Saturday, April 23, 2011

Nummy, nummy in my tummy

I talked enough about what I have been doing everyday and the trips that I have been on. Now it's time to talk serious important stuff about Morocco - food. I thought I was going to starve in Morocco because not only am I picky eater, but I only eat chicken and fish. Boy, was I wrong. I think I'm putting on the pounds because everything is so good! I can't stop myself sometimes.

Breakfast: Breakfast here does not consist of my two bowls of cereal but instead, a very chocolaty pastry and café au lait (check out my Starbucks in Morocco post to see the picture of my breakfast). Moroccans love their coffee and their huge supply of pastries. The only thing that boggles my mind over and over again is that they don't have cinnamon rolls. They have everything else under the sun but not cinnamon rolls. If you don't like coffee, no problem. You can order freshly squeezed juice or the wonderful mint tea.
At Café Florence
Lunch: There are two main dishes - tajines and couscous. You cannot leave Morocco without trying those. Moroccan's biggest meal of the day is lunch.
Tajine can be anything! You can have chicken tajine, vegetarian tajine, beef tajine, beef tajine with olives, and the list goes on and on. It's called tajine because that is what the kitchen dish is called - they cook tajine in a tajine. It looks a little strange so let me try and describe it to you. The top part of a tajine looks like an upside down ice cream cone but instead of a point, its kind of rounded so you can lift it off the bottom part which looks like a thick pie crust that has a little shelf around the edge to set the edge of the ice cream cone on.
Tajine dish
Now couscous is not kitchen dish but an actual food name - couscous is not cooked in couscous. I have no clue what's in it but its really really delish! Couscous is served EVERY Friday in Morocco - and I mean every Friday. Some Moroccans that I have talked to say that they don't like couscous because they have been having it every Friday of their life. I don't know why they have it every Friday but they do. There are different types of couscous but we (my roommates and I) usually get a vegetable couscous or a sweet raisin/dates couscous and its always comes with chickpeas. Couscous is meant to be eaten by hand. To do that, you ball it up in your right hand (don't eat with your left!) and plop it in your mouth. Some people eat it with spoons only out of the main middle dish. Me and my roommates opt to do it the very American way - with separate plates and spoons.
Dinner: Dinners are light and are served around eight or nine at night. It's usually pasta or soup. Their famous delish soup is called Harira. Everyone knows what pasta is - our usual pasta dishes are spaghetti or baked mac and cheese (my favorite!!). Harira, well, I don't know exactly what's in it (I know it has chickpeas and lentil - sometimes) but I do know it's really good. I also know it takes a while to make and this soup is eaten during Ramadan to break the fast and during the end of the wedding ceremony sometimes. There is a restaurant in Meknes that is known for their Harira soup - they are busy busy busy during dinner time.
Every second of the day: Mint tea (will do a mint tea culture blog for you). If you get invited over for anything at all at a Moroccan's house, you will get served tea. They sure do love their tea. I do to, but I don't think my teeth do.
Mint Tea

