Wednesday, October 13, 2010

  The new driving laws came into effect recently in Morocco.  Now, when drivers violate the rules of the road and get caught, they will lose points on their driving permit.  There are associated fines with the violations, too, and in certain extreme incidents, jail time.  The rules are many and I found them online in French and trying read it all was pretty overwhelming.  The website now seems to be down or I would have linked it here. 

However, not much has changed on the road except people are slowing down their speed.  They are still running red lights, driving on the wrong side, passing on both sides and breaking all the 'rules'; this morning I came face to face with a bus on a one way street - and no, I was not the one going the wrong way!  There are supposed to be traffic cameras and radars in place watching our road antics, but maybe not in Fes yet.  Spot checks have taken place regarding the first aid kits and fire extinguishers, none of which can be had in local stores.  So...

Pedestrians can also be fined for exposing themselves to danger.  That can qualify as almost anything you do in a Moroccan street.  Simply crossing from one side to the other is exposure to danger.  There is a certain element of recklessness in crossing without looking - that classic refusal to engage in eye contact in order to pretend it's not your fault - which is how most people do it.  Other favored methods of entering the street are running from between parked cars, vaulting off the bus and darting in front of it into oncoming traffic, and of course, chasing something or somebody.  There seems to be a perception of the street as open space free for all and not restricted to moving vehicle traffic. 

It's early yet, but my suspicion is that once the novelty wears off , it will be business as usual on the road.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I was really busy during the summer and didn't have any time to write at all.  I got back to Fez August 22nd, after a short vacation and it was so hot you could bake bread on a table top.  It was also Ramadan.  I have to salute all those people who adhered to their fasting this year.  It was a miserable time to be going without water, for sure.  Hamdoulillah, it's finished and life is back to normal and it's good.

Today I had the good fortune to run into the Moussem of Moulay Idriss in Fez medina.  I was walking home and heard the music so did a U turn back up to the Boujloud area and the parades were already making their way down to Talaa Sghrira toward the Zaouia.  For anyone who may not know, Moulay Idriss was the founder of  Fez; the son of Moulay Idriss who buried in the mountain village by the same name.

Like any parade, there was a lot of noise and confusion and crowds of spectators.  People watched from the rooftops and packed the streets, frustrating the police, but everyone was very considerate, too.  Children were hoisted up on shoulders and the crowds made room for wheelchairs.  It was a pleasant side trip on the way home!

Friday, July 16, 2010

One of the most common reasons people give for pulling up roots to live in Morocco is simplification - they want a slower pace of life, a better quality of life and time to not just smell the roses, but enjoy those roses.  The thing is, it's not always easy to figure out how to accomplish this.  There is a big difference between relocating to a slower-paced place and slowing down your own pace.

How many people actually know how to just live?  This means doing nothing but ordinary day to day activities that come up, if you want to do them or must do them, and simply ignoring the stuff you don't care about right now.  People who do that can go walking in the park during the evening, sit in cafes all afternoon, loiter on the street corners harassing girls and take the afternoon of from work just because they ate too much for lunch.  Work is not the primary focus of the day, chores at home like lawn-mowing or paying the bills can wait until whenever.  Or never.  You can just take things as they come.

People often remark on the incredible amount of time Moroccans take to socialize with friends and family.  Most are envious of this interaction and wish to experience it.  The thing is, you can't say, Well, sorry, I'd love to chat but right now I have to get to the grocery store; or little Penny has a dance lesson right now.  Some things fall by the wayside.  Not everybody in Morocco is laid-back either because I have seen just as many people working three jobs, speeding endlessly around in their car like its a second home and spending so much time on their cell phone they probably can't remember their last face to face conversation.  It's all about choices.

Chances are a first encounter with Morocco took place on a vacation.  As a tourist or foreigner, one has a different perspective on things than the locals.  You can pick up and go at any time whereas they have to live in the country they built.  Many retirees go down this road, following an idealistic image or memory of a great place they visited only to find that living there is not the same thing.  In fact, living in a foreign culture is a daily challenge that may ease over time, but will never entirely go away.  And again, it's about where you choose to focus.

