I've decided to do something a little different for the month of October. Every day I plan to write about what I'm up to and what I'm doing. I know that I'm a little behind but I'm on Moroccan time now. Not every day is crazy and so this is a way to see what "normal" is like for me. Wait, this place is deffffffinitely not normal.
Today was the day for a big party. Zainab had her baby a week ago and today everyone came to the house to celebrate--and I mean EVERYONE. The day started with Amina and I eating breakfast upstairs. Afterwards, we both did our teeth whitening and people started trickling in. A lot of the early arrivals brought giant loaves of bread from the countryside (we're talkin' the size of a pizza) and other people brought huge amounts of apples, oranges, and bananas. Everything was stored on the top bunk of Amina's bed and in between all the guests showing up, I tried my best to get ready quickly.
Today, Mohamed's mom suggested I wear a little makeup and I was excited for that. I never ever wear makeup anymore and although Mohamed and I are engaged, he's never seen me with makeup on. I got ready in the purple salon and busted out some eyeliner... and blush even! I did my makeup in the style of Katy Perry-- very clean and simple with heavy black liner on the top only. A little while later Mohamed came home and saw me. He literally stopped dead in his tracks and said "WOWWWW!" Then he had the biggest smile on his face-- a super cheesy all-teeth-showing kind of smile. He walked down the hallway towards his room, turned to look at me again, and tripped over himself and fell into his room. I guess he liked the makeup.
A little while later the house started to fill up with people. As much as I love everyone, I'm not a fan of huge crowds. Especially huge crowds in confined spaces. Especially huge crowds in HOT confined spaces with no air circulating. Everyone went up to the 3rd floor--(hot air rises) and sat in the big salon. All the furniture had been removed and placed on the roof so the room was lined with carpets and lots of pillows. Mohamed's aunt was in the kitchen cooking chickens, too. There was a gigantic gas tank connected to a really big pot of oil. She was frying the chickens 3 at a time but they weren't crunchy like KFC. It was basically deep fried with water, oil, and seasonings.
Soon it was time for lunch and all the women were upstairs sitting around 3 tables about a foot of the ground. I ate in Zainab's room with 5 other family members after everyone else had already eaten. Lunch that day was delicious-- chicken and some of the sheep they had slaughtered in honor of the new baby. Needless to say I didn't touch the sheep.
After everyone relaxed for a while it was time to start rang-bang-boomin' around. I reluctantly sat down on the floor but I knew what I was getting myself into-- guaranteed headache and uncomfortable circumstances in general. It was insanely hot with way too many people in one room. People were stepping all over me, I could barely breathe, and I knew the loudest most ungraceful music was about to start. Right on cue, the obnoxious banging started. As if that wasn't enough, metal trays were brought out with spoons as drumsticks. Exxxxxcellent. Now add singing (if you can call it that) at extreme decibel levels in a primitive language I don't understand (Berber). Did I mention the hot bodies smothering me? Maybe it wouldn't be so hot if people would TAKE OFF THE DANG LAYERS!!! You do not need to wear 3 or 4 pairs of pajamas at once covered in a robe/dress. Unfortunately, I'm not even slightly exaggerating. Like the oil in the chicken pot, I was starting to boil. The combination of everything was waaaaay past my level of things I'm obliged to accept. Oh, what's that? My phone's (not) ringing? Guess I better step away so I can hear the call! **Please pause yourself now and click on the attached "video" that's actually audio-only.**
...and by step away, I mean melt down 2 flights of stairs into the downstairs salon. It was cool, dark, quiet and I was finally able to breathe. I took advantage of my new opportunity before anyone noticed I was gone. One good thing about big crowds is that it's hard to tell when someone's missing. Score! I sat down with my legs stretched out in front of me and my back propped up with some cold pillows. I opened the Quran to my bookmark and read in a state of peacefulness, solitude, and tranquility. Then the door opened.
I was pleasantly surprised to see Mohamed standing there. The room was dark, but the light from the tiny skylight was illuminating my face only. He said, "Awww, you look like an angel." Aaaaaand, annoyed mood instantly cured. He brought me an apple and kissed my forehead. For a while he stood there watching over me and smiling. I was happy he was there for a minute and afterwards he let me get back to my reading.
I managed to stay undercover for quite a while. Occasionally I'd pop in upstairs and quickly return to my station below without being noticed. I mean, it's not that I don't like people--it's just that I don't like sitting in a sauna of other people's stank. I've always been on both ends of the spectrum: I'm totally a people-person but I love to be alone, too.
