Thursday, October 29, 2009
I am not a huge game player, I have always been way too competitive. I am one of those known to display behavior that ranges from flipping the board and pouting off to straight up cursing and accusations towards those I am playing with of ganging up on me. Charming, I know.
BUT, pick-up stix has always been a favorite, as it is a game of sheer skill and cunning fine motor skills. From a very young age I have enjoyed the thrill of being good at extracting the next stick without the entire pile tumbling. (I was good at operation also)
On this sunny fall morning, from my first floor view (it's actually the third story) of the park across the street and after seeing Youssef off to work, with the babies asleep, another spotted night of sleep and feeding behind us, I must say that I have the same satisfied feeling with my life as I get when I am successful at a game of pick-up sticks.
Some days, it all feels like luck and destiny and the way the world wanted things to be for me, but this morning, it feels like a choice. It feels like I was living a different life, I was a different girl that had a different job and a different address and thought different things about...now here it would be easy to say I thought differently about love and family and marriage, but that is not true. I thought differently about two things: Youssef and myself. Separately and Together.
He was always kinda there, as a concept, a memory, my first love, the guy that I resented, but wasn't mad at. The story I loved to tell, the reason my heart got broken so bad in the first place. Youssef, the crazy, the philosopher, the muslim, the cook, the accident prone, the self absorbed, the sensitive. I never once thought, that I would be reunited with him. I did not know that I could make a choice and give him another chance and that we could love again, so profoundly. I did not expect that we would make a family and that it would be the most important thing in my life.
Now this is where the second thing that I thought differently about comes in. I did not expect any of that because I thought differently about myself also. I thought I had 'been there-done that' and evolved way past it. And it's true that I had evolved past the girl (teenager) I was then and the young 20 something he was then as well. But I hadn't evolved past Morocco. I hadn't evolved past this strong tie to family and cozy palots on the floor and not drinking alcohol for weeks and not even noticing.
The woman I had turned into before I came here, was brilliant, but maybe a bit more flashy (well she definitely wasn't wearing a leaky breast milk stained tank top).
She thought she so had her shit together and that she knew exactly what she was doing and who she was and that she was not someone that anything that she wasn't already could penetrate.
8 months later, to the day, that woman is gone, I picked her up with two sticks and laid her to the side. In her place is an even more complicatedly positioned stick. But I am not afraid of trying to get at that one because I am learning to trust myself and rely on the dumb luck of physics, the way the sticks all fall to the ground and my fierce motor skills.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Not at all as I expected, let's just say that straight out.
My girls decided to join me, first thing in the morning, on Monday October 12th. I had a very uncomfortable night and did not sleep at all due to a dull pain in my abdomen and constant trips to pee. When Youssef woke up, I told him 'I think something isn't right, it hurts so much, I don't know how much longer I do this, I hope I can wait till my doctor comes back from vacation (I know...right) and blah blah blah'. Youssef, by the way, was used to hearing this every morning so, we both didn't think that much of it all.
He asked me if I needed the bathroom and he entered to get ready for work. I sat down on the edge of the bed and all of a sudden felt a wet gush. I knew immediately what it was. I went into the bathroom, got Youssef out of the way and sat on the toilet and started to cry. I kept saying, "it's too early, it's too early, it's not right, it's too early, please stay in more, please stay in there, I need you to stay inside more, I'm so so sorry for complaining, I didn't mean it...". Youssef of course was already dressed, running around in circles, calling us a ride to the hospital asking me about my suitcase(s) and trying to reassure me all at the same time.
Eventually I pulled it together, got dressed (in all black, which was a fitting outfit that i ended up eventually leaving the hospital in, five days later with no babies) and went downstairs to get in the car with his sister. He and I held hands through gushing contractions and rush hour Casablanca traffic.
When we arrived at the hospital, it turns out that there had been a steady stream of pregnant women since 4am that had showed up. The place was crowded, they put me in a pre-birthing room with another woman in there.
I would have been waiting on my doctor, the infamous, the experienced, the wonderful doctor I had researched and sought out and totally trusted and felt safe around, except that he had left the country three weeks previously, without telling me, and wasn't going to show up. The doctor that replaced him, turned out, to be a trusted colleague of him and just as good of a doctor. But this is where my woes began.
I was terrified. I trusted no-one except Youssef and he and I were about to be separated against our will. I was like a harnessed birthing lion that was about to have her babies taken from her and I knew it, i felt it.
So the new doctor comes in and said, "Cesarean and now, you've got an infection, your babies are at risk , we are doing this, no discussion". "Can my husband come in the room with me?" "absolutely not"...
An argument, of course, ensued. He yelled at Youssef that it was, and I will never forget this, "a truc de couple" basic translation - a stupid couple thing. I started crying at that point and basically did not stop crying (constant crying) until 3 days later.
So Okay, It came down to my worst case scenario, me on an operating table, alone, strapped down, with two very tiny babies taken out of me and immediately rushed away. The doctor was kind enough to let me see the first one for a second. She was screaming and I kissed her head and she stopped crying (that was Sophia, I call her now my zen buddah baby). And then second one was taken away from me before I even knew she was out of me. I kept asking 'what about the other one, why wasn't she crying, why didn't you let me see her, where is my other baby, is she okay, please answer me'. Silence...
I remember the very beautiful face of the anesthesiologist assistant staring over me and smiling trying to keep me calm. Eventually I just stopped asking questions and asked her to please just hold my hand. She did, it helped a bit. I prayed, alot.
The doctor was giving me brief and rapid answers, they told me that the other one was 'fine, but small' but they wouldn't explain anything else. This was all taking place, mind you, in two other languages. All of the medical terms were being thrown around in french, they were all communicating basic things in Arabic and I was pleading with them for news in french and too doped up to understand their answers.
Eventually I got out of the operating room. Youssef was waiting just outside for me and I was being wheeled around. I started asking for my babies, 'please let me see them, please let me see them, they need me, they need me to touch them, I have to hold them, please'.
Youssef had seen them when they brought them out of the room and followed the doctor into the room where he was 'reanimating' them. He assured me they were very little but both were okay and they were in NICU. He arranged to have me wheeled in to see them before I got to my room.
The next 24 hours were a blur. I did not sleep even one wink. I had perfumes rubbed all over my body and hair and a stream of visitors bringing money and flowers and food and dates from the mecca. I had people sitting by my bed trying to console me as I teetered back and forth between tears and delirium. I had a small room and I felt like I couldn't breath, and there were dogs that howled outside my window all night.
