Monday, February 27, 2006

Bobby - a story of hypotheticals...

Hypothetically, I've been spending a great deal of time with a young man named Hassan. Hassan is hypothetically Moroccan, which means he learned several languages in childhood and in school (Arabic, French, Berber). He's hypothetically picked up a good deal of German and quite a lot of English along the way in his hypothetical adulthood. Now, this mix of languages makes for a hypothetically interesting accent when one speaks English as a fifth language.

Since Hassan is hyptothetically a boyfriend-type figure, he... as endeared ones often do... has deferred to using hypothetical pet names. So, he will, hypothetically, greet me by saying, "Hello, bobby." This is hypothetically meant to be, "Hello, baby." I... one very unhypothetical shannon who doesn't much care for pet names and ubercuteness... have hypothetically refrained from correcting him.

It's much more amusing to me to be called Bobby. I mean, who needs to be called "baby" 10 times a day... ...hypothetically?

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Walk it off philosophy of life

I love my father.

He is practical. Calm. Contemplative.

He is the type of father who knows just what to do when the bottom of his foot gets sliced off by farm machinery... wait and see if the bleeding stops.

Strange Dreams

The other night I had a dream. It was unusual on two counts. First -- that I remembered it at all. Second -- that it was sensical. Most often when I'm dreaming it goes something like this:

I am talking to my mom, but really it's my best friend from elementary school. She wants to put up a tire swing, but all of the trees are made of jelly. The end.

In my very sensical dream, I was on a road trip with my mother. I was driving my car and had lots of stuff piled into the backseat. I don't remember whether she was a passenger, my mom, or whether she was driving a u-haul or something behind me. I took a shortcut, and ended up running into the same cop over and over. He gave me three tickets on three seperate occasions for things like stopping in the middle of the road. I've gotta say, he was being a real ass, because I was not stopped in the middle of a road. I was stopped behind a rural gas station. Everybody knows that those gravel cut-throughs behind rural gas stations don't count as roads. Feel me?

Finally we were getting close to home. My dad was going to be in a town that we would pass through just before getting home. So, we planned to stop on the way and have dinner with him. Also joining us for dinner was the fictional daughter of a friend of his. She was about college age, and very pretty, and I did not know her in the dream. Over the course of the dinner, I became quite glad that I didn't know her. She was terribly, horribly, and worst of all - ignorantly racist. I sat in shock for a bit at the things she was saying, and finally I could abide no longer. I pitched a sideways "hope this doesn't offend you" glance at my dad, and pretty frankly told the girl what I thought of her views. Calmly, but much more bluntly than I would have in reality. And I requested that she remain silent from that point.

I think that was my subconscience trying to make me feel better with the level of bluntness in my daily life. I never knew just how fond I was of euphamisms and polite turns of phrase until I landed in a place where they mean nothing. You must be very blunt here when attempting to convey something in English. Very literal.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Bloc 18 No 108

About a month in, and I'm living in Denise's apartment. It's been fun, but eventually I'm due to get my own place. As I've learned, it's standard for an American English teacher abroad to get a pretty sweet setup. I'll have no bills here save for groceries and entertaining myself. That's good, as I'm not making as much as is standard. If i opt to stay on through the next school year, my salary would double at least. Good way of saving some money. Not exactly the 401K dad was hoping for. We'll see.

Our (Denise's) place is right around the corner from the school. We're the second floor of a building with 3 apartments. There's a rooftop terrace. Not glamourous... but nice for drying our clothes on the line and sitting in the sun for a bit. The apartment itself has 3 bedrooms. Denise's, mine, and a bonus room... It has a half wall, but as you can see Denise had Hassan rig up a curtain, and it has worked well as a third bedroom for frequent visitors. The living room is a good size, and the bathroom is ok. The toilet is in a seperate closet sized nook, and the kitchen is big enough for 3 people to stand in if no one wants to move.

There we have a shot of the living-room-length couch and table where we eat, Denise checking the shower water, Lahcen as "kung-fu dishwasher," and my room. Note the lovely silk scarves I purchased at the souk to serve as a headboard (cheap!) as well as my red cow print blanket. My boss had that one picked out and purchased for me before I arrived. Staggeringly... beautiful? I think not. But it's really really soft.

Moulay Said has this place rented, but he has purchased a different building with 2 apartments. One up, one down. When the lawyers get through the paperwork on that transaction, we'll get to go and look inside. Now, who knows when that will be, as Moroccans don't worry about the word hurry (unless they've rented a car, see my previous post). The new place is just around the corner from where we are now, and just as close to the school. If we like it, Denise will have one apartment, and I'll get the other. Like TV's popular sitcom, "Friends." Only not across from each other. And not in NewYork. And there aren't 6 of us. Well, Denise, Lachen, myself, and Hassan are pretty standard. Abdellah is over frequently. Said comes now and again... so I suppose that counts. Only... two of them don't speak English.

