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Why yes, I’m still working on telling you all about a trip I took last fall. Hang in there. Only a few more posts, and then I’ll go back to posting once every three months.
When we first moved to Mauritania, I was amazed at the driving. It was like nothing I’d ever experienced before. We’d lived there only a few months when 3 kids racing horses down the street flew around a corner and smashed a horse up onto our car, leaving the horse screaming in agony with a broken leg (they didn’t put it down either; the poor thing lived another week). They claimed it was our fault, and the police agreed after a rapid discussion in Arabic in which some money may or may not have changed hands.
Driving in Mauritania was never ever relaxing. Stopping for a red light was like a jeopardy game. You know how the contestants wait with their hands on the buzzer, and the instant the question flashes they hit that buzzer, only to sometimes realize they don’t know the answer? That was what it was like. The instant the light changed–literally before you had time to move your foot from the brake to the gas pedal–the honking started.
Some events remain green in my memory. The woman in the pink muluffa driving 5 km down one of the main streets with her eyes closed, muttering prayers as her car drifted dangerously near mine. The donkey cart in the right lane suddenly swerving in front of me to turn left. Me jamming on the brakes and shouting and gesturing a bit (not rudely, just exasperatedly) and the children being so embarrassed. The habit drivers had of simply stopping their cars in the middle of the street and getting out and going into the school/shop/wherever. The pointless traffic jams where each car claims each inch of space it can, resulting in a full intersection of angry people and no one going anywhere.
This is my attempt to show you a pointless traffic jam. This is a normal intersection. In America, there would be one lane of traffic going each way. We are headed towards those buildings. The picture is taken through the windshield of Aicha’s car and you can see the hood and the direction we’re pointing. I’m not sure this picture does it justice, but I knew no one there would want to be photographed.
As bad as Mauritania was, Morocco was worse. The driving was the same, except there were more cars going faster, since streets were paved, and there were high curbs and sidewalks, which took away your getaway. (In Mauritania, even paved streets have wide sandy shoulders filled with children and handicapped people that you can swerve into if necessary.) Morocco was insane. If Mauritania was hell on wheels, Morocco was the 9th circle. But I learned to love the challenge. There was one road that I always felt would be instrumental in teaching fractions. It was divided in half (one half for each direction) as normal, but the entire road was also divided in thirds. This meant 1 1/2 lanes for each direction. Naturally Moroccan drivers were able to turn this into 3 lanes for each direction. I found it just as effective as anything else to simply close my eyes and use the force to steer.
When we first came back to the US, I found the driving tame and insipid. I tend to express my feelings vocally while driving, and I would sit at the green light muttering “GO!” at the car in front of me while Ilsa chirped, “Use the horn, Mom!” from the back seat. Seriously, she could not understand why her parents were suddenly so mealy-mouthed, so to speak. I tend to be a really impatient driver with a bit of a heavy foot on the gas pedal. I swerve (politely) in and out of traffic, making up time so I’m not too late, usually going ever-so-slightly above the speed limit, until I notice I’m
15 10 miles over and slow down. And this is on surface streets.
I assumed I still had what it took to be on the streets of North Africa, so it came as a shock to find that I have become timid. I’d be sitting in a taxi watching a bus coming straight towards me, about to T-bone us, and I would find myself tense, gasping, bracing for the inevitable collision as our taxi moved with less than a second to spare. When we lived there, things like this didn’t bother me. I rather liked the excitement of the near miss. But on this trip I spent a lot of our time in taxis tensing up and feebly fumbling for something to hold on to–the edge of the seat, the door handle if available, anything. My heart pounded. Pitiful.
Morocco has spent the last 3 years attempting to re-do its driving. Right about the time we were leaving, they were introducing a system of “points” where you could lose points for various infractions, although how on earth this would be enforced remained unclear. Foreigners had to get a Moroccan driver’s license, whether or not they really spoke French or Arabic. Supposedly this would make everything calmer, more civilized. I had visions of intersections with drivers saying, “No, you go first. Please” instead of charging ahead, guns blazing, so to speak. On this trip, there came a moment when we were in a taxi heading downtown and I realized that everyone was waiting in his or her own proper lane. There were supposed to be 3 lanes–there were 3 lanes, instead of the normal 5 or 6. “Wow, it’s really working,” I thought.
