Friday, June 2, 2006

Morocco Trip: The American School

Marie woke me up at 7:15, which felt like 3:15 in the morning. I pried my eyelids open and took a shower, because I was going to go to an American School. Mr. B, the director of the school was going to pick me up near the McDonalds parking lot at 8:15, so I got ready and walked over there.
At the school, Mr. B directed me to go observe the English teacher in her classroom. She was covering “The Merchant of Venice” with them, so they were discussing the plot, the characters, the date, and the place of the different events. Then they turned all the desks and watched the first half of the film. The only problem was, the soundtrack was dubbed in French, so I couldn’t understand it, and they didn’t get to practice their English. It was an interesting movie, though. It made me want to go read the play. However, afterward I found out that it was rated R, and twice in the part that I saw, it showed a bare-breasted woman. To the Moroccan kids in their extremely modest culture, it was pretty shocking.
After class, I met C, whom I had emailed several times before coming here. She showed me around the school and then caught a taxi with me to take me back. The main thing I noticed at the school was how much LOVE they showed the kids, and how much the kids loved them back. The whole place had a clean, cheerful atmosphere that was a delight to be around. The funny thing was, all the kids asked me, “Are you going to teach here next year?” I didn’t really know what to say to this—I replied that I was just here for a visit, and it wasn’t in my plans, but I would consider it. They were all so friendly and outgoing, I fell in love with them right away. I’ll look forward to spending more time with them.
I got back from school at about 10:30 am, wrote in my journal until 12:45, and then walked across the street to the A’s for lunch. Marie was over there, and I had a nice time talking with them and seeing their kids. Marie let me use her computer, so I emailed Rosie, and then we had a lovely lunch. 
At 2:00, a young man named D came with his mom to pick us up and take us to the Fez airport so I could get my luggage. D went into the airport with us, which was such a cute little small airport. We were directed over to baggage claim, where we saw a little room with a locked glass door where they kept unclaimed baggage. The sight of my two suitcases sitting there was a delight to my eyes, although one of them appeared to be damaged.
However, the door was locked. D, who speaks Arabic, went in search of someone to open the door, but was told to wait until all these people in the baggage claim area left. “We have to wait for all these people to leave?” I asked when D came back with the news. “I hope not,” he shrugged. There were crowds of people all around the baggage claim area, and hundreds more visible in the waiting line to go through customs, who would soon be in the baggage claim area too.
There was nothing to do but wait, so we stood around and talked. And we did have to wait for all those people to leave. When it was down to a handful of people, D again went in search of the security guard. “Okay, just wait 5 minutes,” the man said in French. “I’ll go find the man with the keys.” He disappeared and we waited for 10 minutes. When he reappeared at the far side of the baggage claim area, Christian flagged him down and he put his hand to his head as if he had forgotten us. “That was only 2 minutes,” he said. Give me 3 more minutes.” He disappeared again and we waited 30 minutes before we saw him again. (Welcome to African time.) He brought a man with a key, a tall, thin man with a vacant expression and a lower lip that hung open. He put the key in the lock, but there were two locks on the door and he didn’t have the other key. He departed in search of the other key, leaving the one key dangling in the door. At this, we all started joking that if he didn’t watch out, he would lose this key, too. Mr. Blank-stare approached another man and asked him for the other key. “Don’t you have it?” the man said. “No, I gave it to you.” “Well, I don’t have it.” “Well, neither do I.” After going back and forth like this for a bit, a bunch of people started looking for the key. They finally found it, and I was happily reunited with my luggage. I felt bad for D’s mom waiting in the car in the hot sun all that time! But we found out that she really likes Turkish Delight from Gibraltar, so we want to get her some to thank her for being so kind as to help us this way.
Friday evening, we took a Petit Taxi to the medina, or old city, to go to E's house. It was sort of hard to find a taxi, because all of them were busy taking people to the opening night of the International Sacred Music Festival going on this week here in Fez. There are free concerts every evening that attract crowds of people. It’s actually kind of mind-boggling to think of there NOT being a taxi, because 50% of the cars in Fez seem to be these little red Petit Taxis. But we found one, and headed to the Medina. We got to go through several gates in the wall to get there, and each one was beautifully decorated with mosaics. At one place, it was divided into two openings, and the doors were so narrow, the Petit Taxi could hardly fit through. I found it all very fascinating, and kept making remarks to that effect, to which Marie always laughed and then said, “I keep forgetting that you’re seeing all of this for the first time—it  has all become so ordinary to me.”

Moonlight from the street in the Fez medina
The taxi stopped, we paid the driver 12 dh, and then walked down the narrow streets of the medina to E’s house. The medina is a maze of narrow, crooked streets, 6-8 feet wide, lined with houses on either side that rise 3 stories above you, only allowing a strip of sky to show. They’re not really even streets, in the sense that a street is supposed to be a facilitator to help you get where you want to go. They’re more like afterthoughts, the spaces that happened to be left between houses long ago when they were built. You happen to use them to get where you want to go, despite the fact that they don’t really help you; in fact, it seems like their random maze of twists and turns serves to hinder you, and it would be quite easy to get lost.
Marie led the way through the maze to E’s house. We knocked on the door and waited. Before long, E came to let us in, and I had to stifle a gasp of surprise at the view of the inside of her house! I had walked into a palace, an exotic foreign “hidden jewel” that had no business being “just somebody’s house.” I was in a large courtyard with a fountain in the middle, and archways opening into side rooms in all directions. We walked to our left into a bright room, very long and narrow, that was bordered on all sides with faroushes. The room was probably about 45 x 15 feet, and the ceiling was probably 20 feet high. I didn’t remember ever seeing a higher ceiling in anyone’s house.

Courtyard of E's house in the Fez medina

We sat on the faroushes and I met a couple of E's friends. We were talking and E came up with this idea of making a calendar with pictures of all the American single girls in Fez, with a list of their characteristics, goals, hobbies, and what they’re looking for in a guy. (All in fun, of course—they joked about giving it to all the eligible guys, but they really meant to keep it as a private joke among themselves.) We laughed and talked about what month we would want our pictures on, then had some ice cream and sodas, and then we left to go back home.

Moroccan Faroushes

We got home about 9:30 and we were going to go to bed, but we ended up getting out the bread and cheese again and going to the salon, where we talked until 1:00 in the morning. We had a great talk—it has been so good to catch up on each other over the past year or two since we saw each other last.

This is the fourth post in this series. 
Keep Reading: Shopping in the Medina
Read the previous post: First Day
Begin at the beginning: The Journey Begins

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