Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Merry Christmas or Mbruk l'3id..?
With the lack of internet and alone time in my town, I’ve had a difficult time keeping up with my blog. Although, in the spirit of Christmas, I’ve decided to quarantine myself in a room with Xmas tunes, devoting time to emails and a blog entry that I will later post when I get to chance to go to Ouarzazate where there are a handful of cybercafes with somewhat steady internet connections.
A few things that I found interesting in the last four weeks of being in my town:
---Riding in a grand taxi is interesting here. I walk down to the main street from my duwar (village) and stand there where the taxis wait. I notice that people are staring but I just wait until the car fills up with six passengers. If it’s a stationwagon-type taxi, I’ve managed to sit with 13 passengers. It get’s quite interesting when you see a man sitting on the left side of the driver. What’s even more interesting is when you see a slender man sitting on his wife’s lap while there is a sheep going “baaa” in the back and French country music going in the front.
---My counterparts, Rykia and Haja Fadma, along with my host-mother, Mina, a sister-in-law, Ijja and I made a trip to Ighrem N’ougdal. There’s a post office, sbitar (health clinic) and the Gendarmes (like the police but not the police), there. They explained to the Gendarmes who they were and what kind of work I would be doing with them so that I could secure a Carte de Sejour (an official identification card). The Gendarmes in Ighrem only speak French or Darija so you could just see how interesting it was with me using butchered Tashlheet. Fortunately, every thing went well and we were done. Both, Mina’s baby son and Ijja’s baby son had been terribly sick, vomiting for days with a fever. So, afterward, we all went to the sbitar to only find that there was no doctor or nurse there. Rykia, knew of a old woman nearby that does somekind of alternative village medicine. I want to be careful and not label this as anything but all I can say is that there was yarn, leaves, sticky black stuff, smoke and coals involved. She did a number of things I could never explain but when it got too smoky, Rykia, Haja Fadma, and I left the room. I was a bit worried for them. After everything was finished, the babies came out crying with black coal lining their eyes. Two days later, the babies were well and eating again. I had never witnessed anything close to this before except in movies.
---Having the privilege of attending several social gatherings with the married women in my town has been pretty exciting! They seem to really like to separate the married women from the unmarried women and the men from the women at some meals, so it’s sort of strange being the only one in the room labeled as a “tafrukt” or girl, but they seem to understand that they are the ones that I need to get to know. One gathering was for a baby, three were just for lunch, one, for an engagement and one–a wedding. It all starts with a greeting that goes around the room right to left as each person enters. Round 1: Sweet tea, nuts and cookies are passed around. Round 2: The host will pass a basin and kettle around for guests to wash their hands. A tagine with meat and sometimes prunes is served. The bread is passed out and we start dipping our bread into the meat juices. A respected woman at the table is then asked to then take the meat and start dividing it up into equal portions–I mean equal–placing the meat on each person’s share of bread. Some women will eat it and some will just have a small bit and wrap up the rest to take home to their children. The table is wiped down. Round 3: A heaping plate of some kind of starch is shared; most of the time it’s couscous with vegetables. Everyone digs in with their hands. It’s kind of sad when the host never gets to enjoy the lunch with her guests. She’s busy working the courses. The table is wiped down again! Round 4: A mountainous plate of unpeeled fruits consisting of apples, bananas and oranges is placed in the center of the table with 2 or 3 knives randomly protruded! Man, by this time, I’m ready for a nap. After everyone’s finished, the table is wiped down one last time followed by the passing of the water kettle. Lastly to the end the meal, a supplication and beautiful prayer is chanted with open palms by all before getting up to thank the host.
When I experience unique moments like this, I often wonder what everyone is doing back home at the exact time. I guess for now, I'm just dreaming of Christmas lights and trees, ribbon, cookies, and music!
Merry Christmas everyone! Miss you!
Love you Mom, Dad, Nhu An, and Mai-Ly. Thank you for the phone calls!
Here are a few pics: some are from this last week’s l’Eid Kibir, which fell on December 21st this year. There is a picture of my family’s sheep sacrifice hanging in the kitchen signifying Abraham’s substitute sacrifice in the Koran.