The traffic light changed, everyone surged forward, and within 2 seconds I realized that actually nothing had changed. Battles were still being fought over inches of pavement space. The only difference was my stress level and, apparently, gullibility.
By the time we got to Mauritania, I’d pretty much adjusted back. Donn’s friend Mohammed, who is doing really well for himself, loaned us a car for a few days. It was just like old times, driving around town, getting stuck in pointless traffic jams where the only way out is to join in and fight for those inches of progress, singing “Anarchy in the UK” (Sample lyrics: I know what I want and I know how to get it) as we wove our way in and out of oncoming traffic. It was Oregon that was once again the shock.
When you live in a place for 6 years, you come to think of it as home, even as you still refer to your country of origin as “home.” This is a conundrum familiar to travelers and expatriates alike. The result, naturally enough, is that you never feel completely at home in any single place again. There’s always something you miss.
We lived in Mauritania long enough for a bit of the desert to enter our souls. But we have been gone for as long as we’d lived there, and Morocco was very different. What would it be like to return after 6 years?
In a word, it was disorienting. As we drove from the airport into the dust-filled midnight, Donn said, “It hasn’t changed at all.” But it had. In the morning, we saw the water. Everyone had been telling us that the city had grown and grown and grown, but it took us several days to see all the ways that it had.
This is an example, an enormous fountain (?) being put in at the carrefour nearest our old house. Presumably they’ll unwrap the dolphins at some point. Can’t wait to see how long this monstrosity is used. How long before it’s left to publicly crumble, like the palm trees they used to plant for visiting dignitaries and then didn’t water once the dignitaries had left?
That first afternoon, Donn and I wandered out to begin to look for old friends. Since leaving in 2007, we’d lost track of almost everybody, and we were anxious to find again these people who live so annoyingly without facebook, email, and skype. (Aside: I am not describing everyone here, just some. But a high proportion of Mauritanians live without internet in their homes.) We decided to walk. Donn stopped to take a picture of the edge of one of the puddles, where trash floated suspended in murkiness. Some kids driving by mocked us at first, and then turned it into mocking themselves for coming from a country with trash everywhere. It was a little sad, especially as they spoke English, which means they are upper-class and educated.
We stopped by the home of the guy who was probably Donn’s closest friend when we lived there. Mohammed is someone we have kept in touch with. He occasionally will call Donn on his vonage phone. But we didn’t have a phone in Mauritania. We went to his parents’ house, which we found after only one wrong turn. A group of boys playing outside approached up, avid curiosity mingled with suspicion on their faces. “Who are you looking for?” asked one. We gave the name. “He is my grandfather,” said the boy with great dignity in spite of torn knees and dust-covered jeans. I realized he must be my friend H’s son, the one who was born during Ramadan, the one they rubbed henna all over when he was 3 days old so that he was a curious orange colour when I first saw him. Since Mohammed and his father have the same name, we knew we were in the right place.
Mohammed wasn’t there but one of his older sisters was, and she called him and handed us the phone. He no longer lives there but has his own place now, even though he’s still not married. We arranged a time to meet the following day, and walked on. I needed conditioner so we went to one of the bigger stores where we used to shop. We walked in. “How are you? How are the kids?” one of the young men shouted, running over to shake Donn’s hand and hug him. I couldn’t believe it. He remembered us.
We asked him where a cyber-cafe was and he told us of a new place. Nouakchott’s main drag is wider now and there are sidewalks, at least at this end, and street lights that worked, and even a new traffic light. It was a bit disorientating. We found the cafe, and there were actual tables and chairs set out on the sidewalk, something we’d never seen before. It felt a little bit like Morocco, except for all the dust in the air, fogging the orange light cast by the streetlights, stirring in little eddies as the men in their long white robes walked past. We ordered coffee and pulled out our iPad (Donn) and smart phone (me) to check mail. We sat there, in full view of the city, obviously foreign and by extension obviously rich, oblivious. When we’d finished, we went over to visit Oasis Books, our old project. (When we lived there, Donn was the administrator and I was a teacher there. It was the first English bookstore and library in the country and also taught English classes). There, the people that run it now told us about how smart phones and iPads are the most desirable things to steal in the country, and told us of a woman who’d been killed for her smart phone by a taxi driver.
