Thursday, June 8, 2006

Morocco Trip: Train to Rabat

At midnight last night, I have officially been here for a week! I’ve done so much, it’s amazing. It feels like longer than a week.

I had to teach school in the morning, so I ate a yummy breakfast of cherries and then caught a taxi. I told the driver where the subdivision was, what it was called, what road to take, and showed him on the map, but he didn’t really know where it was, and I was fuzzy on how to get to the school once I got into the neighborhood. We did get to the general vicinity, but I couldn’t figure out how to get to the school, because it is sort of hidden down a side street in the middle of a bunch of newly-constructed buildings that look almost identical. I was thinking that I could do it, but I couldn’t, so I just got out of the taxi once I got as close as I could, paid the driver, went to a teleboutique, and called Mr. B. The person working there was a woman, which was unusual, but nice for me, and she gave directions of where we were to Mr. B's secretary.

He came to pick me up, and while I waited, I sat with the woman and showed her pictures of my family. (That photo album I put together before this trip has been great! I’ve showed it to just about every person I’ve met, and it’s a great conversation starter.) She didn’t speak a word of any language besides Arabic, and I didn’t speak Arabic, so we tried to talk to each other without too much success. However, when Mr. B got there, she gave me a big hug goodbye and the Moroccan kisses on the cheeks, and I felt like I had made a friend.

My time at the school was not that great. I taught from 10:30 to 11:45 and basically let the kids walk all over me. It was not good. (We were playing mafia and looking at pictures on my computer.) I left feeling blah. It was a waste of my time and theirs to cater to their whims that way. L I guess I learned about what NOT to do. These aren’t Verity kids.

When I got home, I had to pack, and Marie and I left for the train station at about 2:00. We walked the mile or so to get there, with Marie carrying a backpack and me pulling my small carry-on suitcase. If wheels could talk, these wheels sure could tell you a story! They’ve been to China, the Dominican Republic, all over America, and now, here they were, bumping over the dusty Moroccan streets and sidewalks.

We met Adair at the train station, bought our tickets to Rabat, and departed at 3:00. We had bought first class tickets in order to be assured of getting a seat, which I guess can be a problem, plus, the air conditioning is supposed to work better in first class. However, it wasn’t working at all in our compartment, and we were all stifling hot. (That was the first time I had actually felt uncomfortably hot.) Finally I walked down the train and into a different car. I found a compartment that was completely empty, and the A/C worked, so we all moved. It was over 100 degrees that day, the sun was beating down on the train, and no air was moving inside, so the A/C helped a lot.

We arrived in Rabat around 6:15 and met up with F and her 3 friends. We went to their friend’s house and sat around for a while. We looked for a soccer game to watch on TV, but we couldn’t find one, despite her’s 5 satellite dishes with about 400 channels each. Then we found out that the game we wanted to watch was not until tomorrow.

For dinner, we went to an Assyrian restaurant. The falafel was the best I had ever had, and the pita and hummus were delicious. But the most fascinating, interesting, intriguing part was the smoking. They have these huge smoking pipes (about 1 ½ inches in diameter) that are connected to a pot on a stand that burns little coals. The tubes collect the smoke, and the people suck it in through a silver mouthpiece. Then they exhale a huge cloud of smoke. Needless to say, none of our group tried that.

I didn’t get any pictures, because I had accidentally left the memory stick for my camera back at our apartment in Fez. That was stupid.

Keep Reading: Tour of Rabat
Read the Previous Post: Tour of the Medina
Start at the Beginning: The Journey Begins

Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Morocco Trip: Tour of the Medina

This was one of my most interesting days yet! I learned so much and had such a great time! I learned what they do with olive pits, how many streets are in the Fez medina, how they tan leather, and a whole variety of other things.

Daniel came over for breakfast this morning. We’ve sort of adopted him. We ate fruit, bread, and yogurt. I wasn’t feeling very well, but I felt better as the day went on.

At 8:30, the three of us walked to McDonalds to meet Adair, who was going with us on a tour of the medina! I made everyone late by forgetting to dump pictures to my computer until the last minute, and then when I got my computer up, the scanner & camera wizard would not pop up, so I had to do it manually, which I don’t like, because it names the files all wrong.

