Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Apple, apple, apple!

(Make sure that was in a dancy/singsong voice.) My host family has bread with butter & jam for breakfast. With super sweet tea. Not surprising, not unusual, but I am used to fruit with breakfast. Usually a banana. I have actually been putting butter on my bread in an effort to have breakfast get me through til lunch time. This morning I had to go get a notebook because I didn't bring one (assuming they'd be cheaper here, and I think they are) and once I secured two - using only Arabic - I decided to look for fruit. There was a place that sells fruit juices and stuff, and had a ton of whole fruit. I asked (French this time) if I could just get an apple. She seemed surprised, but said ok. Then she looked for a prettier one, washed it for me, and gave it to me. Before I could even ask how much she said I didn't owe her anything. 'Are you sure?' 'Yes, yes' and I suddenly forgot the word for thank you in Arabic but found it after a second and she was just like 'no big deal' (assuming the words matched the body language.) It looks like they have good juices, too. And they're like 1.50 for a fresh whatever. I will certainly have to go back to try them.

Where I am

I have sthg I wrote on my netbook, but the internet's not connecting right. So a quick note on where I am living. Go to google maps, type in fez, morocco. Once there, type in Batha. I am not too far from the bus stop (comes up on my screen with a bus symbol and on the left says 'Batha bus stop'). A lot of the other students live in this area, too, so we tend to get to/from school together. Taxis cost the same as a the bus if there are 3 of you, and it's much quicker and more comfortable. And that way walking home there is no problem. Class time!

Monday, May 30, 2011

First day of class!

Today went by pretty quickly. There are a CRAZY number of American students at the school during the summer. I heard that there will be about 100. The first session started today, the second starts in 3 weeks. Some people are only staying 3 weeks, but more will be here for 6. It seems like not many are sticking around for as long as I am. I don't think it's going to be a place that I will hang out, though, because today at 6 when I was done with class it was tough to even walk around outside, with few to no places to sit. I don't mind, my main goal isn't to meet other Americans anyway.

I have two class sessions per day, like I said before I think. There are 2 different instructors, which is kind of nice because they have different styles. Today it didn't feel much like they were on the same page with what we should do, but it worked out anyway. Hopefully it will be a bit smoother in the future, though. The first one told us what to expect and all that, and the second one pretended not to speak any English as the start of class. There was one girl who kept translating everything he said at the beginning. I think that she was trying to show that she understood, but I mostly found it annoying. (And if she ever sees this, sorry, it's true!) Luckily the girl next to her leaned over and whispered that she thought he was going for immersion, so the translator stopped.

Like I kind of expected at first, I have a definite advantage over the others from learning to read the alphabet in Tunisia and the studying I've done since then. Things like vowel and consonant length distinctions don't surprise or bother me. For example, there could be a word ba and baa that have the exact same vowel sound except that the second one is longer. Same goes for a word like hamock or hammock. Actually, the words for pigeon and bathroom are distinguished (phonetically) by just a double consonant in the middle.

I'm typing this from the roof of my host family's place and will post it tomorrow. I did my homework here and really like being able to come up here. It's quieter, there's a nice breeze, and of course a gorgeous view. I finally paid attention to the sun, too and realized that the windows of my room face NE, as does the view from the roof. My host mom is really upset right now because there is a sort of bed & breakfast next door that has decided to build a patio on their roof. Nice for guests - awful for her and her privacy. Normally, she walks around in the house however she wants and won't feel able to do that with peeping tourists 10-20 feet away. The new patio is higher up, too, so the 3-4 foot wall on the roof won't help. What makes it worse is that the whole medina is a UNESCO world heritage site. In theory, you can't make changes to the outside - it's all protected. In practice, if you pay off the right person you definitely can. And if you are a small hotel/B&B, you probably have that money.


I just posted two things that I wrote over the weekend, so ask me questions and I will answer them.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Slowly, slowly

Things are getting better already. The first day (and the following morning) the about-to-leave student, Jamie, wasn't around at all. She had a farewell dinner for her program that went late, then slept late. But it turns out that she is really nice. After the initial shock of seeing a new student walk unannounced into her host family, she cleaned up her room, and made it so I could put some stuff in there. She packed up one of her suitcases, so there is some room on the shelves. Wednesday the rest of her stuff will be out, so I can put all mine away and banish the suitcase.