That made me feel vulnerable. I don’t know if I can describe how visible I always felt in Mauritania, where I look different from almost everyone else and I stand out. On the one hand, I value this experience. I, a white middle-class American woman, know very well how it is to be the minority. On the other hand, I am at essence a shy person and all the attention is wearing. Hearing that I had sat, my face and hair shining like the sun in its splendor, using a much-desired smart phone in a very public place made me feel a little strange.
As a result, our friends told us, the government had kicked out all non-native taxi drivers. This meant that taxis were scarce and the drivers felt they could charge you more than 100 times the going rate, which friends told us technically hadn’t changed. So instead of 80 cents, we were quoted $12 to go short distances. When we protested, the driver would simply drive off. It was frustrating.
In the 6 years since we left, Mauritania has changed so much. Yes the city has grown–it must be twice the size. But Al-Queda has also come to the area. Aid workers have been kidnapped; a friend of ours was gunned down in the streets. There was a suicide bomber outside the kids’ old school who, like a bad joke, killed only himself. All these things have taken a toll. Peace Corps left, most of the French families left along with European businesses and many of our American and European friends, and the Paris-Dakar rally has relocated to South America. Donn was talking to a man who sold souvenirs–bracelets made of wood and metal, leatherwork, picture frames and occasional tables.”We are all paying the devil’s bill,” he told Donn mournfully, “Not just us, but the tour guides in the desert and everyone at all connected to tourism.”
It’s true I felt more unsafe there, although I want to stress that nothing happened. In part, it was stories people told us, including Mauritanian friends. In part, it was probably in my head. I do know that we stood out like we did in 2001 and like we didn’t by 2007, when oil had been discovered and Europeans, Americans and Australians were flooding in. (Flooding is a relative term. Perhaps seeping would be more accurate) And being in such a noticeable and noticed minority makes one feel vulnerable, no matter the reality of the situation.
Mauritania can be an infuriating place but before you know it, the people have crept into your heart. Like the kids who started out mocking us and then turned their wit on themselves, the nation as a whole suffers from an inferiority complex that is often masked in an annoying superiority. I still remember a student I had who picked his nose with his pen. I’d look over and his pen would be half up his nose, and I’d have to look away quickly. He said to me one day, “I think Mauritanians are cleaner than Americans.” I flashed on people living in the dirt without running water, on trash-choked streets and on the unpaved roads. I asked him why he thought that, and he said, “Because we are Muslim and we wash our hands 5 times a day before we pray.” Meanwhile, in America, kids are developing asthma because their environments are too sterile and there are wipes available at the grocery store for your carts and toilet seat covers for public toilets. I thought of trying to describe it, but it was too much. I just said, “Americans wash their hands a lot too,” and left it at that.
I remember trying to teach a writing class to use specific descriptions. I wrote on the board, “The mountain is beautiful” and showed them two pictures, one of a flat mesa in the Mauritanian desert in shades of ochre, and one of snow-capped Mt Hood rising above deep green forests. I asked which picture the sentence described, wanting them to tell me it could be either, and they needed more picturesque and expressive words, but instead they cast their eyes down and said, “You are right. Mauritania is not beautiful.”
See? They just crept into your heart a little bit, didn’t they? Even now, thinking of those earnest students who tried so hard and who had so few chances to succeed makes me sad and angry and proud.
And so I have to say that in the ways that count most, Mauritania has not changed. It’s grown a lot. It felt more unsafe. But that curious, fascinating blend of people pushing you away and reaching out to you at the same time is still there. People stared at me on the street, but that didn’t mean they meant me harm–just that I was unusual, like seeing your TV come to life. My friend Aicha’s guard said to her, when I went for lunch, “Can I come in and just watch her eat? I’ve seen people eating with knives and forks on TV but never in real life.” “NO you can’t come watch her eat!” said Aicha, and she laughed when she told me, but I sensed she also felt shy, insecure, that she comes from a place where people can reach adulthood without ever being exposed to silverware.
