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.