Monday, May 3, 2010

Raving & Drooling

A rant for the ages............

Nature walks are about the only thing that is keeping me lucid at this point. My drive to put forth effort at AUI left sometime in mid-March. A paper I should have been working on all semester got finished in two days. Another paper that is due next week, haven't even started researching yet. The thing is, and I know I'm not the only exchange student who feels this way, you don't have to try. I have never experienced anything like this. A student can literally do nothing all semester and still get A's on everything. They call AUI the "Harvard of the East." Is that a long shot. There are only a handful of professor's at this school who could maybe, and stress maybe, teach at Harvard. There is no comparison.  AUI simply has no standard of education. The insha'allah mind set, that everyone at this university has, just doesn't work in the discipline of education. God can't will it. You, as the university have to. It's like the administration and faculty don't understand they are providing a service that people are paying for.  No one at AUI wants to take any responsibility. "It's not my problem, insha'allah" is the never ending refrain of every employee of this university.

Someone recently told me I should get a Twitter account.  No thank you. It took me long enough to wrap my head around a cellphone and the idea that people could get a hold of me no matter where I was. Then I gave in to Facebook. Then I had to figure out how to Skype. The facts are, no matter how careful I am about who I give my cell number to, people who I have no desire to talk to, always end up getting it and calling me. The people I gave my number to and want to talk to, mom, dad, friends in Columbus, Killeen, Athens, Portsmouth, etc. get interrupted by the assholes. Facebook is becoming a bit stalker-ish, and the only people I skype with are my mom and my friend Alicia's high school class. The thing with twitter, I just don't think my life is that interesting. Here's a tweet for you.........I'm 29, Single, and have no plan except what the next day brings.

Last night I was listening to Janis Joplin and I came to the conclusion that I could've married Janis. Maybe in another life or something I don't know, but every time she comes on the iTunes, I stop what I'm doing and let her go. That doesn't happen to often anymore. I think I've heard too much music and am just not smart enough to process it all. But when Janis comes on, I'm hooked. Listening to her reminds me of this girl I know. She lifts me up and tears me down in the course of eight songs.

My hat fetish has gotten a bit out of control. I have bought seven hats, the owner of the bar gave me one and I brought two with me from home. I also have six turbans, a jalaba, two hash pipes, and a Berber carpet.

Gift buying for your friends sucks. What do you buy and who gets something and who doesn't? I'm thinking a FUCK-IT moment may be coming, when I tell them their gift is the honor of being in presence after four months.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot, I got yelled at today for walking on the grass across campus. Keep in mind that some students are trying to get the administration to let students sit on the grass. For further explanation into the logic and rational into not letting students walk or sit on the grass at AUI, refer to the first paragraph.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Kiss My Hash

Finished a paper, at the last minute. A trip to the Gorge, with good friends. A welcome weekend away from AUI.  People are the same wherever you go. There are good people, people you would invite to your house for dinner, for a beer, or just a conversation. There are bad people. Assholes, scum bags. You wouldn't want them at your house if they offered to pay you.  Alice Cooper once said, "Schools Out," and it almost is.  Traveling has always been in my heart. Now that its ending, I feel a bit out of place. Going Home Going Home. Over the hill. Friends, family, my dog. "I Feel A Change Comin' On."  I don't have to go home, but I can't stay here.  

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Sex, Death, & Money

What can you get in Morocco for 40 dirhams................

1. Pack of Marlboro Reds.
2. Three course meal.
3. Bus ticket to Fez.
4. Seat in a grand taxi.
5. A turban.
6. Any kind of hat you can find.
7. T-shirts.
8. 2 beers.
9. Pair of sunglasses.
10. The Quran in Arabic.
11.  2 leather bracelets.
12. A hashpipe. 

