Pictures of Morocco

I’ve uploaded some pictures of my first few weeks in Morocco.  None of them depict my everyday life, which involves me sitting around practicing vocab and doing grammar drills.  The pictures here are almost entirely from my recent weekend trip to Chefchouan.

Those seeking further details will have to wait until I get home to discuss things over a beer, as I’m supposed to be avoiding English.  However I will note that today was the first time our teacher decided to use the class air-conditioner, of which I sit in front.  It kicked on whenever the temperature went above whatever.  Something must have died inside of it since the last time it was used, resulting in a fart-like gust of conditioned air squirting onto the back of my neck every so often.

In other news, I taught my language partner the word for prostitute today.

 

Oh yeah, here’s the link to the photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/midwestinthemideast/sets/

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Pictures

I posted a small collection of pictures (plus one short video) that I took during my trip thus far.  You can find them on my flickr page here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/midwestinthemideast/sets/72157624019418572/

To view, look for the “slide show” button on the top right corner of the screen.  Once in the slide show, make sure that you click “show info” on the top right corner, so that you can read the captions that I wrote for the photos.  I recommend hitting the pause button, so you can look and read at your leisure, otherwise it will automatically flip through the photos quickly.

Enjoy.

Feeling the sight of the Wall

Preface:

I think it’s only fair to warn that this blog is for communicating back to friends and family some of my experiences and thoughts while traveling.  In other words, it’s about me.  It’s not a political blog, though that’s all tied in.  It will contain some “woe is me” moments, and hopefully some more-entertaining types of self-indulgence.  But I’ll try to keep that to a minimum.

Another Preface/Note:

The following post would make more sense for you, dear reader, if you knew a tiny bit about the wall that Israel has been building.  So it might be helpful to take 15 minutes and view this segment of an episode of CBS’s 60 Minutes before reading the post below.

Post 1

You don’t just talk about politics in Jerusalem: you see it.  And the view is disorientating, not like staring at a maze, but like trying to make sense out of a nightmare from a mid-day nap.

From my bedroom window, I can see the ancient city walls which once protected some of the holiest sights in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  I haven’t wikipedia-ed the dates, but they look impressively old.  It’s breath-taking.

On the other side of campus, I can see a different wall.  Our class’s tour guide, an Israeli veteran of the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, called it “Peace Wall.”  Others call it an apartheid wall; I do too, but not around Israelis.

It’s hard to describe the experience of looking at it.  But to start: it is a buzz kill.  Every morning we are fed a delious continental breakfast in the Faculty building.  Then I walk to class, enchanted by the beautiful weather and singing birds that perch above the campus walkways–all surrounded by lush green grass and exotic flowers (that, no doubt, gulp down more than their fair share of water in this desert).  But the brief tropical pleasantry that is this walk quickly becomes a source of guilt as the view confronts me with my privilege.  The building that I study in is at the edge of the hill-top campus, where you can look out and see in the distance a giant concrete snake that wraps itself around neighborhoods. It’s the wall.  And it’s killing my mood.  Staring at it, I feel spoiled and powerless–spoiled because, far from having to deal with the wall’s violence, I am enjoying the fruits of Israel’s gated-community lifestyle, and powerless because I can’t do anything righteous while staring at this bullshit.

The only thing in the US that I can relate this experience to is the feeling of shame you feel when walking past a homeless person while carrying something expensive and unnecessary that you just bought from Yonkers.  But for a proper comparison, you’d have to make it worse, like by accidentally dropping your new Ronco 5-Tray Electric Food Dehydrator+Shoe Shiner-purchase, and braking it on the homeless person’s foot, rendering your money blatantly wasted, and the poor bastard’s foot a metaphor for something too daunting to wrap your head around.  But your heart gets it.  And your mouth stumbles to catch-up with apologies and regret, though it’s nothing that will really help, so you just nervously carry on.

A Bar in Beirut

            I hope that somewhere in the world, there is a bar whose bouncers deny admittance to people for being over-dressed.  “Ma’am, you’ll have to put a hooded sweatshirt over that glitter-top and push-up bra, and please, find some more comfortable shoes.”  “I’m sorry sir, but that popped collar is a bit too pointy.”

