Tuesday, June 9, 2009

China.. more or less

Hey everyone -

Gettin at you from China, vis a vis the quarantine. For anyone who was wondering, be sure to use the "Comment" button if you're responding to another post instead of posting a whole new entry of your own. Even though this is an AIESEC travel blog, it's completely open to everyone's summer ventures. So don't be afraid to write & respond. I would be more often if Blogger wasn't blocked here in China.. agh. Another story.

Anyways, I got in a few days ago, flying from HK to Haikou, China (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hainan). The flight was short and turbulent. Apparently it's monsoon season right now and I seem to understand (could be completely wrong...) each year they get at least one.. who would have thought? So we landed in China pretty much on time which was definitely unexpected. Little did we know what the government had ready for us.. a whole bunch of guys dressed in white with surgical masks and boots.

Anyways these guys barged on in the plane and took our temperatures for almost 2 hours while
we are still IN OUR SEATS (see picture). The guy filming the whole thing still cracks me up.

So luckily no one I was with had a fever. We get off the plane and go into this waiting room to clear customs. So the guys in white get the idea they should take all the foreigners' temperatures again and this time one of the guys I'm studying with was about 1 degree above normal. They threw him in a local hospital overnight.

Luckily everyone was still in pretty good spirits (minus the guy in the hospital) so it we didnt let it get to us too much. So those of us who they let leave eventually found our way onto a bus and to Hainan University where we'll be studying these next few months. We eventually found the leaders of the program but, cause it's an immersion program, they don't want to speak any English with us. It took a while, but after a few hours we realized that they wanted to quarantine all of us. Then a few hours later realized that the quarantine would last a week .. because that's how long it might take for the H1N1 Swine Flu to come up in any of us.

So. Good news - none of us have the flu yet. Bad News - I get my temperature taken twice a day (7 AM, 7 PM) and all i've seen of the real city is from out of the window. We have classes in people's rooms and eat meals in this slightly bigger room, but everything in the same building. My room's not bad at all (sink, WESTERN toilet) and we even have a fuwuyuan who cleans our rooms each day. This is my view out the window:

Notice the window is barred. Coincidence?

One funny thing about the "quarantine" is that we ARE allowed to go eat and drink at this bar connected to our building. We can buy juice/soda/beer/cigarettes and be in contact with people who aren't quarantined but they won't let us step foot outside. Hmmm. Shady operation.

Anyways overall things are well. Strict schedule (I only really have 2 or 3 hours a day free per day this first week) but I'm absolutely exhausted every night by 10 or 11 so waking up at 7 isn't a huge problem. Never thought I'd say that. The first few days of class we all showed up without doing the homework cause no one had any idea that it was assigned. Haha. I have Kung Fu classes 5 times a week though which is pretty ballin and Tai Chi every now and then. Today we started using swords (they let us buy them for like $4). We move into the real
dorm in a few days; I can't wait to explore the city.

Mary & Patrick - Morocco sounds incredible. I'd love to see what you guys are seeing..
post some pictures in your entries if you have time and it lets you.

Until soon,


Monday, June 8, 2009

First 2 Weeks in Colombia

Colombia is the most-often-misspelled country on Earth (unofficial statistic). From what I can tell, unless you are somehow connected to Latin America through studies, acquaintances, family, or travel, you have an excellent chance of writing Columbia. It strikes me that so few people know how to spell this country’s name, let alone any other facts about it. Yet its reputation worldwide is unequivocally negative, plagued by drugs, cartels, mules, murders, kidnappings, and more drugs. How could virtually everyone recite this laundry list about a country whose name they mistake for a university, an apparel company, or countless cities around the world?

I set out for this unknown (to me) land almost two weeks back, quite unsure of what I would find here, but quite skeptical that it would be all terrible. The Colombians I’ve met in a variety of places during my previous travels have always left me with an overwhelmingly positive impression of their people, and as a result, their country. The Colombians in Colombia have not disappointed either. Thus far, I have felt as much at home as is possible in two weeks. My first impressions of Bogotá are better than even I expected. In case you’re wondering about the weather, I would characterize it as very mild. Average temps are usually in the 50s (10-15° C), and in the afternoon it can get into the 70s (22-25° C) as a high. Also note that we are 2,600 m (7,800 ft) above sea level – or as Colombians say, “2,600 m closer to the stars.” I have to say, living more than a mile high is rough on the old endurance.

My new city has a distinctly Latin American feel to it, enhanced by the extended-size vans (busetas) that line the streets and serve as public transport. In most of them the ceiling is too low for me to stand up straight. ☺ There are vendors on every corner underneath rainbow umbrellas ready to offer you myriad sweet and salty foods, cold drinks, gum, knick-knacks, souvenirs, scarves, mobile phones for rent by the minute, screwdrivers, sunglasses, pirated DVDs, calculators, the list goes on and on. Once I walked by one who was selling English lessons. As I passed I suddenly heard a voice clearly enunciating “Jan-u-a-ry, Feb-ru-a-ry, March, Ap-ril…” Confused as to why someone was listing the months of the year in very clear English in the middle of Bogotá, I looked down and realized a vendor was advertising his wares on a boombox.

My first day here, I noticed right away the characteristic livestock on the city streets alongside all the motorized traffic – a donkey hauling a cart and a llama posing for pictures with astounded tourists. Only 500 pesos to take your memory home with you.

While those are all pretty typical of Latin American cities, Bogotá has surprised me more than once since I arrived. For example, the zona rosa and Parque 93, which are main drags for nightlife here, resemble some very nice cities in their safe, pedestrian-friendly atmosphere with ample, smooth sidewalks and well-kept, modern restaurants and clubs. There are several malls around the city which, from what I can tell, fill up all day long.

Another pleasant surprise is the amount of green spaces they’ve left in the city. We have some very large parks, and near my house it’s common to come across small parks that cover just a block or so as you walk around. The greenery is really a life-saver because the buses do pollute the air a lot on the main roads (we´re not in Switzerland anymore, Toto).

Bogotá takes some tricks from the European playbook, too. It has kilometers and kilometers of ciclovía where bikers enjoy marked paths alongside the sidewalk. My biker friend assured me that you can reach all major points of the city on bike, something which I’ve never seen replicated in any Latin American city (not even Buenos Aires, which is more European than any). I can’t fail to mention the Transmilenio, Bogotá’s exemplary mass transit bus system which looks just like the articulated buses all over Europe and gets people where they need to go with air conditioning. It’s complete with commuter buses that shuttle people from the suburbs to the Transmilenio and back.

I should add a bit about my neighborhood, Chicó, which is in the north of the city. I feel very lucky to live here where things are calm, clean, and peaceful relative to the rest of the city. This is the business sector, so there are lots of office buildings which have security guards on duty 24 hours, which means it’s well-lit and there are people around when I come home at night. My apartment building has doormen who have to let everyone in round the clock, including residents, which is an added security feature. I live next door to the World Trade Center (don’t get too excited – it’s about 100 stories shorter than the Towers were), and my office is across the street so I have no commute.

Overall, Colombia has been a strikingly normal transition for me. Not to worry, though: this gringa* will definitely be keeping her eyes open for all the oh-so-notorious iniquities that are supposed to be happening here. So far, the biggest fault I can find is that Colombia is an orthographic disaster of a country.

*Colombians and other Latin Americans refer to me as gringa, meaning a white foreigner.

