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Things at the medina on Thursday afternoon that mystified me:

  1. a man riding a motorcycle sidesaddle. This was afterwards, while we were getting a pouf stuffed.
  2. a man taking a lighter and applying it to a pair of sandals I was considering. He wanted to show me that it was real leather, but I didn’t want to flame a new pair of sandals, especially since they were the only pair he had in my size.
  3. then, to show me that the sole was “real rubber” and therefore comfortable, he twisted the sandal into a corkscrew. Oddly, that did not make me more inclined to buy.
  4. I have been needing a new purse for a while, and I fell in love with this turquoise model. I don’t think, in all the years I’ve been carrying a purse, I’ve ever owned one that wasn’t black, brown or grey. Well, maybe in the 80s I had a white one. So this is a real break with tradition. What do you think? Too bold? Too limiting? Or just fun?

5. Donn is an excellent bargainer and he got the purse for nearly half of the starting price. The young man had been protesting all along that we were family, that we were his clients and good friends (we do frequent his shop). After he agreed to Donn’s price, with a great show of reluctance and after we walked out three times, I told him that I’d bring ALL my friends to him! He jokingly muttered something like, “As long as you don’t bring your husband.”

6.  we had large glasses of fresh-squeezed orange juice for about 60 cents each. They were delicious. The glasses and oranges were washed in the same tub of water, but I feel it adds a certain je ne sais quoi to the taste! Just kidding. The juice is fantastic, and studies have proven a certain amount of ingested microbes only strengthen your immune system.

7. men sewing poufs. Moroccan leather poufs are famous. Named for the little noise, the pouf, they make as you sit down on them, they are fantastic examples of handicraft, and come in a staggering array of colours, shapes, and sizes. New since our last visit—gold ones! For the Liberaces among us!

        This is what they start with–brightly-dyed leather roll-ups. They smelled like they were goat to me.

        And a glimpse of the finished projects:

        And one final look at finished, stuffed poufs:

        8. this window was near where we had the pouf stuffed. I don’t know how well you can see it, but it’s filled with random bits of stuffing and two or three stuffed teddy bears, stuck right down in the corners, as if they are looking out and contemplating their own origins. I feel it is a very existential window treatment.

          Saturday night, we headed over again for the final performance of Mawazine 2010—Sting. Now I have been a fan of Sting (ok, the Police) since listening to my older brother yell “ROXanne,” at the top of his lungs when we were stopped at a red light once. My friend Shannon texted me back in March with news that he was coming. “Want 2 go?” “YES!!!!!” I sent back. Are you kidding? I figured the crowd would be packed with middle-aged women, all of us with fond memories of watching the video of “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” with the Police dancing round in academic robes and Sting being the teacher and taking off his shirt (!!), back when it debuted on that new channel called MTV.

          Shannon and her son parked outside our house and we all walked over. Shannon and her son are tall but our family tends to be height-challenged, so we didn’t want to go as far front as they did. Unless you are in the very front, it’s better to be further back if you’re short. Otherwise all you can see are the backs of other people’s heads. We did try going further up, but that didn’t work. We found a spot a short distance behind some exceptionally tall people—I mean seriously, these guys were either Dutch or Amalakite—and we noticed that the space directly behind them wasn’t filling up, which meant we could actually see the giant screen.

          I could feel my phone, in my pocket, ringing. “HELLO?” I shouted. “It’s Jenny!” announced my friend. “Where are you?”

          I told her, although I didn’t think for a minute she’d find us. Shannon and I both held up our hands and waved defeatistly. But find us she did! She and her daughter were carrying a folding chair and a step stool. I stood on the stool and caught a glimpse of the orchestra coming in, and Sting striding onto the stage. He was performing with the Moroccan Philharmonic Orchestra! Cool, we agreed.

          I thought it was a great concert. Shannon and I and many of those around us sang along to “Englishman in New York.” But after about 2 or 3 songs, Donn and the boys returned to us (they’d been trying to get closer). “This is LAME!” Donn said. “What?” I said. I looked at the teens, who were rolling their eyes and going on about orchestras and lameness. The word “Fail” was bandied about. Donn went so far as to say “Lawrence Welk.” What???

          Donn and the boys went home. We couldn’t believe it. But, honestly, we were quite happy to have them go. We settled down to enjoy ourselves.

          I noticed that the people around me seemed to know the same songs I did; at least we sang along to the same ones. I was more likely to know words of the verses; everyone else joined in just for the chorus, with varying degrees of accuracy as to musical keys or pronunciation of English words. (Sample: every little thing she does his magic) The grounds were packed at this point, and streams of people, connected to each other by holding hands or with hands on shoulder, kept trying to move, pointlessly it seemed, from one spot to another. We were constantly being pushed aside, asked to move, bumped into. I was hoping he’d do “Don’t Stand So Close to Me,” in homage to the shoulder-to-shoulder and hip-to-hip crowd, but he didn’t.

          And I will admit that his versions of certain classics, like “Roxanne” and “Every Breath You Take,” were more swoony than rocking. “ROXanne” should be shouted! “Every Breath” should be edgy and slightly creepy, but still suitable for being dedicated on the radio to a jerky and clueless high school boy by a heart-broken high school girl. What? Oh like you never did that.

          The crowd enjoyed it all. Sting did a raucous two encores, including a beautiful performance by a Moroccan drummer on “Desert Rose.” And I have never seen as active a conductor as the one that night. He sang along, he danced along.

          Going home was adventurous, navigating crowds and traffic all mixed together, but we made it through, more thankful than ever to be on our own two feet and not snarled in a pointless traffic jam made worse by everyone’s impatience.

