Monthly Archives: September 2010

Imilchil Wedding Festival

This title is misleading – when trying to go to the wedding festival (mohsim n xotoba, which actually translates to engagement festival), taxis and transits will invariably drop you off half an hour before Imilchil at the Agdud (or Aidud, or Agidud, depending on the region), which is a very, very large souq (market). It lasts for 3+ days, with the governor of Errachidia province kicking things off on Thursday (before I arrived).

Here’s a brief history of the wedding festival from Morocco.com:

Once a year the people of the various mountain tribes in the Atlas Mountains converge at a special meeting place for the Imilchil Moussem. This special meeting, which takes place in September, is primarily a massive souk where 30 000 or more Berbers gather to sell and trade their possessions. However, the gathering is not merely an exercise in financial expertise – it is also the place of the largest wedding fair in the country. The tradition was started when officials during the colonial area insisted that Berbers assemble once a year to register births, deaths and marriages. After Morocco claimed independence the tourist office encouraged the continuation of the festival. Contrary to popular belief, very few of the marriages here are prearranged. The woman arrive in ceremonial garb and they spend time flirting and getting to know the available men during the festivities and dances. Many of them already know each other. Then, near the end of the celebration, the marriage ceremonies begin and several new marriages are made simultaneously. This ceremony has, in more recent times, received a lot of tourist attention that has detracted from the ceremonies authenticity. However, the joyous occasion continues down to this day and the exact date of the festival can be obtained from the tourist board should you wish to be a part of it.

Here are some of my pictures:

In the last entry I attempted to use the gallery function in wordpress my pictures ended up out of order, so I have no idea which picture you’re seeing first.  I’ll have faith that you can correspond my narrative with the pictures anyway.

Most of the PCVs at the festival actually came under the guise of work – they all wandered around the souq a little bit, but they did a very good job manning their health tent. The highlights of that tent were a blood pressure check, some general health info on posters, some art supplies and paper – oh, and a whole lot of Americans who spoke either a dialect of Tamazight or Darija. A few environment volunteers in the immediate region were also helping the Department of Water and Forests man a booth about the Eastern High Atlas National Park. I had no plans to man any tent, this was my first vacation in Morocco! Luckily, I quickly ran into a fellow volunteer also at the festival for the sole purpose of relaxing, and we explored the nooks and crannies of the souq (including looking for and finding the camel souq, which turned out to be horribly depressing) . Then we climbed to a good vantage point on a nearby hill and tried to capture the whole event in a picture – very difficult, you’ll notice my picture from above catches neither end of the pandemonium.

I ended up buying a very warm, soft and pretty wool blanket from a woman named Zaynab who lives in a town near the city of Midelt. She was shocked and excited to hear me speak Tashelheit, and she invited me to come visit and stay for a few months if I wanted to learn how to weave a blanket myself – albeit probably much slower than her, my blanket is quite large and only took her 15 days to make! I didn’t ask if that included carding and spinning the wool or not. I was convinced I was getting the low version of the tourist price, but many locals have now oohed and ahhed over my blanket and told me I got a good price – which is good, because they normally tell me if I got a crap price. It also makes me happy, because I payed her what she asked for – I tried to bargain it down a little, but she told me she’d originally planned on asking for 50 less dirhams but had been convinced by her co-op that 50 less dirhams (250, 5000ryals) would be too little. I also went and visited her stall the next day, and she told me she’d sold all her blankets the day before at the 6000 ryal price. If you’re wondering, in the picture of Zaynab and myself my blanket is the one in the back in a bag – mostly undyed with dark red stripes.

One picture in the gallery is of men singing an aheydus with Moroccan and Amazigh flags in the audience (the Moroccan flag, red with a star, is mandatory and part of the festival set up. The Amazigh flags were being purchased at the festival and brandished by very enthusiastic aheydus watchers).  The particular aheydus was men only, heavy on the percussian, and featured the men singing/chanting while moving their line in a very slow circle.

On Saturday evening, most of us took a transit from the agdud (souq) to Imilchil, where we had heard there was going to be a performance. Sadly, this left no time to go to either Isli or Tislit lake, where weddings may or may not have been taking place – and where I still really want to go for a hike! The Isli and Tislit Lakes are drenched in mythology – Isli and Tislit mean groom and bride, respectively, and there’s a Romeo and Juliet type story involved in the creation of the lakes, and even to this day the story dictates some wedding traditions in the area (not just ceremony, but even how the tribes intermarry!). I’m hoping my friend in Imilchil posts the story on his blog so that I can appropriate it; he knows and tells the story better than I do.

