Monday, September 21, 2009

Mabruk l3id ~ Happy holiday!

Holiday henna, applied by my "sister" Kabira.

Today and tomorrow are L3id sgir, the "little feast" holiday signaling the end of Ramadan. My Muslim friends no longer have to fast from sunrise to sunset ~ and I no longer have to hide the evidence that I don't fast. That's a relief, as is the knowledge that now, finally, inchallah, the dar chebab will reopen and activities will resume.

But I will miss the evening lftr, the breaking of the fast that brings families together for a traditional Ramadan meal every evening. The past month has been a wonderful bonding experience with my community, as students, friends, neighbors and strangers all invited me into their homes to share their traditions. I had so many invitations I had to turn people down, and I got to see a tender and giving side of many families. I personally can't imagine being so warm and inviting after 14 hours without food or drink.

Today is a day traditionally given to walking through town and visiting friends' homes, a day of too many cookies and even more cups of sugary mint tea than normal. I, however, was actually at work all day. Well, OK, I wasn't exactly working, just keeping my host sister Kabira company at her new hanut.

In between customers, a little art on the side.

Business was slow, it being a holiday, but Kabira's one smart entrepreneur. She knew she'd be one of few places open today, so instead of enjoying the holiday with her family, she chose the option of making a few extra dirhams.

In between customers, she offered to henna my hands, henna being a traditional way of celebrating any event in women's lives. She's a true artist. The designs you see here were drawn freehand, the henna paste stuffed into a syringe and oozed slowly over the skin. Hours later, I returned home to wash off the dark mud, revealing lovely reddish temporary tattoos.

Her own boss.

The big news, though, is the hanut itself. Kabira works harder than anyone I know. She dropped out of school at 16 (she thinks) to help support her family. After years of working at a local patisserie, her job situation recently changed, she lost her autonomy and she became increasingly unhappy.

Rather than wallow, she decided to fulfill a lifelong dream. Somehow she rounded up the financial backing, found a storefront, painted and outfitted and stocked it all by herself, and opened the doors last week. In addition to such staples as milk and eggs, soap and soda, she's baking her own bread and making her own hlwa, the patisserie sweets that dress up the front counter. The rest of the family helps here and there, but this is Kabira's show.

Baking bread ~ 65 loaves today.

The prospects for survival of a small business are as dim here as at home; it's certainly not a given that she'll make a go of it. But she's in a great location, and I've been impressed by how many customers she has already. If anyone can make a go of it, Kabira can.

Song of the day.

I'd never heard of Chico before I heard his song "Curvy Cola Bottle Body" on a recent "Here on Earth" podcast on women's body images around the world. Apparently this Moroccan-Welsh pop singer wrote the tune as a response to the "Size Zero" pro-anorexia movement, and he donated profits from the song to an eating-disorder charity. OK, I'll applaud him for that ~ but the models in the video look plenty thin to me, not to mention that their scanty dress and hshuma dancing aren't exactly a feminist statement.

Watch the video and judge for yourself.

Happy anniversary to me!

It's more than a year now than I landed in Morocco. I can't think of anything to say that isn't a cliche ~ how time flies, look how far we've come, etc. There've been times I didn't think I'd ever feel comfortable here. But this afternoon, drinking tea with my host family, casually waving away the horde of flies, leaning against my host mother's hips, her feet in the small of my back, discussing (in Arabic!) the outrageous price of apples at souk this week, the television blaring over the sheep bleating on the rooftop and the call to prayer in the distance, I realized ... I've wllfted (adjusted). Shwiya.

Keep watching this space.

I know, I know ~ more than two weeks after my return, I still haven't written about my holiday in Spain. An update's on its way, honest. Suffice to say I had an amazing time and have the photos (and a new craving for Spanish accordion music) to prove it. You can see all of my photos on my Flickr page.

Quotes of the day.

“To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else.” — Emily Dickinson (thanks, Joy!)

"Human beings are remarkable — at what we can learn to live with. If we couldn't get strong from what we lose, and what we miss, and what we want and can't have, then we couldn't ever get strong enough, could we? What else makes us strong?" 
— John Irving, “The Hotel New Hampshire” (thanks, Tricia!)

“The future depends on what we do in the present. — Mahatma Gandhi (thanks again, Tricia!)

Currently reading: "A Street in Marrakech," Elizabeth Warnock Fernea (simultaneously comforting and dismaying to read the same difficulties I've experienced adjusting to life here through the eyes of an American family some 40 years ago).
Currently watching: "John Adams" miniseries (fabulous ~ thanks, Anny!)
Currently listening to: lots of Wilco and Gillian Welch, in a pleasantly nostalgic mood lately
Currently drinking: Iced chai (thanks to Anny for the idea, Miz Meleeska for the tea bags, and whoever introduced skim milk to Morocco)
Currently eating: Pasta salad with pesto I made myself, with basil harvested from my own pots ~ I'm gonna have to revise my "I don't cook" disclaimer ...


faye cassell said...

If that John adams miniseries is on DVDs, I might have to steal it when you're done!

I saw the first episode when I was at a friend's house, but was never able to catch the rest thanks to my lack of HBO. But what I saw was great.

jill said...

beautiful henna!

i have a box to mail you. i'll try to put it in the mail this week, probably on friday. miss you!

Rachel said...

My that pesto looks good!