Another tardy blog post, eh? I kicked off 2012 in style. Whoops, did I say “in style”? I meant “in bed”. Horrible illness notwithstanding,1 I managed to spend a little time with family and friends in London before hopping on a plane back to Tangier.
Early January in Tangier was exciting, and not just because of the delightful weather. Not one, but two friends, Christopher2 and Erin,3 joined me in Morocco for the final week of my vacation. If I described our activities in detail, I would be sitting here on my couch, wasting beautiful Tangier sunshine for the rest of the day. Instead, here is a bulleted list:
- Met some American college students at the airport, who were hilariously unprepared for their two-day trip to Morocco. How can someone be unprepared for a two-day trip, you ask? Well, they planned to visit five or six cities, nevermind the geographic impossibility of such a plan. Gave them a lift into town and advised them to stick to northern Morocco unless they wanted to spend their whole trip on a bus.
- Hosted a couchsurfer from Hong Kong named Yik. She was tiny with great big glasses, and had a plethora of cautionary tales to tell about traveling in southern Morocco.
- Went to Casa Barata. Casa Barata is probably the biggest flea market you’ve ever seen, with everything from fancy women’s shoes to a lumberyard.4
- Exchanged holiday gifts.
- Ate the most depressing pizza of my life. Undercooked meat and all. Swore never to order from the place again. Ordered from them two weeks later. Regretted it even more.5
- Began putting together a gigantic Gustav Klimt puzzle on my dining room table. (Still in progress, though a few of the pieces have been chewed beyond recognition by the cat.)6
- Forced both of them to try every food available to us, including the ones I don’t like. (Liver.)
- Watched a lot of movies. I fell asleep halfway through many.
- Ate many grilled cheese sandwiches, prepared lovingly by Erin, grilled cheese chef extraordinaire.
- Attempted to travel to Chefchaouen for a weekend. This plan fell through.
- Attended a group dinner at a fancy Italian restaurant and found out that Harry, close friend/running partner,7 was moving to Jeddah. Had a little extra wine.
- Attempted to travel to Asilah for a day. Made it within two kilometers of the city, spent too long at lunch (which was delicious)8 and had to head back.
- Set a personal record walking to a meeting in town: nearly 3 kilometers in 15 minutes, including a bakery stop along the way. Did arrive slightly out of breath.
- Both Christopher and Erin came to school with me and helped out a bit with the students. Erin gave several talks to the lower school about graduate study, technology, robots, and other science-related topics.9
- Temporarily adopted Sophie, an American volunteer at the Cinémathèque, who stayed with us for a week before continuing down to Casablanca for a film production internship.
- Successfully traveled to Chefchaouen, where we spent a day exploring the city, taking goofy photos, eating sandwiches, and meeting colorful characters. Upon arrival, we followed a complete stranger from the bus stop (which was actually just on the side of the road instead of the usual bus station) to our hotel without incident. Spent a lot of time talking about Chaouen, his daughters, the unusual lack of rainfall this winter, and his drunk friend who tumbled to his death near where we were walking. Gave a few dirhams to get rid of him once we were safely within sight of the hotel. It worked out in the end, but was not an experience that I care to repeat.
- Before heading back to Tangier, we sipped mint tea at a rooftop café. This seems as if it would be a fairly straightforward task. However, it was complicated by the bees. Christopher’s tea-drinking experience was calm and incident-free. Erin, however, was subjected to what she viewed as extreme anthophilan discrimination. Bees swarmed her glass, until one got a little too close to the hot tea and fell in, expiring instantly. Erin was horrified, and Christopher, ever the gentleman, kindly offered to trade glasses.10 But as soon as Erin raised the new glass to her lips, a second bee plummeted into the tea. And then a third. In the end, Erin just waited for all the bees with a death wish to drown themselves in her tea, calmly scooped them out, then smashed them angrily on the table, yelling insults. Erin does not like bees.
- Ate shawarma.
- Caught a screening of Chaplin‘s The Kid at the Cinémathèque. Persuaded five friends11 to come with me. Wonderful to see a young, multicultural audience enjoying Chaplin. I’ve always argued that his films are accessible for all age groups and speakers of any language, and it was nice to see further proof of this.12
- Ordered some mediocre Thai food.