Eventually I had the visit I was waiting for. The pediatrician that was responsible for NICU and therefor my babies. He came and started trying to talk to me about them when there were like 7 other people in the room. I, naturally, threw everyone out of the room (blaring dismissal of standard protocol #1) except for one of Youssef's sisters (not the oldest, blaring dismissal of standard protocol #2) and proceeded to grill this guy about the state of my kids (blaring dismissal of standard protocol #3, this job normally belongs to the family, not the hysterical woman that just gave birth). I wanted every shred of information possible, I did not, could not have, even slightly anticipated the repercussions for these actions on my relationship with my husband and his family in the following days.
He (begrudgingly) answered my questions, he promised me I could give them my colostrum, that he would not give them any formula and that i could see them and try to feed them the next day, when I was strong enough to make it to the NICU. He said I could hold them and touch them and that everything would be fine...
He also mentioned that there was no way possible I would have enough milk supply to feed both of my babies. I told him that when he says things like that to me, it makes me question his professionalism and psychic powers. He took it back, literally, he said, "I take it back, I'm sorry".
Now this is where it gets interesting. He then walked out of the room and told the entire rest of the family that he is not responsible for any harm I do to the children and that I am basically whacked in the head. I didn't find this out, of course, until the middle of a midnight screaming argument between Youssef and I about those exact points, milk and touch.
The anger I feel in my heart for him (the doctor) would be all consuming if I didn't have two beautiful babies to hold and love right now. I don't have the energy or desire to hate that guy more than I already do, so I've just let it go.
Okay, so no sleep that night, at all, no sleep the night before that and then no sleep the next night either. You can imagine what I looked and felt like after abdominal surgery, three sleepless nights and very limited access to the children I had been carrying inside me for 8 months.
I was a mess. I felt that I had been plundered, body and soul. I trusted no-one, no-one. I felt completely alone and savagely protective of my babies. The day after the birth, I waited until the first sign of a cleared room, the first second I had alone I got myself up, limped to the bathroom, with my IV in toe, dressed my self, stuck my head out of the door and asked the nurse for a wheel chair. She, of course, ran and got my mother in law. 'Oh no, the crazy American woman that won't stop crying is on the move'.
My poor sweet mother in law did not know what to do with me. She said ok, she would go with me but please not to move too much because I had just had a surgery. She cried alot in those days after. I told her I hated Morocco and I hated my doctor and I hated the hospital room and I made the biggest mistake of my life having children there. Still, she comes to my home everyday and tells me the same thing, "don't move too much, don't do too much, don't sleep with your husband, don't pick up heavy things, don't walk around too much. 40 days, it is in the Koran, take care of yourself, if you don't it will hurt you later in life." She is wonderful and understanding.
So,Youssef showed up on his lunch break and talked me into waiting on him to eat and then us going together. He had already been filled in, mind you, on the apparent danger I posed to the children by holding them (just google preemie twin touch, I dare you). He was scared and he didn't understand, I can see that now. As strongly as I felt I had to do it, he felt equally as strong that it was not right. The good news is that they have two parents that love them that much and are willing to stand up for them, even if it means against one another, to protect them.
All of this I need to hold them, I need to touch them, they need my milk was coming from a place deep inside of me. It was not anything I had read about, it was just an instinct, so things were confusing for me too but I trusted my instincts.
I got my way, I held one, and a very ugly scene ensued between Youssef and I. That is the point where I would say my depressed desperation turned into depressed hysteria. Youssef left the NICU to return to work and I stayed and held my other baby as well, with two nurses standing over me gossiping in Arabic. I asked them to GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME, and they wouldn't, of course, they thought I was crazy.
I then returned to my room to find more visitors. Nieces and people's husbands and more sisters. This is the point at which I stopped trying to stay composed, the point at which I felt I no longer had the support of my husband and therefore had nothing else to loose by acting like I gave a shit about it all. I flipped out. In front of everyone. I mean full on, sobbing, inconsolable howling, unrecognizable angry sobs and desperate tears flying from my face in all directions. My mother called in the middle of it and was put up to my ear, it didn't help. Some of the women in the room started crying with me, because they understood, because they knew what it felt like also. That made me feel a little more normal.
And thus we proceeded. The director of the hospital eventually got tipped off to the fact that there was a serious problem with me. She arranged to have me changed to a different room, and she visited me herself the next morning in my new beautiful room, and talked to me about how I am feeling psychologically. She gave me pamphlets on breast feeding and told me to go and see my babies whenever I am ready.
I went down to the NICU and all of a sudden it was a different world. The nurses were nice and encouraging me to breast feed the bigger twin. They set up a feeding schedule for me to come down every three hours and feed or pump for them. Things were friendly and professional and I was able to breath.
I heaved more crys when I left the NICU because I felt like somebody somewhere finally realized I was right, or looked it up or got paid off or whatever. I was not sure what had happened but I felt better. That night Youssef and I decided that we could recover form the deep abyss of a disagreement that was instantly formed, like an earthquake, the day before. He then did something that literally changed my life, he went out of the room and asked the nurses to give me a sleeping sedative through an IV. My ass was OUT. BIG TIME. And it was pretty much all gravy after that.
Youssef started on an around the world trip of filing all of the insurance and social security papers. I saw him for all of five minutes everyday and I was so impressed by what he was getting done. While he was out zipping through the city getting our little girls legal and getting us financially covered so I and the kids could leave the clinic, I was wandering back and forth between the NICU and my room, pumping and having massive uterine contractions in the hallways of the hospital. I had DVDs set up to watch and I ate food that his mother sent to me everyday and I slept and drank lots of water and waited for my milk to come in.
Then they said I could leave on Friday, Sophia on Saturday and Mae on Monday. I was actually relieved that I didn't get to take either of them home with me the first day. It would have been too hard to leave the other one. So I left, actually ran out of the hospital to keep from breaking down, trying to calm my breathing in the car and went home with the air of being in a funeral procession. The next morning we went back for Sophia. We went back that night to pump for Mae and check on her and then twice the next day. I showed up at 9am on Monday morning to get my Mae and they would not let her go due to the damned paper work still not being finished. So I sat with Mae until 4:30pm that afternoon. I had breast milk sent to Sophia at the house and I waited for the call from billing telling the nurse to let me take my baby out of there. This was a very happy moment for me.