            Where ever this magical Shangri-La is, it’s not Beirut.  I have to sneak past the hair-gel soaked doormen, as to avoid the inevitable, “I’m sorry sir, I’ve never heard of the brand ‘Miracles do happen,’ you’ll have to buy an over-priced drink somewhere else.”  But once we did find a place to drink, the doorman assigned me and my Swiss friend two bar stools which crammed us elbow-to-elbow with what was clearly an awkward double date.  They looked good—chest hair and cleavage was prominently displayed by all the right genders, and their four different expensive perfumes mixed into an airy broth which hovered around half the bar.  We were all very impressed.

            When me and Swiss ran out of things to discuss over our beers, I began paying more and more attention to the double-date.  The far couple was hitting it off, while the two closest to us dawdled with their cell phones and made frequent trips to the bathroom to pass the time.  At one point the guy made up some excuse and said goodnight, making it a party of three.  The successful couple continued with their flirting, while me, Swiss, and our new friend, Third Wheel, sat squeezed at the bar watching a soccer game on T.V.

            Third Wheel began playing with her cell phone again, whose screen showed a glamour photo of a stunning Arab woman.  At this point, she had stared at the picture for the 8th time, so I finally broke the silence and asked, “men heea Ala moblieKi?”  “Huh?”  So then I tried in English, “Who is that on your mobile?”  She pointed to the spot between her fake breasts (as if she bought them just for the sake of decorating her point of self-reference) and said, “It’s me.”  I was caught off guard for sure.  I expected her to tell me it was her favorite singer, or a loved one… someone whose picture deserved her own reverence.  But apparently narcissism knows no cultural barriers. 

            So how would you respond to her answer?  I could think of but three ways:

A.  Honesty: “Wow, that’s incredibly vain of you.  And you look a lot more attractive shrunk down to a digital 1 by 3 photo.  How’d you do that?”

B.  Womanizing: “Wow, you look great, but it doesn’t do you justice.  You’re very beautiful, [compliment], [compliment], <roofie drink>, [compliment].”

C.  Awkward: “Oh, neat… Ah yeah… I wish I could take pictures with my phone [remove Nokia 1995 model from your pocket, the one you bought off a Syrian guy on the street for $10]  But, ah… it only takes numbers.”  Shit, did I just accidentally ask for her number?  “Ah, I mean the screen.  Ah, its just numbers and letters and stuff… it’s really old… see?”

            I chose C.  Third Wheel’s response was more physical than verbal, perhaps because of the language barrier.  Without saying a word, she stood up and walked straight out the door.  I took a long drink of my beer, while Swiss leaned over and said, “Tyler, you’ll never impress a Lebanese girl with that phone, they like expensive things.”  I’m still a little bitter about being rejected by someone I wasn’t even interested in.  But I’ve recently purchased some hair gel and taped a glamour photo of myself to the back of my cell phone.  Next time I sit next to a girl void of personality, I’ll be ready to impress.

 

New Pictures

I’ve posted many new pictures of my trip to Lebanon.  You can see them on my Flicker page (look for the link on the left-hand side of the screen).

I’ve got some stories to post about the trip, perhaps they’ll be ready later tonight.  But for now there’s pictures.  Wonderful Wonderful pictures.

Friends in the News

I realize I haven’t written much in a long time.  I keep saying I will soon, but haven’t had the inspiration quite yet.  But I’ll say it again… soon.

In the meantime, I thought I would share that I was teaching English to a group of Iraqi students for about a month before they went over the U.S. to study just last week.  To my surprise, I found out that there is an article about them in the Christian Science Monitor.  It discusses some of my former students, and has some nice pictures of them as well.  I’ll fill you in more in the future, and post some pictures, maybe video, of the send-off party we had for them last week.

I’m not sure if they’ll join us, but I invited my 6 students to Wisconsin for the winter, so maybe you’ll get to meet them.

You can read the article in the Christian Science Monitor here: http://www.csmonitor.com/2008/0814/p01s07-usgn.html

Sex Slavery

Here is a very interesting radio-short on a recently developing problem in Damascus (where I live). 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/news/2008/04/080418_syria_sex_wt_sl.shtml

If you want to learn more about this, I would also recommend watching this documentary, which is about Iraqi refugees living in Damascus and Amman (a couple hours south of me).

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-6277982867673096457