Sunday, 30 September 2007

Things to like

Ah, back in the world again. I will one day write I think a post about the fugue of the migraines, but I have to have a bit more distance…

Instead I was thinking this week of some of the reasons I enjoy living in Morocco:

The fact that my landlord this week has brought me shebekia (a cookie that is very very sweet and made with tons of honey and sprinkled with sesame seeds made as the special desert at Ramadan), and insisted I will need more and he will be over later this week!

The fact that one of the neighbor ladies brought me harira (the special Ramadan soup;tomato-based soup with lentils, chickpeas, cilantro, lemon, and pieces of meat) because apparently not only do the neighbors all know my comings and goings, but found out I fast during Ramadan – don’t ask me how, I have no idea!

The fact that surprises abound – I was walking, like you do, down by the new and lovely riverside park and noted some chap high up in one of the yellow contraptions that take them up to work on the wires. There was another chap who had come up to help and they were doing the kiss the cheeks greeting. I just found that endearing.

The fact that now that the Riverside Park is completed I can easily walk to the local Marjane, and observe the river as I go.

Episodes like this morning when I was trying to convey to the shopgirl that I wanted to buy some massage oil. One of them ‘got it’ after some miming and a French word here and there; and we were demonstrating to the other by massaging her back; she made clear she enjoyed the massage by asking for more. The three of us ended in giggles even though they had no oil.

Taking my DVD player into the nice chap on Digital Alley who said he would check the remote for me. The conversations got everything said, again with laughter, and he did fix the bloody thing. At the astronomical cost of 50 dhs. Oh yes.

The fact that the chap in the art gallery gives me a huge discount because I live in the Oudayas.

The fact that when I went to the post last week and was a bit turned around when trying to find the correct door to collect my package, the cleaning lady who had seen me go in and ask directions then walk about with that look on my face I get that says “Que?” and has proven handy on several continents; came out and took me by the hand like a two-year-old and led me around the corner to the correct door, smiling and laughing all the while.

The fact that no matter how my day is going I can cheer up by wandering about and seeing the beautiful faces of the children. This time of year the playing in the street below has changed from football to spinning wooden red tops. They toss them on the cobbles and then pick them up in the hand to spin. It’s a bit like dodging land mines really, except for the giggling.

The fact that for every nasty taxi driver there are twenty nice ones who go out of their way to be helpful.

The fact that the temperature is finally on the way DOWN!

The fact I love my little house with its spiraling staircase, cedar doors, glass ceiling, and double windows.

The hammam! The sheer luxury of it, and the incredible low price, as well as the fact I no longer have to have facials at the salon or pay for massages when the gym wears me out. The gracious treatment I receive at the salon.

What do you like about where you are living?


Saturday, 29 September 2007

migraine today, back on the morrow..

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Bloggers Against Abuse

Today is Bloggers United against Abuse day. The topics for choice are: child abuse, domestic abuse, animal abuse, drug abuse, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, political abuse – I would wish for fewer choices. Originally I would have written about child abuse as that makes my blood boil and my heartache but when I opened the papers this morning I was presented with the aftermath of a post I wrote earlier this week – I bow to the instructions of the Universe.

Myanmar Raids Monasteries Before Dawn” is the headline that kills the hope of peaceful change in Burma. As much as I expected it, I hoped for better. Beginning the second day of their crackdown on nationwide protests in Myanmar before dawn today, security forces raided at least two Buddhist monasteries, beating and arresting dozens of monks, according to reports from the capital, Yangon.

On Wednesday, in a chaotic day of huge demonstrations, shooting, teargas and running confrontations between protesters and the military, many people were reported injured and half a dozen were reported to have been killed, most of them by gunshots.

The Associated Press reported that more shots were fired today at one of several monasteries raided early in the day, Ngwe Kyar Yan, where one monk said a number of monks were beaten and at least 70 of its 150 monks were arrested.

On Wednesday as it was made apparent to the government the protest were growing in size, instead of taking this as a mandate for change the junta began the violent crackdown. And speaking of things that make my blood boil: In response to the violence, the United Nations Security Council called an emergency meeting on Wednesday to discuss the crisis, but China blocked a Council resolution, backed by the United States and European nations, to condemn the government crackdown. And so that’s it?

On a broad avenue near the temple, hundreds of people sat facing a row of soldiers, calling out to them, “The people’s armed forces, our armed forces!” and “The armed forces should not kill their own people!”

As the protests grew, public figures began to come forward, and on Tuesday the government arrested the first of them, a popular comedian, Zarganar, who had urged people to join the demonstrations. He had irritated the government in the past with his veiled political gibes.

The crackdown on Wednesday came in the face of warnings and pleas to the junta from around the world to refrain from the kind of violence that had made the country’s ruling generals international pariahs.
So I can assume the new sanctions will really scare them eh?

I feel compelled to insert here my own bias. This particular outbreak of abuse takes me back to the Chinese rape of Tibet and that my friends is very personal for me. I grew up with monks of the same ilk as those who are protesting; they are compassionate and peaceful, and more loving to their fellow humans than I can ever hope to be. One of the most compelling stories I know was one told to us in a meeting with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. There was a monk who had been imprisoned by the Chinese and tortured beyond imagining, who managed to escape and get to MacLeod Ganj in Northern India. In his meeting with His Holiness he said, “There was one time when I was truly frightened, when I feared for myself – that was when I was afraid I was losing compassion for my jailers.” These are the kind of men the junta in Burma are beating, arresting, and killing.

