What's it like to be Muslim?

Well as everyone knows I’m Muslim. A lot of people have questions about how/when/where I pray. This is a quick explanation.
First of all, I always pray 5 times a day. Every Muslim is required to pray 5 times each day at very exact specified times. The times are based on the rotation of the earth and the sunrise/sunset times so every few days the time changes by a minute or so. Luckily for me, I live in a Muslim country where the call to prayer is heard no matter where you are. There are many, many mosques here (never more than a 5 minute walk from wherever you are) so the prayer is heard almost everywhere—unless you’re at the beach, in the mountains, etc. In Agadir, there are more than 60 mosques! So anyway, I hear the call blasting from a loudspeaker (sometimes more than one if there are multiple mosques within earshot) at the specified times. When I’m home, I hear the call from 3 different mosques and one is literally yards from my house. The purpose of the call is to remind you that it will be time to pray in about 10-15 minutes so you can wrap up whatever you’re doing and prepare for the prayer.
Each prayer has its own name, for example:
FAJR – The dawn prayer
DHUHR – Early afternoon
ASR -- Late afternoon
MAGHREB – Sunset prayer
ISHA—Night prayer
Here’s an example of the prayer times for today:
FAJR – 5:26 am
DHUHR – 1:45 pm
ASR -- 5:27 pm
MAGHREB – 8:35 pm
ISHA-- 10:00 pm
So every day, no matter what I’m doing or where I’m at, I drop everything to pray. At home when I’m sleeping, I wake up. If I’m working, I take my rug and pray then go back to work, if I’m at a friend’s house we pray together, and sometimes I’m inside the mosque. You will find men in public praying everywhere. Taxi drivers will stop the car and pray on a mat next to it, shop owners will close down while they go to the mosque, restaurants have prayer rooms, and everyone stops to pray whenever it's time. It's beautiful to see this every day.
Each prayer has its own number of what we call “Rakaats.” A Rakaat is kind of like a “cycle” of the prayer that you do. It’s like the number of times you: start from standing, then bend over, then put your head on the ground, then sit, then put your head on the ground, then return back to standing. That whole process would be considered one rakaat. The rakaat schedule for each prayer is like this:
FAJR 2 Rakaats (the shortest because it’s so early in the morning)
DHUHR 4 Rakaats
ASR 4 Rakaats
MAGHREB 3 Rakaats
ISHA 4 Rakaats
But before we do anything, we have to wash ourselves before the prayer. There is a certain way we have to do it and every single Muslim does this the exact same way every day in every country. It’s been this way for over 1,400 years. It’s called “ablution” in English or “wudu” in Arabic.
We start by saying our intentions before cleaning ourselves and then begin with the right hand. We wash the right hand 3x, then the left hand 3x. Then we swish water around in the mouth and spit it out 3x. After, we put water up our nose and spray it out 3x. Then wash the face 3x. Then we wash the right hand and up to the right elbow 3x. The same on the left arm 3x. Then we take water and put it on our head, running our fingers through our hair down to the neck and then back up. After that, water inside the ears and up around the back of the ears. Last, we wash the feet. Beginning with the right, we wash between the toes from right to left and wash the foot up to the ankle. We do it 3x on the right and 3x on the left. Then we are ready to begin the prayer. Here is what it looks like to do the wudu:

Below is a video of the FAJR prayer (2 Rakaats) . Also, "salat" in Arabic means "prayer" in English. This is what I do every day, and yes I say everything in Arabic exactly like the video.
I hope this gives you a better understanding of what it's like to pray for Muslims. It's the best feeling ever and there's scientific proof of the benefits of prostration.
It definitely clears your head and de-stresses you. Especially if you're really annoyed or frustrated with something, being able to stop for 5-10 minutes and just be in complete "peace-mode" really helps. It's calming. Everything about it makes me feel good.

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Greeny Beanies

This is completely random but I'm posting a recipe for some bomb green beans. Shout out to a certain lady in a Tutti-Frutti hat.

Here's what you need:

String beans from a farmers market. (just grab 2 big handfuls)
A little vegetable oil (can be cut with some olive oil if you like)
Garlic clove
Spices: Salt, Pepper, Fresh Cumin (SOOOO good), anything you want

Step 1: Cut all the yuck ends off the beans. Only cut one side and leave the other little pointy string thing on there, like this:

Next, chop up an onion. I only used half of a big one.

Start cutting it this way and go around the onion till you have a bunch of choppy pieces.

Then put about this much oil in a pan:

Keep the heat on Low-ish Medium.

Add about this much of each salt, pepper, and ground cumin and throw the onions and spices in the pan.

Cook those nasty little onions until they start to turn clear. Then put the beans in. It should be a party in the pan.

Let it cook and for about 5 minutes till the beans start to look really delicious. When you just can't take it anymore, grab one and try it. If it's good, you're done. If it needs something, add it.