Friday, June 5, 2009

More on Morocco :D

5/27/09 Wednesday 8:30 PM

My students are so cool! Idk how to explain. OK so today at animation or whatever, things started out kind of slow because it was so hot (I really should’ve worn a skirt or something – was pretty hot in jeans), but then they picked up as more people came in. And then today only 3 or 4 students were around for the entire hour and a half, but it was totally chill. I can see how the other students would get bored though while I’m waiting for a student to write something they already know out on the board. Idk I think I should come up with a better way of keeping everyone challenged. I’ll have to work on that. But I mean, I can see why the class gets rowdy now. Anyways so before class, we totally had a dance party-type thing. They like tried to teach me how to drum (was basically fail) and a dance style called “tectonic” I think. So funs! And then the lesson went well, if kind of slowly. I realized I do need to repeat what I say much, much more often – it took quite a few tries even for Mostapha, who usually basically already knows what I’m teaching, to totally get what I was aiming for with the lesson, and I know a lot of the other students were way more confused/not really following. So basically need to have a bunch of different ways of getting at the same basic aim, since there’s so many people at really different levels of comprehension at this point. Kind of difficult, but a good challenge. OK but anyways the lesson basically ended with us playing a game similar to Hodgie-Podgie. Basically, I tailored one of the animation songs towards learning the names of various food items. It was so fun! I was smiling the whole time. I think my face muscles actually started to ache a little cuz I was smiling so much XD Lol and then when the lesson ended, Rachid had gone to watch a soccer game with Simou, so Mostapha and co. basically walked me home, which was really fun as well. Mostpha was like, I steal you water bottle! And I was like, nuh-uh. And then lol when we walked by the marketplace, Khalid was like, potato! Cucumber! And I was like, btata! Khiar (sounds like “rhialr”)! And the grocer-dude selling the vegetables was like, OK wow … What else? Idk they were just screwing around you know? Like whenever we went by a building with an overhang, they would try to jump and touch it, you know like what dudes do when they’re in middle school or something. It was fun. Even though my jumping was fail. So yeah. Basically I’s happy. Maybe later on I’ll get to be better friends with them and then we can hang out. That would be so tight. Herm that would probably require me to be able to speak Arabic though … dammit.

Also, as for miscellaneous updates:
1. Dad finally wired me moneys so I don’t have to worry about that anymore. Yays.
2. Other than that, not much to report. Can’t go out by myself, which is frustrating because it makes me even more dependent on everyone around me, which I don’t like because that usually means I can’t go anywhere. Then again, I guess it’s for my safety, and hopefully things will get better once I get to know more people and once some other intern peoples come next week.

6/1/09 Monday 8:50 AM

I haven’t written in a while, so I figured I should. Oh wait jk – breakfast and shower first.

OK cool. So don’t really feel like writing, but the cyber café’s closed and I don’t want to make lesson plans quite yet … -_- Umm what have I been up to for the past few days? Let’s see Thursday and Friday were I think pretty uneventful. I might have gone somewhere, but I can’t remember where it was for the life of me. Oh wait jk. Thursday we went to Casablanca to pick up my passport, so it was a pretty busy day. Basically it was like, dang I need to make the lesson plan for today in like 1 hour. So obviously the lesson was a little bit fail, but whatever. Not as fail as it could have been. Basically I was really frazzled for the first 20 minutes trying to get everything to piece together, but after that things went pretty smoothly. And then when I got back, I made all the lesson plans/materials for Friday because we had an AIESEC meeting Friday morning. Yeah – I guess the past few days have been pretty busy. Cuz I mean, Wednesday, I was busy trying to make plans for Thursday and Friday, and then Thursday I was mainly in transit to/from Casa and then frantically trying to pull everything for the lesson and then teaching. Friday was pretty laid back, since I didn’t have too much to worry about. I just made the lesson plans for Friday and Saturday, since Saturday was pretty busy. The lesson on Friday went really well though, since I actually had time to sit down and think out all the activities and such. And then Saturday, I got up early to practice a presentation I had to give on US culture at the AIESEC meeting (went surprisingly well – I cracked quite a few jokes at the USA’s expense) and then went shopping with Kaddi for a party later that night, and then came back to Karia, ate lunch, went over lesson plans, took a shower and possibly a nap, and then taught. Got back from teaching, which went really well, and got ready for the party, ate, and then went over to Kaddi’s. Sunday was a good time too, I guess – we had the clown thing at 10 AM at AMOSE (I so wanted to sleep in though) and then after that, I went to the beach with Said and his friend. But then when we got back, we found out that Said’s mom had gotten sick. I think she had something like anemia – I think she was missing a lot of Magnesium and Vitamin B6 or something in her diet. Which I found kind of surprising, because everyone else seems pretty healthy, and it seems like everyone eats a pretty balanced diet here. I mean, we have fish, chicken, a lot of vegetables, rice/couscous, some kind of dairy, and a bunch of fruit every week. I mean, I probably eat better here than I do at home (and definitely better than I do at UMich). Maybe it’s because she doesn’t eat a lot? Idk.

Anyways so now that we have the summary –
Saturday. OMG so cool!! OK it was a really frustrating but also really happy day for me basically. Let’s see so I had been chafing for a while under this whole like you-can’t-go-anywhere-by-yourself deal. I guess it was because I had always assumed it would be a temporary thing, you know? As in as soon as I figured out how to ask for directions in Arabic and got to know the streets fairly well, I would be able to go wherever on my own and not have to inconvenience anyone (mainly Said, since he’s usually the only person around during the day that I can really communicate with). Not the case. I’m starting to figure out that I guess Karia is like not such a good neighborhood apparently (whenever people ask where I live and I say Karia, they’re like ohhh that must be really difficult)? I mean I guess that makes sense, since it definitely doesn’t seem as upscale or whatever as Rabat, but I mean everyone I’ve met seems nice. Then again, I guess I have been approached by random dudes who seem to kind of have the wrong idea/think it would be cool to pick up some foreign girl. Dang. I guess because you don’t really see too many foreigners around Karia. Rabat, yes. I mean, everyone there speaks really good French (as I discovered at the AIESEC meeting). Karia, if you don’t know Derija (local dialect of Arabic) you’re up the creek without a paddle. Anyways so due to the possibility of being kidnapped or something like that, I can’t spontaneously decide to go wherever the hell I want on my own. Which is really, really flipping frustrating because I love doing that.
So anyways the party in particular was very frustrating at first for a number of reasons. First of all, I thought I was going to go to the AIESEC meeting on my own, but Rachid was like Said’s coming with you, so I was like fine. I mean, it made sense – I didn’t really know where the meeting was, etc. So Said tagged along (also btw lately I’ve been having to pay for all his bus/taxi fares and such, which is getting kind of frustrating because it’s not like I asked him or even want him to come, so it’s like you could at least pay for your own transportation. Then again, most of the time he just comes because Rachid says he has to, and it’s not like he’s made of money. I mean, the reason why he’s around the house so much is because he can’t find work, so I guess it’s OK. Still frustrating cuz it’s kind of like a reminder that I can’t do anything by myself). The meeting was kind of awkward, but fun. Mainly awkward because everyone seemed to know each other, but I only knew Kaddi, who didn’t really like introduce me to people because I think she figured I already knew people, which was definitely not the case. So basically, I was kind of like hey … this is really awkward. But then the presentation went pretty well. Idk I kind of loosened up I guess. It was really cool! I mean, I made all these jokes and people were like LOL, and then OMG when I mentioned I was half-Japanese some dude was like, “konnichiwa” or whatever and we had like a 2 minute conversation in Japanese. I was so happy!! I love it when people talk to me in Japanese, especially when I least expect it. I feel so much more at home; it’s great. Anyways after that the presentation went downhill a little bit, partly because it was kind of thrown together, and partly because the content was a little bit difficult to explain anyways. I mean, I figured most people already knew quite a bit about superficial/popularized American culture, so I tried to talk more about things that are, quite frankly, a little less interesting. I mean, I might have been better off ridiculing American pop culture. Which definitely would not have been difficult to do. Then again, I really didn’t want them to think that that was all there was to the US, so it was a trade-off I guess. And then after the presentation, I got to talking with some of the AIESECers and they were like really nice. Idk I think I should email Maryem and just be like, can we hang out sometime? Cuz if I don’t plan something in advance, I know it won’t happen because with the whole it’s-dangerous deal I basically have to plan everything I do like a week in advance so Rachid knows it’s part of the plan and so I can arrange transportation. I guess I did kind of mess up a little with the party. OK so basically when Kaddi visited like a week ago, she was like, Mary we should have a party next weekend. And I was like, THANK YOU. So we started talking about plans and it was all good. Obviously I was like, of course I’ll come, and I figured I would tell Rachid at some point. The “some point” actually ended up being the day of. So obviously Rachid flipped out and was like, you can’t go. Which made me really, REALLY frustrated. I mean, basically the reason why I didn’t ask him in the first place was because I figured he would be like, no there’ll be transportation issues so you can’t go. Which was obviously the last think I wanted to hear. So I basically did what I did with my parents in high school sometimes – didn’t say anything until the last minute, when I could at least say “but I’ve been planning this with my friends for weeks and they’re all counting on me to be there”. Can’t disappoint the friends. So anyways Said felt bad for me because he knows how constrained I feel here sometimes, and how we had already bought all the stuff for the party, etc, so he was like fine I’ll go with you. This was both a good thing and a bad thing. It was good because I could go to the party, and at this point, the only way I could go to the party. It was bad because the whole flipping point of the party was that I would be able to be somewhere with a bunch of people, WITHOUT Said. The whole point (ok not the whole point, but a large part of it) was to just be away from Said. OK? That’s why I was so excited. I mean, do you know what it’s like to be around the same person ALL THE FLIPPING TIME?? And not being able to go anywhere without them?? You start to feel dependent, and you don’t like it because you know you are fully capable of going wherever the flip you want without this person, thank you very much. I feel like I’m caught in a patriarchal system or something.

