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Messages for Kelly
A High Tech Quest and a Low Tech Bath 9/28/05

Hello All,

Another week in Morocco and more adventures to share. A few weeks ago, the center where we take classes installed wireless. So, I decided to see if it was possible to get an adapter for my computer and take advantage of it. I got the name of two stores from the technology person at the center and set out to find them. Both stores were located in Agdal, a very new part of Rabat. I didn't get the addresses, but was told that the cab driver would know where they were.

A Note to Mom:

Hi Mom,

Can you send me a few recipes? The one for pancakes, the chocolate cake, and tell me how to make fast sauce (with fresh tomatoes, for a pound of spaghetti). Thank you! Ok, I have two little stories that I forgot to include in the group e-mail, but know that you'll appreciate.

The other day at lunch, my [host] father says "you didn't eat a lot of beans" to which I respond "I thought I ate a lot of beans." "No," I was informed "you didn't eat enough." It's hard to clear your section of the communal plate when they keep pushing more food into it. They think that I am very timid, but the way my jeans fit tell me that I'm not eating timidly.

The other story also involves food. On Monday morning, when I woke up, there were pancakes on the table. My mother had used the rest of the mix to make them. I was momentarily angry; she had used all the precious pancake mix, my taste of home. And then on Tuesday, I saw these very thin pancakes on the table; she had gotten my brother to find a recipe for crepes on-line. And again this morning, more crepes. It is so sweet of her, but a lot of work. I need to let her know that she doesn't need to make them every morning, and that I am just as happy with the baguettes or brioche with butter and jam. Anyway, at least you know I'm eating well.

I love you and hope that you are having a good week.

Love, Kelly

Even though I knew it was too far to walk, not to mention I didn't have the address or a map of Rabat that included Agdal, I'd been cooped up all day in classes, so I decided to walk to the end of Mo5 and catch a cab from there. I had nearly made it when I decided to check my watch. I noticed this 35-year-old man looking at me, and he immediately asked me what time it was. Our interaction went something like this.

Him: What time is it?
Me: 3:30
Him: Oh, you speak French?
Me: Oui.
Him: Are you French?
Me: No.
Him: Where are you from?
Me: I'm American.
Him: Are you a teacher?
Me: No, I'm a student.
Him: Where do you live?
Me: In the old medina.
Him: Do you want to have dinner with me?
Me: No.
Him: Please?
Me: No.
Him: Well ok, bye.

So here is an example of the street harassment that women, especially foreigners face. Mostly it's because men want to marry foreigners and they are trying to get a date. Sometimes there are interactions like the one I just described, sometimes it's them yelling out whatever words they know in English "hi, how are you, sexy, honey." Whatever it is, it's enough to get on my nerves, and make me appreciate living in a place where that is not acceptable.

Well, back to my original story. I hailed a cab, and told him that I needed to go to Microland in Agdal. We drive for about five to ten minutes, and he pulls up in front of a McDonald's. I have to explain that I don't want McDonald's, but Microloand, at which point he asks me what it is and where it is. I admit that I only know it is on the main street of Agdal, and it is for computers. From my surroundings, I figure that we are on the main street, so I tell him to just keep driving.

Soon on my left, I see an HP store, tell the cab driver to stop, pay him, and get out. I go into the store, they don't have what I need and ask if they know of Microland. I have now figured out that they told me to go down the road and it was on the right about 200 meters after a public garden.

But what I understood at the time was to go down the street 200 meters and take a right by a garden. So I did that, and ended up in a mostly residential neighborhood. I made my way back to the main street, saw what they were referring to as a public garden (which was mostly cement, a few trellises and not too much actually growing) and asked a man if he knew of Microland.

At that point I wasn't too far away, just about 200 meters, like the first store had told me. When I'm about to enter the shop, from behind I hear "Bonjour, bonjour!" and I think "I don't want to deal with this right now." So I walk into the store without giving it a second thought. In behind me comes the man who had pointed the way to the store, trying to catch his breath because he'd had to jog a bit to catch up with me.