This is how mine turned out:

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A Week in Review

My last post was filled with quite a few reflections and I hope each person who read it saw themselves in it one way or another. This post, however is about my random week and thus it will be a lot less "poetic" if you will. (And if you won't...nothing changes).

This week I got to Skype with my parents for the first time. It was so good to hear their voices again! Plus we actually got to see eachother so it made it 100x better. I was so happy to talk to them and giggle as they "got hip to the new Skype thingy." My dad officially said: I'm ripe for Skype. Ohhhhh Juanny... My mom's is almost set up right, minus the sound. Hopefully my little seester Ruj can go over to her house and hook things up correctly. Anyway it was really good to feel like I was face-to-face with them. Attention anyone who can see their parents whenever they want: HUG THEM. Don't take it for granted. You don't know how bad I just want to hug my parents and tell them I love them. So if you are able to do that...DO IT.

So not only did I talk to my mom and dad on Skype, I also got to talk to Alena. FINALLY! She also has never used it before and was equally as amazed. And this is why I love her. At one point, her laptop was about to die and she told me, "I really don't know what's gonna happen next. I bet the screen will just go black or something." As I tried to politely muffle my laughter she goes, "Well I don't want to bring it downstairs where the charger is because I might lose reception." I said, "why don't you just bring your charger upstairs and plug it in where you are? " She looks down at the computer for about 5 seconds, looks into the camera for about 5 seconds and then says all serious, "Yeah dude. Good idea. You're really smart with this kind of stuff." Ohhhhhh Alena! You never cease to amuse me! :)

In other news, I saw the closest thing to a fixy in a loooooong time. I don't know who the owner is, but I'd say it's probably not a hipster.

Hand brakes? Pshh! Cheater.

As for me, I prefer the older models. I told a shop owner I'd like to buy this mint green bike and he looked at me like I was nuts. He then pointed out the seat, pedals, and chain. #FAIL

I mean, as long as the bell works...

Right near the bikes is a main walking area that has a pointless 3 ft. deep hole in it. Apparently some guy was walking the other day and didn't see it and fell in. It was filled with garbage and yuck-water  so they "Safety Department" must have come in a fixed the situation. This is why I love Moroccans--nothing is a problem and there's an easy solution for everything. :) Here's the Before and After shots:

BEFORE:  Walkers Beware.
AFTER:  Totes fixed!

I also found an interesting little cafe. The "chef" was preparing some squid while I was there. See also: gutting fish in the sink. As I walked a little closer, he was all about taking a few snaps. These were fresh from that morning I was told. #FreshTaDeff
Slime Time
Whaddup Squidward?

As much as I wanted to stay for some Calamari, I headed home for a different plan. On the menu: Moroccan soup. Add a little (I'll say) bread, and it was good to go. Cindy and I had a nice little quiet dinner at home. PS-- there's cinnamon in the soup. SO good!

Souper Delicious. (Sorry, I had to.)

I get VIP reservations here.

I'm not trying to make this blog all about food, but I have some more randomness and then I'm done. Today 2 things happened. One of the ladies who lives near me made me some couscous and brought it over. She's so sweet. If you don't know, it's a tradition here in Morocco to eat couscous every Friday afternoon. People all prepare it differently so sometimes it's spicy, sometimes with argan oil, and sometimes with really big couscous pieces. There's a million varieties but here's the one from earlier today:

The second thing that happened was that I stumbled across watermelon warehouse. Yeah, that's right. A watermelon warehouse. Complete with a floor made out of straw and hay. Melon Madness.

In a low whisper: "Ay if you need somethin', I know a guy..."

 Besides all the delicious organic produce around here, I found something a little less natural. When they're done, they dip them in sugar and they're SOOO good!

Looks good, donut? (Sorry again)

Alright, onto my next topic: Shopping. I found a sort of boutique and it's a good indicator of how things are done here. If you recall one of my earlier posts about how laid back and relaxed everything is here, this should seal the deal. Note how the shop-worker is just lounging. I love it.

Mall? Yeah no thanks.

Besides all of this randomness, a lot of good has happened this week. There's been a few changes here and there but it's all good. As we say in Arabic, "Kuuuuulshi mizzyehn." I'm looking forward to the end of next week Something really amazing is about to happen but I'm not going to talk about it right now. I'll wait till it happens and then I'll write about it if that's what God wants. I'm super excited and I can't wait!!

Faith. Patience. Love. Faith.