Since then we are all home and tired but happy and they are both thriving, drinking more everyday. Mae is slowly learning to trust that she is safe now. With lots of love and care showered on her. Sophia is just calm and zen like and only cries when she needs something. They are so different and so wonderful. We are totally in love with them.
The end or I guess I should say, the beginning.
Thursday, October 08, 2009
This is a type of pumpkin or winter squash that is very common here. It is called in Arabic L'hamraak Garagh, which actually means pregnant pumpkin. I feel like one of those right about now! I long, however, to feel like a glass of overpriced champagne in lieu of desert after a small but satisfying meal of knife and fork eating accompanied by a bottle of red wine.
I have these shoes. They are strappy, gold, high heeled sandals and I usually wear them with this boxy, white silk dress. I bought the ensemble to wear to my dear friend's soft opening for her restaurant. These were one of the three pairs of heels I chose to make this move with me. Today as I was grunting to rub my anti-itch cream all over my swollen body and periodically yelping out in pain from having to turn half an inch to the side, the sudden image of me putting those strappy heels on made me burst out laughing. I was laughing at the pure absurdity it would be to try to shove my "shrek feet" into those strappy gold heels. Never-the-less, I want to be a woman in those heels again! I want to wear red lipstick and show off my legs and show up way over dressed for something. I want to sniff a glass of red wine and act like I know way more about it than I do.
There is a part of me that desperately misses my old bedroom (the last one I occupied before here) because I have so many memories of getting ready for evenings where I felt like that. I often contemplate how my life would have been different had I stayed in Atlanta, what kind of a woman I would have become.
I feel that my twins and this pregnancy are magic, they are my reward for having the courage to leave, not my burden. Had I stayed in Atlanta and not made this move, I wonder if I would have continued to drink away my thirties and find myself ridden hard and hung up wet in 5 years, with no magical African born twins and salt and pepper haired husband to show for it. I often think that is the case.
In this state, in this perpetual state of physical expansion and discomfort, I long to feel like that budding late twenties woman that drank and smoked and still thought that people weren't really as bad as I now know they can be.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
but really I feel like this:
Okay there, I said it. I am suffering, big time. Here is my list of complaints:
my feet and ankles are swollen unrecognizably
I have itchy skin
I am so heavy it hurts to stand up, sit down or roll over
I can't cook or clean or prepapre anything for the babies arrival
socializing is almost too much of an effort for me at this point
I can feel myself OUTGROWING my MATERNITY CLOTHES!
I live with a constant deep and insatiable hunger
trouble breathing due to the transverse baby across the top of my chest
totally psychadelic dreams
totally bitchy attitude to the husband unit because let's face it...he did this to me
a feeling of being totally handicapped
I can't even think about bending over(or forward more than two inches)
and then some other not so pleasant pregnancy symptons that i will spare you from having to contemplate
But really truly the worst and biggest one of all of my complaints is this constant awareness that I want my babies. I am ready to hold them and love them and feed them and not sleep because they are on the outside of me. That is coupled with the keen awareness that they have to stay inside for longer and that I can't wish too hard to see them just yet. I have, at minimum, another 5 weeks to go. That will put me squarely at 37 weeks.
I always thought I would be the picture of grace and ease during pregnancy. Way more Grace Kelly than Elizabeth Taylor's Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf. But honest to goodness, while there are definite sweet and beneficial times to being pregnant, it really really really can suck. People who say otherwise, I am convinced, ARE LYING. Or they had really easy pregnancies. I think the fact that I am already carrying the baby wieght (over seven pounds of baby between the two of them) of a 9 monther of a singleton pregnancy is greatly contributing to my complete and utter discomfort. I also realize that even with singleton pregnancies it can be really really challenging for the woman. I have women soemtimes tell me, oh well, you are suffering double than her or stuff like that and I don't agree with that attitude at all. In fact, it pisses me off for pregnant women everywhere! I think that each body is made differently and maybe mine is made to carry a twin pregnancy better than some women are made to carry a singleton pregnancy.
Okay, off the soap box now and done complaining, thanks I feel much better now! (not really) Going to make myself have contact with the outside world.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
With the crisp fall air swirling around my mostly housed-in head, I have been feeling the urge to write again. To reflect, speculate, bedazzle and proclaim.
~How I FEEL about Paris today~
I still dream of Paris. I still long for Paris. Especially NOW as the last time I was there was this time of year, a year ago. The last time I was there I bought my brown trench coat and wore patterned scarves. I ate beef tartare and drank a 13 euro bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape from the grocery store. I was certain that my life would be taking a different direction than it is now. I thought I was so set in my identity, my comfy, cosy, American, successful, working identity.
I was a red wine drinker, a connoisseur, a poet, single, short haired and fabulous. I had lovers but I wasn't willing to call it love. I was known for my alcohol drenched black forest cake and the various stamps in my passports.
This feels like so very long ago. For now...a year later, I am less than two months away from being a mother, of two children. I have had to give up fashion for comfort and red wine for pregnancy vitamins.
When I see fashionable women walking in clunky heels and flowing fall skirts around Casablanca there is a part of my heart that just jumps right out of my chest and into the middle of the on coming traffic. I long for that feeling so desperately. I long to feel sexy and have a neatly compressed waistline. I long to be stressed out from doing too much, lifting too much, stressed from working too much to bring home the bacon and the weekend dinner party and the friend drama and all of those aspects of normal people life that I have utterly withstood from for the past 8 months.
While this pregnancy and this time in my life is one of the most precious and wholesome transitions I have ever experienced, I am ready for what comes after. I am ready to show my husband that I am more than a 200 pound rolly-poley that can't flip my own self over.
Speaking of him...my god...what a blessing he is. In my eyes he is the only man on this entire earth that can manage to make me feel that I am still desirable while in this state.
Does he want Paris? He, like everyone I have ever loved, would move to Paris for me in a heartbeat. The difference between him and those before him is that he actually has changed continents for the love of a woman, he has lived in North America, the middle east, Asia and Africa. All of his own accord, all working and traveling and taking his cheesy smiling photos along the way. He has been in debilitating motorcycle crashes and had his entire kitchen staff conspire against him. He has opened restaurants and ended relationships and returned home to care for his mother. He has done so much. I am quite impressed with his life resume. I think he is my soul mate and I fear that he will be taken from me every second of every day. But I am so thankful that we have this time together and it is him who made me pregnant.