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Starbucks in Morocco

...without the Starbucks
Morocco has a strong café culture that Starbucks and their large coffees to go and their convenient drive through windows would fail here. After being in Morocco this long, it's normal to see about three or four different cafés on one block. I came here hating coffee and if I drank it in the states it was mixed with lots of goodies so that way I couldn't taste the bitterness of coffee. Now, after being in Morocco, when I go back to America, I probably won't be able to start my day without coffee - I never thought I would say that...
I am now becoming a regular to a café where the server knows my drink and my pastry that I like to get - I never thought I would say that as well...
My breakfast
And one good thing about my drink and my pastry (there are many good things) - it's about less than $2 including tip! Oh, and check out how many sugar cubes they give me for a little cup of coffee - yup there's four there. I only use two but some Moroccans will use all four (just imagine their dental care's...yeah).
Before going to my café, I fill my backpack with my laptop, internet stick, all my French books, my French dictionary, my reading book, notebook, and whatever else I want to "work" on when I'm there. I go to the cafés like I'm Moroccan but I don't act Moroccan when I get there. Let me explain their café culture. Moroccans are always at a café and if they are not at a café...wait, that's not even possible to not be at a café. Everything revolves around the café life - the economy, the social aspect, friendships, and life. In the olden days, cafés were men only clubs while the women only clubs were in the hammams. That concept is dying of course but some girls won't go certain cafés because they are known as "men only".  The girls are welcome to go to the "men only" but if they do, they will probably get harassed and continuously stared at. Now don't freak out! I go to a nice café where I can do my French studies without getting harassed.
A lot of Moroccans do nothing when they go to cafés. A few (very few) will read the newspaper, no one reads books and most of them people watch, chat with friends, or play with their phones (in my standards of stuff, that's nothing to me). So you can just imagine my surprise and enthusiasm when I actually saw a Moroccan reading/studying a textbook the other day - a marketing textbook to be exact! Crazy!
Now, me on the other hand, I bury myself in my French studies or my current book (which is Eat Pray Love) - very not Moroccan. But hey, I haven't quite learned how to relax and do nothing at cafés. Hopefully one day I can. Time will tell.
Well off I go to bury myself in my French books at a café. Bslama!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Plans, plans, plans

Hello world!
I would like to give you an update on my future plans. Our (Matt's and my) first initial plan was to go to Kenya on a safari then head to England, Ireland and then back to Morocco (for the bellydance workshop!!!). Looking at mine and Matt's finances about fifty billion times every which way possible, we have decided to drop Kenya and go to Italy instead. With plane tickets, vaccinations, and malaria pills to Kenya, we wouldn't have enough money to enjoy England and Ireland. Oh, and trying to get information on the yellow fever vaccination was a pain in the butt! The website was down for like two weeks, the phone numbers that I got from the embassy didn't work or no one answered (tried for like five days straight), and when I finally got a hold of someone, it was difficult communicating in only French (my French class didn't prepare me with yellow fever and malaria pills vocab) so yes...pain in the butt. Since we are dropping Kenya, we promised to save a little every month and go within the next five years.

This morning, I woke Matt up at 4:00 his time, 9:00 my time (we skype every morning and e-mail each other regularly...oh how cute) thinking it would be another "Good morning. How was your day? K time to eat breakfast. Love you. Bye" sort of conversation but two hours later we booked all our flights around Europe! Exciting!! So in the order of country, we will be flying out of Morocco going to England and then whenever we feel like it head over to Ireland and then we will be flying to Rome and then back to Morocco. I will update it in the "Events" section of my blog - make sure to check it out!

Keep checking up on my blog. I will be writing more and more about the culture but for now, bslama.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The end to a good spring break

I am now home in Meknes (it's weird to say "home" and mean my apartment in Morocco). Let me fill you in how the rest of my spring break went. Wednesday was spent in Agadir meeting Sarah and getting henna, Thursday was spent in Essaouira relaxing and exploring and Friday was spent relaxing around the apartment and then traveling to Marrakesh.
So to start, on Wednesday Ali (couchsurfer) and Jamie (his girlfriend, also a couchsurfer) took me, Anthony and Jennifer into Agadir. I would describe Agadir as a very touristy area. Most Europeans go there to relax and spend their holiday. There really isn't much to do in the city except go to the beach and that is one thing that I didn't do. There Jamie and I met with my friend Sarah. She's actually my boss's friend from Celebration Cinema. She's in the peacecorp in Morocco, just outside of Marrakesh but she was volunteering at a kids camp this week with the peacecorp which is why it was possible for me to meet up with her. After talking and eating lunch with her, me and Jamie went off to get henna. We went to meet her friend who didn't know English or French so it was a charades the whole time. Here is a picture of my henna:

This took a while because I got both sides of my hands covered in henna! After henna, I went to the bus station and bought my ticket for Essaouira the next day. Personally, I didn't find that city interesting at all besides Sarah and my henna.

