Saturday, July 28, 2007

Since U Been Gone

OK, I've been back home (ie AMERICA) about 2 weeks now. Which means I shoulda updated this baby a LONG time ago but I keep forgetting. Oops.

I posted a few pictures on my Flickr account, but I have to get a paid account for Flickr to allow me to post any more. For photos, go here -

Where I left off last time:

I dunno if I mentioned this or not, but ALIF threw us Americans a Fourth of July party. They even had hamburgers and hot dogs. Which almost tasted like America. Baghdadi got some Berber dancers and musicians from the Middle Atlas (apparently from his tribe, or so Yusuf said) to perform at our party. It was really neat. Baghdadi and some of the other ALIF people kept trying to get the students to go up and danced. People were reluctant at first, but after awhile, a bunch of people went up and started dancing. It was a really nice party. Sadly, no fireworks. Yusuf came up to our table (or at least to Kasie) and talked for a good long while. Apparently he used to be a musician and play in a band but he gave that up. He seemed bitter about it and wouldn't tell us why or many details about it. Now I'm really curious.

The weekend after the cat-catching competition, we took a loverly weekend excursion to the beach town of Asilah and then onto the village of Chefchaouen in the Rif mountains. Not too many details here, I suppose. We arrived in Asilah around lunchtime and stopped at a random hotel (Hotel Bellevue, I believe) to see if they could accomodate the lot of us. Because silly Ustav did not make reservations beforehand. Luckily, they had plenty of rooms. Most people were anxious to get straight to the beach. Me and a few others - Ryan, Kasie, Alyssa Lee, Emily, and Laura, however, were a pit peckish and stopped at a nearby restaurant where they gave us a complementary bowl of pickled fish and olives. Also weird decor on the ways. I don't think the place could decide whether it wanted to be a mediocre seafood restaurant or a hip modern artsy place for rastafarians. Food wasn't bad though.

After lunch, we set out on what turned out to be an adventure in trying to get a cab to take us to the beach. You see, Asilah is a beach town. Thus, it is on the beach. However, Ustav advised us not to go to the local beach, as we'd be harassed by locals. He told us we needed to take a taxi to "Paradise Beach" which was a couple of miles out of town and apparently AMAZING and a place where Moroccans and creepy Spanish men wouldn't oogle us.

Unlike Fes, where there are tons of cabs about, there were none to be found here. We must've walked the entire town of Asilah without seeing a single taxi. Finally, we asked a shopkeeper, who miraculously managed to hail one for us in like...2 seconds. However, the cabbie either didn't know where Paradise Beach was or didn't feel like going out that far. He refused to take us. Again, we were stuck cab-less and beachless. Despondent, we wandered the streets some more.

A guy came up to us and started pestering us, saying he could take us to the beach. We ignored him, and Kasie kept shouting at him in Arabic to go away and leave us alone. We figured he was just another sketchy Moroccan guy or a faux guide who would try and scam us for thousands of dirhams in exchange for taking us to a beach. He kept following us, insisting he could help us find the beach. Spotting a police officer, we go up to him and ask for help trying to get a cab or something to get to the beach. The guy continues to pester us and the police officer asks, "Do you know this guy?" and we reply no and tell him that the guy is bothering us. The cops can't really help, and we go to the hotel to see if they can get us a cab.

Well, what do you know, when we get back to the hotel, that guy that was following us is there! It turns out he works for the hotel and was really just trying to help us out in a non-sketchy way. Facepalm moment. We apologize profusely and he's really nice and a good sport about it and gets us a grand taxi. FINALLY we're off to the beach.

The grand taxi ride was half the fun. Grand taxis, unlike the normal petit taxis, can fit about six people. If someone sits on someone else's lap, anyway. The cabbie is really cool and joking with us the entire way and pointing out cool things. Unlikes most Moroccan cabbies, he actually tries to speak with us in Arabic. We get to the beach and he tells us he'll be back in about 3 hours to pick us on. The beach, of course, is unbelievably gorgeous and not crowded at all. It really was Paradise Beach. Possibly the nicest beach I've ever been too.

We go back to the hotel, post-beach, and I take a MUCH needed shower (first one in about a week...yup). Then a bunch of us go out for dinner at a nearby pizza place. Afterwards I wander with Kasie, Laura, and Alyssa Lee into Asilah's medina, which is relatively small but neat. Very artsy with lots of cool paintings and murals. Asilah is a cool little beach town. Alyssa Lee and I ended up wandering off away from the medina, down the "boardwalk" and we found...a carnival. A Moroccan carnival! It was very much like an American one. Cotton candy and spinny rides and carousels and everything. Amazing. We ran into Emily, Alyssa B, Chris, Megan, and Robyn around there. A bunch of them went on one of the rides, but I was too afraid. The carnival was really cool though.

After that we called it a night. Next morning we got some less-than-stellar breakfast at a local cafe and headed off to the mountains.

We got to Chefchaouen around lunchtime, after a nauseating ride through twisty turny mountain roads. A whole bunch of people got sick on that busride. When we finally arrived, Ustav told us that we had an hour to look around the town before we had to be back on the bus. Which is slightly unfair. We wandered around the medina and found a cute little restaurant with a terrace view, where we had lunch. Chefchaouen is a town famous for two things - it's pretty, strange blue walls (most of the walls there are washed in this really interesting shade of blue, it's gorgeous) and having really good weed. Apparently it's the pot capital of Morocco. Go figure. I suppose I can see that. Although it's a ridiculously gorgeous village, set right up in the muontains, it's pretty small and I suppose there's not much else for townies to do. If you're a tourist in Chefchaouen, especially one of college age, most of the locals assume you're there for the weed.
Anyhoo, lunch was really cool. We were up on the terrace, which meant we had a pretty cool view of the town. And the food was actually really good.

Our hour was up and we had to head back to the bus. It was really annoying because it took us 2 or 3 hours out of our way back just to GET here and we couldn't even spend more than an hour and a half in the town. Oh well. We headed back to Fes, where we were supposed to "study" for our final.

The last few days were full of final classes and reviewing for the final. The evenings were filled with rushing to the medina and other places to do some final shopping. Megan and I had a slightly amusing incident trying to find posters of the king of Morocco (don't ask), but I won't bore you with that. I bought a bunch of gifts for people, but didn't even nearly finish my shopping and I'm a little bit sad and ashamed about that.

The final passed uneventfully and I and most of the people in my class did very well.

The morning came when I and most other people had to leave to Casablanca to catch our flight home. It was really sad saying goodbye to the family. My host mother cried, my grandmother teared up. Then I started crying too. It was really sad knowing I probably would never see these people or this house again. Siham and her dad drove me to the school and Megan came too to wish everyone a bon voyage (she was on a different flight than us and was leaving from Fes instead of Casa). Siham asked us on the way there what we would miss about Morocco. She joked that Megan would miss the dijaj (chicken). We laughed. Siham cried too when she dropped me off and I cried again and promised to email her when I got home.