Anyway! We caught two separate taxis and went to the medina where we made our way to a travel agency where we had a tour guide lined up. We had to wait for him to come, so Adair and I walked to a café where she got crepes with honey and I got water. I started counting how many donkeys/mules/horses I saw. Yesterday I did it, too, and I saw about 14, so I wanted to see if I would break my record.

Our tour guide came, and he led us into the maze of streets that is the Medina. The medina, or old town of Fez, is walled, and only accessible through certain gates. It is home to 500,000 people, it contains 9,000 small streets, and there are an estimated 7,000 donkeys inside.

The streets are either lined with shops or the walls of houses. Where there are shops, the street is a little wider, but when you have house walls on either side, you can stretch out your arms and touch both walls.

Mohammed was the name of our tour guide. Dressed in a light blue t-shirt that said “Gulf Shores,” he looked almost like a tourist himself, and apologized for not wearing his djallabah. He said he didn’t have any prior notice, so he had to come as he was when he got the call. He showed us tubs of camel’s meat in fat, sheep’s heads that people eat for breakfast, and chickens from the countryside that taste better than ones from the city.

After the first few turns, I gave up trying to maintain a sense of direction, and just embraced the feeling of “lost in the medina, but not lost, because the guide was born here.” We came to one place where there is a huge public wood-fire oven, where all the Moroccan families bring their bread to be baked. Like a big kiln, it held hundreds of loaves at a time, and a man stood at the small opening, constantly putting in new loaves, flipping them, and taking them out. It was a little dark door that I would never have seen if I was by myself, so it was nice to be shown these places by a guide.

At another place, he stopped and let us watch a man hand sewing a djallabah. It was beautiful material with beads and lovely trim. Moroccans are artisans, and the men do extremely fine work. It’s all men that do it, even the sewing.

We went into a spice shop, where the lady also sold essential oils and different interesting things. We visited a cloth “factory” where they had four huge floor-sized looms set up. A man was working at one of them, and he doesn’t use a pattern or any type of design. He just makes it up out of his own creativity, weaving cotton, wool, or silk into the cotton warp. He can make a 2 x 4 yard piece of cloth in 2 days. The fabric in there was beautiful. I thought about getting some, but waited until I got to see the rest of the tour and decided I would come back if I wanted to buy something.

Then we went to the leather tannery. That was interesting! I had always heard that tanning leather was stinky, and it was, but it was fascinating to watch. The work is done in a lot of big vats of all different colored dyes that we looked down on from a balcony. It’s really indescribable unless you’ve seen it. The guy there told us all about how it’s done, from the messy pelts they receive from the slaughterhouse to the beautiful leather items they make. It gets washed in plain water and then soaked in lime for several days. This makes it easy to remove all the hair, which is scraped off. Then the leather goes in a water/pigeon poop/and something else bath to make it soft and supple and thicker. From there it is dyed, which also takes several days, and somewhere along the road it is washed again in a washing machine with water to clean it and remove the smell.

We also saw the guys making shoes from the leather. It was so interesting to watch, because you could see them at all different stages of the process.

I bought a belt at the little store there. I also saw a really nice bag and a “poufy” (footstool/cushion), but I didn’t get them because they were too much money. The poufy was 350 dh and the bag was 600 dh. I can always go back if I want to, though. I love my belt! It reminds me of a saddle in its color, shape of the buckle, and just general characteristics. It was 150 dh…gulp…but I think I should have bartered with a counter offer instead of just taking his asking price.

We left the leather tannery and walked to a beautifully ornate building where they sell carpets. The place was huge, and the proprietor spoke perfect English. He led us up three flights of stairs, past one intricate carpet after another, and into a room where four women were seated at a frame, using colored merino wool to create a huge carpet. The woman closest to us was moving so fast, her hands were a blur.

Marie, Adair and I got the opportunity to sit down with them on the bench, and we got to participate in making a few knots. We would take a strand of wool and wrap it around two strands of the carpet warp in a way that made a latch hook knot. Then we had to break off the wool at the right length to create an even pile. It was difficult to do it in a smooth, consistent motion like they did. Their skill and speed was amazing, yet the guy said that this would be a lower-quality rug, since 4 people were working on it. Usually, he said, one lady will make a rug from start to finish at her home, and therefore the tension and pile will be perfectly consistent.