I know I keep using the word “strange,” but it was strange to be there, in a world half-remembered and yet never forgotten. Our time in Mauritania changed our family, forever shaped how we view the world and our place in it, even though we were only there six years, a portion of my life that grows smaller and smaller as the years pile on. Life has an intensity there, a preciousness perhaps born of the fact that life isn’t all that precious, as babies run out behind your SUV and people die for the lack of something as basic as water. Perhaps it’s because everything you thought you knew has been stood on its head—fat is beautiful, the utility companies will cheat you and rob you blind, the cute puppy will be a skinny rabid dog in about 6 weeks. But once you’ve lived there, you will forever more be impatient with certain values the developed world holds dear. Life is precious because it is precarious, and there’s a solidity to that fact that is blurred and blunted in more affluent countries. And in a certain sense, returning to the desert did feel like coming home.
One of the adventuresome things about traveling in the Arab world is learning how different the dialects of neighbouring countries can be. How hard can it be? you think at first. Say, for example, you have been working on Hassiniya, the Mauritanian dialect. Surely Dareja, the Moroccan dialect, will be similar, since they share a border and were divided up by those pesky French in the 60s, which really wasn’t all that long ago. You will be wrong though. And one of the fun differences is that in Mauritania, 2 is “ethnane” and in Morocco it is “juge.”
Of course this isn’t just the Arab world. We lived in the town of Chambery, France, for a year. Chambery is located so close to the border of Italy that it was at one point part of Italy, and the last king and queen of Italy are buried by the shores of a lake not too far away. I figured when we went to Italy, my French would work better than my English, but I was wrong. Also in Spain, English will get you further than French or Arabic will.
I loved living in Morocco, and I cried like a baby, only more bitterly, when we had to leave. But living anyplace is…well, just life. There are bills, and you have to go to work, and kids have problems at school, and housing is
hard impossible to find, and sometimes the taxi drivers are surly and you get a cold and it’s so damp that your books mould. Visiting Morocco, however, is just wonderful, plain and simple.
We spent a lot of our time in Morocco playing tourist. Oh sure we visited people, and it was wonderful to see them. We had lunch with old colleagues and ate chicken and olive tagines for about $4 in a basic area of the city, and we met a friend for ice-cream in the expensive European part of the city and it costs $7 for 3 little boules (scoops), but mostly we just wandered around happily. I got a pedicure. I love getting pedicures but I never do, as they are expensive. In Rabat, you can go to the European section and visit a spa and still pay $12 for a very nice, very long pedicure. My nails are still a delightful red, although of course now I’m wearing socks and no one can see them. But I know they’re there.
No you don’t want a pic of my toes. You want cool arches!
We took a lot of taxis and it was fun to watch Donn plunge right back into Darija, chatting away to the taxi drivers, who are always impressed and happy if you speak even a smattering of Arabic with them.
When we lived there, I made friends with an Italian woman with a Moroccan husband, whose daughter was in Ilsa’s class at school. Irina’s dream was to open a small store selling organic produce and her own home-made jams, jellies, and sauces. She was an incredible cook. We’d lost touch, and I wanted to find her. We walked to her old home and rang the bell several times. No one was home. A Moroccan man came up to see what we wanted. “The Italian woman?” we asked. He shook his head, but went to talk to someone else who was coming up to see what we wanted. (This is common.) Oh yes, he knew her, and pointed to a house across the street.
When we pushed open the door, we saw mounds of gourds, enormous pumpkins and squashes, piles of pomegranates and peppers, and more. The small garage was filled with parsley, lettuce and other greens, and behind a table with a cash register on it was a shelf groaning with jars of jellies and sauces, all prettily labeled in Irina’s own hand. And there was Irina herself, in a white coat, chatting with a French woman who had obviously just come to pick up her order, and was loading it all into an enormous straw basket.