We are all responsible for abuse of all types. As long as we are in the world, and we permit it in the world, we are responsible. Every time we see an adult abusing a child and say nothing, we are responsible. Every time we see evidence of a man beating his wife, and we do nothing, we are responsible. Every time we see someone abuse an animal, and we do nothing, we are responsible. Every time we allow someone to express prejudice in our presence, and we say nothing, we are responsible. Every time we elect leaders who choose to kill for retaliation and oil rather than the freedom of our fellow world citizens, we are responsible. Every time we read of abuse and do not speak out, we are responsible. When we look away, we are responsible.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Feel good thoughts...

26 September 2007


Here is an easy feel good for all of us, and at a very reasonable price.

One Laptop Per Child, an ambitious project to bring computing to the developing world’s children, has considerable momentum. Years of work by engineers and scientists have paid off in a pioneering low-cost machine that is light, rugged and surprisingly versatile. The early reviews have been glowing, and mass production is set to start next month.

One of the machines will be given to a child in a developing nation, and the other one will be shipped to the purchaser by Christmas. The donated computer is a tax-deductible charitable contribution. The program will run for two weeks, with orders accepted from Nov. 12 to Nov. 26.

In spite of the potential for learning and communication this could portend, the orders for the machines from the countries that need them most have been slow. The company has come up with a promotional idea that I think is brilliant. You buy one computer at 399usd, and get one free! You can then give that computer to a needy child or use it in your own family. The computers are simple and rugged – built for the third world. The program is only in the U.S. and Canada during 12 – 26 November 2007. I am thinking if you are in another country you can find a way to purchase one. I’m going to have Q order for me.

For example, if donations reach $40 million, that would mean 100,000 laptops could be distributed free in the developing world. The idea would be to give perhaps 5,000 machines to 20 countries to try out and get started.

Find the complete article here. There’s a great way to expunge anything you feel bad for doing this year! If you’ve been perfect, here’s a way to continue..

And speaking of presents – I have two more! You people are too kind to me. I do hope you all know how much each award means to me, that you thought of me. I appreciate it very much. I shall have to order a special trophy case from Second Life to hold my goodies, but for now I have them secured on my Data Pages.

From Omega Mum, the BodaciousBlog Award, and from Wake up and Smell the Coffee, Blogging that hits the Mark Award. I thank you both, and I pass on BodaciousBlog to Welshcakes, JMB, Mutterings and Meanderings, and i beatrice; and Hits the Mark to Darth, Mountain Mama, Dulwichmum, and the Land of Sand.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007


Look what Winchester Whisperer sent to me! I'm so tickled. I don't believe I've ever been called a "dude" before. I feel very cool. Thank you WW for thinking of me, I appreciate the award and the thoughts that go with it. I pass it on to Ian, James, Mutleythedog, and Stay at home Dad - because I can.

Monday, 24 September 2007

It's all about the money..

Two articles that describe opposite intentions in the world have caught my attention, and my ire. In the International Herald Tribune “Monks joined by celebrities as protests grow in Myanmar” tells of the growing protest movements against the brutal military junta controlling Myanmar (Burma). Buddhist monks and nuns in the face of the violence that met the protest of 1988 where the government killed thousands of protesters lead the movement. The courage of these people is beyond my ken; my admiration for them is limitless. “The march, launched from the Shwedagon pagoda, the country's most sacred shrine, gathered participants as it winded its way through Yangon's streets. Some 20,000 monks took the lead, with onlookers joining in on what had been billed as a day of general protest. On Saturday, more than 500 monks and sympathizers were allowed past barricades to walk to the house where Suu Kyi is detained. The Nobel Peace laureate greeted them from her gate in her first public appearance in more than four years -- a meeting that symbolically linked the current protests to her struggle for democracy.” However during the second march the attempt to approach Kyi’s home was blocked by security forces.

"The protests will continue to grow as more people gain the courage to join, but they have not yet reached the point where I will allow my family to march," said a 50-year-old taxi driver who would not give his name. "There is still too much uncertainty to do that." That is a view that all of us with family can understand, but at some point that fear must be overcome in the name of a better life. In 1988 the military killed thousands of people who had joined in the protests.

Two points of interest here: the junta is presently being held in check by China, the queen of human right violations, in the name of economics. China supports and to a large extent controls the junta. The government does not want any violence to stain the upcoming Olympic events in China. As well the intention of China is to develop the recourses of Burma to their own advantage. "China is very eager to have a peaceful Burma in order to complete roads and railroads, to develop mines and finish assimilating the country under its economic control.” The other point of interest is the attitude of the West. This is the same group of governments who invaded Iraq in the name of democracy - "Hopefully the international community will not keep quiet, and they will do something before terrible things take place in our country," said Soe Aung. But it seems the policy is watch, not act. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the Bush administration was watching the situation "very carefully." I’m sure that’s a great comfort to the people of Burma.