I've been able to ask her a lot of things, like 'how do you say x' or 'how do you get this message across?' Seeing her talk with them as well gives me an idea of the level of words she does/n't know and how they get around it. As always, lots of gestures, no fear of looking silly, and plenty of sound effects all help. Even the mom said today that I'm learning more words. Ha, starting from 2-3, it isn't hard to add more! With Jamie on her way out, too, there are some things that she isn't taking with her, like a different travel guide. I have found it useful for the different language section in the back. They complement each other fairly well. Plus in her program, they take 2 content courses (culture/history stuff) and a language course. She chose to take the local dialect since she doesn't study Arabic at home and came more to experience everything. From the class, she has a textbook that I also got to flip through and pull out more basic words to add to my gestures and noises.

Right now Jamie is writing a paper on arranged marriages in Morocco. She's gotten a wide variety of information about them, from those who are (or were) in them to those that say only rural people, and maybe just 30 percent, still do them. Today we got more information from a guy that she knew already that owns a cafe close to our house and a snack stand at the language school. I'm not sure how old he is, but I'd guess 35-40. It was fun - she speaks some darija, but obviously it's a complicated topic. He speaks some English, but again not enough for the topic. So I played interpreter, with some conversation directly between them, and he could understand me well enough to correct anything that I might have forgotten or severely misunderstood.

Basically, arranged marriages definitely still happen. From what I can tell from her notes/reports, they are more common with poorer people and more rural people (of course, those can overlap.) The man often has some say, sometimes a lot, and the woman's say depends on a lot of factors. Even when they both are allowed to agree to it, the families have to agree as well. I think it goes back to times when marriage was more about the money and connections than anything else. In some areas, it still seems to be.

All of the young people she talked to are happy to wait. They are not in any rush. They all say that a man needs to have enough money first. The guy today added that this shows he is responsible. 'Enough' varies widely, of course, and while he insisted that it doesn't have to be a lot, he himself owns two places and seems fairly comfortable, but isn't married (yet, inchallah.) I only saw her talk to one girl, who was with a bunch of younger guys, but from what Jamie has seen there tends to be an age difference of at least 10 years. Yikes. I know that she talked to a 20 year old about to be married to someone 16 years older, and a 22 year old that has a kid and is either divorced or separated, I forget which.

A common thread is that they all agree that family is the most important. If you don't have money, your family will help you. If you get married really young, that's fine because both families are around to help you out, give you tips, help take care of things while you finish school. Even if you have a kid relatively younger, you might still go to college (according to the guy today... I wonder how many actually do.) If you have more kids than you planned on (natural birth control methods are the only ones ok w/ religion, but others are used by some people) then your family is expected to help you make ends meet. As you might guess, some families are better at putting this into practice than others.

Divorce is seen as a last resort, but sometimes necessary. The guy today said that if people get divorced, it tends to be after just a couple of years and that after 28 (an American he knows) it's basically unheard of. Traditions and expectations vary by region as well as by class, so in one area he heard that girls get 'married' for the first time at 13-14 (first period), and if it sticks, cool, if not, no big deal - she'll find a 'real' husband later. The point is to have a kid and show you are a woman (gross oversimplification, yes.) The younger people in the city said that they think it's normal for girls now to get married closer to 25-28, and the girl there thought that 25 or 26 was the right age, but they were all hanging out at a cafe - not exactly a traditional thing to do, but with a high level of unemployment, a relatively common reality.

Classes start tomorrow, so I'm enjoying bumming around right now. Looking over my textbooks, the travel guides, Jamie's stuff. Lazing about because I can. Playing spider solitaire on the computer, snake on my new phone. And writing to let you all know that I am still alive and well. I have had some slight allergies since Lisbon, but nothing else yet.