So yes...back to Paris, I have more faith in our ability to change our lives and venture out into the world together than I have ever had in any relationship.
All of that being said, I don't know if Paris is within my reach anymore. I don't know what kind of a job it would take, to get papers for a family, to rent an apartment for four instead of one. To make enough money to happily raise two children living in the city. I know people do this in Paris, lots of them do this everyday. I am not giving up completely, I am not saying it is impossible. I am just saying it seems a little out of reach. It was out of reach when it was just me but now it is me plus three.
to be contd...
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
I am happy to report that now, over a full year later I am starting to feel a little bit healed from the traumatic events that pushed my life forward and into the exciting direction it is facing now. I hope that makes sense. I guess what I mean to say is that time heals all wounds and I was really really wounded on July 14th of 2008. It has taken me this long, not to feel better, but to feel not afraid or hurt when thinking of certain subjects or people.
I think that is progress, I think my heart is truly healing. I can listen to certain songs, talk about certain subjects, and again remember certain people without it, at the very least, rendering me very uncomfortable.
I have gotten here, to this healed place through massive amounts of love, affection, hope and grace. This is undeniable. I am now looking forward to continuing to trod this path of healthy loving trust in the good things in life.
(anyone think I'm just hormonal?)
Friday, September 11, 2009
So...Ramadan has been good...I guess.
I'll say this, I have enjoyed the food and the night life. Casablanca comes alive around 9:00pm every night. I also come alive and then STAY alive until about 5am every morning. People don't eat and drink anything until 7pm so the earliest you could possibly go to sleep would be 12am but really it is more like 1am or 2 am, because you know, who can work all day, then eat, then drink, then rest, then go back to sleep. No, that is not the way people roll over here during Ramadan. Instead you go out, meet friends, go shopping, have coffee, hang out, whatever. Then everyone is tired all day (which actually works perfectly for my very pregnant pace just now).
On Working during Ramadan:
Business meetings are relaxed, the shops and banks and businesses close down at 4pm latest and re-open afterwards, so I have started doing night classes and I love the night schedule.
On Street Fights during Ramadan:
There are daily fights around 5pm and I mean EVERYDAY. We go up to the roof to watch them and sometimes they even have machetes, no shit. I am all "isn't it like really bad if you machete someone to death while you are fasting?" and Youssef is all, "nah, well, I mean I guess it'll get you like 7 years in the clinker".
What else? OH yeah, everyone's breath stinks!!!!! Horribly!!!!!!!! And no one wears perfume or cologne during the day, only at night.
On Breaking the Fast during Ramadan:
I have gotten super awesome butt kicking bad ass at preparing the breakfast (called f'toor in Moroccan and Iftar in Arabic). In fact, since the first week Youssef can't time an iftar on his own to save his poor little starving self if his life depended on it.
On Me-Walking-in-the-Street during Ramadan:
One of the best Ramadan perks EVER is that I do not get harassed on the streets!!!!! Not by beggars or incredibly perverted men that got a thing for the belly bump. It kind of pisses me off though that the entire male population of Casablanca is so damned able to be respectful and decent and NOT ogle me as I go buy, but normally just choose to do so anyways, you know, when it's not Ramadan. It means that these schmucks are capable of controlling themselves and their utter daily harassment is a CHOICE they make every time they choose to harass, whisper at or follow a woman on the street. Which, okay, of COURSE it is. But I guess the fact that it not so deeply ingrained that the worst of the worst of the harassers are able to be respectful, because thinking sexual thoughts would break their fast, is just a little insulting.
So there you go. I have turned into a vampire, I get to break all the rules because I am pregnant and a foreigner and we get invited to eat out alot. Oh and I also added a fourth meal to my day, AT MIDNIGHT!
Thursday, September 03, 2009
Names, for the film buffs this should be easy:
Saturday, August 22, 2009
SO...it is the first day of Ramadan and I feel a little let down by the whole thing. I mean for the past 6 months all things have revolved around the impending holiday season of Ramadan. Things in my life as well, for as soon as Ramadan is over, we are so almost there with the babies. But on to the disappointment stuff...
All talk of vacations, visits, the summer, the really good stuff that my life generally revolves around has, itself, revolved around Ramadan this year. So any good Muslim would never show disappointment or anger or the, you know, "why the hell does my summer vacation have to be interrupted by Ramadan" attitude. So everyone has been all positive and accepting and totally zen about Ramadan coming, for the past 6 months.
In the recent weeks leading up to Ramadan there has been a general excitement over the food that will be eaten every night and the dinners that we will all attend and that kind of thing. I think it is an example of psychologically psyching yourself up for something on a national level. It is good, it makes sense, I mean who wants to listen to whining and resentment and agony over something that will be happening regardless.
So in all of this getting 'pumped' for Ramadan, I have gotten a little swept away in the excitement as well. I also managed to get myself right slab in the middle of a river of nervous anticipation about when Ramadan actually begins. Everyday for the past two weeks I have been asking everyone that mentions Ramadan, if we know yet, if the moon has been spotted yet, how will we know, who will announce it, how will the people that don't have TVs know it is, in fact, Ramadan, and Aren't you worried about it, how can you just sit there calmly and not FREAK OUT about EXACTLY when the first day of your month of fasting begins?!?!?!
In my questioning, I was told the following things:
there will be loud speakers that announce Ramadan all over the country
it will be announced from all the mosques
the king will announce it
there will be a procession of men that come through my neighborhood with trumpets and horns (people generallly do the obligatory gesturing and bemmp bemmmp bemmmp sound mimicking a horn for me at this point)
these same men will come back to wake everyone up at 4:00am and remind everyone to eat before sunrise
So, Ramadan began today and do you know how much of that happened???? NONE OF IT! That's right, the only reason we even knew Ramadan was beginning, was because Youssef got a phone call from one of sisters. I was all, noooo, that can't be it, how does SHE know? Where are the guys with HORNS? Where are the LOUD speakers? I don't believe it's Ramadan tomorrow, I don't think YOU really know what is going on with this whole Ramadan thing YOUSSEF...
So we turn on the telly, search for a Moroccan news channel and sure enough, it's Ramadan...just like that. I think the highlight of the moment was a visiting uncle from the states blurting out, "yep it's Ramadan, manyana no comida".