Yusuf was there to say goodbye and wish us all a good journey. Sadly he did not come with us, which broke many-a-girl's heart. We all wanted to marry him. We all got on the bus and headed towards Casablanca. I was really sad watching the Fes landscape go by. I guess it wasn't until then that I realized how much I would really miss it.

We arrived in Casablanca a few hours later. It's a pretty frickin' huge city. I didn't even realize. We drove around a little bit, passing by Rick's Cafe (which I'm sure was built after the movie) and the Hassan II mosque. We wanted to stop and take a tour, but we got there after the last tour of the day, so we had to content ourselves with just looking at it. It's an insanely huge mosque. HUGE. HUUUUUUUUGE. I've never seen a mosque that big. Apparently it's insanely fancy on the inside.

After that, we checked into our hotel and some of us went to explore the city. Ustav said there was a Chinese restaurant in town, which got some people excited. However, when we got there it was closed and we went to the beach to look for other foodstuffs. We stopped at the Megarama to see if the new Harry Potter movie was playing (it was, but of course it was dubbed in French). The Megarama was probably the only American-looking movie theater I saw in Morocco. After wandering around the city for a few more hours, we went to bed early, as we had to leave at 4 AM the next morning to catch our flight out of town.

And then, the next morning, we flew out of Casablanca. Siiiiiiiiiiiigh.

And that is the end of my tales of Morocco.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Almost Home

Inshallah, I'll be home Friday night. I'll miss Morocco like crazy but I'm a little anxious to get home at this point, 1) Because it is SO FRICKIN' HOT here now and 2) Because they raised the terror level in Morocco so it's now at its highest. Granted, I don't think that means much in the grand scheme of things and I still feel quite
safe here but I dunno. It's a little bit worrisome.

Here's what's transgressed in the last week or so.\

To give a little background:

First point - A few of the Mary Wash kids are fortunate enough to be living in the old medina while we're here. Life in the medina is very different from life in the Ville Nouvelle (where I reside). The Ville Nouvelle is pretty modern and unexciting whereas in the medina you might get run over by a donkey on your way to the taxi stop or have some guy ask how many camels it would take to marry you. The kids who live in the medina (Ryan, Emily, Chris, and Courtney) all live in the neighborhood of Ain Azilaiten (sp?) which according to Jai, our afternoon professor is kind of like, "How do you say...Harlem? The ghetto?" I've been there and it doesn't seem any sketchier than any other part of the medina, but what do I know. Ryan and Emily like to joke about living in Ain Azilaiten like they're living in Anacostia or something.

Second point - Morocco is a country of cats. There are millions, MILLIONS of stray cats in this country. It's crazy. There is not a corner of this frickin' country where you won't find a mangy stray cat. I've found them in the middle of the frickin' desert. Along with joking about living in Ain Azilaiten, some kids were joking about cats. Casey and Ryan decided it would be fun to get into the medina to go catch dirty medina cats. We actually set up a contest for this. The contestant would have to pick up the cat with both hands and hold it for long enough for someone to take a picture. There was a points system: 1 point for a kitten, 2 for an adult cat, and 3 for a dead one. I suppose this contest sounds cruel, but I can assure it was done out of love for the mangy stray cats of Morocco and that no cats were harmed in the process of this competition. Ryan won by the way with like...15 cats and 25 points. None of them were dead and most of them were kittens. It was a hilarious competition and I think we really confused the locals.

OK, my time at the computer lab is almost up, so I'll save the latest happenings for probably after I return to the states. Ma salaama!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Monkeys, Fish, and Chips

I deeply apologize, everyone, but I've had almost no time to get to a computer lately.'s a big update, but I'll try and condense it.

Last weekend, we had a free weekend (with no planned excursion). Thus, a bunch of the Mary Wash kids went to Tarifa, in Spain, to go party and have fun. However, I did not have the funds to go to Spain, so I stayed in Fes for the weekend. Megan was one of those who went to Spain so I found myself alone in Morocco with my host family a great deal. They're really really nice people, but I still don't feel very comfortable around them. I guess it's because I really don't speak Arabic that well at all yet, so conversation is very limited. But nonetheless, it was fine. We ate meals and watched Star Academy (which is the Moroccan version of American Idol) which was interesting.

After a day of shopping in the medina, on Sunday a bunch of us went hiking around Ifrane. It's a gorgeous area. It's very mountainous. Fes had been very hot lately, so it was nice to get away from the stuffiness of the city and into some nice clean air. Also, Ifrane is a really pretty town. It looks completely different from any other town in Morocco. I think in winter it's used as a ski resort and most of the buildings and houses have some kind of Swiss village decor thing going on. You could easily feel like you're in France or Switzerland. If you go to a national park or whatnot in Morocco, at least around Ifrane, you will be plagued either by boys which horses and donkeys and mules who want to give you a ride on them for 20 or so dirham or girls wanting to do henna.
After hiking in the parks around Ifrane for a little bit and enjoying some nature, we drove to another park in the forest to go check out the monkeys. In Morocco there is a species of monkey called Barbary Apes and they live in the woods around Ifrane and Azrou I guess. We went to the woods and I figured that the monkeys would be pretty elusive. But no. In the woods there were tons of them. You could get really close to them too. I think they're used to people coming by and feeding them, so they don't make much of an effort to run away. It was really neat being so close to the monkeys. I got many many pictures. On my way back to the van to head back to Fes, I was walking through the woods and a herd of what seemed like thousands of sheep and goats ran past me. It was like a stampede, man. It was kind of insane.

We got back to Fes around 5 that afternoon and I went to take a nap because I was pretty hot and sweaty and tuckered out. Not long after, Siham (the daughter in my host family) knocks on the door and says that they're going to go visit some relatives and invited me to come. I'm awkward enough visiting other people's houses and relatives in America so I was kind of freaked out at the prospect of having dinner with a Moroccan family I didn't really know or could talk to. But I decided to go anyway. It was a bit awkward because I couldn't really talk to anyone (except for Siham, but she was busy talking to the relatives) and no one really tried to talk to me so for the most part I sat awkwardly. However, it was really interesting to see the way family members interacted with each other and I tried to pick out some words. For the most part, they seemed to be speaking in daraja (Moroccan Dialect) so it was really hard. Most of the men seemed to retire to another room (until dinner anyway) and the women just gabbed and told what seemed to be very funny, loud boistorous stories. There's a girl I've seen around my host family's house. I think she's Siham's cousin and she lives in the apartment upstairs. I don't know her name, and now it's too awkward to ask, but she was very nice to me most of the night and helping me with the food and communicating somewhat.