Then we went downstairs and were served mint tea while they rolled out lots of carpets for us to buy. The smallest ones (4 x 6 feet) were about $250, while the largest were thousands of dollars. I kept asking interested questions because I was curious about learning more, solely for information, but think I led the guy to believe I wanted to buy something. I had a hard time convincing him I was not. I just couldn’t justify putting hundreds of dollars on the floor.

From there we went to lunch. We ate at a very upscale restaurant where the entrees were 140-200 dh each. It was good though! I had pastilla, a sort of meat pie that had powdered sugar on top—very odd combination, but quite tasty. The meat in the pie was pigeon meat. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted pigeon before.

Then we went to the ceramics factory. My camera battery had died at the restaurant (sadly enough), so I didn’t get to take any pictures, but it was fascinating, nonetheless. [Pictures shown here are from a subsequent visit to a different ceramics factory.] A man showed us every step of the process, from the chunks of rock-like gray clay, to the tubs of water where they soften it, to the people who shape it into tiles, to the kilns, to the painters, back to the kilns, and then to their other uses. Some of the tiles are chipped into amazingly precise mosaic pieces that are then fitted together and made into tables, fountains, walls, and many other things. Stairs, floors, pillars—everything is mosaic here.

We also got to see a man at the pottery wheel. He was a master of his craft! Effortlessly, he shaped a tajine pot before our eyes. Then, just as easily, without measuring, he made a perfectly fitting lid. He made a candlestick and a beautiful fluted bowl with equal dexterity, then lumped them all on top of each other and squished them, causing me to gasp with surprise. But it was only a demonstration. The guy unobtrusively put out a little money dish at the end, so I gave him 10 dh, my only coin.

Then we saw someone putting mosaic tiles together. The mosaic is assembled upside down on a perfectly flat floor, and then it is ringed or bordered with an iron band to keep it all in. Concrete is spread on top to set it, it dries for a few days, and voilà! A tabletop is made. The fact that the mosaics are assembled upside down is amazing, though, because some of them have intricate color patterns and multiple pieces of the same shape but different color. The person’s memory would have to be very good in order to trust that it was perfect. Once the concrete is poured, it’s stuck, mistakes and all. I never saw a mistake in any mosaic, ever.

The kiln is heated to 900° the first time and 1200° the second time. They use olive pits and cedar wood for fuel. They obtain the olive pits (and all the other dry waste products of the olives after they’re squeezed) from people who make olive oil. Resourceful, isn’t it?

Then we went into their shop, where I bought 2 beautiful bowls for 700 dh. Gulp. That was over $80.
So that sums up my tour of the medina. I saw 54 donkeys today!

Keep Reading: Train to Rabat
Read the Previous Post: I Escape Being Robbed
Start at the Beginning: The Journey Begins

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Morocco Trip: I Escape Being Robbed.

It’s hot again today. It’s 95 degrees up here in the apartment, and it feels cool compared to out on the street. This morning I got up and went to the market! That was a fun experience. Marie didn’t go with me, because she was teaching the A’s kids in the morning, so she gave me a rough idea of where it was and a list of what to get. I set off walking, found it easily, and went in.

Fish being sold in a Fez market

The first thing that greeted me was the smell. It smelled like a zoo. “Very stinky market,” I thought. In the market were people selling fruits, vegetables, parakeets, spices, and all manner of eatables. When I walked a little farther in, I saw WHY it was stinky. The fish sellers! Fish were laid out everywhere on the counters, piled high, their dead eyes shriveling in the heat, and their silver sides glittering. Flies were swarming everywhere, landing on everything, despite the shopkeepers’ efforts to wave them away.

Yummy fruit choices

After that, I got used to the smell, picked a fruit vendor at random, and bought 1 kilo of peaches, 1 kilo of cherries, and ½ kilo of apricots, all for 30 dh. Then I went and bought figs from a different guy for 3 dh, so for $4.00 I had procured a glorious bounty of ripe, delicious fruit.
I walked home, put the fruit in the fridge, then decided to wash it, got it all back out, washed it, sampled a lot, and took pictures of it before putting it back in the fridge. Then I went over to the A’s to see Marie, bringing with me a bag of laundry, which we desperately needed done. Well, maybe not desperately yet. But it was nice to have the thought of clean clothes.