- Ordered some mediocre Lebanese food.13
- Ate delicious Moroccan food at Darna, a nonprofit near the medina that supports homeless or disadvantaged children and women in Tangier. They have an amazing café that–for some reason–I only discovered recently. It was Friday, so couscous with stewed vegetables, salad, tea. Everything there tasted like someone’s lovable grandmother had cooked it especially for us.
- Christopher returned to frigid Ninotsminda.
- Ate heart-shaped pasta.14
- Played an intensely competitive15 game of Scrabble with Erin, Barbara, and Sophie. Erin won, but barely.
- Designed a postcard for the Alliance Française’s Les Lutins du Court-Métrage short film festival. (If you’re in the DC area, I highly recommend catching a night or two of this festival. Lots of fun! And I’m not just saying that because I created the promotional material.)
- Ate many clementines.
- Had another movie night for the kids.
- Trained a new library volunteer.
- Acquired an accordion.16
- Cooked delicious baked macaroni and cheese with pasta shells, onions, potatoes, breadcrumbs, and two types of cheese.
- Left Erin at the airport. Did not sneak any bees or liver into her suitcase.
See how much shorter that was?
Since then, most of my activities have been work-related. Beginning in January, I am running a new, monthly film series in partnership with the American Legation. We’re screening films in English at the Legation, which are free and open to the public. Our hope is that it will bring the community closer together, provide much-needed practice for English language learners in Tangier, and expose audiences to films they otherwise might not have a chance to see.17 Our first movie was Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, followed by a great discussion.
I also hosted a sleepover in the library for the third and fourth grade girls. We watched a couple of movies, played games, ate pizza, did a creative writing activity,18 told ghost stories, danced, listened to music, giggled a lot, and lounged around in pajamas eating croissants the next morning. They hadn’t even left yet when they started asking me when the next one would be.
Until next time, dear readers. Catch a Chaplin film, if you can, and always avoid bees in your tea.
Special behind-the-scenes photo of the author aggravating a grouchy kitten with her camera.19
And, of course, the aforementioned friends:
The last moments of a bee:
- Isn’t “notwithstanding” a great word? Almost as good as the phrase “be that as it may”, which–as a friend of mine always says–is hilarious because it’s just a fancy way of saying “You’re right but I am too proud to admit it directly.” [↩]
- Of Peace Corps Georgia fame. [↩]
- Formerly of Spokane, now in charge of rolling her eyes at undergraduates in Maryland. [↩]
- Don’t wear those shoes in the lumberyard, though. [↩]
- This is a sequel to my falafel ordeal in Adams Morgan. I kept buying falafel from the same mediocre falafel shop for months, despite swearing each time–with each stomachache–that I would never risk it again. [↩]
- This makes it even more challenging. [↩]
- And husband of my other dear friend, Barbara, second grade teacher and all-around badass. [↩]
- It was, as far as I could tell, the Moroccan equivalent of hamburgers. Small chunks of grilled hamburger meat, served with Moroccan bread and dipping sauce. Fell way, way off the pseudo-vegetarian wagon that month. [↩]
- At the insistence of the fourth grade class, she also dispelled the Bloody Mary myth. “Science has proven that Bloody Mary does not exist. Trust me, I tested it.” She later undermined her argument by explaining the peer review process in detail, including the fact that many other scientists would have to replicate her results before they were accepted as fact. [↩]
- He scooped out the dead bee with a piece of tin foil before drinking. [↩]
- Including Christopher and Erin, who had no choice. [↩]
- I had completely forgotten about that trippy angels vs. demons dream sequence in the middle. Very fun. [↩]
- Seriously, Tangier? This is the best you’ve got? Making my own tabbouleh from now on. [↩]
- How is it that I can find a box of heart-shaped pasta, but no bulgar wheat? [↩]
- Erin and I were the intensely competitive ones. Barbara was pleasantly ambitious, and Sophie was cheerful despite trailing by over one hundred points. [↩]
- My neighbors will be thrilled. [↩]
- The Cinémathèque is fantastic, but rarely screens films in English. When it does, they are generally dubbed. [↩]
- Yes, I convinced a group of fifteen kids to write when they didn’t have to. [↩]
- Courtesy of Christopher. [↩]