The last picture is some unmarried ladies walking around the souq. Those white shawls with the silver circles (muzun) indicate that they’re bachelorettes looking for a guy. Nearly all of these girls had their scarves tied over the lower part of their faces, and the all had carefully applied heavy handed eye makeup and blush.  I have no idea what percentage of them actually met a guy there, I never saw a single dressed up girl talking to a male.

Last but not least, the show in Imilchil was a lot of fun. We had great seats at a coffee shop above the stage, and I mostly hung out there (departing once for soup and once to try to get a better picture from lower down, but all of my night pictures are still terrible). At one point while I was gone, Fatoum (who works for PC as an LCF, and although I didn’t know her beforehand a lot of my friends did) rounded up some people and walked them through a coffeeshop to dance to the side of the stage. Right as those of us at the coffeeshop noticed their location (and their amazing rendition of the electric slide to the aheydus going on), the Tamazight channel as well as some other large videocameras descended on our friends – all who were total hams, and some of whom (maybe all) appeared on TV.

That was the end of the official festivities – on the tranzit ride on the way back we saw the mostly deconstructed souq wrapping up, in desperate need of a trash pickup, and then slowly made our way down the mountain to Tinghir. The gorge just north of Tinghir is filled with tourists (mostly european, but some moroccan), almost all of whom are showing a lot of skin and are a bit difficult to identify with. However, I did see a few climbers both on my way up and down the gorge, and I would love to find some climbing gear and make it up there for a weekend sometime.

And that ends this update. Have a wonderful day!

Surprise! Belle is actually a PCV in Morocco.

I’m shamelessly stealing this from other shameless blog thieves. I don’t know who deserves the credit, but I’m pretty amused:

Why Belle, from Beauty and the Beast is actually a Peace Corps Morocco volunteer
Popout
1. She reads books, and people think that’s odd. It’s especially odd because she carries them around with her all the time.
2. People scream “Bonjour!” at her from windowsills and alleyways.
3. She lives in a “little town…a quiet village.”
4. Everyday is “like the one before.” (also see: “Every morning [is] just the same since the morning that [she] came to this poor provincial town.
5. She sees the baker first thing in the morning with the “same old bread and rolls to sell.”
6. Minute 1:00 – She excitedly recounts to someone an important story (in her mind), and is politely dismissed because the story has nothing to do with the number or price of produce that day.
7. Minute 1:07 – People in town start talking about her behind her back. She doesn’t notice — it’s almost as if they’re speaking another language and she’s happily strolling through town, oblivious to their comments…just smiling at them the whole time.
8. Minute 1:20 – She hitches a ride on a horse/donkey cart. This is a common occurrence in Peace Corps (though I can only comfortably speak to my experiences in Morocco). Sometimes there’s no other transportation available, and hitch on a donkey cart, you must.
9. Minute 1:24 – People are greeting each other, not only saying hello, but asking about their families. Although their greetings here do not extend into the 30-second long salutation that we experience in the bled, I’m sure it would if the song had been longer if American audiences were judged patient enough to sit through that kind of thing.
10. Minute 1:30 – There is an exasperated woman with multiple babies in her arms.
11. Exasperated woman wants 6 eggs, but that’s “too expensive.” Six eggs would also be deemed preventively expensive in many places here as well.
12. Minute 1:35 – Belle says, “There must be more than this provincial life!” She’s complaining again. She didn’t say, “I miss peanut butter and Mexican food,” but that’s pretty much what she meant. Again, note the complaining. Peace Corps Volunteers are EXPERT complainers.
13. Bookstore owner is a cute little goat-looking man. Those are found in abundance in Morocco.
14. Minute 1:50– Belle climbs the ladder in the bookstore and swings it to the other side of the bookshelf. In a Barnes and Noble, this would prompt screaming store attendants, wary of a possible lawsuit when you fall. In Morocco (and in Belle’s world), no problem. If you fall, Allah willed it.
15. Minute 2:00 – Belle goes on and on about how much she loves something, which basically requires the nice goat-man to give it to her. You often see this in Morocco.
16. Minute 2:02 – Men staring at her and trying to get her attention.
17. Minute 2:10 – Belle pats a random child’s head. This is considered creepy in America, but in Morocco, PCVs are encourages to pat, hold, and feed random children.
18. Minute 2:21 – Belle sits in the town center next to the fountain, (like Morocco – except their fountain works) surrounded by sheep.
19. …then Belle starts to talk to the sheep. Many a PCV talk to their pets, because they sometimes understand English better than the townspeople (or so they think).
20. Also, at the same moment, you see a woman washing her clothes in the public water source. Hopefully she’s not using Tide and exposing us all to dangerous levels of phosphates.
21. Minute 3:00– Townsfolk say they think she’s beautiful because she’s fair. Moroccans often say this about light-skinned Americans. Belle, on the other hand, probably fancies a nice tan (and could probably use one, too).
22. Minute 3:20 – Gaston wears tight Euro-trash pants and shirt, and obviously thinks more of himself than he should. Reminds me of a few select 20-something boys in Morocco.
23. Minute 3:35-4:00 – Gaston wants to marry the foreign girl because he thinks she’s pretty.
24. Minute 4:45 – Townsfolk joyfully remark how Belle doesn’t “quite” fit in (even if she has been there for almost 2 years!).
25. Minute 4:55 – Everyone is staring at her.