Morocco is a nice place to live, but it has problems just like every place else.  Some are simple to resolve and others are challenging.  Some things you might consider problems are not problems for Moroccans and those issues will never end.  It's all about you.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Anybody who has been to Fez lately knows it is hot here.  Very hot.  And nothing wears on heat-stretched nerves worse than driving in Fez.  I have been on wheels for over a year now, yet I am continually shocked by how inconsiderate local drivers are and how absurdly willing they are to risk injury and property damage and even death just to be FIRST.  This is, as far as I can tell, the point of driving.  It is not to get to a destination, but to get "there" FIRST.  Cars jam up at the lights and intersections, pass each other on narrow streets, drive on any side of the road and hog any open space that will gain them a centimeter over somebody else. It doesn't matter where you are going as long as you are leading the pack.

Pedestrians are a pain in the a-- , too, since they are convinced green lights are for them and they also have a right to the road.  They weave in and out of the traffic, step in front of cars and fall off of curbs and never look in the correct direction for oncoming traffic.  And the newest thing in Fez is for young women to link arms and stroll slowly down the middle of the traffic lane.  This morning a giggling trio of young women was egging on some good ol' street harassment in the middle of intersection where two pedestrians were killed in the last year.  Thank heaven nobody was coming up behind me or the cafe on the corner could have served us all up for lunch after we landed in their kitchen.

There are no speed limit signs anywhere in the city even though it is "known" the speed limit is 40.  However, the real rule is to go as fast as you can as space permits.  If somebody is in your way, blast the horn and shout insults.  And of course, just drive down the oncoming lane and shout insults at them, too, while flashing your headlights to get them out of your way.  Another effective way to get ahead is just drive between two cars. What's a little lost paint on somebody else's car?  Knocked their mirror off?  Oops!

Despite this urge to be FIRST, the thing nobody seems to realize is that traffic is clogged and people are frustrated and pedestrians are hostile because everyone is so UNwilling to cede the right of way to another, even when it is their right of way by law.  I never thought about this before but a perfectly executed MERGE is a beautiful thing! 

Driving in Fez is just take, take, take and take some more.  For a culture where time has so no value and little meaning, this appalling behavior on the road is bizarre to say the least.  Shame on all of you!!
My daughter was assaulted on the street in Fez last weekend.  She was walking home around midday from a sandwich shop with her sister when a guy, old enough to behave better, started following them.  He was close enough to make them nervous and they did stop to ask some construction workers to speak to him.  They chose to ignore the situation and laugh it off.  How many times have you heard that following girls just gives men on the street a cheap thrill and something to talk about with their fellow lounge lizards?

Well, this harasser decided to grab my daughter and take a pinch.  She spun around and slapped him and he punched her in the face and took another swing that cut her over the eye.  By that time, the construction workers were on site and two cars had stopped.  They gave the assaulter a "talking to" and sent him on his way.

The incident was reported to the police and they did go out to the site and talk to witnesses, but nobody would give up the name or identity of the assaulter.  He is known in the area and was seen after the incident, but again, nobody would give up his identity.  The way I understand it, no harm done!!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I was walking home the other day past the hotel on my street where I heard a tourist yelling at a Moroccan guy about the price of a taxi.  She was sure that 150 dirhams for the taxi from the airport was 10 times the real price.  Actually, it's the going price and there was probably more than one person in their party since they were tourists.  The hotel clerk was being very polite and patient with a type of rudeness he must encounter frequently.

Morocco is not a free country.  Yes, that's exactly what I said.  Things cost money here just like everywhere else and increasingly, the prices are becoming more like those in Europe.  Gone are the days of wandering around for pennies a day while mooching off the hospitality of locals.  Moroccans are still hospitable and generous to a fault at home, but if you want that trinket or you eat in a restaurant or crave that maqooda dumpling, it's going to cost you more than a dirham or two or three. 

It's the same when you have something shipped into the country.  There are customs taxes on certain items and EVERY country has this, not just Morocco.  Other countries have more severe restrictions on what can be shipped in order to prevent competition with their local businesses.  In many cases, when you are reasonable and nice, and haven't shipped in a new computer or high-priced sneakers or whatever, the authorities just look the other way and send you on your way. 

But, it's their call, not yours.

