Saturday, August 7, 2010

Final post from Morocco

First off,

The chicken place has no name, and no menu.  You can order a salad (egg, potato, beet, onion, tomato) if you're particularly hungry, but otherwise the plate with 1/4 of a chicken, rice with coriander, french fries and soup will probably tide you over.  It costs two dollars, is served within 1 minute of ordering (which just involves holding up the appropriate number of fingers and nodding enthusiastically), and is always, always fantastic. 

After a bloody handshake and an enthusiastic tea offering in a blood-spattered glass (which we are all too happy to accept, of course), he'll hook us up with anything from minced beef to sausage to a side of lamb (pictured here).  If he doesn't have what you want, he can find you someone who does.  The man on the right sells turkey and chicken in the stall next door, and I can't recall ever meeting anyone who smiles so much.

Every baked good we get is baked within a few feet of where we buy it.  The sweetest items are usually covered in bees, and require a few knocks on the counter before they are quickly placed in a box.  I went to the bakery in town at least twice a day (once before work, once after) for my entire time here.  Essential Moroccan vocabulary:  "Khoobz" = bread. 

These tiny shops ("Hanoots") really are amazing in the amount of things they manage to cram into a single space.  I once saw a man disappear behind the counter and reappear holding 5 birthday hats.  This man, known to us only as "Olive guy" for his vast selection of said item, was fond of giving us figs or olives to snack on while perusing his selection, which tended to make communicating what we wanted twice as difficult (but also twice as delicious...yum).

This will probably be my last entry from Morocco.  I leave Azrou tomorrow for Casablanca, where I'll spend the night in the airport before flying out on Monday, Boston bound and half-crazed from anticipation + lack of sleep.  I'm planning on posting a few more updates before I actually get back to Texas, including some sort of reflection and summation of this wacky adventure, and some credit where credit is due to the Green group and the Rakas family, so keep checking back.

Otherwise, I'll see you all soon (but not soon enough).

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Last day in Ain Kalla

It was my last day with the Scarlet group in Ain Kalla today.

This is the group who, when we started working with them in February, we couldn't get within 30 feet of.

Now I can take pictures like this:

The habituating process was difficult to say the least.  Whenever we finally felt like we were getting somewhere they would surround us and start screaming, or alarm call at us and run up trees, but the whole point is that you get through those rough patches and stick around.  Eventually (I suppose) they just get tired of caring, and you get to tiptoe around largely unnoticed.  In the end it felt damn cool to be among the first people to ever get to know this particular group (the Greens had been habituated before we arrived, we just had to re-habituate them).  They also live in an amazing place.

A large part of the Scarlet group home range sits right on top of an area the Berber shepherds herd their sheep through daily.  In the beginning, I think I mistook their innate shyness for resentment (likewise, no doubt).  But by now, my Arabic has gotten decent enough to make small talk, and in recent months, during the long days of searching on my own, I've been going out of my way to run into them and have a chat (and not only because they sometimes have seen the monkeys).  They have always been eager to help us out, and are always curious about what the hell we do all day.  Alas, the conversation normally runs beyond my skill range, and they start throwing in Tamazigh words, and their sheep start moving off, so we part ways, me normally in the direction they've pointed me in, and with a little boost of energy from the much needed social contact.  Unfortunately my plans to photograph some of the normal guys were foiled by the Scarlet's ranging patterns today, so the only photo I managed to grab was out the car window on the way home:

I'm going to miss driving through herds of sheep on the way out and back.  I'm going to miss exploring new parts of Ain Kalla, good (and bad) days with the Scarlets, and laughing with the shepherds about my ignorance of commonly known Tamazigh words.

I'm NOT going to miss this look: 

"Who are you and what are you doing here?  I'm leaving."

More tomorrow, ensh'allah.  It's my last day with the Greens.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

One week (wahed ssimanna)

Grooming lessons:  sometimes, if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself

Kerry taking advantage of a rare summer puddle.


With a week left, I'm hoping to take a bunch of pictures around the town I've been too proud or shy to take so far.  The people that I've been fortunate enough to meet here have contributed so much to this experience that it would be unfair not to give them proper recognition for being hands down some of the kindest, most welcoming folks I've ever met.  

I've just got to get over feeling like a creeper asking for a picture.  

As a preview...

We go through hiking boots at an alarming rate.  I suppose boot manufacturers don't count on people actually using their footwear more than two weeks a year.  As a result, every couple weeks there's a new split seam, or the sole comes unglued, or some combination of the two (and then some...).  This man ('shoe guy', or 'Assaan' as I'm sure he prefers to be called) fixes whatever is ailing our fatigued footwear, and for the flat rate of about 2 bucks a pair.  He also tuts while he gives them a much needed polish.     

He's also just a really, really nice guy. 

At last, an article about primatology EVERYONE can appreciate.  I give you:  Monkeys vs. Flying Squirrels

(monkey annoyance experts?  advanced methods in enraging monkeys?  is this a joke?  either way, thanks to boingboing for digging this one up) 

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Monkeys are superior to men in this:

when a monkey looks into a mirror, he sees a monkey.
-Malcolm de Chazal

Someone got too close to Larssen's mushroom patch

Grooming is serious f&*(!@ business, alright?

Ben in black and white.

Noddy tends to have an infant around most of the time.  He's a very nervous fellow. 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

It starts to look easy after a while

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The head really isn't the best place to rest for an infant, but it must be the most fun.

It's wedding season in Morocco.   Drums, drums, drums.