These are things I have purchased for 40 dirhams in Morocco. All of these things serve a different purpose and should all be worth different amounts of money. Thats what you think. In Morocco all these are easily purchased for 40 dirhams. The equivalent to about five U. S. and A. dollars. There is no concept of a market. No economic infrastructure. No specialization. No concept of the value of money.  Everything is a variety store. If the first one you walk into doesn't have it, they point you to the next one over. If the second one doesn't have it, they point you to the next one over, and so on. Nothing has a fixed price. Example, the guitar I bought in Marrakech. I walked into the store in the medina on Thursday afternoon and was told the guitar was 1400 dirhams. I started laughing. I walked in the same store on Friday afternoon and was told the same guitar was 800 dirhams. Again, I started laughing. I ended up paying 400 dirhams for the guitar and a gig bag to carry it. (Tip Of The Day...Don't ever buy a guitar without a case or a gig bag to carry it in. The salesman at the music store will try and sell them separately, don't buy it. Make the salesman give you case with the guitar. Ford doesn't sell a car without the engine to to drive the damn thing.) Do you see a pattern here? This persists all over the country, from Tangier to Marrakech. Morocco is never going to get out of the third world until some kind of economic standard is developed. You can't have an economy based on variety stores operating on the barter system. You need specialization. Your currency has to have value. Love it or hate it, capitalism works. Don't believe that, talk to a Russian, or a Croat, or a Serb, or a Hungarian, or a Slav who lived between 1922 and 1991.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

When The Roses Bloom Again

None of my pants fit any more. I have already had to poke two new holes in my belt. I'm going on a month long binge of Skyline Chili, Chipotle, buffalo wings and Budweiser when I get back to the U.S. and A. My hair is longer then it has been in five years. Probably longer than that actually. It's depressing, my bald spot is showing hardcore and I've been reduced to wearing hats all the time. The hair is getting cut first thing upon arrival. 
On a happier note, my beard is getting better by the day. I'm sure Staker would tell me that it's out of control, he lives in Texas, so his opinion means very little now. I haven't decided if I'm going to keep my beard or not when I get home. A part of me says let it go, you've gone this far, why stop now. On the other hand, if I cut my hair short and then have this monstrosity of a beard, it may look a bit out of place. However, I'm always encouraging people to grow a beard, so to shave mine may seem a bit hypocritical.  Any suggestions, as always, are welcome. 
I also managed to secure a guitar in Marrakech. Only took me two months to find one, but I finally did. I am happy now. I started playing when I was eleven and had never gone two months without playing. My fingers have been hurting. It's no Taylor or Martin but it stays in tune and plays well enough. Getting it home may be an issue, but look over there, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. 
I've also found a souvenir for Mr. E. Vestich, the puke bag from the plane, some Dramamine and a copy of Sky Mall magazine. I keep saying Morocco needs him, the stray cat and dog population is out of control, but he refuses to do the humanitarian thing and take them to Vestich Mountain.
Ok, I now must go, my friend Jack is calling me.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

St. Robinson And His Cadillac Dream

Spring break starts tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. Officially it doesn't start until Monday, however I've decided to begin mine a few days early. Amsterdam is first on the itinerary. Saturday to Wednesday.  Then Marrakech for the duration of the break. Thursday to Sunday. It is a much needed break. While my opinion of AUI 90210 grows steadily lower, Morocco continues to fascinate and enrich my life. Two parties at the mayor of Ifrane's house, I still question the logic of being able to rent out the mayor's house, have ended in a clouds of cigarette smoke and pools of vomit. Traveling around the country has been, at times, tedious and expensive, the damn grand taxi drivers are vultures, has given me first of all a completely new perspective on myself and the world in general and a renewed love for my own country. No matter what anyone says about the United States, it is still the greatest country in the world. Last week Morocco expelled a number of people who worked at an orphanage about an hour or so north of Ifrane. They were accused of proselytizing these children, which by Moroccan law, is illegal. The big stink happened because these people were simply expelled from the country, they were not put thru the due process of the law. It was a hot topic on campus, the Americans expelled taking the bulk of the insults from the Moroccan students. Maybe they didn't realize that people from Australia, Europe, South America, as well as Canada, who worked at the orphanage were also expelled. It does bother me the way people talk about the United States on this campus. One of the most prominent words you see around campus is "tolerance." Yet I see very little tolerance amongst the students of AUI 90210. You see more tolerance when you leave Ifrane. Tangier has a huge Jewish temple in the center of the city. In Fez, people actively come up and talk to you, asking where you are from and how you like Morocco. And Chefchaouen is like a hippie haven. Being American, German, Finish, Canadian, it doesn't matter. Most of the Moroccan people I have spoken have been very nice and accommodating. I hate to say this but it seems as if some of the Moroccan students, who like hanging out with the internationals, have some kind of personal agenda. Like we can hook them up with one of the international girls, or we have access to drugs and alcohol or something. And the way the Moroccan boys, and I stress the word boys, look at the international female students is quite disturbing. I think they watch too much porn and have it in their head that what they see in porn is how every American female is. Like all the females have the word "EASY" tattooed across their forehead. I would like to see AUI 90210 offer a course called "How To Court A Western Woman." Of course the vast majority of Moroccan students won't even talk to the international students. It's like they think all the Americans love George Bush. Always remember, diplomacy doesn't come on the wings of a B-52.  One peculiar thing, I get the sense that the Moroccan students think that we meaning the international students, are loaded with money. Like it grows on trees for us. I don't think they realize that most of the exchange students are here on scholarships or student loans. In actuality, the Moroccan students are probably better off financially then any of the exchange students. My apologies, I started ranting. This whole experience has been an experiment for me. My hair is longer then it has been is probably five years, I've been trying all kinds of food, that in the States I never would have touched, and I am getting to do something I always wanted to do, see another part of the world.  I feel like I'm better for the choice I made in coming to Morocco. A lot of people asked me "Why Morocco?" I always said "Why Not." I'm not sure I knew then or now how else to answer that question. Other people told me that, at 29, I was too old to come over here, live in a dorm for the first time in like eight years, hang with people that were seven, eight, nine years my junior. That always pissed me off and it still does. That's dismissive thinking and thats bullshit. This experience has been one of the best things I have ever done. I feel like I accomplished something simply by getting on the plane. I stepped out of my comfort zone and everything that I have known for most of my life, and came to live in a third world developing country for four months. Not really liking the university is an unfortunate reality in an otherwise brilliant thing. The morning I left my mom said to me she hoped Morocco was everything I wanted it to. I had no expectations in coming over here. All I really wanted to do was to be a part of something different. I have done that. AND IT AIN'T OVER YET.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Road To Nowhere.....