I don't know why still, but the time zone in Morocco isn't what I thought. I am 6 hours ahead of central time, not 5. But the 2-3 sites I saw had Morocco 5 hrs ahead. And someone else's iphone said the same. We asked a Moroccan on the train from Casablanca to Fes if the whole country shares a time zone as the answer was a confused yes. We explained why & he was confused, too. His only guess is that they just started doing summer time a couple of years ago, so maybe the sites weren't taking that into account. It's the most logical explanation, but still weird. Why wouldn't the iphone ppl and others just get it right?? The world may never know...

Saturday, May 28, 2011

First day w/ host family

Whoa. So much has happened in the last two days that I don't even know where to begin. Mostly just yesterday, actually. I'll start with now.

I am writing this from my host family's living room. Maybe "all purpose" room would be more accurate. They live at the edge of the medina, not too far from the touristy areas (but not too close, either) This is where I slept yesterday, but I will get my own room on Wednesday. At the school, they said that you would only have to share a host family if you agreed to it. They failed to mention that if you don't share, you may not get one. Yesterday, I wondered about a thousand times if sharing would have been a better idea, as long as the other person spoke more Arabic than me, but I'll make this work.

The guy at the school asked me what I was expecting from a host family. I told him I could deal with any location, food or bathroom style (three things he asked about) as long as I was with a family that would be willing to talk to me and help me with my Arabic. Then he said about sharing, I said I really wanted to be on my own, he found a solution. There's a group from a university here that is leaving on the second (which I just realized is actually THURSday) so he put me with a girl from there instead. She's got the guest bedroom right now, so I am in the main room until she leaves.

So............... be careful what you wish for. The mom came to pick me up, said hi, and one of the guys from the school accompanied us to explain a few things to me on the way and spoke to me in English and her in Arabic. The first guy at the school said I should stay in a place where they would speak MSA ('Standard' variety used on news and stuff, but spoken by VERY few) and I wasn't excited about that, but he was insistent since that's what I'll be learning at school. It won't be a problem because they don't speak the standard variety here. They speak Darija (Moroccan Arabic.) Period. No French, no English. Oy. Talk about headaches. Try explaining that you need to go get your suitcase from the American girl you stayed with last night, and you need to call her but don't have a phone. We did eventually get it figured out and I had my stuff at about 10:30. But there were hours of gesturing, talking slowly, me trying to ask questions (that were clearly NOT understood) and general confusion. I don't think they were terribly impressed, but what can you do?

The daughter is in high school, so she does speak some English, but not a lot. She has helped me some by giving me phrases and words as I ask them. Some of these are just "how do you say 'how do you say'?" The little things that are so helpful. But even then it only gets you so far! Then you need words like what, where, when, why, but those barely do anything when you don't understand the answer. At all. I find that one of my most helpful classes has been field methods - getting information on a language from a native speaker informant. We had to read a few things with suggestions on how to do that, and a lot of them were kind of obvious after you read them, but I actually am thinking about it now that I am stuck with no choice but to try to gesture and guess my way through conversations. And that word can only be taken in the loosest terms since we can't get much across.

I'll be taking classes starting Monday for 4 hours a day. My first 'shift' is 10-12AM, then 4-6pm. I wasn't real excited about the later time, but the girl I wandered around with all yesterday (til 4ish) has 8-10 and 2-4. I can't decide which is better. Then I found out that Karen has classes 8-10 and 4-6. Ok, she wins for worst schedule. She can't even get a nice nap in the middle for most of the time, though, because she's got 2 hours of tutoring because she's on a grant that requires 200 hours of class. And she's staying only 6 weeks. Yeah, that sounds a little crazy to me. No, thank you! K, I'm not sure what's going on exactly today, but I shall go try to figure that out.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Written in Lisbon airport

[And posted from the Fez medina where I am sleeping tonight in a cool house rented by an American girl and two (I think) Brits.]

Ok, I am at the gate and my flight starts boarding in 50 minutes. So: Lisbon. It was nice. I'll have to talk to Karen to see how it went for her, doing the long layovers to eventually get to Casablanca, but if that was a pain then I would stop here again. It was fun to be able to go around and see some different stuff, but at the same time, it's also nice to just get where you're going and be done with the whole travel thing.

I stayed at the Goodnight Hostel here. It was nice, clean, really friendly staff, and pretty cheap. At the same time, I am not sure if they have AC. I didn't see evidence of any. They just had the windows open the last two days, which was fine because the weather was pretty much perfect. But later in summer, I couldn't stay there without it.