After we got back from visiting relatives, my host mom gave me some harira (Moroccan soup....SO delicious), even though we'd already had dinner and then it seemed like everyone disappeared, except for the dad and son. I went to go change into PJ's and ran into my host mom. She motioned for me to follow her and we went upstairs to the apartment above and she told me that that is where her sister lives. We went to up the balcony and there was her sister, Siham, the grandma, and Siham's cousins (the one I mentioned before and a little girl around 8 or 9 who is really really adoreable). We sat around in the nice cool night air and ate some seeds and nuts. Siham was playing music on an iPod looking thing and her and her cousins were dancing and telling me to sing and dance and it was a lot of fun. It felt nice because it felt like they were finally inviting me to participate in things with them. Megan finally came back from Spain and the dance party continued awhile longer and then we went to bed.

The rest of the week was unexciting because of school and classes and such.

This past weekend, however, we went to Marrakech. Which is supposed to be a really big deal and an amazing experience and all of that and guidebooks and people have told me that if you're going anywhere in Morocco to go to Marrakech. However, most of us (myself included) had a really unpleasant experience in Marrakech. I suppose it is something to see, but I would not recommend it and all and would be reluctant to go back. I'll list some reasons.

1) The city itself sees many many tourists and I think the general character of the city suffers. There seem to be more tourists than Moroccans around and most of the things that are sold in the medina are marketed towards tourists. Whereas in the Fes medina, you really get an idea that people live and work there. The whole city is just very touristy
2) Many of the people we encountered we really rude, scary, and unpleasant. I didn't try to bargain and buy things in the medina, but friends who did said they had a really hard time with it and that the shop owners were really rude with them and unwilling to bargain. Also, people will grab you and grope and shout lude things at you. A lot of the girls in our group were harassed a lot. Although in Fes I'll get shouted at, it's never anything really rude (usually it's just something like "Sweetie" or "Ca va?"). Nowhere nearly as Marrakech.
3) These incidents are very common. I went with another girl, Hope, to go get gelato after dinner when we were in the Djemma el Fna (which is the really huge public square and food market where everything's happening). We were gonna go look at the food stalls and the performers around the Djemma el Fna as we were eating our ice cream. But as we were walking by, these musicians/drummers grabbed us, put hats on our heads and grabbed the Hope's camera and forced us in for a picture. It all happened so quickly and we thought that we'd just go for it, think we could just have to pay them a few dirhams when we were done. But as Hope went to pay, she gave them a few dirhams and they got really angry, demanding that they should be paid 100 dirhams. Which is completely ludicrous and we didn't even have that much. A verbal spar followed. Luckily Megan and Alyssa came by and saved us and the guys still tried to follow us and demanded to be was really scary but we got out of it. When we got back to the riad we all were staying at, a lot of people had had similar experiences with people shoving hats or snakes and things on them and demanding a lot of money. Or people just generally being really rude and crass and pushy and grabby. I didn't like it.
4) We got a lot of shouts as we walked by of "Fish and chips! Fish and chips!" It got really annoying after awhile. I guess they thought we were British.

A few positive things

1) Megan, Emily, Ryan, and I went around the Ville Nouvelle part of Marrakech, which is actually very nice. We saw the Kotoubia, which is a really famous huge mosque and we went to a really nice park and ate ice cream and people watched a bit. We also went to the artisanal, which is set up by the Moroccan government and sells Moroccan arts and crafts and things at set prices. I bought about 4 pairs of shoes.
2) We also found a really huge bookstore and I managed to get a lot of books in Arabic and I've looked through them a bit and I'm pleasantly surprised at how much I understand. This afternoon Megan and I went through a bit of Antoine de St. Exupery's "The Little Prince" (bil-Arabiyya) and we understood a good amount of it. Granted, it's a children's book but it's still really exciting.
3) The riad we stayed at was gorgeous.
4) There is a Pizza Hut in Marrakech and a couple of us ate there for lunch on Sunday. It tasted like home.

Oh, some van stories.
1) On the van ride TO Marrakech we had a really scary experience with our driver. Instead of taking the faster toll roads like he was supposed to, he decided to pocket the toll money we had given him and take the longer roads (he also gets paid by the hour apparently). We didn't realize this until it was too late and Ustav got really pissed off. He also drove really erratically and unsafely and there were many "I'm gonna die" moments. Then when we were less an hour outside of Marrakech he stopped us at a REALLY REALLY sketchy because he wanted an hour long dinner break (mind you, it was almost 1 in the morning at this point) and him and Ustav then got into a very loud heated argument in Arabic. Luckily, we made it to Marrakech in one peace, but it was really dicey there.
2) On the van ride BACK to Fes, we had a different driver (thank God!) and he was very very nice. However, we had a lot of van trouble and it nearly broke down about three times or more on the way back. At least twice, a bunch of us had to get out and push it as the driver attempted to get the van started again. If you've ever seen the movie Little Miss Sunshine, where everyone has to get out and push the van and then hurry and jump back in, it was EXACTLY like that seen. It should've been sketchy, but it was actually hilarious and fun.

OK, this had been a really long entry, so I'm gonna adios now.

Ma salaama!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Being sick in Morocco

Being sick in Morocco is not the funnest thing in the world. I suppose, however, that it is a character-building experience.

OK, so since before the Sahara trip I've been having ... digestive problems. It's embarassing and it's gotten progressively worse. Tuesday morning I became convinced, really convinced, that I was dying. I woke up at 4:30 in the morning and spent the next 3 hours pretty much in the bathroom, convinced that I was dying and bleeding internally or something (pretty overdramatic, I know, but I was in that much abdominal pain). I've sure now that it was the leben (that horrible horrible weird milk jello). But anyhoo, since then I've been feeling crap most of the time. I finally went to a Moroccan doctor yesterday. I had to have my Ustav (professor) ome with me, since of course I don't speak a word of French. So, embarassingly enough, my professor had to explain to this Moroccan doctor that I had, "painful diarrhea". Not something I actually wanted my Arabic professor to know, but...whatever.

The visit was extremely brief. After my professor quickly explain my problem, the doctor (or tabeeb, bil-Arabiyya) told me to get on the table. He quickly stuck his hand up my shirt, patted around, then down my skirt and felt around there. It was a little disconcerting. He took my blood pressure, told me to turn on my side and couch, then wrote me a prescription for 2 anti-diarrheal medications. He also gave me instructions on not to eat things like milk, meat, orange juice, and a few others and to stick to a chiefly high-fiber diet. Yogurt, bread, water, bananas, and apples, mainly. Dandy enough. The whole affair lasted less than 5 minutes and cost me about $150 dirham, including meds (less than $20 American doctors). I'm a little bit geeked out about the whole thing, but the doctor was recommended to me by Si Baghdadi, who runs ALIF, and its the one that he sends all the sick students to, so I assume its legit. However, it makes me kind of yearn for American medicine in a big way (especially since my guide book tells me that Morocco is not a country in which you want to fall seriously ill).

