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.