25 Things I'm missing in the U.S. and A. (In no particular order)

1. Family and friends.
2. My boy, Conan.
3. My guitar collection.
4. Buffalo Wings
5. Chipotle.
6. Skyline Chili.
7. 12 oz bottles of beer.
8. Grizzly Wintergreen.
9. Movies in English.
10. Driving the Jeep.
11. Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey.
12. Taco Bell.
13. Wednesday night at The Clock.
14. Chocolate Milkshakes.
15. Cable T.V.(I hate to say it)
16. Reliable Internet.
17. Video Games.
18. Beating Eli in John Madden Football.
19. West Virginia with the boys.
20. Beating Pat in MLB The Show.
21.  Greasy Cheeseburgers.
22. Sliced Bread.
23. Graeter's Ice Cream.
24. Snicker's Bars.
25. Sunshine and beautiful weather.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Postcards Of The Hanging...............

In the end, the plague touched us all. It was not confined to the Oran of Camus. No. It turned up again in America, breeding in-a-compost of greed and uselessness and murder, in those places where statesmen and generals stash the bodies of the forever young. The plague ran in the blood of men in sharkskin suits, who ran for President promising life and delivering death. The infected young men machine-gunned babies in Asian ditches; they marshalled metal death through the mighty clouds, up above God's green earth, released it in silent streams, and moved on, while the hospitals exploded and green fields were churned to mud.

And here at home, something died. The bacillus moved among us, slaying that old America where the immigrants lit a million dreams in the shadows of the bridges, killing the great brawling country of barnstormers and wobblies and home-run hitters, the place of Betty Grable and Carl Furillo and heavyweight champions of the world. And through the fog of the plague, most art withered into journalism. Painters lift the easel to scrawl their innocence on walls and manifestos. Symphonies died on crowded roads. Novels served as furnished rooms for ideology.

And as the evidence piled up, as the rock was pushed back to reveal the worms, many retreated into that past that never was, the place of balcony dreams in Loew's Met, fair women and honorable men, where we browned ourselves in the Creamsicle summers, only faintly hearing the young men march to the troopships, while Jo Stafford gladly promised her fidelity. Poor America. Tossed on a pilgrim tide. Land where the poets died.

Except for Dylan.

He had remained, in front of us, or writing from the north country, and remained true. He was not the only one, of course; he is not the only one now. But of all the poets, Dylan is the one who has most clearly taken the rolled sea and put it in a glass.

