Sunday, July 15, 2007

Cultural Differences, Yek?

I have tried to write this post several times, but I keep getting interrupted. The interruption yesterday was a pleasant one, however, as a Moroccan friend called to tell me he was in the neighborhood. He is blind but gets around well and speaks English. He's also a Fulbright scholar, and he has been unemployed since he returned to Morocco. There are not many opportunities for those with special needs here, even when they are brilliant. Anyway, we met and set in a cafe for two and a half hours, where we discussed obesity in America, rituals in Morocco, and I tried my best to explain to a blind North African what a set of bagpipes looks like.

This past Friday I went for dinner at the house of my Moroccan language instructor. My French language class lasts from 6:30 to 9:30pm, so when he invited me for dinner I assumed he meant before our class: he even told me "I eat very early." In reality, when he said we would be eating "early" he meant that the food was on the table by midnight. The food, however, was incredible (It always is here), and the famous Moroccan hospitality ensured I was wonderfully stuffed and not back to my apartment until 3am. I was still full when I crawled out of bed at 8. Heck, I was even full when I got out of bed the second time... at 2pm.

I have witnessed an interesting thing the past several days. July is considered the most propitious month for ritual celebrations: marriages, engagements and so forth. Over the last three evenings I have seen numerous groups exactly like this one (pictured) pass under my apartment window. Though I already suspected the reason, I asked my blind friend to explain the phenomena... you may have to click to see...

The mounted men with their decorative rifles are fathers, and the important people are the boys riding in front of them. This is the earliest stages of a circumcision party. And the boys, as you an see in the picture, must be at least five or six. Probably older. They march through the streets of the neighborhood playing trumpets and drums and shouting, and then the entire party returns to the home. Some metropolitan Moroccans have the operation done in a hospital, but most do it in their home with a pair of scissors... you know, so all the guests can watch.

Also a quick update on the research... things are still, for better or worse, moving very slowly and not according to plan. At least, not according to my plan =). However, we recently were allowed to meet the training instructor at a major MFI, and he told us that he will give us permission to finally observe a group-lending meeting and talk with the clients (the first time in 9 weeks). No word from him yet, but I'm pretty ecstatic about the possibility. There's very little time left to learn from the experience. I could use some Help. That is something for you to think about...

Anyway, here are some final pictures to close:

In spite of the locale, we did take some time to celebrate July 4th. We grilled out, ate potato salad, and drank Moroccan mint tea (because the latter is basically obligatory here). In the picture you can see the immaculately beautiful burgers that we grilled. Ah, the taste of home. You also might notice the suspicious-looking turkey burger we cooked for Intern Valerie. *shudder*.

This is a Moroccan garbage disposal system. And in case you can't see it because of the small picture size: this is not a cow, it's a bull. These walking trash cans with horns can be found all over Hay Hassani.