Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Petit Taxi #2261

I went to Batha today, as I do five times a week, to catch a taxi to school. I was in luck as several taxis were waiting for fares. I approached the one nearest me, but was motioned to another taxi that was apparently the first in the cue … although they were in a sort of circle and it was hard to tell who was first.

“Salaam alekum” I said. “Centre Americain?”

“Trente dirham” was his curt reply.

“Thirty dirham?!!” I said, with no small amount of indignation in my voice.

He lowered the price to 20. The expression on my face was enough for him to realize I wasn’t about to pay so much.

“How much then?” he asked.

“The price that will be on the meter” I replied. “It’s an 8 dirham fare. Maximum 9 if there is a lot of traffic … are you crazy?” I started to hail another taxi and I turned make a show of writing down the number of his taxi in order to report him. Believe it or not there are rules and regulations for taxi drivers.

Now he got conciliatory and tried to motion me back towards his cab.

“You are a thief” I shouted so everyone could hear. “A thief!”

He motioned for me to come to his taxi …

I shook my head and shouted “thief” one more time just because it felt good.

Another taxi arrived and I hopped in. I paid 7 ½ dirham for the ride. The real price.

I know this happens frequently to foreigners because the assumption is we all have a lot of money and the person trying to overcharge us hopes we have no knowledge of what the real price is. Or sometimes, they hope we will take pity on them because they were in need and they will tell you they are sorry but your money has been spent trying to solve their problem and they can’t provide the service you hired them for unless you are willing to pay for it again.

“Forgive me” they say with impressive humility.

And my favorite retort to non-repayment of a loan is "you only care for money!"


But do they really think this behavior is okay?

No, of course it’s not okay. And in the end, you do have to forgive -- because it feels better. But, here I go again, owning up to my own foibles -- shouting “thief” in the middle of Batha did feel pretty good today.

I guess we all behave badly at times.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Baby It's Cold Inside!

Funny thing about winter here. When the sun shines in winter, it’s often warmer outside the house than inside the house. No central heating will do that. And the days are so short. Seems to me that by the time I’ve rallied myself to go outdoors, peeling the layers of clothes for sleeping off and replacing them with an equal or greater number of clothes for outdoors, it’s time to reverse the process all over again. But I take heart in the knowledge that the days are getting longer now and being cold will become a distant memory; replaced by the effort to stay cool in summer.

I think it’s a good thing to live with the elements (within reason, of course). I like the fact that here in Morocco, the fresh fruits and vegetables are still seasonal. First come the tangerines, then the oranges; it always surprises me that strawberries arrive in the dead of winter but I completely welcome their arrival. And they actually taste like strawberries. Not the beautiful, large specimens I used to buy in the U.S., with absolutely no taste. As spring approaches, I love to see the arrival of the orange blossoms, baskets filled to the brim with the fragrant flowers which you can buy by the handful. In summer, the prickly pears arrive on carts. The vendors stand with paring knife in hand, ready to peel as much fruit as the customer wants to eat. Personally, I’m not crazy about the prickly pears but they are revered for their ability to settle the stomach.

Everyone is waiting for rain as it hasn’t rained a drop in about 2 months. Normally, we are in the midst of regular downpours this time of year. But yesterday, the evening was quite a bit warmer, announcing the impending arrival of rain. The medina could use a good dousing right now. It’s dusty and filled with the debris of passersby who think nothing of unwrapping their cookies or cakes and dropping the paper on the street for someone else to clean up. I hate this; the litter and the garbage so thoughtlessly thrown on the street. But I know the rain will soon drive everyone indoors and the streets will occasionally look clean and debris-free; if only for a brief moment in time. In my mind, the medina of Fes is a precious gem that deserves to be well-cared for.

I guess it’s time for me to step outside my front door and give the area a good sweeping. I do this almost daily. It amuses me when some pedestrians get upset with me for not using water to keep the dust down when I sweep. I try to do this when no one is about and I am conscious of using my broom in a manner that minimizes the dust. And often I wet the bristles of the broom from the fountain opposite my house to help stop the dust from being disturbed. But there are times when I am in a hurry and inevitably I am admonished for not using water. Orange peels, wet mint leaves, donkey dung and foil wrappers are not a disturbance. Dust is. But I have to admit, sometimes I take a perverse pleasure in kicking up some dust.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Back to Belly Dancing!

I used to dance all the time. I belonged to a troupe and then danced duets with a fabulous partner. Since I came to Morocco, I have been teaching belly dance to tourists and residents. But there has been a hiatus in my dancing since summer. But this week, a great dancer from Sweden is coming to stay at my B&B for 10 days and another belly dancer just arrived from the U.K. Then, just last night I got a text message from one of the residents here in the medina who wants to continue the series of lessons we started last spring. I consider all these incidents as clear signs that it is time to dance! I am really looking forward to bringing dance back into my life.

There are lots of occasions when live music just starts up and with the music, there are opportunities to dance. But I hold myself back all the time, merely 'chair dancing' when my heart and body really want to shake it up. But that would not be a wise thing to do as Oriental dance is still seen as a bit unseemly, even though everyone loves to watch it and seems to want to learn it. A stange paradox. I guess it's because belly dancing is so sensual. A woman's power comes through when she moves to the rhythms of Oriental music and it's my belief that it's just one more occasion for men to curtail a woman's innate power by associating it with something shameful. And believe me, this attitude isn't limited to the Arab cultures as I found the same attitude in progressive California. It certainly wasn't as pervasive, but it did exist. But that doesn't really bother me because I dance for myself and I am content to dance in the company of women. For me, belly dancing is a celebration of womanhood and an opportunity to see each woman's nature expressed through her movements. It's a joy to dance alone, dance with other women and encourage one another to embrace our femininity.

Yalla ladies! Let's dance all year long.