However the U.S. seems very “involved” in seeing to Iran… In an article from 23 September 2007, “Secret US air force team to perfect plan for Iran strike”, Sarah Baxter describes the planning of the invasion of Iran that is taking place in the Pentagon. There was also an article in yesterday’s London Times addressing the same issue. Project Checkmate is the designated name for the U.S. Air Force group that is tasked with “fighting the next war”. “Detailed contingency planning for a possible attack on Iran has been carried out for more than two years by Centcom (US central command), according to defense sources.” Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is going to New York to speak to the United Nations and then students at Columbia University today. I’m sure he will do all in his power to add fuel to the rhetoric fire. I find no comfort in this statement: “The US president faces strong opposition to military action, however, within his own joint chiefs of staff. “None of them think it is a good idea, but they will do it if they are told to,” said a senior defense source.” Find the complete article here.

There lies the question, what constitutes a reason to intervene in another country’s affairs? If the Middle East erupts in flames more than it is even now, how long before that fire reaches our doorsteps?

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Vroom, vroom

The only time I have seen Moroccans in a rush is while in their cars. I am amazed that I have witnessed no road rage in Morocco, not even now during Ramadan. I say this because of the Moroccan driving habits, and it is not just the taxi drivers, or the city drivers, or the men, or the women (of which there is an increasing number) – it is everyone I have seen. If there is an accident or some other obstacle in the road or highway, they find a way to drive around it; if the traffic is not moving to their satisfaction they pull out into the opposing lane and sally forth; when making a turn they pull out and create an additional lane while acting as if they are in the right no matter how many cars they are cutting off; horns blast constantly and the car to car conversation is the norm. But they are fastidious about stopping for lights; I have witnessed no one running the lights. This is all done in apparent good humor, even in the late day and heat of Ramadan. Hats off I say.

I did have two chaps for drivers this week whom I suspect have as a secret desire to drive in Le Mans. One old and one young they drove from Souissi to the Oudayas in record time zipping in and out of traffic as if there were a fire or life and death situation. Another interesting note is the scarcity of young, as in teenager, drivers. Where they are in abundance in the West, they are rare here, as is the blaring radio that one so often pulls up next to at a stop light in the West. I have seen a “driver’s education” car that passes by the Oudayas recently, but the chaps in the learner’s seat are all late twenties or thirties that I have seen.

There does seem to be an increase in traffic during Ramadan, another mystery I have not cracked. Why would that be? Last year in Fez most people who could, stayed indoors and waited out the day. But I have sat in several traffic tie-ups since the beginning of Ramadan, briefly it is true, not like the one time I was in Los Angeles traffic and sat dead still for thirty minutes – the standard by which I judge all traffic jams. There are many more cars on the streets than I have seen before, and I can’t imagine why.

I visited the neighborhood art gallery yesterday to begin my Christmas shopping and found a lovely piece with four Berber warriors mounted on galloping steeds, with weapons at the ready. The perfect gift for my friend’s daughter who is a horse-person. It was quite pricey until the chap (who had dealt last month with Q) said, “Oh no, that is not the price for you! You live in the Oudayas, you are one of us.” Nice to be in the in crowd eh? He had another piece I must have for my little house. I am counting my dirhams today to see if I can return and purchase it. He has works by a variety of artist from all over Morocco. I shall get some photographs of the shop for you later – I’m just not a takes-my-camera-everywhere sort of person. Until this trip I was a rare photograph taker preferring to use words, but in the digital age…

I have the lazy today. I am hoping it will pass..


Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Lucky Day indeed!

After another killer workout (I don’t know, sometimes I just get on a tear) I stripped down for the hamman thinking if it’s as good as last time that will be great. After this experience I have decided that when next someone ask me, “Why are you staying in Morocco,” the answer, “The hamman,” will suffice! Samira led me inside to the salon at the end of the hallway, so thick with steam I could not see the other walls and filled the wooden pail with warm water, then dumped it over my head and lathered me down with the black, thick, granular substance they use for soap. I sat in the steam, pores opening, and almost nodded off until Samira returned to take me inside to the marble tables. After a scrub down that would remove even the thought of dirt, dead skin cells, or residue from perspiration, she hosed me down. There was some stooping involved as I stood some six inches taller. Then came the oiling down and a massage that made my sore muscles cry out in ecstasy and made me think, “I am not paying enough for this.” She then lathered me up with a mint smelling something and massaged again – there was an action included that involved pulling me around the thin mattress now covering the marble table and left me, and consequently Samira and the other ladies nearby in giggles. I felt like a piece of dough being rolled about an oiled pastry board. One of my most favorite things about the hamman is the continuing onslaught of wonderful smells. Next came the almond paste facemask and a final oiling down, and the cold spray at the end. “Ce bon?” Yeahsureyoubetcha’!! Samira then wrapped me in a fluffy white robe and led me to the resting salon where I lay down on the couch to revel in my state of relaxation. She then ask to bring me my clothes to help me dress, as the lady in the next bed was having done. On that one I decline, too much of control person am I. Afterward I felt righteously clean, and I wonder how it is that no one in the West has thought to commercialize this? I mean you could easily sell this kind of indulgence to the upper crust ladies of New York, Paris, Boston, and London. Come on you entrepreneurs out there, get on it as I don’t think I can leave Morocco until I am assured of the hamman somewhere else.