And finally, (26) she’s singing a Disney song!

Updates!

  • The new Trainees are here! They’re probably in their CBT sites right now, being introduced to their new target languages. They’ll be visiting their sites when everyone from my staaj is gathered for In Service Training (IST), so we won’t meet them until they swear in and move to their new sites permanently. We have one volunteer in my souqtown who will be COSing (and who will be missed), and we think two new volunteers will be coming. This is all very exciting – my staajnmates and I are no longer the PC Morocco newbies! This is going fast…
  • I went to a wedding all decked out in a caftan (pretty dress), tesbinit (red, yellow, and black scarf traditionally worn at… we’ll say dances, I have no good translation for aheydus), and the black eyeliner all the ladies wear here. This getup was a two family effort, and everyone thought it was great that I (a) was nervous about having some lady stick a black makeup encrusted sharp stick at my eye and (b) that I preferred the tesbinit over the yellow bangly scarf because it could have been said, in a stretch, to match the caftan – why this mattered to me, the ladies simply did not know. Wearing the caftan, apparently, no scarf was not an option – and the tesbinit went over very, very well. The greatest part was running into people I knew and having them not recognize me at all, a few times even after greeting them – maybe my tashelheit is improving after all! When this happened, a girl I went to the wedding with would be quick to point out ‘Han tarumit’ or ‘look, guys, it’s the foreigner!’ Good times, and really good food – freshly slaughtered something (people discussed whether it was young cow or ram, I never heard the verdict) on skewers, followed by tajine with stewed plums, couscous, and fruit. Yummy.
  • I spent a few days with a new friend here – she’s 25, and seemingly pretty progressive for being from around here. She understands a fair amount of english and wants to learn more, and is very patient helping me with my tash.  There’s still a bit of a language/culture barrier, so I can’t relax around her quite as much as I do with my american friends, but we’re almost there. And it feels really nice to have a friend like that in my site.
  • As briefly mentioned in the last post, I bought an oven! It was 4,400 Ryals – 220Dh, for those interested in the price in a monetary unit which actually exists. It’s a small oven that attaches to the big butane tank I have for my stove, and hopefully sometime soon will be cooking goodies like banana bread, cookies, calzones, cornbread, and more. But for now it’s just hanging out and looking sad, because while I thought I could just buy white flour in my town I’ve been advised against it – much better to buy flour in my souq town. As for the wheat flour I mentioned, I helped my friend and her mom sort through the wheat grains (pulling out rocks and such), but then I had to run off to the wedding, and I haven’t gotten the sorted wheat to take to the grinder yet. And so I wait.
  • I finally talked to the head of the local middle school about teaching English! I think I’ll be teaching tomorrow for the first time, although I’m not quite sure about that – I still need to drop by the school this afternoon to confirm.  This is the first day, so things are a bit hectic and I believe schedules are still being pounded out. If things go as discussed, I’ll have two classes that I’ll meet with twice a week for an hour each class – 4 hours a week, 2hours on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. He said something about getting books from the ministry of education, so hopefully we’ll have a (British leaning) textbook soon.
  • My semi-sitemate got herself sick off something last week – jury’s out on what – and spent several days homebound. I went over there only intending on spending an hour, but ended up over there for about a day and a half.  We spent some time with her host family, who I hadn’t seen in almost two months, and with a few of the elementary school teachers in her town (who mostly just speak Arabic and French, but speak some English and some Tashelheit, so we can muddle through).  I also didn’t fast one day during Ramadan, and made that day up while I was hanging out at my friend’s house. We mostly watched Grey’s Anatomy, which is a terrible, terrible addicting show I advise against.
  • For this week: I hope to teach my first few English classes, then head to Imilchil for the wedding festival. Theoretically, historically people would come from all over to go to the wedding festival to meet someone favorable and then get married on the spot. While it’s doubtful weddings really happen anymore, it sounds like lots of people do get engaged (at first site) at the festival, and it’s a really big souq – livestock, carpets, clothing, food, and I have no idea what else.  On my way back, I hope to finally pick up a fridge and some flour so I can get a little more self reliant with my cooking! Full report, and hopefully pictures, to come.