The next hassle comes with my host family. I told them I was sick and my stomach hurt (I don't know if it'd be appropriate to mention that I have horrible diarrhea, plus I can't say that in Arabic). I don't want to eat anything that'll make me sicker. I don't think my body can handle my being sicker for much longer, really. However, my host family still keeps trying to make me eat. And looking very hurt/offended when I still proclaim illness. It's really vexing. I thought the doctor's note would give me a little bit more sway (actually proving that I am, in fact, sick, rather than not liking their cooking). But they still kept trying to make me eat chicken! I told them (in Arabic), "No, the doctor said that I can't eat meat" and the mother replied, "It's not meat! It's chicken!" Which is actually kind of funny, now that you think about it. The daughter, Siham, told me in English that the family doesn't eat meat because, "It's so harmful and unhealthy, but we eat a lot of chicken". I quizzed some of the Moroccans who work at ALIF if people here just don't consider chicken to be meat. Like how some people don't consider fish or seafood/shellfish to be meat. Yusuf, who runs the computer lab at the school and is everyone's go-to guy (he's really awesome) said that, "Yea, chicken is meat" but went on to say that people make a distinction between red meat and white meat. I don't know. Still confused. Siham is usually on my side when it comes to food things, but even she was like, "A little chicken won't hurt you". So I guess I'll just resign myself to being sick in Morocco, because people won't let me not eat.

Most of the kids from Mary Wash that are studying here went to Spain for the weeked, since this is our first (and only) free weekend. I had not the funds to go to Spain, so I'm still stuck in Fes. However, today I went shopping with a bunch of friend and my ustav in the old medina, which was a lot of fun. I had four cups of tea before breakfast, it was crazy. I still can't get over the old medina. It's larger than you can fathom, and going through it is like going through a maze. Only a maze with donkeys carrying huge loads of Coca Cola and stalls trying to sell you every conceivable item and then inviting you in for tea in order to get you to buy something (which explains the amount of tea I had this morning). It's insanely hot out today though. It's starting to feel a lot like Virgina in summer, only not as humid.

Last night, after going out for dinner with some friends, I had a taxi take me to Tariq Sefrou (which is the road I live off of). It was slightly after 9 at this point, which is a little late for a woman in Fes to be around walking by herself. As I was standing attempting to cross the street by myself, I had a man slow down and stop his car where I was standing and roll down his window to give me a lecherous look. I'm pretty sure he thought I was a prostitute, so I was pretty traumatized. I ran across the street as fast as I could and once I got to my neighborhood made a few frantic phone calls to calm myself down.

Tomorrow, a bunch of us are going hiking and monkey-watching in the mountains and woods near the really pretty towns of Ifrane and Sefrou.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Back From the Desert

Does anyone actually read this thing? I never get any comments, even when I request them. And it makes me very very sad.

So we're back from the Sahara trip. Apart from the fact that I was deathly ill for most of it, it was really cool. I had some really bad...erm...bowel issues for the past two days and thus, got really dehydrated to the point where I couldn't walk much because I felt like I was going to pass out. Ustav and Linda (who works at ALIF) gave me some meds and made me drink many large bottles of this weird sugar/salt water stuff which tasted God-awful. It was really warm too and kind of tasted like nasty seawater. They forbade me from drinking normal, cold water. Nonetheless, it at least got me to the point where I could walk around a bit more. However, because I felt deathly ill, I couldn't ride the camels. Which pissed me off because it was something I had really wanted to do. I took a Jeep out with a few other people who couldn't/didn't want to take the camels and it took us to the campsite. The desert is seriously gorgeous. I was too sick or distracted most of the time to take many pictures, so I'll have to rely on other peoples. But yes, other that the sick, the desert was awesome. And at night, there are an INSANE amount of stars.

Back to homework.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Going to the desert

Yesterday, our family decided to make couscous for lunch. It was my first Moroccan couscous ever here and wow. Making couscous sounds like a very long, involved process but the result is quite delicious. Possibly the best meal I've ever had. No joke.

Also, my good old history professor, Nabil Al-Tikriti sent an email with more photos from the New Orleans trip. And it made me strangely homesick for New Orleans again. I really want to go back at some point, I've been thinking about that trip ever since I left.

And there's a boy outside this internet cafe selling pirated DVDs and if I wasn't such a good girl, I'd go snag a copy of the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie. I'm sure it only costs like 2 or 3 dirhams too. Sigh.

I also discovered that Fridays here at ALIF are "Jullaba (sp?) Fridays". Meaning all the guys get pimped out in their newly bought jullabas. My friend Chris bought a few with his host family and wears them a lot now because apparently they're really practical and comfortable. I like to joke with him that his jullaba makes him look like a member of the KKK, because its white and the hood is all pointy.

All the Arabic students at ALIF, myself included, are going on a camping trip this weekend to the Sahara. Yup, we're gonna go sleep in the desert and ride camels and the like. So I'll be gone for a few days and thus, in the meantime, I'd like to present to you an oppurtunity to ask any questions you may have about life in Morocco and my experiecnes here and say. So yea...Q&A time. Leave your questions in the comments and I shall answer them when I get back.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Sketchy Men, African Dancing, and Getting Ripped Off

I guess there is a lot to tell, considering I have not had the time to update this thing lately.

Megan, her friend Skye, and I took in some of the World Sacred Music Festival. This thing is kind of a big deal. It snags many talented performers from all over the world and you get an oppurtunity to see musicians and genres that you would not have many oppurtunities to. And most of the shows are held at the babs to the old medina, which is just a surreal place to see a concert.

Anyhoo, we went two nights in a row. The first night was Several singers singing Andalusian songs of the Maghreb, which was pretty neat. The next night we saw a singer from Benin named Angelique Kidjo. That show was really good and we bought her CD afterwards. People were getting up and dancing around and it was just a lot of fun. These Moroccan guys came over and tried to dance with us. It was...kind of sketchy but funny. They were fun, trying to teach us weird dance moves. The show ended and we tried to catch a cab back.

The cab dropped Skye off at her hotel. She tried to give us her share of the cab fare to give to the cabbie after he dropped us off at the end. But he was telling her in French that No, she had to pay now. So she ended up giving him the money and that was that. Then he headed to take us back to our house. I noticed halfway there that he had not changed the meter but I did not know enough French or Arabic to tell him this so I figured I would let it go. After he dropped us off, I paid and then confusion and chaos ensued. Megan tried to insist that the guy had stiffed us for change and refused to get out of the car until he gave us the right change. Meanwhile the cabbie was screaming and cursing and trying to force us out of the cab. I was just really confused and freaked out at this point cuz the cabbie was so frickin scary and, like I said, we did not know enough French of Arabic to tell him that he was trying to stiff us. Then he tried to grab random people off the street to explain to them what was going on. Luckily one of them spoke English and tried to help, but it was to no avail. But the guy, who was actually named Muhammad but told us to call him Seymour, was really nice and talked to us awhile and helped us get most of the rest of the way home.