Afterwards I headed for the Marjane of Souissi and ran into a traffic jam? A short-lived traffic jam true, and handled by the Moroccan methodology of simply driving on the shoulder of the freeway around it! I decided to give in to convenience when I saw that the local stores were stocked up with desks. I assume for the upcoming school year. My bum is becoming sore from the chair in the house and I have to have a desk at the proper height. I spend the majority of my day here, so… I entered the Kitea and to my right was a forest of desk of all shapes and sizes, as well as chairs. I spent the next half-hour sitting, moving, and air-typing until I found the perfect height, space, and back and bum support. Huzzah!

The fresh faced, handsome Karim was a good piece beyond helpful. “Do you deliver?”

“Of course Madam.”

“And what is your delivery cost?”

“It is not, it is free – unless you are in a hurry.”

“Excellent. What about assembling the desk and chair? Does it require that? Does it arrive put together or …?”

“Madam do not even think about it. We will deliver, and place it, and do whatever is required.” How much do you love hearing that? “And this is for you,” he said handing me a black-wire, perfect size for the bedroom CD holder.

“Thank you! That’s lovely isn’t it.”

“You are having a lucky day,” says Karim smiling.

“Indeed I am, you have no idea.” He then gave me the delivery time – to the hour – my receipt, and the lovely man waiting in line reminded me when I almost walked off without my gym bag.

A quick turn through Marjane garnered a delicious chicken pastilla for dinner and some great fruit. I don’t know how those people cook, serve, and are around that food all day! It was torture for me just rolling through. I have to just not think about it until sunset. There are some honey sweet apples in season just now, sort of a red striped color.

I’m off, I have homework to do.


Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Steam and Oil

I went over to Paul’s after the gym and it is now exclusively a bakery, with the café closed as well (sigh). It appears I am giving up café au lait for Ramadan – a true sacrifice. I walked about Agdal and if possible it is even more deserted than the New City. Most of the shops are closed, all the cafes are down. It’s quite lovely really to see the city observing Ramadan to such an extent. The gym has changed its hours so that people can come at night after eating the evening meal to break their fast. Very thoughtful that.

I love Moving. I belonged to some nice gyms in the U.S., Britain, and Paris but I am telling you the West could learn a thing or two from the Moroccans on this score. I love working out until you are sweating like mad and can’t go any further, then stripping down and stepping into the pampered luxury of the Hamman and 1001 Nights – which is what I have planned for tomorrow. I felt somewhat decadent today as I was the only one I saw in the gym with water, but that’s not negotiable for me. And I got a present, ribbons and all! I love that. There is a calendar with the times of sunrise and sunset for the month of Ramadan, a tablet and pencil, and an interesting deck of cards that goes under, “I have to ask Q about this.” My wonderful English connection Sabel told me of a class they are offering twice a week she thinks I will like, my gutter French did manage the word “combat”. I’ll be there. Later this week I am having the full body massage with oil, to treat the effect of the dryness of Morocco on my skin.

There is apparently only one station on the taxicabs' radio that plays English pop songs – the worst of all English pop songs. Now I am not a big pop fan but I like to sing along as well as the next person, but NOT to this. The station has no blues (but the chap in the Oudayas who has a hannut that sells an odd variety of hardware items DOES), and no jazz, just terrible pop.

As the taxi was driving through Agdal I wondered where all the men are gone? The cafes are empty with the chairs stacked and an air of desertion until after sunset. The four and five deep crowds of men that usually line the sidewalks are – gone. What could they be doing to replace their usual afternoon activity? Resting up for the night perhaps? It’s a mystery.

A young boy is downstairs calling out his wares with a microphone and loud speaker (very loud). He has an assortment of dishes and cups, as well as some odd kitchen implements. It rather reminds me of the skiffs that come up to the outside decks of the houseboats in Srinagar loaded down with everything from flowers to chocolate so that you never need leave your houseboat if you wish.

I’m off to face the blank page.


Monday, 17 September 2007

EVERY morning now, and for all of Ramadan I suppose, the chap with the very large, loud DRUM walks beneath my bedroom window at 0300 hours – in the A.M.! It was interesting the first night, not so much now…

This alarm is to wake the neighborhood so that they can get up and have their breakfast before the daylight of Ramadan. There are exceptions to the fast during Ramadan: pregnant women, children, the ill, and the very old. I don’t ask to be cast into any of those categories, but I am among the Buddhists and I have decided my rule is breakfast when I wake since I have to go to the gym and the whole fainting on the treadmill gig is just not what it’s cracked up to be – the drama is not worth the cracked head; therefore I have no bloody need to be awakened at THREE A.M. I feel a bit like Winnie the Poo’s pal, the ever scattered and terminally angst ridden Piglet getting caught up in that kite (for anyone NOT British consult Google).

The Mega Mall was deserted yesterday. All the restaurants on the Food Court were closed but for the hamburger place. The majority of people were other computer geeks like me. We were all gathered in the area off the Food Court with the comfy chairs, tables, and plugs. I do think I was the only one there who has ever made an appointment with a cardiologist – just to check. I was really surprised; I thought Souissi would be open and serving lunch. I must check out Paul’s and Agdal next week to see their Ramadan status.

All of the restaurants over here in the New City are closed but for the big evening meal with the exception of course, of Mac Doh (MacDonald’s). The cafés that are also bakeries, the Majestic and the Comedie’, are closed for sitting and are acting only as bakeries. The lines outside the Majestic confirm my statement it is the best bakery on this side of town; Paul’s of course holds that title for the other side of Rabat. I have yet to find another place for my café au lait; I’m getting a bit desperate.

