Friday, January 07, 2005

January 4-January 6

January 4, 2005

Well, really long ‘blog entry here… hope the Internet is working today. It is 12:15 am Tuesday morning. I just finished shaving my legs. I’m listening to Pulp right now—I had forgotten just how uniformly good this cd is. The last time I listened to this cd was back in Canada, shaving my legs. (I suppose this cd will forever be associated with me shaving my legs.) Interesting because in Canada I used the same method to shave my legs—a large, plastic bucket; water from the tap mixed with boiling water for heat; a washrag; a razor; and shaving cream.

One of the things I stressed about before I came over here was the need to bring enough razor cartridges. I bought about ten, convinced that I would have to write home by Christmas for more (why not buy something in France, you ask? Well, we all know that the French don’t shave. Actually, I don’t know that for sure but I find it convenient right now to perpetuate the cultural stereotype of the hairy French woman.) Anyway, one of the things I didn’t take into consideration before I went on my razor cartridge shopping spree was the fact that I, in fact, do not actually shave that often. Remember the first Harry Potter and the plant they get stuck in at the end? That was me after a few, um, months of not shaving. The long and short of it (pun intended) is that I have changed the razor cartridge once since I’ve been here and it was more because it got too dusty to use while it was on top of my closet.

See, you all come to this ‘blog to read about exotic countries and far off places and instead you get way too much information about my shaving habits. This is why I will never be a great novelist. I’m more interested in laughter than in truth.

Okay, back to France. I got Mom’s package today. I was really, really excited about it—I had just run out of DVDs to watch and I figured it would be chock full of new movies. I opened it up and discovered that my crazy mother had sent me a carrot cake with cream cheese icing. That certainly raised my spirits (what verb would one use for that sentence? I think raised is right—all the others sound worse). There were also some Christmas presents for me to open. I put some Christmas music on my laptop, had some cake, and opened my presents. No DVDs, but everything else was cool enough that I have forgiven my Mom. Anyway, I don’t need any distractions while I try to get through Rand. (I keep moaning about Rand—poor Shari is going to think she has done something wrong by buying that book. Not the case, Shari. It has been on my list of “things-I-ought-to-read”. Right after _Middlemarch_. Even though I may complain about it, I am glad that you bought it and sent it to me while I was in a foreign country so I will be forced to read it—or learn French.

Back to the package. I also got three books, which I assume at the ones that Margaret (Sprog) recommended to Mom for me. I’ve read a few pages and they are hilarious so far. So, thanks to Sprog. How exciting for me to have a teenager in my entourage. (Or being in her entourage. I’m not sure that fifteen-year-old girls join non-famous wacky adult entourages. And I don’t see Sprog as an entourage type anyway—which I give as a compliment but I know from experience that sometimes my compliments are not exactly… complimentary.) Anyway, teenagers are a mystery to me. Even when I was a teenager, I was looking around thinking, “Holy hell, what did I do in my past life to deserve high school? Am I really the same age as these people? Can’t I just skip this part of my life?” The good thing about Sprog is that she is quick-witted (big compliment), amusing (compliment), and I can stand to be around her without rolling my eyes, feeling that my life has been sucked out of me, or wanting to push her out of a window. This is a major compliment to both her and her parents.

The vocabulary lists in the backs of the books are a riot—especially as Jo and I have already discussed the meaning of several of the words. The Brits do have some spectacular slang.

I will write about Morocco. Eventually. I haven’t forgotten.


Holy shit. I just realized that I’ve crossed the borders of France and Morocco with a syringe. In my carry-on luggage. Wow. I don’t know if I should be glad that no one stopped me or if I should never take an airplane again. At least if we were attacked I could have fought back. With my syringe and plastic knife.

Okay, I know everyone wants to know why I had a syringe in my carry-on. And how I managed to forget that I had a syringe in my carry-on luggage.

I like Henna. I like temporary tattoos. But I hated the henna ladies camped out in Place Jemaa El Fna—literally camped out. So Sophie and I decided to do our own henna tattoos. The best way to apply henna is to use a syringe—you know, the one with the hollow metal tube at the end. So Sophie and I bought some red henna, two syringes, and, armed with a couple of photos of henna jobs, gave each other henna tattoos.