Early on, he warned us, he gave many of us voice, he told us about the hard rain that was going to fall, and how it would carry plague. In the teargas in 1968 Chicago, they hurled Dylan at the walls of the great hotels, where the infected drew the blinds, and their butlers ordered up the bayonets. Most of them are gone now. Dylan remains.

So forget the clenched young scholars who analyze his rhymes into dust. Remember that he gave us voice, When our innocence died forever, Bob Dylan made that moment into art. The wonder is that he survived.

That is no small thing. We live in the smoky landscape now, as the exhausted troops seek the roads home. The signposts have been smashed; the maps are blurred. There is no politician anywhere who can move anyone to hope; the plague recedes, but it is not dead, and the statesmen are as irrelevant as the tarnished statues in the public parks. We live with a callous on the heart. Only the artists can remove it. Only the artists can help the poor land again to feel.

And here is Dylan, bringing feeling back home. In this album, he is as personal and as universal as Yeats or Blake; speaking for himself, risking that dangerous opening of the veins, he speaks for us all. The words, the music, the tones of voice speak of regret, melancholy, a sense of inevitable farewell, mixed with sly humor, some rage, and a sense of simple joy. They are the poems of a survivor. The warning voice of the innocent boy is no longer here, because Dylan has chosen not to remain a boy. It is not his voice that has grown richer, stronger, more certain; it is Dylan himself. And his poetry, his troubadour's traveling art, seems to me to be more meaningful than ever. I thought, listening to these songs, of the words of Yeats, walker of the roads of Ireland: "We make out of the quarrel with others rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry."

Dylan is now looking at the quarrel of the self. The crowds have moved back off the stage of history; we are left with the solitary human, a single hair on the skin of the earth. Dylan speaks now for that single hair.

If you see her,
Say hello.
She might be in Tangiers...*

So begins one of these poems, as light as a slide on ice, and as dangerous. Dylan doesn't fall in. Instead, he tells us the essentials; a woman once lived, gone off, vanished into the wild places of the earth, still loved.

If you're makin' love to her,
Kiss her for the kid.
Who always has respected her,
for doin' what she did...*

It is a simple love song, of course, which is the proper territory of poets, but is about love filled with honor, and a kind of dignity, the generosity that so few people can summon when another has become a parenthesis in a life. That song, and some of the other love poems in this collection, seem to me absolutely right, in this moment at the end of wars, as all of us, old, young, middle-aged, men and women, are searching for some simple things to believe in. Dylan here tips his hat to Rimbaud and Verlaine, knowing all about the seasons in hell, but he insists on his right to speak of love, that human emotion that still exists, in Faulkner's phrase, in spite of, not because.

And yes, there is humor here too, a small grin pasted over the hurt, delivered almost casually, as if the poet could control the chaos of feeling with a few simply chosen words:

Life is sad
Life is a bust.
All ya can do.
Is do what you must.
You do what you must do,
And ya do it will.
I'll do it for you,
Ah, honey baby, can't ya tell?**

A simple song. Not Dante's Inferno, and not intended to be. But a song which conjures up the American road, all the busted dreams of open places, boxcars, the Big Dipper pricking the velvet night. And it made me think of Ginsberg and Corso and Ferlinghetti, and most of all, Kerouac, racing Deam Mariarty across the country in the Fifties, embracing wind and night, passing Huck Finn on the riverbanks, bouncing against the Coast, and heading back again, with Kerouac dreaming his songs of the railroad earth. Music drove them; they always knew they were near New York when they picked up Symphony Sid on the radio. In San Francisco they declared a Renaissance and read poetry to jazz, trying to make Mallarme's dream flourish in the soil of America. They failed, as artist generally do, but in some ways Dylan has kept their promise.

Now he has moved past them, driving harder into self. Listen to "Idiot Wind." It is a hard, cold-blooded poem about the survivor's anger, as personal as anything ever committed to a record. And yet is can also stand as the anthem for all who feel invaded, handled, bottled, packaged; all who spent themselves in combat with the plague; all who ever walked into the knives of humiliation or hatred. The idiot wind trivialized lives into gossip, celebrates fad and fashion, glorifies the dismal glitter of celebrity. Its products live on the covers of magazines, in all of television, if the poisoned air and dead grey lakes. But most of all, it blows through the human heart. Dylan knows that such a wind is the deadliest enemy of art. And when the artists die, we all die with them.