But who's Karen, you ask? Funny, that. I was waiting with the rest of the people from my flight to get through customs in Lisbon (which seemed really slow, but we were out of the airport an hour after we landed, so not bad, really) and lots of people started kind of chatting. After being bored for the last 7 hours, it might be natural, but maybe it was just a talkative bunch because people don't usually do that. Instead, they stand there, staring boredly at each other. The guy behind me was heading to work in Toulouse. He's already worked in Strasbourg, and speaks a little French. The guy behind him was going to Amsterdam then... Armenia, I think. Sthg like that. He was chatting with a girl that was heading into Lisbon. While Toulouse and I were talking, I said something about learning Arabic, and when there was a lull in the conversation, the other girl asked if she had heard me say that. Why, yes, I'm going to Morocco. Her too. I'll be in Fez. Her too! At the same school. She's had a year or so of Arabic, so we won't be in the same classes, but we'll be at the same school.

She was sticking with the 12 hour layover, so we decided to go explore the city together while she was there. She had heard that you really have to go up to the top of 'the hill' for a great view of the city, so after dropping my bags at the hostel, we set off up the nearest hill. There are actually a bunch of hills in and around Lisbon, but we could see what we guessed was a fancy church at the top of one, plus it was close. We didn't have a map (another employee at the hostel gave me one later and tisked that the first guy hadn't) so our only direction was 'up.' Come to a crossroads, how to choose? Which one goes up more? That way.

At one point, we were on a road called 'costa do castel' and figured there meant there was a castle nearby. We went on the up side once more. And eventually came to a big old church. Not a castle. But there was a cute garden, and a nice view, so no problem. 'This is our hill,' she said. Then we wandered back a bit, a little bit down, and through several back streets. Kind of nice not having a map, when you know that where you need to be next is in the center of town (and I had printed a google map for that area.) We ended up finding another giant church, Sao Vicente, and a lady was just opening the doors so we went in. It was big and old, of course, but it also had one of the most ornate priest areas I have ever seen. Ok, I don't know what it's called, but it's the area that I imagine the priest should be during church service. I could be totally wrong. It was nice, though, and when we got back out there was a British couple with a map trying to figure out where they were. We figured it out together, and I looked up and saw the top edge of what looked like a castle! A 'proper' castle to the American imagination, with the up-and-down top edge and all. I wanted to go that way, but the British people had pointed out something nice the other way, so we went there first since it was further from town. It was nice, but it was castle-finding time.

We headed back toward town, and up a little more, but it got less clear where exactly to go because the ground was somewhat level. Then I saw a sign with a little man walking toward a castle and an arrow. Castle this way. About two minutes later we did find it! You had to pay to get in, and I wasn't sure, but Karen said, 'we don't have to, I can come back later.' And I realized how silly it was to not go in since we were there. It turned out to be 3.50E for students and there was a map of inside the castle grounds that made it clear that the price would be well worth it. Hooray for student IDs.

It was nice inside. Of course, THAT was the tallest hill in the area (where else would you build a castle??) so the view was very pretty. We saw a peacock, too. He must've been there for the view. Or something. Then we headed toward the 'archaeological site' because it was furthest from the door on the map. Turned out that you had to go through the castle to get there. It was cool, though. The hadn't made it into a museum inside or anything, and there was no ceiling, but with the walls you got a very good sense of how part of it was. The stairs were really tall. It was funny to think that people would have been shorter (which could mean my height, who knows) with stairs that were 9 inches tall and uneven. I can't imagine running around on them during a siege.

Over at the archaeological site, there were the traces of housing back to the 7th century. Pretty crazy. And then artifacts back to the iron age. Honestly, they should have put a date range for us historically-challenged folks, because I'm not sure when that was. There was an old islamic 'quarter' that looked to me like two houses put together. The word in Portuguese I think meant 'neighborhood' but it was more like 'these are your quarters' to me. There, though, they had made a cool walk-through display thing. You could see the original walls down at ground level, some sticking up more than others, and above that they had built a big white plastic thing with a ceiling to be like the quarter might have been in the 11th (I think!) century.

