Thursday, October 22, 2009

Do what you fear most.

So often the things we dread turn out to be either not so bad, or in fact even a joy. It's a lesson I've learned many times over the years, so why I need to keep revisiting it I don't know ~ but it's also a wonderfully easy lesson to learn, so I welcome the review.

This week it came in the form of my first week of yoga classes at the nedi neswi, or women's center.

I was really dragging my feet at first, even though the young women were clamoring for "sport" and I truly want to help them practice healthy habits. But ... I'm no yogi, not by a long shot; I'm still a beginner myself. I'm a long shot from memorizing the necessary vocabulary. I really, really, really hate being "on stage" ~ and never more so than when I'm exercising.

Yet far from the disaster I was sure it would be, after only two classes I can easily see our twice weekly yoga sessions becoming the highlight of my week.

Working off a vocab list and a very simple flow of positions offered by another volunteer, I tried to explain the basic concepts ~ that yoga is good for strength, flexibility and tranquility ~ a good overall workout. Then, we began, me mostly saying "do like me" and "breathe" as we did some very simple stretches and a few basic yoga poses.

There was quite a bit of giggling, which I always dread because (narcissist that I am) I'm always sure it's directed at me ~ my pathetic vocabulary, my oversimplified idea of "exercise." Maybe to some extent it was, but I could also sense that most of the women were just so glad to be using their bodies. And while I was afraid my program would be too simple for them, many of them were struggling after only half an hour. Downward dog just about killed a couple of them. A good opportunity for us to talk about starting small and building as they get stronger. Just like English class ~ or, for me, Arabic.

I know they were expecting aerobics, but they seemed satisfied when I explained that yoga may seem simple but is a good whole-body regimen. I also suggested that if anyone wants to go walking and/or running with me in the mornings, or after yoga, we could also get an aerobic workout that way. Several are game ~ even eagerly suggesting that we start Sunday. (Alas, I leave town again Sunday for a few days in Rabat, meeting with the Gender and Development Committee. I've charged them with keeping the class going while I'm gone.)

The best part of my week was the 20 minutes or so spent saying goodbye as we rolled up our mats. Those young women are just so glad to have something new to do (and, I think, a new mascot to do it with). Their ebullient thanks, their reluctance to leave, their hugs and cell-phone snapshots ... this afternoon, I felt welcomed into a group after a long time watching, yearning, from the sidelines.

The other highlight of my week.

Pomegranates! So much trouble, so totally worth it.

Donkey talk.

One of my favorite writers, Susan Orlean, has a delightful piece in September's Smithsonian about the ubiquitous Moroccan donkey. Gorgeous photos, too.

Donkeys are the workhorses of this country, so to speak. Moroccans don't anthropomorphize their animals. No such thing as pets or cuddly creatures, and donkeys get the worst of it here ~ to the point that one is supposed to say the equivalent of "excuse me" if they even say the word "donkey" (also after "garbage" and other topics we Americans are slightly less ashamed of). They carry loads that would sag an automobile trunk, working long, hard days in glaring sun, surrounded by flies, on little water and occasional scraps of food. The bray of a balking donkey is like nothing you've ever heard ~ and it usually breaks the silence right around sunrise, just after you've drifted back to sleep after hearing the morning call to prayer. They're a constant on the modern Moroccan highway, plodding along unperturbed by crazy taxis and lumbering semis. As Orlean describes better than I can, they can go places no motorized vehicle can go.

Tagine, tea and donkeys ~ there's far more to Moroccan daily life than these three stereotypes, but they're not at all far from reality, either.

Photo op.
Yeah, my eyes are closed (so what else is new?), but I couldn't resist sharing this image. Anny needed passport photos for a job application, so we visited a photo studio in Taroudant. Note the classy combination of desert, waterfall, camel and giraffe ~ and just how did that ceramic tiled floor get into this abundance of authentic Moroccan nature?

Quotes of the day.

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” - Maria Robinson

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

“Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.” - Chinese Proverb

"If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion." - the Dalai Lama

Currently mourning: My favorite jammy pants, which finally bit the dust this week. I've mended them three times now; they're just plain worn through in the seat. They were good to me for at least eight years. RIP.
Currently reading: "Walden" by Henry David Thoreau
Currently listening to: "World Cafe" on NPR/WXPIN

1 comment:

jill said...

a pomegranate tip for you: halve it and put the seed side in the palm of your hand. whack the back with a spoon. let the seeds fall into a bowl of water. the seeds sink, and the debris floats. way easier. michael eats about two pomegranates a day while they are in season!

sorry for the timing of this comment, but i was just reading this post and wanted to let you know the trick. love you!