I liked Thursday the best. I would say Essaouira is one of my favorite cities so far! There really isn't much to do in that town but just to relax and explore and I did exactly that. Some people went to the beach and others went to a hammam. I went by myself and explored the medina and the town. It was so lovely. Essaouira is big on fishing so there are blue fishings boats all over the pier. I was able to go up in some of the fortresses and just watch the ocean. It was really relaxing.
We took the bus back and finally (our bus driver was a crazy driver!) made it safely to our apartment. Friday was spent relaxing around the apartment. I got my hair trimmed and layered by Jamie and then headed out to Marrakesh. It was Hannah's birthday on Friday so we went to Marrakesh hoping to go to some clubs. Hannah got stomach pains so we went to a hostel and chilled until our 5:00 in the morning train to Meknes.
And that is where my spring break ends. Tonight, I'm heading over to Hannah's house to celebrate her birthday and then sleeping well tonight in my own bed - finally! :)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Surfing in Morocco!

View from the apartment
Yay! Spring break has started. As you know, I started it with a Moroccan wedding which was pretty amazing - once in a lifetime experience. On Sunday, Jennifer went to pick Anthony (her friend from England, coolest accent ever!) up from Fes and they had quite an adventure with the grand taxi. The taxi's windshield wipers apparently didn't work and the driver had to break off a wiper blade and use his arm with the blade to see because it was pouring. What an adventure for those two. Then on Monday at three in the morning we (Jennifer, Don, Anthony, and I) left Meknes to go to Marrakesh and spent seven hours on the train. I tried to get sleep but it was hard. We arrived in Marrakesh around 10-ish and found our way to the medina. The medina is wonderful! Shops, snake charmers, monkeys, henna ladies, and snack stands everywhere! I would have taken pictures but they chase after you and ask for money so the next time I'm in Marrakesh I will try from afar and hopefully get away with it. We got breakfast in the medina square and then met up with five American ISA students. We walked around the medina while we sent two people to buy the bus tickets. Good thing because the first couple buses out of Marrakesh to Agadir were sold out. We finally found one that left at three in the afternoon (there are no trains connecting Marrakesh and Agadir, only bus) We got on the bus and went on our way. The route to Agadir was spectacular. We were able to see the South Atlas Mountains, highways that literally led to no-where, wild camels (at least I think they were wild), and bodies of water. It was a very scenic bus ride. We booked an apartment through a couchsurfer (great idea to do). The couchsurfer, named Ali, and his American girlfriend, named Jamie, picked us up from the bus station. Jamie had to flag us to them because in Moroccan law, Moroccans are not allowed to bug/follow/kind of be around Americans because some strange reasons that I do not know. The Moroccans can get into serious trouble with the law. There are so many police around that we had to kind of hide ourselves from them. They took us to the apartment and let us settle in. Around ten at night we headed out to get dinner at a restaurant called Tanit. Tanit is a great place to eat and they had a live band - not American style band, I mean the tribal-style, out-of-the-desert type of band. It was an awesome experience. We finally settled in for the night and had a great night of sleep after a lot of traveling.

On the beach

After taking a cold shower (this apartment doesn't really have warm water) in the morning, Jamie, Ali and I headed out to find the others to pick them up to go surfing - the others (Jennifer, Don and Anthony) were out exploring the coast. After picking them up, Ali took us to a great beach, dropped us off and then picked up the surf board along with the other four Americans. Once everyone was together and all the surf boards were there, we went surfing!!! None of us had any experience what so ever so Ali showed us the basics and then sent us out in the water with him to surf. I was actually getting the hang of it - I stood up like three/four times!! Crazy - I actually surfed in Morocco! It was hard because you have to time yourself with the wave, paddle like crazy, make sure you are on the wave when it comes and then trying to keep your balance, stand up and stay there. I would most definitely do it again without question.
Me surfing!!
So far this has been a wonderful spring break. More updates to come later on in the week. Tomorrow I am heading to Agadir and having lunch with Sarah (my boss's friend, she's in the peacecorp just outside of Marrakesh but working at a kids camp during this week in Agadir), Thursday I am going to Essaouira and then Friday I am having a relaxing day at the beach or if the waves are right, getting my surf on.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Wedding Crashers

Alright, so I already typed this all out, on accident clicked select all and deleted everything, freaked out and instead of clicking undo I clicked on my "edit tab" (where I can find all my drafts) and it saved right before I clicked the tab. So here I am again, starting from the top and hopefully it's as good as the last one.