So, which 'friend' am I?

Pics around the house are HERE.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Thanks, George!...

...for being born on this BEE-you-tee-ful day.

In honor of Washington's birthday/President's Day, Denise and I scheduled a day off for ourselves. Admittedly, I'm getting a bit spoiled to being in charge. There is no longer a director for our American School, so Denise and I are on our own. We fiddled with the calendar for the second semester and added a few holidays in. As this is the first year of the school's existence, we aren't yet monitored by whatever governing body monitors the schools. So, freedom is ours, if only for a short time. We rented a car for the day, and drove out of Agadir. Lachen drove Denise, Hassan, Abdellah and I up into the mountains, past some stunning vistas, to Hassan's village. There his mother served us a lovely lunch of tajine. Before the tajine, we had almonds, fresh honey, really fresh butter, olive oil, & moroccan bread. Needless to say... stuffed. The people of this region are known for honey gathering (thank you Eyewitness Travel Guide), and so let me say a bit more about the honey. sweeeeeeeeet. chunky honeycomb. mmmmm. Is that a word?

Now, I would have liked to explore the village a bit more. A rather large one, I'd say, as mountain villages go. 300 families, Hassan said. However, the boys seem to have the mindset that if a car is rented, it is being wasted if not in perpetual motion. So, off we went to Immouzer. The drive and the place itself reminded me a bit of Blanchard Springs in Arkansas. Oh, except the face that when we were winding around the mountain... we were in 2-way traffic on about a lane and 1/2. Morocco is a bit like LA in that way that you pay attention to the horrid driving habits and begin to anticipate their moves and ultimately replicate them to keep yourself alive. Yep, drive crazier to remain safer.

Anyway, we drove past palm groves...

and almond trees everywhere...

terraced hills where the villagers grow food gardens and wheat for bread...


And now back to Immouzer. It is at the base of a mountain where a spring is fed by waterfalls. The waterfalls high up on the mountain were smallish (they vary in different seasons), but we walked into a canyon where the spring forms a deep pool. An unofficial guide told us that the water was 45 meters deep, and offered to dive from the cliffs for a fee. We were all broke, so we had to pass.

We were back in Agadir by late afternoon. A great day, but Denise and I agree that we must take control of the itenerary next time so as to have a more relaxing day.

HERE are some more pictures of our day.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street?

This sign points the way to our classrooms for the American School of Agadir.

Bit of a revolving door in respect to the teachers, as I've stated. The small American School is housed within a large school (Institution Al Imam Al Kastalani or IIK). We answer to the director of IIK, Moulay Said. He's a very nice man who enjoys learning more English from Denise and I. Our spring break is the last week in March, and Moulay has said that he would help us arrange bus/train tickets and find an inexpensive hotel in Casablanca. Yay!

More about the school. We have 8 kids total. One 6-year old, one 5-year old, three 4-year olds, two 3-year olds, and finally, our 2 1/2-year old. Talk about a will of Iron on that one. It is difficult because they are at wildly different levels. We're teaching simple addition/subtraction to the 5 and 6 year old. One of the four year olds recognizes all of his letters by sight and the others lack a bit. They, for the most part, meet in the middle. The two three year olds to very well in general, and this is the first year of school for the 6 year old. He needs a lot of social coaching. The parents range from fluent in English to very little English. The 2 year old is the only one who speaks English at home, so several of the kids are surpassing at least one parent with their English. I am amazed at how fast the little creatures learn. Here are a few pics of our American School facilities and kids...

Our day is from 8:30 am (thank you for the sympathy from those of you who know I am NOT a morning person, much less a morning Happy-Face-for-small-children person) to 2:30 pm. It is hella-nice to have afternoons free, though we should make more use of them than we do, perhaps. We do our fair share of relaxing, and have gotten to the roof to sunbathe and read a few times. Afternoon trips to the souk are not unheard of, but we try to stay away from Marjane if possible. More on those places later.

Ah, back to the school... When I arrived as the new teacher, the parents were very concerned. They had a meeting themselves, and presented us with a letter stating their worries and slight dissatisfaction in the decrease in their children's rate of learning since the first teacher left. They then requested a meeting with Denise and I. It was a bit of a stressful time as I was still adjusting to being a long way from home. The meeting went well, however, and we were successful in convincing the parents that we were happy in Agadir, happy to be teaching here, happy with the money (reason why the previous teacher left), and NOT GOING TO ABANDON SHIP.

Everybody seems to be much more at ease now.

For several photos in and around the school, click HERE.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Hip Hip Hooray! It's Couscous Day!

The people... they eat couscous here. Lots of couscous.

