Morocco, Weeks Seventeen Through Twenty-One

My last month was remarkably uneventful and, at times, crushingly boring. Work, work, and then–for good measure–some more work. The weather here has been gorgeous (sunny and warm nearly every day) but sometimes I go several days at a time without feeling the sun on my face for more than five minutes. I arrive at work just after sunrise, and often leave after dark. Go home, eat, fall asleep. Repeat. Haven’t written. Haven’t drawn. Haven’t picked up my mandolin. My camera has been sitting in a desk drawer for three weeks.

For fear of boring myself1 I’ll try to keep this post brief. I took advantage of the long weekend at the end of week seventeen to attend a holiday market at the American Legation, where Moroccan women sold handmade crafts to benefit various local charities.2 The next day I hosted the library’s second fundraising cinema night,3 which was a big success. Filled the library with happy third and fourth graders, who were surprisingly excited to be in the library on the weekend. They loved the film and some even helped me clean up at the end.4

Those who know me well5 will remember that I have very strong feelings about Thanksgiving. Thankfully,6 I haven’t had to deal with the horrors of selective history education since my elementary school days. But this year I found myself in a school for Thanksgiving, surrounded by construction paper turkeys, small children in various interpretations of Native American and Puritan dress, and an excited holiday atmosphere around the school.7

The first thing I did on Thanksgiving morning was send the following card via email to my friends and family:8

Unexpectedly, this particular Thanksgiving grinch was summoned to photograph the Kindergarten Thanksgiving lunch in the lower school. Picture this: four Kindergarten classes (roughly ages 2-7) all sitting around an enormous row of tables stretching all the way down the hall. Now add in the teachers and a few parent volunteers rushing around the perimeter, frantically distributing food and ushering children through the crowd. Remember, many children are talking, many are yelling, but all are making some kind of noise. A group of troublemakers at the end decides to bang their plastic plates against the table in unison. Another group fights over their seats. And then the plates are filled with food and a hush falls over the room. Children pose for me, mid-chicken leg9 and grinning.

Now, I’m not saying that my feelings about Thanksgiving have changed, but spending lunchtime with a room full of happy kindergartners made my week.

My eighteenth week in Morocco also saw the first meeting of the brand new upper school art club in the library. There are no official art classes for grades 7-12, so I started an after school art club with two other teachers. We’re just two meetings in, but it’s been great fun. Eventually, I think the art club will function as a kind of individual workshop time with group lessons for students who are interested in particular activities. We’ll be doing “traditional” art, knitting and crocheting, origami, sewing, beadwork, and much more! Teachers and students will take turns teaching the group, depending upon each person’s area of expertise. On the weekend I had more house guests, French ones this time, who were on a one-year bicycle tour of Mediterranean Europe. I showed them around town a bit and took advantage of the opportunity to practice my French. After dinner and dessert, we sat on a wall in the kasbah looking out across the ocean to Spain while a man played guitar and a group of giggling children practiced their flamenco dancing.

Week nineteen? More work. I had a dear friend visiting from DC for a few days, so we had great fun chatting, exploring the city, and figuring out which local foods might give him an allergic reaction. The week ended with another movie night, this time for the fifth and sixth grades.10 I celebrated my five month-iversary in Morocco with two Spanish friends, eating tagine and lobia at my usual haunt, and chaotic week twenty-one was full of “last week of school” activities.11

Early Sunday morning I hopped on an airplane with two friends and–after two flights, a five-hour layover in Madrid, two more trains, and a short drive–we found ourselves at their cozy house in Wales. I snuggled into warm blankets and slept until morning.12

I have a secret to share with you, dear readers. After three weeks devoid of photos, blog posts, sunlight, and fun, I was feeling pretty demoralized. I seriously considered ending this weekly tradition for good, and instead returning to my pre-Morocco sporadic blogging schedule. And then I heard from some of you, in comments, via email or Skype, and even through a lovingly crafted letter in the mail.13 I thought for a while about my stress at work, lack of creative time, and shameful neglect of my camera and music. And you know what? Writing, reading, painting, photographing, music-making, and adventuring are the things that make me happy, and absolutely shouldn’t be relegated to the “well, if I have time” category.