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

-Wendell Berry

L’3id Amzant (or, Witnessing My First Chicken Slaughter)

Last week, several noteworthy things occured: my birthday, for which I appreciated the calls and well wishes (and will be celebrating with my sitemate tonight, with some sort of pre-packaged noodle and broccoli dish her mom sent from the states!) and L’3id Amzant, which I will talk about in this post.

First off, Ramadan is the ninth month on the Islamic calendar – it’s not just the name of the fasting, it’s actually the name of the month. No one ever quite knows the beginning or end day of Ramadan – the month begins on the first day the chosen Imams see the crescent moon after the new moon, and ends with the same conditions. I assume that historically this was done with local Imams, but now it seems to be done by country – particularly for the end of Ramadan, I remember there was a news ticker at the bottom of the tv screen – “ok, Algeria, Tunisia, and Saudi are done with Ramadan.. Morocco’s not announced yet!” Everyone watched with rapt attention. Both the beginning and end of Ramadan were announced with trumpets in the big city (in cities, actually, there seem to be a lot of musical instruments associated with Ramadan – I was in Errachidia one night, and there was a whole group of musicians roaming the streets to signal s’hor).

So on the night that everyone expected (but no one knew) Ramadan would end, I was hanging out watching TV with one of my favorite families in my neighborhood, having just finished stuffing myself silly on luftor. As usual, there was a little bustle of chores being done – plates taken away to be washed, tea being made, the patriarch sharpening the knives… I’d never seen anyone doing that before, but I just figured the knife was dull. The instant L’3id was announced, though, the youngest girl dashed off and returned a minute later with a chicken! He was a big boy, too, for a second I thought he was a turkey.  Turns out one of the girls in the family bought herself 6 chickens in March, and they were ripening up, so to speak.

We went outside and posed with the chicken pre-slaughter, but I’m pretty sure they didn’t want any pictures with their faces online, so you don’t get to see my friends.  However, here are a few pictures from the main event:

The first picture is pretty self explanatory – knife, chicken, soon to be dead chicken and bloody knife. It wasn’t as quick as the mental image we have in the states of the swing of the axe and the head falling off, but it was still fast – less than 5 seconds of sawing at the neck with that knife and the chicken was dead.  The chicken got to lay on the cement for a while after that while the blood drained out, and was later placed upside down in a bucket for the same purpose.

Less than half an hour later, we were back out with a plastic tub and a bunch of hot water – the chicken was placed in the tub, and the hot water was poured all over it to loosen up the feathers. My friend plucked the chicken in record time – she was a pro, it looked completely effortless. Maybe it’s just a lot easier than I think it is, I don’t know. After the feathers, the gullet was emptied – it was full of fresh wheat and grass, and far more of it than I would have thought. When the stomach got emptied later, it looked much the same – over a cup of wheat, at least. Anyhow, after the gullet, the intestines were cleared out – first, my friend just pressed a little on the abdomen, wiped the feces off with a knife and threw it in a waste bucket, and then went to cut open the abdomen region – but then all the rest of the feces exploded out of the chicken into the bucket – for which I was grateful that my friend accompanied myself in collapsing into giggles.  Butchering chickens is not clean work!

