Monday, 6pm Moroccan time.
I have been quite sick for a couple of days. Actually, Sunday, I was out of bed less than 20 minutes total, most of that being a late afternoon shower. Saturday, I stayed at the studio working all day, not hiking, as I knew I was a wee bit tired. Seems that I caught a bug—then, BOOM. Sunday. Thanks to lots of support I am much better now, thank goodness.
That is one way to keep vigil with the women marching around the world. There may have been some lying down on cool tiles.
But I’ll take this time recovering here in my princess sheets to tell you about my latest adventure.
Friday afternoon I had an adventure that would definitely not happen in the USA. I went to the patisserie with Sapi, the other artist-in-residence at Green Olive Arts. She and I ordered coffee and cookies and sat in the dark back seating area. It’s a quiet oasis, calm, and safe, with just the king to watch over us. Café normal means straight espresso (or Café b’la haleeb, means coffee without milk); that’s what I order. Sapi likes café au lait: the barista(o?) brings the little glass of espresso out to the table and then pours the milk for her. The napkins are thin green sheets of paper cut into triangles. Cookies this time are something new and seem to have almond inside.
A lady comes back to have her coffee. Quite soon after she is speaking to me in French, and I move to her table so I can hear her amongst all the noises of the café and the road work outside. She is from Brussels, and invites us to couscous. “Yes!” I say. After some more conversation: “Maintainant?” (now) she asks? “Yes” I say. Sapi needs to continue to work.
So, this woman and I—without even knowing each other’s names, leave, jump in a taxi and go off to a part of Tetuoan I am not familiar with—past the Modern Art Museum, the Lovers Park, the Artisan School, and past even the Muslim cemetery (a massive eternal city). We arrive and I am welcomed generously by her Aunts (pretty sure), her two daughters, her grand-daughter, and her son. Orange Juice is offered (so delicious). After about 10 minutes, we are off again. Her eldest daughter drives, baby as copilot in baby seat. In the back are four of us of to Martile. Martile is outside Tetuoan about 20 minutes, near the beach.
Apparently, it’s been 2 years since everyone went to the other sister’s house, and so we are lost for quite some time, winding in and out of nearly identical narrow streets with nearly identical constructions. So many new buildings have sprung up it is no wonder they can’t find the apartment building. The buildings are massive cement structures, rectangular, basically the same color. No names for roads, and even when roads are named, no one knows how to navigate that way. Instead, you navigate by what things are close. I am not sure how we get there, but we arrive.
I am so graciously welcomed here too. This is tradition—the couscous on Friday afternoon with family. Every Friday—prayer day—families gather all over Morocco for this wonderful dish with couscous, vegetables, chicken or something, and the caramelized onions and chickpeas (my favorite part). I can’t believe that they would invite a stranger. I am so honored.
After we eat, all of us gathered around a table with a massive platter, each our own spoon, and many urgings to eat (mashi), we are all full. We have fruit afterwards.
Somehow my high school French suffices, at least until my brain gets completely tired out a few hours later. Luckily, the 15-year-old daughter knows some English, and everyone is so kind that we all seem to communicate fairly well.
It has been quite cold here, snow in the mountains. People don’t have heat much in the homes, and cement buildings with tiled floors get cold. All are wearing fleece under their clothes, blankets spread over laps in the homes. Here it is the same.
Ines, her daughters, her son, and I, all pile into the car and go to the beach. It is nearly identical to Miami, but with two camels (I thought they were fake), and people in lots of layers. Palm trees. Sand. Surf. Beautiful.
We return for a lovely desert with Moroccan mint and green tea with sugar and various goodies—corn bread, pastries, warmed honey (yummmmmm). It takes me a long time to understand the word honey—its amazing that “Oh-Knee” was that hard for me to get. And then Inez made a sign like a buzzing insect, and I said “Flies?” and she says “Not flies” and then all of a sudden, I know: OF COURSE! “HONEY”! Yum.
I speak to everyone as best I can, and eventually, I feel like I can even understand some of the Derija, but I might be so tired that I don’t know which end is up. And even then, I am quite comfortable and happy with this lovely family. (I have blurred faces in the photos.)
I am pretty sure I’ve been invited to a wedding. I hope they mean it.
When I’m well, I plan to find out.
Tuesday update: All better, I think!
