Friday, October 26, 2007

Literal Realization of the Family Tree

How do you know when you've really been accepted into the family? When you've got an orange.

This past week, we had one week fall break with no school. Hassan and I left Casablanca on Saturday night toward Agadir and on to his mother's village for a couple of days. The house in which his mother lives has a courtyard of sorts in the center. A square area mostly open to the sky. At the center of that square area is a square planter of about 1 yard square, built into the concrete floor. In that square planter is a small orange tree. Currently there is a small crop of ripening oranges on the tree. Varying sizes and shades of green. Now the fun part -- everyone in the family has been allocated a specific orange on the tree. Everybody knows whose is whose and all are watching them ripen in hopes that his/hers will be the sweetest. Rumor has it that each year's small harvest is indeed sweet. Part of the fun of it is the gamble involved. I've never before considered the natural selection of fruit, but Hassan's orange broke open and fell off the tree early in the game.

I'm sure I'll be forced to share now.

This is a photo taken the last time we were in the village, August, just before we moved to Casablanca.
L to R: Family Orange Tree, Hassan's sister Keltoum, niece Fatima, me, sister Aicha.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Spices Gone Wild

One great thing to take home from Morocco for souvenir (and personal use) is spices. The spices are usually sold at open markets in open baskets and bins... usually piled up appealingly, as illustrated below.

Some info from a website called gapadventures: There is something called Ras al-hanut, or ‘best of the shop’ – a complex spice blend used in many Moroccan dishes. It’s subtly curry-like with a spicy yet floral fragrance and robust but not overpowering flavour. Spice shops often employ experts who create the mixture using their own secret recipe and up to twenty-seven different spices. The tough part is in getting the proportions right, as spices can vary in intensity and flavour depending on how old they are or where they came from. Putting in a pinch of this and a teaspoon of that just doesn’t give you world-class results. Side note: I was too lazy to dig through my pictures, so I plagiarized these from random websites.

As you can imagine, things bought from an open market in a third world country are sometimes risky. I've found my share of stowaways in pasta and spices... but never anything quite like what is described here in two emails from the SistersT... they explain it in general hilarity, as always.

September 24, 2007 -- email from FrancesM.
that huge bag of spices we brought back with us from morocco... yeah, they hatched last week. thousands of tiny black cock-roach looking bugs, that evidentlycan't live in our atmosphere, because they died right away. so strange. they straight up, war-of-the-worlds killed over. how's life in casa treating you? i hope you've been well, and make sure you boil everything before eating it!!

September 27, 2007 -- email from T.Jo
I dunno if Frances M mentioned it, but she brought back some tahjin spices in the spring and guess what? They hatched out!!! She warned me this weekend about them basically taking over one area of her kitchen and I happily rooted around until I found those spices. As luck would have it, my bugs were mostly dead--but maybe 20 or so were alive still and slowly crawling around--perfectly sealed in a Glad plastic bag. I felt that the Glad company really lived up to its name, just seeing all those bugs perfectly sealed up in there, unable to invade my sanity and sense of cleanliness. I have a feeling actually, that those were some kind of weevils. It was a bit of a weevil holocaust. There were hundreds who didn't make it (depending on how you define make it--they hatched all right, just didn't live very long, best I can tell--very glad I skipped the larvae stage!!!).

Just more protein, that's what I say.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Story of Home -- 2 of 2

Picture it, Casablanca, August 2007...

The school in Agadir closed, and with it, our stay in that last apartment. Our old boss was gracious enough to let us stay there until Denise and I returned to Morocco from our three week trip home to the States in late July. When we arrived back on 4 August, we began to pack up (solidly -- my least favorite thing to do), and get ready to move to Casablanca. We both accepted jobs at the same school here, and housing was part of the deal. Only one catch. One apartment left, so we would have to share. We hesitated, so they said that normally the Principal lives in the apartment above the Admin offices of the school. It is bigger than the other teacher housing apartments, so they offered us the bigger principal apartment to share, and this year's single principal could live in the teacher apartments. We accepted and accepted our fate to share an apartment for the next year.

We had come to the school to sign contracts in early July, just before we left for the States, so some of the the pictures HERE were taken on that visit, and some were taken when we first arrived to move in. Some things had been changed around... and some have changed since. So, don't be confused about the sofa wandering from room to room. And perhaps someday I'll get an after picture of the apartment all well lived-in. Almost two months, and almost unpacked! It's a place with lots of character. Old, and a bit crusty in places, but cool. Lots of the furnishings are Moroccan craft stuff. Many of the rooms have walls painted with a texture pattern to them... adds a certain something. I don't think I've gotten any pictures of the lanterns on almost every cieling fixture. I've spent some time debating on how to possibly get one of those back home in one piece. And check out the photos for the painted designs on the tables, cabinets, and doors. Very cool.

There are certainly some pros and cons of living above a school, and above one's own workplace. Pros - can sleep in till last minute, have office reaaaally close if you need to put in a few hours on the weekend. Cons - No fake sick days, have office reaaaaally close if you need to put in a few hours on the weekend. Mostly, things are working out beautifully. I do feel a bit left out of the fun. The other teachers who were provided housing all live on the same floor of an apartment building. It's about a 30 minute walk or 10 minute taxi ride from the school to those apartments. Sure, I know that might get old for several reasons... being so close to so many co-workers. But it would also be fun to be around for the last minute runs. Folks over there have identified a place that makes outstanding fresh strawberry juice, a cheese sandwich worth much discussion, and there is talk of an affordable salon. Not to mention the English bookstore around the corner. It's pretty much just us down here on Rue des Papillons (roughly translated Butterfly Route -- cool address, huh?).