A Welcome Note: On Filling the Gaps

Dear Friends and Family:

Although I haven't added any posts since the summer of 2007, this blog continues to be a warehouse of my thoughts and experiences from my time abroad.


Sunday, March 4, 2007

Morocco: Day Two, Part III

2.24.07 - That night, we met up with Abdul’s taxi-driving friend Muhammad (#2) right outside the Medina, (Arabic for wall but referring to old city in modern times). He spent a solid five minutes arranging us all eight of us in the car (plus he), then drove to the edge of the town where we met up with Abdul (out of sight of the police, who tend to enforce the six person limit). There, Abdul made a few futile attempts to ride to the left of Muhammad(!) before resigning and climbing head first into the trunk of the taxi (propped open of course). We couldn’t contain ourselves at this point and laughed our heads off as Muhammad (#2) made his way out of the city and along the dirt roads leading towards the country house. As we hurried along in the dark, Muhammad (#2) called out to Abdul from time to time to make sure he was all right in the back. At one point we went over a good size bump and all communication stopped . . . for the next ten minutes! Finally, we arrived and sure enough, the trunk had slammed closed along the way, but Abdul was safe, only a bit ruffled. At this point, it had become completely pitch black as there were no electric lights around. Knowing it would be muddy, I wore my sandals rather than sneakers. Good move: I stepped out of the cab and into a giant puddle. We walked in complete darkness for 20-30 minutes, doing are best to avoid the massive wet ditches along the ground and cacti on either side of us. When we walked up to the farm house, Abdul’s wife was ready with hot water with which we could wash off our feet and shoes. Out of the darkness we could hear high pitched shrills and loud music. After cleaning up a bit, we all rested up for a while in the farm house, a white and bright blue painted concrete structure. When we were ready to join the festivities, the eight of us adventured out of the small walled courtyard and through the, constructed of various tarps, blankets, and sheets to witness the traditional Moroccan Muslim wedding that was to take place. As we approached, the screams intensified and the music grew louder. Women and young boys only were welcome inside the tent and all men were relegated to the exterior or a small room off to the right. Brent and I shirked off to the mostly empty small room for men only and sat down on a long bench on which a handful of other guests were seated. On the table was a tray of mint tea and a few cookies. We saw that our Italian was more useful than we had thought when we struck up a conversation with yet another Muhammad (#3) and found out that he had worked in southern Italy for a few years and picked up his share of the language. At first we thought he was a guest, but after a deeper questioning learned that he had been hired to drive guests out to the wedding and was simply waiting for the wedding to end so he could bring them back to the city. His life was extremely interesting, for the man had spent his youth trafficking drugs in Germany, been jailed for a few years there, then worked a bit in Italy, before returning to Morocco to resume his drug trading, this time hiring out a number of boats to ship drugs to Spain. According to him he was simply a businessman and never saw the drugs. He was certainly interesting to talk to and more than met the eye. After a while, the conversation died down and Brent and I decided to step outside into the cool, crisp air. As we exited the small “men only” room, Brent stumbled a bit and backed up into an adjacent door, knocking it open and landing us eye to eye with a horrified looking woman, her face covered in white powder. We knew immediately that we had opened the door on the bride-to-be, who for all we knew wasn’t supposed to be seen by a man for a week before her wedding. We quickly apologized and joked around a bit about the incident as we tried, with the other desperate Moroccan boys, to peak through the holes in the tent at the ongoing festivities. I was lucky enough to befriend one of the DJs who let me sit within the tent and help with the music. Hidden behind the CD players and amps, I was able to really get a feel for the celebration and even, two or three hours later, see the bride, weighed down with pounds and pounds of jewelry and makeup, make her official entrance. At one point in the night, I noticed one of the Moroccan girls holding her cell phone up, pointed at me. First, it was strange to see such a modern device in such an environment that lacked running water, internet, landlines, gas stoves, everything. I could tell she was taking pictures of me, but I figured it was harmless and that it made sense she was curious. I was doing the same thing too, snapping photos with my own digital camera. Abdul’s son, a really cute kid wearing a bright orange Italy sweat suit, ironically enough, was obsessed with my own camera and kept wanting to take pictures. I hadn’t really experienced that before however, being the subject, the tourist attraction. After a while, I realized that she was not only taking pictures, but videotaping me, and for a while she stuck her phone right in front of my face! After her film shoot, she stepped behind the DJ booth, really just a low table with a couple of stools, and thanked me, “it’s for my sister” she said in perfect English. I wasn’t really expecting her to be able to speak English, but it really hit me that someone living in such a provincial farm house would not only be totally equipped with the most modern technology, but be able to speak my language as though it were her own, even though it’s not one of the most spoken languages in her country. Finally, around 1AM after the bride and groom made their much awaited and somewhat anti-climactic procession, we returned to Abdul’s farmhouse. After waiting for another hour or so for the promised dinner that never came, we all curled up in Berber blankets (which were more like rugs) and fell asleep. Finally around 3AM, we were woken up by Abdul and his wife with a steaming plate of olives, lamb, beef and chicken with bread, leftovers from the wedding reception. Some of us with room in our stomachs, got up and ate, all crouched around the plate, before crawling back to sleep.

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