Marjane in Fez

From there I took a taxi (alone again) to Marjane, which was like a super Wal-Mart. There I got gouda cheese, yogurt, bread, toilet paper, a map of Morocco, and various other things. It ended up costing 260 dh, but the map alone was 100, which was approximately what I had paid for my map of Spain from Barnes & Noble in Tennessee, so I deemed it a fair enough price.
What a fickle thing pricing is! I paid 100 dh without blinking for a thin, folded, printed sheet of paper, yet when I was in Fez Jdid, I wouldn’t even consider a beautiful, beaded pair of shoes that started at 60 dh, which I could have bargained down.
One thing I noticed at Marjane was a lot of fancy olive oil. That could be a nice gift to bring back.
So, I made my purchases, filled three bags, and walked out. No taxi. One lady said she had been waiting for 15 minutes for one. I didn’t really want to walk back, because Marjane is a LONG way from my apartment and I had sorbet melting in my bag. So, I waited around for a bit, but there were LOTS of other people waiting, too, and it looked like I was going to have to wait a while. Finally, I decided to start walking. I had gone ¾ mile or so when an empty taxi passed me. I raised my arm, it stopped, and I had a ride back, so it all worked out well in the end.
Our fridge is looking full! I put the groceries away and then started preparing to teach the science class I had in the afternoon. We were covering seed dissection, angiosperms, gymnosperms, monocots, and dicots, which was one of my favorite parts of biology, anyway, so I was going to have a lot of fun with it. I had bought beans, cashews, and almonds for them to split apart and locate the little sprout inside, and in addition to that, I cracked open peach, cherry, apricot, and olive seeds for them to see the little inner seed that comes apart into two halves. This took me a while though, and I was supposed to meet Mr. B at 1:15 at McDonalds. I didn’t get out of the house until about 1:12, and half-running despite my loaded backpack, I hurried down the street.
To make my backpack more balanced, I took my big, 2-liter water bottle out and started drinking from it on my way. Then, right before I got to McDonalds, I met a man making the sign for “thirsty,” and he asked me for some water. It took me a minute to understand, but yesterday my Arabic teacher had told me that instead of curving your hand as if it was around a glass and tipping it up, Moroccans make a fist with their thumb sticking out and raise that above their mouth, with their thumb pointing down towards their lips. This guy made that same motion, and I understood. I gave him my water bottle and watched him gulp down about 16 ounces in a few minutes. It is very dry here, and if you were poor, it’s not like you could just go down to the nearest stream. There is also no humidity, so I find I need a lot of water every day, especially in the heat. This guy reminded me of someone crawling out of the desert, gasping for water, by the way he drank.
I looked over and saw Mr. B watching me from his car in the McDonald’s parking lot. “Well, at least he knows I’m coming,” I thought.
When the man had taken a long, satisfying draught, he handed the bottle back to me. Then I realized, “You know what? I’m not going to want to drink out of that after him. And he definitely needs it. Why not let him have the whole thing? Who cares if I just bought it?” So I handed it back and told him to keep it. He looked very happy, and we both went on our way.
When I got in the car, Mr. B kindly cautioned me against letting people take advantage of me, but the only thing I could think of was, “If someone should sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, give to him thy cloke also,” and “Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee, turn not thou away,” and “Whosoever shall give a cup of water to one of these little ones in my name, he shall not lose his reward,” and “If thine enemy thirst, give him to drink,” (not that he was my enemy!) and “Lord, when saw we thee hungry or thirsty, etc.?...Inasmuch as ye have done it to one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it to me.” So I went away happy.
I think I’m finally learning the way to the school. I noticed all the landmarks, with Mr. B’s help, and I think I could get there by myself next time if I needed to.
It was delightfully easy to walk in and start teaching my class, thanks to the fact that I have observed the English teacher doing it twice already. I copied a bit of her style, since that’s what they were used to, and threw in plenty of my own. We dissected seeds for a while, which was mostly chaos, and then we got down to business. I filled up the whole board with stuff by the end of the day, and I was over-prepared, with plenty of stuff left over. I love being over-prepared.