Anyways so other than that whole mess, the party on Saturday was really, really great!!! I love it. It totally wasn’t a like, yay let’s get drunk party and dance all night (which would’ve been fun), mainly because we couldn’t really find alcohol, so all we had was soda and juice in terms of drinks. It was more like, hey man I brought my guitar, we got a little wine and some rum (some AIESEC pples brought a little something-something to liven things up about an hour in); let’s hang out. So basically I talked with all these people about Morocco or what it was like to live in another country. So cool! I talked to this guy named Kamal for a while about his experience in Poland, which was fairly interesting. I mean basically he was like, yea it was great because everything was really cheap and I partied every day. And I was like, cool, and that was about it. And then I talked to this other dude who went I think to Czech or something and was basically treated not-so-well, which sucked for him. The most interesting, though, was talking to this girl from Singapore. OMG did you know they have cosplay shops and maid cafes in Singapore?? I had no flipping idea. I mean, apparently it’s like a really big thing over there. I was like, so cool! And I told my mom about it, but she was just like whatever that’ because Japan conquered them a while ago. And I was like, oh. Kind of a bubble-popper, but whatever. Idk I just remember being really happy. Anyways and then the other really cool thing was when this dude who brought his guitar (he was the guy who spoke Japanese to me at the presentation; very cool although slightly otaku-ish) started playing I’m Yours by Jason Mraz. I was like ARE YOU SERIOUS. It made me so inordinately happy. And then this Danish girl was singing along, along with Kaddi, who’s from Germany … and like some Moroccan girls who were Kaddi’s coworkers … it just made me so happy to know we all knew the same song. Idk. I mean I guess that’s kind of cheesy, but it was really flipping cool. So basically we chilled out and sang for a few hours. I was sad when I had to leave, but definitely felt way better than I had all week. I was like, aww but I mean it was midnight, and I knew it would take about an hour to get back to Karia, and that I had to get up tomorrow morning for the kid thing at AMOSE. So we headed out. It was so nice though. I really, really want to do that again. Idk hopefully when this new intern comes (tomorrow – yay!! I hope we get along) we’ll be able to go places, which should effectively deal with the stuck-at-home-all-the-time situation.

Yesterday at the beach was really fun too, although in a slightly more toned-down way. I mean, basically we got there, and it was like a really nice day – not quite hot enough to make you want to go swimming, but who cares it was the ocean. I was kind of miffed cuz we went to this like more secluded beach that was more like a pool of water off the harbor, where everyone was swimming, but there weren’t any waves which obviously are the whole point of going to the beach. I mean, you can swim in a pool if you want. You go to the beach for the waves and for watching everyone around you make flipping idiots of themselves. So anyways I was like, I’m going to the other beach (which was just across the road), which was full of people and colors and waves. So anyways I was like yays, but I felt pretty awkward since I didn’t see any girls my age doing the same thing. I mean, it was all dudes or little kid girls who were in the waves. So I was like, oh no am I being like really indecent or something?? I don’t want to offend anyone… This was quickly followed by the thought, why did Said tell me to bring my swimsuit and say that it would be OK if I swam if he knew that most girls here DON’T run around beaches in bikinis. Seriously. Why didn’t you say something like, you might want to bring a pair of knee-length shorts and a T-shirt. I mean, that would have been fine with me; you should have just told me so I wouldn’t have to freeze on the way back because I had to go into the water in all the clothes I brought with me. So basically I went back to the other beach to ask Said if I was being indecent – I mean, I only waded up to my waist, if that, and I was wearing a pair of (short) shorts pulled down as far as they would go, with a tank top and a quarter-sleeve cardigan over it, so I figured I wasn’t being too indecent – except for the whole showing-leg deal. So I walked back, feeling really out-of-place and unsure of myself. Got to the other beach, still really frustrated with Said, who was like yeah I guess on this beach there are girls who swim wearing long pants. And I was like, WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME. But then I was like, I’m swimming anyways, so I took of my cardigan and swam for a while. Felt so good. I love the water.

6/5/09 Friday 12 AM

Monday – uhh don’t really remember what I did. Pretty sure it was something along the lines of just hang out for the day. I feel like I remember feeling really bored and not sleeping so well the night before, and then wanting to go for a walk after lunch and Said telling me it was a bad idea. I did end up taking a little stroll anyways, but all his talk about people getting knifed and such kind of took out the whole point of the walk (relax, watch what people are doing, etc). Still, it was a small and vaguely satisfying rebellion.

Wednesday – Maria (from Iceland) came! Yays, although I was also a little pissed because I asked Rachid the day before whether any new interns would be coming this week/in the next few days, and he said there wouldn’t. I mean so obviously I was really happy when I saw Maria, but I was kind of pissed cuz it was like, wow I just spent the whole morning basically really bored when I could have gone with you to meet Maria at the train station. Thanks Rachid for not bothering to tell me about a fairly big event and keeping me shut in at home, again. Really appreciate it. Anyways so … yeah. Basically, I’m still pretty pissed at Rachid in general. I mean, you can only blame so much miscommunication on lacking the grasp of a language. After that, it’s just kind of like you’re not really trying. I mean, seriously, it's not that difficult to tell someone who’s living IN THE SAME HOUSE AS YOU what you’re going to do tomorrow. Or what the big events are in the upcoming week. I mean, really? Does he really think this system is working out, because it’s really not. Idk. At the same time, I don’t really want to talk directly to Rachid about how I feel about the situation, partially because I hate direct confrontations, and partially because I feel like it would just end up getting lost in translation anyways. Whatever. It’s just that if he’s planning on staying in this line of work, he really at least needs to work on communicating with other people, if not trying to improve his command of at least basic French. I mean, really, it’s not that difficult to learn the “tu” conjugation of “aller”, you know? I mean, I still remember being really confused the first few days because Rachid was like, “il va [insert wherever]” and I would be like, what? Because he meant “je vais”, or occasionally “tu vas”, and then he would laugh when I didn’t get what he was saying, like it was due to my lack of comprehension abilities or something and not because of his flipping grammar. Anyways. Idk whatever.
Anyways so Maria came, I taught, and we made plans to go to Rabat the next day (I didn’t have to teach because there was an AIESEC meeting at 5 PM to welcome Maria).

