Tuesday, November 9, 2010

B'slama Ahermoumou

How perfect to leave from souk. Mondays are souk day and all transportation moves over there. So I go over a bit early to wait for the bus-it’s not like I’ve got a chair to sit on in my place and everyone else from the village is over there anyway. So I sit and watch the parade-the normal bustle of Monday souk. Young women in tight jeans, sweaters/coats to modestly cover their butts, and fancy heels or boots. Souk is social after all. Then there are all the older women in their jellaba and practical rubber soled shoes. I hear the guys on the loudspeakers, others just calling out their prices in ryals. Lots of sheep and goat. I mean LOTS of sheep and goat. Stopping to admire and inquire the price of someone else's sheep. Newly purchased pottery grills and bags of charcoal. Leid Kbir is next week. The sheep and goat are loaded on top of transports, in trunks of taxis, dragged along the sidewalk. (One is shoved into the baggage hold of our bus-I can hear its hooves trying to get a hold as we turn sharp corners all the way to Rabat.) They say that 10 million sheep are slaughtered for Leid Kbir each year-that’s one for every 3 people. Even if that figure is off by a factor of 10, 1 million sheep is a LOT of lamb. Goat is for those who cannot afford a sheep.

While I wait for the bus, Amina texts me. “Where are you, I want to say goodbye, can you come over?” “I’m at souk waiting for the bus”. “I’m coming over”. Sure enough, she does. Just to sit with me while I wait. Zahra is also coming and she brings Ferida with her.

I’m so emotional about leaving these people. It’s hard to describe how close you can get to people when your language has limited the depths of your conversations. Suffice it to say, actions do speak louder than words.

I did make it over to Fatima’s for my final goodbyes to her and her family. Hamdullah, her sisters and mother were there as well. OMG it was sooo hard. You’d think I had no tears left by then, but they flowed like a river. Allah yxlli likum lli 3ziz 3likum.

When the bus finally arrives, I’ve got a full entourage to see me off-Aicha, Naima and Halima have joined us. They watch out for me to be certain I get a “good” seat and my bag is safely stored below (with the sheep).

As I’ve said before, Morocco grows strong women. I’ve been so fortunate to work with some of its best these last 2 years-some of the most remarkable women I’ve ever known. Their love, generosity, acceptance, patience and gratitude are the greatest gifts I take with me from this place. I am humbled.

Allah yrhm l-walidin Ahermoumou. Gadi ntwashtkum bzzaf. Gadi tkunu dima f qlb dyali.

I wanted to take the bus-a bit easier, but much longer, because I want to savor the countryside all the way to Rabat. As we go thru Zouia, I’m reminded of what Courtney told me, and wonder how it affects this little village just outside REK. The original residents of towns named Zouia are supposedly descendents of the Prophet, and the King distributes money to the current descendents every year. The downside (in Cortney’s town for example) is that this discourages initiative, as they’ll get enough money to live on simply for being there.

The bus takes us on the 'trek Sefrou', so I get to see my favorite views-the gorges, switchbacks, rivers. The countryside is turning green after the recent rains and sunshine. The olive trees are laden with green/black/purple olives awaiting the post-Leid harvest. Men are active plowing the fields w/their mules, getting the next planting ready. New seasons, new beginning for all of us.

We’re almost in Rabat when the rain starts. No problem except that the windshield wipers on the bus don’t work. I’m thinking that I’ve made it thru God-knows-how-many treacherous bus and taxi rides for 2 years and I’m gonna die in a head-on due to equipment malfunction right outside Rabat. Fortunately the rain subsides and we make our way safely to the bus terminal.

I finally arrive at the PC-friendly Hotel Velleda. “Complete” says the sign. So says the guy at the desk. I have a reservation. No you don’t. I show him the email I’ve printed out (yes, I've learned from prior experience). Hmmm. Mushkil. Last test of Moroccan service (not something you typically admire). Front desk guy tells me there’s an American girl in Room 6, thinks she’s Peace Corps-I can share her room. Uh, no. I don’t know her and am not bunking w/a stranger. Besides, even if I was willing, who says she would be? Well, there are 2 American men in singles, maybe they’ll share and you can have their room. Uh, you don’t know when they’ll be back, what they’re willing to do, and it may be very late by the time we find out and then I’m stuck. OK, he says he’ll sleep on the couch and I can have his apartment downstairs. Bsssah? I don’t think so. He calls around and all the local budget hotels are booked except one, but the price is 200DH, ok? No, I’m only going to pay what I reserved. I tell him that in the US, if a hotel is overbooked, they find another room and charge the same price to those who have confirmed reservations. He calls the manager (who I know well) and wants me to talk to him on the phone. No, unless he has a different answer, I just need a room at the same price I booked. He proposes that they cover ½ the price and I the other and take the 200DH room, safi? Iyeah. He calls the manager and confirms it’s ok. Yes. I’ve got a room, he’s apologized for the inconvenience and I’m a satisfied customer. After travelling all day, nothing to eat or drink since early morning, emotionally exhausted from all the goodbyes, no sleep the night before, all’s well. Hamdullah. Thanks for keeping the faith Morocco.

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