Later on that night the 2 oldest ladies (great-grandmothers) and I decided to take a nap in the purple salon. So there we were, each of us on different mattresses, all happy to be away from the incessant banging and clamoring. At one point I giggled to myself and thought, "should I run up to the kitchen and bring us down a plate of prunes?" Haha! So as I chilled with my homegirls I realized we just started our own chapter of the Party Poopers Club. And I was totally fine with that.
The night dragged on till about 1am and as much as I wanted to sleep it all off, I woke up around 11:30. This was perfect timing to mosey upstairs, eat 2 cookies, drink a liter of water and waltz back downstairs. People were leaving so I rubbed the sleep off my face and bid my ados and farewells. Nobody seemed to notice I had just woken up from crowd/noise/heat hibernation. After all was said and done, I had a great time alone at the party and all the guests were none the wiser!
Today was the day after the party and everyone that slept over was scattered about upstairs. I woke up around 9:30 and went to the kitchen and found Beenies, aka Moroccan donuts being prepared for breakfast. I sat down with everyone (about 15 of us) and we had hot fresh bread, donuts and the best sauces to dip them in. Is it completely foul that I put butter on a donut? Well put me in the penalty box cuz I totally did it. And it was (cue high pitch vibrato voice) "Booooooomb!"
After Amina and I did the dishes, I prettymuch just chilled all day. It was the perfect lazy Sunday for sure. We ate lunch all together and after that everyone started to leave gradually. Later on that night we had a tea party and just relaxed together. I almost forgot—little brother came strolling in the house with 2 live pigeons. He apparently caught them and thought it would be a good idea to bring them to the kitchen where he put them in-- what else? A laundry basket of course.
I didn't do much the rest of the day, just hung around the house and fell asleep early.
Today I woke up by being called to breakfast. I went upstairs to find the same breakfast as the day before and I was more than happy to see those Beenies again. Wait, who am I kidding? Other than the Beenies, breakfast in Morocco is exactly the same day after day with no variations. This is a country-wide thing.
After I ate, I had a lot of emails to catch up on so I went to the downstairs salon and got to work. A few minutes into it, I hear my name being called from upstairs. I take the computer off my lap and walk up 2 flights of stairs. I've been summoned to help bring down all the couch pieces from up on the roof. Amina's already up there movin' all the sections around and she's waiting for her lovely assistant-- me. The roof is simply a giant hole in the ceiling with a ladder going through it. So here I am standing on the floor (makes sense, right?) and she is lowering down the pieces one at a time while I gently "catch" them. (This is one of those times where I wonder, "Why is..." wait, nevermind I'll keep that thought to myself.) So piece by stupid piece, the sections are lowered down to me and I set them up in their appropriate places. 15 minutes later... Ok, is everyone satisfied? Can I get back to work now? Ok bye. Annoyed side note: there are plenty of able-bodied muscular men in the house (but at the time were at work) yet the 2 smallest girls are doing all the work.
Round 2 at the computer and I'm answering an important interview email. 2 minutes later my name is called again. This time it's to go to the corner store to buy laundry detergent, "Teed" as they say which is actually Tide. If I were in America, I'd just slide my flip-flops on and go. But guess what? This is not America, this is Let's-Make-Everything-Unnecessarily-Difficult Morocco. So I have to put on my socks (feet showing in public is a no-no) my long black hot abaya, wrap my head in a scarf, put on shades because I'm looking less than stellar, and I'm on my way. I'm also in the middle of bleaching my teeth so my clear football player-looking mouth guards are in and I look like I'm Helena Bonham Carter from Planet of the Apes. Greeeaaaat.
Ok, with Teed in hand, I'm back to the house. Now I have to take off all layers and get back to work (again). So I'm clicking away on the keyboard and happy that I'm 5 minutes into it with no interruptions and it happens again. After hearing my name being called from upstairs it took all of my strength not to yell, "WHAT??!!!". Instead I clenched my teeth, put on a huge fake smile that no one could see and said, "Yessss?.." The reply? "Come here." Aaaaaagggghhhhh!!! What now?!! So AGAIN I take the computer off my lap, walk up 2 flights of stairs and try my best to keep my composure. This time, they wanted me to eat lunch. No. I'm sorry, but no. There's no way I'm eating lunch right now. #1, I'm not doing anything till I finish what I'm in the middle of doing, and #2, we JUST ate! Ok fine so maybe it was like an hour and a half ago, but still. I literally had to run away before they pinned me down to eat. I told Mohamed that I had to get out of there. If it kept on like this, I'd never get anything done.