Lauren Bacall was 83 on Sunday. What a woman, what a voice. I remember reading when I was young that she obtained the sultry tones by sitting on a hilltop and reading until her throat was sore – day after day. I tried it. I’m Scots. It didn’t work. The genes are too resistant to alteration. Happy Birthday Ms. Bacall.

Abdul has informed me he is going to paint the interior of the house while I am gone to North America and install the Moroccan version of central air and heat, which lends warmth and coolness to anyone within six to eight inches of the front of the device. But the intention is lovely.
I’m still attempting to establish my routine with Q gone. Having the gym, the salon, and most of my eating places on the other side of town does bode for a move, but I do so like it here in the fort; but that makes for a day of lugging about bags and I’m not fond of that. A great problem to have and I’m sure it will resolve itself. In any case as the entire country goes into a holding mode during Ramadan, there will be no big moves until I return from my North American trip in November.

My other big problem at present is a desk that fits properly. I believe I have mentioned before I am taller than your average Moroccan (not as noticeable as when I am in Hong Kong I admit) and I have not found a desk that works for me. I would love to get one of the handmade tables rather than something from the Moroccan Ikeda but the shops don’t really lend themselves to one sitting down at the tables to test the height. I have just about decided however, that I am so decidedly strange looking in any case perhaps the aberrant behavior wound not go amiss? I prefer to purchase any items in Fez but I doubt my friend with the donkey would be willing to make that trek…


Saturday, 15 September 2007

And then there were none

The most doubtful thing in the universe is our own ability to perform to our potential. Some days you just don't want to try, some days others make the assessment for you, and some days you feel like you made it. There is a real beauty to doing nothing - it takes practice.

Writing is terrifying work. What if it is lousy? What if no one will read it? What if no one will publish it? What if you are wasting your time and should be doing some other meaningful work? Some days you look down at the white expanse of Word and panic. Some days you open up Word and can't get the words down fast enough to keep up with your thoughts. After the piece is written comes the editing, giving up paragraphs and pages of words you had to mentally sweat to get out. Into the trash with you, too wordy, too trite, too many metaphors, too many adverbs. Then you send it in to someone to publish and sure enough - not good enough. The game is not set that way however; you have to send it out again, and again. You have to re-edit, rewrite, and somehow keep believing in your own ability to tell a meaningful story.

Then there is the sheer volume of it when you are writing a novel. You have to keep all the timelines coordinated, and all the characters connected. In order to have a compelling story you must have a tapestry of interwoven plots and people. I have to see the physical pages in order to keep it all in order. I print out the story so far and line it up on the floor. I have a war table with the layout of my armies and the navy deployments. I have another map with the political alliances taped to the various countries for one story.

The best thing in my case for ideas is to run. I get more ideas on walks, or on the treadmill than anywhere else. Whenever I get stuck that is the best remedy. The core for the idea of "Fractured" came to me while I was on the bike in the gym in Fez. The circumstances were a bit surreal.

Then come the days when you are just discouraged, so discouraged that you can't write a damn thing. I know I should anyway, that's what successful writers and the books about writing say; but some days I can't do it. The danger is in letting the days pile up! I am come to believe even if I only write shit, I need to write every day, hence this rambling coherence of words.

I wonder how much of what we do is because we are afraid to fail in the eyes of other people, or to be scorned by our society. The Americans are imbued with the essential guilt of any time not spent “doing” something. Even when on their vacation the time must be organized and set for some activity. The concept of value in the meditative state of contemplation has not broken through the society’s consciousness. Even those that do ‘meditate’, again, it is “doing” something. There are of course exceptions to this rambling analysis; I am making a rash generalization.

People who are not defined by their physical bodies amaze me. I was reading the report of Stephen Hawkins and his ride in an aircraft that allowed him a short time of being weightless. He said it was “bliss”. Here is a man that should have long ago been dead, who cannot speak without the assistance of mechanics, who cannot move without a wheelchair, and yet has written best sellers to bring science to the public. He has made some of the breakthrough discoveries and postulated some of the most daring theories in modern day physics. Yet most of us react to others and to ourselves by what we see. The pretty and the tall get a leg up just by virtue of genetics; while the fat and the short must go the extra mile. Admittedly that may in some, but not all, cases build a stronger character; but my bet is they would give that up for a perfect jaw line or nose.

I can’t believe it is the 21st century and most women are still making around seven cents to the dollar a compared to men. It was not really that long ago however that women got the vote and were recognized as property owners. The patriarchal society is still alive and strong. That is what having an all-powerful god is about isn’t it? The father figure who will take care of you, make all the hard decisions, fix matters when you muck them up, and take the burdens of a life lived onto himself. When you take on that sort of protection however you give up your self-determination; fate then rules your destiny. But as I often say, I could be wrong…


Friday, 14 September 2007


See my Award from Wake Up and Smell the Coffee who thinks I am Nice. Thank you. I appreciate the award, the ribbons, and the sentiment. I hope I continue to deserve it. A wonderful way to begin my day I must say.

A darker side of Morocco:

I think Ramadan is a good time for considering the issues from the article.