Or listen to the long narrative poem called "Lily, Rosemary And The Jack of Hearts." It should not be reduced to notes, or taken out of context; it should be experienced in full. The compression of story is masterful, but its real wonder is in the spaces, in what the artist left out of his painting. To me, that has always been the key to Dylan's art. To state things plainly is the function of journalism; but Dylan sings a more fugitive song: allusive, symbolic, full of imagery and ellipses, and by leaving things out, he allows us the grand privilege of creating along with him. His song becomes our song because we live in those spaces. If we listen, if we work at it, we fill up the mystery, we expand and inhabit the work of art. It is the most democratic form of creation.

Totalitarian art tells us what to feel. Dylan's art feels, and invites us to join him.

That quality is in all the work in this collection, the long, major works, the casual drawings and etchings. There are some who attack Dylan because he will not rewrite "Like a Rolling Stone" or "Gates of Eden." They are fools because they are cheating themselves of a shot at wonder. Every artist owns a vision of the world, and he shouts his protest when he sees evil mangling that vision. But he must also tell us the vision. Now we are getting Dylan's vision, rich and loamy, against which the world moved so darkly. To enter that envisioned world, is like plunging deep into a mountain pool, where the rocks are clear and smooth at the bottom.

So forget the Dylan whose image was eaten at by the mongers of the idiot wind. Don't mistake him for Isaiah, or a magazine cover, or a leader of guitar armies. He is only a troubadour, blood brother of Villon, a son of Provence, and he has survived the plague. Look: he has just walked into the courtyard, padding across the flagstones, strumming a guitar. The words are about "flowers on the hillside bloomin' crazy/Crickets talkin' back and forth in rhyme..." A girl, red-haired and melancholy, begins to smile. Listen: the poet sings to all of us:

But I'll see you in the sky above,
In the tall grass,
In the ones I love.
You're gonna make me lonesome when you go.***
-- Pete Hamill, New York, 1974

Sunday, February 28, 2010

If You See Her Say Hello

So a four day weekend meant, "Get The Hell Out Of Ifrane." My friend Donnie and headed out on Wednesday at noon. As we were standing out the gate to campus, our friend Souki drove by and gave a ride to the marche. We got the marche and managed to get a grand taxi within ten minutes. Quite a feat considering usually you have to haggle with them for an hour and you still get ripped off, the crooks. An hour ride to the Meknes train station went by very quickly, the sun was out, it was a beautiful day. So far, so good.

We arrive at the train station and walk up to the window, "Two for the two o'clock train to Tangier please." "No" is the response we get. In a mix of Arabic, French, and broken English the man behind the counter try's to explain that because of the Biblical rains, the track from Meknes to Tangier is flooded and no trains are going to Tangier. Set back! 

We walk to the bus station and find out there is a bus going Tangier, leaving at 7:15pm, it is currently around 2:30. The only option was the bus, so we bought two tickets for the 7:15 bus to Tangier, a five hour trip, we were told. Back on track.

After locating some food, a stroll through the medina, and a couple glasses of tea, we head to the bus station at 6:00pm, to make sure we are able to catch the 7:15 bus.  The bus doesn't show up until 8:00pm. Set Back number two.

At 8:15 we finally set out on the five hour trip to Tangier. Back on track.

After about four hours on the bus, we stop. A place called Souk Laurba, Wednesday Market. One lamp post in an other wise deserted outpost an hour from anything.  The bus driver says "Souk Laurba." No one responds. Again, "Souk Laurba." Nothing. The bus driver then starts checking everyones ticket. He gets to Donnie and I, "Souk Laurba" he says and starts pointing for us to get off the bus. I say "we are going to Tangier." "Souk Laurba" again, pointing off the bus. "We are going to Tangier." "Souk Laurba." 

You see when we bought the bus tickets to Tangier, the woman at the bus station had said the bus from Meknes to Tangier was full, so we had to buy tickets like we were coming from Fez. We received two tickets. Fez to Souk Laurba, Souk Laurba to Tangier. Why the bus station booked the tickets like that I don't know.

For ten minutes the bus driver is demanding we get off the bus. I keep telling him we paid for Tangier, we are going to Tangier. Finally, after seeing that we had paid for both tickets, he realizes his mistake and no one was supposed to get off the bus in Souk Laurba. He then tries to make amends for the scene he caused by saying, "Ok, Ok, everything is good." Set back number three.