Friday, May 14, 2010

In the book of wisdom called Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu says "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

We have all heard this somewhere before and nodded, thinking, Well,  ...duh.  We never really think of it in terms of facing a crossroads or a crisis in life, or maybe we do if we're into Chinese wisdom.  It hit me today as I sat on the internet searching baking sites and bread-making techniques and thinking to myself that I can't possibly learn all of this stuff.  I was overwhelmed to the point of panic.  So, take a deep breath, calm down and pick one thing.  Just one.  Try to make it.  If it's successful and good, then keep making it and add one more thing.

Any skill we develop, anything at all we learn to master, begins with that first step.  I am going to keep a date log of every loaf of bread I bake, with a photo, until I reach 1000.  When I am done, I will be able to look back to the first day, the first loaf, and remember how I thought I couldn't do it and realize that I did do it.

Take that first step, whatever it is and go for it.  Dare to do something new.
Mail-order love is alive and well in the 21st century. It has moved into the electronic age with video chat and online dating where aspiring couples continents away can meet, fall in love and marry for papers.  Cynical?  Well, yeah, and you can check it out here on Romance Scams.  The Internet Bride and the Passport Marriage have become so common now that a whole website has been dedicated to all the ways they love you.  And so like the old X-Files theme, "I want to believe" is the answer to the reality check.

Internet dating, in fact, is quite popular and numerous websites like E-harmony, Speed-Dating and are devoted to it.  There are even internet dating coaches to help you navigate the world of electronic love.  Many claim it's the modern way that savvy young professionals with limited time sort through the flotsam and jetsam of the dating world to find their perfect mate.  People with baggage can make a cautious re-entry and people with no morals whatsoever can circle like sharks in wait of unsuspecting new fish. Some people must succeed because it continues, but I suspect a lot more people wish they'd never logged on.

Even before I came to Morocco, internet chat was a popular way for guys to meet foreign women in Morocco and even with the limited resources of Yahoo Messenger and no video and barely audible audio, there was a lot going on.  And even then, a lot of scamming was going on.  I remember sitting in an internet cafe one night while the guy next to me, with his wife on his knee, chatted a storm with several English and French-speaking chicks.  Chat boxes were popping up all over the screen.  I had to wonder, you know, if the wife had a clue or not.  She didn't seem to mind if she did.

I discovered guys would use the same chat log on and pretend they were all the same guy, sharing info, laughing at the questions they were asking to see what kind of response they could provoke.  They openly shared emails, information and traded stuff around, sent fake or barely visible photos to the beloved.  The unsuspecting gal on the other end may or may not have had a clue, but the sure thing was that they tried to convince her to come on over because they were so in love, had found their soul-mate in her, and unfortunately weren't able to go to her. Again, multiple boxes were popping up and several women were being wooed at the same time.

Once I went to a wedding where several of the older women commenced telling me about their foreign daughters-in-law, all working in Europe, and all the benefits they had gained through their sons' marriages to these women who they'd all met via internet or vacation tours.  All the sons were at the wedding having a good old time while these absent wives were fondly remembered for their financial and material contributions to the family.  I removed myself from the women's room as gracefully as possible and spent the rest of the night wandering around in no-man's land.

Just like I find it odd that the reason for a marriage might be taking a man out of Morocco to give him a boost in life, I find it odd that one would get into the situation of supporting a family with monthly payments, regular shipments of gifts and working abroad while the partner remains home (maybe internet dating with someone else?). 

Love is blind has a very literal meaning on the internet scene.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

It's May Day, Labor Day today.  We are all supposed to take it easy from the daily grind.  In honor of the day, I have been reading an interesting book called How to be Idle by Tom Hodgkinson.  He chronicles the history of labor and how with the advent of the Industrial Revolution, work became the enemy of fun.

How many of you have heard the advice to follow your dreams, or do what you love and the money will follow, or that you should love your work so much it is fun to do.  We have all heard that, given a nod and turned back to the grindstone.  Work is serious stuff, work results in money and someday, if we are one of the lucky few, there will be enough money to stop working.  Well, when is the last time anyone you know succeeded with that formula.  Don't say how somebody you know started a business and...and...  Anyone who starts a business does it because they care enough about what they are doing to go out on the limb and that means they are getting something more important than money from the work they do.