The henna tattoos turned out fine and I didn’t draw anything obscene. Then, I offered to Sophie (since she is pregnant and is starting to have trouble getting around) to take some of her stuff back to Valence with me so she wouldn’t have to lug three weeks of stuff with her. I finally talked her into letting me, and she packed up an additional bag for me to check. Because we had decided to split the left-over henna and because I figured I would be checking her bag anyway, I tossed the henna and syringe in at the last minute.

Fast forward to Marrakech airport. My check-in weight limit is 20 kgs. My suitcase (filled with all sorts of goodies for my family and friends) is 20.8 kgs. I tried to toss in the other bag that Sophie had given me, hoping the lady was not paying attention. She, in a manner that let me know just exactly what she thought of English speakers, informed me that I was over my limit and that I would either have to pay 80 Dirham for each kg over or take my bag with me on the plane. I already had another bag I was going to take on the plane with me so I asked the lady if I could really bring two bags plus my purse onto the plane. She conveniently decided that she was unable to understand my French (this is a technique that French speakers use with English speakers. You can be having a conversation in French and they understand every word you say. Then, when you say something that they either don’t want to hear or something they don’t want to have to deal with, they pretend that they can’t understand you. Granted, I am a first-rate mangler (I rest my case) of the language, but I do know how to express basic things. For example, here’s one that even my French friends don’t understand. Every time I order a pain chocolat (un pain au chocolat) I get two (deux pain au chocolat). It happens in different stores. I’ve practiced with my French friends and they can understand me just fine—and they are not the type to blow sunshine up my ass. Anyway.) So I went through security and carried my bags on the plane with me.

The Internet at the IUFM is still down. I may never see another e-mail again. At least not until I reach the USA.


Speaking of not reaching the USA… that box of Christmas presents. I think I sent it by boat. Because I am cheap (and because I don’t understand French really well), I think I may well have sent the Christmas presents by boat. Not only that, but I sent them all to my Mom (which was especially awful because I didn’t get her anything.) So first the presents have to reach Mom. Then she has to send them all out. It could be awhile. I just hope Mom hasn’t moved before the box reaches her.

I am over halfway through and I am ready to come home. Not that I am miserable or unhappy or anything. I’ve reached a stable point. I think of the French as cute little pygmies but I don’t hate them. I just miss my family and my friends. I had a dream about Disney World last night. I keep thinking how great it will be when I get to go over to Shari and Rob’s new place and have them cook me a meal while I take a bath in their new Jacuzzi-type tub. And then blather on and on over dinner. Or maybe have Beth and Tucker there too so I have a bigger audience for my French tales.

By the way, who is throwing my coming-home party?

I hope the IUFM Internet is working tomorrow. I really want to go ahead and post this. It is getting really too long now.

By the way, Mom also sent me Nutcracker Sweet tea and Ziploc bags. You see, I had been rinsing my two or three Ziploc bags that I had brought with me. There are no Ziploc bags here. I was complaining about it to Jo (the Brit) and she said that they don’t have any Ziploc bags in England either. They use plastic bags with twisty ties. How primitive! Anyway, I am really, really happy about the Ziploc bags. She even sent me two different sizes. I have the coolest Mom in the world. And the coolest Canadian mom. And the coolest friends.

January 5, 2005

I have a stinky cheese problem. It is on my windowsill. I am afraid to open my window.


I need another tube of Burt’s Bees Lipbalm.


Still no bloody f-ing Internet here. See, I was right about the length of time it would take to get Internet access back. I cannot live like this very long. Having no Internet is like having no electricity. My internal constitution reads “life, liberty, and Internet access.” You may be reading this after I get back to the states. If I get back to the states. I need to Internet to look for airplane tickets. In fact, I was going to check on prices today—just to see how much I should be putting aside per month to buy my ticket back. (See how responsible I am?)

Right now I am sitting in a little corner I found at the IUFM. It is on the third floor. There are three red chairs grouped around a window. It is almost cozy. Well, except for the long (and I’m convinced now, haunted) and empty hallway. There are classrooms here but never any classes. In fact, I never see any classes in session. I’m not convinced that there are any classes here. I just see a bunch of students in the Salle a Manger (eating room) around lunch and then they disappear. All of the classrooms I’ve seen are empty. All the time. I think this place is—

Woa! There’s smoke coming from the chimney. I just looked out the window. Where is there a fireplace? In the Janitor’s closet? (Which I’ve seen, by the way. It’s painted red.) I swear this place is haunted. I know this hallway is. It is right above the Salle Informatique (computer room). Whenever I am on the computer I always hear “thud, thud, thud” over my head, like someone is running with scissors. But there is never anyone up here. By the way, the doorframes up here are painted Pepto-Dismal Pink.