It wouldn't have mattered except that this Souk Laurba was an hour out of the way. After this happened I could hear all the Moroccans on the bus saying "American, stupid," "Assholes," etc. Asshole Americans! Ignorant Moroccan! All the driver had to was look at the trip manifest he was given at the station in Meknes and he would have seen that no one was getting off the bus in Souk Laurba.

Following this unpleasantness, we were on our way, again.  

About an hour later the bus gets stopped by the police for a random check. Set back number four.  By this point I was so baffled by the whole Soul Laurba thing that I lost all hope of ever getting to Tangier.

Forty-five minutes of inspection and we start again. As we proceed the bus begins stopping in all these little villages to drop one person off. Set back number five.

Eight hours on a bus and we finally get to Tangier around 3:30-4:00am.

Keep in mind all this happened on CTM, the national bus service run by the government.

What I learned from the experience.......
    1. Public transportation operates on "Morocco Time".............. anywhere from thirty minutes late to sometime the next day.
    2. The buses are cramped, uncomfortable, and smell rank.
    3. If they say five hours, expect at least eight to ten. 
    4. I'm traveling by train or grand taxi from now on.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Gimmie A Sign.

What is this bright yellow thing in the sky, that is hurting my eyes. Can it be...........the Sun.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Stranger In A Strange Land.

Was many years ago that I left home and came this way
I was a young man, full of hope and dreams
But now it seems to me that all is lost and
nothing gained
Sometimes things ain't what they seem
No brave new world, no brave new world
No brave new world, no brave new world

Night and day I scan horizon, sea and sky
My spirit wanders endlessly
Until the day will dawn and friends from home
discover why
Hear me calling, rescue me
Set me free, set me free
Lost in this place, and leave no trace

Stranger in a strange land
Land of ice and snow
Trapped inside this prison
Lost and far from home

One hundred years have gone and men again
they came that way
To find the answer to the mystery
They found his body lying where it fell all that day
Preserved in time for all to see
No brave new world, no brave new world
Lost in this place, and leave no trace

What became of the man that started
All are gone and their souls departed
Left me here in this place
So all alone

Stranger in a strange land
Land of ice and snow
Trapped inside this prison
Lost and far from home

What became of the man that started
All are gone and their souls departed
Left me here in this place
So all alone

Stranger in a strange land
Land of ice and snow
Trapped inside this prison
Lost and far from home

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Coming Back To Life

After a bout with food poisoning, where I thought they had killed the white boy, there will be no more consumption from the cafeteria. Walking by the place makes me ill. Let me clarify..... there are two sides to the cafeteria, on one side we have a variety of food served. A different meal for lunch and dinner. Cooked for that particular meal. Not too bad, but certainly not gourmet. On the other side is "The Grill." A vile, putrid place. What happens there is... whatever doesn't get served at lunch gets left out for several hours and is re-served at dinner. Kept at no constant temperature it's a breeding ground for various food born bacteria. The Grill has a microwave, they reheat the spoiled food in there and then give it to you. Bon Appetit!  NO MORE!! Tell me why I have to be a powerslave? A slave to the power of death. It took me a week to fully recover. A steady diet of banana's and clementines (insert random Crites/Rinto quote here) finally got me back to normal. It's the street food from now on. Not saying that won't make me sick at some point as well, however at least the street food is prepared fresh and right in front of you. It's not been sitting in a vat for six hours. The best part about the grill and the university is general is the show they put on. During orientation, when all the parents where here, the food at the grill was served hot, prepared as you ordered it, the workers serving the food wore plastic gloves, and served with a pair of tongs or a serving spoon, no microwave in sight. After the parents left all that went away. Now we get a bare hand full of rice and couple of cold chicken tenders. The university also has a very beautiful fountain that was turned on during orientation as well. The fountain hasn't been on in four weeks. It's now full of garbage. A real show stopper.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Rainy Day Women #12 & 35

Today marks the beginning of four weeks in the Maghrib

Today also marks the fourth week of rain.

I would dread to count how may days in a row it has rained.

Toto got it right when they sung about blessing the rains down in Africa.

We been through every kind of rain there is. Little bitty stingin' rain...and big ol' fat rain. Rain that flew in sideways. And sometimes rain even seemed to come straight up from underneath.

The best thing one can do when it's raining is to let it rain

Monday, February 8, 2010

Ode To F.E.Z.