Anyways, Good news: I went to a traditional Moroccan wedding and am now home in Meknes blogging about it; bad news: (besides me deleting everything) I couldn't take pictures because of two reasons: 1) some people there were superstitious and taking a picture of them is a bad thing and 2) I'm not apart of the family and the family is very traditional and conservative that they wouldn't like it (the bride wore a hijab through the whole wedding)
My friend Khadija invited us (me and my roommate Jennifer) to this wedding. This wedding is actually Khadija's friend's cousin's wedding so Khadija wasn't even relate to them but they still welcomed us to come and experience it.
Me and Jennifer modeling off our caftans 
We left Meknes around 4:30 yesterday afternoon to travel to Tawjtat (about an hour and a half away) by the city bus and yes, it was very crowded, hot, sweaty, and it smelled like fish - someone went to the fish market before they boarded the bus. We arrived in Tawjtat around 6:00 and was greeted with welcoming kisses and hugs. There were mostly women there with little kids (some men showed up to grab things and leave but they didn't linger long). They were so glad that we came that they served us bread with butter and honey and some tea. We were told that the wedding "starts" at 7:00. Well, we actually got ready at 8:00. All the women did put on beautiful caftans and did their make-up and we actually didn't leave until 9:00 (hey, that's not 7...that's right...Moroccan time: late is on time). We all stuffed in a van and went to the one and only hotel in town. This really isn't a hotel but a motel but since it's the only one in town, they consider it a hotel.

