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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Pages-- Chapter 3!

This is post number 100 on this blog, which has been in existence for less than a year! I'm so happy I started it, as it gives me a great outlet for writing and is such a great way to keep family and friends around the world a glimpse into my life and travels. It's more personal and detailed than Facebook, but less time consuming than personal correspondence, which it doesn't really replace, but in my sporadic conversations with friends throughout the year it's so much easier to just direct them here for a report on what has been happening!

Anyway, for my one hundredth post, it's an absolute pleasure to talk about the very exciting event that happened last Wednesday! I had the opportunity to speak in front of a crowd of Moroccans and expats at a bar in the "old downtown" of Casablanca at an event called Pages. If you missed my previous post about Pages, take a look here.

Photo from the Pages FB and photo credit to Rapax Studios!

The night was fantastic, the other speakers inspiring, and the music enjoyable! Tahir Shah, the author of The Caliph's House which is based on his experience moving to Casablanca, was there and spoke a bit about stories and storytelling to open the night. Having read his book (along with every other expat in Morocco I think...) and been to his house (as the venue for the baby shower of a friend sometime last year), it was really interesting to see/meet him in person. I really enjoyed his thoughts on storytelling, and especially his point about how the same stories, Cinderella for example, crop up in totally different cultures and corners of the world repeatedly. Certain stories and characters are transcendent of time and place, simply because they are so compelling, and are unlikely to disappear any time soon.

I was the last speaker to talk, which was a bit nerve-wracking since I had to wait my turn the entire night, but being a teacher I'm so used to standing up and "performing" in front of a bunch of people that I wasn't too nervous. I mentioned in my introduction at the event that although anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I'm a talker, even more than talking I like to write. So instead of talking in front of all those people, I read something I had prepared. And due to the fact that while here in Morocco I'm most at ease speaking mix of French and English, what I wrote was in that same mix, given that I was privileged enough to be speaking to a crowd who could understand it all. Feel free to use google translate to get the main idea of the French sections. ;D

Photo from the Pages FB and photo credit to Rapax Studios!

 My Maroc

3 years.
3 years, 8 months, 6 days.
I’ve lived in this city for 1344 days. Almost two million minutes.
I’ve lived in this city for 192 weeks— that's 18 weeks longer than my college career.
Those weeks have been full of sunshine and tears, white knuckled car rides and donkey pulled fruit carts, hair tearing bureaucracy and toes dancing with seaweed.


The first time I came here was on my University’s account. Bank account. I scrapped together some BS grant proposal as a pretext for visiting that man right there, and getting to know his country, his family, and him. He and I had had some good times en France plus tôt dans l’année, et ça a commencé d’être plus sérieux. Ma première vrai journée à Casa, et il m’amène ou? Bah a Derb Ghallef bien sûr! On a bu du thé marocain dans un magasin de pièces de voiture. J’étais trop excite de montrer ma grande connaissance d’Arabe—atay nana ! Mais non, c’était même pas nana.

The shopkeeper’s sob story how his wife had just left him was translated sporadically, but I was content watching the pitter patter of pedestrian traffic on the small side alley, everyone picking their way to avoid the ablution runoff. I didn’t see any women.


Au début, chômeurs, on a habité avec ma belle-famille. J’ai appris le Français. Mais c’était pas facile.


Imsouane. Imsouane.
New Year’s. Sunshine beating our skin, Atlantic winds chilling our bones. Nutty argan oil on my veranda breakfast omelette. Blond surfers in the bay, us exploring the shore’s rock formations, afraid of the frigid sea. A fisherman dancing with his dog, silhouetted by the last crimson sunlight of the year. Fish, fish and more fish to eat, and never a complaint from us. The stars. The silence. The next year, we did it all over again.


It’s the day to day things I find the hardest. My death-defying taxi drivers. My lack of time to form proper friendships. The struggle to get the internet fixed, or the fridge, or the water heater, or to get the electricity turned back on when Lydec turned it off EVEN THOUGH WE PAID.  The birds that poop on the clothes I just hung out for the sun to finish my laundering job. The ear splitting, high-pitched road rage of blameless drivers. Walking on the street with self-imposed invisible blinders, shielding myself from the honks, looks and dirty mutters I don’t understand…. but understand.

It’s the day to day things I appreciate the most. The seagulls perched as regularly as piano keys on the construction crane in front of my school. The way the fruit here pops when you chew it. How the wildflower colors change each month. Le fait que je parle français maintenant. Les couleurs de la coucher de soleil au-dessus de l’océan. How little trash I create here, compared to in the US. No heating needed. Central AC? Pff. Real food is cheap, processed isn’t, that’s how it should be.


On Mondays for the past year I’ve headed to la petite église près du Rond-Point du Sports, pour chanter dans une chorale. On est des marocains, des français, des anglais, une danoise, une américaine, et même plus j’en suis sure.  C’est ma thérapie hebdomadaire. Pendant notre spectacle en mai le monsieur chargé d’ouvrir et fermer les rideaux sur la scène a le Rialto était totalement défoncé, et il a fait n’importe quoi. Les rideaux ont ouvert sans le moitié des chanteurs, et après ils ont pas fermer pour que on fait la changement de costume. Embarassing? Ohmygod yes. But this is Morocco, and no one really seemed to pay attention to that.


In a multilingual country such as this, one picks up on things that might not draw attention otherwise. Par exemple comment des voix changent quand on parle dans les langues différents. I imagine my voice to be the same mix of throaty nasal dans les deux langues, but you might not agree. E si eu falo português, a lingua da minha mae, é totalmente differente! Funny how that works.


Part of how I make sense of this world, this life, this country, is through writing poetry. I’ll leave you with a true story.

In the West she’d be locked away

She’s a shadow made of moss and brown,
feet horned and dusty. Her sandals slip
on and off.

She ambles with that monkey gait
through carts of egg vendors,
boys screaming at their goalies,
and the local station de police.
Her chatters and mumbles don’t stop,
going from spider to howler in an instant.

The first time she looked drunk-stoned,
I thought maybe she’s another glue sniffer
or counts among the illicit alcoholics
of this dry and thirsty country.

I saw a man offer her bread at the hanout today.
She didn't seem to understand;
maybe her stomach was sated.

She must have been educated
before the psychosis set in;
her French, spat out with saliva darts,
is better than mine.

I've often wondered if she has anyone,
a sister, uncle, social worker. Him?
But that's just my Western brain,

I think. Because then I remember her wiry hair
tied up with that kind of plastic rope
they string dried figs onto.
She shifts it back onto rough chopped gray
from its flower power place.

There's never a fly too far off.

She is as scenery in this place,
another piece of Oulfa’s puzzle,
and I’m the only one the least bit phased
by her accusing stares.

Photo from the Pages FB and photo credit to Rapax Studios!

A huge thanks to Monika and Amr for organizing another night of fantastic entertainment, which brings so many different people together in such a wonderful way. Already looking forward to Chapter 4!

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed this! great writing, so vivid, colorful and poetic!