Then, when class was over, I found out that there was wireless internet in the school. I had brought my computer, so I emailed home and sent them some pictures.
I rode a taxi with F when we left the school, and she stopped at a café while I went on alone. Marie was watching the A's kids when I got back, so she wasn’t there. I contemplated going out shopping (again) but decided against it. I wrote in my journal and then she showed up. She was tired though, so she decided to take a nap and I said I was going out on a walk. I wanted to go to Fez Jdid to shop. Marie seemed worried about me walking out alone, and she asked where I was going. “That way,” I said, motioning in the general direction. “Don’t go near the smoking section,” she said. “There are too many stretches of lonely road there. And be careful.” I wasn’t worried for myself, so I happily set off.
I had only been to Fez Jdid once, so when I got to the intersection by McDonald’s, I accidentally took the wrong street. (There are about 7 streets radiating out from a round circle there, and I took the first one instead of the second.) That street started guiding me down towards the smoking section, but I still wasn’t afraid, and not heeding Marie’s advice, I continued going down that way.
I reached a diagonal street that I knew would take me to Fez Jdid, so I turned left and started walking up it. On my left was the wall of a large government compound, and on my right was a large park. No other people were walking there, and only a few cars went that way.
About halfway up that street, I saw a group of about 7 boys playing. I initially thought of getting out a coin for each of them, but on second thought, I didn’t want them to mob me, so I just kept walking. Then two of them came over to me. They were speaking a few English words, but I didn’t really understand what they wanted. They were walking very close to me and speaking in beseeching little voices and laying their hands on my purse. I kept talking to them, willing to give them money if they were begging, when suddenly, one of them grabbed at a big red flower on my purse, thinking it was the zipper pull. It wasn’t. It was a pen a friend back home had made by wrapping floral tape around the stem of a fake flower to attach it to the end of a Bic pen. The pen whipped out of my purse and I think it threw them for a loop. They looked at it like, “What??” I took the opportunity to take the pen back, but they kept holding on, so the flower popped off. Disappointed, I said, “Oh, now look what you’ve done.” Not sorry in the least, they seized the pen again, leaving me with only the cap in my hand. Exasperated, I turned on my heel and departed without a second glance. They ran off, and I walked on, grateful that I had lost nothing but a pen, and gaining a new appreciation for Marie’s advice.
I reached Fez Jdid without further ado, and found some lovely little brass horses that I bought for Katherine for 85 dh. The guy in that shop kept speaking French to me, and I kept not understanding him, but I think he was asking me if I was a Muslim. I kept saying no, but he kept detaining me with his monologue, asking me questions and stuff. Finally I got away and took a taxi back to my apartment. Marie said he was probably looking for a wife. Wonderful.
I got back to the apartment at 7 and Marie asked me how it went. I felt guilty for not following her advice, so I answered her questions very vaguely. The next day I felt guilty for not being completely honest with her, so I apologized and told her what happened. She was very gracious about it and didn’t even say, “I told you so.”
That evening, Marie and I got ready to go to one of the concerts in the International Festival of Sacred Music here in Fez. Marie’s friend had 2 extra tickets, and she had called and invited us to go. We met at McDonalds and took two separate taxis. However, our taxi dropped us off at a different place from where theirs dropped them off, so it took us a great deal of time, a lot of walking, and a bunch of cell phone calls to find them. It was dark, there were crowds of people thronging about, and it was noisy, but we finally met up and walked towards the place where the concert was. There was also a free concert going on at the same time, and when we heard the pounding noises, I decided I wasn’t going to stay if our concert was like that. It wasn’t. It was an Italian singer, her percussion guy, and! a string quartet. The music was beautiful.

