Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Characters in the Life; A View from the Balcone

1) Zohair (AKA homo religiosis) - Our neighbor. I've mentioned him before. Now I'll describe him a bit. He has a longish black beard, a winning smile, and is probably about 32-33. I think he needs a wife. He has two sets of clothing. One, perhaps for Ramadan (?): All white djelaba (traditional long shirt) and all white knitted skull cap. Two, for "chol" (?): When he plays hackysack with his buddies he wears a purply shirt and yellow calf-length pants with, what I call, "Arab tennis shoes" - the kind that is usually black and laces up the side instead of straight and looks purposefully like a European knockoff. He's pretty good...not great. Anyway, we got Baria's scoop on him today. According to her, he doesn't work. He doesn't have the "smarts" for it. We saw him outside our window after dinner talking to Khadija, who was buying water from him. Khadija (whose name is the same as the first wife of the Prophet Mohammad) is the Ben Loulou's "maid"...but she's really part of the family. She's probably in her 50s, and is as sweet as Baria's almond cookies that we ate last night. Anyway, we waved to her from the balcon and she waved back and we said something in Arabic, and Zohair (now we know his real name) was taken aback by the fact that we spoke Arabic and started sort of trying to talk to us, but Baria, giggling like a teenager, rushed us inside and told us - in detail - that he (Zohair) just liked to look around at the girls and basically was a good-for-nothing who didn't want to work. "If he were smart, he would work, because Hashem gave us limbs and minds for one reason: to work." While he does loaf a lot, Zohair doesn't strike me as a "stupid" guy. For now, we have someone else to say hi to when we come in and go out of our Bab. Yay?

2) Aziz (AKA Bob Marley) - So we've seen this guy twice now. The first time last week when we were coming into "town" (Avenue Mohammad V), and we talked - mostly in English - and oday he had his dreads tied in a knot at the back of his head. He had a gaggle of friends with him who had poorer English than he did, so they just stood there (one of whom was wearing nothing but a women's v-neck sweater (!?). This time he chatted with us for a while while we waited for Lisa's language partner, and then told us to come sit with them when she came. We didn't...but I'm sure we'll keep running into him no matter how hard we try to avoid him and his awkward friends.

3) Name Unknown (AKA Strasbourg) - this is a guy we've seen (not met) at synagogue. He affords us endless entertainment based on his a) appearance b) mannerisms c) activities. He looks a great deal like a skinny, ginger version the Harry Potter character Wormtail. He has a constantly startled, mousy look, and scurries around the synagogue talking to people in rapid French, no matter the prayer. Yesterday we saw him rubbing and scratching one of the other mens' back int he middle of Kedusha. Just a generally hilarious - and slightly unnerving -- individual.

4) Mike (AKA Moshe) We met Mike at synagogue on the second day of Rosh HaShana. I introduced myself to a girl who I thought was my age who was sitting next to me. She looked like she could be American and I was just being my Friendly Seattle Self. Turns out, she's 14. And she's from Rabat. And she has a brother who she wanted to introduce us to. This was Mike. Mike is 31. He is not married, and lives the life of a happy bachelor. He works until 3:30 every day, then goes surfing for the remainder of the afternoon, and parties hardy at night. It was not long before he was coming with us to our Internet haven, Cafe Arab (I was convinced from the very first that he was smitten with my roommate, Lisa), taking us in his huge Toyota 4WD truck to the tucked away beaches of Rabat to try and surf with his sister (there were no waves), to swim (a pre-Yom Kippur dip in the Mikve of the Atlantic, if you will) taking us out to El Palentino, the "most swankified club in town" to meet his friends, all of whom are fantastically interesting and successful, paying for us, and just generally showing us a good time -- and Baria approves; he's Jewish! He wants to go jogging with us today...I think we're going to beg off of that one, he's 6'3 and in seriously good shape.

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