Monday, October 23, 2006


(Debbie - 3rd and final post for today...originally written by Sharon on September 25)

This morning I asked if I could help and Halti Halima gave me a drying towel and some dishes to dry. It reminded me of being at the Tracy-Stickneys' for Christmas. Wouldn't you know, they then spent all day cleaning, getting out the special dishes and - just like at the Tracy-Stickneys' - they rearranged the furniture! So it really is like "Thanksgiving" (sic) every day!

Learning Arabic
Swiya b swiya; it means
Little by little.

Going to hammam
Mud and scrub and wash and rinse
At last, I feel clean

The hammam was very interesting. Three rooms - a shower room, a temperate room, a steamy room. Four, if you count the anteroom where you disrobe to your undies and store your towel and change of clothes. The temperate room was crowded so we went into the steamy room - good for the toxins. If you go, bring a little plastic chair so you don't sit on the floor. The wall is lined with sets of faucets at knee level (hand level once you're on the plastic chair). You sit down and fill a plastic bucket with a mix of hot and cold water from the taps. You pour some all over your area to clean it, then over yourself (with a plastic scoop cup). Then you take mud (available at hanuts) and rub it all over your body. Then you take a scrubby mitt (available at hanuts) and exfoliate your body to within an inch of its life - including doing each other's backs (remember, we now have no secrets). Women can spend hours there - especially in the winter when it's the only warm place. You can go from room to room to shower a bit or just breathe a bit. The rinse again. Then you can soap, shampoo, shave (though Moroccan women love to wax - I'm happy about that but have to find a place still) or whatever you want. I can see myself going twice a week!

The living rooms here are lined on three sides with couches - cushions on frames, covered with colorful patterns, backless but with enough pillows for everyone. In my family they lounge around - good, because I like to put my feet up, and now that I've been to the hammam they are clean. The coffee table is the dining table and also my desk at "school." Oh, I look forward to my desk-height desk and a dining-table height dining table. But I don't long for them. The communal plates? Yep. You gather 'round the table, sitting on a cushion on the floor if you're out of reach. Salads are served individually (more or less) with forks. You get a piece of fresh bread, part of a big, flat loaf. Then a big platter comes out and with your right hand you dig into the area in front of you. If it's couscous you take some of the vegetables and couscous and make a little ball. If it's a whole chicken, you tear off a part. No napkins - you just wash your hands when you're finished (or, if you're an American, your family takes pity on you and gives you a towel). And don't forget to leave room for fruit! I keep forgetting. I also keep forgetting to take off my shoes when I'm on a carpet. I'm getting better at it - so I'm taking my shoes off when I sit down and putting them back on whenever I get up. There's a lot of sitting around and watching TV...would be a good way to learn, but I need to learn more words first. For now, I can read and write and be with the family while they watch.

What else for today? The call to prayer. I think I pictured people hearing the call and then dropping whatever they were doing to pray. Well, that's not the case. Some people do go to the mosque (in advance of the call, so they're there for it) but other people go about their business - they can make it up later, as long as they pray five times a day (same thing with Ramadan - if you're sick or for whatever reason you can't fast, you can make it up).

I told the volunteer here about my haiku, and she said she'd submit it to Peace Works, the newsletter here! The pressure's on to write some more - luckily it doesn't take much!

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