Then this weekend most of us Arabic students at ALIF went on a day trip to see the Roman ruins at Volubolis, as well as the towns of Moulay Idriss and Meknes. We drove through a lot of the Moroccan countryside and up through some of the more mountainous region. It was so gorgeous. Not much to say about Volubolis...they are interesting as far as Roman ruins go, but then again I do not have much experience with Roman ruins. Moulay Idriss is a really pretty town, built kind of IN the mountains in the shape of a camel. In Meknes we saw some historical medieval graineries and a really pretty mausoleum. Then we went to the medina in Meknes, which is not nearly as big as the one in Fes, but still nice. I got a green leather bag and paid WAY too many dirhams for it because I do not know how to bargain. Seriously, I suck at it. Also used the most sketchy and disgusting squat toilet ever. But let us not discuss that.

Ma salaam, folks.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Tabdeel or Laa Tabdeel?

Yesterday was full of a few traces of life back in the states.

After our depressing morning class, Megan, her friend Skye (who's visiting) and I wandered around part of the Ville Nouvelle. We went to an awesome, very pretty cafe and got some weird kind of milkshake thing. It was delicious anyway. For lunch, we ended up at Walima's. I've only been in Fes for a week and I've ended up at this place three times already. I don't know how. But they always play the same American music when we go in. It's like the waiters spot us and say, "Oh, the Americans are coming, we need to bring out the Bryan Adams and Celine Dion!" Then the internet cafe that we went to afterwards was playing a lot of Hispanic music (which I've been missing, oddly enough) and pop and reggae.

After our afternoon class, one of my classmates said they were going to "the Arabic Wal-mart". We all got instantly excited, because I had no idea such a thing existed. It does. And it's called Marjane. And it's amazing. Strangely enough, I've missed though horribly American huge supermarkets that sell everything. Here, usually, if you want fruit, you have to go to the fruit vendors or something similar, the meat market for meat, and a tabaq for toiletries, snacks and other little necessities. Etc. It was nice to go where all these things were in one huge place. And the Marjane is really nice. Very clean and organized. But of course, crowded like a normal Wal-mart or Target is. Families shoving past trying to get diapers and things like that. I didn't check out the grocery section, but Megan told me you can get an entire lamb and manta rays. Wow. I just bought some flip-flops, laundry detergent, toothpaste, and a Haifa cd. But it was amazing.

Then we got home and watched the Arabic version of "Deal or No Deal?" The end.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Fes, part deux

I thought you all would like to know that the last...3 nights here I've watched Desperate Housewives. I never watched this show in America, and soon as I get to Morocco, I watch it all the time. I think Sihan likes it, because she doesn't change the channel when it comes on (the TV is on all the time and is rarely on the same show for more than 5 minutes, it seems). I guess Desperate Housewives is the last show I would expect to watch in Morocco, because I would think it would be quite racy by the standards here. Who knows. It's in English and subtitled in Arabic. I like trying to read the subtitles sometimes.

Megan and I went to a lecture on Moroccan manners last night which ended up being hellishly long and kind of boring and uninformative. We wanted to go see the whirling dervishes performing at the Sacred Music Festival afterwards but the horribly boring lecture took away all of our energy. And then when we got home, the family was watching this movie. I assume it was an old Egyptian film. It was an Arabic and halfway through, so I could only try and peace together what was going on. There were Egyptians and Israelis and political espionage going on and it seemed like all the major Israeli characters died in the end. And there was very dramatic music.

All the kids from my Arabic class back at Mary Wash, at least all the ones I took 201 and 202 with, we're all in the same 300 level class now. So we all suck pretty much equally and I think it's making our professors here cry themselves to sleep.

This weekend we're going to see the Roman ruins at Volubolis, near the city of Meknes. So stay tuned.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Fes, part une

So I've been in Fes for almost a week now. And it's been hard to get to a computer, since I have to rely on internet cafes. There's been a lot, and I mean A LOT going on, too much to really tell in one entry, so here's a list of highlights so far.

-The train ride from Casablanca to MUCH fun (sarcasm here). We bought first class tickets, which have assigned seats, but the guy pointed us to the wrong end of the train for our compartment and we had to shove past a million understandably annoyed Moroccans (with our bulky luggage in a very very crowded train) to get to the right seats. Yea. Not fun.

-The old medina in Fes is the most confusing thing in the world. It's like sensory overload with what seems like millions of stalls selling just about everything. The streets are really narrow, and you have to walk through them and a donkey or mule carrying a load of VCRs will pass by you every 2 minutes, with a man yelling in French to get out of the way.

-Also, I didn't realize knowing French would actually be incredibly useful. People here mainly know Arabic and French, very few know much English. And they don't expect you to know Arabic so even when you try and say something, they'll reply to you in French. And I don't know Frend and my Arabic is ...spotty at best so this has been fun. Especially since I don't know Moroccan dialect at all and it doesn't seem like a lot of people know Fusha (Modern Standard Arabic)

-Megan and I are staying with a host family. They're awesome and they have a really nice house in the Ville Nouvelle. There's a mother, who's a French professor, a dad (I don't know what he does, but he works ...somewhere), a daughter who's about 24 and teaches English, and a son who's 19 I think and he's studying medicine. There's also a grandma and an aunt and uncle who come in now and again. They're all really great and they're pretty Western, I suppose. We watch a lot of Arabic TV. And Desperate Housewives. Weird.

-The food is great but the customs are kind of weird. In our family there's one big dish, and everyone takes out their forks and eats out of the one big plate of food. And they rarely have something to drink, they just have a bottle of water and a cup that they share. I feel weird drinking out of the one cup though. And although it doesn't seem like they eat that much, they're always forcing US to eat, no matter how much we insist that we're full.

-Also, trying to speak in Arabic with people, when you don't know much Arabic, is ...actually REALLY exhausting. And classes are really hard, but I feel like I'm learning a lot more here than I ever did taking Arabic at Mary Washington. So hopefully my pathetic language skills will improve by the end of the summer.

-Driving here is terrifying because there don't seem to be any traffic rules or stop lights or anything. There's no such thing as "right of way" so crossing the street on foot seems like a life-or-death experience. Cars WILL not stop for pedestrians, even if you're in the middle of the road so you have to be careful. Luckily, it's a system that I've...kinda figured out, but it takes practice.

-Lastly, the tea is incredible. Word.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Going to Morocco

Just as an FYI, I leave for Morocco on Tuesday, May 29 to complete a study abroad program in Arabic. I'll be studying at the Arabic Language Institute in Fes. I'll be there until mid-July. During that time, I'll be posted stories of my...journeys in this blog. So look forward to that. And in the meantime, you can look forward to updates of my New Orleans adventures!

Yes, I'm a dork.

New Orleans adventures, part one.

