Baba Sali or Rabbi Meir Ba'al HaNes, often looks upon it with either suspicion or amused affection. But I'm fascinated.
So today I had to stay at AmidEast late. Until 10pm. Why, you ask? Because we're having our first meeting with our language partners and we have to wait until after iftar (the break-fast meal) which ends around 8:30. Not to worry - I made use of my time. No, I didn't do my homework. I TRIED (and failed, sorry) to uploaded pictures to THIS blog and...went to the gym! I signed up, paid approximately 50 dollars (including the initial fee to sign up which is about $20) for the month, and my roommate and I got a personalized workout with the one trainer who works there. Normal guy - married, not sketchy, and very nice - except that he, like most Arab men I've seen work out, was wearing long pants the entire time. I ran, did a floor workout (with the trainer), and biked. I was totally sweaty by the end and wanted to take a shower. So I did. No towels, no hot water. Great. After drip drying from my icy sprinkle inside a fly haven pretending to be a shower, I thought about my American addictions. I am addicted to feeling clean, for one. I am addicted to working out, for another. And I'm desperately addicted to the Internet. Good thing I don't have a blackberry.
Song of the day: Edison Glass's My Fair One (I'm feeling Biblical).