Once the underside was cut open, all the internal organs were removed.  She was especially careful with the gall bladder, which apparently will destroy the taste of the whole chicken if it’s cut open (I looked it up later, it’s supposedly really bitter). At some point during this process the head and feet were also hacked off, and myself and another girl in the family alternated holding the legs open for easier butchering. The water, I should note, was also getting switched out fairly frequently to keep everything clean.  Once the internal organs were removed, the meat was split up and rewashed a few times in preparation for cooking – and it was dinner! I estimate we learned of L’3id around 7:30/7:45, and dinner was around 11 – 3 hours turnaround, very fresh (organic local) chicken! I couldn’t eat very much, being completely stuffed from luftor and having henna on my hands which were covered in plastic bags – but I was fed a bit of the chicken, and it was delish!

As for the actual L’3id, it was a little anticlimactic – I don’t have a story like the above. I woke up, had my henna removed (went to remove it myself, but the matriarch of the house immediately took over scraping my henna off with a knife), helped make lmsmn, a bread with is mostly oil and butter (think filo dough, but lots more oil and butter and folded less), at a decadent breakfast partially provided by a troupe of out of town relatives who had arrived the night before (2 cakes, a cookie plated with seven cookie varieties, the lmsmn, jam, laughing cow cheese, and tea), then ventured out to my host family’s house, one of their relatives houses, and another friend’s house – all along the way wishing people congrats on the feast (Mbrok L’3id, or Mbrok L’washr), eating far far too much sugar, and enjoying the newfound freedom of water during the day.

The next day, amid gastrointestinal upset (and I can’t really blame my poor stomach, it was mightily abused), I made the journey down the mountain and bought spices, an avocado, and a stove. I also got to hang out with a fellow volunteer in my souqtown, which was nice – we had a lazy early afternoon enjoying cold coke (from glass bottles, l’hemdullah) and meatwiches (I’m partial to the spicy ‘saucette’ – sausage links).  Yesterday I made guacamole which I probably wouldn’t have deemed acceptable in the states – I had neither limes nor salt (I had spicy paprika, cumin, avocado, and tomato), but which was absolutely orgasmic now – the decadence of an avocado is truly ridiculous. I also went back to the scene of the aforementioned chicken surprise, and they’re excited about my new kitchen developments (particularly the oven) and are going to help me out with a little whole wheat (which I have to take to the grinder for flour) and a liter of their olive oil! Woohoo!

On a small side note, the qu’ran almost burning was mentioned in the news here quite a bit – and it seemed the news tickers were often reporting that it actually had happened. Don’t worry, my town is not about to be violent over anything like that – I think I’ve probably been placed in the most protective community in Peace Corps history, everyone looks out for me – but they were all a bit sad that anyone would disrespect their religion like that, and I tried to combat the impression that the majority of Americans backed that crazy dude. Pretty sure they got it, but it’s hard to fight the info the media inundates them with.. which made me find this article from Huffington Post enjoyable: This Is How The Media Embarrass Themselves. Enjoy.

My sitemate should be here any minute, so that’s all for now.  Mbrok L’3id!

It’s been 4 months

since I last posted. Too long, I know! I’ve recently gotten internet at my house, though, so hopefully I’ll increase the frequency of my entries.

Where to begin?

I spent just over two months with my host family, May through July. They taught me a ton – Tashelheit, working in the fields, cultural dos and don’ts, and they helped me make a lot of good community contacts. When it came time to move into my own place, I was really sad to be leaving them. This was exacerbated by the fact that, unlike most volunteers,  I moved to a whole different neighborhood which is both physically and socially seperated from my host family’s. It took me a while to get settled into my new place – in truth, I’m still working on it – but I’m really happy with living in my new neighborhood now. It doesn’t hurt that I have a really nice rental house with some tiled floors (some cement), my own roof for laundry and sleeping, and I don’t have to go far to get my water or do laundry – the spring is less than 100m away. Beyond that, though, my new community has been very welcoming, with enough families inviting me over to tea or to meals that prior to Ramadan, it was hard to have a free moment.

