This is the week in the life of my flip flops. The week starts with an open meeting of an International Women's Group. They visit orphanages, clean up the environment, have international speakers, and promote world peace... you know, all that good stuff. Of course I'm going to go. Oh yeah, and it's hosted at the American Ambassador's house. First question. Can I wear my flip flops? I will try to wash the stank out first....I mean for world peace and all. I get gussied up: cute sundress, earrings, semi-stankalicious flip flops. (I do what I can.)
Let me skip for a moment to the next day when I'm wearing my standard daily uniform of a t-shirt, jeans and dot da da da.....my favorite flip flops. (I do change the t-shirt and jeans daily for your information.) I'm headed to the wrong side of the tracks where I have left 2 dresses for alterations. Now in the states I would never have something altered by a tailor, but here where this service is dirt cheap I'm gonna alter everything to perfection simply because I can. I drive up and Habib isn't there. The name is fictitious. I don't know his name, the name of the shop or the name of the part of town I'm in and it doesn't really matter anyway. He'll be back in a few minutes is what I get even though I don't know Arabic. This is what I discern from the 3 guys talking to me in what must be the world's tinniest tailor shop. Think Fotomat with no drive through window and lots of spools of thread, a sewing machine and random fabrics strewn about.
I have never seen the US Ambassador to Morocco before (or his house for that matter). That is until now. Oh my god, he looks like a Jewish Tony Bennett! I'm dying to share this overwhelming realization with the Moroccan lady that I walk in next to or get out my camera for a picture. Cause really....it's uncanny! I do neither, but do manage to introduce myself without my goofy giggle or referring him as Tony (cause we're on a first name basis and all). The get together is on the back patio. Damn it, at least I get to walk through part of the house to get there. They have alot of orange accents in the house. I like it and want to take pictures (with my orange camera) I think security would escort me out if I sneak my camera out to take a picture because that may make me look like a terrorist. It's actually far more likely that I'd look like a crazy 40 year old lady with stinky feet and penchant for matchy-matchy poo-pooness. And that that would be far more embarrassing!
So okay. I've got some time to kill until Habib comes back to man the Tail-o-mat booth. It looks like there is lots to see down the street, so I head into the crowds. I meander into a store and start looking at the wares. It seems these wares have been wored before. This brings me back to when we first moved and I put my garbage out to the curb and it disappeared. I now know where it goes! Right here. I'm suspiciously looking for anything that was formerly mine. Not that I want it back or anything. If I do see something I would like to traverse the path that it took to get from my house to here. I'm not sure how I would do that backtracking. But these are the things that invade my thoughts. My quick scan of the place reveals that nothing's mine. So I walk on til I see a huge expanse of stale Moroccan bread sitting on the side of the streets. This bread was deliberately placed within certain confines of the sidewalk squares. Puzzling. Is it meant to feed the cats or is it wishful thinking that this is the Moroccan Bread Triangle where it will simply disappear on it's own? It's apparent I have stumbled into Rabat's answer to recycling.
I make my way onto the patio where they are serving iced tea (with ice even...how American is that)and lemonade. It's mingling time before any of the official welcomes and you-should-join-us-because-ness starts. The women are split about 60/40 and the ball is in the Moroccans court. I find a table and am the token caucasian. I'm a terrible mingler. And I always assume wallflower status until I remember I'm only invisible if I'm drinking wine. Which I'm not. Crap. I'll go by the cookies and see if I can make small talk about the spread without dropping my plate, spilling something or.....snorting. Wish me luck.
I'm walking further into the land of Recycleville. I think I've hit the heart of it, the fruit and vegetable stands where they sell those gourds of unusual sizes. Someday I'm gonna buy it and cook it, but not today. I only have large bills with me and I'm trying to maintain a low profile and blend. Ethnically....like ethnic blending. So I'm walking and see two African workmen. The color of their skin clearly identifies them as foreigners. I smile and look away occupied with the rotting vegetables that now line the street. (More recycling.) Then they say in perfect English. "Hi. How are you?" Yeah, I forgot I'm totally foreign too. I find it strange that they nail that I speak English though. I could have been French, Dutch, German, Austrian, Russian, or any mix thereof. Was it the fact that I smiled or that I'm wearing flip flops? And where is my invisibility wine again? I meander back through the market to the Tail-o-mat and Habib is back and has my dresses ready. They are perfectly tailored and dirt cheap. Now I need to go home and find more things that need to be tweaked.
I make it through the snack buffet without major incident and make some small talk here and there with some Moroccan women. Great meaningful conversation like "hey....love your head scarf!" and "these cookies are delicious are they made with almonds and honey?" and I meet a professor who teaches biology at the local university and we chat a bit. I've chatted it up with some Americans that I know there and then I meet some that I have never crossed paths with before. I get to talking to two women in their 50's. I don't remember their names and I wouldn't tell them to you even if I did. We talk about what they do and where they have been. They are both so nice and friendly. They talk about how they lived in Mali or was it Malawi together? One of those anyhow. So I'm so totally in sync with what they are saying and it reaches one of those points in the conversation where you need to say something. So I tilt my head and say "How great that you two get to travel the world together!" Momentary pause. Their eyes get big, they look at each other. "NO, no, no". Then they scramble with "our husbands", blah, blah, blah. Oh, I totally read this all wrong, they're NOT gay! AWKWARD!!! Then the speeches abruptly start. I didn't even have enough time to laugh it off or whatever further awkwardness came next. The thing is, I know I will see them again. The circle of Americans affiliated with the Embassy is small so it's not a question of if, but a question of when.
So the big lesson I learned this week. I don't have the tools for appropriate social interaction. And it's apparent to me that I've been travelling too light. So, here's my new packing list:
1. Carry and 8x10 glossy of Tony Bennett and a sharpie pen for chance encounters and autograph opportunities.
2. Always have small bills on hand to spontaneously buy an enormous gourd.
3. Obtain a flask for instant invisibility wine and don't leave home without it.
4. A working gaydar.
5. Haul a crowbar to pry my foot out of my mouth.
I need to go back to Habib at the Tail-o-mat to have him make a cute little bag, or probably more like a big suitcase with wheels to carry all this crap around with me!