Today is a good day to relax in the lovely sunshine we are having and think about why you do what you do and where you expect to get by doing it.  Are you happy?  Are you getting satisfaction, or pleasure, or fulfillment from your work?  If you could drop your job right now, no worries financial or otherwise, would you do it?  Why?  If you want to, what's really stopping you?  Don't say money because we all have money somewhere or can borrow from someone and jobs are a dime a dozen anyway (yes, even in this economy). Answer the question, what's really stopping you?

Tomorrow, or Monday, when you return to the workplace take a fresh look around at your space, your job duties and even your coworkers and ask yourself, Is this where I belong?

Happy Labor Day!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A house fell down in Fez medina the other night.  People were killed and more were injured.  That a structure just tumbled like that is not all that surprising after the rains we had this winter.  The fact that a house can just suddenly fall sends shivers of fear through every resident in the medina.  It's not the first time and it won't be the last.

I have mentioned in the past, in posts I have since deleted, that a huge ruin sits behind my house.  It is only a couple of stories tall, but gets more decrepit with each passing winter.  About a week ago, during a mild quake, my not-too-brilliant cat fell off the terrace wall and into the ruin below.  It took her about three days to figure out how to get out and come home again.  Actually, I don't think she did it alone.  Her sister went and got her because she was looking very please with herself when I went upstairs to see them.  The point is, however, it was too dangerous to go down there and try to get her.

Unstable houses in this area of the city are a danger waiting to become a tragedy.  That Fez Medina is a World Heritage Site, an important historical landmark as well as the heart of Morocco, makes this doubly shameful.  There just doesn't seem to be any governing body in charge of protecting this area or supervising maintenance and restorations.  Everybody pretty much does as they please and all hope for the best.

Given that the city has stood for 1200 years now, one just has to hope it can hold out for a few more centuries.  Then, I suppose, it will be somebody else's problem?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Why Stay in a Riad?

I live in Fez medina in a traditional house.  It is old, maybe 300 or so years old, give or take based on the history of the neighborhood.  My house is a single family house that belonged to a merchant. He may have been a grocer but I am not really sure and the house was in the same family for at least 100 years, but probably longer.  My house isn't a riad, it's probably not even a dar, it's most likely a dwira. It's a cool house and I feel very fortunate to live in it.

A riad has an interior garden and is quite large.  Some riads were constructed solely for social functions and others had multiple families living in them.  I have seen some with the garden area outside in an area surrounded by the house proper and others where the garden is in a central courtyard within the house, usually with a fountain in the center of all.  A dar is a courtyard house without a garden and again, multiple families shared it and the space is quite large and the roof is  open.  The multiple families might have been various wives of a single man, or brothers sharing a family house or other dependent family members living in a house owned by a single resident family.  A dwira is a small house, sometimes for servants, and sometimes for one family only. It is built on the same principle as the big houses with the salons and courtyards and open roof, but small. 

A lot of tourists comment on their experiences in the traditional houses because they are not at all like the Western or modern style houses most people live in today.  The first thing you need to know about a courtyard house is that all the rooms and most windows open into the center of the house.  There are some windows to the outside, but when you are thinking about medieval, fortified cities, big windows were not popular options.  Muslim culture is centrally focused, too, into the heart of the family and the home is private space.  In other words, you aren't showing off your goods in a picture window on the front of your house.  It can feel a bit strange at first walking into a house that may feel closed off. 

Another feature of a traditional house is lack of privacy.  Since most rooms and windows open onto the courtyard, you can hear and see most of everything happening in all areas of the house.  Even some of the very large houses have very little privacy.  Acoustics are strange too.  Sometimes rooms can be on opposite corners of the house, yet you can hear every word back and forth.  In a collective culture where the family spends a great deal of time together and guests may be coming and going or staying for long periods, it is the perfect house.  I often said I wish I had known about these houses when my children were small.  If you haven't experienced this, it's a good way to get a feel for what it's like to be in Moroccan family.  Other guests in the house might not be your friends or family, but you are living together and sharing a lot!

