Blogger, You Know Me So Well

I was wasting some time tonight on the computer before reading Stephen King's The Shining out loud with Max and going to bed (ebitty jibitty that is a scary book!  And out loud?  At night?  Awesome) and I came across some of the search terms that lead people to my blog.  Most of them seemed obvious, but one of them at once made perfect sense and no sense at all.

More than one person has found my blog after searching for "girls in sweatpants".

I feel both offended and profoundly understood.

I do indeed own many pairs of sweatpants, BUT also many pairs of pointy toed heels.  So there. 


How NOT to Respond to a Groping

It happens, I guess. 

It happens in America and it happens in the Middle East (and elsewhere I'm sure) but it had never happened to me.

Before Max and I went to Amman for our first overseas experience we were informed that, unfortunately, I should be prepared for an unwelcome pat on the rump or a fully-intentional-accidental brushing up against in public spaces from time to timeI was so prepared for such an event that the first words I learned in Arabic meant "Shame on you!" and I practiced a hand swat that would surely deflect any wandering perverts.  Perhaps as a result of my precaution (or just plain old good luck) such an occasion never befell me in Jordan or Jerusalem.  I did get spit on by a small boy at the Kalandia checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem once, but that's not quite the same thing. 

A few weekends ago we traveled to the southern coastal town of Essaouira via Marrakesh.  We spent one night in a lovely Riad so our visiting friend could experience the madness of Jemaa El-Fna - and madness it was.  Feeling a bit more confident than our first time in the square I led our posse of three right to a circle of people gathered around traditional musicians.  The three of us stood on our tippy toes and shuffled back an forth to get a glimps of the musicians' hat tassels orbiting their bobbing heads.

Just as I settled into a little perch where I could see the action, I felt an arm/shoulder/hand brush past my backside quite forcefully.  My immediate, unthinking response?  I swung around to see the punk, mid 20's, as he was slinking away and gave him a two handed, open handed shove from behind.  Me!? Shove a stranger!?  Knowing the level of his guilt he, of course, didn't even turn around but kept on walking.  (That's how I knew it was him - would you just keep on walking if a stranger shoved you out of the blue?)  But as I was mad dogging him, my back turned to the circle, a felt another close encounter from the circle and after swinging back around (hands at my side this time) I felt another one from yet another direction.  Good night!  (And not 'good night' as in isn't a triple groping awesome?  but 'good night' as in Good Hell People!)

"We gotta get out of here!"

I yelled to Max and our friend over the drums and general chaos of the square.  We made it to safety in a nearby cafe and as I explained to Max what had happened including my completely automatic (and un-recommendable) response his eyes got big.  I think he was one part proud that my instinct was to fight back, but also one part horrified about what I might have done had he actually turned around to face me.  It wouldn't have been pretty.

Anyway, don't get groped.  And if you do...I'm not sure that starting a fight is the best course of action...

...but to each their own I say.            


Last Days of Summer

But really, when is it not mostly summer here?

We've been busy bees here in Morocco...


Anatomy of an Iftar

Well Ramadan is over but I figure, no time like the present to talk about it anyway. 

A refresher: Ramadan is a holy month where Muslims fast from sun up to sun down, eating only in the early hours of the morning and late at night when the sun has gone down.  This daylight abstinence is not only from food, but drink, cigarettes and sex as well.  This demonstration of devotion is commanded in the Koran and also commemorates the month during which the Prophet Mohammed received the Koran from the angel Gabriel.  It is a time of fasting, reflecting on ones blessings by experiencing what hunger is like for the poor, and much prayer and devotion.  After Ramadan (and to an extent during) Muslims give Zakat or alms to the poor.

At the end of the day, around 7 (7:20 ish in Morocco this year) the call to prayer sounds and participating Muslims break their fast at a meal called Iftar.  Max and I were very fortunate this year to attend a couple of Iftar's during Ramadan.  There are a few traditions associated with Iftar that we were not aware of before coming to the Mahgreb.  

To begin with, a date and/or something sweet is traditionally eaten first to end the fast.  We sat around a table heaped with pastries, dates and dried fruit at one dinner and I have to say, sweets first is my kind of meal.   

Other traditional iftar foods in Morocco include hard boiled eggs, harrira soup - a tomato based soup with herbs, chickpeas, vegetables, sometimes meat - and something called shpekia.  How you spell it is anyone's guess, but it is a small sticky pastry made of fried dough, sesame seeds and honey.

At one iftar we were served fried fish caught in the sea that very day along with kefta (spiced ground meat) and various yummy bread/sauce concoctions.  At the other iftar we tried our first dish of Kalia.  We first spotted Kalia in the Fez medina and I said to our tour guide "...what is that stuff that looks like chunks of meat that have been curing in fat for months without refrigeration?" and she said "Oh, that's chunks of meat that have been curing in fat for months without refrigeration.  It's called Kalia."  I later learned that it is common to eat Kalia in a tajine that has been slow cooked with eggs.  Sounds like a groovy breakfast catastrophe, doesn't it?  I was a little skeptical when I saw it sandwiched between layers of fat in the open air markets, but served in a lovely tagine and sopped up with a fresh baguette I actually quite liked it.  Will I make it at home?  Probably not.  Would I eat it again?  Absolutely.  

The meal is finished, of course, with the ubiquitous mint tea found in every kitchen, stoop, cranny, and street corner in Morocco.  Our friends have been gracious to prepare a special no-tea-tea for us on such occasions.  

In light of all this food obsession, I'll leave one more food related anecdote that a wise Moroccan told me before Ramadan began.  He said to me You know, Ramadan is really special for women.  And I thought But surely its special for everyone, what do you mean?  He went on to ask me how I felt when I prepared food for Max and I said I liked to do it because I like to cook but more importantly I like to feed Max, to look after him and care for him.  He said that Ramadan can be hard for women because they have to cook all day for what are often elaborate iftars while fasting and they are tired.  But then he related the cooking of the iftar to my feeling when I cook for Max. 

You do this because you love him, because you want him to be happy.  If the woman makes her family food during Ramadan with this kind of love it is a very special thing. 

A very special thing for her relationship with her family, but also her relationship with Allah, with God.  Anyway,  it was a lovely sentiment that the labor involved in the fasting and food preparation could be a kind of devotion to her love for God and family.