As I made my home yesterday through the Medina, I noticed it is easy here to know which shop is the best for: tea, pastry, meat, and shebekia (the delicious Ramadan candy). What I must assume are the best shops had long lines (a negligible term in Morocco, more like a crowd really) waiting for the merchandise. I passed through the hoard inhaling the fresh smell of the mint tealeaves lying in mounds on the front stand of the hanut. The chaps and ladies making the thin plate-sized pastry had their rollers and stands set up all along the street, the best of them twirling the pastry dough as it was finished. The butchers had cleavers at the ready and the bloody, fresh, results of their efforts hanging on hooks just inside or for advertisement – outside the shop. The Rabat women were gathering the ingredients to break the Ramadan fast after sunset, and most likely making ready for company. In spite of the day long fasting (only the first day mind) everyone was in good spirits.

I hope your Ramadan season is going well.

Thursday, 13 September 2007


Ramadan begins today, and will continue for 30 days until Friday, the 12th of October.

Ramadan falls on the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which is based on the moon. Hence each new month begins with the sighting of the new moon. The lunar calendar is almost eleven days shorter than the solar calendar, therefore the date of the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan 'move' each year.

It is during this month that Muslims observe the Fast of Ramadan. Lasting for the entire month, Muslims fast during the daylight hours and in the evening eat small meals and visit with friends and family. It is a time of worship and contemplation. A time to strengthen family and community ties. Disregarding the mundane desires and concerns, contemplating on the inner self and fostering a greater devotion to Allah is the essential purpose of Ramadan.

Muslims believe that during the month of Ramadan, Allah revealed the first verses of the Qur'an, the holy book of Islam. Around 610 A.D., a caravan trader named Muhammad took to wandering the desert near Mecca (in today's Saudi Arabia) while thinking about his faith. One night a voice called to him from the night sky. It was the angel Gabriel, who told Muhammad he had been chosen to receive the word of Allah. In the days that followed, Muhammad found himself speaking the verses that would be transcribed as the Qur'an.

At many mosques during Ramadan, about one thirtieth of the Qur'an is recited each night in prayers known as tarawih. In this way, by the end of the month the complete scripture will have been recited.
The word Ramadan comes from the Arabic root 'ramida' or 'ar-ramad', which means scorching heat or dryness. As the fundamental aspect of Ramadan is fasting, it is believed the name 'Ramadan' may signify the burning desire for drinking water and food. It may also refer to the belief that fasting with a pure intention and with religious blessings burns away the earlier sins.

According to the Muslim faith, observing the fast with absolute faith and unpolluted intentions will confer remittance of all his sins. It is believed that fasting midst the holy spirit of Ramadan is thirty times more potent than fasting any other time of the year.

Another historical significant event that took place on the month of Ramadan is the Battle of Badr - which is the first battle between Mecca aand Medina. The battle of Badr was fought in the present day Saudi Arabia, on March 17, 624CE that is 17 Ramadan 2 AH in the Islamic calendar. It was a defining moment in the Islamic history. The inhabitants of Mecca were worshipers of Idols or of pagan religion and the people of Medina were devout Muslims. Prophet Mohammad led the people of Medina against the pagan citizens of Mecca and with divine interventions manifested by the miracles of Allah; they won over the people of Mecca.

We were in Fez last year for Ramadan and I shall be interested to see the similarities and differences here.


Tuesday, 11 September 2007

The Ragdoll and the African Feral Cat

cats galore!

The big fluffy one used to be my blueblood Ragdoll Klong Chen Pa (snow lion) with a very impressive family tree. Mine, until A. kept him while I went to Africa, now he is A's cat; which is good, now they both have one.

The sleek black and white is M.C. Solaar. Q says they are getting on well. Apparently M.C. is doing the same biting-scratching routine to Chen he used to do to us, but Q says Chen just bats him away when it gets to be too much. Aren't they so pretty? They have both adjusted to the move to New York City in good order, and are in the process of adopting the proper attitude for the area.

A bicycle and a donkey

I don’t watch television. It either makes me angry (the news) or it’s mind numbingly stupid (almost any sitcom), with the exceptions of PBS, and the BBC historical series – but that’s just me. Having said that, I will say that every time I am at Q’s grandparents’ (who have a television in almost every room) I watch it like mad to see if I have missed anything. I do however watch movies, Sci-fi series, and DEADWOOD, but all on DVD. When I work I like noise, either the noise of a restaurant (my office in the New City), or of people at the mall (my office in Souissi), but I can’t listen to music because I pay attention – the same reason I can’t play my operas when I work. But the sounds of movies is just right for white noise, of course I have to watch them at least once, but then I can play them over and over without distraction. I find ‘blow ‘em up movies especially useful for this purpose. All this to say I bought a DVD machine and monitor to give my Apple a rest from DVD duty. The monitor is fine but the remote for the DVD doesn’t work, which is more than a problem of having to get up to turn it on and off, as all the bloody controls (like language, duh) are controlled by the remote.

