Friday, November 24, 2006


(Subtitled: Cathartic spilling of the details of my getting married)

I’m sorry that I don’t often share the details of my life. It’s not a decision to hold back, I just never think about certain details interesting you. When I speak to you, I try to think of what around me would spark your interest. Consequently, our conversations never turn to the personal. Hey, in my defense, you don’t ask many questions! In short, it’s dawned on me that I don’t think I’ve personally said to you, “Dad, I’m getting married.” Perhaps Mom has been our Important Conversation Filter yet again. I’ve always quietly wished that you would share more of your thoughts with me. So, now I will right my wrongs and spill all of the proverbial beans.

When I arrived in Morocco in January, I landed in an established group of friends, just the way I like it. Hassan was there from the first, and I liked him from the first. I’m pretty sure the feeling was mutual, though neither of us could have predicted the long-range probabilities. You’ve not raised a romantic, starry-eyed daughter, so there never came a point when it seemed appropriate to gush forth any news. Hassan and I liked each other. We got more comfortable with each other. We spent a lot of time together. We started to say, “love.” We never discussed living together. He simply never left. I can’t remember when the talk of marriage began. I suppose it was joked about first, then talked of semi-seriously, then assumed to be part of the plan.

My plan began with bringing Hassan home for a visit first, and then bringing him with me when I moved back to the states. I was still thinking of getting married as quite a long term goal, sometime after we got settled there. At every turn, someone here warned me how difficult it is to procure the necessary visas for a Moroccan to get to the US. As I looked into the necessary steps, it became clear that it’s not an easy process. If we are an affianced couple, not married, then there are a great many time constraints that we have to work under. When we apply for a visa for him to come to the US, we don’t know how long it will take. When and if it does get approved by the US consulate here, then we would have 6 months from that date to arrive in the US. If we are granted the visa to come to the US to get married, we must be married within 3 months of arriving in the country. Somewhere in my research, I glanced at the information for couples who have already been married in their country of residence. This immediately looked a lot easier, because all of those time constraints are removed. That’s great for us, because we’re poor, and we’re not positive we’ll have money for airline tickets and weddings on the timeframe and demand of the US Consulate. All of this was just a string of logic in the back of my head throughout the Fall.

One day I was talking to Mom, who knew that I had really hoped to get both me and Hassan there for a visit during this Christmas. She asked if I was still considering that as an option, or how the chances were looking. I admitted to her that there seemed to be no way to afford it, even if we could get the visa worked out. I then explained a bit of the above information to her, and added that things might be easier if I got married here, perhaps sooner rather than later (I had just learned that after two years of marriage, Hassan would be eligible for permanent resident status in the states. That time starts ticking when we’re married, be it here or there). She expressed the sentiment of, “wow.” Then she called me the next day to say that she did not think that she could let me get married without her, and that she was considering the option of coming to Morocco for Christmas. She was quick to add that her visit did not necessitate a wedding at that time, but that she would feel better knowing that she had met him. Seemed a good thing to have my mother here for getting married though, so I began to think about the possibility of marriage in December.

I’m sure your next logical question would be, “and why, at that point, did you not feel it appropriate to share the news in an official fashion?” Well, because I still don’t know if it will be possible for me to get married at that point. It didn’t seem like the announcement I should be making… “I’m going to try to get through all of the red tape so that I can get married.” I just assumed that something would become more clear, more suitable for announcement. Perhaps I would be able to set a date at some point?

What I’ve learned is this: There are still a few hurdles before anything is certain. To get married in Morocco, I have to have a certified copy of my birth certificate. Since I had a passport in hand, the birth certificate didn’t make the packing cut. Mom is going to bring me a copy when she comes. I also need to travel 8 hours to the US Embassy in Rabat. There I’ll stand in lines and get a few things notarized over the course of a couple of days. Hopefully I’ll walk away with a paper saying that I’m a US citizen in good standing with permission to marry. Then I have to figure out how to produce a US criminal background check for the Moroccan authorities. This poses the biggest problem. One American friend here said that the embassy won’t fingerprint you, and the police here will give you a fingerprint card that you can spend money to mail to the FBI and order a report sent. Don’t know how long that would take. This American friend here advised me to have Mom bring a copy of a background check when she comes. Well, that isn’t so easy. My old employer won’t release the copy that they have, because they paid for it. Bullshit, right? So, without me present in the US for the police to fingerprint me, I don’t think I can get a federal criminal check. I might be able to get an Arkansas state report through a very happenstance connection I have, but who knows if the Moroccan police will accept that. So, it all comes to maybes. Perhaps when Mom arrives, I will have the necessary paperwork, perhaps not. We’ll know when we walk into the court here.

