Sunday, May 31, 2009

#2- Learn a few key phrases in Arabic, and you'll be fine

Here are the two phrases I used most during my first few days in Morocco:

*'La, rrhali buzzef, a sidi' : 'No, that is very expensive, sir.'

Every time I used this phrase in the souks (marketplace) the merchants responded with laughter and an immediate reduction in price. Even when the price of certain wares were absurdly cheap, I'd reflexively complain about the expense. We spent our first few days wandering the famous souks of Marrakesh and I had every opportunity to practice my Arabic as I haggled for everything from glasses of fresh orange juice to matching gold shoes for my girls.
(The smiling man in the tan jacket is my wonderful father-in-law)

The second, and even more important phrase, is:
*'Lekhlif' : direct translation 'may the Lord return it back to you.'
Use: uttering this phrase is your only hope of getting Moroccans to stop feeding you. If you simply say, 'shabet' (I'm full) they will assume you are just being shy, and will reward your graciousness with even more food. I didn't learn this phrase until I had spent two gastronomically agonizing months in Morocco. I'm passing this on so no one else will suffer a similar fate. Just trust me and say 'lekhilf' at your first hint of feeling full.

The picture below is of Jmal F'na at night. That night we ate at one of the outdoor stalls under the stars and I forced myself to ignore how full I became as plate after plate of marvelous food was put before me: warm bread, perfectly seasoned chicken kebabs, fried eggplant, salty black olives, platters of small fried fish, all washed down with coke straight from glass bottles.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Lesson #1: kids adapt quickly

I spent a lot of my pre-trip time worrying about how my girls would adjust to relocating to Africa for 6 weeks. My first trip to Morocco cost me a month of culture shock, and I didn't know what to expect from my little girls. We prepped them both as much as we could by looking at pictures of Moroccan relatives and trying to cram in as much Arabic as their brains could handle.

Amira was delighted by Morocco the moment we stepped of the plane. She literally laughed with joy as we boarded the train fr om Casablanca to Marrakech (after 24 hours of plane travel, I was not equally exuberant). I wrote in my journal on the first day:

It has been such a joy to watch this trip through Amira's eyes. She loves everything about Morocco and told me she never wants to go back to Hawaii. She was thrilled with our train ride and tonight as we wandered through Jamal F'na Amira made her way into a group of musicians and danced her heart out for a group of onlookers. She loves her family here. She loves the food and loves how people here 'look like me.' She feels at home here in the same way I do, perhaps she has more of a claim to it since Morocco is in her blood the way it will never be in mine.

Here is a video of Amira dancing to Berber music, our second day in Morocco:

A Disclaimer

I am a lazy picture-taker. I try to pull-out the camera on the girls' birthdays and I intend to snap photos at Mohamed's upcoming graduation, but I dislike posing for and taking pictures as a general rule. My picture-taking aversion increases while I'm in Morocco.

The reason is this-I don't feel like a tourist, anymore. It might seem silly for me to claim Morocco as my second home, I've only spent close to 6 total months there, but it doesn't feel silly. Moments with my Moroccan family are beautiful enough to border on sacred. I'd no sooner take a picture of Norah kissing her grandfather good morning, than I would of Mohamed saying his evening prayers. I guess I just feel the need to explain why I only have words, and not pictures, for some of the more poigniant moments of my visit. That said, I certainly have plenty of pictures and stories to keep this blog going for a while.