Thursday – today, basically. It was really fun! Started out not-so-well (I woke up feeling fairly apathetic and nauseous. Tried to call off going to Rabat, but Maria didn’t get my text and I felt a lot better after I threw up, so I went anyways). I feel so much more confident in my abilities now than I did before! I mean, I know the way to the bus stop, how to ask where stuff is, how to buy stuff … you know? It was just so cool! I mean, basically we got to Rabat without any mishaps, and then wandered around and had a good time. And I mean we never got into any seriously dangerous situations, you know? Or like there were never any serious hiccups with how things went. It was just me and Maria chilling and wandering around Rabat for a few hours. And then we found our way to Agdal (where the AIESEC meeting was) totally fine as well, so yeah. I mean, basically, all Said and Rachid’s talk about how we were going to get lost and get our stuff stolen just sounded like paranoid talk.
And then the AIESEC meeting was a good time as well. A little awkward, just because there weren’t too many people there, I was feeling tired/sick/awkward, and we were talking in English (since Maria doesn’t really speak French), which kind of limited how much most people could contribute in the conversation. Basically it just ended up being like Kaddi and Maria bonding over their German/Dutch/Scandinavian-ness or whatever. And over their shared business administration lingo. As in they talked about business stuff for a while, and then were like comparing how educational systems worked in each of their countries, and then were like, oo I like this kind of alcohol how about you. Basically wasn’t a whole lot of space for other people to jump into the conversation, and I wasn’t feeling so up to it anyways, so … yeah. But then when we got back to Karia, I was so happy! It felt like home-y, you know what I mean? Got off the bus, and I was like, oo I hope we got off at the right stop, but then the street started to look familiar, and then before you knew it, we were surrounded by a group of dudes from the association, and everyone was laughing and saying “Mary! How are you!” and just joking around. You know what I mean? It’s good to come back to something familiar like that. Basically, we ended up hanging out at the corner just joking around – Ishem did some magic tricks, and I was kidding around with Mostapha, and Abdladim was making weird faces and Khalid was joking around like always, and Abderazich and Abdnul were like trying to talk to me in English about something or other, and everyone was smiling and laughing and shouting random words in English or Derija (in my case) … And I mean, we were joking around about how Mostapha was married because he had a ring on his hand (which he ended up giving to me – so it could go to America, I guess :P), and then we were having a counting competition or something between my Arabic and their English, and Khalid was joking around by trying to count really fast and basically just slurring a bunch of sounds together, and then Maria decided to teach us some Icelandic words … And then I went to buy some water, and the dude at the shop got all smile-y when I was like, “bshHaal”? which means like “how much is this?” and like tried to tell me the price in a mix of Arabic and French. And then when I came back to the corner on my way to the cyber café, all the dudes were hanging out, and were like, Mary! Come here! So I was like, okeeday, and then they were like, we get you sandwich + drink, and I was like, wha? And they were like, do you want this? (pointing at something behind a fish tank with some goldfish), and I was like, lHooj (pronounced more like l’houtch, kind of, which means fish), and they were like, lol. But anyways yeah it was good. Idk quite how to explain it. It’s just like I love how they laugh at the simplest things, you know? It’s like, you don’t have to perform for them to get them to laugh; they just give their laughter and smiles abundantly, you know? They’re just so sincere and easygoing, I love it. I wish there were more people like that in the world, who just take people in and make them feel at home by making them sing and dance and then laughing with them about it later. Idk. That’s always what makes me happiest though, when I’m here.

Anyways, well so much for just writing a few comments/notes on the past few days to expand on later (although some things could definitely do with more detail – feeling a little bit too tired to string together that many sentences in a way that actually makes sense though. Obviously evidenced by my already kind of run-away sentences). Anywho so that was basically the past few days. Oh yeah I forgot – so I bought some cute cheap stuff today, which always makes me happy. I love cheap stuff. Bought 2 pairs of cute earrings for like 2 dh each, which is like idk 25 cents? And then I bought those cute sock-things they have for 5 dh, so maybe like 50 cents. Yays! I was going to buy some DVDs as well for 5 dh each, but I didn’t for some bizarre reason. Idk. Maybe it was because I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted and didn’t want to accidentally buy a film I didn’t want? Idk. Should’ve bought something though – I mean, slumdog millionaire was there! And some other film that I had wanted to watch. Idk. And there were some French films too, but I think they were a little pricy, so we decided not to buy them. Oh yeah and I wanted to buy a sundress (they had some for 80 dh = about 10 bucks), but I wasn’t sure if I would have had enough money for the transportation to/from Agdal if I had bought one, so I guess that will have to be another day … Also, I need dad to wire me more money I think – 150 was definitely not enough, since I had to pay back people and recharge my phone and go to Casa afterwards. Paying for Said’s transportation and all was also kind of unexpected. Anyways. So did some shopping, saw some places, met some people, then came back to what has now become familiar. All in all, a very good day, despite occasional stomach pains/nausea. And now, for some sleep so I can prepare lesson plans tomorrow, buy a USB drive, and hopefully practice some French/Arabic.

Good night and love to alls.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

morocco continued

5/17/09 Sunday 6:37 PM

Main things that happened today –

rode a scooter/motorcycle for the first time (lol) – funs J

animation with little kids – good time as usual

met up with AIESEC peoples – at times awkward, but basically good

also took a bunch of pictures :P I think this might’ve made Rachid a little nervous.

Ok so yeah I guess not too much to report today … Lol I rode a scooter for the first time today. It was not as scary as I thought it would be, except for the parts where I thought Simou was going to run into a wall, or when he started weaving through the streets a little (this was just to scare me). Other than that, it was really fun! It’s a nice feeling, since you’re going relatively fast, but without being stuck in a car, so it’s like your walking … idk like when you’re in the airport and they have those track things that make you go faster? Like I was riding one of those, but in the middle of the street.

And then there was animation with the kids, which was fun. Danced a little, sang a little. It was a good time. Maybe not quite as new as the first time, obviously, but still good.

Then came back, played cards with Leah and Said, took a shower … basically just kind of hung out, since I didn’t feel like working or studying. Uploaded some pics, accidentally screwed up Said’s flash drive (still haven’t mentioned that to him … >_>).

And then it was the welcome party in Rabat with AIESECers, which was idk pleasant? Finally met Kaddi, the girl from Germany’s who’s been emailing me and such, trying to meet up for some reason. Lol I’m like the youngest person, other than this one girl who’s name I don’t know -_- It seems like a lot of the people here are all business/finance-type people. They get like all glassy-eyed when I’m like, I study anthro/sociology (most people don’t know what anthropology is, so I figured I’d go with sociology, since it’s kind of less awkward to be like, I study society, than to be like, I study other cultures [which would imply that I came here to like study the people here you know? Which is like weird]). Anyways so I felt slightly more out-of-place than I did singing and dancing with the kids, even though everyone spoke English and acted all Westernized or whatever. Idk. Some things are universally awkward, or universally not, I guess.