Totally anti-climatic!!! I am still upset about it and I am not even fasting, I would be PISSED if I were actually fasting.
In fact I even ran to the windows a couple of times thinking it was the horn guys or singing from the mosques. Youssef was all "It's just a motorbike going by, they aren't coming, accept it, move on", but...but...maybe they will come later, "yeah I don't think so, but maybe you'll hear the 4:00am wake up thingy".
And I didn't.
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
I have really been avoiding this one. It is just so big. I haven’t really known where to start. But here goes.
As I was zooming through the city in a petite taxi, on the day of my 30th birthday, clad in a zebra stripped one piece swimsuit and large brimmed red hat, I started to contemplate the irony of the day. My first day finished with work, my first day being 30, pregnant with twins, wearing a one piece (zebra stripped). I thought back on the wildly ambitious previous decade of my life. The decade I decided to leave my husband, house and dog and move to France. The same decade that I came back from France to settle into a life of trying to get out of America again. The decade during which I was constantly employed, constantly chasing promotions, whether it be to bar back or director. The decade during which I mended family ties, fell in love and had my heart broken over and over again, put myself through a university degree, learned to speak and read and write two other languages. That decade, of being 20 to 29 was soooo intense! Towards the end I became very tired, weary. I remember during my final days in Atlanta just wanting to sleep for a long while. I remember not being very ambitious about getting in the out and about in Paris while I passed through the past two times, I remember just wanting to get here to North Africa and rest for a bit. Sleep for a bit, take my time, and enjoy my life. Learn to cook better, learn to forgive those who hurt me, learn to garden better, grow up a bit, and start the rest of my life afresh.
So we are back to the taxi scene and my contemplating all of this and I suddenly realize that it is my first day as a basically stay at home mother. I made it to 30 and then I stopped working and had kids. What? Huh? How the hell did that happen? When was that EVER part of the plan? Oh yeah right, the whole time. I always knew I wanted children, I always said children when I said “I want children” not, I want a child, which never felt right to say. I always said “I want to have children out of the country”. Check. “I want to give them different languages, preferably French, to go with the English they will inevitably speak”. Check. “I want to take it at least 6 months to be with my children after I have them”. Check.
Now I know I am fast forwarding a bit here and projecting way out into the future, but this is the job deal, my work closes down for the month of August and September, after that I am on maternity leave for 3.5 months minimum. I am not sure when I will go back to work but I am thinking sometime after 2010 hits, probably around April of 2010. That will give me time to feed the babies and get used to being a mom and get myself ready for whatever comes after.
So while I am not really a stay at home mom because we have chosen that I should stay at home and do that roll, I am a stay at home mom to be by default. Because twin pregnancies are tough and I need to rest, not teach and pace and walk too much.
I look forward to getting my ambition back one day, I look forward to wanting more than exactly what I have right now, but let me just say, this is nice too. This contentment and respect for a slower pace of life. For those of you who know me I am sure it will be hard to imagine me taking this much time to do things. But I have had to slow down with everything I do. That is pregnancy. I have had to slow the pace at which I walk to a near crawl, otherwise I get horrible cramps and have to stop walking completely on the street. I have had to slow the pace at which I eat. The pace at which I stand up and sit down and plan vacations has all changed. That is being pregnant and so far that is being 30. Like I said, I am sure things will speed up again and I look forward to that but for now, this is me, just being.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Tha kaftan is a traditional Moroccan dress reserved for special occasions such as weddings and pre-wedding celebrations. I have spent the past two months of my life fretting over my debut pregnant kaftan look. We were invited to a wedding that was deemed such a big deal that not just any old wear a kaftan any kaftan would do. I started my preparations at first mention of the wedding, having learned the importance of the kaftan from the last wedding I attended, which was two weeks after I arrived.
I bought the Femme du Maroc issue with the Marrakesh kaftan show photos. I picked out the cut and envisioned the pattern and material I wanted. I consulted with the family kaftan maker and picked out braiding to go with… and then I got busy and woke up with two weeks left until the wedding and no kaftan in sight.
That two weeks turned into one and then I spent almost every day for 7 days, trying to find a kaftan. I browsed in and out of shops, I was escorted into peoples homes and given kaftans to take with me. I had appointments set up with even more shops, learned that in kaftan rental protocol you do not, in fact, get to try on every kaftan you like. I was introduced to the market of kaftan rental shops that are not shops at all, but rather peoples homes, sometimes small homes sometimes sweeping villas full of women trying on hundreds of kaftans in the back rooms.
I got my hair done, my eyebrows waxed, bought shoes and finally decided on a kaftan (rental for one night as they cost around 6500dhs to buy). At the end of it all I was out by about 1000dhs and countless hours of my energy, but I had a kaftan I felt good about and I learned a lot about how to do it better next time.
I also became a lot closer to one of my sister in laws who took me under her wing to secure my adequacy. So here is a big big thank you to Soumia. Thank you for taking me to the doctor in the middle of it all, taking me shopping everyday of the week last week, and calming me down through every hormonal tear filled out burst that I experienced through out the process! Thank you for talking me into attending the henna party the day before the wedding and not wearing a dress but instead just wearing the damned kaftan I had been given for the day.
~How I Feel about Paris today~
I really miss Paris sometimes lately. I want my babies to know the city and sometimes I long for it. I long for the food and the sidewalks and the fact that I was always single and childless and not with swollen belly while there. The truth is though, I love it that I have that time. The time I had in Paris and Atlanta and everywhere else in between that I traveled to. I am thankful that I am pregnant now and the woman that I was before this took that time and went to those places and walked around without swollen belly, ignorantly blissful and eternally suffering.
Wednesday, July 01, 2009
The first time I met her…I hated her. As is often the case with those I find most dear. I took a verbal lashing from her that had not too much to do with me and everything to do with some pretty f’ed up working conditions. It was my first week in Casablanca and I was assigned to observe her class at the tobacco company. I finally got her to agree to let me go along (as there was no way I wasn’t going to go) and we (barely) arranged a meeting time and place. I told Youssef that evening, “well I met the other American lady today and she was really really rude to me and I have to go across town with her tomorrow and I am rearing up for it. Oh, and she said we are taking the bus”. WHAT???!!!!! THE BUS!!!!??!!! [cue in evil theme music of doom] Everyone and I mean EVERYONE, from the janitor to the owner of the school, from Youssef’s mother to the friggin’ butcher in the medina had warned me against taking the bus, the evil, dreaded, unsafe, no place for you, Casablanca public bus. And now here was this…woman, colleague, telling me we were taking the bus. I was intrigued, curious and actually kind of relieved and scared at the same time.