If I do have everything I need, then the wedding will be paperwork signed in an office somewhere. Moroccan “weddings” don’t contain any official or legal ceremony, they’re a big party. Since we don’t have the money to throw a big party, I first envisioned my wedding as a Justice of the Peace kind of affair with (hopefully) Mom as a witness. Hassan and I have recently discussed having his mother and sisters over to our apartment for dinner and some photos as a “wedding.” But, that will probably be the extent of the celebration aspect of it here. Most importantly, it would give Hassan a chance to share it with his family, because none of them would have the chance to come to the states when we have a wedding there.

When I take a step outside of the situation and look at it from another viewpoint, I realize that it must be difficult to swallow. I hope this helped, and I hope that I’ll be able to relay more information about Hassan and about our relationship that will answer your questions and concerns.

I love you,

Friday, November 03, 2006


You know how killer bees are really called Africanized Bees? Well, they are. And now I know that everything in Africa is just more agressive. The men, generally yes.

And the flies? Cheese and rice! Have you ever watched a "Save the Children" commercial and wondered why that Etheopian baby don't swat at that fly? Yeah, that fly that's crawling RIGHT ON HIS EYEBALL?? That's because the fly is an African one. Thus, that fly will go nowhere. But if it DOES go somewhere... that somewhere will be approximately 6 inches away (that's about 15 centimeters here), and he will come right on back to the task at hand.

I'm growing out my ponytail just so I can shake my head and hit my face with it.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

potentially really long post...

we'll see how this goes.

Most importantly, I am here as witness to the fact that I am, indeed, still alive. When I was in Arkansas this summer, I was heard to say, "I'm going to keep in much better touch with everyone when I go back this time." And of course, all of you knew then, and have proof now, that I'm a big fat liar.

I am a perfectionist. Those of you that know me as a sloth might choke a little on that last statement... but I mean perfectionist in the sense of "I can't make myself do it at all because I know I don't have the energy to do it justice." Not at all in the sense of, "I do everything perfectly." So, I'm pledging now to drop the idea that I should have a well written, grammatically correct, proofread, entertaining, informative blog. I pledge just to keep writing something... even drivel... to let you know I'm alive. How's that?

Here's the plan: I'll catch you up on the recent first. Then I'll go to the way-back files and start from the point I left off so long ago.

So the news of the week is: I WENT TO THE VILLAGE.

But before I went to the villiage, it was Ramadan. Ramadan is that lovely month when no one around me was eating or drinking during the day. It's the 9th month of some calendar that I don't go by, and this year it fell between Sept 24ish to Oct 23ish. Muslims celebrate this month as the anniversary of the time that Allah gave the Koran down to Mohamed. Did I mention that I am (according to the new pledge) refusing to look up the "appropriate" or "correct" spellings for... um... anything? So, yes, the Muslims, they were hungry for a while. The life in Ramadan, it goes something like this: you get up at about 3:30 or 4 in the morning to eat a pretty substantial meal before the sun rises. Generally folks go back to sleep until such time as they have to report to work, if that is indeed the case. This time is probably later than usual, as the entire society changes during Ramadan. Opening hours of everything change, nobody does much of anything that they can avoid, because they're hungry, and cranky, and whatever it is to be done would most CERTAINLY work up a thirst which they are not allowed to quench until sundown... which at this time of year came at approx 6:15 p.m. The streets are bare at that time, because the city shuts down to eat. Everyone traditionally breaks the daily fast with a soup called Harira. Also with sweet dates, fried breads, and various pastries involving sesame paste, etc. They are a traditional lot, these Moroccans. Many people will eat another sizable meal at 11ish before going to bed, and then getting up at 3:30 or 4 to do it all again.

Since everyone was hungry, and avoiding moving around too much, the supermarket was free and clear. It was like the "day after." Denise and I had the aisles to ourselves. This caused me to note that Ramadan is kinda like the anti-Christmas. No one is eating. No one is shopping. The stores close earlier.

I forgot to say that the fun parts about working on the sun's schedule is that you never presume, as a mere mortal, to know EXACTLY what time you can begin... or are required to stop... eating. So in the evenings... the imams at the mosques would call out when it was time to eat. Frequently we would have the soup on the table waiting to hear the call, "Allaaaaaaah, huakbar." My impersonation of that is much better in person. I tried the daily fast for four days in two two-day increments. It wasn't as difficult as it sounds... but I also was not trying the fast at the beginning of Ramadan when it was hotter and thirstier. So, then the waking up in the mornings? The imams also call out in the mornings, I think. And I suppose the faithful would have themselves trained to listen for the faint call in their sleep. Then there are those of us who would nevah evah hear that in a million years through the fog of sleep. In the new neighborhood (I moved into a new apartment at the first of October, pictures to come) there's a good soul who parades through the streets at 3:30ish banging a drum to wake everyone to eat. The first morning I heard that, I mumbled, "is he TRYING to wake everyone up, or is he just an ASSHOLE??" But he kept on keepin on. Every morning, the parade continued.