This would prove to be a theme of our trip–finding people with whom we’d lost contact, and finding them doing really well, succeeding at what they’d hoped to do. I was thrilled to see Irina, and to see how busy she was. She had people stopping by nonstop to pick up their orders. She asked us to come back on Monday afternoon for coffee, which we did, and had a great time catching up on the news. I took her card and gave it to all my friends, hoping to drum up even more business for her. I hope next time we go, she has her own shop.
So. Our first day in Morocco, we walked by the kids’ old school and took pictures, visited Irina, and went downtown and wandered round the Oudayas until sunset, at which point we went back to our friends’ house, where we spent a thoroughly delightful evening eating and talking till late. Sunday we went to church with them, where we saw many old friends and attempted to cram 3 years into 10 minutes. Then we had lunch with former colleagues. Then we had expensive ice-cream with a Moroccan friend, then another late evening just talking with our hosts. We sat round a table in their garden, staring out at trees and sometimes with a fire warming our backs from the small fireplace on the patio, ate good food, drank good wine, and shared good conversation. Life doesn’t get much better than that, right?
Refugees, struggling to build a new life in America and start again from scratch in middle age, have two or three especially pressing needs–learning English, getting a job, and getting a driver’s license. Yes, life in America is difficult without a car. Public transportation is sporadic in the suburbs, and getting anywhere takes hours. Taxis are horrifically expensive (oh I do miss the days when I could pay a taxi driver 80 cents to take me clear across town, and watch the road going by below through a hole in the floorboards…) (That was Nouakchott, in case you’re wondering).
In general, the men already know how to drive. But old habits die hard. I think driving is about the same throughout the Arab world, and I’ve written plenty about the driving in Morocco and Mauritania; I’m pretty sure it’s the same in Baghdad. Donn went with one guy last year, for his third attempt at getting his license. They had to leave early to get the guy’s kids from school, and Donn watched, aghast, as he sped through neighbourhoods at 50 mph. “You know they’ll fail you if you speed like this,” he commented. “No problem!” said the guy. “Today is the last day–I promise! Tomorrow no more speeding.”
But the women need someone to teach them. They need someone to sit beside them and teach them new vocabulary, like “STOPPLEASESTOPAUUUGGGHHHHH.” I had no desire to be this person. I have a 16 year old son who has his permit, and sometimes I let him drive my car (which is a manual), and I have fun using the imaginary brake on the passenger side, and occasionally squeaking. That, frankly, is enough excitement for me.
But one day Maude asked me to teach her. I tried to put her off, but she was right–she needs a car, needs to be able to drive, to not be dependent on me to get her places all the time. Teach a woman to fish, I thought philosophically.
I knew she’d driven in parking lots several times and even taken a class which taught her rules of the road. So for the next several weeks, until they got a car, I pointed things out on our way to class. “This is a school zone. You HAVE to drive 20 mph.” I pointed out the police car hiding oh-so-subtly behind a hedge in a driveway at the end of the school zone. I found myself pointing out all sorts of helpful things as I drove safely, logically, practically, and beautifully. Really, you would be very impressed at how I’ve been driving.
Last Friday I had a free hour before conversation class, so we strapped Maude’s 4-year-old in the backseat of their car, a ten-year-old gold Daewoo (or something like that) with the engine light perpetually on and a habit of lurching worryingly when idling. We drove round the parking lot for a while. “Now it’s time for a road!” I said, but Maude was unconvinced. In fact, she was downright resistant to the idea. “Look,” I pointed out. “There are two entrances to the parking lot. We’ll leave by one, drive less than half a block, and turn into the second. You will only be on the road for the tiniest bit.”
She managed to successfully turn out of the parking lot, but then she hit the gas, overshot the second driveway, and stopped in the middle of the road. I managed to get her going again, and we drove uneventfully round some neighbourhoods for about 45 minutes. No cars were injured, no squirrels were scared.
Buoyed by this success, the following week I took her out again. I told her she could drive from her apartment to class. This necessitated going on “big” roads, two-lane roads with light traffic and speed limits of up to 40. Although the trip in was a bit hair-raising, she made it okay. We swerved alarmingly on the bends and the left turns were a little frightening, but overall she did really well.
