Friday, January 2, 2009
Moroccan New Year Party
Happy New year!
Ok...I think I might have gotten a little carried with my description of our New Years Eve experience...let's just say it's very detailed!
This year our new year's eve was a little more exciting than usual, celebrating it here in Morocco. Back in the States, we don't really make that big of a deal about it. We've never gone to a big party or anything like that.
I wasn't expecting anything special to happen last night. The Islamic New Year was this past Monday, and of course we mentioned Ashora, which is coming up soon as well. From what I heard from my touter today, some Moroccans celebrate the Agorian New Year and some don't. Lucky for us, our family does! It was a lot of fun! I'll try my best to describe how Moroccans celebrate the 31st of December...
It all started off around 7pm. While Jon and I where studying in our room, we started to notice that people where coming over, and a growing commotion in the house. Soon after, our host mom came in a told us to join the festivities. Jon was a little hesitant at first, as he feels uncomfortable around large crowds, but I was feeling rather stir-crazy from all the studying and wanted a little bit of a break. As Usually, neither one of us had any idea what was going to happen until we where in the middle of it.
At first I made myself comfortable in the small living room amongst my mom, grandma, aunt, cousin, and sister (I usually call everyone except grandma by their first names, but I won't for the blog). In other words, the "female room." I've already learned that during a lot of larger gatherings there tends to be a separation by sex, at least at first. Everyone was singing and taking turns playing the new drums bought for Ashora, and my cousin and sister would periodically get up and dance in the small, square, room. After sitting and clapping along for awhile I decided to get my own drum, which was still in our bedroom. Grandma seemed to have the best technique, so I watched her closely and tried to imitate the way she held it, how she hit it, and the complex rhythms she made. I think I got the holding part right and that's about it. Nobody seemed to notice or care. Everyone is clapping or drumming a little differently, and it always seems to work. After a little bit of drumming, mom got out the CD player and we started to listen and clap along with that. Now the dancing could really get started.
(Meanwhile, in the "male room" the music and dancing is well on its way, which is where Jon finds himself.)
My cousin (about 17) and sister (11), coaxed me out of my seat and onto the "dance floor". Ok, so it didn't take much coaxing because I do like to dance and had been wanting to try out some of my cousin's dance moves. I've seen this sort of Moroccan dance before and she seems pretty good. I don't know if I can describe it accurately in just words. It's very sensual looking, there's a lot of "butt shaking," and it kinda reminds me of Hula dancing, only faster. I say hula dancing because although there's a lot going on with the hips and feet, the upper body is relatively still and controlled. It might be belly dancing or a form of it, but I'm no expert in this field. Whatever it's called, it's fun! And can only be done properly with a scarf tied around your hips, that's very important for some reason. I'd like to find out why later.
Next, we all migrated into the Solon with the boys and my youngest sister (7). I say boys because besides Jon everyone was around our brother's age, 18. There where about 10 teenage boys, which sounds like a high-school chaperoning nightmare, but it wasn't too bad. Unlike their counterparts in the States, Moroccan teenaged boys LOVE to dance! And let me just say it is very entertaining!
After a bit, when we where all feeling a little tired, it was time for the first round of refreshments. We all sat down on the ponjes which lined the Solon while mom and sis came around with trays of hot tea, a plate, of pastries, as well as a plate of millowee (a delicious pancake-like delight, dripping in honey). As we ate the boys took turns telling short stories of some sort (they where all speaking very fast, even by Moroccan standards), at the end of which the room would erupt in laughter. I surmised that they might have been telling jokes or stories about the year past, though I'm not sure.
Once we where all feed and happy is was back to the dancing. It was mostly the same style of "dance music" we always hear in Morocco. This time we kneeled in a circle and clapped as everyone took turns dancing in the middle. The person in the middle got to choose who would dance next. Some of the more "shy" boys would pull our 7 year old sister in to dance as well so as to divert attention away from himself. That went on for quit a while until someone decided that it was time for everyone to dance together again.
Refreshments round two. Mom brought out 4 one litter bottles of pop (it's amazing how far it goes when you use little glasses), and a larger variety of pastries. Everything was amazing, but since I was just coming off of the BRATT diet, a little rich for me, and I was starting to get a small belly ache. Again everyone took turns telling stories, but this time we went in order around the room, so Jon and I actually had to participated. We didn't have much time to prepare of course. When it was my turn I managed to say something like, "tonight is good, I'll see you all next year...in one hour." It doesn't sound like much, but trust me, I felt triumphant. These boys where not what you would call "patient interlocutors," at least at that time. The talking continued for a long time. As I sat and listened, trying to pick out as many words as possible, I had an ideal about a cross-cultural exchange. When I felt the time was right I did something that I never do here; I interrupted. As all eyes where on me I looked straight at my brother and said (in Darija), "I have an idea, maybe you and your friend (so and so) can help me. (my brother's friend comes over to the house often and speaks English well). Then in English I explained the custom of new years' resolutions, and my idea for everyone to share theirs. I went first and said in Darija, "next year I want to to speak darija very well!"
Shortly after that, an amazing thing happened, the two teenage boys sitting on either side of me actually started talking to me! It was a funny situation...they'd say something to me in English, then I'd say something to them is Darija, then they'd reply in English. Of course by now there was music on again and everyone talking all at once, so it was very hard to understand much, mostly because of all the noise.
Midnight came and went without a huge fan fare...no one even announced the time. All the boys left as a group around 12:30 or so and Jon and I went to our room. All in all, I had a great time this New Years!
at 3:37 AM