It was really neat, and we wandered through the museum, but we were getting hungry and the sun was getting hot, so we headed back toward town. I bought a small thing of sunscreen and allergy meds. The allergy stuff because I didn't have any, the sunscreen because I didn't realize that we were just 2 blocks from my hostel. Darn it. Totally unnecessary as I had a whole bottle in my bag. That's what you get for wandering without a map. Lunch was ok, nothing great. I asked the guy what the main dish came with, he said potatoes. Tasty. When it came out it was fries. Soaked in grease. No thanks. Should have realized we were in tourist zone.

Then we headed out to Belem for 'world famous pastries.' The trip was worth it, but I bet they had the same pastries in the main town. We took the tram out and while waiting, an American guy starting talking to us, so we all went to the pastries together. It was good we had him because we didn't know where it was so he just asked someone. He spoke Spanish, not Portuguese, but most people we ran into actually spoke English. Oh, except the pharmacy lady, we spoke in French. It was fun. She didn't know the word for sneeze, or 8, but we had an easy conversation otherwise.

After the pastries and coffee (both tasty) Karen had to head back to the airport. Nick, the guy, had a picture on the front of his map that he thought was out there, so we went searching for it. It turned out to be a cool little old fort place that wanted 5E to get it. It was really small, and didn't seem worth it, but we got pictures from outside and then headed back to town. We split up, I finally got to shower and find a map, then I went up another hill on the advice of a super sweet girl at the hostel.

Even with a map, I got thoroughly lost, but it turned out ok. I ended up at a park overlooking the city outside of the touristy area and had another coffee and a different pastry. It wasn't as good. It was like a cornmeal bread surrounding a center that I couldn't figure out. It definitely had cinnamon, and the texture was kind of custardy, but there wasn't much flavor. I was getting really tired by that point but told myself I couldn't go back to the hostel til 8 (it was after 7 already). I found another cool park with another cool view, this time of the castle, took more pictures, then wandered to a street the hostel girl mentioned as having stuff made my young Portuguese people. I went into a hat shop where the guys who own the place design most of the hats. There was a really cute one in a style that I hadn't seen before, but though I should get one that would cover my ears a little. I got a different one that was somewhat unusual with a small brim all the way around. The guy gave me their card and made sure I knew my hat size so I could order online if I wanted to. Right....

I finally got to go home by my own rule. I wandered back down the hill, found a place that sold cheap sandwiches on a baguette near the hostel, went home, ate (there was a bug in it, I flicked it off and continued eating. It was gross, but I was hungry and tired and really didn't want to go the 2 blocks back to complain.) And then I made sure I had the info on where to meet the girl in Fez, packed my stuff, and went to sleep. For about 10 hours. Very nice. This morning I walked around a little more, had a tasty spinach and cheese pastry for lunch, and headed off to the airport.

I hadn't thought about when I should get there and arrived a little less than 2 hours before takeoff. I was nervous on the bus here, but it was no problem at all. No long lines for check-in, passport check, security or customs (all separated, which I think helped) and a leisurely stroll to the gate. Now they've just started boarding, though, so I suppose I have good timing

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Flights. I know, exciting.

(Started around 3pm Austin time while at the Newark airport, 5/24)
whoa.... I am going to Morocco. Like *really* going. As in, very much on the way. Of course, there will be a stop in Lisbon, which should be lots of fun, but then, it's Morocco. My banks know to expect my cards to be used there, it must be real.

The trip so far has been fine. Austin airport - no problems, but there never have been so far. It was more crowded than I expected for a Tuesday morning, not long after graduation. Now I'll expect that. Still, made it to the gate in plenty of time before boarding.

Getting to Newark kinda sucked. I was going from one terminal, where all of the continental flights come in, and switching to another. Leaving the first terminal, I noticed that there were TONS of restaurants, and several looked decent for being in an airport. There was even a nice little map to show you where to find what food and shopping. I could only find a map for the terminal I was in, but figured another must be around. Must be..... and I left the security area. Only to very shortly regret it.