I asked him to PLEASE take me to a cafe where I could sit by myself and concentrate. Even though he didn't want to leave me there alone, he agreed. Before I knew it I was sitting on a comfy leather couch with a coffee table all to myself. I had a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice in front of me and I was ready to get some work done. I was lucky enough to get 4 uninterrupted hours of peace and quiet. Finally! :)
Around 6:30, Mohamed came back to pick me up. I was starting to get cranky because I was getting hungry and he could tell I wasn't in my usual good mood. As soon as we left the cafe we heard the call to prayer. We decided to walk to a mosque I'd never been to before (there's always a mosque within a 5 minute walk no matter where you are) and after praying I felt better but was still hungry. We walked to a cute little sidewalk restaurant and I ate the best grilled sandwich ever. Just as I swallowed my last bite, we heard the call to prayer for the last prayer of the night. We walked again but this time to a different mosque and it was very peaceful inside. We met eachother outside afterwards and took another walk.
We're usually cruising around the city at high speeds so it was nice to just stroll. It was dark so it wasn't so stinkin' hot. (it was 96 degrees today) We wandered slowly and were talking about so many random things. He knew my purse was heavy because my laptop was in there and he took it off my shoulder and put it on his. Of course I was giggling at this because here's this big manly man with a purse on one shoulder and his right hand grasping the strap. Haha! He looked so cute and said, "What? I don't care if people see me. :)". After a few minutes he said, "Hold on a second." He bought me a piece of chocolate and this pink strawberry tube thing that I really love. How sweet! Pun intended.
We found a bench near a stretch of palm trees and exotic plants and took a seat. We sat there for about an hour and a half and just talked the night away. By the time we got back to the house we were both exhausted from all the walking and fresh air. We said goodnight and a short while later I was fast asleep...
Today I woke up and as I'm sure you already guessed, had my same predictable breakfast.
When breakfast was over, I went downstairs to the lowest level and used the salon as my new "office." I loved it! Why? Peace and quiet. Plus the reception is a lot better next to the window so my internet is faster. Note that I did not say "fast" -- just fast"er." Of course it comes with a downside because that's just how things work here. So instead of sitting comfortably at the table, I have the laptop propped up in the window sil and I'm kneeling on the couch-like salon furniture like I'm in Catholic church again. This gets old after abouuuuuut 5 minutes. But what's a girl to do? So I continue like that until it's time to leave.
At 2:00 Mohamed and I have to leave to do what? (I can't even believe I'm about to say this) get more copies of both of our passports! I mean seriously...how many copies of my passport does this country need?? I've literally made at least 45 copies since I've been here. It's no simple task as they have to be photocopied first and then brought to the beloved administration office for stamps, signatures, approvals and of course...dirhams. So once this is completed, we head to the adoul (he's the man in charge of all marriage paperwork) and show our faces in that office for the FOURTH time. Is it necessary that I mention everything in this country is a major production?
So with a stack of paperwork with us, we hand it all over to him. OF COURSE there's a mistake from the translator on one of the papers. (picture me throwing my right hand in the air, looking to the left, and simultaneously leaning back in my chair) So now the paper has to be re-done. Mohamed paid for all of the documents to be translated into Arabic (as required) and now one of the papers has to be what? Photocopied and certified with more stamps, more signatures, and more dirhams. I swear I'd rather deal with the IRS on a daily basis than these people. Whatever, everything worked out.
So as we're sitting at the desk of the adoul, it comes time for me to prove that I'm really Muslim. The adoul tells Mohamed that a translator will be required and it's another 200 dirhams. Mohamed told the adoul, "She doesn't want a translator." The adoul says, "The documents cannot be written in English and thus a translator is required." I looked right at him and said in perfect Arabic, "Excuse me sir, if I understand how to speak with you completely in Arabic, I don't see why a translator is necessary." He looked at me and his mouth dropped. He said, "You understood everything we said?!" "Yes, I speak Arabic so can we please begin now?" I thought the guy was gonna fall out of his chair!
So after I proved that translation was unnecessary, he asked me a series of questions. How did I find Islam? Where did I say the Shahada? Do I pray all 5 prayers every day? How long have I been Muslim? and so on. Next it was time for a little pop quiz. I recited some verses from the Quran in classical Arabic, explained the 5 pillars of Islam, answered where Mecca is located, and a few other random things. By the end of the interview, the adoul was impressed with my knowledge and happy that a convert adapted so quickly.
