Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sultry Summer

It’s hot and a little sticky. Everyone’s outside-sitting on the curb in front of their house, up on the roof. This week promises more-expecting 111 degrees for next Saturday’s Ribat El Kheir Festival. Remember, no A/C. Grin and bear it. And it’s much worse in the south, so we have it good. Yikes.

On top of the heat, this is “wedding season”. Every day you hear trucks go by w/musicians in the back, followed by honking cars driving around the village. Weddings in Morocco are a different animal. A 3 day affair. Nonstop. If you’re officially invited, you come to dinner-maybe it appears at 2 in the morning. Guaranteed to be lots of dancing and music. From there it varies dramatically from region to region and size of village. Example: this weekend several of us gathered in Khoukhate-a small mud brick village about 8 hrs travel from here. There was a wedding in the next duar over last night. Everyone comes after the big dinner (usually on the 2nd night) to dance and party. Four of the six of us walked over around 1am (not incl. yours truly), after cleaning up and donning jellabas and scarves. They came back at 5am, just in time for us to catch the only transit out of town at 5:30am. Apparently they did have dinner-hadn’t been served by the time they arrived, and while there was dancing, it was segregated, and mostly (drunk) boys dancing. In another PCV’s duar, again everyone in town is invited/obligated to come to the party. At that particular duar, up in the mountains, everyone knows when the marriage is consummated, when the bride and groom have disappeared for a little while and the mother of the groom comes out to parade the bloody sheet, proving the bride was a virgin. In my town, it is not a town event, you mostly are just aware of the honking and occasional trucks w/music. I’ve heard 4 such groups of drivers just today. Officially the couple is married when they file an official document, often done months before the actual celebration. It is interesting to hear the stories about the couples-who met and fell in love, who has been matched with a significantly older groom, lots of first cousins, and occasional descriptions of marrying a girl below their status-guaranteeing a hard worker who won’t leave them. This of course comes from the perspective of the countryside. Modern, European-like weddings take place all over Morocco this time of year as well in the cities. But it’s much more colorful in the country. It does make for long celebrations, after the first one, which is very fun, it’s also not uncommon to find PCVs finding ways to be out of site during weddings so they can get some sleep, unless of course it’s a member of their host family, in which case attendance is culturally mandatory.

So yes, we went to Khoukhate this weekend. Five of us who trained in Ain Leuh together, plus a few adoptees, get together in different cities occasionally to catch up. This time we decided to visit Cynthia’s town and learn how to make couscous. No, not how to cook it. How to make it. From scratch-starting w/flour and water. Not hard-it is a form of pasta after all.

So it takes a transit to Sefrou, taxi to Immouzer, taxi to Azrou, bus to Zaida and transit to Khoukhate to get there. Oh, and at least 8 hours. Khoukhate is a small duar for Small Business Development standards. Electricity, no running water, but Cynthia has a well just outside her door. All mud brick construction. Keeps things much cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Her only produce or meat is in Zaida, and that’s about 1 hr transit, at 5:30-6:00 am every day. No refrig. Gotta be resourceful to eat a balanced diet. Of course it’s also common in small duars like that to eat a lot of your meals w/others-everyone’s door is open. This is also why Cynthia felt an obligation to go to the wedding last night, and fortunately 3 of the others were willing to go along.

I stayed behind since I acquired stomach problems along the way. Still feeling pretty punk. Usually my system bounces back quickly. Two weekends ago, when it was unbearably hot and we were in the bled my system went haywire. Goes to show that no matter how careful you are about what you consume, ie; bringing your own water, the heat can keep things going/growing that aren’t always good for you. Even took a nap today after I got home, and I never do that. Gotta rally overnight, as I need to retrace my steps tomorrow morning and get to Ifrane for meetings beginning at 11am. Can’t bugger out-I called the meeting w/2 profs at Al Akhawayn University to work out details for the fall workshops in Fes. Meanwhile, trying to stay hydrated so I’m feeling the best possible. Tomorrow promises to be another scorcher and 40% chance of rain-are you kidding? Wait-is that a bit of a breeze I feel? Hamdullah. Maybe I’ll get some good sleep.

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