We found our places and while we were waiting for all the other guests and the bride and groom, me and Jennifer had a question and answer session with Khadija. We figured out that the bride is 20 years old and the groom (age unknown but he is way older than 20 that's for sure) is a wealthy vegetable farmer and they are both Berber. This couple actually had a three day wedding. The first day is the henna party. All the women (bride, of course, aunts, sisters, and close friends-female only please!) went the day before the first reception and got all henna-ed up. Their henna looked like the lady that I bought my rug from in Khemisette (check out her hands and feet in my photobucket account). The second day (this is the one I went to) is considered the bride side. They hold the reception in her home town. They had a men only reception at 1:00 in the afternoon and then the women dancing and celebrating party from 9:00 at night to 5:00 in the morning (the men showed up around dinner time and most of them sat in the corner- this is mostly a party for the women). The third day is exactly the same but it's at the groom's home town. We also found out that the bride hires a lady that helps her out through the whole wedding experience. She brings all the caftans, jewelry, make-up, random accessories, and so on. She follows the bride around making sure that everything is fitting right, that her dress isn't getting stepped on, and making sure she looks great - how wonderful, I want one. She also brings three ladies with her that sings/chants whenever the bride moves (they also help out with making the bride look wonderful).
The bride and groom finally showed up around 11-ish at night. They had their decked out car (like in America) and there was a band welcoming them to the party. Obviously everyone went outside when the band started playing and people started dancing like crazy. The bride was dressed in a pretty white traditional caftan. When the bride and groom came inside, the bride was carried into the air on this:
Bride sits there and is carried in
The men that carried her in the air were dancing and turning. It was pretty amazing. They then brought her to her throne which looked like this:
The bride and groom's throne
The groom sat right next to her and they were watching everyone dance. Moroccans love to dance and I actually dance like a Moroccan. It was wonderful because throughout the night people would grab me and take me to the dance floor to bellydance with them.
Then all of a sudden the atmosphere changed from dancing to excitement; the bride got up and walked into another room and only the helper lady along with her three other ladies went in. That's when we figured out they were changing her into another caftan! She changed to a purple caftan (the groom changed too but it's not a big deal - sometimes it was just the tie color when he wore a tux or he put on a different djellaba). She came out and sat on her throne again. Then dinner was served. The bride and groom along with the mothers and some aunts sat here:
The head table
The first dish that was brought out was chicken. There was three big chickens in the middle of the table. I sat with about four Berber ladies along with Jennifer, Khadija, a nice old lady that loves to dance, and one that actually breastfeed her child before lunch. They passed around the bread and started to dig in. Finger food for the whole table! Let me tell you, the Berber ladies know how to take apart a chicken. Then the server came by and asked if we were done and then took it away. He then brought another dish - lamb shanks this time. And once again when we were done, he took it away and then replaced it with fruits - apples, oranges and bananas.
Then after the food the bride changed again! This time in the blue. Each time she changes caftans the camera guy (video and pictures - only one guy does both) would video tape her leaving the throne and going into the changing room, leaving the changing room and going to the throne and then taking pictures while the helper lady helped her pose with her groom. Then the Moroccans went to dancing and music!
After dancing and picture taking, the bride changed into another caftan - pink this time! I thought she looked like a beautiful mermaid :). When she and the groom sat down, dancing and music resumed. After a while, she got up again and went to change into another caftan. During this time I decided to become bellydance barbie and show the bride's sister (she's only like 13) some elegant arm and hands moves - a big no no. So of course, I started to teach her on the dance floor while everyone was watching - even the older ladies. An older lady signaled me to come near her; she was sitting down in one of the corners of the room with a bunch of other older ladies. They were all clapping and cheering me on so I decided to go towards them. I thought she wanted to learn how to do elegant arms and hands and I was excited that I could teach Moroccans how to do something! Well, I was wrong. When I got to her she cheered me on and clapped a lot. Then she got up and pointed to both of her sons and then pointed to her ring finger. No one there spoke French so through my broken bad Arabic and body language translation skills, basically she was trying to marry off one of her sons to me. I was shocked! What?! I had no clue how to say "I have a boyfriend" in Arabic so all I really said was "laa, laa, laa" (laa means no in Arabic) over and over again. She had a strong grip on my arm and she wanted me to sit right next to her. Thank goodness Khadija's friend came to the rescue and took me away from the older ladies.
So note to self: when called at, don't come (I only thought this applied to men on the street but I guess you have to watch out for the older ladies that still have sons to be married off).
The bride finally came out and this caftan is so unique you have to see it because I don't think I could describe it to you.
Google image- not the couple
Her colors were red. When she came out, the groom was in a djellaba this time and they were both carried in this time (in their own separate thing - doesn't look like the one above - it was wooden). The guys carrying the wooden things were dancing, bouncing, and turning while keeping the bride and the groom in place. At one point the groom stood up in the wooden thing (while in the air) and was dancing as well. During this acrobatic scene, the guys brought the two wooden things together and the groom actually kissed the bride on the forehead (in a very traditional wedding, the groom and bride are not allowed to kiss until everything is set and done and the marriage is official). They then got dropped off at their throne again. And of course, dancing and music resumed. This time around with dancing and music, tea and little goodies were served to all the guests (it was about time because I was really thirsty and all they had was tap water that everyone drank out of one glass together).
After tea, the bride changed again. This time into the last one! She came out in, what I would describe it, a real wedding dress - one you would see from the 1980s in America. It was so beautiful and during this caftan/dress, one long song was played (or at least it seemed like one song to me) and by the end of it the bride and groom waved good-bye and got into their car and left. By that time, it was 5:00 in the morning (technically 6:00 because Morocco just changed their clocks today for daylight savings).
We walked back to the bride's mother's house and finally went to bed around 7:00 in the morning but we had to catch the bus at 8:00 so we only got 40 minutes of sleep.
I am now back in Meknes, finally finished my blog (without deleting it this time) and am now packing for a long week at the beach :D Yay!
Oh if you have any questions about the wedding, let me know. Since I deleted the first blog on accident, I might have left out some minor important details.