The day immediatly after the last day of Ramadan is Aid al Fitr. It's translated something like the Feast after the Fast. Denise and I created the school calendar this year, so we combined the requsite three days for Aid, and a "fall break"concept and had a week off of school last week. And in that week, I went to Hassan's mother's house in the village. I hope this thing lets me post some pictures when I cease with the typing.

Ok, now the village. It's about an hour or hour and a half up into the mountains. Pretty good mountains, so it's probably not much more than 30 miles distance covered. In the village, Hassan's mother's house does not have electricity. She doesn't have running water to speak of. There are no beds; everyone sleeps on the floor. And there certainly aren't western style toilets installed. Just the hole-in-the-ground Moroccan ones.

All that said, I had a fantastic time. Hassan's family is very lovely, and interestingly, made up almost entirely of women. I spent a lot of time in the kitchen watching his sisters and neices prepare all of the traditional dishes. I even got to practice some, including pitching the bread dough into the outdoor fire oven.

Ok, I'll detail more of that later. Scream at me if I take too long. And now I'll hope to attach some photos. Love you all.

Monday, July 10, 2006

to have a job... or not to have a job...

I'm pretty behind on posting. I've got lots of placeholder drafts waiting to be filled with pictures and news. Soon... soon...

What's on my mind now, so close to the trip home, is whether I have a job to return to. This morning on the way into the office, Denise and I stopped in to chat to Moulay Said. He said that with the current number of students, he's not sure what to do. Today is the deadline he gave to several prospective parents to enroll, so, we wait. He's got a meeting with the proprietor of the new school this afternoon. And he said tomorrow we could meet to find out if any of the parents showed up to enroll kids in our school.

Wait. wait. more waiting.

Friday, July 07, 2006

more gore

Yeah.. remember that cat attack from Sunday?
here's a look at the wounds yesterday.

The bruising from the bites is pretty sore, but otherwise I'm healing well. Denise isn't as fortunate. Her ankle still looks pretty funky and oozes. As illustrated here.

Monday, July 03, 2006

It's a great day for a rabies shot.

Last night there was chaos on the homefront. Picture it. Morocco. 2006...

Denise was washing clothes in our new machine. The tub we use to drain the machine was full of water right in the way of the front door when Hassan arrived home with his bicycle. I was trying to help Denise quickly move the tub of water so he could enter. Poops-the-crazy-Siamese-cat came over to help us. Little did we know that ouside that door, waiting with Hassan, was the sweet fuzzy kitty that has taken our front garden as residence. Poops knew. Oh yes he did. And he wanted to kill that cat. And with no sudden movements on our part, Poops decided he could no longer live in this world, with that other cat on the outside of that door, without attacking SOMETHING. So, he jumped on Denise's bare left leg. He landed on her ankle/foot. She kicked a few times, but the cat was still attached, attacking madly. Denise reached down and pulled cat off foot, screamed wildly at him, and flung him away from her... away from the only exit door... toward ME! Poops bounced off of my right knee and landed about 2 feet away. He sat still for a moment, shook it off, and then lept across the distance onto my right calf. I was wearing long pants, though not thick ones. He got his teeth through and into my flesh, no problem, but I didn't get as many scratches.

When the screaming and throwing of shoes at the cat ceased, Hassan came in to see what the sam hell was going on behind that door. When Poops finally emerged from under Denise's bed, I asked Hassan politely to throw the cat off the balcony, which he did.

We're only the 2nd story.

So, here's the damage from last night. First, the bites on my calf. I have a couple of scratches, but it's all spread out because the stupid cat was wrapped around my leg.

And now Denise. This is only one side of her afflicted foot. The other side is worse, but I can't get the picture to post. Some bites. Lots of scratches. Thank goodness I bought hydrogen peroxide a few days ago.

I think both of us are a little worse off than even the pictures show.

