Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Yesterday was my Sunday. I slept in and went to Agdal with Angelo who needed to get a computer and a 3G internet modem. Since I still need internet, I went with him. We got to the store at 12:30 but like many places here, it was closed for their “lunch hour.” We had to return at 3:00. I did a little work at Amideast and then accompanied Angelo to the store. I still couldn’t get internet because I need a Samsung modem apparently. Apparently not many Moroccans have Macs yet which explains why getting a good 3G internet USB modem has been so difficult.
I returned to Amideast to use their internet and work on grad school applications and at around 7pm went home. I’ve been taking taxis a lot lately and have started forcing myself to take the bus more often since I haven’t gotten a paycheck yet and I need to be careful until I know how much it really is. Obviously I know how much I’ll be getting but it’s hard to gauge what that really means until I’ve seen how much I really spend in a month here. What’s nice about living here is that a taxi from my home to work is a little over 20 dirhams (about $2.75). When I consider that my vodka tonic last night cost $60 dirhams, the taxi rides seem quite insignificant.
Although I haven’t been out much in my short time here so far, I do know that bars here are very expensive. I don’t know the exact socio-political reason but since this is technically a Muslim country, it wouldn’t surprise me if the government restricted the amount of bars and taxed them heavily. Last night, Sam, Rob, and Charlie* invited me out to a bar called Yakout. It’s located downtown and is pretty close to where I live. I left my place at 11pm and was lucky to get a taxi that was leaving off a woman at the entrance to my neighborhood. Rob had told me to tell the driver to take me to a specific hotel downtown and from there I could walk to the bar. So, after an easy 15 dirham cab ride in a nice car decorated with FC Barcelona pillows and seat belt pads, I was dropped off at the hotel. I asked the bellman how to get to Yakout and he asked his friend in Darija (Moroccan Arabic). His friend answered in Darija and the bellman then translated into French for me.
The bar was in a residential area and I had to ask some people in front if I was at the right place because the entrance was not clearly marked. Inside, it was beautiful. All I knew about Yakout was that it’s called the “African place.” Inside the walls are painted a warm brick red, there are brass and colored class lanterns lining the walls. Dark wooden masks fill the space between the lanterns, and like any good Moroccan space, couches and places to sit are never in short supply. I found my friends sitting at a table and ordered a vodka tonic. The band was just about to get started so Rob told me everything he knew about the place. The band, we think they are from Benin, plays every night. The owner of the bar is one of the players. They play everything from African drumming songs, to salsa, to reggae. One of my favorite songs of the night was a song that could have been played by Buena Vista Social Club. Their Marley cover was also dead on. Their singer for the reggae songs is very talented. They also have a female member that sings quite well too. Based on my time last night at Yakout, this is one of the coolest places I’ve been in my entire life. Plus, my schedule is very conducive to my continuing to enjoy it. Since I don’t usually like extremely packed places, it’s nice that I can go on a Monday night and really enjoy the music and having room to dance. Sam and Rob aren’t big into dancing which is fine but I’m anxious for Mau to get here so we can dance together. Going out on the dance floor by myself really isn’t an option since it is packed with 99% men. So far I have come to the conclusion that Moroccans, in general, aren’t too great at drinking. As Charlie said last night, “it’s like going out to a bar and having a bunch of high schoolers there.” Just as high schoolers are forbidden from drinking, a good Muslim Moroccan shouldn’t be drinking either. At one point Sam went to the bathroom and on her way back, a guy blocked her path. He tried to “start a conversation” with her and she had to push him with her whole body in order to get by. A week ago, I, too, had to tell some drunk guys in Agdal to let me go. One of them was holding onto my arm and if it wasn’t for a nice passerby who saved me, I probably would have had to kick him or something. Generally, as I know so far, it’s not the case that drunk guys will just come up to Western girls and try to dance with them or take their arm or try to talk to them. What happened with me and with Sam was that we acknowledged their presence in some way and that led them to think that we were interested. Sam apparently looked at the guy initially, smirked in a way that meant, “hi, let me by.” In my situation, I had stupidly asked the kid in Agdal if he knew where a public phone was. Here’s a tip for any nice Moroccan man who encounters a white girl on the street or in a bar. If we seem like total bitches, it’s really not our fault. We’ve tried to be cordial with random people and unfortunately had bad experiences.
My time at Yakout was great but I really wanted to write this blog entry because of what happened afterwards. By the way, Mom, don’t read this. If you do, remember that I warned you not to so don’t give me a hard time the next time we Skype. Anyway, Sam, Rob, Charlie, and I were talking about how to share the taxis so I wouldn’t have to take one all by myself. Usually only three passengers can go in one taxi but Sam was able to talk the driver into letting us four go since I was getting off soon at Les Oudayas. We were on the two-lane stretch of the road that goes along the river, almost at my stop, when a car pulled ahead of us and stopped perpendicularly, blocking us off from passing though. At first I thought that the diver had done something to piss off the two guys in the other car, but Rob said that he saw nothing. Our driver started to reverse but then saw that the other driver was getting out of his car, so decided to speed ahead, passing through an amount of space just one inch wider than that of a 1998 Fiat sedan. The angry driver then passed us again so our driver turned around to let show the other guys that he didn’t want to play. At this point we all just figured that we’d have to simply take a different route to get to Les Oudayas since that guy went the way we wanted to. But, the next thing we knew, the angry driver was chasing us in the direction we wanted to go. At this point we asked the driver what was going on and he simply said that those guys are crazy. For the next 10 minutes our driver was darting this way and that, trying to trick up the other car. He faked going one way and turned last minute, he went around and around a roundabout and turned when he thought the other driver couldn’t. Although we were all a little freaked out, Rob and Charlie were enjoying the ride. In fact, Rob said that this had happened to him before. Sam and I weren’t enjoying it as much. We finally got rid of the guy by going fast down a straight-away, letting the crazy guy pass us, and turning around quickly and escaping into an area with lots of places to go. We drove around turning into various residential streets for about 10 minutes, just to make sure the other guys couldn’t find us. Then, finally I got dropped off. It was honestly quite exhilarating, I felt excited when I got home, and during it all we all nervous-laughed quite a bit. What’s ridiculous is that this happened in my third week here. What on Earth still awaits me?
* Sam, short for Samantha, is from Washington State.
Rob, Sam’s boyfriend, is from North Carolina. He’s not of the white/conservative variety, but actually the son of two foreign college professors.
Charlie is from New York State. It’s his first year out of college.