Friday, February 26, 2010


Among my Moroccan acquaintances, I have observed masters at the art of deflection …especially when it comes to arguing. And if the person doing the deflecting happens to feel he or she is wrong, their artful ways increase to a truly awesome level.

For example, recently, the children of a neighbor were caught red-handed taking things off my terrace. When the mother came to apologize, she asked to speak to my husband. Eventually he went to her house and an argument ensued. Despite being 100% in the wrong, she turned the ‘discussion’ into my husband having said a bad word. And while I can only imagine the exchange, for I wasn’t there, it’s typical of how arguments go here. Accuse someone of doing wrong and if you are correct in your accusations, expect to be accused of something yourself. Or, failing that, the conversation is going to go ‘round and ‘round in circles in the hope that the original point will soon be forgotten or a different grievance will take its place. A grievance in which your adversary becomes the wronged party. It’s quite an art. One must be diligent in holding on to the original point and must resist the temptation to engage in an all together different argument to make any headway.

The keynote here is the best defense is a good offense, although often the offense argument is completely off the subject. But that doesn’t matter. The point is to get the wronged party tangled and twisted up in a different scenario as quickly as possible. If you are not aware of this tactic, you can naively start to defend yourself or begin to argue an altogether different point and find yourself in a shouting match about something completely off the original subject. And eventually, you might find yourself doing or saying something that justifies their feigned indignation. Then you are wrong. Masterful!

Indeed, arguing or creating a scene seems to be a kind of entertainment here. Life in the Medina can take on a sultry routine and to shake things up a bit there is nothing like a good, public rant or argument to spice up the day. You can choose to be an impartial observer, or you can rush to the aid of one party and thereby put yourself in the thick of things, or you can wait and see how things proceed, then choose sides and create a whole new fracas if you wish.

Returning home last night I was walking down Talaa Kbira when shouting suddenly began. I looked back up the street to see a very large man take off his shirt, start swinging it around and shouting at the top of his lungs and flailing his arms wildly. It took about 2 seconds for a very large crowd to gather. Some ran to either calm down the perpetrator or egg him on. Probably the latter as things had been pretty quiet. In true Moroccan fashion I stopped to gawk at the fray. A tide of people continued to rush past me to get a ringside view of the proceedings. Of course nothing came of it. It stopped almost as quickly as it began. It was just a fleeting moment of homespun diversion from everyday life.

What makes it all so tolerable is that one minute you witness tempers rising and you think a lifelong enemy has been made. Then, in a very short time, everything is forgotten and the person you were arguing with is your best friend again.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

First Runner Up!

No prize or coveted badge to display on my blog announcing that Evelyn in Morocco is Morocco's Best Blog of 2010. No, that honor goes to others. Best Overall Blog deservedly went to The View From Fes. To tell the truth, I was just thrilled to be in the running. I never thought I could come close to their votes but did, at one point, take the lead with less than 12 hours to go in the contest. I only missed winning the Best Personal Blog category by one vote! That's due to lots and lots of soliciting for votes in the eleventh hour and incredible response from family, friends, colleagues, local Moroccans and my students. Everyone put out the word for me and I picked up quite a few new readers.

Special thanks goes to Vago for organizing the contest on Morocco Blogs. What a great service he did for the blogging community here in terms of raising awarenss about the blogs and generating interest. Well done Vago! And I can't forget all the sponsors who put up great prizes to sweeten the pie.

I gotta tell you, it was great fun to give the other contestants a run for their money. Sorry I didn't win the prizes or the badge to display on my blog, but I did win in a big way ... great support, new found interest in my blog and an exciting evening of watching the numbers go crazy as voting heated up.

Congratulations to all the winners. It was a great contest.

Monday, February 22, 2010


Came home yesterday afternoon to the sound of voices up on my terrace. I quietly climbed the stairs to the rooftop and opened the door. The sound of the door opening announced my arrival and in the far corner of the terrace perched a young girl, straddling the corner of the wall between my terrace and two other houses. Her face registered complete alarm when our eyes met. Poof! She fell backwards – not onto her own terrace, but our mutual neighbor’s terrace. I gather she got a good thump as she fell because an indignant wail followed her abrupt descent.

I rushed to the corner to check on her only to discover another girl cowering in the corner that was outside my view when I emerged from the stairwell. She made a dash for the corner to hop over the wall. “LA!” I shouted -- for I could see what was coming. She used an antique olive oil jar to propel her over the wall and it crashed and broke under her weight. I unleashed the full power of my fury on her. My terrace had been stripped of all personal belongings … a table, a tea kettle, ashtrays, clothes pins … and now a prized belonging had been shattered. Big problem. Thank goodness I didn’t have laundry hanging out to dry for no doubt that, too, would have made its way off the terrace.

Who knows where the first girl went. She probably ran to save herself while her friend or sister was trapped with the angry “foreigner” on the terrace where they had no doubt been trespassing all day long. A glance to my right let me see where they had transferred my things onto their own terrace.

I made a grab for the girl. She cowered and cringed as if I were going to strike her. She cried and simpered as her eyes looked wildly around for an escape.

I let her go with a torrent of angry words. What could I do? I was suddenly filled with memories of bad decisions I made when I was a young girl. Fortunately for me, I always got caught and therefore learned some lessons the hard way about what's right and what's wrong.

Eventually, some adults emerged onto the rooftop to find out what all the commotion was about. My belongings were handed over to me, one by one.

Later that evening, the mother of the two young girls came to my door to apologize. “No problem” I told her. “Just teach your girls a lesson and don’t let it happen again.” I had no desire to make trouble but I was hoping the girls would learn not to repeat their mistake.

Nevertheless, today I am making plans to build a higher wall.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Best Blog????

