Monday, November 8, 2010

And then I found 5 dirhams.

I don't know if these'll be as hilarious to non-PCVs (Peace Corps volunteers) as they are to me, but the following stories, told anonymously at our Close of Service conference last month, cracked me up. Thanks to Colin for typing them up for posterity. (PS, unfortunately, none of these stories is mine; in a few cases I've added some info in brackets for non-PCVs.)

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I thought I made a nice new friend in my town, then one day she disappeared. When I asked people where she went, I quickly found out she went to jail. Jokes around the PCV  community in my area started about how I was going to spring my jail bird friend.

This one time ... I went to an American's Berber wedding where on the final day of festivities everyone was gathered for the traditional haydus. There were many tourists so many of the women were not dancing, so us Americans decided to go up and do our own "bridal" dance. So here we are Berber-ish dancing around our American bride while tourists are taking photos of our "traditional" dance.

I taught my bus guy the pound-and-explode, and now that's how he greets me.

My bra broke in front of 20 male teenagers.

This summer in Fes I got in and told the "driver" where to go before I realized he was not a taxi, just a little red car parked in the middle of the [little red] taxis.

This one time a group of PCVs traveled to Fes. Four PCVs sat in the back seat of the taxi and two scantily clad women sat in the front two seats. During the ride, the PCVs discussed the likelihood that the women were prostitutes. Upon arrival in Timahdite, the taxi promptly stopped at the liquor store where the women bought beers. A small discussion between the taxi driver and the women ensued and suddenly the taxi turned off on a side road. Noticing the detour, the PCVs wondered where they were going (but didn't put up a fight). Eventually the taxi stopped in Mischlifen, where the prostitutes and driver mounted horses and rode away from the cab. It was the craziest taxi ride ever!

Once I forgot the flashcards of fruits and vegetables for my neddi neswi food unit at a hanut [shop], and when I went back to get them the hanut men had studied them and asked me to correct their pronunciation. Hooray!

It was a normal day. I was headed to my aerobics. When I arrived I realized I forgot my workout pants but luckily one of the women brought two pairs of pants (I think she actually just took off a layer). I then quickly put them on so we could begin class. The problem was, they were two sizes too big and I had to run around holding them up. The women began to laugh and run around slapping my butt every time we passed. They then began to critique my body and how "I was miskin because the pants didn't fit me." To this day, every class, they try and slap me from behind as I run by.

There's a cafe I usually go to. I went after lftour [break-fast] one night during Ramadan and sat with the high school teachers who hang out there. We got into an argument about fasting. I said it's difficult and not good for your health; they said it's great. Aziz, the French teacher, ended the argument by finding the middle ground. "Fasting is good because God and the prophet say it's good," he said. "And it's bad because it means no f**king during the day."

I often printed photos from online products to inspire product development. One day, Amina pulled me aside and asked for me to show her something at the cyber. I didn't fully understand, but was excited someone seemed to be taking initiative on the product development front. Getting to the cyber, I discovered she wanted to MSN with a boy from Tangier, and that's how I spent 30 uncomfortable minutes video chatting and chaperoning a date.

First night in homestay in site I got a really greasy milky rice meal. I told my host mom I was allergic to milk, but she told me it was God's will to see if I get sick. Not wanting to start off on the wrong foot I ate the meal. About 30 minutes later, I went to bed. Next day: SICK, SICK, SICK. The whole family could hear me, and my host mom came up to me and said "that's the last time you eat a hot meal and drink cold water."

I once pooped in my pants ... 20 minutes from my destination ... while riding in a souk bus.

I'll never forget asking my CBT [community-based training] mom to let me take a bath that night after ripening for two weeks. Little did I know how difficult that simple task would be and the work I was asking of my host mom. Several nails, date pits, and a tarp later she had prepared my at-home hammam ... in my room ... nowhere near a drain. I never before considered that I would have to call Malika to translate to me exactly what I was supposed to do ~ and that my host mom would in fact use my bath water to mop the house after the whole family confined themselves to the TV room to give me the privacy the slits in my bedroom door did not afford me. And that was my first authentic bathing experience.

[from a male PCV:] It was Ramadan 27, the Night of Power, and I was still in training. My host family wanted to send me to get my picture taken with the 12-year-old girls, but they decided not to tell me. "We're going to rent you a jellaba so you can look nice on Eid [the holiday that ends Ramadan]. Come on. We wandered around town, doing everything we could find that involved neither jellabas nor photos. We got Eid cookie ingredients. We flashed the cable box. I followed. My mom went into a shop. My sister did, too. I followed. Twenty middle-aged women looked at me. Shock! Horror! I smiled. "I'm an American," I thought. "Don't be afraid of me. I bring you peace and friendship." My sister turned on a four rial coin. "Come on, Amin." We walked out. "This is the women's hairdresser. Never go there again." Then I found five dirhams.

Talk with camp girl's mom.
"I'll take care of her, promise."
Came out: "I'll mount her."

During my final site homestay, I tried to always do my own laundry, but sometimes I traveled during laundry day. My host sister (the woman of the house, who is younger than I am) offered to wash my clothes on those days. One time she returned my clean, folded clothes, but she withheld a few items in a separate pile. Later that day she brought the small stack of sports bras and underwear. She'd never seen a sports bra, and, as a well-endowed woman, was quite excited. I offered her one because I'd packed a few others, and she was very appreciative. It wasn"t until our next trip to the hammam that I realized she'd accepted the whole small stack of laundry as a gift, including my perfect hammam undies: black and boy-cut. I couldn't bring myself to tell her we don't give away used underwear in America ~ and I didn't want them back!

