Waiting along the 'toroute, hoping for a glimpse of Mohammed VI,
with my hostmothersister* and some of my favorite little girls.
The king has been in our neck of the woods recently, visiting various projects in the Agadir-Taroudant region. I knew something was up a couple of weeks ago, when all of the sidewalks and medians and dirt paths along the 'touroute -- the highway that passes through our village -- were suddenly torn up, along with several patches of road. The king would be stopping, I was told, and we had to make improvements to welcome him.
The appointed day came and went, with a few new palms hurriedly planted in the medians, a few bricks laid in the dirt, some red and white stripes freshly painted along the roadway. No king, though ~ he took the road several kilometers north instead. I wondered to myself, sarcastically, how long before all of the piles of concrete rubble might be hauled away and the piles of bricks actually laid into walking paths.
On Saturday I started hearing that the king once again was expected to pass through on Tuesday ~ and that, this time, he was even going to stop and give a little speech. He's never visited the village before, at least not in the memory of anyone I asked. Moroccan flags and banners started going up along the length of the village, along with barriers along the highway route. No, the construction work is far from done, but even I have to admit they made a valiant effort.
Things in fact looked pretty festive when my hostmothersister* stopped by to pick me up and we walked to the center of town. School was let out for the day, and kids were already milling about the length of the route. Rakya and I picked out a prime viewing spot on the shady side of the street, squatting on an empty concrete planter where a palm tree should stand. Some of my little girl friends came to hang out with us. We took some photos. The gendarmes (local police) told us we couldn't take photos of the king. They were happy to let us take photos of them, however. Women hauling babies and toddlers nodded in greeting as they passed. Boys trying to look smart made sassy comments about the gowria (foreigner) as they skidded past on their bicycles, sliding dangerously through the growing crowd. My girls offered me water and sunflower seeds. We counted together in English.
A couple of hours of this and even my hostmothersister was bored. Why don't we go have lunch and return later, she suggested. I agreed but parted ways when we reached my house, remembering I had a lesson to arrange for my first English class at the women's center later that afternoon.
Another couple of hours after that and I heard the tree-stiffening rumble of helicopters overhead, and I knew the king was on the highway. Lying in my salon in my post-lunch stupor, I had little desire to jump up, get appropriately dressed and rush out to see the fuss. Turns out I hadn't missed a thing ~ the King waved from his limo but didn't stop. "Oh, but he was zwin (handsome)," one of my little girls sighed, in all the seriousness with which an 11-year-old can sigh.
So that's the news around here this week.
This is my first week of English classes. First class at the nedi neswi (women's center) this afternoon was hilarious ~ this class is going to be much more laughing and chatting than anything else, but I think that's the point. Next week we add "Sport" ~ yoga lessons twice a week. At the dar chebab, where slowly we are seeing more students visiting every day, I expect to have to really cajole the younger students but already have several dedicated (I hope) young women interested in my Friday conversation classes for bac (high school seniors).
For National Women's Day last week, I screened a fabulous Moroccan film at the nedi and the dar chebab. "Number One" is a comedy (in Moroccan Arabic, with French subtitles) about Aziz, a husband and supervisor who isn't the world's nicest guy ~ until his wife slips him a tainted tagine and he suddenly becomes the most empathetic guy around. I won't spoil it for anyone who might watch it; suffice to say it was the best Moroccan film I've seen yet, not only in production value and entertainment, but in the positive message it enforced about the moudawana, the laws that govern marriage, divorce and family. Revised several years ago now on Oct. 10 ~ hence the inauguration of National Women's Day ~ the moudawana now gives women far more rights and equality at home and in the workplace.
Here's one of many looks back at the moudawana changes, their effects on reality, and what remains to be done: http://www.magharebia.com/cocoon/awi/xhtml1/en_GB/features/awi/reportage/2009/10/09/reportage-01
* This is what I've decided to call the wonderful woman who normally would be considered my host mother but who in fact is likely several years younger than me. She insists she's my Moroccan mother, I insist that if anything, she's my little sister; the one thing we agree on is a great deal of affection for each other.
And in other news ...
Because I'm a lazy blogger ~ because these give a very accurate flavor of my daily Morocco life without me lifting a finger ~ I am linking to several other bloggers today. There's good stuff here if you have time to take a look.
First, my friend Faye writes beautifully about the sounds of her nearby town here in the Souss, our southern Morocco desert region: http://fayexcassell.blogspot.com/2009/10/sounds-of-soussand-beyond.html
Next, our stajmate Duncan gives a hilarious account of some of the cultural "exchanges" that often have us Americans laughing, cringing, or both: http://moroccanroller.blogspot.com/2009/10/9-things-that-will-shock-american-in.html
This YouTube video is a couple of years old, and barely scratches the surface, but it gives a good overview of the various lives and challenges of Moroccan youths. It also shows the gamut of female attire, typical Moroccan homes, architecture, streets, foods and music (and, warning for those sensitive of stomach, a fairly grisly but entirely typical scene of a sheep slaughtered for L3id Kbir, the biggest holiday of the year).
My dear friend Kari linked me to this blog post about the perspective Peace Corps service bestows on us, about the world and about ourselves: http://ivancampuzano.com/top-10-lessons-i-learned-as-a-peace-corps-volunteer/
Finally, the Pew Center has released a major study on global Muslim populations. Muslims make up nearly a quarter of the world's population. Contrary to popular belief the Middle East is synonymous with "the Muslim world," more than 60 percent of all Muslims live in Asia. Lots of interesting facts and perspective here, if you're interested.
Word of the day.
"Moroccracy" ~ Morocco plus bureaucracy (nicked from Anny's blog)
Quote of the day.
"That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet." -- Emily Dickinson
Currently reading: "African Visas: A Novella and Stories," Maria Thomas
Currently listening to: Leonard Cohen and Neko Case (not together ~ but wouldn't that be a duet!?)
Currently loving: Peanut butter and Hot Tamales sent from the States (again, not simultaneously ... chokran bzzf 3la mma u bba u sahabti Jenny!)