The streets of Fez ran red on Sunday morning as 19 American students, who stuck out like a sore thumb, left the city. In less than three days in the city we/I managed to:

1. Give the very nice Berber woman, who, ran the riad where we stayed, was pregnant and spoke nothing but the traditional Berber language, her first drink of alcohol.
2. Get led around the Old Medina in circles for an hour by a young man who claimed he was taking us to the tannery. However he kept leading us to the middle of the medina. I guess he didn't understand, like us dumb and gullible Americans, the two important things about the tannery; it stinks, so it is located at the edge of the city, to alleviate the stench, and the fact that water is essential to the tanning process, therefore it is also located on the river.
3. Get followed by a group little urchin children with their hands out.
4. Meet two English/Pakistani fellas who were in Morocco so one of them could meet, in person, his future bride, whom he first met on the internet.
5. Have five confirmed cases of prayer time at the porcelain god.
6. Offer my Frank Zappa t-shirt, which I love very dearly, to Mohammed, the son of the Berber lady who ran the riad.
7. Find this cheap Moroccan wine called Maghribi. That came in a green plastic bottle, had a twist off cap and a plastic pull tab. Imagine the big bottles of water you can buy at the gas station, full of red wine.
8. Think we were locked out of the old medina, it looks quite different at night after several glasses of red wine.
9. Find a local bar with 13 dirham Flag Specials and 20 dirham Johnny Walkers.
10. Have every conversation with a Moroccan turn into their sales pitch for us to buy hashish.
11. Have one person in our group be told he had to get off the bus and another in our group not even get on the bus back to Ifrane.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Let Us Down..... If You Must.....Let Us Down...... Easy............

I often find that the first day back, after a great weekend, is the like getting kicked in the stomach. Back to reality, all the things you were able to put away and leave behind. Got some sad, sad news from home last night.  Impending loss hits like brick.  Going back to U.S. for the funeral is not an option.  Acceptance in person is not easy. Acceptance 3,000 miles away....................................... 

Making it eighty and some odd years on this earth is not easy......................................................................................................that's something to celebrate. 

Thursday, January 28, 2010

I've Got A Feeling....A Feeling Deep Inside....Oh Yeah.....

For the first time in five days, the sun is shining, the sky is blue, no rain, no snow. At noon I'm signing up to be apart of the explorer's club, to satisfy my inner Indiana Jones. Going to the market to get some supplies. My mom is sending me a new pair of shoes. Class from 6:30-8:00, then a trip to the local watering hole. It's gonna a good day.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Learning To Breathe..................

This evening all the exchange students were invited to tour the mosque here at Al-Alakhawayn.  The mosque is a beautiful place both inside and out. The imam sat and spoke with us about the mosque in general and the purpose it serves as a place of worship for all Muslims.  We were treated to a recitation from the Qur'an by the imam and were also allowed to ask questions.  Even though I didn't understand what the imam was reciting, it was all in Arabic, it was eloquent none the less. I really saw the beauty of the Arabic language, the beauty of the Islamic faith and how devoted Muslims are to their religion.  I was struck by how open the imam was about the Islamic faith and how willing he was to answer any and every question. He kept repeating tolerance and acceptance of all people. This is a far cry from the blood thirsty "religion of the sword" image of Islam that is often portrayed in the United Sates, i.e. Fox News.  I was quite in awe of being in the presence of the imam. A man who has devoted his entire life to the study of his faith.  I am not a particularly religious person, I never have been. I'm not an atheist, I have just never felt any connection with a particular religious group, but sitting in the mosque in the presence of such a devoted and spiritual man, was a very moving experience. I certainly felt closer to "god," what ever he/she/it may be.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Cold, Rain and Snow

First of all, it rained all day yesterday.  The weather consisted of a brutal three pronged attack of wind, rain, and cold. (They never mentioned that in the brochure)  I can accept one and would normally be just fine, however the trifecta made for miserable day. I discovered my waterproof boots are not as waterproof as they claimed to be. My roommate also showed up yesterday and said all of five words, "Hello my name is Yassine." So by night fall I was ready for some action.  I went out to the club or disco-tech and got my first taste of Moroccan night life.  We went to a bar called Agoumam(have to check on the spelling)and had some Heineken for 25 dirhams, equals to about $3.00 a beer. Several bottles of Moroccan wine were also consumed. We then went to the disco-tech. Loud, smokey, and full of strobe lights.  It appears that Morocco is in love with techno and house remixes of popular songs. Very Interesting.  After a couple of Heineken's at 50 dirhams a piece, ouch, that hurt, and finishing my pack of Luckies, the consensus was to go back to campus.  The quote of the evening came from Matt, a fellow Ohioan and general seeker of knowledge: "My Arabic is better when I'm drunk." Followed by: "I understand Arabic better when I'm drunk too."