Okay, on to Morocco before I forget it completely. As I said before, the most interesting part of Morocco (for me) was the people. I sometimes just sat in Place Jemaa El-Fna, drank some Moroccan tea, and watched the people walk past. Moroccan tea is green tea with lots of mint and sugar. I loved it. (Sophie didn’t). It was funny because Hamid was always asking me if I wanted tea and I was like, “Yeah, sure” and we would gulp this stuff down while Sophie would sit back and watch. Hamid didn’t speak English well and I don’t speak French well so it was interesting to spend time with him. When people don’t speak each other’s language it is like they have to regress a little to a more simple, childlike state. Thus something like drinking tea becomes more like two kids sharing toys. It doesn’t always work that way, of course. Some people become more formal and reserved if there is a language barrier. But I prefer the simple, happy smile and ready laugh method of communication.

Okay, back to Morocco (again). Place Jemaa El-Fna. I keep mentioning it, but I should describe it. Crazy. It was sort of the center of things. It was limited to pedestrians. And bicycles. And motorcycles. And donkey drawn carts. And horse drawn carriages (for the tourists). And the occasional vehicle. The Place was open and surrounded on all sides by shops, restaurants, and mosques. There were people with monkeys, people with cobras, and people with odd clothes wandering around, trying to get money from tourists (me). There were Henna ladies and Fortune Tellers literally camped out. There were small stands selling things like tea, soup, cake (very dry with lots of flour), pastries, etc. I had some cinnamon tea that was very strong and very good. There were two rows of orange carts, olive carts, spice carts, and snail carts (who would have thought that eating snails would have been such a big thing in Morocco. In fact, you could buy roasted snails on just about every corner in the city. People would buy a bowl and stand by the cart and chow down.) There were also people selling kitsch (usually inflatable Santas). It was crazy. Then, every late afternoon, people would start hauling tents and benches into the Place Jemaa El-Fna. They would set up several tents and start cooking different things under each tent. You could find soup, fish, kabob, pig's heads (as in an actual, whole pig’s head), couscous, tanjines, etc. (Contrary to popular belief, couscous refers to the whole plate, not just the grainy Seminole stuff).

My next-to-last night in Morocco we all went out and had some food under one of the tents. As we were sitting there eating I heard the dulcet tones of American English. These two guys sat down next to us. I leaned over to Sophie and said (in French) “They’re from California.” She said, “How can you tell?” At this point one of the guys stood up to go look at the food. His curly blond hair was swept across his head and he was wearing brown pants with purple velour triangles sewn into the bottom to make bell bottoms. ‘Nuff said.

When he got back I asked them what part of the states they came from. California. They had been studying Spanish in Spain and had come to Morocco with the intention of driving around and seeing the smaller towns (obviously influenced by repeated viewings of _Motorcycle Diaries_). And no, they did not speak either French or Arabic. Ah, I said in my superior east-coast tone and I turned back to Hamid and Sophie. And that was my only encounter with other Americans the entire time I was in Morocco.

Off to the side of Place Jemaa El-Fna were The Souks. The Souks were miles and miles of narrow labyrinthine streets, twisting and turning and branching and joining under wooden slats that formed a makeshift roof. And along these pedestrian (and bicycle and motorcycle and donkey drawn cart and occasional car) streets were shops. You could buy fabric, Caftans, custom made Caftans, teapots and tea trays and teacups, dresses, spices, pottery (plates, bowls, cups), shoes, carpets, jewelry, leather goods, scarves, spices, pastries, olives, nuts, skincare products, and just about anything else. It was amazing. The only problem was none of the prices were fixed. If you were European you got one price. If you were Moroccan with Europeans you got another price. And if you were a Moroccan tout seul you got a third price. When I decided it was time to buy souvenirs and gifts, I told Hamid what I wanted and he went in and got it for me.

In the Souks (and thus impossible to find) were the Museum of Marrakech and the Medersa Ben Youssef (14th century). The Museum was housed in a former Palace and contained artifacts and modern Moroccan art. The inside of the palace was amazing—it was my first experience with Moroccan architecture and design and I loved it. There was so much color and detail. The floor was covered in tiles: green, red, blue, black, white, and yellow. The walls had tiles and carvings—all very geometric. The ceilings are amazing—generally made out of wood that had been carved. It was all one of those scenes that even a picture cannot do justice to. One really has to be there to see it all.