But meeting with the AIESEC people has made me think that maybe I should make more use of this opportunity, if that makes sense. I guess I have been kind of just lazing around the house for most of the day, now that I come to think of it. I mean, I could be studying Arabic, or French, or even English I guess … or talking to people. Or wandering around town/figuring out where exactly I live in relation to everywhere else. Or practicing my Arabic writing (which is currently at level 0). I should definitely be more active. I mean, I could even be dancing or stretching or something if I didn’t feel like writing or reading. Or learning how to cook Moroccan food. I mean, it would be a total shame if I came back and people were like, what did you do all day? And I said, uhh … slept, ate, taught a little … yeah. You know? It’s like, well then why did you go to Morocco? You can sleep anywhere. So yeah. That’s basically it for now. Will hopefully upload pictures soon – as in as soon as I get enough money to buy a flash drive so I can transfer the images to it so I can upload them. Which should be soon. But for now, I guess the important thing is getting into a solid rhythm, being more active, and going through life with eyes wide open instead of closed shut and snoring.

5/18/09 Monday 1 PM ish

Main things to write about –

Leah left (sad face, but makes sense given her experiences here) – she wanted to have more work to do, and I think in general Morocco hasn’t agreed with her so well. Definitely the people here can be a little sketch sometimes (mainly referring to Dounia and Rachid). I mean, I have yet to meet Dounia, as does Leah, and even before I came to Morocco she was acting pretty sketch. Also, Dounia said to both of us that she would meet us (at the airport for Leah, at the train station for me), which didn’t happen. And even though I asked a lot of basic questions, like “where will I be staying”, or “who’s going to meet me at the station”, etc I would only get kind of vague answers. And apparently now she’s out-of-town for some reason. Maybe it’s a family thing, idk.

OMG visited an NGO type place – Association pour le Developpement Social (ADS). So flipping cool! I WANT TO WORK THERE. Or somewhere similar. I need to get fluent in French so I can come back and work someplace legit like that, and learn about how to apply knowledge to wider groups of people, instead of just teaching like one class of kids, if that makes sense.

Also, I feel more alive here than I have anywhere else. Maybe except for the first few weeks at Michigan. I feel like I can learn so much! I can learn French, Arabic (classic or the dialect here), and then there’s all these little shops where I could just learn how to do shit by watching. Like there’s people making furniture in the street, and people welding shit, and bike mechanics, and people cooking … I wish I could just go out and be like, hey, can I watch you work? Of course, not quite sure how to say that, and pretty sure that wouldn’t be exactly the best idea in the world. But the people here are so nice, I don’t know if they would mind that much. I mean people like it when you take an interest in their work, so yeah.

No moneys … well done Mary. This is mainly frustrating because it limits my experiences so much. I can’t live/start making a life here without money. I mean, I see things I want to try or there’s things I want to do, but I can’t because I don’t have any moneys. Lame. Need to fix this problem ASAP.

Starting to catch cold -_-

Last night – translation session with Leah, Said (Me talk pretty one day); talking about people/sleep, etc

OK this was really cool. So Leah and me and Said were hanging out, doing work or reading, and I was like, oh I have English books with me. So I gave Leah “Me Talk Pretty One Day” to read, and she was like lol hilarious. So I was like, oo Said you should read this too. Basically this ended up being a translation session, because Said didn’t really get what was going on in the story, which makes sense because I don’t think he’s ever formally studied English. Anyways so I tried to translate into French while reading, but my vocabulary is way too limited, so Leah ended up basically reading the story to me and Said in French. So cool!! It’s so amazing how the humor of a story can translate across places (languages + cultures). Or I guess how some things are just universally funny (this was the “me talk pretty one day” story, which is basically lol-ing at how people sound when they first learn a language – obviously something we could all relate to). It was so cool though! I wish Leah could’ve stayed longer, if only so that I could improve my French this way (and she and Said could improve their English as well, I guess).

Oh yeah and then we also ended up getting sidetracked sometimes on certain phrases, or like idioms. At some point, we ended up talking about sleep, I think because we were all pretty tired. It was so cool! Oh and lol we talked about swearing, which I thought was hilarious, but I think Leah and Said took it more seriously so I tried to keep from smiling -_- I guess they’re both pretty conservative/they don’t really see excessive swearing as something amusing (I tried showing Leah the “You can’t kill the rooster” story, which basically consists of varying combinations of fuck, bitch, and mfer. She was like, ohhh, and I was like oh yeah … right … most people don’t swear every other word). So that was an interesting kind of cultural exchange, I guess. I guess in Quebec, at least, there’s a lot of religious peoples/Christians, so all their swear words are like variations of various holy things (instead of saying Christ, they say Chrise, etc. Apparently the worst swear word references the tabernacle, which is kind of interesting). Anyways, and then in Morocco, people call people who swear a lot “streetchildren” basically. So obviously it’s pretty much frowned upon. I was kind of surprised, though, that they didn’t associate any kind of humor with swearing. Like they both took it really seriously, even though Leah is I think an atheist, and Said doesn’t seem too religious … Maybe it’s just in the US where it’s considered funny/comical when someone swears excessively? I mean, I guess it gets kind of annoying if you’re around it a lot, but it’s not like oo your soul is tainted/there’s something wrong with you. Then again, if someone was swearing and they actually meant it, I guess that’s a different story.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Morocco continued

5/7/2009 1:30 PM Rabat time

On the flight from Paris to Casablanca. Definitely thought it would only be an hour, and it was not. Lame. There’s some pretty cool sights to see from way up here – I love watching the patchwork pieces of earth change color as we fly from one region to another. They were all green/yellow in France, but now, most are red or a dark green. Also the layout of the cities have changed I think – I forgot how in France, everything’s arranged like a hub or the spokes of a wheel or something, instead of like a grid :P
Anyways, pretty nervous about getting to Rabat, seeing as a) I don’t know exactly where I’m going (thanks Dounia), b) I have a bunch of (heavy) stuff, c) apparently harassment is pretty common for foreign women, so I get to try and fend off random crazies while also figuring out where I’m going and keeping people from pick pocketing my shit. Great. Basically, it’ll be a miracle if I don’t end up lost. Or broke. Heck, why not both.
On the bright side, things looking pretty beautiful.
Oh yeah and I forgot – laptop battery at like 30%. If I don’t find a working outlet soon, I am so screwed. Also, wearing dark jeans. Apparently it’s 31 degrees C. Not sure what that means, but pretty sure it translates into something like flipping hot, especially if your dressed “modestly” (covered wrist to ankle). Although apparently the more modestly dressed the less harassment – so it should be an interesting trade-off. So anyways basically feeling pretty edgy. If this turns out to be a scam-thing, I will be so pissed. SO pissed.

5/7/2009 4 PM ish Rabat time

On the train/still in the train station. My hands/left hand feeling a little shaky (as in shaking when signing receipts and such), either from after-effects of adrenaline, or because of fatigue from carrying flipping heavy suitcase. People seem nice (so far). You get a few weird smiles, but nothing much else. Sitting by dignified-looking old dude. Seemed safest, since the few women decided it would be cool to put their bags on the seats next to them, and I wasn’t sure if the younger dudes would get the wrong idea if I sat next to them. Hopefully I haven’t offended anyone … Also, weird chanting teenage dudes in another car of the train. Not sure what the chanting/singing is about …
It’s weird to think I might represent everything that’s wrong with Western society, or like the anti-respectable woman to so many people here. I mean take righteous-looking old dude. Like my very presence could horrendously offend him just cuz of how I dress. Weirdness.
[pause to have ticket punched, talk to middle-aged lady]
Oo nice lady on train – so like ticket dude came by, punched my ticket, and then said something in French and I was like, what. So this lady in front of me turns around and is like, you can get off with us (with husband) and then we’ll show you which train you need to get on for Rabat-Ville. Yay. [reflection 5/9/09 – probably would have been totally screwed if not for that lady and other really nice/helpful people I met along the way. Kind of feel bad from judging everyone based on paragraph from flipping tourist guidebook. Then again, first time coming to foreign country and obviously really really scary until I met someone I knew-ish.]
View also very pretty. All these like square/cute buildings + prairie type stuff. And sheep/cows. Similar to Oregon, but less green, kind of. Also, have palm trees and cool buildings. And eucalyptus trees, I think.

