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 cafĂ© 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

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