I'm going to interrupt my story for a little side note. In Mecca there's a special type of extremely rare water. It's called zamzam water and it can only be found in Mecca. It's located exactly 66ft east of the Kabba. It's mentioned in the Holy Quran and it's from a spring of water miraculously generated from God. It was created for Abraham's infant son, Ishmael in 2000 BC. It's really a modern-day miracle because it has never gone dry despite the millions of liters consumed every year.
Back to my story: so the adoul just got back from Mecca recently and he happened to pick up some zamzam water while he was there. It's in a bottle and next to it is this tiny little dainty brass teacup. He poured some in the cup and said, "Bismillah" and set it in front of me. Wow! I was about to actually take a drink of this precious water. What a gift! I couldn't believe this water had come from the Kabba, the building Abraham rebuilt after Adam built the original. (yeah, that Adam) I said a little prayer before and took a sip. Unbelievable! It has no smell or taste, but it's definitely different from regular water. He insisted I drink the whole cup and so I did. I felt really good after that-- like a had a little extra light in me and a spring in my step!
After we left the adoul's office, we headed to a tailor in the nearby city of Inzegane. About 5 days earlier, we had gone there to drop off some fabric for an outfit to be custom made for me. Mohamed had taken me to a few fabric stores, let me pick out 2 colors, and then we dropped everything off at the tailor. You see, I’ve decided to take things to the next level. I love wearing hijab but honestly it’s kind of annoying to have to match my 2 scarves together, match them to my abaya (I don’t always wear black) and the whole point is NOT to draw attention to myself. As you can see it doesn’t really make sense to wear bright blues and flashy colors as it defeats the entire purpose. So I’ve decided to wear a khimar from now on. It’s pronounced kind of like (HAY-marr) and it’s a very important decision to make. I consider it like a clothing tattoo. Once you wear it, you can’t go back to wearing the abaya and scarf. It’s like if a nun wears a habit all of the time and then on the weekends, goes out with jeans on. Doesn’t make a lot of sense, right? So I was excited to get back to the tailor and pick up the one custom made for me.
We get there, I try it on (it’s navy blue) and it fits! I like the way I look wearing it and I’m happy I made this choice. First there’s a floor-length skirt underneath and on top is like a huge cape thing with a hole for my face. It’s kind of like what I wore before except a lot more fabric, it’s looser, and it’s way more comfortable. Score! Whoever thought I’d be dressing more modest than a nun? I have two—one is navy and one is the same color as this picture. Mine don’t have quite as much fabric and my sleves are tailored from the elbow down. I think the girl in the picture has a litttttttle too much makeup on. Haha!
Hijab—dressing modestly from head to toe, and sometimes the incorrect reference to the scarf on the head
Abaya—the black zip-up robe thing you’ve seen in my pictures
Jellaba (sometimes called jellbab)—like the black and gold one I have, it’s like a robe with a big hood and the most popular style of dress. They’re all custom made in a variety of fabrics, prints, and colors
Niqab—the all black outfit that covers the face except the eyes
Burqa—the blue outfits in Afghanistan that cover everything (I’ve never seen one here)
So I put it on and when I walked out of the tailor shop, Mohamed was waiting for me by his bike. He was trying really hard not to smile like a big dorkus-malorkus but he said I looked beautiful. And you know what? I FELT beautiful. There’s a really important article that an American girl wrote and I LOVE it. I think everyone who reads this blog should really take a minute to read this: http://ilovehishmatheblog.blogspot.com/2009/06/hijab-doesnt-stop-me-from-anything.html
We hopped on the bike and cruised off. By this time we were both getting hungry but we heard the call to prayer. I prayed in a mosque that was hidden deep within a neighborhood. It was the smallest women’s room I’d ever seen. The door was along a side alley and was hidden behind a lace curtain. I walked in and saw 4 older women already waiting and I joined the line. A regular mosque usually has room for about 300+ women. In this mosque, however, there was room in there for maybe 14 women. So I prayed and met up with Mohamed when we were done.
From there, we stopped at a strange restaurant near a gas station. It was like a gas station restaurant with ambiance. We’re talkin’ huge waterfall, palm trees, fountain, the works. We both had some grilled food and decided to head back to the house before it got too late.
When we got there, everyone “ooh”ed and “aah”ed over my new khimar. I did a few twirls and they loved it. It was getting late so I took it off and got ready for bed. And by “ready for bed” I of course mean farting around online for 2 hours. I shut ‘er down and went to sleep.