What a night! It’s just past midnight and we just got back from a night out with Abdulmajid and it was crazy and amazing. I’ll start with the cell phone adventure.
So Karima at Thaqafat requested that we buy a local cellphone so that we can keep in touch with the organization. When Abdulmajid came to pick us up from the office what afternoon she mentioned it to him, and he, being the most hospitable and welcoming person in the world, made it his mission to get us the best cellphone at the lowest cost. So, after dinner and after he came back from the Mosque, we set out: me, Mom, Abdulmajid, and his son who knows a friend that cells cellphones. Now, to preface this, buying a cellphone in Morocco is very different from Canada. You’re not stopping at the closest Rogers store on your way home from work to find out the latest deals on IPhone data plans. We followed Abdulmajiid and his son into what I’d say is the sketchy back market area of the Medina.
It was darker, there were less people, and it almost felt deserted, and we were the only women in sight. It was very different from the regular bustle of the market. I found myself clutching to my camera around my neck as we entered to stolen electronics section of the market. All of the sudden little stands started appearing all lit up displaying all different kinds of cellphones, clearly all stolen from unassuming tourists. There was a wide assortment: flip phones, brick phones, blackberries, iPhones, iPhone lookalikes… The attitude in this section of the medina was definitely different. It was more hush-hush, and even though it was clear that this is the norm in Morocco. We walked up to this one stand on the corner, proudly
displaying an assortment of phones. Abdulmajid and his son greeted the guy behind the stand and they spoke quickly and quietly in Derija (the Moroccan dialect of Arabic) and then suddenly someone was placing a small green Motorola flip phone in my hand and asking, “labaz?” which translates from Arabic to, “okay?” I nodded, and we handed over 300 dirhams (about $40) and that was that.
Or so we thought. Having the phone in your hand is actually only half the battle because you still need a charger and a sim card, both available at different stands. Thank god we had people to help us! We headed over to a little shop where a man displayed a wall full of cell phone chargers. I imagine these are a lot harder to come by, since you can’t just grab them out of a pocket. Somehow, though, he had quite the supply. We showed him the flip phone and he matched it right away to the correct Motorola charger: another 20 dirhams. Next we went down the street for the final step: the sim card. This guy had a wide assortment of electronics, from headphones to tv remotes to the sought after sim cards. They popped open our new phone and placed the little card inside, and gave us our new Moroccan phone number. Before leaving, Abdulmajid made sure to test the phone. There was a bit of worry that it wasn’t working, but we finally got it working. He handed me the phone, and said, “maintenant vous avez use telephone moroccain!”. Now we have a Moroccan cell phone. And “Moroccan” probably is only accurate way to describe it.
Abdulmajid’s son then went off with some friends, and we went for a little walk. We went up the Hassan boulevard and visited the train station to see how we can travel to Fez or Marakesh on the weekends. Thank god I speak French, because that is totally how we’ve been communicating. We’ve already had some amazing in depth conversations about life in morocco and the culture, which is only possible because he and I both speak French. Mom can follow along pretty well, and I translate when needed.
We sat down at a little cafe, which was a bit weird at first because I have yet to see a woman sitting at a cafe. We sat a little table outside, facing the street. I think women tend to sit inside more, while men sit along the street and sort of people watch. We, however, sat outside with all the men! Mom ordered tea, and Abdulmajid and I got coffee. We sat there for a long time, probably about an hour, just drinking and talking. He is very committed to teaching me Arabic, and has invited me to come stay for a few months next year so that he can properly teach me Arabic and make me “Moroccan”. I definitely want to! He is also convinced that by the end of our two weeks here i’ll be brown and tanned like a Moroccan, and no one will recognize me at home. I hate to disappoint him! We talked a bit about Canada, and we learned that he has a brother who is married in Quebec, as well as siblings in Spain, Germany, and the US. I told him how cold it gets in Quebec, and he said that his brother drinks Vodka to keep warm. He can’t drink vodka because it is forbidden in Islam, so he said if it got that cold in Canada, he would fly home, and if there was no plane ticket, he would go home by foot! He said he loves Ramadan, and that the hardest part is not being able to smoke during the day. It’s still his favorite time of year though. I’m getting such great practice speaking French, and I think a lot of Mom’s French is coming back. He said when I come back next year (inshallah/god willing) he will drive me down to Agadir and then we can go visit the Sahara and ride camels. It seems too good an offer to pass up!
It was so great talking and just sort of relaxing and sitting there. Moroccans are very social and spend a lot of time eating and drinking and talking, which I love.
It’s super late now, and we have to get up early tomorrow. We’re starting our teaching project tomorrow, and it’s a bit scary since they haven’t really given us any direction on how to teach or anything like that. My French will help a lot, I think.