The old houses can be dark and there is no really effective way to heat them, although many places are installing AC units in the walls, and some times people complain they are damp.  I read somewhere that French colonialists thought the medina was unhealthy and that was one of the reasons they remained in the new cities outside.  The construction of a traditional house is usually limestone and sand bricks and wood beams. The house should breathe and adapt to the climate - cool in summer, warm in winter.  Some of the repairs and additions done in recent times involve cement and other modern building materials that don't work the same way or upset the natural balance.  Other things, like modern plumbing installations, also affect the house.  For the most part, a well-built and maintained house that is properly ventilated should be comfortable most of the time. 

Another interesting feature of medina houses is their interconnectedness.  Every house shares a wall with another or even several others.  Sometimes the floors of one house enter between floors of another house.  You can stand up on the roof and look down into the maze of rooftops and satellite dishes and be hard-pressed to figure out where the streets are.  There is a big house behind mine and I still don't know what street it is on or how to get there from my house.

So if you haven't experienced a traditional house yet, try it.  I love the open roof concept and can't imagine being without now.  Just wait until you see a full moon shining into the courtyard at night, sparkling on the fountain and bathing everything in a silver glow. That alone is worth it!
It's already April in Morocco (and everywhere else by now) and the god-awful rain has finally stopped.  Temperatures are steadily rising and afternoons are sunny.  For awhile, I thought for sure we'd all be washed away in the downpours and subsequent flooding.  One night, in fact, the rain was so intense and didn't stop for hours and I was sure my house would simply dissolve before morning.  A friend who lives in a chic new place in one of the newer subdivisions told me she laid awake worrying about the same thing!  But, we survived and all is well.

In my last posts I was writing about the many angles of sexual harrassment here in Morocco and the various ways it takes place.  No doubt many people have heard that once upon a time when a man saw an interesting woman in the street, he would try to find out who she was and where she lived in order to contact her parents, if his intentions were honorable.  I have a young daughter who lived with me for awhile, so we actually experienced this in a couple of different ways. 

One night we were out and met this kooky old man on the street.  Stuck at a red light, we were unable to get away from him until the light turned and we could cross to the other side.  He gave us a paper with his phone number and asked us to call him to hang out at his place.  Yeah, right, a total and crazy stranger.  Will do.  However, a couple of months later at work, I look up from my desk and there he is standing in front of me.  He started out by telling me he wanted to give me some paper he had written about the United Stages foreign policy or something, which he thought I should distribute for him since I am American, then he got down to business.  He wanted to marry my daughter.  I didn't know if I wanted to laugh or start calling for help.  He was politely escorted out of the building but I was freaked for the day.

A couple of times in the medina, men followed my daughter home from the store, too.  Right to the door of the house.  That is a bit scarier because they are too close for comfort, and yes, they know where you live.  Once one of them invited us to his house for lunch and to meet his mother.  Now, I would not find it normal if one of my sons showed up at lunch with a couple of foreign women he had picked up on the street.  I would wonder why they, too, were interested in lunch at my house.  Now, I know tourists want to meet Moroccans and see the homes here, experience the food and family life, and that's okay.  I get it.  But, I am not about to leave my house with my daughter in tow to meet total strangers, one of whom is stalking us.  I don't think a Moroccan woman would do that; in fact, I know she wouldn't and I am taking my cue from that.

In closing, I am sorry to say that a new acquaintance of mine recently fell for this romantic encounter on vacation approach that I discussed in another article.  She didn't have time to meet me because she was so wrapped up in this unexpected whirlwind of a rush with a younger man who just swept her right off her feet, so quickly and so unexpectedly, she didn't know what was happening to her.  His family welcomed her so warmly and it all just spiraled from there. And so it goes...

Friday, February 12, 2010

What's cyber porn got to do with it? 

"Cyber cafes" in Morocco are filled with young boys and men surfing pornography sites.  Satellite TV, a standard in every home from the richest down to the poorest, is a source of porn bombardment.  And so, what about it, you may ask.  Check out the very good article in the link above that explains how constant exposure to cyber sex creates isolation, addiction and eventual inability to function in a human relationship.  Men become obsessed with acts and images and ideas that are not only psychologically unhealthy for them, but dangerous to those who live with them.  They develop unrealistic expectations and make demands that are impossible to satisfy.  The women in their lives become objects to be used and abused. 