It is the same with the Medersa. A Medersa is a school for students of the Koran. This one no longer a school so it was thus open to infidels like me. The second floor was all students rooms. There were more students rooms on the first floor. The building was constructed in a square around a courtyard. At one end of the courtyard was the Salle a Prier (Prayer Room). Again, a breathtaking room. And I will leave it at that and hope the Internet goes up again soon so I can put photos on my ‘blog. But even the photos do not capture it so you will all just have to use your imagination. Or go to Morocco.


Pervy night watchman is back. He’s still sporting the Santa hat. He is convinced that I am the German assistant so now every time he sees me he says “Halt” and gives me a Hitler salute. I’m not exaggerating on this one. Jo and I are convinced that he is a child molester. (Or as I just typed at first, a chili molester. Which is much funnier.) The first time I saw him I was walking back to my building at about 11pm. He stopped me to make sure I wasn’t a student (normal), then, after I told him that I was the English assistant and that I didn’t understand much French, he followed me up the stairs to my hallway talking about how he liked little girls (in French). Weird.

Anyway, the gangs all back. I popped down to the kitchen tonight to see Jo and found that she was already in bed and Natalia (the Argentinian. Or, as my Grandmother calls her, the butter girl), Alyssia (Italian), and Helene (Russian) were there. Dagmar (Austrian) was in her room with her mom. Helene had told everyone that I had been having stomach troubles, so I, following the advice of three different people, had rice, spinach, and lemon. Mixed together. If my stomach was only annoyed before it is pissed now. I will have to sooth it with some carrots. In the form of a cake.

But butter girl was all smiles and laughs. I was friendly but wary. I will have to stay on my guard around her. Jo! Where were you? How could you go to sleep and leave me there alone? Do you know how long it has been since I’ve spoken in English? With an English speaking person? Ah well.

Anyway, I finished the three Georgia books that Mom sent me. Very Funny. I think I ought to put times on my entries here (like she does) so people know something a little more than “later.” Right now it is 22h20. That is 10:20pm in English. Anyway, I wish we had this book when I was growing up. All we had was Are you there God, it’s me Margaret. Which is a really, really good book but even by my time it was a little outdated. I guess that books which treat teenage girl angst age very quickly. Oh, and Georgia is the perfect example of why I do not want children. She is a very funny character, but can you imagine having to parent her? I would dump her on the side of a road. In France. Oh, but the bits in French are funny. I can just imagine the character saying them with a very, very bad English accent. It is similar to what Jo and I do here. Sometimes we use French verbs but conjugate them as English ones. Thus we wind up manging, parling, and utilizing quelquechose. (In our own form of Anglophone protest, we also pronounce all the letters.)

Reason number 457 why the French language is weird:
I miss my family. Simple, right? But how do you say it in French? Ma famille me manquent. That is not, as any type of common sense would lead one to believe, my family misses me. It gets weirder. What if you want to say “I miss my room.” It would be ma chambre me manque. If I hear a sentence like that, I assume that the speaker has just personified his or her room and given it human emotions. This is a weird, weird language. And the French are weird, weird people. Pygmies. With no boobs. I have more boob on one side of me than you can find in a three generation French family. And this is post-op. The good news is that implants do not seem to have floated across the ocean to France. The bad news is that trying on French clothes is like shopping in the girls department.

I now refer to myself as “on the continent.” I use that expression to explain certain bizarre phenomenon. Gwen Stefani’s latest song, for example. I say, “she’s obviously been spending too much time on the continent.” (I am so gonna get flamed for that one. I think.)

Up to page 15. Lalala. Hope the Internet is up soon. For everyones’ sakes.
By the way, Butter girl has put on some weight. It is all in her hips. Even before she started complaining about it tonight I saw it. And I am not the world’s most observant person. I, on the other hand, have lost some weight. Not much, but enough that you can see it in my face. And this is after launching myself face down into a carrot cake. Ha ha, stomach flu!


At 4:55 PM, Blogger Margaret said...

aww Deirdre, when the wacky adult is you, of course I'd be in your entero- well me and Dad cant figure out to spell it, so yeah. whatever it is. thanks for all the compliments.


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