I'm at the Casa bus station eating a sandwich. The guy next to me asks,
"Where you from?"
"The US."
"You Muslim?"
"No."
Then the guy asks the shopkeeper,
"Is he circumcised?"
The shopkeeper said he didn't know.
So the guy asks me,
"Are you circumcised?"
I respond,
"What? I don't understand."
"Circumcised? ARE YOU CIRCUMCISED?"
"I don't understand what you're asking."

This one time, in Morocco, I took a camel trek in Merzouga with my mother, father, brother, and fiance. We rode out into the dunes to watch the sunset. As the camels knelt down for us to disembark, my tiny 5'2" mother flipped off the giant descending camel, catching her bra strap on the camel handle, landing on her feet, like a 60-year old Midwestern Mary Lou Retton.

Once, we saw a fire burning under a camio [pickup] truck parked on the side of the road. Not a random, untended fire, but an intentional one ~ plastic, rubber, goat heads, etc. There were at least three ~ yes, three ~ young Moroccan men studying the fire burning under the truck intently. We decided to stop and walk the opposite direction!!!

I was walking through the palmerie with some of my friends in site. We were surprised to see a group of tourists coming along another path. "Ahh! Do you know what you should do?" Saida asked me. "You need to go up to them and ask for a stylo [pen]! Come on! Do it!" I was laughing so hard that the moment was lost; the tourists walked around a corner, and I never got to try out my French. [young Moroccan children traditionally beg tourists for pens.]

During my first week at my youth center I greeted my director and asked him how his women were doing instead of how his family was doing. [the two words sound very similar in Arabic]

I had just finished memorizing fruits and vegetables, and my host sister had just warned me about mispronouncing words, causing the meaning to change. Later that evening, I went to the hanut to purchase raisins and asked for zbub. [Darija for penis] Awkward turtle.

Before l'Eid Kbir [the main holiday] my host dad took me out to the sheep souk to learn the ropes of how to purchase the best sheep available within budget. As with most activities amongst men in public, it's an opportunity to socialize and catch up on their respective families. My host father approached some sheep and did the customary checking of the teeth, fondling, and picking up the sheep by its hind legs to check the weight, and then lastly the crotch grab. I did everything my host dad did up until the crotch grab. I found the crotch grab weird, but I was more surprised that immediately after my host dad performed the crotch grab, his friend Abdelhaqq came up and they shook hands as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.

I bought a bunch of baby chicks to raise, and put them with my host family's chicks so they could all grow up together. But as they grew up, the whole village noticed and laughed about my chickens growing up American like their "mother":
* They hang out in a group by themselves and don't hang out with the other chicks
* They don't like stale Moroccan bread and only eat expensive chicken food
* When summer came and it got hot, they pulled out all their feathers and ran around "naked" all summer

During PST [pre-service training], the Small Business Development sector would often challenge the Youth Development sector in games of skill. Even though YD would participate half-heartedly, they always won.

While walking out to the dry riverbed in site to go jogging, a man was 200 yards or so away pulling up his jellaba going to the restroom as most men do out in this part of town. As I start placing my earphones in, I hear, "Ca va gazelle? Baby," followed by cat calls and hissing ~ yes, the guy was hitting on me while taking a dump.

One day in late winter, I was walking to work and saw something that looked like snow on the road. As I crouched to examine it, I realized it was soap suds. When I looked down the street I saw the source ~ they were cleaning a well and there was a mound of suds covering the two-lane road that was as tall as my waist. There were kids playing in it of course (as I would have if I were 10). One of the kids was shouting to the other "climb Abdelkader, climb!" Luckily I have it on video.

There is a traditional medicine-maker in my site. One day he pulled me into his shop; I was greeted by a two-foot-long dried lizard guarding the door and rows of herb-filled glass bottles on shelves lining the walls. He told me that he would perform tukkl on me, and proceeded to pull out a string and measure my arm. After comparing the combined length of my fingers with that of my arms, he told me I had microbat [microbes] in my stomach. I didn't see the connection, but was impressed nonetheless that he had diagnosed my recent GI problems. Next he wrapped the string around my head and proclaimed "you never get headaches," which is also true. Since he was on a roll of correct diagnoses, I permitted him a third test. This time he made me lie down on the ponj [mattress] and felt my chest for a little longer than I was comfortable with. Then he grunted "good." I still don't really understand.

We were at CBT for the last day. The next day we would go back to Azrou for seminar sessions and find out our site assignments. My host mom decided to wash a few items of dirty clothing that were in my room, including my towel. I was worried that they would not have time to dry overnight, but she assured me that it would be fine. The next morning, I went up to the roof and discovered that my towel, sweaters, etc. were frozen solid! I had to snap the ice and fold them into a plastic bag for the ride back to Azrou ~ and that was one of my last memories of CBT.

First year after spring camp at Tim's house when I tried to prove I was strong or tough as the boys. Bad idea; I woke up with bruises.

Whilst stranded at a flooded bridge on the road to Imilchil, I got into a conversation with an Irish transvestite living in Morocco who owned a dog named Obama. After turning down an invitation for tea in his Winnebago, I watched as he declared he'd wait no longer and attempted to cross. As his Winnebago stalled halfway across the bridge and in the throes of the river, I smirked. Best tea refusal ever.

Going to the sources with artisan women to wash wool in the river, and they end up in a full-on water fight ~ buckets of water on their heads. Wrote about it in my blog. Went back to explain photos that women were fully clothed in their jellabas ~ that just seemed normal to me, but photos probably needed explaining.

My host family witnessing my apparent transition to womanhood as I unwittingly applied chapstick in front of all of them at the dinner table. (I am male)

I once woke up in the middle of the night and found that a stray cat had curled up with me in bed.

2 comments:

Anna Jo said...

These are hilarious. Thanks!

mustapha asquarray said...

very nice