5/7/2009 8:45 PM

At Rachid’s house [boss] – OMG getting here took so long. Took the first train, then got off at A~~ S~~~ something, and then got on the train to take me to Rabat-Ville. The lady told me it would be like the 2nd stop, but I think it was more like the 4th or 5th. Swear it’s a miracle I’m here. Also, tried to call Dounia in train station (fail) – so I almost ended up getting stuck with some random dude who started talking to me -_- Thankfully, Maryem and Rachid were at the station
[when I checked my email in the airport before getting on the first train – at a random bank booth in the airport, interestingly enough – Dounia said she would meet me at the station in Rabat-Ville. Not true. Then again, I was probably really late cuz it took so long to figure out where I was. Hence, tried to call her, but since it failed, I was like OK. In general, calling phones here seems like fail. Tried calling Rachid today (5/9) and it was fail. More on that later. As for story about checking email in airport bank booth, so like I went to exchange some money, and then I asked the dude if there was any wifi or internet connection, and he was like you can borrow my computer really quickly. So I was like OK. That’s why my Casablanca email was so short. Also, was first time using French keyboard so difficult to type, and was still nervous so hands were a little shaky.]
I was like walking around, thinking oh shit where the fuck is Dounia/shit how do I shake this dude [kind of a creeper, but could have been just worried about my safety while also hoping to get foreign girlfriend, since I kind of mentioned that my parents were in the US and it was my first time in Morocco. I really needed to come up with a good story, but I was so frazzled I just kept telling the truth when he asked me questions -_- Anyways, at the time I was pretty sure he was being a creeper, but then again the people here are so nice that it’s quite possible that he was genuinely worried about my safety (although not without hopes for some kind of gain, I’m sure). Hard to say.] when Maryem walked up and was like, AIESEC? O.M.F.G. I was so relieved. I was like, thank you God. Also shook off creeper at that point. Anyways so I was really gross and kind of tired, which made it vaguely awkward when meeting people cuz they do the whole European kiss-cheek deal. Not across sexes, of course, unless it’s like family or a little kid. Anyways, then we walked for a bit and I asked questions about work – apparently it’s Saturday today (???) [this turned out to be a complete lie/misunderstanding – was, in fact, Thursday, as I later discovered] and I don’t work tomorrow [pretty much true, although I did have an impromptu “teach us English” situation where I was like, wtf Rachid you did not tell me about this]. Still note entirely sure of what my hours are, but apparently I didn’t need to make any lesson plans. YAY. Also, I think I have 2 classes? About 15 students, but the bad thing is, they’ll probably be either my age or older. -_-
Also, I think I’m doing a lot of volunteer-type work, helping with kids (l’animation) [this turned out to be more like singing random Arabic songs/doing a shit-ton of icebreakers, but in Arabic or, if I was lucky, French; and learning some random Brazilian dance for reason that remains to be explained. Also, was with teenagers to 20-year-olds, not elementary school kids].
I thought more people spoke French than they do. I guess I’ll have to pick up some Arabic or something … >_> [so far this is fail. Need to find one of those listen-and-repeat programs. Rachid’s brother gave me a phrasebook, but so far is not too helpful].
Anyways, so we walked to a “grand taxi” loading area [grand taxis are a common type of transport – 6 people to a taxi, costs about 4dh, they take you from one city to another, kind of like a bus. So ex: we took a grand taxi from Rabat to Sale. Doesn’t stop anywhere along the way. Also, not seatbelts to speak of and lots of people wandering around in street.] and got in one. And then it was a drive across the estuary to I think Sale [yup] and then more walking until I got to Rachid’s house.
Sale is surprisingly similar to Japan – but like Japan in the 50s-ish or something. The streets look kind of like a less high-tech Harajuku. They hang up their laundry too! [apparently a Japanese student came once to Rachid’s to work at AMOSE in the past, and she apparently was constantly like, OMG Japan!] And the house is probably the size of a Japanese one. Maybe smaller, with more people – although some of our family in Japan I think have lived in a place just as small with as many people. Also, Japanese-ish style bath. You like wash first and then douse yourself in water. They even use the same kind of stool-thing to sit on! I guess the main difference is in Japan, you would then climb into a deep tub for a while [water goes up to your neck if you’re sitting] and soak. Not so much here. Still, I definitely feel refreshed.

5/8/2009 Friday 3 PM-ish

Apparently it’s siesta time now/started at 2 PM. Cool beans. So far I’ve spent the time making flashcards for tomorrow’s class [as it turns out, not teaching until Monday – again misunderstanding due to communication gap. More on that later]. I think it’ll be good. We’ll see … Also OMG almost forgot – so on the TN description it said they would help me carry out a “project” (ambiguous), which I thought was like optional – i.e. if I had some kind of activity I wanted to do, they would help me out, but if I didn't it was NBD. Was definitely not optional. So like Rachid takes me over to “Association” [the school I’ll work at] to meet people and I met some like director-dude and he was like, what’s your project, and I was like, WTF [not literally, although I did say something like uhhh what]? Awkward silence.
But I came up with one like 10 min after so it was OK. That totally freaked me out though. I was like oh shit I need to come up with a plan to like help people deal with social justice issues or something. Like start a food drive or educate people on nutrition or something, neither of which I know how to do/anything about. But then Rachid explained it was more like special classes on some kind of special skill I had. Like teaching tech stuff, etc. So I was like, OK what do I know how to do ended up deciding to teach dance (ballet, maybe hip-hop … depends on how modest the girls are/what’s allowed). So I think that’s what I’ll do. Yay I get to teach people ballet! Also might teach origami to some little kids at the center [this was when I was still under the impression that l’animation = playing games with little kids]. Yays.
I was thinking today about what I like about Morocco, and I think one thing is idk it’s really home-y? Cuz there are people everywhere doing all these different things. So cool! And they have all these like windy streets that have random dead ends, and you’re like WTF? Feels like you’re going in circles, so you keep thinking can’t we just cut through here? It takes like 15 minutes to get somewhere that’s not even that far away just because there are no direct routes unless you’re on a big street. Feels like you’re in a maze. But then it’s so colorful! Swear to God so similar to like 50s Japan. There are like all these apartment buildings about 3 -4 stories high, made of like idk? Stucco? And laundry hanging from windows and grate-things with some plants on balconies. And then at ground level, the streets are just lined/filled with little shops. So like the whole place is just a bunch of little alleyways filled with people doing random shit. And there’s all these like cyber cafes with internet, and telephone booth shops~ (literally just 3 or 4 booths inside a room, with a desk where you can buy telephone cards), and shops stacked with hella colorful thread and ribbon, and people making furniture, and people saudering shit, making thread I think (they have these strings that stretch basically down a whole street, with two people spinning them really fast to make them into thread I think), people putting thread on spools using this like spinning machine thing, people on motorbikes and bicycles, or in horse-drawn cart-things … places selling food – OMG bakery?? Filled with bread. So cool. Oh yeah! I remember being really surprised cuz they had all these shops selling little-kid toys – they were filled with these colorful plastic tricycles! I have no idea why. Also, never seen any kids riding them … -_-
Idk so I guess all the shops make you feel more at home. Oh yeah! And open-air market-type shops – selling food (fruits, legumes/veggies, grain, meat [think I saw a dude kill a chicken or something today … not sure])
And then it also feels like home cuz you go to sleep hearing other people talking around you (or snoring, if you’re the last to fall asleep), or listening to music in the other room, or someone doing homework, or something. And then you wake up to the same. Definitely beats being too separated.