International Festival of Sacred Music

After the concert, Marie & I enjoyed a snack of bread and cheese, cherries, and whatever else we had in the fridge. Then she went to bed, I stayed up to finish this journal entry, and I am falling asleep sitting up with my pen moving right now.

Keep reading: Tour of the Medina
Read the previous post: Arabic Lesson
Start at the beginning: The Journey Begins

Monday, June 5, 2006

Morocco Trip: Arabic lesson

Moroccan Bissara at a little café in Fez

Today I got up EARLY—6:15 am—and Marie had gotten up even earlier, because she got ready before me. We were going to meet D and several other people at a local café to try “bissara,” a traditional Moroccan breakfast made of beans. The beans are mashed up into a sort of soup, and it is served to you with a little pool of olive oil on top. Then you mix in the oil and eat it with bread. Everyone told me it would be nasty, but I thought it was wonderful! It tasted sort of like split pea soup. We took some pictures there and had a good time. 

Then the group dispersed gradually. I went in and paid 5 dh for my meal, which also included unlimited Mint Tea! Oh, deliciousness! Then I went with two people to go to the school with them where I was going to work.

D managed to drink 7 glasses of tea.

It’s so weird being a substitute teacher in a school in another country, because nobody quite knows what to do with you. But it’s fun, too, and the kids are so lovable! I went again and sat in the English teacher's class and learned about the narrative structure of The Merchant of Venice and about three different theorists’ views of elements common to most or all stories. Then the students practiced a play they are doing for the end of school next week, and we were done at 10:00.
Classroom at the American School

The English teacher gave me an idea of what to teach when I do Science tomorrow afternoon, so I made some photocopies to hand out, and read the chapter in the book. I get to teach about angiosperms and gymnosperms, monocots and dicots, and all that interesting stuff, so it’ll all be good.
About 11:30, I started looking for a taxi to take me to a school where I was going to have an Arabic lesson. I didn’t know how to tell the taxi driver to get there, though, so F was kind enough to go with me and show me where it was. I arrived about 12:00, and my class didn’t start till 1, so I killed time till then by reading the science book. I was getting thirsty, so I went up to the top floor where they had a café, but no one was there, so I couldn’t get anything. I didn’t really mind. I thought I would just get it later.

View from the top floor of the Arabic School

Class was great, and I learned a lot! They made effective use of repetition so that we would actually remember the information, and I learned a lot of useful words and phrases. I first had a 1 ½ hour group class, and then I had another one-on-one class of the same length. By the time it was over at 4, I was REALLY hungry and thirsty! But I felt very much more initiated for having some Arabic under my belt.
When it was over, I paid and then walked outside. Initially I was thinking of hailing a petit taxi, but the day was so nice and hot, I decided to walk part of the way first. It was the kind of heat that I used to long to feel in Wisconsin, the kind of heat that soaks into you and heats you all the way up the minute you walk out the door. I have so much more energy in hot weather! Walking was so much fun that I just decided to keep doing it, and I ended up walking all the way home. I didn’t know my way, either, but I found it easily. It felt so good to sort of strike out on my own and explore. All I really did was to keep going straight down one street, and it happened to be a main street that took me right back to familiar surroundings, so it was easy.
Public garden I passed on my walk

After my walk I still hadn’t had anything to eat or drink, so I went into the hanute (convenience shop) by our apartment and bought myself a 2-liter water bottle, which was half gone in no time. Then I climbed the stairs to the apartment, saw Marie, and got some bread.
Marie had been worried about me, and was on the point of going out to look for me, so I reassured her. She was like, “Okay, if you can find your way back from DMG by yourself, I don’t need to worry about you.” I agreed.
But I was ravenous, and I’m getting sick of bread. It’s all I’ve been eating, and it’s just dry white carbs. So I opened the container of dates and ate one. I was picking up my second when I saw a worm—a big, crawly, white worm. So that’s the end of the dates, too. Next time we buy dried fruit, it’s going in the fridge, not the counter.
Marie and I went out to a café for Panini sandwiches at about 6:00 pm for supper. That was yummy, and cost 20 dh apiece. Then we went over to the A's, where I emailed my family (finally). They had been worried about me.
After taking care of our email, Marie and I bought some ice cream and then watched the first half of Seabiscuit. I had seen it (sort of) on the plane to China, but I couldn’t really hear then, and I couldn’t see the characters to get to recognize them, and I couldn’t follow the plot very well. Since then, I’ve read the book, which was excellent, and this time around, the movie made much more sense.
Halfway through, the DVD got stuck and my computer felt hot, so we decided to go to bed. It is still 92 degrees in here at 10:00 at night, and it is way cooler than it was out there in the sun on that walk where I was so famished and parched, so I don’t know how hot it was out there. And I was in long sleeves and long pants, too. The surprising thing was, I never felt uncomfortable. I love hot weather!