So I show up at said time and she shows up and spits out that we are taking a cab. I had been all prepped and reared up and ready to offer to pay for the cab and insist we take one but then give in to taking the bus. But no, she says “there’s no way I am gonna be the evil villain that takes you on the bus for the first time, they will try to crucify me for it”. I was disappointed and relieved.
So we hailed a cab, her instinctually explaining to me best practice tactics for getting the cabs and how to behave and what to watch out for once inside. Things were going fine and she had set our meeting time so we would have time for a coffee before the class. Once we get across town she announces she is taking me to a coffee shop that is off the beaten path, so to speak, one where the coffee is cheap and the dealings inside are shady.
I remember how we sat outside so I could smoke cigarettes and the wind was blowing wild and it was alternating between sunshine and rain. I remember the smell of the hookahs burning inside and the crazy looking woman who left the drunken men inside the darkened café to take our order. We ordered our drinks and I began to feel the need to know more about this controversial figure with whom I was having coffee. I began my usual questioning, probing for information. She answered my questions and I got the very faint feeling that I might actually like her. If nothing else she was wild. She was a bus riding, seedy café frequenting, wild woman. I liked her history, and I liked it that she wasn’t scared of the bus or the waitress or our boss. I liked it that she acknowledged that she was rude to me, that was all I needed from her not for the apology but just to know that she knew.
The next time I saw her was over another coffee at another somewhat less seedy café (but still not totally on the up and up). And she was the only one that would answer my questions directly and honestly. I decided I would allow my self to like her even more. It was on the third time we met that I started to realize how intelligent she is. How funny and true her observations of the city are. And the rest is history. I confided her my pregnancy. She makes me virgin bloody marys and beans on toast and we sit at hers or mine or some seedy café for hours talking about our previous lives and who we thought we were and how irrelevant that all seems right now. We have traveled together twice and she has an incredible capacity to chill out and sit still which is sometimes the reprise I need from Youssef and his constant motion. She lets me sit on her couch and stare at the wall for hours if I need. She calls me “oh pregnant one” and sometimes we get into it about politics or people or whatever and it is always okay afterwards because neither one of us is scared of directness or confrontation. I met her at the most vulnerable, the most incapacitated nauseated, pregnant, newly adjusting to life in Africa, time in my life. I grew to love her strength and ease and it comforted me because it reminded me that I too am a wild woman. I too am someone that people sometimes hate when they meet because I am honest and I react to things and sometimes I am in a whirlwind of my own passionate drama that will swirl up the innocent bystanders. During these months, that I have grown a friendship with this woman, I have not been myself, but she has been a constant reminder of that self I was too sick and too shell shocked to be. Thank You Jill. I am sad you are leaving tomorrow and you will be sorely missed. I have no replacement, no other go to girl to spill it to. No other wild woman in my life here.
~ How I feel about Paris today ~
She loves Paris more than any of it too.
Friday, June 26, 2009
I am finally on the way, 9 years later to this festival. there were many near cancellations and obstacles but I can happily report that we are heading out with a car load of ESL teachers, a Moroccan husband and a gluten free peach cobbler (random, I know). Very excited to meet the Moroccan crew there already waiting in the apartment we have rented together. We should be there tonight if all goes well.
There are some days when I wake up and I miss home so badly and feel so weirded out by the dull realization that this is now my home. These are transitional times for me. Today, however, is not one of those days. my previous life merely feels like the preparation for this one today. I am so happy to be here, to be realizing this dream of attending this festival and going with great company and high spirits. It has been 5 years since I last visited Essaouiria and I can't wait to see it again although this time it will be transformed by half a million concert goers! And by the way i have never had access to such abundant amounts of really good free music as there is here in Morocco (except of course when i am hanging out with my uncles and the lot). It is truly staggering the amount of free concerts that started in April and will continue all summer.
I will be sure to update on the festival when I return. I wish you a magical weekend!
Friday, June 05, 2009
Then last month the landlord stopped by for her monthly inspection of the place about 5 minutes after I had my morning puking ritual, to find me still clad in a bathrobe, with sleep in my eyes and my hair alternating between sticking straight up and plastered to the side of my face. She (the landlord) came in, made herself at home, filled out my rent receipt and began the half hour talk we have every month:
Her: the place is niiiice no?
Me: yes, it's great (this is what I said), except we sleep in the living room, we don't have a bed yet, it is too humid and we are wallowing in filth because I am too sick and too lazy to get off my ass and do anything about it (this is what my face said)
Her: so yeeesssss, the place is nice, you are happy, everything is good, very goooood
Me: yes, the place is nice, I am happy everything is perfect
Her: you see, the apartment is nice, some apartments are nice when you move in and you are happy there and this is one of them
Me: Oui Hajja, the apartment is very nice (reality) and it has fixed everything in my life and most of that is because you are a respectable, hardworking woman that lived here yourself for ten years and took care of your home and prayed everyday and that is why the place is good (what she really wanted to hear)
Her: well you know...
Her: The wife of the concierge downstairs can clean for you
Her: yes, she is very niiiiiiccceee, she can help you
Me: okay okay, point taken, you think I am an American slob that can't pull myself out of bed anytime before noon and that I let us live here in filth and choke on dust, and well maybe you are right but I have a really good reason for not wanting a maid...I am just trying to remember what that is (internal dialogue, of course)
And thus it came to be, it took me another month to give in, but by golly gee, what kind of a fool am I? That woman, the one in there in the kitchen right now transferring water from bucket to bucket and skipping around this place, high on the self satisfaction of helping us poor schlubs, is a friggin' magic woman, and I love her. She even allows me to be a better partner to youssef; I think I am starting to understand how this whole thing works. She cleans everything and I pick up after myself and have way more energy and inspiration to do things like cook and act like I am super efficient and able to run a household, she is my beard so to speak. She makes it appear that I am actually capable of having a home that looks as clean as mine does now. I am telling you people, it is the best thing that has ever happened to me. Even if she did just drag my ass up to the roof, in my bathrobe, to school me on how to properly hang clothes on a rooftop!