Of course, now it is Ramadan, which means that everyone in Morocco is fasting from roughly 4am to 7pm. When Ramadan started it was 4am to 7:30pm, but as the days grow shorter, so too does the fast. L’hemdullah (thanks be to God)! I’m fasting, which in turn means I don’t get much done – most of the time I’ll got to a house between 6 and 6:30pm, eat luftor (iftar, as you’ll find it on internet searches), socialize for a while, fall asleep at the host’s house, wake up for s’hor (which I think is actually the time rather than the meal, but I’m not sure) around 3 or 3:30, then fall back asleep until I wake up around 7ish and head back to my house for a day of reading, and now internet. To expound a little on that:

Luftor: This is the best meal of the day; possibly my favorite Moroccan meal. It’s changed a little over the course of ramadan due to fruit availability. My town is too cold for dates to grow, but as Mohammed was said to have broken fast with a date everyone wants them. They’re grown in mass quantities down the mountain from my site, so the richer families almost always have some dates to break fast with. August was fig month in my town – we were covered in them. Sadly, they’re gone now, but when they were here we all stuffed ourselves silly, rich and poor alike. I’ve also had peaches (not quite peach season, though, so unripe), apples, bananas, and quince during s’hor. Some people even make smoothies, which is my favorite Ramadan extravagance. After fruit, everyone eats some variation of Aghrom n Uginsu – the best literal translation I can do is the bread of inside, or inside bread. It means that there’s two layers of bread with some sort of oily/buttery concoction inside – this can be a really wide variety of things, including meat or fat bits, but most popular in my town is hot peppers: onion, peppers, and sometimes tomato,  spices like cumin or cilantro, or really whatever else people feel like adding. This is almost always tasty, although sometimes too spicy for me to eat much of.  For the sugar/calorie hit, sometimes families will have purchased shebekia (sugar glazed cookie, instant diabetes) from a tahanut (small general store) or will have made z’mita (a sweet crumbly mixture of quite a few things, including but not limited to nuts, sesame seeds, sugar, and oil). Both of those are rare in my town, generally limited to the rich. If a family has chickens, there will be boiled eggs. If a family has a cow, there will be hot milk/coffee (the coffee is always served a little coffee in a lot of hot milk). After everyone has stuffed themselves silly, ahirir(soup) is served. Like the Aghrom n Uginsu, Ahirir has as many variations as, well, soup. It’s often made with a base of ibrin (chunky pieces of wheat) and contains some sort of dried bean – lentils, chickpeas, or fava beans. There’s often a tomato base, but sometimes the base is oodi – which is more or less homemade salted butter. Sometimes it’s spicy from hot peppers, sometimes it has zeezow leaves in it (think dark green leafy veg), and sometimes it has meat – and sometimes a combination of all three. Then everyone collectively slips into a food coma (which I have taught to my host uncle. As he already knows coma from the French, this is at the height of hilarity for him.)

That was far more than I thought I was going to write about luftor. Afterwards, some people wander around and visit neighbors (or even go to different neighborhoods for visits!), some people just chill out at home, and nearly everyone in my neighborhood has someone going to the spring for water, for which I’ll steal a description from an e-mail I wrote.

“I don’t know how it is in towns with running water, but after breakfast everyone in my town has to go to the spring to get water. The trip should take no more than 15 minutes from the farthest reaches of [my nieghborhood], but I’ve yet to go on a water gathering trip that takes less than an hour – most of the time it’s two. When people get to the ditch, especially when it’s the teenage girls, all the jugs turn into drums and there’s a bit of a party – everyone singing call and response songs, both traditional and impromtu. There’s also always a six year old or two around to dance for us – which is great, because by the time they’re six both genders know how to shake their  booties better than I’ll ever be able to (the men here, by the way, can all isolate their hips and shimmy). My favorite part about these gatherings is that the songs are all upbeat and festive – the same songs in the fields, or even at weddings, often end up sounding a bit dreary to my western ear. I think part of it has to do with the fact that none of the men are around, so the ladies get to let their hair down a bit (both literally and figuratively – people that dress all conservative during the day will go to the ditch without a scarf and sometimes even in short sleeves! doesn’t sound crazy, but it shocks the hell out of me).”

That’s not every night here, like it seemed to be at the beginning, but it’s still always a good time to head to the spring.

Then it’s sleeping, then s’hor – which is generally just a tajine or douez, normal lunch/dinner dishes around here.

I’ve heard in some towns people always eat iminsi, the dinner meal, at the normal time of 10:30 or 11 – but I only went to one house that served iminsi, and they were all very confused that I couldn’t eat any after stuffing myself 3 hours before at luftor!

And that’s all for now.  Stay tuned, as later this month I’ll be talking about L3id Amzant and the Imilchil Wedding Festival!