So here I am, back and newly motivated. I’ll be blogging the next two weeks from England,14 and then back to Morocco in the new year.15

And in the way of an apology for the delay, here is a special bonus photograph of Loki supervising my blogging. It’s hard work, but someone has to do it. He’s especially adept at catching stray commas.

  1. And you, too, dear readers. []
  2. Bought a little surprise for my mum. No guessing! You’ll have to wait ’til Christmas. []
  3. These biweekly movie nights are going to fund new shelf labels, a better speaker system, new furniture, and, of course, books. []
  4. I may or may not have bribed them with candy. []
  5. Or casual acquaintances who have unwittingly made the mistake of bringing up the subject. []
  6. See what I did there? []
  7. The fact that there was no *actual* holiday that week didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits in the least, and the kids were still running around the school chattering excitedly. []
  8. I spent the next few hours feeling simultaneously accomplished and guilty. []
  9. Chicken was served instead of turkey, for the most part, due to availability. Other dishes included salad, fresh fruit, rice, and some Moroccan cakes. []
  10. Getting closer to buying nice things for the library! []
  11. I even managed to find a decent fake Christmas tree and put it up in my apartment living room, which now cozy and feels a bit more like home. After making construction paper decorations, and adding some house guests and friends to complete my little Tangier family, I was all set. []
  12. Rainy morning, of course, since this is Wales in winter. []
  13. You know who you are. []
  14. Hopefully with cheering holiday photographs. []
  15. The jury is still out on whether I should continue the “Morocco, Week __” titling scheme while in England. Maybe I’ll stop being lazy and write clever titles for each new post. []

8 Responses

  • So excited to see you post again. I’m going to start crafting a letter this very moment. I’m aiming for it to just narrowly beat you on your way back to Tangier.

  • Aww, you got your own fake tree too! I made the topper for ours: a drawing of an extra-rakish Deago-cat, in a Santa hat. My roommate Diana made it her new Facebook picture. For the moment, I’m winning at life.

    And I love the sound of your art club so much. It warms my heart. D’awwww.

  • I miss you and love you, Serena, and what’s more, I wish you a happy everything, but with Christmas around the corner, a happy and warm and healthy one of those. Yeah!

    The caption above the photo of Loki cracked me up. It’s so appropriate, I mean, it feels like it’s true, looking at the photo, like he’s supervising you (in a friendly, encouraging way, mostly, but with a little tough love thrown in just in case).

    I can’t wait to see the photos from Wales. Share some soon, please!

    And yes, we must find the time to do what makes us happy, what makes us feel like ourselves. It’s terribly too easy to lose track of them, and let them go. But we let ourselves go in the process, hardly realizing we’re not there anymore. It’s so easy to get used to feeling, well, okay. But us, you know, we can feel so much better than that.

  • I’ve missed your blog. I don’t care what you call it or where you are when you write it, but it’s such a joy for me to read and reread your writing. It’s brilliant of you to start an arts class because you have so much to share with others. Be sure to find time to do your own art as well. With your music-making…have you found any music that is particular to that area that you could share..songs?
    Happy Hannukah, Serena, and I’ll think of you tonight when I light the first candle.

  • Yeah, work can be boring and stressful, but at least you have a job. Many people wish they had one. So sorry you missed the sun, but studies show it’s not good for you. So I figure that you have a lot to be thankful for, despite your Thanksgiving misgivings.
    Another thought: Cast my vote for the notion in Footnote 14 that you need to juice up your blog headlines.
    And why not put some of the works of the art club in the blog, too?
    I just remembered: You promised readers back in Week One or Two or whatever that you would reveal details of your secret tech project. Time to disclose.

  • Hi Serena! My friend Jaclyn and I looked through your photos, and Morocco looks like so much fun. She is interested in finding out more about how you got involved in this. Is it through a program?

    Thanks and I hope to talk to you soon!

    Lots of love,


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