On Sunday I purchased one of the universal remotes at a little shop on Digital Alley in the Medina, thinking that might work, but no joy. Yesterday I took it back to the shop with the broken one to show the chap in the shop what I need. “Oh just bring in the machine and I will see what is wrong and what you need,” he said.
“Brilliant,” says I and started on my merry way home. I stopped in the fruit market for peaches, bananas, and apples. I was strolling/skipping/bouncing along the Medina enjoying the lovely day, watching the people, and looking in the shop windows. I saw the youngster coming toward me on the bicycle but as the Medina was not so crowded I was not concerned. I did move to the side to give him room. The street is quite large you see, like the width of a wide road. The bicycle was headed to the right, so I went left. The youngster hit a bump, and the bicycle took a burst of speed to the left. I could tell he had lost control by the startled look on his face, but it was too late for me to move further away. The bicycle crashed into my left arm and the handlebars took my hand around my back. The young man regained control of his vehicle, put his feet on the ground to steady himself and looking like he feared the wrath of Kali, began to apologize profusely. What could I do? You can’t berate the child. He didn’t mean to run into me, so I had to “ouch” in private after reassuring him I was fine and had no intention of doing whatever horrible thing to him that he was imagining.

I continued on my way, holding and assessing my now reddened wrist, which I knew, would turn to the lovely blue and black it is today, when a frantic donkey came out of the alley to my right side at a run. I must say this is the first time since coming to Morocco I have seen one of the little fellows run, but run he did, and right into me. Down I went, still holding my injured wrist, with a yelp.

Following the donkey out of the alley, at a dead run, was another youngster who after catching hold of the donkey’s bridle, came running over to help me up. Now he was apologizing. Such a morning so far. He then suggested that he give me a ride to the Oudayas on the donkey! I said “No,” envisioning the jarring ride, legs dragging the ground, in inappropriate dress. I would have much preferred walking but he was so serious, and when I accepted he was inordinately pleased with himself as I seemed unable to explain to him the injury to my wrist was not the fault of the donkey. I felt quite out of time bouncing along on the donkey on the cobbled street like some Berber tribeswoman coming to town to shop. Fortunately it was still early (for Morocco) and not many people were about. I had him let me off at the entrance to the Medina, as I did not fancy riding the donkey across the highway. It was totally worth the slightly bruised bum I have today to see his beaming face when I thanked him for the lift.

Today I am taking the DVD machine for examination. I am going to stay close to the buildings keeping a good watch for errant bicycles and frazzled donkeys.


Sunday, 9 September 2007

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The truth is out..

A small neighborhood indeed!

I told no one I was ill. I only left the house once, desperate for water, to go one block to the hannut; yet when I left to be back in the world this morning, along with the usual chorus of “Bonjour” and “Salam”, was “You are better?” It is reassuring in that I think if in desperate need I could hang my head out the window and ask for help, and the Oudayas would answer.

The Moroccans do not seem to gawk at accidents and back up traffic the way I have observed in the West. It is more a casual, “Someone is there? All right then.” And they go on their way creating lanes of traffic around the accident, no matter this involves driving on the curb, sidewalk, or median. Now if it were a camel involved…

It has, do I dare to say it, wish it, as I have longed for it – been getting cooler, or at the very least getting no hotter? A girl can dream. I have big plans the instant the weather cools down. I want to explore the Hassan and Mausoleum of Mohammed V monument, and the site of the ancient Roman city of Sala Colonia and the Merenid necropolis of Chellah with its historic gate, great walls and a viewing platform that looks out over the valley, and the grounds of the palace I can see without getting shot or arrested, as well as the Royal mosque. I will of course take you along via words and camera. Rabat looks to be a good walking city when one is not melting into the cracks in the sidewalk. Unfortunately the museums here are not really worth visiting which is a shame for me, I love museums, but as Q pointed out it takes a lot of money to maintain a good museum.

The horrid bank fiasco is over! I have my bank card and cash in hand. Details on the 'morrow.

Back to the gym today, so I’m off.

Update on the renovation of the fort walls


Here are the updated pictures of the walls of the Oudayas. Don’t they look fantastic? I think the chaps are doing a splendid job. It is terrifying to watch them scale the scaffolding with no safety equipment, no helmets, and no gloves. I am so very pleased to see that are finishing the walls in the ‘old way’ and not slapping on some concrete.

I included a photograph of a woman in the traditional form of dress until thirty years ago, haik made in Tafroute; this is a large piece of fine woolen cloth serving as a cloak, hook, and veil all in one. I would say very difficult to maneuver in one of those. You can see why the djellaba is a feminist statement.

I believe I have answered all the comments from the days I was "missing in action". Please let me know if I missed anyone.


Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Migraine day, back on the 'morrow.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Politics and Nipples

As I strolled through the Medina on Saturday in search of drugs (the prescription kind) and yogurt (the Greek kind) walking side by side through the crowded streets were politics and nipples.

I consider myself European in most of my outlook but in I did grow up in the Highlands and carry whatever prudery that entails and I acknowledge that. I had a French nanny however and was exposed to the rather revealing Hindu arts at an early age. All to say I am more nudist than not – but in private people, in private. Perhaps it is a cultural thing, perhaps an age thing, but I do not enjoy having another woman’s nipples thrust into my view – especially a woman MY age, and worse, one who needs to drop thirty pounds. Put those things under cover! Offensive enough in the West but here? Are they mental? I passed no less than five women on my walk with tiny clinging t-shirts and nipples to the wind. I remember some years ago attending a very posh affair, everyone in tuxedo and gowns, where one not-so-young woman wore a gown that showcased her nipples above all. It was impossible to ignore them, as you tried, while shaking hands and conversing. I do not find this sexy. Perhaps the chaps do? That being said it is not appropriate for a Saturday walk in the Rabat Medina two weeks before Ramadan. Get a grip. Look at a map. Think where you are. I am neither Moroccan nor Muslim and it offended ME.