So, today we were urged by everyone we know to go to the pharmacy and see what we could get. Maybe talk to a doctor even. We went, and they said we needed to see a doctor for a vaccination. Through the language barrier, we kept understanding that we needed a tetanus shot. Well, our boss took us to the clinic. And it turns out we needed RABIES vaccinations. There are a lot of street animals here and rabies is a problem. So even though Poops WAS an indoor cat, they err on the side of caution. Today we got two injections. Some immunoglobulin or some such, and the first of three rabies shots over the next month. At least they don't give rabies shots with big needles directly into your abdomen anymore.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

for JT

Apparently graffiti artists ‘round the world agree with you. Snoop Dogg and Tupac are indeed lyrical geniuses.It was dusk when Denise and I took a neighborhood walk to get this shot. Yes, that’s right. This work of art is just around the corner. Sorry that the light isn’t great, but you get the idea. And I thought the dumpster in front added a nice feel.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Tammi and Mike

My friends Tammi and Mike got married yesterday. I am terribly sad that I could not be there for the festivities. I am just now at the age where friends’ weddings seem to be a celebration. Previously, weddings have always seemed very ceremonious to me. But now, more often, it seems like a big gathering of people who want to be present at an occasion of joy marking the fact that two people have found each other, appreciate each other, and actually want to try to continue the give and take forever. Well, that, (and I must admit that now that I know more established folks with the money to throw a good reception) people don’t want to miss a great party. And I’m afraid that I have. The beauty of a sunset mountain wedding… AND a wagon wheel dance floor?? I shudder to think of my own loss here. I can’t wait to hear the stories and see the pictures.

My wish for the two of them is simple. Peace and Happiness. Sometimes there will only be pockets of these amidst times of madness, but may you always recognize them and enjoy each other in them. Perhaps it’s a bit trite, but I still want to post the Marriage chapter from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran.

On Marriage
Then Almitra spoke again and said, "And what of Marriage, master?"
And he answered saying:
You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when white wings of death scatter your days.
Aye, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together, yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.

Tammi and Mike, may you always be pillars of the same temple.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Tech difficulties

My old format began to bump all of the bio and menu section to the bottom of the page. I had to find a new format that would stop that until I have time to further fiddle with the old format. Thus, the new look.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

choco crack

Like I even need to say it. It's Choco Crack. Breakfast of... shannon.

The results are in! My hypothesis is proven!

Absolutely anwhere in the world, when a camera is pointed at a boy in his mid-twenties, there is a 98.249% chance that he will spontaneously and involuntarily display a rude gesture.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

school logo saga

One of the myriad of things Denise and I tackled on our “road to the open house,” was creating a decent logo for the school. One with some sort of relevance. We have, to this point, had a bad taste whenever forced to use the original logo. One with only the initials of the school in a circle with random colors. No tie to the US or Morocco, or any indication that it was a school. I’m not certain, but it’s rumored that they let one of those grinder box monkeys from Marrakech design it.Well, we could stand behind it exactly... no longer. We brainstormed, figited with various clipart, and tried every color in the primary-school-appropriate spectrum. When we came upon puzzle pieces, I had a stroke of genious involving the US and Moroccan flags. Denise worked wonders to make it happen on a computer with NO graphics program. I fell in love with our puzzle pieces.Alas, when we proudly presented the new logo to our boss, he looked at us with discomfort. Nice, he said, but not allowed (I might be sentenced to the chopping off of my mouse finger for posting it here!). Apparently the Moroccan flag can ONLY be flag shaped. No manipulation. Ever. So, if you were ever planning on putting a green star on say a red.... say... circle?? FORGET IT. WALK AWAY NOW! We were a bit defeated at that point. When we revisisted the design task, here’s what we got.
Better than the original, I think. But it ain’t no puzzle pieces.

I got mail!

Mom sent me a package of a few personal items and a few things for the school. We knew regular mail would take about a month to arrive. So, Mom upped the ante and sent it priority. That cost a pretty penny! It was scheduled to arrive in 4 – 10 days.

And right on schedule, approximately one month later, it arrives. An expensive lesson learned. When I went to the post office to collect my prize, I saw this:

The box was in great shape (sometimes mail gets tampered with and sorted through on its way here), and there on the front were... count ‘em... 67 $1.00 stamps. Now that’s satisfying. It’s always frustrating when you have to mail a heavy box, because you take in to the counter at your local post office... and they put a printed meter tape on it. C’mon! All that money and all I get is a boring old strip of tape?? No color, no pictures? I’m not sure who was responsible for my box of many colors. I have a feeling Mom tasked Dad with taking the box to the post office. And I have a feeling that Dad promptly pawned that stamping job off onto someone else.

Thank you, stamp fairy, whoever you are.

For all you Pulp Fiction fans

it's not a quarter pounder here either...

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Cast of Characters - part deux (the animals)

As we prepared for our open house at the American School, we decided to get a couple of class pets. We were thinking fish and a small turtle. Moulay Said got us a small aquarium and gave us some money. It was a Tuesday, and Denise and I headed to the souk to buy fish.