Part of me knew that should be enough for one day. She did great, on bigger roads for the first time, we should be done. But then, no one else came to conversation class that day. “Let’s go driving!” I said. I planned to keep to small residential streets. But then I thought we could go visit someone else, and I could sort of kill two birds with one stone, as it were. Another friend had called with the guilt-inducing “I’m just calling to say hi because it’s so long since you’ve come to see me” and I saw a chance to settle that score.
When I was 8, my Welsh grandma had a stroke and Mum and I spent a couple of months in Wales nursing her back to health. (This is not a rabbit trail; bear with me). I clearly remember seeing the big square “L” plates on the back of cars and asking about them. “L means learner; it means the person driving is just learning,” my uncle explained. I have always thought this was a brilliant idea. Think how you respond to cars that say “Driving School” on them. (Total aside but connected: once in Morocco, Donn saw an “auto ecole” (driving school) car in the far left lane of a road with about 6 lanes of traffic (2 or 3 intended) with its right turn signal on. He watched in amazement as the light changed and the car shot across all 6 lanes!) I cannot tell you how badly I want a big L plate for when I’m driving with Maude and when I’m driving with Elliot. Seriously, why don’t we have them? It’s so logical. Perhaps some enterprising person could make some?
Back to driving with Maude, on our way to a mutual friend’s house. We did all right for a while, but then we settled onto a fairly long, fairly straight stretch of road. There was one lane going each direction, and a centre lane for turning. Speed limit was 35, but Maude was having a hard time with consistency; she kept slowing then speeding then slowing. At one point, she slowed down quite dramatically and the car behind us, obviously fed up although possibly thinking she was going to turn, shot into the centre lane and passed us. I tried making the “L” sign (for Learner, naturally) with my finger and thumb but, judging from the driver’s reaction, I think he may have misunderstood me. But seriously–he had no business passing us. And, worst of all, when that car appeared where no car had been before, I screamed. This just made Maude more terrified.
Then I saw another car, waiting to turn left onto our street. My brain said he would wait till we’d passed, since he really didn’t have room. My brain was wrong. Out he shot, again into the center lane, then swerved in front of us. I screamed again, because I really thought Maude was going to hit him. She had sped up again by this point. And, unfortunately, I must admit that I’m the type of passenger who mostly reads or looks at scenery but every so often decides that she’s about to die and shrieks, which usually makes the driver rather cross.
Maude wanted to pull the car over after that. Her hands were shaking. But we were nearly to our destination so I talked her down, and we followed Mr. Impatient onto the biggest street of all and safely to our friend’s house.
I don’t need to go to the gym these days. I’m getting quite a cardio workout just sitting in the passenger’s seat.
Several of my friends posted this on facebook, and I wanted to share it with you. Honestly, this is a tame example of Rabati traffic. There are big spaces between those cars. No one is shouting. But it’s still pretty fun to watch.
Also, it really has made a huge difference in our daily stress levels not to have to deal with this on a daily basis.
Over the past, oh 20 years or so, I’ve fallen into the habit of getting my hair cut only about twice a year, sometimes less. At first I like it, then I get sick of it, then I decide to grow it out, then I decide I look frumpy, then I get it cut again. That’s because no matter what I do to it, by the end of the day it looks the same. It will always be curly. It looks best medium length, with some layers. It’s boring. I buy mousse and shampoos marketed at curly hair, and I believe they make a difference although my husband, who is bald, is not convinced.
My last visit to the coiffeuse was in June, so my hair had gotten quite long. And by long I mean past my shoulders by a few inches. Remember, curly. Yeah. But since it was a grow-out of a shorter cut, it needed to be shaped and trimmed, I felt.
I pondered my hair at odd times. I was in a taxi on my way downtown, sitting next to the taxi driver, “When I Need You” playing on the radio station that plays obscure English songs. Incredibly, the taxi driver started singing along.
Should I go back to Madame and her little local salon, where it’s less expensive but seems somewhat limited? Or should I splurge and go to a more Westernized place, in hope of getting something different than the standard cut? “Wen I neeeeed luf! I just close mi EEEYYYYYEEESSS…” warbles the taxi driver, like he’s trying to be the Rabat version of a Venetian gondolier. I decide to try the more Westernized salon, for a change.
