On Wednesday I went to meet with a professor at Mohammed Vth University. True to form, I got lost on the way, fortunately having left early enough to arrive with five minutes to spare. “I’m glad your stay in Morocco hasn’t affected your punctuality,” the professor said as he led me into a building.
The inside of his office was sparse, with the white walls and neutral tile of a public high school classroom. No artifacts of travel, no robe from Cambridge, no oak coat rack. I remember all the furniture like it was on wheels.
Still, there was the same warmth emanating across the desk from kind, wise eyes--the same piles of paper across every surface. I think that the relationship between a teacher and student must be nearly universal.
Walking away from the university I had one of those moments in which one thinks “I have two legs, I have two arms, they both work great…” and wanted to keep stretching my limbs and walking forever because I suddenly realized that there is an alternative to vigor.
With time to fill before my next interview, I went to the French Institute and sat in my usual spot, outside near the electrical outlet. There was a fashionable woman I’d never seen before interacting with the customers. At one point she came over and asked me something in French. “What?” I said, looking up from my book.
“Do you want some chips?”
“Oh, yes, sure, thank you…”
I watched her click away, admiring her fringy highlights, and suddenly became very self-conscious of what I was. Namely, a figure teetering on the cusp of mademoiselle and madamehood—depending who’s talking—and an American girl, reading a fine piece of American literature, and eating guacamole.
The first few nights in my new apartment, the window was stuck open and the noise from the street kept me awake. The night passed in stages: first, a gaggle of men’s voices, the hoots and trills of a pack of youth far off, the same diminished gaggle playing an Arab song, the strum of an acoustic guitar, the 4AM call to prayer, and at last birds gossiping—it was morning.
I puttered around the web, with a newly developed patience that resigns itself to watch 13% slowly creep toward 20%. My web designer was putting the final touches on a new layout for my website.
“I think we’re ready to go live,” he said.
I looked at the new format--colors popping off the page, everything perfectly aligned to engage and direct the user.
“It feels right to me,” I typed, watching a yellow triangle appear next to the message.
“It feels right to me,” I tried again, and then a third time, half-expecting the messages to find their needed blitz of Wifi and shoot through all at once, evoking a sarcastic “Does it feel right, Daisy? Does it?” from my friend.
I mentally moved “closing the window” to the top of my priority list.
On Saturday I went to visit my host family, having somewhat guiltily evaded an invitation to cous-cous the day before. At one point my dad had the baby sandwiched between his belly and a sorely out of tune guitar.
“Jimi Hendrix,” I suggested at the sight of small, chubby fists grazing the strings. (Jimi Hendrix had a house near Essaouira, a Moroccan seaside city). “No,” says my host dad, “Cat Stevens.” (Cat Stevens is a convert to Islam, and performed in Rabat last year).
That night my roommate and I decided we wanted pizza, needed pizza—but we didn’t want to leave the apartment. Delivery? I suggested. We realized we didn’t know where we live. I bit the bullet and went out to read our street sign. We searched “Pizza Hut Rabat” in Google, looked up the French word for “delivery,” and called five nonexistent phone numbers before giving up and grabbing the key off the side table.
On the last corner before exiting the old medina we sat on high stools and swung our legs waiting for that cardboard box to slide across the counter. I held the top down tight with my thumbs on either side as we walked home, but the heat still sunk out like an unreturned smile.
Cold pizza was still pizza, I told myself this morning, as I ate a slice for breakfast and got ready to go to a café and then a February 20th movement rally. Once at the rally, I looked for the people with telephoto lenses to interview for my politics/media study.
“Excuse me, do you speak English? Are you a journalist?” I walked home with a business card and a phone number scribbled on a receipt shoved in my front pocket.
Daytime noise on our street assumes a whole other character from nighttime noise. A group of boys squats on the cobblestone, conducting daily tournaments with their cache of translucent marbles. Around sunset they all disperse, save one, whom I’ve come upon still going through the motions of pointing and shooting at a white chalk triangle.