Pictures to follow…
~How I feel about Paris today~
There ain't no way I could afford this in Paris, this woman had changed my entire perspective about things!I am even thinking of naming one of my unborn children after her, or maybe I will just give her one of them!
Thursday, May 21, 2009
This is an embarrassingly long time to go in between posts but I promise I have good reason for it. I have been sick, sick as a dog, for oh about 13 weeks now. I'm just going to jump right in here, rip off the band aide and stuff like that. I am counting my sickness in weeks because that is how pregnant I am. Of course minus the two weeks added to conception. The funny thing about that is that two weeks before conception I was not in this country and hadn't seen the babies' (yes, plural) daddy in about 8 years!
So There you go, pregnant, in Casablanca with Youssef's babies. Twins, two of em'. What do you know? How am I you ask? Happy, elated, finally going to be a mom. Expectant, nauseous all the time, thankful.
There are certain things that I have been saying over and over again for a very long time now. Things like, I want to be a mother but i want to leave the US before that, things like I want to have children in a city where I can walk to the market everyday and don't have to drive. Things like, i want to give my children the gift of speaking more than English fluently from birth. Well, I get all of that here. Plus a husband.
He who labors for me in the kitchen on the nights when the choice is either lie still or puke. He who secures a different car for every doctor's visit because we don’t have one yet. He who tells me I am more beautiful than I have ever been. He who said, "be my companion, please". He who I loved first, always and will love last. That is certain. He who picked me up at the airport and I knew in the first minute it was still there, still that pull, the attraction, the intensity, the complexity of the way we understand one another. He who has grey hair now that sparkles in the sunlight when we meet on street corners all over this big beautiful city. After work and in between on our lunch breaks like we always did. I love the grey, the salt and pepper. I love it that I knew him and loved him and had him when he was young and strapping and full of black curly hair all over his head, and I love the refined style of his mid to late 30s and the way he carries his experiences carefully like a pail of water he is careful not to spill out so as to wet me too much. I love him all the time. He is my closest friend and he will be the father of my children and I trust him more than I have ever trusted anyone.
I feel that at the end of the day, at the end of it all, the end of the suffering and the betrayal that it was only he who originally wounded me that is forever healing me. It is a case of very good timing for us. And we are both elated. I even love it when we fight and he is passionate and he yells and I see his tender care and exaggerated sensitivity to all that exists in his world. I trod carefully in theses moments, there is a respect there that I have never had for a lover. There is a deep emotional bond that is full of respect and tenderness for him and I protect this fiercely and instinctually.
I can't imagine doing this, this two baby thing, with anyone else in the whole wide world.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
This is my new job. Going from major office building to major office building and teaching some of the most well off people in the city. The good thing about the job, I am like an independent contractor, having only to check in with the school weekly. The rest of the time I just show up at my gig. The great thing about my job is that I am getting to see so many different neighborhoods and buildings and meet people that I would not normally have access to.
The downside here is that I am meeting people that are economically able to out dress me. I think it is generally known that you do not become an ESL teacher to get rich. The thing is, I am used to teaching international students who are themselves living in a different country, most of the time working under the table and generally struggling. I am not used to this new breed of Moroccan corporate executive, dressed to the nines with an attitude to match. This is new for me. I am certainly learning to adapt. I am learning which sectors are worse than others with this stuff. I am also getting to know these students and thoroughly enjoying their company during class.
But there are these moments where I find myself waiting in the lobby of a massive bank, with the seam around my left ankle totally frayed and dust marks on my boots, starring at the parade of high heeled boots, fishtailed mini skirts and extremely tailored black trench coats, marching by. In these silent moments for me it is a struggle to feel up to it. It is a struggle to quiet the demonic voice in my head telling me to enroll in intensive private French classes and "give these people your CV woman so you can dress like that too"!!!! In these moments I have to remind myself that I left and, before that, turned down the access to this kind of a life. I have to remind myself that I had a three hour nap in the middle of the day and I walk along on the shore on my breaks between classes and eventually I'll get some new clothes!
Then the class got cancelled and I had some of the best ice cream I have ever tasted at a café called Oliveri. They specialize in ice cream. I only know that Oliveri and their ice cream even exist because I work in the neighborhood and figured it out on my own. So yeah, not the best dressed person at Oliveri but maybe the proudest.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Wow - That took a while. But I'm back...from outer space...I just walked in to find you...Okay I'll stop. I just got this live wire connection to the internet like 5 Minutes ago, I promise.
So my life, my brilliant life in Casablanca... Boy oh boy, let's just say I have jumped in head first to this one people. It has been 4 weeks and two days and my place looks like I have been living in it for 6 months. I hang the towels out of the living room window to dry every morning and when I go and pull them in, in the afternoon, they smell of the salty sea that is 5 minutes away.
I am quickly and fiercely falling in love with the city. As I am learning the neighborhoods, streets, cafes, bakeries, shopping districts, I am falling more and more.
Casablanca is the mother load of everything I have ever said I wanted in a city. Let me explain:
First of all, it is huge.
Second of all, it is a linguistic oasis (although some days I find this very challenging).
Thirdly, it has an ocean (45 minutes walking distance to a beach, 5 minutes walking to the shore).
Fourth of all (can I say that), the food is out of control good, the shops are out of control good.
The city is much Europeanized, which is a little good and a little, well honestly, that's mostly good for me. I'll tell you why...because I get both here. I get the little European posh posh side of things that I love and I get the disorderly, passionate, affectionate, ancient fusion of African and Arab culture which I have always loved.
The city is a meeting point of language and culture that constantly keeps me on my toes. It is a daily challenge filled with eccentric characters and lots of lots of mint tea. I am Happy here.
Friday, March 06, 2009
I love my job, I love my spare time to think and listen to music and take care of myself. I love my walks everyday. The city is big and exciting and has so much character. And of course, to be expected, the people are crazy and funny and mostly very nice.
I will write more soon. A real story and update with photos and what not.
Friday, February 06, 2009
Once upon a time in a rather pricey apartment in midtown Atlanta there lived a girl who purchased a lemon tree. She acquired the tree on whim one day while purchasing a literal ton of dirt at home depot. It was an early day and she was implored by her father to take his monster truck to the home depot to purchase the dirt they needed for their garden. That same garden grew so wild and bountiful that particular summer. She has bittersweet memories of being stung by the spiky little thorns, deep into the summer, while picking the squash that fed her entire family. She has a very big family so this was no small feat.