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Sbah Shhorr

The 15th of the month is always a special day for me. It means another month that I've lived in Morocco. Today is no different. It's officially been 7 months and I can't believe the twists and turns down every road and how this beautiful story has unfolded.
I've learned so much about life, people, and myself since being here and it's been a very strong an unexpected lesson. Living here has sincerely shown me what's important and what's not. The things I used to take for granted have since become unavailable to me and my ability to adapt has been put to extreme tests. Thankfully my parents raised a sort of soldier chameleon who can overcome any obstacle and blend into any situation. My colors have changed quickly and often-- and most times without so much as a split second of warning.
The people in my life that were so close to me are now so far away but close in a different way. Thoughts of my parents and family dance through my head daily and my mind wanders down hallways filled with memories of the past. I often stop to linger for a moment in the corridor of recollection when a certain person, event, or story comes to mind. Sometimes I giggle out loud to myself, sometimes I cry, and sometimes I just let the huge smile come across my face for as long as it wants to stay.
Since I've been gone, true friends have proven themselves as such, halfway friends are still lingering, and acquaintances have grown in number. Those that I care for the most know who they are and in turn, I realize now whose friendship goes beyond simply keeping me on their "friends list."
The friendships I've established here extend past merely bonding over booze --as drinking doesn't really exist here in this Islamic society or in my life at all. The social norm of drinking and divebars, cocktails and clubs, headaches and hangovers is something I made a choice not to be a part of. Instead, my focus is on staying on the Straight Path to pave my way to the ultimate success. Fortunately, the people in my life encourage me to remain upon that path no matter how narrow it becomes sometimes. Of course I've always believed that the hardest way is usually the best way.
Because I've spent so much time alone recently, the silence has been a great teacher. I do not own a TV nor do I have internet at my house. My phone and laptop only get service at wifi cafes so when I'm home alone, it's just me and---well...me. Things that I never had time for before have suddenly become the only thing on my agenda. Pieces of myself that I've been meaning to polish have quickly been removed of their dust and brought out for renovation. So much time to do nothing really gives a person the ability to do some soul-searching and more importantly-- soul-cleaning. It's an interesting feeling to be the person both behind the microscope and under it as well. A close-up view of things I didn't see before has drastically changed my life from the inside out. My vision has widened, my perspective has shifted, and my goals have been rearranged.
In the short time I've been in Morocco, I have already learned so much. My strengths have become stronger and my weaknesses are becoming fewer. I still have a lot to learn and a long way to go but thankfully I now have the patience to take things slowly. My way isn't always the right way (I know, I was shocked too) but there are many roads to choose from. In this journey called life, different people are on different paths to different goals. As for me, my heart is set on what I want and I just happen to have the book that tells me exactly how to get it.

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In my last posts I mentioned a girl named Cindy. Who is Cindy? I don’t even know where to start with this one. Let’s just say she’s a crazy banana cupcake gypsy lady. And she dances with fire fans.

About a month ago, I got this interesting message in my inbox on the couchsurfing website. This random chick was like, “Hey I know this is super last minute but I’ll be in your city tomorrow and I need a place to sleep. I’ve been traveling around Morocco alone and I’m SO over staying with dudes. If you can let me spend the night, I’d totally appreciate it.”  Ok, fine. I can completely relate to the traveling alone in a foreign country thing. So I checked out her profile and turns out she’s from California, too. So far so good. Under her “Occupation” section, it said: Bartender, Jeweler, Bellydancer, Photographer, Teacher, and  Dirt Bag. I loved her already. Then I checked out her Music section and that was prettymuch the deal sealer. Among her faves are Digable Planets, Billie Holiday, Gangstarr, Sade, Portishead, Tom Waits, and Prefuse 73. I was already sold. I responded back with, “Hey you seem like just the person I need to meet. I can tell we’re gonna get along right away.”  Was I right? Tooooootes!

At a music festival in Essaouira, Morocco

The first night I met her at the bus station and helped her carry her 700 lbs of backback crap to my house. We ended up laughing right away and stayed up allllll night talking till like 5am. She immediately distributed her stuff in my guest bedroom and started moving the beds around to make herself a little nest of blankets. She currently sleeps in there every night with her head upside down and covered in a thin green blanket she stole from an airplane.

Before she came to Morocco, she was on a life adventure. A year and a half ago, she got sick of  the US and decided to do what I did—pack everything up and just bounce. Her first stop was Egypt. She lived there and sold jewelry to pay her rent. Big fancy house? Nope. Cruddy apartment? Nope. Hostel? Nope. She lived in a tiny hut made of palm tree leaves and bamboo sticks somewhere on the banks of the Red Sea. Every day she’d wake up, lay on the beach and then work at night. As you can imagine, that lifestyle can really tire a girl out after a while. Four months later it was time to say goodbye to Egypt.  Next stop: Jordan.

When I asked her what she did while she lived in Jordan she said, “Nothing. Just chilled.” I was like, “yeah, but did you work?”  “Nope. Just chilled. …and went to art shows.”  So I suppose that sums up her life in Jordan. She stayed with her friend Omar that she apparently knew from California. After a few months in Jordan, she packed up her bags and on went on to the next location: Lebanon.

