Thursday, December 28, 2006


Once I started crying, I couldn’t stop. This wasn’t quite Si-Mohammed and the cheese; let’s call it Mouad and the spoon. He’s two, so his favorite word is dyali – mine. We make faces and I give him paper to draw on and clementine wedges and I tickle him and sometimes he seems to like me – and sometimes he takes my things and says dyali and hits me. He’s two, after all. Stuffed animals, fine to hit me with. Pliers and hard toys, I try to stop. Anyway, he was hitting me with a wooden spoon and it started to hurt. Up until then we had been looking at a fairy tale book – I was learning the Arabic (from him) and French (from the book) words for things and telling him the English – Hansel and Gretel, Snow White – stories I knew. So anyway, when it started to hurt being hit with the spoon, I left the room and closed the door, a tad loud, leaving him alone in the room, and he started to cry. He was comforted in due time, but then I started to feel badly that I was the cause of him crying (he had already cried once and been comforted once when he hit himself on the backswing with the toy motorcycle intended for me, but I didn’t feel responsible for that one). So I started to cry. Am I too sensitive to ever have children of my own? I did start thinking about an incident I had with one of my nieces over two years ago that I still feel sad about. Kids cry and then get happy again and move on – Mouad was fine long before I was. But then thinking about my nieces – I do miss them. Heard from my sister and she had seen an article relating to my father’s favorite song (“Spirit in the Sky”).

Coincidence? So was I missing him too? The PCVs I spent time with the past couple of days were emotional about the holidays – did some rub off on me? I called the family in Philadelphia with whom I’ve spent 20 Chiristmases and got a machine, not a person – were some of the tears for that? I told Amanda I had two worries last week – housing and potato=chip guy. We found potato-chip guy – he had switched to popcorn! He said he was going to buy potatoes at the souk and then he’d be back – so one worry eliminated. I had another worry added – a virus that my traveldrive picked up at a cyber – but that seems gone now, thanks to Nam, Brett and Steve Jobs. Housing is a worry but I know that will work out. So why was I crying? I had had a lovely day, spending most of the day with the YDs. We went around town and I introduced them to people as I ran into them and toured the artisana and one bought something that the rock-carver made. Lack of personal time? Warmish, not hot showers in Fes and Rabat the last two weeks? Living out of suitcases since September? A month since swearing-in and in the down cycle (I should look at the cycle)? Could be all of those things. Anyway, my host father had Mouad give me a kiss, not once or twice but three times, and he gave me not one but two chocolates, and I washed my face, and my host mother gave me a hug, and we ate dinner and I finally felt a little better, but it was one of those days where only the evening coming to an end with bedtime would get me out of the emotional state. I felt embarrassed, but grateful for my host family – and even though the tears I felt a little proud that I was able to convey the reason I was crying (irrational as it was) to my host father in darija. Tomorrow – that is, Tuesday – is (was) another day.

And Tuesday I finally made it to the souk! It was especially busy, with all the sheep being brought in by rural shepherds for l-Eid. I decided that if I were a sheep and therefore a goner anyway (I always liked the idea of sheep because you can get the wool without the sheep being a goner, but here, I’m not so sure that’s the case…) I’d rather go for l-Eid than for a random meal. I learned that it is an obligation for every Muslim to buy the best sheep he can afford. And that l-Eid Kbir celebrates the story of Abraham and Isaac. I walked the sheep area for a while – I’ve always liked sheep faces – but there was a lot of jostling. So on to the vegetables, the household goods, the clothing, the crafts. That section was smaller than I was led to believe but still had a variety of rugs, old and new, and the people selling them had classic rural looks. And I bought a sweater set! Sweater pants are de rigeur under-layers for women here, and I wanted to have something for under my jellaba. The matching sweater top is not typical – a cardigan – and my jellaba will have a zipper. I guess I want easy arm removal rather than over my head! I’d been looking for sweater pants and these were clearly made by a knitter, not by a factory, with a nice yarn. I may not be the world’s worst bargainer (I actually started getting into it in South Africa) but I’m in the bottom 50 percent – I couldn’t get them to budge on price. I showed my host mom and she said I found a good set and that if I overpaid it was only by a little.