5/8/2009 6 PM-ish

When to “l’animation” for first time. Basically sang songs/did icebreakers for a few hours. Fun though Also tiring. Also have bruise on shin from one of the games (I slipped into leg of chair when running).

5/9/2009 Saturday 12:30 PM

OK so finished typing up what I’ve written so far. Anyways, so continuation of animation story. Basically, everyone was like 15 – 21 years old, mainly 18. We started out by singing for a few hours, all in Arabic, so I was like uhhh …. OK. We did have a few songs that where I kind of knew what was going on though because they were like icebreaker songs. It seems like the louder you sing, the better, which is obviously difficult for me especially when don’t know the words. There was one song where it was like la-la-la and then there’s a person in the middle who points to someone and they have to sing “ Je suis ______. J’habite a ________” by themselves. So awkward. And then k the game where I hit my shin? It went like this: So there’s one person in the middle with an empty plastic bottle or something (person A), and they hit someone sitting down with it (person B). Then B runs after A, who has to put the bottle down on a chair and then they try to sit down in the other person’s seat before B grabs the bottle and hits them with it. It was pretty dusty in the classroom, and I was wearing flip-flops, so I kind of slid a lot. Which was OK, but then I took off my flip-flops so I could run better, and I was chasing after someone and I guess it was dusty enough that you could slide with just bare feet. So I like almost hit the dude and then totally hit a chair with my shin. OMG I was such a hit (quite literally). And then there was another icebreaker where you have to get up and dance for like 10 seconds or something. That was pretty fun too – some dudes in the room banged on chairs for a beat. So anyways singing was good. And then we took a break, ate some food (they eat a lot of small meals here, which is totally perfect for me. You never quite get completely full, but you never get horrendously hungry either), and then it was back to the classroom. This was when Rachid decided to be like, so Mary, teach us some English. And I was like, wtf?? You did not inform me of this beforehand. So I had like 10 kids staring at me across a table and was like, uhhh … OK. So I had everyone introduce themselves to kind of stall/also so I could try to remember their names. I noticed they had trouble with numbers, so we tried practicing those. It was kind of fail though since we didn’t have any pens or paper. So I was like, do you guys know any number games? And they were like, no. So I was like, screw numbers. We’re playing an icebreaker. So we played an icebreaker where you have a circle of chairs and one person standing in the middle. They say their name and something about themselves, and then everyone who also has that in common gets up and switches seats with someone else in the circle. It went pretty good. We ended up transitioning from “I like sports” or “I like listening to music” to “I’m wearing a white shirt” to “I like [insert color]”, which didn’t make as much sense, but I was like, whatever. I think they liked it/thought it was fun. It helps with clothes cuz you can point to what you’re wearing. The only thing is sometimes, people wouldn’t stand up or switch with people because they either didn’t get what was going on or didn’t want to risk being in the middle. They were better about it as they loosened up though. It was good.

Anyways, so we did that, and then we learned a group dance, which was confusing because Rachid (who was teaching) gave directions in Arabic. It was all right cuz it was fairly easy to get the rhythm and the dance itself was pretty simple. I just got confused on which foot went where sometimes. Also, Rachid got like really incensed for some reason when we messed up. Not really sure why, but he seemed kind of frustrated. I was like dude, it’s a dance. Chillax.

Oh yeah and the way back to Rachid’s was fun – I talked to some of the students, and they were like really interested and stuff. One girl [Ilam I think?? So bad with names …] was really nice and kept asking me all these questions and even linked arms with me! I was like, yay. And then there’s this one really smart kid [Ibrahim I think?] who speaks really good English. Idk if he’s in my class, maybe I can find some kind of more challenging activity for him … we’ll see :P
It was cool though cuz they kept being like, Welcome to Morocco! Or like, are the people in the US nice? And I was like not if you go to NYC. Or are you really from the US (or something like that). I seriously need to improve my French though (slash learn Arabic). Maybe I’ll watch French TV or something … we’ll see.

K and then for today, so like I woke up at 5:30 AM after going to sleep at 12:30 AM-ish (didn’t fall asleep until later though) because Rachid said I had class at 6. I took this to mean 6 AM, since I had been like, what time do we need to wake up (basically if I go out of the house, it’s with Rachid since I have no idea where the hell I am most of the time), and he said 6. Apparently, he thought I was asking what time he was going to wake up, not what time I needed to wake up. So I got up at 5:30 to take a shower (Rachid’s mom/aunt … not sure which … I think found this amusing [I totally adore her; she’s so cool], especially when he explained to them later why I had been up so early). And then when I was changed, Rachid had woken up and was like, why are you awake? And I was like, don’t we have l’animation at 6 AM? And he was like, no, we have class at 9. So I was like, oh OK and went back to sleep. Woke up at idk 10:30 AM or something and was like, oh shit I’m so screwed. Basically thought I was supposed to have been at animation by 9 AM, but then again no one had woken me up, and Rachid couldn’t possibly have expected me to know how the hell to get to the flipping school, so I was like uhhh …. Also, tried calling Rachid, which was also fail. My phone is just made of fail so far. Seriously. So I was about to leave with all my shit to try and find my way to the school, when it turned out Rachid was back, and he was like, where do you want to go? And I was like, don’t we have l’animation? And he was like, no that’s at 6 PM. So I was like OHHHH. I think I have something at 4 PM too … idk not sure. But basically I think today is just more of the l’animation stuff. Which was totes not what was said yesterday. Anyways and then tomorrow is seeing Morocco kind of day (beach, Rabat, I think a concert of some sort, where I will apparently have to sing??? FUCK.) And then I star teaching teaching on Monday. Apparently.

Anyways that’s about it so far ….
There was a pretty animated conversation at the dinner table yesterday. Rachid’s dad/uncle was apparently really passionate about something and maybe vaguely angry? Idk. He seemed to be mainly talking to Rachid’s brother’s wife, but not sure. I think she’s pretty shy, cuz she doesn’t talk a lot to anyone really. Oh yeah so people who are at Rachid’s family’s house (don’t really know any names -_-):
Two of Rachid’s brothers I think – S-something and some other dude (S-something speaks really good French and is apparently trying to learn as many languages as he can: English, Italian, Spanish I think. Also does random geography quizzes to gain knowledge about the rest of the world and basically is just all about learning. Cool dude. Lent me an Arabic phrase book (made by the peace corps lol) to help me learn Arabic. I should probably study, but not sure how pronunciation works … (This is for Moroccan dialect of Arabic, btw, which I think mixes French with classic Arabic).
Wife of Rachid’s brother (married to “other dude”).
Two old-ish people (maybe like 40, 50 – Rachid and brothers in 20s I think), who I thought were Rachid’s parents, but apparently not because I think his mom lives in Marakesh.
Rachid’s sister (my age) – I think her name is Nadiya [-_- feel so bad for not knowing peoples’ names, but it’s hella hard when they only tell you what they are once, and they consist of a bunch of unfamiliar sounds strung together]
Also, when I first got here, I think Rachid’s older sister (she’s the oldest I think) was visiting with her 2 (3?) kids, who are all really little – like 5 or 6 or something.