We looked at the fish, and we walked out with three hamsters and one cage. We found out the shocking way that one was definitely a boy and one was definitely a girl. We got other cages to separate out the hamsters one from another. Now we are anxiously awaiting hamster babies. I say anxious because I had a hamster once. I didn't know she was expecting until I heard the crunching of her CANIBALIZING HER YOUNG. So, uh, needless to say, I voted Denise to keep a watch on the rodent baby situation.

Desi, Lucy (expectant mother... plotting escape), and Rosey the Nosey Neighbor (named in honor of R.Kelly's "Trapped in the Closet," and also because she would appear out of nowhere to check things out if Lucy and Desi quarrelled)

A few days later, on Friday, Moulay Said took us out errand running and shopping for school. One stop was a diferent pet store with a better selection of fish. We picked three, and the proprietor agreed to deliver them and help set up our aquarium on Saturday.

Side Note: he had one guinea pig in the shop that Denise went nuts over. She spent the next 2 weeks mumbling incoherently about guinea pigs.

Sammy, Fats, and Bing

That next week, one of our class mothers got into the spirit and agreed to look for a small turtle, since that was the original dream. She came back with two chameleons.

Fluffy and Princess

That weekend, we got a call from Moulay to go look in the classroom, he had found a turtle. Less like the size of a silver dollar... more like 2 adult handfulls. The kids loved him as he's the only one they were b rave enough to pick up alone. One day, Denise put him out into the school courtyard to get some sun and warmth. She didn't think about him until the Moroccan kids had come back through. Either he pusted outta this place on his own, or one o the teenagers decided to take him home. Didn't ever get a picture of him, but he looked sorta like... a turtle.

Then, for some reason I can't quite recall, Denise and I were back by the pet store in the souk. Bad idea. They had a little of young guniea pigs. So (like you didn't see this coming?), we have two. This time we insisted on a same-sex pair.

Jermaine and Tito

We now have quite a menagerie. And finally, we knew the kids would be diappointed about the tutle's mysterious disappearance. We got a friend to bring us another, smaller tutle. He's tentatively called Reginald.

Welcome to our zoo!

I am:

Make sure to scroll down through the posts and look through the archives now and again. As I have time to finish up several drafts I've had on the back burner... the system shuffles them in as of the date I began the draft.

a VERY important lesson

Don't drink the milk that comes in the little plastic bag. Oh, sure... "that seems like common sense," you say? Bollox. Everything is topsy-turvy here. You never know where the hit is going to come from.

I used to think I had a stomach of steel.

"What? The eggs have been left out of the fridge for a few days? No problem."

"Oops. I dropped my sandwich. Hurry! Pick it up! Ten second rule!"

Weeeehehehell, no more, my friends. No more.

Sunday night we were at the school, where we have been for a solid month as we try to get ready for an open house for recruitment of new students. Around 7ish, I start to feel a little funny. First it has the symptoms of a kidney infection, then stomach upset, then PAIN. MY GOD, the PAIN. It faded a bit, and we went home. As I started dinner, it came back with a vengeance. I left Denise to the cooking, and I went to my room to die. I tossed and turned and seriously considered going to the third world hospital (Want to know when your hidden bias against developing countries pops up? When you consider going to the hospital for an internal medicine issue). Finally, around 1am, I was about to try to find comfort again by spining in circles on my bed, and suddenly I got that surefire feeling that I was about to be violently ill. And I was. And then the world was a better place.

Everything I had eaten that day had also been eaten by someone else in the household. Finally, it dawned on us. The milk in a bag. Households here purchase milk in small quantities daily from the local shop. I've had milk from the small cartons with the two day expiration date before. No problem. So, I didn't really overthink putting the milk from the bag into my cereal. Well, that's the unpasteurized kind, apparently (something that could have been brought to my attention EARLIER). Not exactly fresh milk either. I guess Lahcen's system is used to it. Mine... had something to say about it.

Happy ending though. I was feeling so much better by mid-Monday that I was able to participate in the very American rite of a child's birthday party at McDonald's. One of our students, Adam, turned 5. Here he is with Denise.

And there's Yassine with Ronald. Adam and Yassine are our 2 Moroccan students. I bet they can handle unpasteurized milk.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A view of Agadir

Here's the city along the coastline (port area is on the bottom right, along with a good deal of resort hotel construction).

And that photo above is as seen from this "mountain." The building you see at the top is the kasbah. Not much up there really except a good view of the city and camel rides for the tourists.
The Arabic words on the mountain are God, King, Country. It goes a little somethin' like this, "Allah, Alawatem, Alamellik."