There was 'food' at the other terminals. Yes, I went to both of them. In search of something decent to eat. They both had fast food (Wendy's, Subway, some burrito place I didn't recognize) and one "restaurant." One of them had a Chili's, the other Tony Roma's. Yum. I actually looked at the menus, but there was basically nothing vegetarian so the only things I would have eaten were what I could get for cheaper at the fast food places. And couldn't get back to Terminal C inside security because, of course, I no longer had a valid travel reason to be that direction. Wanting better food didn't count. As one of the ladies at security pointed out, I could have caught a bus into Newark and gotten something better. Well, she said I could have seen the city, but since food was my main interest, that's what I took away from her input.

Lesson: If you ever have a long layover in Newark, stay at Terminal C if you start there!!!!!!!!!!

(Continued around 5:30pm Austin time)
Now I'm on the plane. It is surprising. Did you know that planes without individual screens still make transatlantic flights? I sure didn't. What a shock. I mean, I don't usually even get through a whole movie before falling asleep or getting bored, and I brought my netbook with a couple of movies on it, but it seemed like a bad omen for the trip. I do like it when they have games, though. And I read the in-flight magazine about entertainment, which says that they have sudoku on their little screens on other planes. I like sudoku. And someone near me smells funny. The air is on now and is helping.

Things are looking up, though. I guess they kind of have to! They passed out a little card with meal info (forgot to order a special diet meal, darn it! I hear they're better quality b/c they make fewer.) and it looks like it could be worse. They also passed out headphones for free. I didn't think to bring mine for movie-watching. Theirs have each audio channel in a different plug, but I expected that. It's only annoying because you can't hear as well. Whatever. Movie time.

(Continued again 11:00pm Austin time)
I decided to listen to more of an audiobook instead of watching a movie. The volume was better. They just gave us our breakfast. A sad little sandwich of dry dark bread (but didn't taste like much, so not sure why the color) with a piece of cheddar and turkey. And a funsize milky way bar. Catering to the American passengers? I dunno. I got Tine a funny little spoon that was most likely meant to stir coffee or tea. As long as it doesn't break in the next 10 weeks, I have her covered!

I'm kind of fascinated by sunrise and sunset from above the clouds. It's cool how the same thing looks so different. I took some of sunset that worked ok, but now that the cabin lights are all on, I can't get any of sunrise. Sorry. It looks kind of like a spreading dark orange stain on the edge of two shades of black. Like if Drox had some paint his favorite color, thinned it, then spilled it on a table cloth that is black on one half (the cloud side), charcoal blue on the other (the sky side), with a thin stripe of light blue. So where the spill shows is on the light blue.

My first impression of Portugal is entirely based on the flight crew and others aboard - everyone speaks English, American English even, with barely any accent. And if a word is the same in Spanish & French, it's likely to be the same in Portuguese. With a funny accent, of course.

I only got a few hours of sleep, so we'll see how today goes. It's only 11pm Austin time, which means it's just like a long day so far. We'll see how it feels in 15 hours when it will finally be a passable bed time in Lisbon. Yikes. I may take the time to post this, but there will be no typing during my 30 short hours in Portugal! (Unless I can't fall asleep or sthg.) So consider yourselves contented, as it could be Monday when I next get a chance. I'll stay with an American girl from Seattle on Thursday, then probably my host family starting Friday. And no promise of wifi there! At the school on Monday, though, I should at least be able to report that I am doing fine.

Monday, May 23, 2011

REI is so cool!

I bought this awesome bag a year and a half ago before going to France. It has thin cables in the strap and a mesh of even thinner cables across the lower sides and bottom. So that no one can just cut the strap off your bag or slash the bottom open. And I have met people who have had both happen to them. Well, my awesome bag proved that it had a major flaw a couple of months ago: the nice hook that allows you to put the strap around a solid fixture (say, a table) parted ways with its friend that held it to the bag. Permanently. I've been using a zip tie to hold the strap on, but it isn't the same as being able to hook it around stuff!

So, after being sad for a while, I realized that my bag was still under warranty. But I lost the receipt. But then I remembered the wonders of REI! It was bought under a membership, so they keep all your info on their computer. When I walked in with my wonderful bag and explained the issue, they told me to get a new awesome bag and exchanged it. Easy as that!