So, recently I went to New Orleans with a volunteer crew from my school, the University of Mary Washington, to do work in the Lower Ninth Ward. It was an incredible, life-changing experience, to say the least. All of us who went on the trip left the city feeling that we really accomplished something. I’ll give you a blow-by-blow of the past week. Be warned, it’s incredibly long, since we were there for about 5 days. These are the first 2.

We left Fredericksburg around 5 PM. About 16 of us piled into 2 university vans and set out for a long, long, LONG 17-20 hour (I lost count after awhile) car ride.
One of my professors, Nabil Altikriti was the one who “organized” and led us on this trip. He’s a native of New Orleans, so he had a lot of knowledge and insight into the city.
The long, long van ride in itself was an experience. Luckily, my roommate, Anna, came with me on this trip. I didn’t know anyone else going in, but by the end of the trip, the 16 of us had gotten to know each other pretty well I think. We went through Virginia, down past Charlottesville, Roanoke, Blacksburg, and on into Tennessee. I lost track of things after that since I tried to get some sleep. But I do know we went through Tennessee and on through Alabama and Mississippi. I wish it had been light outside, because I didn’t really get to “see” Tennessee and Alabama. I tried to sleep in the van, since it was an insanely long ride. However, I have a hard time sleeping in cars, and especially on this trip since we had to stop every few hours to switch drivers and that just generally kept me quite awake. Also, the drivers tended to play loud music in order to keep themselves awake. So…yea. No sleep for Lindsey.

On the border of Mississippi and Alabama we got into an accident. One of our vans hit a small car as we were trying to merge onto a major road. Luckily no one was hurt and the damage was minimal but yea…it was interesting. It took forever for the police to show up so meanwhile most of us sat around and chilled on the highway. The two boys from our group, Peter and David, ran off to go pick honeysuckles. Some very manly men we had on this trip.
A couple hours after that we finally hit the state of Louisiana. We switched drivers every few hours on the trip. Al-Tikriti did a good deal of driving, but near the end of the trip, he was sitting next to me in the van, grading papers. I looked over and noticed that he was grading the final exams for my Arab-Israeli Conflict class. It was quite a horrifying moment. A few minutes later, he asked me if I had ever taken one of his classes. I answered that I had taken Islamic Civ a few years ago and Arab-Israeli this past semester. By the way, my Arab-Israeli class has somewhere between 25-30 students. Not that small but also not that big. And I sat at the front two. Four months of that and he only vaguely remembered that I might have taken a class with him at some point…wow. I asked, “So, those are our exams you’re grading?” and he replied, “Yup…don’t look.” Except he kept commenting on other peoples’ exams (such as angrily shouting, “Joe, you lazy ass!” while grading one of my classmates essays). And then as I was zoning out watching the bayou go by, he said, “Wow, you didn’t learn anything this semester, did you?” and I whipped around and asked, “Are you talking to me?” He said he wasn’t but…that was a horrible, freak-out moment. Awkward too. Having your professor grading your exam sitting right next to you, quite oblivious to it all.