Since I go so rarely, I tend to forget the vocabulary, so I spent some time doing research ahead of time. I reminded myself of the word for layers, and how to explain how much my hair shrinks when dry, and how to explain that if my hair is all one length it will form a sort of tangled triangle.
I show up on time, and the woman looks vague but then remembers my appointment. “Madame Jeness?” she says. I nod. One of the fun things about taking a common name like Jones overseas is that it becomes exotic. My kids used to be so amazed, reading books, when the lady down the street was named Mrs. Jones. “Like us!” they used to exclaim in excitement, while I would roll my eyes.
I had specifically asked for just a shampoo and cut, declining to pay extra for the dubious pleasure of having my hair styled and sprayed into a stiff bouffant version of its former self that would only last till the next day anyway. I carefully explained what I wanted, using all my new-found vocabulary strength.
She shampooed my hair, settled me in a chair and away she went! About half way through, I knew that this was not what I had asked for. Moments like this leave me puzzled. Is it that my French is just not understandable? Was I having an off day? Or did she not really listen? Or, even, was this just her version of the standard cut?
At the end, she re-shampooed my hair (not sure why) and blew it dry so that I wouldn’t have to catch my death of pneumonia by daring to walk outside on a 70-degree day with damp hair. It was kind of her. I liked her. She added a bit of gel to give the curls a bit of definition, and we were done.
She did a good job, I’ll give her that. And it’s not the same cut that Madame does, I’ll give her that too. It was professionally done, nicely thinned, the shrinkage of the curl allowed for. I even like it. It looks fine.
But it’s not what I asked for.
The ol’ blog’s been quiet lately. Nothing much going on that I feel like blogging about. Donn was gone all last week on a photo excursion in the region of Morocco south of Marrakech and Agadir, returning exhausted from photographing sunrises and with two new rugs for the house, handmade berber rugs in sunrise colours of oranges, yellows, and blues. (I will photograph them once I get batteries for the camera) So the kids and I had a quiet week, eating less meat, staying up later and reading during meals. I never know how much of daily life to post about, but I doubt you want to hear about me rereading an Agatha Christie till 1 a.m., or about how none of the teens showed up for my class last week and how most of the business-people skipped theirs too. All was quiet here in the land of the sunset (which is what Morocco’s name in Arabic, “Maghreb” means. Makes sense, since we’re at the western extreme of the Arab world).
Yesterday something blogworthy happened. I was on my way to class. Twice a week, I teach a group of business-people in their office, which is downtown. Parking is nonexistent at best, often simply imaginary, so I usually take taxis. I am a very organized person and never get involved reading a book or blogs and so have to stress about finding a taxi…cough…but exceptionally, yesterday, I was running late. And, as is usual when one is running late, there were no taxis to be found, not for love or money. (It was only money I was offering, in case you’re wondering) To be more exact, there were plenty of taxis, but all full, or not heading in my direction.
I was starting to feel somewhat panicky when a nice car pulled up in front of me, and a woman I’d never seen before said to me, in French then in English, “Where are you going?” Agdal, I told her. “Get in!” she said.
Obviously I must know her, so I got in, racking my brains as to where we could possibly have met and who she could be. “I live nearby,” she said, gesturing at the neighbourhood on the other side of the main avenue. “I know how hard it is to find a taxi around here!” Ironically, I think we live in a good area for taxis, unless you’re late of course.
I realized that I did not actually know her, but we introduced ourselves and chatted away, quickly finding that my French was better than her English. She was really nice! We established that she’s a fan of America, and that her dream is to become a photographer, and that I live in Rabat and have 3 kids and teach English.
We made good time down that street with all the schools, and at the end she ran a red light and got stuck in the middle of an intersection! If I’d been one of the other drivers, I’d have been enraged, but from my new and improved perspective, I just laughed. She carried on a conversation by gesture with a policeman who was eyeing her askance, and she laughed at herself for doing such a thing with an American passenger. “What will you think of me?” she said, but I reassured her.
She dropped me off near the office and gave me her business card. I promised to call her. After all, it’s not every day you make a new friend when you’re just trying to catch a taxi to work.