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.