Thursday, September 16, 2010

Top Ten Memories of Morocco: Jon

As per one particular response in Emily's previous post, "What do you want to see," I decided to recount my top ten memories of Morocco.

So, without further ado, I present to you (in no particular order of significance) my top ten memories:

-Our town's souk - Fresh, cheap vegetables, warm French greetings (eventaully arabic), fresh popcorn, hanging sides of sun-baked, fly-orbited meat, God-awfully synthesized Berber music, and made-to-order, seasoned-to-perfection ground beef sandwiches. What more can you ask for to quell your Tuesday blues out here in the stix? Just make sure to stand UPWIND of the cooking meat, otherwise you'll end up smelling like a campfire.

-English language camps - Let it be known that Moroccan teens' and pre-teens' hormone levels and rowdiness are JUST as off-the-charts as their American counterparts'!! The only difference is that the Moroccan youth can GET DOWN on the dance floor with the quickness! These rug-cutters are also eager to please in the classroom, as many an exhausted PCV "teacher" can attest.

-Traditional mid-morning meal of l3id Kbir - Lovers of meat as they are, Moroccans are quick to use up all the giblets, offal, and innards of any creature that they are so fortunate to slaughter and consume. In the sacrificial feast of l3id Kbir in Morocco, a sheep's organ meat (heart, lungs, liver, and others) and abdominal fat are pulled from its abdomen shortly after the animals death. Still steaming, these cherished bits are chopped to bite-sized pieces, wrapped in strips of the aforementioned fat, and grilled to mouth-watering perfection over an open flame! Sprinkle some salt and cumin on those babies, stuff 'em inbetween two pieces of bread, and you got yourself one heck of a taste celebration! Emily LOVES this meal, possibly more than me. Who knew?

-Vacation with stage-mates in AsilaH - Being spoken to in Spanish was refreshing and the secluded beach that we found was even more refreshing! Perhaps the single best ocean swimming experience I've ever had! That is, until the tide came in and brought with it piles and piles of garbage. Nonetheless, every stage should have a beach vacation together! One last word: a word of advice. Please, never mix alcohol and spinning rides. At least 2 other volunteers can attest that this is an incredibly bad combination.

-Stargazing on the roof with Emily - The unique house design in Morocco and the lack of "yards" as we Americans know them mandated us to spend alot of our "outside time" on the roof. We even slept up there when it was too hot to sleep indoors (above 90 degrees F). Of course, even with the nasty light pollution in our town, we still had an amazing stellar display almost every night of the summer. Equipped with binoculars and a tripod, we even took in magnified views of the moon and various deep sky objects (like nebulae and clusters) that are invisible to the naked eye. Of course, most of the time was spent just looking up at the heavens with our naked eyes. We liked spotting Iridium flares, the International Space Station when its brightness rivaled Venus, and other satellites as well. We will probably never have another opportunity to experience the night sky like this again, which is unfortunate. However, it will be a fond memory we will share together.

-Chrismas '09 spent with other Americans in 3in LeuH - After traveling for at least 4 or 5 hours through at least as many monsoons, we ended up in the warm embrace of one of our friend's, and fellow volunteer's, home. We decided that we simply could not take another depressing Christmas, and decided to make the trek, which we did not regret in the least bit! Stockings, presents, an amazing Christmas chicken dinner with all the trimmings, games, WARMTH, and happiness were all shared together.

-Arriving in Morocco and our first few days in Rabat - Wow. So long ago yet such a still-vivid memory. Our plane ride was our first exposure to Islamic culture: Arabic writing on the inside of the plane (khuruj - exit) which I didn't know then, but am all too familiar with now; breaking fast on the plane before the sunrise in the early morning, and the unsettling feeling of committing the next 2 years of our lives to an as-of-yet unknown job and life. Next was our 3 day stay at the Hotel Chellah, and our freedom to walk around the city of Rabat (albeit limitedly) during the few hours prior to sundown. We felt so vulnerable...wandering amongst people and a culture we didn't understand. Many of us came to dislike that first experience in Rabat, but since then, it's become one of my favorite cities in Morocco.

-Being pickpocketed on a town bus on our way to the Agadir airport - Who said that these memories all had to be good ones? Nevertheless, some good was to become of this jarring experience: not everything in my wallet was stolen. In fact, the only thing that was taken was the cash...only about 50 DH ($6.25) or so. All of our credit cards/debit cards and my cell phone were left in place, allowing us to embark on our vacation to Ireland and the UK without a hitch, but with the poignant lesson of paying extra attention to our surroundings and keeping our guard up. It could have ended up much, much worse.

-The smells and tastes of CBT - In the spring of 2009, I went back to our CBT site to visit a friend and fellow volunteer for a hiking trip. Of course, since I was there, I wanted to see our former host family as well. Entering their courtyard for the first time in about 9 months, the musky sheep aroma stimulated the part of my brain involved with memory to transport me back to September of 2008, when we did not understand hardly a word of darija, when our stomachs still hadn't adjusted to the particular flora which was then making itself comfy-cozy in our guts, and when life was still mostly ambiguous and unknown. Wow that was a long sentence (in the grammar sense, not the prison sense...haha) For some reason, we humans associate smells, tastes, and other senses with particular moments in time and particular feelings. I don't know if I'll ever get to smell that particular sheep odor or if I'll ever get to taste a stewed stomach tagine or experience the many other smells and tastes endemic to our first significant immersive experience in Morocco, but they will be remembered as best they can; and released whenever said molecules find themselves drifting too close to olfactory or gustatory receptors.

-Adult Camp(s) in 3in LeuH - Our first "Adult Camp" started out not as volunteers waxing vocally and in the culinary arts but as us aiding a Moroccan environment camp which was shoddily led, ill organized, and ripe with exploitative and thieving association members: sadly typical. Eventually, we realized, we could only do so much for them and with them. So we decided to pass the majority of our time by picking the locally-abundant blackberries, making preserves out of said berries, preparing delicious meals with each other, playing lots of Scrabble, Bananagrams, and Rummikub, and generally enjoying each others' company. Hence, "Adult Camp" was born. And it was so successful that it was repeated a second time, in the summer of 2010, sans "environment club" or any such corruption. When life gives you berries, make preserves!

So there you have it. Some good, some bad, and some just plain ugly. But all memorable. For all volunteers with Morocco blogs, try this challenge your top ten in Morocco. It would be interesting to see the difference in responses!


Anonymous said...


I enjoyed reading your "top ten". I agree with you that when life gives you berries life seems pretty good. Best wishes in finding more "berries".
-"Mr Roosevelt"

Emily and Jon said...

I think it's interesting how some of our top ten's overlapped, but that we wrote about them in a different way.

Nancy said...

Jon, I enjoyed reading your top ten too! I don't play favorites. It seems you did overlap on some, which should be expected, as you have had a lot of the same experiences.