The young men are out everywhere handing out the flyers for the elections, and the old men are sitting in the shade reading the paper about the elections. I passed one very heated, but in good fun, exchange up near the market between a man and a woman both from what I could tell extolling the virtues of their candidate. There are rallies through the streets (under my window) noisy but thankfully (unlike India) not violent. The little hand carried Moroccan drums - doumbec and tam-tams are out in abundance, some of the carriers are just making noise but some of them are quite good at stirring the blood with the beat.

The nice woman at the apothecary tells me it is two weeks to Ramadan. I must check my calendar as I intend to fast again this year. I found it a very spiritual experience last year. The comradely of the entire country honoring the spirit of Ramadan is uplifting. In spite of this effect, our friend Rebecca, who is a Muslim, had her wallet stolen during Ramadan last year. I loved her reaction, she yelled after the thief, “I’m a Muslim you bastard, and it’s Ramadan!” So not everyone perhaps is feeling the spirit, but for me it serves as an excellent reminder of my beliefs. There are no Buddhist Temples here, but I have my altar, and love and compassion are the same no matter the religion yes?

I called the bank again on Friday – The Compass Bank – as I still don’t have my card. I have at this time given up somewhat on getting my money back. When in doubt go for the personal touch so instead of calling the number I was given, I called the branch of my bank. Those Southern men are very helpful. Mr. Alex Doss (I promised I would mention him by name) listened to my tale of woe and said, “I see no problem Mam’. I will Fed-Ex you the card today. There may be some delay because of the holiday but it will be there by the middle of next week.” Assuming all will go as he said, Mr. Doss is my hero.

Then sitting at my desk that night I heard a ruckus (really, the only word) in the street under the window. I stick my head out to observe yet another political-rally-parade coming down the street. Drums, bells, and some banging thing, that looked very much like a big bowl, accompanied the clapping and singing of the men, women, and babes in arms as they passed through my street handing out flyers as they passed. Elections are a very joyful experience here.

I am WAITING again today. I don’t do waiting well when it feels like being trapped, like there is nothing I can do – yes, the truth is I get very out of sorts when my fate is in the hands of others. Besides, angst is not good for my face so I try to avoid it!


Monday, 3 September 2007

days and nights

Soon it will be back to school here. I can see it everywhere. The bookstore next to my office at the Majestic in the New City is packed with parents and children, lists for necessary books and supplies clutched in the hands of the parents. The children admiring the new backpacks, pencils, and art kits are everywhere. At Marjane I saw them packing the aisles set aside at one side of the store, filled with school supplies. I witnessed the exchange between a father and daughter where she was trying to convince him she really needed that art kit. He showed her the list on which I gathered there is no art kit, but I hung about long enough to see him give in. I’m still smiling. At Dessange the children on their way to the posh schools are getting their back to school haircuts. I have a moment of nostalgia for all those days with Q gathering books and supplies for another year.

For the past month or more the street-fruit de jour is prickly pear cactus. I don’t want to attempt to eat anything that looks like it might make some objections, but Q adventurous in the culinary venue as always gave it a go. Not to her taste she said, sweet but too bland and with lots of seeds. I’m taking her word for it and holding out for the dates and the return of the Moroccan oranges.

Passing through the Rabat Medina after dark is an experience of raucous noise and crowds to rival 5th avenue after five. The wonderful smells that you inhale during the day through lunchtime from the hannuts is gone, people are at home eating or in the restaurants. Down the middle of the streets are spread blankets covered with goods from belts to shoes to scarves to knickers to socks, kitchen goods, and any other mundane item you can think of with a hawker for each spot calling out his better prices and choices. The blaring exotic music coming from the stalls and hannuts selling CDs drown out conversation that is made more difficult by the fact it is almost impossible to walk side by side in the press of the crowd. The people move in currents, and to progress forward you have to follow in the wake of the group headed your way. The jewelry stores are lit from within highlighting the golden showcase in the windows – the huge golden wedding belts, the multi-stoned necklaces and garish rings. The rug shops, and souvenir shops are doing all they can to lure the strolling tourists inside. The nights now are thick with the moisture from the sea suspended in the still warm air from the day.

On Mohammad V Boulevard there are crowds after dark strolling the avenue and the length of green grass with benches and flowers that runs along the middle. Entire families walk along enjoying the coolness of the evening and the store fronts, young and old couples walk side by side – the more daring hand in hand, and everywhere the children run about chasing each other and exploring any new sight. During the week there are outdoor concerts with live music in the middle of the boulevard.

It is election season now. The different contingents walk through the streets carrying posters, books, and signs singing, banging drums, and bells – with the women at the back, but they are there.

And at 2200 hours on last Friday night, a lightening show and RAIN! Honest to gods rain, wet stuff coming out of the sky. It’s the first time in M.C.’s lifetime it has rained. He did come out on the terrace to watch me fold up the table and get it under the plastic. Granted it only rained for five minutes, but it rained! What I wouldn’t give for a deathly thunderstorm or some of the horizontal rain from Skye.