Wondering: If not even the locals know the street names or use them to navigate, how does anyone get mail here?
Otman the cab driver explained that the Mint and Green tea of Tetuoan is the "OUWISKEE of M'ROC." I miss it, now that I'm home.
For those of you that would like to see some photos of work, the new page is up:
Morocco Exhibition. This is an informal gathering of photos of the exhibition, some photos of my creation of the work.
"Home again, home again, jiggity jig..."
I am grateful for:
Am full of images to process. Here are a few to share.
I'm making friends with the M'dina. Medina means city, and the old city is made of what you might imagine to be wide hallways lined on both sides with Hanouks (tiny shops) and workshops smaller than twin sized beds, with no entrance other than over the table of goods. It is overwhelming, and sometimes like Pike Place Market on a busy tourist day, with no tourists, just narrow full hallways of people rushing here and there.
Stray cats. Did I mention that Tetouan seems to be the city of stray cats? And they do not seem pitiable in the least. They are well fed, respected guests, sometimes in the hands of a shopkeeper being loved, or sitting in the sun. Of course, many are bedraggled. They are showing up in my little playful art adventures. An easy way to play while I learn my way around here.
Moroccan Arabic = Derija
First (2-hour) language lesson (Thursday) in Derija left me able to say “excuse me,” “Jooj” (two—useful for choosing cookies at the local patisserie) and “donnia hennia” (no worries—literally world calm). Also, I can now ask if there is milk in something, and order coffee without milk. I have a million other words, but they don’t all stick. Tomorrow, Sapi (in the red apron below) and I plan to find coffee. She is a resident artist from South Korea and America and for us, finding cookies was plenty for today.
Time seems to have expanded to allow for an impossible amount of adventures. How did I take over 100 photographs today? The Artisan school is full of eager students, often not eager in regular classes, who are doing work of incredible detail and craft. Some photos below. The teachers were incredibly wonderful hosts for us, took time and shared so much of the crafts. The painting teacher had begun making brushes—a photo of one is below.
Friday is the day of prayer here, so shops close doors and Green Olive Arts hosts people for Couscous. This consists of a massive amount of couscous topped with vegetables, chick peas (with carmelized onion, cinnamon, ginger, and other wonderful spices) and chicken. Soooooo good. But after the Artisan tour, the careful and consistent attention at each classroom—embroidery, metal work, engraving, carving—and then at the leather workers shop in the Medina (and the myriad other workshops and places we went) I was cooked before we even began. Never-the-less, I met a wonderful woman, Wafae, who very handily supplied dinner for over 20 people, and met those 20 new faces. This included a man named Freaky. He is a wonderful artist whose business card includes a brief impression line drawing of each card recipient.
Below are some photographs--just a few (ha ha) with captions.
Timelessness occurs when you travel through multiple time zones, not really knowing where or when you are at any given moment. Floating through time mirrors floating through air; peering out the window of the Boeing 757, the landscape is now made of clouds--the clouds mocking the shape of mountains, the movement of rivers, the eddies of sandy slopes in the wind. Or, perhaps en route to Rekjavik I really did see massive cracks in an icy surface. At one point, small glowing villages dotted the dark land. At another point, I wondered what the northern lights look like, and have I seen them?
I am not an easy flyer. Even when my mind has given up on the idea that bracing helps, my body still jolts at each wiggle of the plane. The sudden push of jet engines on takeoff is not so bad, but when the engines ease off, then I hold my breath. It seems we are about to fall out of the sky, not because we are falling, but merely because of the sense of slack, of almost floating. The wind suddenly acts on the plane, jostling it this way and that way, and some part of me prepares for death. The worst, perhaps, was the turn towards Amsterdam from the take off at Kefalik airport. I wonder if the people around me realize how utterly terrified I am in those moments.
But the beauty of the clouds as we chased the sunrise was enough.
By the third flight, I hadn’t slept yet. At about 22 or so hours into the journey, I could no longer stay awake. It was almost funny to me that I awoke just in time to be terrified of takeoff, yet fell asleep almost immediately after. I awoke again for the kind Moroccan man one seat away who made sure I didn’t miss the food (chicken or fish). We failed at talking, because of multiple language barriers, and I was too tired to make more of an effort. He assumed I was Dutch. I said American, and then was asleep again.
