Thursday, March 11, 2010

Gratefulness lesson #1

We must get out of this apartment! Time for a road trip and to see beyond the capital city of Rabat. Pack a lunch, a camera (oh man, the battery is dead) and 4 kids and lets head to the Roman ruins in Volubilis. Right now our mode of transportation is the Peace Corps loaner car which is some peugeot coupe model. So going anywhere requires the kids to cram into the back seat. There is no escaping the ensuing "touching" this involves. As we all know, touching is not good. Neither is having only 3 seatbelts in the back seat. Our kids like having the "lucky" seat without the seat belt and if you saw the way people drive here you would realize this really is a game of Russian Roulette.
We were told that the drive to the ruins would only take and hour or so by car, not so. By hour one we had already living through several scenarios of he/she is touching (tickling, biting, spitting, kicking and almost any other verb you can imagine... please feel free to fill in the blank). Heading into hour two, driving back to sit in the aparment all day sounded pretty appealing! At our wits end and wanting nothing more than to get out of the car so the little hellions could roam free, we came upon the city of Meknes. Original plan diverted. We're going to Meknes.
We pulled up to the wall of the kasbah, parked the car and got out to picnic. Already spent on yelling at the kids for two hours it was a very quiet and resentful lunch. Why did we even come? This sucks!
Thereupon enters Abdul. He's a man of about 70 years of age with a slight built with large friendly eyes and a large scar that runs from his cheek and over half his nose, as if it was severed and reattached. Abdul can muster his way through English and offers us to show us the city. Why not? We enter the most ancient part of the city which was named after Mecca. The city with its narrow mazelike alleyways littered with trash, boasts over 100 mosques. It's bustling with activity, kids playing, shop owners transporting their wears, mothers and children getting from here to there, stray cats everywere (much like in Greece) and us following Abdul wherever he takes us.
Normally we wouldn't take someone up on their offer to show us the sights, but immediately we're glad we did. Abdul knows every inch of the city and our kids are distracted from each other trying to make out what he says with his thick accent. They are quiet. This alone makes taking a guide worth it. Abdul knows not only everywhere to go, but everyone. He runs into a family member or a friend and stops to talk to them briefly several times throughout our tour. We stumble accross one of the 100 mosques, but this one has it's door open so we can peak inside. We can't enter as non-muslims, so this is as close as we can get to the mystery that lies inside. Moroccan mosaic tiles, marble floors and prayer mats. In a dirty litter filled city I can't believe how beautiful this mosque is. I also can't believe I don't have a camera to capture this!
Next up, the hammam (turkish baths). The women are able to use the baths in the morning and the men in the afternoon for only 10 dirhams (a bit over $1). You buy the soap which looks more like brown vaseline sold in big bulk barrels at the hanut. When we continue to walk and head around another corner and Abdul opens the door to a dark cellar with a huge fire in an enourmous furnace and the man tending it throwing in cedar chips. It's his job to keep the fire burning and heat the water for the hamas. He's also roasting a cows hoof in the fire for his dinner. Now that's multitasking!
Everywhere we go there are people carrying jugs and headed to to local water spicket for water. In this old part of the city there is no running water. And while the water appeared fresh, the jugs and their hands were filthy. And filth well, lets talk about filth...we next journeyed to the market. In the covered medina they had almost any meat you could want and it was all laying it on the marble slab counters with the flies flitting from the beef, to the lamb, the rabbit and the fish. Yum. Not only could you get any meat pre-cut and prepared right in front of your eyes on the unfrigerated marble slab where it lies all day, you could also get the the whole chicken or rabbit for those of you do-it-yourselfers. Of course with livestock come the smells that make it authentic. This made an impression on all of the kids. I'm not a germaphobe or squemish, but there were just so many levels of unhygeneticness (I'm sure that's not a word, but it is now). Lack of refrigeration, the heat of a warm day, stray cats, flies, the "clean" water in dirty jugs and the fact that the merchants handling the food have filthy hands. Needless to say we did not linger here and proceeded through there in the most hurried of paces.
Abdul of course took us to all the local artisans he knew. The wood carver (they use cedar and of course carve by hand), the iron workers, the jewelry maker, the women drying cumin in the open square and the tapestry dealer. Adul looked worn and tired and our kids were too, so we parted ways with our gratitude and a nice tip. We made the trek back to the car when the necessity for the potty presented itself. So, we packed the kids in and headed to the closest WC we could find. Gratefulness lesson #2, the squat potty. Hole in the floor, aim and shoot. This of course was "fun" for the boys, but confusing and required a delicate balancing act for the girls.
The ride home was a quiet one. I would like to think that they were silently meditating on how truly grateful they are at having running water, refrigeration and pondering their new found respect for hand washing. Hey, I can fantasize can't I? I'm pretty sure they were just exhausted from all the walking. We arrive back at the apartment. Last one out of the car has to light the fire and cook the cow hoof for dinner!

1 comment:

Suzanne said...

what a gem in a 70yr old


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