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Iraq Has a National Ping-Pong Team? 11/21/05

Hi Everyone,

So my Independent Study period has finally started. I moved out of my family's house on Thursday. It surprised me how sad I was to leave them. It felt much like leaving home for college; a mixture of apprehension, anxiety and excitement. Two of my friends and I moved into a beautiful, if slightly faded, hotel in the Ville Nouvelle. It feels quite luxurious, with our own bathroom, an electrical outlet (we learned what a commodity that was during our search for hotels), and a tiny balcony; for all this, each of us pays the equivalent of $8 per night.

It's nice to be setting my own schedule, deciding when, what and how much I want to eat, and being able to come and go as I please. Just last week, Morocco celebrated 50 years of independence. For me, it has felt like a big mix of Independence day and Christmas. Morocco's flag is red with a green star on it, and is displayed everywhere. There are lights on the lamp-posts, red and green lights draped on a lot of the important buildings, red and green bunting, a history display on the main boulevard, and fireworks. The fireworks display I saw was probably the most spectacular one I've seen in my life.

When we returned to our hotel that night, around midnight, we realized that we'd been locked out. We rang the doorbell several times, but no one answered. I was tired and a little less than amused. A few minutes later, two men staying in our hotel returned, rang the doorbell despite being told that we'd already tried that, and stood to wait with us. Another couple of minutes passed, and three more guys staying in the hotel showed up, rang the doorbell and stood to wait with us. A couple minutes later, another group of men staying at the hotel returned, rang the doorbell, then stood to wait. Luckily, one of our friends Zak who had walked us back to the hotel knew people who worked in there, so was able to call one of them to let us in. While we were waiting, it became obvious that all of the men knew each other. It turns out that they were the Iraqi national ping pong team. Yes, you read that right, the Iraqi national ping pong team. We were finally let into the hotel, and some of them tried to talk us up. As soon as we got back to our room, we just started laughing at how random it was.

It was agreed upon that things like that belong in novels. Another night, I went to see the film J'ai vue tué Ben Barka at the Cinéma du 7ème Art. It was a film noire about the mysterious murder of Mehdi Ben Barka, a popular opposition leader in Morocco in the 1960s, in which it is believed the French aided the Moroccan government. I really enjoyed it, despite not being able to understand 100% of the dialogue. And all the scenery of Paris was distracting, making me think of how much I'd like to return there. So those have been the major events of the past couple of days. Other than that, I've been doing some observation and research and trying to make some contacts for my project. I hope you are all well. Happy Thanksgiving!


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