Flying into Tangiers, it seems we will land on the beach. The plane descends directly at the sand, but of course, we land on tarmac. As we debark, we are told to show our ticket (where did I put it?) and luckily I still have it. I was told to expect a form, but no form came. At the customs (passport control) window, I look at him, he looks at me. I make a confused gesture—a cross between a shrug and an apology for not knowing what to do. He gives me the form and returns to his work. I again get his attention, saying Stylo, which I think might be pen in a language he might know. I make a sign like writing just to be sure. He gives me his pen. It is appartently the only pen. When the next man comes, the Passport Control Officer has to ask for his pen back to complete the paperwork.
I neatly avoid being given paper towels, or help with my bags, or a taxi, and eventually make it outside to await my ride, having paid no tips.
Otman the grand taxi driver and Jeff, one of the owners of the GreenOliveArts, collect me slightly late. I had tried—and failed—to look calm when I suddenly realized I had no plan for this, no phone, no way to seek a phone number, no way to ask for help. Looking back, it seems like I could have easily hailed a cab to Tetuoan, and to the address given, but I am glad, instead, that I waited. I was offered 6 taxis, and even help from a stranger, none of which came in any language I understood other than kindness.
A note on Taxis: Grand taxis are blue, generally larger in size, and run routes like busses—they can go from town to town. Otman’s Grand Taxi drove us from Tangiers airport to Tetouan. Yellow taxis drive to specific places and usually stay within cities.
Dates and bread were proffered and gratefully received, even though I had eaten some fish, rice, and beautiful red peppers on the plane.
Dates in Morocco are soft, sweet, just the right amount of smush and resistance between teeth, perfection. Sometimes, they are still on the branch. For me this is amazing.
The first night, having met Mustapha who spends his days (everyday?) to the left of the heavy double doors to the building, we walked up to find my apartment uninhabitable. The art studio salon, though, was a red- and gold-cushioned heaven, and soon I was asleep, having thrown my scarf (a gift from mom) onto the cushions as a sheet.
Door handles. Door handles are often in the middle of doors. These handles don’t turn. Other things that hang about that might be mistaken to be door handles usually turn out to be door knockers. Keys turn, and you push to get in. To close the door, you pull the middle knob. Outside doors always default to locked, here. That makes me very keen to keep an eye on the location of my keys at all times.
Toilet flushers. Sometimes you pull them up. I like these the best. Then you put them back when you’ve used just the right amount of water, and they stop. I don’t remember ever seeing so many bidets before. I have a pull handle on my toilet; I do not have a bidet.
Bleach. Javez is the word. It took me three tries with this word: 1st time I tried the supermarket. The very kind lady directed me to something, thinking perhaps that I didn’t know the word I wanted. It was (we are all still not sure) we think, laundry detergent with bleach. 2nd time, it was lavender scented; I took it back, having learned the words “so sorry!” Absolom at the little store was so kind, and when he saw he was out of the plain javez, gave his helper money to go track some down. This was all accomplished in a few minutes. I happily bought some other things—bread, Fanta, odds and ends—and learned a very little Moroccan Arabic. The bleach worked very well to kill the mold in my new apartment.
Peter, aka Butrose, helped me find a new apartment the morning of my first day. By 10:15, I had a beautiful 2-bedroom at the top of an ancient construction with marble stairs. It is precisely 42 steps from the door of GOA. I made that up. It might be 30. Other than the rather large and stinky spots of mold on two of the walls, it is perfect. The bleach solved this. The propane was out, so no tea last night, but today I managed, armed with only the word “Propane Tank” which is “Buta” to communicate to my landlord’s son that I needed a new tank. Three people tried to make this easier by trying (I think) to see when I would be home, but then Rashid kindly just said Venez avec moi, and we did it then and there. Phew.
Cats. I love the stray cats. They love food. People feed them, pet them. They look very straggly—especially the white ones. I wonder what their story is. I am considering writing them one. At lunch yesterday, one came an yowled outside the restaurant. He was very careful not to come in. A gentleman.
Yes, art is and will be happening, but that for another day.
Heather Danso is a Guild Certified Feldenkrais Method® Practitioner, Restorative Yoga teacher, Awareness Through Movement® facititator.
As an artist, she playfully explores work in Acrylic, printing, and multimedia, creating portraits and abstracts that explore expression, playfulness, identity, and the possible. Her CV is here.