Keep reading: I Escape Being Robbed
Read the previous post: The Smoking Section
Start at the beginning: The Journey Begins

Sunday, June 4, 2006

Morocco Trip: The Smoking Section

I got up around 8:00 and it still felt like 4:00 in the morning. Bother. I’m still not over jet lag. I took the pin curls down and had to figure out something to do to my hair, so I just wrapped it around my hand and piled it up on the back of my head.
Marie and I went outside and waited for Daniel. He didn’t appear for 5 minutes, so I went back up for my water bottle. I couldn’t find it at first, so it took me a while to come back down, and apparently Daniel had come out right after I left, so I kept them waiting for a bit. Bother. I’m always late.

We were planning to eat lunch at McDonalds. I ordered my food and joined Marie, who was sitting at a table with Daniel. We sat there and talked for about 2 hours, enjoying the air conditioning. I was bored. I went out at one point to take pictures, came back in, tried to tease Marie for teasing me about being a tourist, and got bored again. I wanted to be doing something, going to the medina, taking a walk, writing in my journal, anything but just sitting there.

I motioned to a dark cloud of smoke that always seemed to be rising from an area a little distance away that we could see out the window. “Why is that smoke always over there?” I asked Marie. “Because that’s the smoking section,” Marie replied. Daniel and I burst out laughing. “What?” Marie said. “That was just a clever reply,” I said. “OH! You mean that smoke over there! That’s from the kilns of the pottery makers. I thought you meant the McDonalds balcony, because everyone goes out there and smokes.” We all laughed again, and from then on, we always referred to that general region as “the smoking section.”
Another interesting topic of conversation was that Daniel wants a stop sign. He wants to ask some kids to get one for him. The stop signs are rather fascinating, being written in Arabic. We shall see if he succeeds.

About 2:00, we walked back. I thawed my bones from the air conditioning and then I felt sleepy. Marie went over to the A’s to check the internet, and I took a nap. I knew if I slept, I wouldn’t be able to sleep tonight, but I couldn’t help it. I woke up around 4:00 to find Marie back. She was asking me if I wanted to go out with her. I didn’t feel like getting up yet, so I told her to go ahead, and I went back to sleep. Later I found out that they played Mao, which I would have LOVED. Oh well.
I woke up again around 5:00 feeling very hot, so I turned the fan on and sat up to write in my journal. I got a box of cornflakes and nibbled those—oops! out of my left hand! I’ve got to break that habit for at least as long as I’m over here! Then I ate 3 chocolates, and I was still feeling hungry, so I got the figs. I was peacefully eating figs while I wrote in my journal, when I popped one in my mouth and it tasted dusty. I took it back out of my mouth, and lo and behold, it was covered with bugs and a fat little white worm. I gave a little shriek of horror, spit out everything I had in my mouth, threw away that particular fig, put the container back in the kitchen, and went to the bathroom to rinse my mouth out. I can still taste that gritty little feeling of bugs on the tip of my tongue. Yucky. I don’t think I will venture to try another one of those figs. Maybe if we buy some new ones…maybe.
So that brings us up to date. It’s 8:35, Marie is not back, and I’ve been writing in my journal all this time. Yay! I caught up!
 After I wrote that, I went out to the balcony to pray, and I was greeted with the sight of a large fire burning off in the distance. Smoke hung in the air and people were milling about by the flames. I couldn’t tell if it was a house or a building or just a pile of rubble, because it had all burned down and looked like a heap. I climbed up on the edge of the balcony wall and took a picture of it, not without some trembling, because I was standing very high up on the edge of nothing.

Marie got home a few minutes later and I showed her the fire. Then I figured out a way to get up on the roof. That was cool! I want to go up there in the daylight sometime. I could see the fire better from up there, so I took another picture. There wasn’t much else to do or see in the dark, so I got down.
I ate a little supper of bread and dates while Marie and I talked. Then she went to bed. Tomorrow we’re going to eat breakfast out somewhere…some specialty food…so we have to get up early. I wasn’t tired, but I didn’t want to go to bed too late, so I stayed up and wrote a story I had thought of the night before, called “The Fancy Ditch.” By the time I was done, I was just about falling asleep, so I went to bed.

This is the sixth post in this series. 
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