Around 2 PM on Saturday afternoon, we finally arrived in New Orleans. We drove past New Orleans East and the neighborhood of Arabi and into the Lower Ninth Ward. Before we arrived, I still had this idea that New Orleans would look like the picture that I had always had in my mind of it. Namely, the whole French Quarter/Mardi Gras kind of thing. And I thought, since Hurricane Katrina happened almost 2 years ago, that the majority of things would be cleaned up. It was a huge eye-opener to drive through those neighborhoods and see just how much hadn’t been done and how much there was still left to do. I couldn’t believe it. Most houses were still in a state of disrepair and dilapidation, abandoned and falling apart. Most business and shops were closed and boarded up. You could tell it had been a pretty poor neighborhood before the hurricane and now it looked like a ghost town almost. The city itself was a huge transition from what I’m used to, living in a relatively well-off area in the Northern Virginia/DC area. Even the run-down parts of DC don’t look as run-down as a lot of New Orleans.
We stopped off at the HQ of the Common Ground Collective, the group we’d be working with. They’re a volunteer organization that’s dedicated to helping victims of Hurricane Katrina and rebuilding the buildings that were damaged. They’re a really good organization and they don’t have a lot of money to work with or a lot of resources available to them, but they do an incredible job with what they have.
A woman from Common Ground showed us around the neighborhood. Common Ground HQ is located right near where the levee breached, so she took us over there. It was quite interesting to see. Very surreal, in fact. Later on, she took us into one of the houses, where a bunch of drawings were tacked up onto the wall. A local artist wrote down stories from some of the survivors and did sketches of them. The group of us spent a few minutes looking at the drawings and reading the survivors accounts. Then we went outside where someone was cooking crawfish, so I got my first taste of crawfish. It still looked like it was alive too, with the legs and eyes and everything. Didn’t taste too bad though. They had a big bucket of live crawfish also sitting out. There were hundreds of the critters in the bucket, wiggling about and looking quite pathetic.
We all crawled back into the van – tired, sweaty, and hungry. Al-Tikriti dropped us off at a Middle Eastern restaurant called Mona’s somewhere around Faubourg Marigny. It was really tasty. I got stuffed grape leaves and basmati rice and Anna and I split a chicken kabob. They had some of the best hummus I’ve ever had as well. I think it was nice just being able to sit for a while and stretch our legs and eat some decent food in a nice, air-conditioned building after the grueling car ride. Once we stepped outside, we were greeting by dozens of those ugly black bugs. I don’t know what their scientific name is – the locals we talked to just refer to them as “love bugs”. They looked like two bugs – connected at the butt or rear. I think it was their mating season. This is what they look like After that, while walking back to the vans, we stopped at a place called the Iron Rail. It was some sort of bookstore/lending library stuck in an old warehouse. It was really neat. I think it specialized in activist, radical, liberal kind of literature. And used records/cds.
Finally, we headed towards Carrollton United Methodist Church, where we’d be staying for the week. On route, Al-Tikriti took us through a good portion of the city. We drove briefly through the French Quarter and Uptown. The church is located in a pretty nice part of town, on Carrollton Avenue. After dumping our stuff, taking some much-needed showers, and setting up all the air mattresses, a couple of us went to Walgreen’s (of which there seem to be many in New Orleans) to buy some necessities like shampoo, soap, snacks, deodorant, etc. We walked along the river for awhile, before heading back to the church.
Al-Tikriti met up with us at the church along with a friend of his who teaches Women’s Studies at Tulane University. We headed to the French Quarter to have some “good times”. The professors dropped us off in front of the famous St. Louis Cathedral and told us to meet back there at midnight. They also took note to advise us not to drink or at least not to drink too much. Al-Tikriti’s friend said, “You’re going to Jazzfest tomorrow, you need your energy, you don’t want to be hungover. Plus, there’s been problems in the bars with people slipping things in your drinks, so it’s just not a good idea.” Most of our group, except for Anna and myself and two other girls, were under 21 anyway. Anna and I thought we would find a decent place to share at least one nice girly drink, but we had no luck finding a bar that didn’t look too sketchy. Anyhoo, the group dispersed, onto our separate adventures.
Anna and I started along Decatur Street, walking up and down. I was a little bit disappointed at the fact that a lot of the block we were wandering along was very tourist-y. We wandered up one of the deserted-looking side-streets to get away from some of the hustle and bustle. After this we found some pretty interesting sights. Really cool houses and buildings and shop windows to peer through (though most were closed). I was feeling a little bit peckish at this point, so I convinced Anna that we should try and find the Verti-Marte, a deli/grocery store that I had heard good things about. Though I confess probably a big, dorky reason for me wanting to go there was because the place shares the name of one of my favorite Twilight Singers songs. All I knew was that it was on Royal Street and Royal Street turned out to be easy to find. While we were wandering there, a very drunk, shirtless man stopped us to ask where Bourbon Street was. This would be one of many encounters with drunken men and probably the least creepy.
We found the Verti-Marte easily enough where we encountered drunken man #2. He was standing outside the Verti-Marte, shoving macaroni and cheese into his mouth. There was a tour group nearby (I think they were doing one of those ghost walks) and he asked us, “Are you with those freaks?” We shook our heads. He continued to stuff himself full of macaroni and take swigs from a can of beer. “This shit is AMAZING!” he shouted at us. He looked quite raggedy and homeless. His eyes were very bloodshot and his hair was long and scraggly, along with his beard. The man just had a generally creepy vibe to him, so Anna and I ran inside the Verti-Marte.
Verti-Marte advertises itself as being “The Best Kept Secret in the French Quarter” and this proved to be true. In all aspects, the place doesn’t look like much. It looks like an average, slightly run-down deli with a small convenience store shoved in as well. Like a sketchier 7-11, almost. But the food. Wow, the food is amazing. Despite the small size of a place, we ran into a sizeable line of people, waiting for late-night snacks. Anna and I grabbed a menu and tried to decide what to get. The place has many options, as far as food goes. And everything is incredibly cheap and comes with at least 2 sides of whatever you want, pretty much. We decided to split a muffuletta sandwich, which is a VERY VERY large greasy sandwich which consists of ham, salami, mozzarella, mortadella, provolone and an olive salad on Italian bread. Everything is toasted and melted together in a deliciously greasy concoction. Apparently, to my disappointment, it’s hard to find this sandwich outside of New Orleans. It’s incredibly tasty, but also incredibly greasy and salty. Anna and I had trouble finishing it between the two of us, because it was just so large and flavorful. We also got a spinach artichoke dip, which was also quite tasty. We had a fun time talking to some of the other people, standing in line ordering their po-boys and sides of mac and cheese and fries and whatnot. There aren’t any tables or anything at the Verti-Marte, so we paid for our food and went to find an outdoor café-type thing to sit at. We found ourselves back on Decatur Street, sitting at a table outside and enjoying the pleasant night air.
Anna gets a call on her cell phone and I sense it’s gonna be a few minutes, so I go to call sometime. A very drunk man (Drunk Man #3) stumbles over to where we are sitting and looks at us incredulously.
“Whaaaaat? What is thiisss? You’re BOTH on your cell phones? Aren’t you guys supposed to be friends??”
Anna and I hang up our phones, a bit confused and frightened.
“You’re supposed to love each other!” he continues and then starts pounding on his chest. “THIS! This is all we have! This is love! I’m an executive chef and whenever one of my friends comes by, I say to my boss, I says, ‘Boss, I’m gonna gotta go talk to my friend now!’ And I do! Cuz that’s LOVE! Love each other! Now!”
We tried to reassure him that we did love each other and were good friends and all that. He didn’t seem to believe us though and ambled away. It was a very weird incident. We saw Al-Tikriti and his friend Angela a few moments later, sharing beers and cigarettes and they asked how we were doing. We did not tell them about the drunken man.
After that we wandered around all the side streets, taking in the atmosphere. We found ourselves on Bourbon Street, where there was, of course, much partying going on. In front of one bar, we spotted a man in a cowboy hat, and his pet pony. The pony was about the size of a golden retriever. And it was on a leash, like a dog. I think the guy said his pony’s name was Rudy. Anna asked if it was past pony bedtime (it was around 11:00 at this point) and the man laughed and said, “Almost!” We popped into the bar for a minute, only to be greeted by many shirtless men wearing cowboy hats. I have no idea if the fact that it was Cinco de Mayo had anything to do with the prevalence of cowboy hats that evening.
Across the street, we popped into the Marie Laveau House of Voodoo, which sold all manner of strange things for practicing voodoo (alligator claws, chicken feet, bits of hair, etc). It was a bit tourist-y but still pretty creepy.
Feeling all manner of sleepy at this point, from the lack of sleep the night before, Anna and I headed back to where we were supposed to meet our group, but not after passing by an old man playing the waterglasses - - and enjoying beignets at the Café Du Monde.
Meeting back up with everyone at midnight, as scheduled, our professor strolls up. He asks who’s driving back. We all go silent and look at each other dumbly because we kind of assumed that HE was going to drive, being the only one who knows his way around the city. I realize at this point that our professor must be a little bit tipsy. He hands his keys to one of the girls and we pile into our vans. Al-Tikriti tells us that we have to pick up Angela, his friend. He calls her up and she’s at a bar nearby. However, when we get to the bar, she is nowhere to be found. My professor lets out a stream of curses, JUMPS out of the van and yells at us to just go “park it somewhere”. Panic moment. We’ve just been quasi-abandoned by our professor. The light that we’re stopped at turns green, so we have no choice but to go. Of course, there is no where to park two huge vans, seeing as how we’re in the FRENCH QUARTER. We drive around in a little circle-cube kinda thing until we find our way back at the bar again. Al-Tikriti and Angela are there, waiting. Al-Tikriti gets into the front passenger seat and Angela yells at me to get out of mine. A little bit unnerving. And the journey back begins.
Al-Tikriti is giving the girl bad directions, while Angela contradicts and berates him, saying, “Why are you telling her to go that way? We should take this street, yadda yadda.” Oh, I should mention that this woman is pretty darn drunk. She’s making very little sense. She started telling us about how Nabil (our professor) was kicked out of the Boy Scouts for “skullduggery”. Which apparently means, “being a general nuisance”. And then she started yelling, “Naaaaabiiiiillllllll, take me home! NABIL! Take me home!” She kept yelling that even after he told her he was “taking the kids home first”. I kept staring at the other passengers in the car in a weird combination of horror and amusement. We all were pretty weirded out that we put our trust in the hands of these two drunken professor.
Somehow, miraculously, we made it back to the church. As we got out, Al-Tikriti told us that he was taking Angela home. Which makes so much sense, you know. He’s unable to drive back to the church, but he can take his friend home. Hopefully he was sober by then.