Lebanon was her home for a while and when she was there she sold some jewelry here and there and basically just continued her job as full-time chill princess. I’m sure she dazzled everyone in her path along the way and turned things upside down wherever she went. You see, the thing about Cindy is that she always speaks her mind, calls people out on their bs, and gets ALL up in the mix—but she does it so politely that you can’t possibly get mad. She just has this way of speaking loudly and assertively with a huge smile on her face so you don’t know if she’s pissed, annoyed, super happy, or if she just thinks you’re a total moron. Either way, she tells it like it is and gets what she wants.

She jetted from Jordan and headed to Turkey, leaving a trail of glitter dust behind her footsteps. While she was there she taught bellydance classes, ate an obnoxious amount of chestnuts and shwarma, and became smitten with a DJ. She lived in a neighborhood that was about as far from her Santa Barbara roots as you can get. According to her, it was full of  tall buildings run by shady slumlords and decorated with overflowing dumpsters. “Dude,  this place was UNNNNreal. I was totally living in the nstiest ghetto neighborhood in all of Istanbul. It was full of  scumbags, drug dealers, prostitutes, rapists, transvestites…and me.” She used to get a kick out of the trannies in the the early hours of the day—“You should’ve seen them in the mornings with last night’s makeup still on!”  Despite all this, she loved being in Turkey. She sold some jewelry to vintage boutiques in different neighborhoods of the city,  bellydanced, taught English, and of course…just chilled.

A friend of hers was about to get married in Spain so she once again packed everything up and headed out. The girl getting married was her best friend from childhood of many  years and their moms were also best friends growing up. Cindy’s mom and the friend’s mom both flew to Spain for the wedding and it was the first time Cindy saw her mom in about a year. After hearing the “When are you gonna settle down?” speech, she stayed for a few days with her mom and then headed to lovely Morocco.

At first she traveled around Morocco alone and stayed in places like Fez, Marrakech, Rabat, and the sleepy beach city of Essaouira. She met quite a few interesting people along her way and  I’m sure she managed to enchant the Moroccan men. She’s like a tourist who’s not a tourist. She dives head-first and doesn’t let people get in her way. Maybe they’re afraid of her—or at least intrigued. She wears her curly hair in a big puff on the top of her head and shoves 2 chopsticks in it. Further down, you can see gigantic hoop earrings in her ears accompanied by pink marble sliced rocks or sometimes leather feathers. She wears rings on every finger, jazzes up her outfits with brightly colored scarves, and is covered in tattoos—including giant peacock feathers inside her left arm. She wears a custom hand-made leather fanny pack with all her stuff in their appropriate compartments and you can always find a heart-shaped key dangling from her neck.

The best part about Cindy is that she’s a goofball like me. That’s why we get along so well. For example, we were on our way to the souk one day and we found this crazy playground with a strange spinning teeter-totter thing. I was like, “Dude! Let’s go on that thing!” Of course she agreed and we were spinning around and laughing like little girls.


We get to the souk and she’s wandering around by herself looking for amusement. She finds it in the form of an antique ukelele (you-ka-LAY-lee) or however you spell it. I’m at a little shop around the corner and I suddenly hear this voice. I put down what I was looking at and become determined to find out where it’s coming from. I should’ve known. Of COURSE it’s Cindy. She’s sitting in the shop owner’s chair, strumming the mini guitar, and in the style of Tiny Tim is singing, “I’m a geeeeeeeenie in a bottle, ya gotta rub me the right waaaaaay.” She’s full-on singing every word in the slowest, most serious voice like it’s a love ballad. Of course nobody understands a word she’s saying. I on the other hand am dying laughing, tears streaming down my face. I managed to get her out of there and on to the next one. It’s like a 5-year old leading a 5-year old.
"I'm a geeeenie in a bottle..."

She finds humor in the same things as me and we are constantly laughing when we’re together. See picture below for one an example.
Caption not required.

How can you not love this face?

We both blurt out random things and then look at eachother and crack up. She once asked me all serious, “Do you wanna join the urban goat community?”  which of course I responded with “Yeah, duh.” A few other things about Cindy: She is really good at doing impersonation of the NYC subway rats, she balances swords on her head, she knows how to smell plants, she likes going to the sardine factory, sometimes she does “turtle neck”, and she’s a self-proclaimed “pasty gray Mexican” who like to be home alone and shhhhhhimmmmy.
Did I mention she's good at stabilizing ladders?

Hitchhiking to Taghazout.

There are so many things I’m leaving out but I’ll add things to future blogs so you can get a taste of what it’s like to be around that ding-dong all day every day. She’s here till whenever but I have a feeling she’ll stay in my heart forever.
Ohhh, Cindy-Bindy...

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