It's traditional to have couscous on Friday, and our school menu conforms to tradition. So, every Friday we get a huge platter of the lovely fluffy pasta-ish stuff, accompanied by some stewed veggies and a little meat in sauce (watch out - sometimes liver). Bread for sopping. Yum. I've asked a couple of Moroccans why, exactly, it is traditional that couscous be served on Fridays. The first answer from my dear roommate Lahcen (who, coincidentally does not always deliver the most elaborate explanations) simply said, "because we go to mosque on Fridays." So, am I left to assume couscous is a holy food? Perhaps it's the Muslim rendition of the bread/Body of Christ thing. I posed my question to the Moroccan girl who teaches French on Wednesdays. She said that, as Friday is a holy day, couscous is simply a celebratory food. This didn't exactly satiate my curiosity as to WHY couscous is special to the people here... but at least I got a more satisfying answer than "just because."

Our menu is actually scheduled to rotate every other week. They're supposed to have a mixture of American and Moroccan foods... technichally on different days of the week. As the year wore on, however, they apparently just morphed the best of the best into a one week menu. Week after week after week - same food. Monday is pizza day. When it's good, it's edible (watch out - sometimes with liver). When it's bad... it can be used to cut diamonds.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


...way to cure those Valentine's Day blues:
Move to a country where it doesn't exist.

And the bitter irony of the situation?
All the men that offer me many camels...
in a country where Valentine's Day doesn't exist.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

First Imressions from Third World Paradise

WARNING: Rambling ahead.

So I've been in Agadir for more than 2 weeks now. I intended to record a little more in the way of details along the way. For my memory, but also for those of you who have never been here and have no clue how I'm living. So, now I'm reduced to thinking back over the time... trying to remember what has struck me. First, I think it was the dichotomy between modernity and simplicity. The people here seem to have a desire for finer things... gadgets and luxuries. However, they don't have the money for it, on the whole. The cost of living is very inexpensive because the wage (not much) that I'm making as a teacher in the newly formed American School of Agadir is serious wealth as compared to what the average Moroccan makes.

I assume a mechanic makes a decent living here... most of the cars on the road are held together by about half of the original bolts and welds. If they had duct tape here, it would work about as well. And by my count, about 1 in 5 of the cars on the road is a taxi. So, I've had my fair share of inspecting them from the inside.

The driving habits amuse me. There are, in most places, clearly painted lines along the road. Clearly painted to indicate clearly defined lanes. For no reason. Whether it be a mule cart, a taxi, a motorbike, or a private car... it drives straight down the middle. There is much passing, honking, and making two (or three) lanes out of one lane. There are a few proper stoplights, but mostly the locals just know instintively which roads at which intersections have the right of way. Then, of course, you have the roundabouts. Fuuuuuun. Every trip is my own rollercoaster ride without the line at Six Flags.

I must get serious about learning French, as living in a land where signage is in one language I don't understand (French) and one I can't read to begin with (Arabic) is a lot more diabling than I expected. I am fortunate to have the built in support system that I do... I don't have to feel my way alone. Denise knows enough Berber already to do some stilted bargaining in the souk. Her boyfriend Lahcen and his friends are happy to help us with running errands, learning languages, whatever we need. They do get a bit protective though, and it's fun to venture out without them. Even our boss, the director of the school that houses the American School (Moulay Said) has said to me that he is happy to help me in whatever I need, that here he is my brother and my friend as well. It's in his best interest to keep his teachers content, so he's more than happy to oblige our every request. Sometimes it takes a bit of sign language fumbling to communicate said request to his understanding, but we make do.

It's now starting to warm up a bit, but due to all of the rain when I first arrived, it was COLD. Outside in the sunlight it has been quite nice. At night it gets significantly cooler, and inside at almost any time of the day was freezing. I suppose due to all of the concrete, tile, and glass used in the makeup of our apartment. When it finally dawned on me to ask Moulay Said to get a heater for us at home, he got us three. And almost immediately the weather warmed. Ah well, the school will have them for the next winter, because the classroom was freezing as well.

The classroom... we have 8 students, between 2 and 6. This is the first year for the school, and they have had a continually revolving door of teachers. I am the 4th face they've known as a teacher, plus 3 different French teachers that come on in Wednesdays. The kids are of several different Nationalities: Norwegian, Hungarian, Dutch, Moroccan... Most of them are fluent in French as well as their native language, so the kids usually speak to each other in French. It's amazing how quickly they've picked up on English. They can speak well enough to convey their questions and needs, and they can understand even more.

The kids seem to have accepted me pretty well, especially considering the fact that I'm one of many to them. I suppose I feel accepted by Morocco on the whole. The people here are warm and friendly. Everyone who I have spoken to has asked how I am finding Morocco, whether I like Agadir. I do feel like I stick out like a sore thumb though. I suppose it's a combination... I don't cover my head, I dress plainly like a Westerner, I walk around speaking English (with a couple of Berber words thrown in to show off when I can). A white woman here is stared at. Blatantly. Persistently.

Did I mention that I have already been offered many many camels for my hand in marriage?