We had to get up early-ish, around 8:30. A group of Quakers was coming in at 9:30 for a meeting that was in the same room we were using to sleep in. Everyone got up and showered and breakfasted. Anna and I, along with a bunch of others, headed down to La Madeleine, a French café down the street from the church.
Al-Tikriti came and picked us up to get ready to go to Jazzfest. On the drive down, he gave us a quick tour of Magazine Street and Downtown. Then we ended up in what I think was the Garden District. We parked our vans in a really nice park by the art museum. It was quite a long walk from there to the New Orleans Fairgrounds, where Jazzfest was being held. We got to take in all the weird festivities on the walk up. The houses along the street up near Jazzfest were all decked out and partying. Many were selling beers, waters, cokes, and other beverages.
Once we got to Jazzfest, we bought our tickets and headed inside. It was steaming hot outside. I was sweating buckets. I knew already that I was going to get really sunburnt, no matter how much sunblock I put on.
Jazzfest is huge, by the way. HUGE. I have never seen such a large music festival. Jazzfest is meant to celebrate the music and culture of New Orleans and Louisiana and there is a lot, a LOT to take in. There’s jazz, blues, gospel, Cajun music, rock music, folk music, bluegrass, just tons. It was incredible. Everyone had a great time. There are many stages for musicians and performers, some nationally known, some more local. I think the headliners on the day that we went (which was the last day of Jazzfest) were Steely Dan and Harry Connick Jr. Although I hadn’t heard of most of the people performing that day, I really wanted to see Taj Mahal, who is a really good legendary blues musician.
Anna and I walked around a lot, checking out some of the performers and generally people-watching. There was a lot of good, cheap food. We had some chicken tasso over Cajun Rice, and some Po’boys. We checked out a lot of the crafts booths. There were some really good local artists there. There’s really too much to describe, and we were there all day, from 11 AM to about 7 that night, so most of the pictures I took will do a better job than I can of describing the scene. I loved, loved LOVED all the music. My favorite part was at one of the smaller stages, I think it was called the Fais Do Do. They featured local Cajun music for the most part. We saw a band (whose name escapes me) but they had an accordian and some guy playing the washboard, so I liked them a lot. Everyone around was dancing and doing jigs, it was a lot of fun to watch.
Taj Mahal’s set was started soon, so Anna and I headed off towards the big blues stage. We had a big of time to kill, we we checked out some of the gospel music and got strawberry daquiris. Although we got to the blues tent early, it was pretty packed and we had to cram in to find some standing room. Taj Mahal’s set was great, and I ended up buying one of his cds. He also has that weird, deep, gravelly, blues-man kind of voice, if you know what I mean. He played guitar and piano, for the most part, but near the end of his set, got out a banjo, saying, “You bougeosie best go home now, ‘cuz I’m bringing out the banjo!”
His set was one of the last of the evening, so after that Anna and I had to meet up with the rest of the group to head home. We also met up with one of our other professors, Brady Earnhart (who both of us had had for a creative writing class) and a friend of his who had also come to New Orleans to see Jazzfest. Then we made the very long trek back to the vans. On the way there, we stopped at “Shellfest”, which was a party held at a Shell gas station. There was a DJ and many people dancing and a fountain that was spraying water (which was quite refreshing, after being out in the hot hot sun all day). On the way back, we stopped at a Winn Dixie for groceries and then went back to the hotel and crashed for the night. Tomorrow, we would begin our first day of work.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Twilight Singers - Where Did You Sleep Last Night?

I saw The Twilight Singers three times in 2006. Two of those dates featured the incredible Mark Lanegan. There is nothing sexier than Greg Dulli's voice, in my book, but combined with the genius of's an intense combination.

Watch these boyos tear through a cover of Leadbelly's "Where Did You Sleep Last Night". Leadbelly's version was more downtrodden and mournful, and Nirvana's cover more desperate and frantic. Lanegan, on the other hand, growls out the lyrics with such sinister menace, it's downright frightening. And sexy. His voice sounds like it's been drowned in whiskey and cigarettes and then thrown in the drunk tank with a group of burly men from the Irish Mafia.

Check out a concert clip heeyuh.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Let's check out cheesy Arabic pop!

I've been studying Arabic for the better part of the last 2 years. So, of course, I acquired some cheesy Arabic pop music along the way. One day, while watching some videos, I discovered Dana. Who is Dana, you may ask?

Well, I don't quite know for sure. A websearch doesn't turn up mch information, except for the fact that she's 19, she's from Lebanon, she used to be a model, and she has had no plastic surgery whatsoever. Once you see her, it's impossible to forget her. This is probably because the lyrics of most of her songs consist of "I am Dana, look at me! I'm Dana!" She also likes to mention in her songs the fact that she's had absolutely NO PLASTIC SURGERY. NONE WHATSOEVER. She's all natural, baby!

Her having no plastic surgery is apparently a big deal in the Middle East, where Arab pop stars and celebrities have had as much work done (if not more) than your average Hollywood starlet. Plastic surgery is also a lot cheaper over there than it is here. I've even read stuff about wives in Egypt, Lebanon, etc. going under the knife to look like Haifa Wehbe or Nancy Ajram to get their husbands to pay attention to them.

So her video "Inta Min" comes on the telly. Dana comes bouncing on the screen wearing a black top hat, knee-high black boots, and black hot pants. And a white button-down blouse which was mainly used to thrust her boobs. She reminded me of a Vegas showgirl. Later on she changes into a skin-tight red dress and a skin-tight green dress in which she is housed down with water. For no reason. It was certainly the most skanktastically fabulous Arabic pop video I'd seen to date. Watching it, I got the impression that Dana was like a Lebanese Britney Spears (pre-shaved head days). A cute, thin, blonde thing that prances and rolls around and pouts and has no real purpose or talent other than pouting and writhing around and prancing.
Anyhoo, turn yourself onto some really awesomely bad music and check out Dana's video for her song "Doudou", which again has her prancing and writhing around in many different costumes. This video could also prove that maybe they're not as conservative over there in the Middle East as we think they are. I mean, if you can have young Lebanese starlets writhing around on the floor in low-cut, skin-tight catsuits, then maybe the world isn't such a bad place afterall.
By the way, that last statement was meant to be kind of sarcastic.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

the intro

I got bored with Livejournal, so here I am.

Chances are you were directed here because you're a friend of mine and I told you to come. If facts about myself. My name is Lindsey. I go to the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, VA and I'm majoring in anthropology with a concentration in Middle Eastern studies. I'm a music nerd and am addicted to both pretentious indie rock and crappy Arabic pop music. Ideally, I'd like to be the next Chuck Klosterman or make my living writing witty blips about pop culture. I'm also obsessed with Greg Dulli (of Afghan Whigs and Twilight Singers fame) and everything he creates or comes within 5 feet of. Also, I love baby sloths.