At that point I feel a little bad for ignoring him, but it's always so hard to tell. Well, he asked me if I was a teacher, so I explained that no, I was a student. Remind you of an earlier conversation? He was asking because his friend's children were moving to Morocco from Dubai and wanted to continue their English lessons, but there was no good place in Morocco. I ended up giving the name, number and address of where we study, because I know that several of the teachers there have their degrees in English literature. He thanks me and then says good-bye.

So, part one, finding the store, has been accomplished. I then try to explain to one of the women working there what I need. I must have done a very bad job, because she tells me I need to go to the phone company. I try again, and get across the point that I need a wireless card, not an internet provider. They don't have anything in stock, but she shows me a picture of what they can order for me. I say that it won't work, and point to what I need. The response, "oh, we can't order that." I'm not really sure why one could be ordered and the other couldn't, but I'd had enough for the day, so I hailed another cab back to the medina. That was my big adventure for the week.

On Sunday, I had another new experience, something that you can't come to Morocco without doing, and that is going to the hammam, or public baths. There are certain hours set aside for men (usually the morning and the evening), and different hours for women (in the afternoon). So on Sunday, I went out to buy a bath mitt for my trip to the hammam. Here, they use something called a "keess" and it has the texture of a brillo pad, or perhaps sand paper. Being a little wary of that, I bought one that was more like a washcloth. I came back and was informed by my mother here that I bought the wrong thing, to which I explained that the keess was too rough, and I had bought exactly what I wanted. She brushed that off, saying I could just use hers. So I pack my bag with all my bath supplies and some clean clothes and am ready to set out.

She then asks me if I want to wear a djellaba. I don't particularly want to wear it, but I get the feeling that the question is more to be polite than anything else, so I agree. It was actually quite a pretty color pink with a geometric design woven into it, but I still felt a little strange. Once at the hammam, we stow our things and settle ourselves in the hottest, innermost room.

The process begins with scrubbing yourself with a mixture of henna, honey, olive oil and water, so it looks like you are rubbing mud all over yourself. You then rinse that off and use the keess. My mother vigorously scrubbed my back and shoulders as I winced in pain, and then I did the rest of my body. You could see sheets of skin coming off. I'm sorry if this is grossing some of you out. After finishing that and rinsing off, I got to use my own soap and shampoo. I also took advantage of the time to do some stretching.

After getting dressed and donning my djellaba, I was about to leave, and my mother asks if I have a scarf for my head. At this point I'm thinking "I'm already wearing a djellaba, why do I need to wear a headscarf?" I'm very set against this. She then explains that the difference in temperature from inside to outside will make me cold, as the heat escapes from my head, so she gives me a small towel to put over my head. By that point I was dying for some cool air, but wasn't going to put up a fight.

All in all, it was a very relaxing experience, and I felt cleaner than I had since
coming to Morocco. There was also something quite nice about spending time exclusively with women, and in a society where beauty is not defined by how thin you are.

Then on Sunday evening, I heard some drumming music during dinner. At first I thought it was coming from the TV of the family upstairs, but then I determined it was coming from outside. I opened our front door to look out, and saw quite a large crowd in the street. Walking closer, I saw several men drumming, a group of 4 or 5 men dressed in red caftans and matching hats spinning and dancing in a circle around a woman in the middle dressed in black also dancing. The men who were dancing also had instruments vaguely resembling large finger cymbles, and they were playing them in unison. Several people in the crowd were holding candles. I took this performance to be much more authentic than those I saw on my excursion to Fès. i asked my brother what the performance was for, hoping for there to be some sort of significance in it. I was disappointed to find out that they were just performers, and soon saw one of them go around asking for donations. The disappointment on the one level though did not diminish my happiness at witnessing the performance.

So those have been my most noteworthy experiences of the past week. I continue to be intrigued and confused by life here. I hope you are all doing well and enjoying the fall.

Much love,
Kelly

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