Last night, my friend Jess and I got together for some food and a long visit. She spent the night at my house. After midnight, we logged on to Morocco Blogs to see how we were both doing in the voting for Best Blog in Morocco. One by one we checked the results. BEST PERSONAL blog was first. I was in the lead! Then we checked her blog status under BEST CULTURE blog. She had taken the lead, too. We whopped and hollared and gave each other the high five. Finally, BEST OVERALL. I never thought I had a chance in this category as The View from Fes was always way ahead of me. But there I was -- Evelyn in Morocco was in the lead for the first time. We jumped up and down and laughed and laughed and laughed some more.

Alas, this morning we'd both lost our leads. In all three categories!

What a horse race ladies and gentlemen. Now there is only one half hour left.

But you know what? I feel like I've won because my colleagues, my friends, my regular readers of this post and especially my students have been so supportive of me and my blog. Because of this contest, more and more people who I live and work with have taken the time to read my blog and have encouraged me to continue to write. Now that's a prize. In fact, it's a priceless prize and I am grateful.

Thanks, too, to Vago ... the brainchild behind Morocco Blogs and the contest.

This morning I am a happy camper.

May the best blogs win!!!

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Blustery Night

WOW! What winds we had last night! Things were bumping and thumping in the night and there was a pelting rain. I’ve never before experienced such high winds here. The plastic covering the halka rattled and flapped itself into tatters. Pottery blew over and crashed onto the terrace. Eventually it stopped and sleep was possible. I’ve yet to go up and look at the damage on the terrace but I’m sure a big sack will be needed to collect the debris. This I must do or it will plug up the drain and water will come cascading down the stairs again with no where else to go.

The drain on the terrace was not operating earlier this week due to a cat. Yes, a cat. They roam the rooftops here and use the terrace floors as a litter box. When I came home one evening I saw water had come down the stairs and was even dripping through the underneath of the stairs. When I opened the terrace door I saw the floor was covered in 2 inches of water because the drain was plugged up. I reached into the drain (in the dark) and came up with a handful of cat droppings. UGH! I flung the offending droppings into the night and eventually the water drained off the rooftop. Ah the joys of home ownership.

Today, it’s cold and rainy but the wind has died down. It’s Friday (again) and the sounds on the street confirm what day it is. More children are running around because they only have a half day of school and the promise of a couscous lunch is wafting through the air. Pressure cookers are whistling and rattling the lids on the pots. A glance outside my kitchen window reveals men in their Friday galabahs and crocheted caps. Young men I know to be real rascals look so pious and innocent on Fridays. Perhaps today is the day they will turn over a new leaf. Friday is the perfect day to re-dedicate oneself to goodness and healthy discipline. I should try it.

As I make myself a second cup of coffee, I glance out the window and see a couple rays of sunshine. It’s my busy day at school and I have papers to grade and worksheets and activities to prepare. I’ll get to work soon, but not before I stare at the walls for a bit and listen to the birds chirp their greetings to this new day. Maybe I’ll wear my galabah to school today.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Same Old Same Old

Time and time again, I am struck by the ‘sameness’ of everyday life here in the Medina. I think it might be the reason the culture has been so well preserved in this microcosm.

Everyday, I observe people following their routines. Shopkeepers display their wares in the same place everyday… patiently putting everything out in the morning and taking it back inside every evening. Restaurant menus do not alter. Fridays are for couscous. Bisarah is for breakfast. Every Ramadan, you’ll find dozens of shops springing up with mounds of the same honey pastries. One’s best kaftans and galabahs are brought out for fests. There is quite a variety of music but one hears the same songs over and over so everyone knows the words and can sing along. Even I know some of the refrains now. Religious holidays are celebrated in exactly the same way each time they come ‘round. Taxis go on strike twice a year. People pour into the Medina at 5:30 every evening for their daily constitutional. The routines are endlessly repeated and passed on to the next generation.

I recall watching a documentary on the Dalai Lama. He has been trying to preserve the Tibetan culture after the Chinese have done their best to eradicate it. His solution is to encourage the celebration of festivals where the people can sing and dance and prepare traditional food. This, he says, is the way to help preserve their culture and keep it from being absorbed until it’s no longer recognizable or distinctive.

Well, here in the Medina, the Moroccans are doing just that – every day, every ritual, every routine is an act of cultural preservation.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Return to Fes

I just returned from a 4-day trip to Agadir. I went as part of an annual ESL teacher’s conference which was organized by my employer, The American Language Association. So, it was 3 full-days’ worth of workshops and lectures with a sprinkling of brain-storming sessions. All-in-all, it was a great experience.

My teaching today was inspired. I used a lot of approaches and activities that I learned at the conference and even created an activity of my own which was a big success in the classroom.

I have some great memories of funny and unexpected moments with my colleagues, too. I’ll refrain from recounting any of them here!

And last to mention -- but certainly not the least of the experience -- was some great food with flavors I hadn’t had for a long, long time.

The whole trip was perfect.

But I much prefer Fes. For me, Fes is a difficult place to live. And I will choose open, airy, water-filled, ‘green’ spaces over the closed-in, dry, brown Medina I currently live in any time. But just because living here is hard for me and seemingly such an unlikely place for me to have chosen to live, I increasingly realize that striving to meet its challenges has been good for me. It seems I enjoy meeting challenges.

Agadir had more of the physical components I like in a place to live. But my experience as a tourist in the tourist section (surrounded by Europeans) made me miss my oh-so Moroccan life in Fes.

So it was with great to get away and breathe some fresh air. It was gratifying to have the chance to learn ways to improve my teaching, and oh-so satisfying to eat and drink like a gourmand.

And in the end, it’s been surprising as well as gratifying to learn just how at home I feel in Fes.