It is not a quantum leap from considering what heavy exposure to porn does in a sexually repressed society to realizing it is directly connected to bad behavior with women.  This is not a problem unique to Morocco, or to Muslim societies, but a worldwide problem.  It's another facet of the complex dynamic of sexual harassment and abusive behavior.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

In the last two posts, I touched on the touchy subjects of sexual harassment and the marriage lottery. What happens if you don't want to play the game?  In a word, retaliation.  Insults are flung, outrage is expressed, and the whole thing is your fault as woman.  You lack good humor and inner beauty and are not pleasing to men.  Your job is to leave your house each day with the intention of making all men happy to be around you and offering some titillation in their boring workaday worlds.  When you fail to do that, you are defying a basic principle of the universe.

The thing is, Moroccan women do handle this demeaning treatment with smiles and laughs and tolerance.  They do provide the beauty and titillation.  They don't like it, but accept it as normal male behavior and right.  When you come from another place that tells you women deserve respect and equal treatment and have the God-given right to say NO, it's confusing to see the opposite happening around you.  Especially when these same men, in charming mode, tell you how the world lies at the feet of mothers. They pump up the fantasy of how a woman is respected in the home and glorified by motherhood.  Fact is, like women everywhere, they are working mulitple jobs with about as much appreciation as those donkeys you see in the street.

Foreign women have a special persona in the world of sex, love and marriage, too.  Thanks to internet porn and satellite TV, it is well-known fact all foreign women are sex-hungry and indiscriminate about how they feed that appetite.  Because they are not bound to Moroccan standards, they can be free and act like men.  It's easy to charm them into relationships.  It's easy to convince them of how unfortunate and unfair life is to the average hardly-working man in Morocco.  Foreign women are happy to trade their money and their passport for some pleasure in the sack.  The true general perception is that foreign women only like trash and prefer men who are poorly educated, dirty and unemployed.  Of course, a well-educated man with a decent job and a life isn't going to be trolling the streets or the internet looking for a woman to get him out of Morocco.  He doesn't need a helping hand or a woman to support him, so he just isn't going to be available. 

Cross-cultural relationships are difficult at best on many levels.  When the basis of the relationship is you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours, I have to wonder about the tears and heartbreak later; the ranting about the unfairness of it all because the men are trash.  There is actually a Facebook page about trash men in Morocco. You get what you pay for and that applies to everything in life.  The question is, should you be paying to begin with?

Friday, February 5, 2010

There may be some readers from yesterday who imagine I am bitter or hate men, but be assured that is not the case at all.  I love my dad, I forgave my ex and we are friends, and I have daily chats with both my brothers and I am proud to death of my sons.  I love men!  What I say here is based on long experience observing over and over the same situations ending with  the same results.  I read somewhere that a definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over expecting different results.  That seems to be the case in Morocco with some relationship situations.

One thing I failed to mention about street harassment yesterday is that a Moroccan woman told me the street is the meeting place in Morocco.  Women go there to meet men and harassment is the opening bid.  So far nobody I have asked has agreed with this, but it must be true for some women since she said it.  Another good reason why you should tolerate advances from strange men.  They just want to date you.

So lets' talk now about passport marriages.  There is a lottery in Morocco and anybody who has been here any length of time will support this statement.  If the guys who want out ask enough women, eventually one is bound to say yes.  I have seen it happen.  Most of the hustlers on the street when my son was here five years ago are now married to foreign women.  Those who aren't are still hanging around foreign women, knowing it's just a matter of time.

So how does this work?  Guy sees girl and starts the harassment.  He says nice things like Gazelle and I love you and You are so beautiful.   It's funny at first, especially the part about paying your parents in camels.  Young women, and older women, find this quite charming.  They feel like they should respond and the game begins.  But, believe me, love as you know it, especially love at first sight, does not exist in Morocco when you are talking marriage or lifelong companionship.  And, how can you determine a life partner's qualification in just a matter of weeks or months?  How can you decide that your future tied to a man with an elementary school education is going to work?  Even a literary education in university lacks all background in science and math.  Not at all well-rounded.  Consider this, no math and science background means one cannot pass the basic GRE.