This one's for Larisa...

Because if camel bums don't make you smile. Well, then perhaps the terrorists HAVE already won.

Monday, April 24, 2006

My birthday

My actual birthday on the 20th was a nice evening. The four of us were headed out to dinner, trying to find an Indian restaurant. There is one. Down by the beach. But we thought we remembered seeing another. As we got out of the taxi though, it turned out to be a Chinese place we misremembered. Well, that would not do. As we walked toward the real Indian food at the beach, we happened upon a Mexican restaurant. The boys had never had Mexican food, and we decided that a Moroccan take on the concept would be adventure enough for the evening. Nice place. Everything was really quite good in that "not quite authentic" way. The place even had really good music. In English. That I liked! Mostly Motown, as I remember. Stuff you can't resist singing along with, even at the table. I can't tell you how rare it is. Usually it's either in Berber or it's something akin to Celine Dion.

The boys that live in the apartment downstairs from us sometimes threaten to cause my ears to bleed with their Celine Dion on repeat. I cannot be held responsible for the harm I might do them if such torture continues.

Happy thoughts... happy thoughts... I got some lovely flowers on Thursday and Friday from one of my students and from my boss. Sadly, I waited to take pictures until they were a few days old and the cat had knocked them over. Still nice.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Coca-cola in Arabic

Remember to read right to left

getting here

I left Memphis on the afternoon of January 24th. Short layover in Atlanta, 6 hour layover in London... at which point I almost did not gain entry into Morocco. My return flight was booked for August 11. Since I did not yet have my employment contract or employment visa in my possession I could only be considered a tourist, and thus, stay only 3 months legally. Delta had gotten me as far as London, but British Airways refused to let me check in without a return flight within the 3 month time limit. At first I was told that Delta (grand coordinator of my 3 airline itenerary) would charge me a change fee. When I politely informed them that I had no money and would be taking up residence in Gatwick Airport a la Tom Hanks in "The Terminal," they were kind enough to work things out for me. The Delta agent put a "dummy" date of April 23rd into the system and put some special stickers onto my paper tickets. I had been hoping to use my 6 hour London layover to find a way into the city for some lunch as I've never been to London. After I finally sorted everything out between Delta and British Airways, I decided to play it safe and make my way to the gate area to be sure they were indeed going to let me check-in. So, I grabbed some really expensive airport fare for lu7nch, browsed my last English language bookstore for a while, and nodded of in the waiting area like a vagrant.

Now, the Delta agent who arranged my "dummy" return date and put stickers onto my tickets told me that I could simply peel the stickers off and show up to the airport in August as planned. Somehow, I didn't have faith it would go that smoothly. Royal Air Maroc is taking me from Agadir to Casablanca, then I'm back on Delta from Casablanca back into the States. I wanted to go to the airport here before April 23 just to check things out. To verify that they wouldn't see April 23 in the system and say, "she's a no show - cancel her."

Almogar airport is situated between Agadir and Tiznit to the South. It's a decent trek out of the city to get there. My boss, a handy guy to know, says he has a friend at the Royal Air Maroc ofice in Agadir. He goes over there with my tickets in hand, and Royal Air Maroc says everythings A-OK. They even peeled the stickers off for me.

I'm going on faith that all is well with the Delta leg of the trip. I suppose the worst case scenario is that Mulay Said has to buy me a whole new ticket home.

I do love free travel.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Funny lady

I got an email from my friend Melody the other day. Actually it was more than a month ago. And I have not written her back. See, I told you... why can't I just sit still long enough to hit reply?

Melody lives in Iowa. Crazy, huh? She always, and I mean always, knows precisely what will make me laugh.

She said:
know how amused you were that we have convenience stores named "kum-n-go"? i thought of you the other day on the way to work because they had a story on the radio about a kum-n-go robbery. the item stolen, condoms.


A group of my friends in college began a tradition of surprise birthday parties. It, of course, quickly became difficult to surprise each other what with all of the suspicion. We resorted to staggeringly clomplex plots and evil deceptions. Once I worked up tears, real tears, and feigned upset over a particular relationship drama to bait Frances into following me, unsuspectingly, into her party. Tony was awoken once in the wee hours of the morning and told he had to drive a friend to the ER because of a severe asthma attack. He stumbled to the lobby of his dorm to find his party.

Surprises for me were notorious failures. Once I was sent on a campus scavenger hunt. The planners failed to consider that one leg of the hunt took me right by the windows of the cafeteria. There I saw many balloons and the waiting partiers. Once they ALMOST got me. As I approached the student union, so close, a friend passed by and said, "Shan, sorry I couldn't make it to your party tonight. I have a test tomorrow."

