Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Adventures in and out of Rabat

I just need to complain for a moment. My host parents are in Paris, where I am joining them in just a few hours. But I’ve spent the week with our housekeeper, who is not live-in usually, but is essentially house-sitting while the Ben Loulous are away. Khadija, is usually is just sugar and honey to me all the time, but - turns out- when left to her own devices, is often unresponsive and irresponsible. I will give you the three examples, briefly

1) Khadija smokes and drinks black coffee. I’ve never seen her eat. But when Baria is home, she smokes only in one room - the parlor - though she sips her coffee everywhere. Now that Baria’s gone, I've seen her ashtrays in the kitchen sink, and I smell her ciggystench everywhere. I feel like I have begun to live inside a giant cigarette.

2) T
he day after Baria left we ran out of na’ana (fresh mint) from which we make tea every morning and occasionally in the afternoons. I had been told by Baria that if I needed anything to just ask Khadjia to get it during the day since all of the shops would be closed by the time I returned from school. And I asked Khadjia to go get some the day before. She went out the next morning searching for it, but of course there was none -- it was 7:30am! And this same story repeated itself the two days following. Each morning I would ask if there was na’ana and she would respond by walking out the door only to come back empty handed just in time to make me late for school (note: I couldn’t leave the house until she got back since she doesn’t have a key). In any case, I finally had tea with na’ana this morning. Ahhhh.

3) The Kicker: Mike was dropping off Lisa and myself one evening after going out to my favorite place in town, an African bar with live music called “Yakut”. It had been a lovely evening and we arrived inside Bab Diwana around 1am. All of the balconies were closed, including ours, and as I looked through my purse for the key, a stone sank in my gut. I didn’t have it. What were we going to do? It was our first night alone, and if Khadija wasn’t there and I didn’t have the key we would have no way to get in for the next 3 weeks! We’d have to break down the door! Mike was exhausted and had no brainpower to offer us. Lisa was freaking out and waving her arms. I was pacing. And thinking. After about ten minutes this, plus ringing the doorbell a hundred times, calling the house phone (which we could hear from outside!), and yelling Khadija’s name, I had to stop and just think. I took the opportunity to explain the situation to Zohair (AKA Homo Religiosis), our as-yet unmarried, supposed do-nothing neighbor whom you will recall from previous posts. And then I had an idea. I would climb onto the top of Mike’s truck, shimmy up the awning of the hanut (local store) that lies below our balcony. So I did. With strength I didn’t know I possessed I leveraged against the flimsy iron overhang and pulled myself up and over the balcony railing. I banged on the door yelling Khadija’s name. No response. It was at this point that I despaired. It was fair to assume that she had gone home and that we were truly locked out. So I climbed down, letting myself drop gently onto Mike’s truck to have another think. I walked around the house, examining each window slowly. And low and behold - there it was. Baria’s room’s window was slightly cracked open. But, as you all know, I am short, and there was no hanut overhang to grip. I considered our friend, Mike, who is probably about 6’2 or 6’3. But I didn’t even think he’d be able to reach it. It was really high up there. And then Zohair saved the day. He asked me if I wanted a silm (Hebrew: sulam English: ladder). My jaw dropped. YES I wanted a ladder! Now I had it. I would get Mike to back into our alleyway, put the ladder in the back of Mike’s truck, and pull myself up and into our house! And it worked! I had to get to the tippytop rung of the ladder, and it was precarious, and I was nervous, and I risked my neck, and…I made it into the house. Everyone applauded. Whew. And then I ran to get the key (I knew exactly where I had left it) and saw none other than Khadija -- passed out and snoring obscenely like a teenager with a bad cold. She had been there the whole time - through the doorbell rings, the phone calls, the yelling, the banging on her balcony door - she had been narry a meter away from all of these things, and had remained lost in dreamland hearing nothing but the sounds of her subconscious.

Lets juts say I’m glad to be going to Paris to reunite with Baria, even for a short time. We only have three or four days of Khadija’s propitious care left when we get back…alhumdulilah.

I can’t go away to Paris for the weekend without writing about my trip with AmidEast last weekend to Tangiers, Chefchaouen, Ceuta and Asilah, which must been some of the most starkly attractive places located on God’s good earth. “Dazzling” might be an apt word to describe these places. Chefchaouen, for example, is basically a garden town with a Spanish-made river running through, nestled up against Rif Mountains, which we (sometimes nauseatingly) travelled through by bus. The Rif are the northern-most of the mountains in Morocco from whence comes most of the kif, or hash (some of you may recognize this Arabic word from the Hebrew use of the word "kef" which means "fun"), running perpendicular to the Atlas Mountains where I will be spending some time two weeks from now (for the preview, I will be in the Berber village of Ouarzazate, hiking Jebel Toubkal, and spending a weekend in the quaint European surfer-vacation town of Essouaira. Asilah was probably the most picturesque town we saw on the trip and we spent under two hours there. It’s a place known for its artists and sunsets and we left just before, but were able to watch it from the bus. Lisa and I made sandwiches sitting on the beach of salad and kiri (the cheap soft cheese I've developed a taste for). Yum.

My Famfam....
In conclusion to this adventure-post: I wanted to make a note - and post some pictures - about how much of an adventure and how wonderful it was to have my family - especially my grandparents - here in Morocco with me over the past two weeks. Though I saw them only for about a quarter of their time in Morocco (in Fes for the weekend, Casablanca for lunch, and Rabat for an afternoon and lovely dinner) it was wonderful to see friendly, American, familial faces and share the experiences of crossing a the street in Rabat, being stuffed full of delicious food by Baria as a family, buying coats of many colors in Fes, learning about the JOINT’s work in Casablanca, and eating kefta in Rabat’s only Kosher restaurant, Le Circle. Thanks for coming Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle Louis, Aunt Bayla, and of course, MOM! It was a pleasure to be able to host you in this colorful country.

Entirely unrelated, I can't believe I've never put up one of my favorite Israeli artists of all time on this blog, so its time, ladies and gents, for a bit of Idan Raichel and his marvelous Project. I am in love with this song -- every time I listen to it I get a bit of a different tingle in my cranial cavity, and the video adds just that much more.

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