If I have received any more packages I don’t know it. This week the post office has been so crowded that I can’t get to the counter. I thought they were supposed to put a slip in my box when I got a package but last week they just saw me and called me over. At least I got my January living allowance last week (that, there was a slip for). If I had gotten it this week (at least so far) I wouldn’t have had time to wait to cash it! I’ve been trying, unsuccessfully, to get in more cyber time. I still have a lot of back e-mails to address, from training, and wanted to get through them before the end of the year. I don’t think I will, but I will eventually. Had a little exchange with Edie, though. She was surprised I haven’t worn socks twice and yet I go days without bathing! After that, when I was invited to the hammam on Tuesday, I said yes. It’s still weird to go to the public bath, but my cold has improved to the point that I thought the steam would be good for me, and it is nice to feel clean!

The picture is another one of Rabat. Casbah left for later on the left, big city on the right....
Before I close the book on Christmas I should note that when I was home for lunch, on TV Martha Stewart (who I’ve never watched in the U.S.) was preparing a mouthwatering holiday dinner. I was especially mesmerized by the sweet potatoes – the sweet potatoes here are white and not as sweet as yams. I also want to mention that I heard from another volunteer, and in her city, there was a Santa suit at the local photo place and you could get your picture taken with Santa, and the ovens were working overtime to churn out Christmas cakes. I’m sure that in the bigger cities, with more Europeans, it was an even bigger deal.

Yesterday morning, the artisana was already in holiday mode. The woodworkers and metalworker, who are usually in their shops working, were sitting outside in the sun, as was my counterpart, who when he is there is usually in his office. So I sat with them for a while. This is what we’re supposed to be doing for integration; I always stop by and chat to the best of my ability, and sometimes I have lingered, but this was the longest I’ve just stayed and sat (and talked off and on, and had tea). It may not sound like an achievement, but it felt like one. Then in the afternoon I went with my host mom and her sidekick to look at houses – she had three for me to look at. The first one we went to just happened to be right next to Motasim’s - I had looked at it with him, actually, when they were doing work on it. It looks nicer now that the big hole is a wall, but it isn’t as nice as his place right next door. For example, no bath – but they said I could use the upstairs neighbor’s bath anytime. I was explaining that the neighbor was my tutor but before I finished they had called him downstairs to confirm that. I said hello and I would see him tomorrow and what a coincidence that the first place they would show me is right here. Then they told me it was the nicest of the three places so I said I didn’t need to see the others. And I decided that that was a sign that I should take the one that’s been growing on me. A sign!

P.S. Gerald Ford’s death made the national news here. Even though it was in Arabic I figured out why they were showing old footage of him.
P.P.S. I dreamed of Tom Glavine again! And Bruce Springsteen. Yes, in the same dream (should be Al Leiter if it’s Springsteen…).
This might be my last post of 2006. I will miss the ball dropping (even though it dropped at 11:00 Central Time) and the fireworks. I wish everyone a festive holiday and a wonderful 2007!

Your life has undergone major upheaval. It would be odd if you didn't cry!
Yes, but I prefer to do it in private (or to stop when I get kisses and hugs and chocolate). Jeff, I also was thinking about our chat on intercity travel - I don't know how much it costs, but visitors might want to rent cars while here. I am not allowed to drive here at all, even on vacation, but my guests can...
Oh you have so many good reasons to smile -- and so many good reasons to cry too. Don't give yourself a hard time. A word on the parenting part. Although we don't have lots of "laws" in our house, we do have some. And I can tell you that when I lay down the law and make Julia cry, I very often end up in the other room crying myself. I hope that makes me a good parent -- one who will give her child an important lesson, and one who feels empathy, and one who allows her own feelings too. You were doing all three things -- and you were right to do so!
Culture shock and adjustment is hard - no need to think you are irrational!

And on a completely different note - has there been any reaction to Saddam's execution?

In the US this has felt like the week of three deaths - Ford, James Brown, Saddam. James Brown seems to have had the most effect on people. It's a strange combination.
Edie - thanks for saying that! It's good to know.

Joy - we have seen coverage on TV. I was afraid that they would show the actual hanging and got visibly upset but my host family told me they did not show it. Other than that nobody has said a word about it to me.

People here commented about James Brown too. Ford, they wanted to make sure I knew about.
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