Halloween, Fes, Site Placement interviews. October 29-November 7, 2018. The clothes I washed on Tuesday were no closer to being dry on Saturday morning than if I had just taken them out of the bucket, and they were hanging in my room. Yes, we can see our breath in the house and in the teacher’s house where we hold class. Everyone complains about the cold, but won’t close the doors or windows. I am warm under three blankets, as long as I cover my head well. We got a warm afternoon on Saturday, hung the clothes and all got dry. Now that I know how it goes, however, not sure I will wash anything other than underwear again. Smelly is better than wet.
Also, the whole “fanny splashing” instead of toilet paper is out the window. I have not even seen if/where they sell TP in this village, so I don’t know if anyone else is clogging up the septic system, but I will be risking it. I just never could perfect the technique without getting water everywhere and I am not getting undressed in this cold. Also, I am putting tomorrow’s clothes (same as yesterday’s clothes) under the blankets with me so they are not so cold to put on in the morning.
We helped our local PCV put on a Halloween party for about 50 children. There is no Halloween in Morocco, but our PCV explained the holiday. In an hour we had multiple game stations, coloring, face painting and trick or treat. It was wild, the kids are incredibly aggressive (pushing forward in line, etc.), but everyone had a great time. One of our PCTs carved us a tiny, but festive Jack-o-Lantern.
We had our weekly trip to the city, including internet access and shopping. I found a sweater, but hope to find at least one more. My Mom bought me some very warm leggings and loaned me some clothes. I am getting fairly familiar with things in that town, but soon I may be far away.
This week we also had our final site placement interview, which means that two Regional Managers came and had one last chat before they sit down this week and decide where we will all be assigned. The decisions will be announced next week.
Teaching solo went really well this week. First, I had the middle school English lesson and then my “Meeting” activity group. My group is starting to get the idea of the meetings and order is improving.
I invited my Mom to join me on a trip to Fes. I could have joined other Americans, but I knew she would like it. Since it was just the two of us she made more of an effort to communicate with me than when there are other Moroccans. This is the kind of practice I need. I never tire of visiting any ancient, walled city. There is just something so magical about a place were people have lived and worked for over 1300 years. The “old city” of Fes is the world’s largest car-free, urban area. 156,000 people live in this medieval maze of tiny streets. The total city is over 1.1 million. Everywhere you turn you want to take a photo. There are stores selling everything from carpets to turnips, wedding dresses to pet birds, shoe repair shops, tanneries, fabric weavers, street food, live chickens and cats, all in a picturesque mix of liveliness and decay. Goods are brought in by donkeys. There are many historical sites within, and I hope to return with a good guide. For this trip, Lonely Planet was a big help. Even though the doors of the shops were open, you can see that most of the doors are made of wood, another testament to age, as very little wood is used today.
After the old city, Mom wanted to visit a pool to go swimming. It was early and though I protested that I did not have a swim suit, she was undaunted. I have been hearing about this pool for quite a while and had even seen pictures (or so I thought). We left the walled city and perused a flea market where she looked for used clothing we could swim in (I think). But all were too expensive. She did not want to take a taxi, but rather a bus. I protested but finally understood the pool was outside the range of the city taxis. Ok we took a bus and then another. We met some girls while we were waiting that were all going the same place so we had friends. My Mom is very adept at working her way to the front of any line. She grabbed two seats on the bus and waited for me. On the second bus an 11-year-old boy was holding fast, and I was perfectly happy to stand. However, a man reached over my Mom and picked the boy up and planted him in the stairwell in the back. Seat open. We arrived at a park-like setting just outside of the outskirts of Fes. We got a tasty treat of rice inside sweet filo triangles. There was a tiny souk and I soon began to realize I was going to a hammam (public bath), when Mom bought soap and a scrubby pad. This is a very popular thing to do in Morocco and we studied the protocol in class. But getting naked in front of people is not my cup of tea, so I really had planned to avoid it if at all possible. Apparently not.
Now I have been told that you need your own bucket, scoop, mat and towel. We have none of that. Perhaps we can rent? This particular hammam was located at a natural hot spring. You buy a ticket and go in to a reception area where you can check your belongings. We veer left and find a spot to disrobe (all but the panties), check our stuff and proceed to the pool room. There is a pool of hot water in the center and spigots of the hot water coming from all 4 walls. Hundreds of women and children are squatting or moving around, standing room only (not the tranquil scene described in the textbook). Everyone was bathing, washing hair, scrubbing with rough defoliating cloths, and just enjoying the hot water and steamy atmosphere. Fortunately, our friends from the bus wave us over and share their buckets with us. Their sweetness and generosity were much appreciated. We did our business, leaving warmed and slightly salty. I managed to air dry and put the panties in a Ziplock, leaving commando. One bus and three taxis later, we were home.
More on doors. In our village, every door is metal, every house cinderblock. There are forests, but wood seems rare and expensive. In the area where I am there is beautiful agriculture, but you can also see that the hills have lost all their topsoil, with sparse grasses clinging to bits of soil on rocky terrain. Many parts of the Middle East were deforested long ago, including the historic “cedars of Lebanon”, and as I look at these hills I can imagine there were even greater forests at one time. The thing about the metal doors is that it really contributes to the noisiness of everything. Even a gentle closing reverberates through three houses.
Well, out of time. More soon.