Also, on food –
So you like eat with your right hand for the most part here, which is kind of difficult. Especially yesterday, when we ate cous-cous (so good!!) and like basically you take the vegetables and shit (squash, chicken, carrots, some really good bean-things) in the pot (tanjin I think) and mash them into the cous-cous with your fingers, and then make the cous-cous into a little ball with just one hand, and then eat it. Really really difficult. So they gave me a spoon. I tried the other way – Rachid’s uncle/old dude tried to show me how to do it, but it was still fail.
Also, people eat bread with everything like all the time. Basically every meal, you have mint tea (green tea, in Japanese maccha + mint leaves or something + sugar), some kind of bread, and some vegetables to scoop up with the bread. They have the food in this big, shallow circular bowl/dish thing, and you like scoop things up the sides kind of. It’s good.

Also, took a few pictures yesterday. It’s kind of difficult to take any of the best scenes though (i.e. with people, or of the shops) because they’re like really touchy about having their picture taken by a stranger. Makes sense I guess … >_> Still not entirely sure why though. I mean seriously. Random Asian girl takes your picture? Not much harm going to come from it. So I took pictures of buildings when there weren’t many people around (difficult to do since it was the middle of the day). I think tomorrow I’ll take pictures in the early morning, when everyone’s asleep (people get up around 9 AM here).

Anyways, laptop battery down to 41%. Found a voltage converter that I had packed, so I can charge it, which is really good. Otherwise would be totally screwed.


OK so i lost my passport and a ton of other shit yesterday, so today we basically went on a wild goose chase for like 5 hours to try and file a declaration of theft. Basically, it went like this:
1. Find way to police station. Police tell us we need my passport number, which obviously I don’t have because I flipping lost it. I tell Said I could get my dad to send me a photocopy of it, so we decide to head off to a cyber café.
2. Pause at cyber café, which by the way is hella far away from the police station – I frantically try calling mom and dad, even though I know it’s like 2 AM over there. Wake up mom, get my passport number from her.
3. Back to the police station. They tell us we need a photocopy of the passport. We’re like, we don't have one. They tell us to go to the US Embassy first cuz they need something from them.
4. We go to the US embassy. I meet with some Chinese dude (random), who tells me I’ll need to go to Casablanca to get my passport replaced, but before that I need to file a police report. Yay. He greases the wheels a little bit by calling the people at the police station and telling them we’ll be stopping by.
5. Go on wild goose chase for some special stamp we need to buy to put on the declaration of theft. This takes like an hour.
6. Get lunch.
7. Go to police station. They tell us we need other information about the passport – date it was issued, place, etc.
8. Back to a cyber café (a little closer this time). I call up mom and get the information. Also talk to dad for like 10 minutes.
9. Back to police station. Finally, they fill out all the papers. One of the girls there is really nice and apparently has a cousin who lives in Tokyo. Cool beans. I am falling asleep at the desk.
10. Said tells me the police people say that we need to go the embassy again. Not really sure why, but we go to the embassy. The dude looks kind of confused as to why we’re here, but basically I ask him some more clarifying questions, and we set off for the bus station.
11. Take the bus home.

I swear I flipping walked around Rabat for like 10 hours straight. No joke. And we weren’t walking slowly either. We left Said’s mom a the beach (she took the bus home at some point) and then it was just like fastwalking everywhere cuz apparently Said’s like a baller or something. Whatever. I am kind of proud of myself though since I kept up and today my legs aren’t that sore. Anyways so that was the first half of Tuesday.
Other half also interesting, but will omit for now.

Yesterday evening was pretty fun. It was the concert or whatever. Originally, I was going to perform a dance, but I think maybe the track I chose was a little racy or something (there were a lot of adults and such there), so Rachid asked me to sing a song. I was like, oh shit. Since I’ve never sung in front of a lot of people, and didn’t really have that much notice. But it actually went pretty well. I mean, at first I thought I sang really shittily, since I couldn’t hear myself over the background music, but people were like, you sing really well. So I guess I sounded OK? Pretty sure I sounded better when I was practicing with just Rachid in the room, but then again, that was acapella (no background music), and with just Rachid. Anyways it was good. I sang the “I’m Yours” song by Jason Mraz – “Lucky” would have been more fitting, but I didn't trust my vocal chords enough to sing that one. So yeah. It was good. And I wasn’t nearly as nervous as I thought I would be. People here are so cool!! If you just try something, they’re like yays! They’re so encouraging! And if you mess up, they’re like, it’s no problem (pas de probleme). Like when I was sick, and I was like, I can work, but Rachid was like, ARE YOU FEELING OK, and I was like … no. And so he was like, OK you don’t need to work. Pas de probleme. Ugh. I’m supposed to actually teach today. I guess I’ve been putting it off, in a way, for so long … I really don’t want to. It’s gonna be an absolute disaster, I can just tell. Fuck. I don’t even know if they’ve already finished the section in the book that my lesson plan is geared towards. What if they have?? I would be totally fucked. I’m so bad at thinking on my feet. Aghhh. Anyways. Not much point in worrying I guess. I’ll just go and figure out shit when I get there. It’ll be cool. Yeah … -_-
Also, I need to compose some songs or something I think that will teach people vocabulary – animals, colors, etc. But so far, no luck. Also, no idea where Rachid is, so I can’t ask him how far the kids are in the Vista 2 book. Whatevskies. It’ll be easier to figure out lesson plans after today though because I’ll have a better idea of the class and where they are (as in an idea).

Anyways so to recap, feeling good about the singing – omg almost forgot! So the girls in particular are so nice!! OK cuz like I went to the concert or whatever right? Well it wasn’t so much a concert as a like idk presentation on women in politics, followed by some singing and such. So basically everyone was looking really classy. I was thinking about dressing up, and decided for some unfathomable reason not to. I did put on a little make-up though … But anyways so I got there and was like, shit dammit. But they were all like, np don’t worry about it. So I was like ok … But then one of the girls was like, do you want me to do your make-up for you? And I was like, sure why not. I figured at that point it’s not like I could look any worse/I could only look better. So she put a hella lot of mascara and eyeshadow on, and some gloss, and I was like OMG. The only other time I’ve had that much make-up on my face is at a dance team competition. But I guess over here it’s fairly normal, cuz everyone was like, oo-lah pretty. And I was like, yay … -_-
So anyways yeah. And then after the concert, these two girls walked with me and Rachid towards home. One of them was the girl from before (Elam/Ilam?) who linked arms with me, and then the other one was the girl who I thought was just a friend of Elam’s, but turned out to be her sister (Marjda? Majda?) She’s really pretty. But anyways, Ilam speaks really good French, but Majda hardly speaks any I think, but she was like, We’re friends (toi et moi – amies). I was like, yay! Cuz I remember thinking the first few days that she thought I was kind of lame or something (she seemed to laugh a lot when I was around). Also, Majda dances really well. When I tried to teach people English sans plan and it was fail and basically turned into a dance party, she was like, mm what now foo. So hip-hop. Anyways so yeah that was cool.
Also, the dudes are nice too – they’re like really sweet. Whenever I come to the Association, they’re always like, Mary! Hello. Or like, Mary! How are you? It’s so cute!!! XD So anyways yeah. And everyone thinks I dance like so well or something. Idk it’s nice to be with people like this. They’re so positive! It’s like the perfect environment to grow up in. Idk I guess it’s really interesting to see how the environment can affect people’s personalities so much. It’s like you can just see how they were raised and such.

Friday 5/14 8 PM ish
OMG so got back from first time teaching – so cool!! It like actually worked!! It was so weird
OK so I definitely have to like improve some shit/mainly pure luck that today went so well, seeing as I had no idea what materials the peoples would have or what their skill level was, but yeah. OK so basically what did we go over? Umm
1. charades – some verbs
2. flashcards – some nouns/vocab
a. colors
b. they made their own flashcards and presented them (kind of)
3. more flashcards: numbers review (1 – 20)
a. played brief “game” where people write numbers on board
4. back to charades

Monday, March 30, 2009


Finally, a friendly forum for AIESEC Michigan's escapades abroad.