After moving to California, we continued the tradition until it became ridiculously difficult to get everyone together and pull off a surprise. Then began the theme evenings. So, with time, I dropped my guard. I'm out of the habit of suspicioning. My birthday's not till Thursday the 20th. I knew Denise was planning to cook dinner for me. I got to request Indian food. I figured that setup would include Abdellah and Said, however my assumption was that the dinner would be next Saturday. After my birthday. Wrong. Denise insisted on picking up most of the ingredients while we were at the souk this past Saturday. I suspected nothing. She had tasked Hassan with getting me out of the house, so we went off to have a coke by the beach. I suspected nothing.

We arrived back home, and for some reason, I didn't open the door to my room and deposit my stuff there as usual. Denise had to think fast and invent a need to borrow something from me so I would go into my room. When I opened the door and four boys jumped off of my bed to surprise me, it worked. I'm pretty sure my heart skipped a few beats. I screamed audibly. They got me.

Denise had made an Indian-style tajine dish, as we couldn't get all of the necessary Tikka Masala ingredients. Dinner was lovely, and then there was cake! As you can see, the boys struggled with the spelling of my name. Well, it's phonetically correct anyway. And as it turns out, that didn't affect the taste at all.

They sang Happy Birthday to me in four languages, and then Abdellah insisted on this picture. I thought he was joking at first. He often is. Perhaps this customary American wedding pose is, in Morocco, a customary Birthday pose. Look how somber Abdellah is. Well, at least Hassan is amused in the background.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

"Butterfly" jeans

In the photo, you can barely see the side of the original butterfly below my right knee. He started it all... right after I ripped my favorite jeans on a nail at the edge of the stage in a theater in which I was rehearsing. These are my favorite jeans, without question. They have been for years, as is evidenced by the patches and threadbare nature of the pants. Oh yes, they're utilitarian patches. They cover holes and paint spills. Some are stitched to the reinforcements found on the inside. These jeans have seen some livin', and they're now held toghther like OZ, from behind the curtain. Side note: many thanks are due to my mom and to Carol W. for much mending, patching, and serging. I know that if I called my mother and was sobbing uncontrollably, she would be frightened at first. Might think that I had lost a limb or been snatched for ransom. However, when I finally blubblered out, "B... b... butterfly jeans," she would understand that they had finally met their overdue end, and that I was in the perfectly natural grieving process. It is to be noted that all of the patches, save one, are on the front. There is but one lone butterfly on my left rear pocket. It is solely aesthetic. One butt butterfly to "balance things out." Perhaps it's a good sign, a sign that my life has been lived with forward momentum. All of the snags and such are on the front. Sure, I've been caught standing still more than my fair share, but hopefully I haven't been backin' up.

Does this make me legit?

My first business card, ever (not the best photo, perhaps... but you get the idea). I've previously had an actual profession, as well as a job with a fancy title. Just somehow never managed to order business cards before this.

A bit more about my job situation. Mom tells me that one of the most frequently asked questions of her, about me, goes something like this, "So what's up with this American School thing?" I think that spans several questions...

Does the American govt. have anything to do with the school? Nope. It's only called American School because we use the American style of classroom teaching, and we teach it in English.

Who runs it? It's a private school run by the director of a Moroccan school. Most American schools have their own facilities, but since we're just starting out this year, we're housed within that Moroccan school that he runs.

What's the purpose? To offer an English education. There are American schools in the larger cities in the north of Morocco, cities that have more international business trade, bigger populations, and more money. Before this year, people in Agadir only had the option of enrolling their kids in traditional Moroccan school (Arabic), or in French schools. When people choose English ed. for thier kids, often it's with the idea that it will help them get into college someday.

Will it be accredited? Good question. Our boss has had a meeting at the American Embassy in Rabat, a lady from the American Consulate came to visit, and they're looking into options for accreditation.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Much ado...

I'll go ahead and apologize now that there's no photographic evidence of this. I was too busy gawking, and I didn't want to miss anything whilst running for the camera.

This evening, Denise and I were doing laundry. Fun fact, we were doing laundry in the bathtub, as we had let it get that behind with the weeklong trip and all. Anyway, Lahcen shouts for us to come to the balcony to see something. What we find outside our windows is a parade. It was the groom's family and friends on the way to the wedding.

