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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Of turtles, owls and cultures

Our turtles are cute. Because, well, they are! One downside of working "normal" hours now is I don't get to hang out with the turtles in the mornings like I used to. But on weekends I have fun watching them and taking some pictures. It's really amazing how much Sparkle has grown in just over a year! Take a look at her back in October 2013:

You CANNOT tell me this is not adorable.

And now:

They're almost the same size! Chomper won't be bigger for very much longer. She's grown so much that over the summer we upgraded their large round laundry tub to one of those big under-bed shallow storage containers. 

When I cleaned out my British Council locker in June I decided to be environmentally friendly in this country where non-industrial recycling doesn't exist, and hand shredded what seemed like reams of paper destined for the trash to use as bedding. The woodchips we had been using were gone, we couldn't find another bag no matter how hard we looked, and they had the tendency to get moldy under rocks anyway, so shredded paper is a good option (and easier to clean). Plus Sparkle and Chomper love burrowing into it and hiding. We also give them a couple different boxes (anything from empty tea or rice boxes, to shoe boxes, to this wedding-gift-iPhone-speaker box) to hide in, which they love. Anytime we clean their cage we switch them out though because they can get pretty gross after a while. But it seems that the different images and patterns on the boxes provide some intellectual stimulation for our little guys! Take a look--

She just seems so engrossed!

I love having some other living beings in the house with me when I'm home alone, and I love the fact that turtles are easy to care for, not smelly, very containable/transportable, and cute! I've been thinking about getting a class pet for my Kindergarteners, but I haven't quite worked out the logistics of that yet, and it's far from being a priority. But if I do get one, it will surely be a turtle. Not only do they have all the good qualities listed above, but they're also tough! Meaning I won't be scared of an over-enthusiastic 5-year-old squishing it to death or anything. ;D

I know it's blurry but how great is this? She's a little modern dinosaur! 

An observation Othman and I make on a regular basis is how stemming from my upbringing and backgrounds I have no patience for inefficiency that is so rampant in this country. "New world" cultures are all about practicality, innovation and efficiency whereas "old world" cultures like both of his value traditions, constancy and patience. Why am I mentioning this in a post about turtles? Well because our turtles are most decidedly products of the old world and are very, very Moroccan. Below you can see Sparkle sort of climbing up the side of their box... why? Because she wanted to turn around. And why would she go left where there is tons of empty space when she could turn right and climb halfway up the wall and plonk down again once facing the other direction?

By the by, forgive my using the word "turtles" over and over in a post that is clearly about tortoises and not turtles. In French there is only one word for both--tortue--and in the Franglais that reigns supreme in this household Sparkle and Chomper are always called turtles. Before you look down on the French for not having two names for two very different creatures, be aware that they cannot possibly understand how we can call hiboux:

and chouttes:

both owls when they're so clearly so different. But to be honest I can barely understand the difference. It's all a matter of perception and expectations. 

As another example, a lot of people here say they don't like butterflies, papillions in French. I couldn't understand how that was possible till I learned French doesn't have a separate word for "moth". So when you have moths in your closet or those little tiny moths getting into your dried foods, they are still papillions. Well no wonder! But for us English speakers the pretty ones have a name and the noxious ones another. It seems to me Americans have a fascination with butterflies that the French simply lack. But a difference in perception that comes about as a result of language (or lack thereof) explains it. 

When you only live in one culture you think the way you (plural) see things is the way everyone does... but living abroad for extended periods, as well as learning other languages, really opens your eyes to the amazing variety and difference of perceptions there is in this world, and how that really is a beautiful thing.

Edit-- let's bring this post back to its original subject, shall we?

Chomper being studly:

And Sparkle being complicated yet again as she tries to turn around:

I had no owls or papillions in my head when I began writing, and these two cuties are where it all started. And I really couldn't handle the last image of my turtle post being an owl! 


  1. I love these posts! Isn't language and how it shapes reality a fascinating thing? Keep writing, your blog is one of of my favorites :)

  2. Good point about the owls. They are a part of the same Order just like turtles and tortoises. Different species though. We so hope you two can make a swing through Texas for a visit next summer :-)