And the hook that broke? Yep, it's since been updated.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Less than a week...

I am hungry. Yesterday was the last day of classes, which means that no one in my building is making food for me. The food that I tell them to make, as the all-powerful menu planner girl. Ok, not all-powerful, I have to have the food buyer on board with me. But he often is. Was, I guess, since the semester's over. I have gotten so out of the habit of making food for myself that I'm kind of sitting around waiting for someone else to do it. Even though I know they won't. And I don't much feel like paying someone else to make it for me.

But being hungry doesn't help that I am starting to get nervous about leaving. First, I don't have much packed. I washed all my dirty clothes today, at least. And washed some dishes that I had thoroughly rinsed so that they wouldn't get gross, but not really taken the time to get completely clean. Disgusting to admit it, but true. I hadn't re-used them or anything, don't worry. My tea mugs get really washed regularly.

I am concerned that I might get hungry a lot. I know that they're two very different countries, cultures, etc, but I keep having ideas in my head of how hungry I was when I got to Tunisia. I know, I know, I arrived the first day of Ramadan and it's not going to be the same at all. I will be living with a family, so I won't even have to wait to find a store. And I know there will be food there. And I know I'm not terribly picky. But sometimes I just want what I want, and I keep feeling hungry til I get it. That's the kind of hungry that actually concerns me.

I am concerned that I might get sick, too. Again, I know, I have learned. Bottled water it is. Even though I kind of hate the bottled water industry. But having an upset stomach for 3 months straight in Tunisia is even worse than an industry that takes a free product, puts it into a not-very-eco-friendly package, some of which may encourage cancer, and ships it all over (heavy, takes lots of trucks, gas, etc.) and then charges too much for it. Not to mention the communities that sometimes end up with a LACK of water due to these companies. The hassoles. And seriously, why am I so stubborn even to the point of being sick due to a cause of stubbornness?? Guess I thought I would get over it. Lesson learned: Not gonna happen. Won't try again.

What if I end up not very quick with the language? That's the whole point of going! I know I am smart. I know I catch on to things quickly. I know that I am curious, which helps a lot with these things. But what if, with all that, I manage to fail miserably all the same? THEN what am I going to do? Have to change my dissertation area, I guess. I don't have a specific topic yet, so I know it could be worse, but I like the idea of looking at contact between French and Arabic. It's interesting.

Ok, I guess I'll go get my clothes from the dryer now. And make food.

Sunday, May 8, 2011


I just looked over at my calendar, and I leave in 16 days! How did that happen???

Monday, May 2, 2011

Je pars le 24 mai

Peut-être je dois écrire en français maintenant que vais partir. Comme ça vous auriez tous besoin ou d'apprendre quelquechose, ou de me comprendre a travers des traducteurs automatiques affreux. Bon, ils s'améliorent chaque jour, mais il y a tant de tournures qui paraissent similaires mais en fait ont des significations tout a fait différents!

I'll be flying out May 24th, super early in the morning. Then off to Newark, then Lisbon, Portugal, where I'll spend a day before flying to Casablanca and taking a train to my final destination of Fes. I'm doing the long layover in Portugal because the shortest it could have been was 12 hours. I mean, 12 hours??? What's wrong with you people!? Luckily, it's the same cost to make it a 30 hour layover and get to leave the airport and see something of the city.

That puts me in Fes on the 26th. I'll go to the school the next day to find out what host family I'll be living with. I'm excited, but a little wary. Apparently, some of the host families live in the old medina. Which is (according to Lonely Planet) the most intact Ancient Medina of the Arab world. (side note: do people say Anglophone world? Probably...) Intact to the point of possibly not having hot running water in the building. And not having drinkable water from the tap. Though in Tunisia the tap water wasn't drinkable in the fancy brand-new apartment I lived in, so that one doesn't surprise me. Now watch, with all of this being concerned I'll end up in an apartment in the Ville Nouvelle that may as well be in France. Like this one, other than the bathroom: http://www.louervendreaumaroc.com/appartement-a-louer-fes-42051.html

No matter what, it will be an adventure! And I promise not to write 'clinical' this time, Tine, so just tell me if I do.