Frankl;y, the most common reason I hear for marrying a Moroccan is that he needs "help" or a "helpng hand" or that the woman can "make a difference in somebody's life".  My advice? Go find a charity or an NGO and sign on to help if you are so inclined.  That is hardly a reason to marry someone and go through the hassle of bringing them to your home country.  Years ago, I brought home a box of muumuu dresses from Hawaii.  I had loved them dearly in Hawaii and they were beautiful, but outside of Hawaii they were quite ridiculous.  Since they were only pieces of fabric, it was easy to put them back in the box and send them home.  Not so easy with a human being.

Back in the day, my friends all got married because they were in love or they wanted to settle down and raise a family.  I don't hear that here.  I don't hear women say they want to settle in Morocco or raise little Moroccans. They want to take their man home and give him a socio-economic boost. He "deserves" better than what he can get here.  The idea of turning up with an exotic hubby is romantic.  The idea of turning up with man young enough to be your son . . . let's not go there.  Fact is, this is Morocco and it was made for and made by Moroccans.  Sorry, but they are not fish out of water in their own country no matter how much of a bleeding-heart you want to be. 

I love Morocco and I have enjoyed all of my time in this country.  I love the people I have befriended and the ones I consider family and I am grateful for all that I have learned, shared and experienced here.  What I like about my frineds is that they feel the same way.  They love Morocco and they are proud of their country and their culture.  They make no excuses for the bad and take it alongside the good because that is life.  No place is perfect, no place is going to solve your problems for you.  A passport marriage to a place you can't possibly imagine, where streets are paved of gold and a woman supports you while playing housemaid ... let's not go there. 


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Okay, here it is, the tell-all you have been asking about, waiting for and wondering about.  The unvarnished truth about sex and love in Morocco.  Let's start with sexual harassment and work up (or down) from there in future installments.

Believe it or not, there is no "sex culture" in Morocco according to what people say.  Even so, it is on the minds of most men 24/7 and they don't try to hide it by seeming more interested in something else.  Every woman is a target for their unsatisfied desires.  And yes, those desires are so obviously unsatisfied it is pathetic.  According to information I have accumulated there are several reasons for sexual harassment on the streets and in the workplace, but the main reason is that women want it.  Yes, they do; and they dress to get it and they wouldn't be out there on the street or on the job if they weren't looking for it.  This is according to men.  These men also insist that if they didn't comment, groan, snort, lick or whatever these women would be very crestfallen by the lack of notice.  Their efforts at being beautiful would fall on a sterile ground.

Besides that, those ornery women who don't respond in a pleasant and welcoming manner are just being ugly, frigid and difficult.  They need to be taught a lesson and street harassment is just the way to do it because they will become more patient and develop a good sense of humor.  No man is willing to tolerate a scowling and unhappy woman in his presence. 

Now we all know that all women want male attention all the time and saying no is just part of the game to get it.  No man wants a woman who says yes the first time.  Of course, if she does say yes the second, the third or the twentieth time, the minute she does she becomes a prostitute.  But that's another subject.  So, to wrap up this lesson on appropriate street behavior for women, remember to smile, laugh and enjoy this unwanted and often aggressive male attention.  Take it in stride because you are a woman, a walking temptation that Moroccan men cannot seem able to control their impulses toward and it's all your fault anyway.  You are just getting what you deserve!

Next time, let's discuss love and marriage and how  Moroccan men experience a coup de foudre, if there is a passport in the picture. 

Friday, January 29, 2010

I can't believe it is 2010 and I haven't posted anything since October!  Where did all that time go?  It's winter now, much colder, but not so rainy as last year.  That is a relief.  You can do something about the cold, but you can't stop the rain.

So recently I read a short article by a student about being a teen in Fez.  I had to laugh because I grew up in a sleepy, out of the way town, too.  My teen years weren't a whole lot different - school, family, and wishing there was something more interesting to do.  The Moroccan teen author seemed to feel his/her problem was strictly due to being Moroccan. 

Admittedly, the culture here is stricter for some teens.  Families don't allow girls to go out as often as boys and they are usually chaperoned in some way or another.  Boys have a lot more freedom to do what they want, but that amounts to just hanging around the street or a cafe.  There are sports clubs and activities, but it is expensive to join these organizations.  There are the same kinds of challenges - too old to enjoy their childhood pastimes, but not old enough to join the adults. 

Some things are universal and never change.