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Save It For A Rainy Day

A rainy morning in the Atlas Mountains.  It's been near 65 degrees and sunshine since I've been here, their calling for snow this weekend.  I've been told it comes in the feet. Though I can't complain. In Ohio I'd be doing one of several things.  Hanging at Eli's, mercilessly beating him at John Madden football, sitting on my couch with a pipe and a movie, or talking to my dog.  I know one of these days he's going to answer me back.  But I'm in Africa.  I still kind of can't believe it.  Before I left I was at my friend Adam's house and I said "Tomorrow I'm going to Africa." We both started laughing.  After all the planning and being asked "Now exactly where is Morocco? I have an idea, but I not sure," the reality that I was actually going still had not hit me at that point. I still don't think it has.  I've been in a state of shock and awe for the last five days. But I'm really loving it here. Aside from some of  the asinine rules at the university; no alcohol, no drugs, no girls, the country is beautiful and the people are some of the most friendly and open people I have ever met.

By the way, I don't remember if I've mentioned this before, I women in Morocco are beautiful. Ma and Pa may have a Moroccan princess as a daughter-in-law come summer. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Glory Bound

Freedom came my way that night 
just like a jet plane IN and out of sight 
I was hauling ass at a million miles an hour 
wondering how hard I'd hit 
When they came into the station 
they said I was bad beyond repair 
But I got no qualms with my situation 
say here I am 
So say cheri cheri won't you dare to 
say cheri cheri won't you dare to 
leave a message and your number please 
Tie them up all my old fantasies 
Put them in a big red bow and send them care of me 
I'm taking a chance on the wind 
I'm packing all my bags 
Taking a mistake I gotta make 
then I'm glory bound 
So I packed it up and I went to the winds 
and I lived out of a VW bus for a year or two 
Ain't nothing but a pipe dream and my guitar 
livin off of apple fields and old cigars 
Diggin this microphone checking it out every night all alone 
the car battery is dead again so I got my head dead set against it 
So say cheri cheri won't you dare to 
say cheri cheri won't you dare to 
leave a message and your number please 
Take the time to want to satisfy me 
Take all those fantasies and send them care of me 
I'm taking a chance on the wind 
I'm packing all my bags 
Taking a mistake I gotta make 
then I'm glory bound 

36 Hours and Two Cartons of Lucky Strikes

I left Cincinnati around 7am on Monday and drove to Columbus to catch my flight.  At the Columbus airport they told me I wouldn't be allowed to go to Morocco because I didn't have a visa. I tried to explain to them that I would get a visa once I got to Morocco. The woman from the consulate said that was not possible.  After a few phone calls everything got cleared up and I was on my way.  Two hours to JFK.  Six hours and several beers later we boarded the plane for Casablanca.  I tried to sleep on the plane but to no avail.  It was loud and just out right uncomfortable. These two Malian fellows, one behind me, kept kicking the back of my seat, and the other one, right beside me, wouldn't shut up. (Note to self: First class on all future international flights.)

Landed in Casablanca around 6:30, got through customs and boarded the 8:00 train for Casa Voyageurs.  Casablanca had a pungent smell of urine and I was shocked at how dilapidated and run down the city was. Not sure what Rick and Sam saw in the city.  Changed trains and headed for Meknes.  The farther inland we got the nicer the country seemed to be. I noticed several people pissing on the side of the train tracks and one fellow even took a squat.  

From Meknes we hailed a cab and finally got to Ifrane.  The cabbie had a cassette tape, the songs were as follows...................

Pink Floyd....Another Brick In The Wall
George Michaels& Elton John.....Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me.
David Bowie....Starman
Otis Redding...Come To Me
Shania Twain....Any Man Of Mine
Chris Issack......Wicked Games
The Scorpions......Winds Of Change

After a dinner of harira and tagine, the purchase of some bottled water, and a viewing of Back To The Future II, it was time to sleep.