          We got home just after midnight. Abel had fallen asleep fully clothed, but Elliot and Shannon’s son were still up to let us in and tell us again how LAME it had been. They’d passed their time playing games and listening to the faint strains of the concert through the windows. They left, the kids went to bed, and Donn and I stood out on the balcony, watching a long, loud, impressive display of fireworks to close the music festival.

          Time passes, the world revolves around the sun, and things expire and must be renewed. Reflecting on this one day, as is our wont, we realized that we needed to renew our passports this year—at least, the kids and I do.

          Casablanca street scene

          In Morocco, an American citizen can only renew her (or his) passport in Casablanca. Although the embassy is conveniently located right here in Rabat, citizen services are in Casa. In their continuing efforts to provide US citizens with the very best customer service on the planet, it is open from 8:30-9:30 and then again from 1:30 to 3:00. It’s closed on Fridays and weekends, and takes all holidays off—both American and Moroccan. It’s located right downtown in a busy part of a crowded city—in other words, parking is a nightmare. In spite of knowing all these things, we decided to drive down instead of taking the train. The kids all had Wednesday off school, and since they had to physically be there, we decided Wednesday morning was the perfect time to do this. They disagreed, feeling rather strongly that a day off school should, in a just and fair universe, equal a day to sleep in. Ilsa in particular was rather vocal and nasal about it. Poor child; she has many grievances. It comes with being 13.

          So today we got up at the crack of dawn—literally, with me standing on the balcony eyeing the pale pink sky and the swifts, waking up with us and already wheeling and turning amongst the thin clouds. We brought a lot of books into the car and drove off to Casa, fearing the morning commute traffic, but finding it not bad.

          We got into traffic proper once the autoroute had faded into what we were hoping was the Route El Jedida. We had google maps, but one thing we’ve learned the hard way—in Morocco, even if the streets are marked, they might be marked with a different name than that which is shown on a map, which may be a different name again from what everybody calls it. (Also, do not under any circumstances let a Moroccan draw you a map. I realize how this sounds—like I’m generalizing, like I’m looking down on them, like I’m racist. I’m really not. It’s just that I believe they are looking at space a different way than I am. I’m talking about Moroccan people who are intelligent and well educated and speak a billion languages. Talk to them about world politics or something! Just don’t let them draw you a map. If you have to follow a Moroccan map, try approaching it upside down and backwards.)

          We drove on and on, not recognizing anything from the map. Unfortunately (cough!), we’d left a bit late, and the clock was getting closer and closer to 8:30. “At least your make-up looks lovely,” said my husband snidely. The road came to an end at an enormous, clogged roundabout. Unsure, we headed off to the right.

          The new road dead-ended so we randomly turned left. We’ve both been in Casa several times so things often looked tantalizingly familiar, but they weren’t actually. The road ended again and we randomly turned right—I thought I might have spotted the famous mosque which was in the same general area as the consulate. We got tangled in traffic again. The clock was approaching 9:00.

          We pulled into a gas station to show the attendants our maps. All the attendants gathered round. Soon our maps were being passed hand to hand, as about 9 men crowded round and discussed it in rapid Arabic. I’m not sure, but I think they were discussing how to read the map, if they recognized anything on the map, and who among them spoke French and could explain it to us. Finally an older man, someone who didn’t actually work at the gas station, came up to us and gave us directions.

          Success! We finally found the consulate. No roads were marked, so we had to ask 2 other people (a woman selling newspapers and a guy on a scooter) for street names. It took us a long time to get there. By this time, it was 9:10. We drove around and around the area, looking in vain for a parking spot, but there was no spot to be found. Each giant circle, thanks to traffic, took 10 minutes. Finally we found a spot. “It’s too small,” said Donn. “If anyone can do it, you can,” I said heart-warmingly. And I was right! He parallel-parked us in a teeny-tiny spot without even bumping the other two cars. It was 9:29.

          We ran the four blocks to the consulate, which is surrounded by enormous blocks of concrete planted with flowers, a mixed message at best. There were lots of guards. The first lot sent us to the second lot, who pointed us across the street to a third. The third guy looked at his watch as we panted up, then at our navy blue passports. “It’s 9:30,” he said accusingly. “Please,” we said. “Parking,” we said, gesturing. “Go!” he told us, speaking into his walkie talkie. So back across the street we went, past the second lot again, and into the consulate itself.

          We were told to cut an entire line of non-Americans, which felt sort of rude and sort of fun! We went happily through security (Donn: Ilsa, why on earth did you bring a whole backpack? Ilsa: It has my books in it. Donn: sigh…) and then submitted all our forms successfully, even though we’d forgotten to measure the twins and had to guess at their actual height. Then we had second breakfasts at a little café, and had another, more relaxed, traffic adventure that included someone driving a fork-lift blindly into incoming traffic, as we searched unsuccessfully for the auto-route to bring us home.

          And, since it seems every time I mention going to Casa people sigh enthusiastically at how exotic and exciting it all is, I tried to get some snaps of the real Casa, which is crowded, polluted, noisy, and industrial. Oh and the traffic is worse than Rabat!

          Yes I did take that from the car window at a red light. How could you tell?

          But then I remembered visiting Turin, in Italy. Everyone said it was a horrible industrial city, but we just wandered around the downtown area, totally entranced. We loved it. So maybe there are those who love Casa too. But…which part is enticing and exotic?

          Yep, through the windshield. You guys are good!


          Typical Casa. I didn’t even take pictures of the industrial area.

          Still, if you ever are in Casablanca, perhaps at the US Consulate, and you need to have your hair done, you can always go with the interestingly-named option.

          It’s FULL service!

          PS from my last post: The “balle” isn’t until the end of school, and all his friends are either going to be out of town or already have dates! I’m still working on him.

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