The procession went a little like this:
First was a horse pulling a cart with a sheep on it (the sheep - a gift for the bride's family). Next came another horse pulling another cart with lots of colorful baskets, flowers, ribbons, gifts perhaps? Following that cart was a band of 5 or 6 Berber musicians in robes. They were playing things such as flutes, drums, and cymbals. And perhaps a rabab, a type of one-stringed fiddle (I'm making some assumptions here as I'm not quite yet an expert on Moroccan music or musical instruments). Just imagine something you might bellydance along to and you've got a general picture of the music. The family and friends all followed behind, and surrounded actually, the band... clapping, singing, and all dressed in finest traditional kaftans and djellebas of bright colors. Bringing up the rear there were three cars. The middle one was decorated with shaving cream and streamers. In Arabic across the back windshield the shaving cream spelled out "Happy Wedding." All three cars were honking to the beat of the band.

Good times.

I actually missed my opportunity to go to a Moroccan wedding last Saturday night. We had just arrived in from a very long, very tough day of travel back from Casablanca. I had gotten sick onthe trip, so my head could have exploded from the pressure at any moment. At that point, I was perfectly happy with my decision to shower and head straight to bed. Now, of course, I'm sad I missed out.

Moroccan weddings are quite the festive occasion (as if the sheep didn't clue you in). I got an account of the one I missed. It started around 9pm, but the bride did not arrive till closer to 10 when the hall was full (it was held at some sort of public hall/banquet facility). Through the course of the evening, there was much traditional music (live band), much eating (we got a package of some of the sweets and goodies we had missed. They were delicious, and interesting... Some were made with rosewater. They tasted a little like soap. Very interesting). However the American who gave us the commentary reported that there was not as much dancing through the night as she had expected. The bride had four different dress changes, and there was much ceremony when she came out in each. Party lasted until about 4am. All without the aid of alcohol, as Muslims don't, traditionally, drink.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Taghazout... playing catch up

Granted, I've just returned from a week in Marrakech and Casablanca, but I feel the need to post first things first. Taghazout probably should have been my very first post. I went there, a small surf town about 20 minutes drive up the coast, on my 2nd night in Morocco. One of my very first experiences. However, I've gone up several times since then and always have a wonderful time. Have grown rather fond of the place, and have taken many pictures. I have no pictures from that first visit, so hopefully the richer story now will make up for the delay.

I had arrived in Agadir on a Wednesday evening, and that week Denise's roomie from Dublin (Norah) was in town for a vacation/visit (along with her friend Sally and Sally's daughter Ayoola). Here's Ayoola just so you can admire the kid that can pull off this hair!
Norah and Sally had made the acquaintence of two guys who kept a small place in Taghazout to go up and surf on their days off. We were all invited up that Thursday evening for dinner. There were 12 of us total, and we filled the tiny place. The apartment consisted of one room and a small entryway that included the shower/toilet, and a shelf for a cooktop with a water spigot and bucket that served as a kitchen. The whole thing was hanging onto the rocks RIGHT over the crashing surf. Not too shabby a bachelor pad. That night was my first tajine. Now I know that once you've had it several times a week at school and /or home it becomes less romantic. But that night was great. All of us on mats on the floor around the edge of the room. Small, low table in the middle with the food. Using bread as a utensil to scoop the tajine. A little wine, Abdellah in the corner, cuddled up to the sheshaw (hookah). A lovely evening. That trip was the first time I had the pleasure of meeting Sally. She's a clothing designer, a homeopath, and a true wanderer. I loved her stories about her live in the Austrailian outback with her Aboriginal husband... sleeping where they stopped, gathering a breakfast of coconuts, and having her daughter out there in the nowhere.
Here are some camels by the sea on the drive up one day. As well as a camper truck. I wonder who's camping with camels.

Norah and Sally were back in late Feb/early March, and they rented their own place in Taghazout this time. We were up there several times that week. One afternoon we girls all hung out on the balcony and generally heckled the surfers.

Sally, Norah, me, Denise

There had been a big storm the night before (Norah and Sal seem to bring that type weather with them). So, the waves were pretty decent, and all of the fishing boats had been pulled way up, so the surfers could ride pretty much all the way up to the beach.One night that week, the guys went up with us and we met Sally and Norah for dinner at a little place near their apartment. The proprietor joined us before the evening was done for an interesting time. Elizabeth is a Hungarian woman who has been in Morocco for about 50 years, since her early 20's. She ran a campsite in the days when Morocco was in it's heyday as a standard stop for the bohemians of the world. It was fun hearing her stories about converting from Catholocism to Islam, her life in general, and how much Morocco has changed with time.
Sally, Norah, Elizabeth

And then, on one of the girls' last nights in town that week, we all went up again, and Ottman (one of the friends who keeps the little surfer place from that first night) cooked tajine. Always a lovely time.Front: Otmane, Norah. Back left: Abdellah, Hassan, me. Back right: Lahcen, Sally, Khalid. Photographer: Denise.