So we place the girl at home depot with the monster truck and her father’s credit card. She had been dreaming of fields of lavender and olive trees and so the lemon tree display was something that fit into her romanticized version of the artisan life she wanted to live. She bought the tree with her father’s card and jokingly told him thanks for the lemon tree as she loaded it into her smaller truck to take home when the day’s planting had finished.
This is a very fond memory for the girl.
She found a beautiful decorative pot large enough to house a young tree and placed the tree on her back porch in a particularly sunny corner. She cared for the tree, watering it and protecting it from visiting guests. When she had someone over that she didn’t trust not to ash in her lemon tree pot or carelessly rub their chair against the leaves, she herself would sit by the tree to ensure no harm would come in it’s direction. The tree made beautiful fragrant flowers that then fruited and began to grow what appeared to be limes.
People made good fun of the girl and told her she had a lime tree not a lemon tree. She told them they did not know anything of her tree and if they just waited long enough they would see that it was in fact a lemon-bearing tree not a lime tree. Eventually she herself grew impatient and cut the green citrus fruit to add to Mexican beer, but not all of it. She left three fruit on the tree to grow to their full potential.
She began to loose hope that the limes would ever turn into lemons and it became a joke among her circle of friends. Thne one day the last remaining lime started to turn yellow. It continued to grow from a low branch until it finally, plumply sat on the top of the dirt in the pot. Pulling it’s branch down with it’s massive weight. She waited more, she watered it more, she cared for the tree more. She had the tree, rather large at that point, moved inside when the cold came and continued to care for her one remaining lemon.
When the girl finally decided to leave her life, leave her city and leave her lemon tree* she cut the lemon and carried it with her to her temporary residence. While cleaning out the depths of her pantry before leaving her home she found a canister of culinary lavender that she had ordered in the previous year when her dreams of fields of lavender were at their height. She brought the lavender with her as well.
It was on no particular evening, deep into winter, passed the rush of holiday cheer and too soon for any sign of spring, that the girl decide to bake a cake with lemon and the lavender**.
She made a masterpiece. She knew it was only a cake and would not be preserved for all time as she had somehow hoped these dreams of hers would remain. She used her ingredients and it filled up the house she was staying in with a heavenly aroma of Meyer lemon and lavender. She will keep this cake recpipe in her repertoire of special cakes she makes for special occasions.
She was happy and sad. She was joyous and devastated. She was embracing of her future and mournful of her past. She will let go, she will move on. She will be okay, better than okay. Her life will be filled with different kinds of aromatic magic in a distant land. She will eat this cake while she celebrates and mourns the passing of time and youth and broken dreams and hearts. She will remember all that she has lived through with each bite of her magical cake and at the end of her slice… She will let go of these things and step boldly into her future.
*In, the end the girl decided to give the lemon tree to her father as she knew he would carefully tend to it’s branches and fruit for as long as it was able to live. She knew that he would think of her each time it fruited and want her to see the fruit and his heart would be as heavy as hers will be each spring when she feels that unstoppable urge to dig in the ground and understands that it is something inside of her bones. It is a lineage and a heritage to come from a people who till the earth for their bounty. And she will think of her father and yearn for his guidance with her garden.
**She took the lavender with her to Morocco. She is planning on making the cake again soon and she figures she can get some damn lemons there.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
It is raining in Atlanta. It is late January, almost February. It is a warm, nostalgic rain with a blanket of grey pushing an urge to cozy back into bed. I am packing almost packed. The best and worst of my lovely possessions are being given away, almost gone.
I announced my resignation to my student’s yesterday. I tried to constrict the mile-wide smile from attacking my face as I said the words, “ I have accepted a position over –seas”. I then announced my successor and the students clapped and it was all over. They came up to me afterwards with their smiles and questions and well wishes. It was nice.
Wrapping up my life here has been a more difficult thing than one would think. A more difficult thing than I would have thought. I am not just talking about magazine subscriptions, of which I have almost all forwarded already. I mean the good-byes. I mean the sad disconnection from my support network.
As I am writing this, the wind outside has gone from a light trickle to a raging soulful, windy rain. It is knocking over objects on my porch and threatening to collapse the elder trees in the yard. And then it is gone again. This storm is reflecting the pattern of my emotions at this point. I go from a calm serenity to excited and happy to a raging, destructive, out of control fear and panic. And then it passes again and the cool air resumes itself where it should be on a late January day.
And I am off to continue to box the past two years of my life, donate it to people who need it and then start over again.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
And go…the language learning begins anew today. Did I ever tell you I spent two years of my life studying Arabic? No, well that’s because it was one of the most demoralizing undertakings I have ever…well…undertook. So, what am I doing instead of getting ready for work on this cold mid January morning in Atlanta? I am studying Arabic again. I gave it two years last time because it mattered. I would be lying if I fronted like it doesn’t matter, oh my goodness me, Arabic is such a pain, blah, blah, blah. Yeah right. The reality is that Arabic is the one challenge I could not conquer, the one ambition that left me blind and defeated, high and dry with a sore throat from practicing that little sucker you see at the top of the page. I wrote a poem to that letter once…about the way it tortured me.
I used to go straight for hot tea with honey after class so that I could go at again the next day. I was obsessed. I used to lock myself in these little glass rooms in the university library because they had white boards in them. I would write sentence after sentence after sentence of memorized script. I would stare at the board and repeat the sounds until none of it looked different anymore. I tried really hard, I swear. It is no surprise that during the hour before my last Arabic final, while studying in the library, my back seized up and before I knew what hit me I was on the floor unable to move. I had to be taken to the emergency clinic on campus and was given a heavy does of painkillers. I suffered from back pain for about a year after that. I am still afraid it will come back.
I showed up to that final though. My teacher told me I looked like hell and that there was no way he was letting me take the final. I begged. He let me in the class but said that if I failed the test he would not average it into my grade. I am not sure how I did on that thing, but I think I made a B overall in the class.
So yes, going back in for more now. The difference this time is that there will be no grade or grade point average following me around. Further more I will finally have access to the thing I then spent the next year obsessing over in socio-linguistics, the Moroccan dialect of Arabic. If you want to more about that click here.