Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Ramadan and the medina tour

     There it goes, the call to prayer echoing again in through the window and around the city, filling our house with musical chanting and song. Just a couple of hours ago the cannon blasted while I was on the roof taking down the laundry (we hang it on the clothes line, just like everyone else around here) and as usual it shook the house and made me jump. I saw the puff of smoke this time, and the prayers started up again right after. The cannon blast means the end of the day's fast for Ramadan. They decide when to blast the cannon, not based on the "sun down" defined by a google search, they decide by holding up a black string and a white string and when it's dark enough that they can't see the difference, they set it off. They do the same at dawn, as soon as they see the difference another blast, and the fast begins.

The market
Yesterday we went with Jeff McRobbie, the director of Green Olive Arts, on a tour of the medina.

We started over near the King's Palace.

These are toothbrush sticks. Apparently people here buy these and chew the end. Then when it's frayed they brush their teeth with it. My stitches from my oral surgery had just fallen out yesterday and my mouth was hurting again, so these things kind of wigged me out.

The same vendor sold these. There are little rocks inside that crumble up and you can wash your hair with them.

Some beautiful decorated pumice stones.

      Jeff encouraged this vendor to dress Chloe like one of the traditional mountain women from this region.

Chloe already looking fabulous!

And here she is!!

Jeff showing us the leather workers shop. They had some beautiful purses they were handcrafting right there.

This craftsman was creating inlaid pearl boxes.

Some samples of his work.

      From here we entered the tannery. Deep breath and hold it!! (The tannery reeks beyond anything I can remember smelling in my life).

These are the vats where they treat the hides.

     One of these vats is full of pigeon poo. Apparently this is part of the process, it's also part of why it reeks.

This man is scraping down the plaster he applied to the back of the treated hides. Looks like an intense and exhausting job!

This is Mike in the narrowest alley of the whole medina!

And me in the same spot!

     Anyway, our life here seems to have started feeling more normal. I've started my project in my studio and the girls made it out to their first Arabic lesson today. I think it went well. For my part, today I learned to say "Thank you" it's "shokran".  One thing's for sure, though, I have so much more to learn!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Culture Shock

Yesterday morning we were out of coffee. Out of breakfast food and hungry. So the 3 of us who were awake went for breakfast.... To a cafe, we thought.  So we headed out our rather intense looking front door into the medina.

The puzzle door of many locks

I should mention the door looks amazing from the outside....

So off we went .

Mike and Naomi

As we headed out to the "Bab Tout" entrance things seems quiet and the market was open but not packed as usual.

A cartful of mannequins
We carefully walked through past this guy. One of the many roosters that crow continuously...

Boy were the streets quiet.

Naomi on the sidewalk

The fruit market was open but we needed coffee and food.

Waking up and diving out into this city without coffee or food first made us feel pretty disoriented.
We walked and walked and stores and cafes were closed. At Ramadan everyone stays up late for prayers and festivities and sleeps in through the morning of the fast, so very little is open. The night before there seemed to be many busy cafes along the walking street, but all were shut. Finally we were approached by a "tout" who spoke pretty good English. He said he knew a place and led us on a high speed walking tour all over the city.

King's palace

Past the King's Palace and back into the medina from an entrance we'd never been.

This side had many interesting stalls and people, but he walked very fast and kept saying "It's just up ahead!"

Finally after the hot, high speed walk he brought us up 4 flights of stairs to his mother's cafe, who was a very nice lady that served us breakfast.

The view was spectacular, and without her son we'd have never found anywhere to eat, but it's annoying to tip someone who accosts you on the street (though a very common experience).

It turns out that all those cafes we went looking at (that were closed) were "men's cafes" and we couldn't have gone in anyway. Later, Peter from the studio showed me where the "mixed" cafe was, so at least we have a clue for the future. Peter also showed me where the art supplies are and the book store and a western style grocery store! Now I won't have to ask for everything in the market, I can just put it into my basket!! YAY!

My goal today is to get started on my sculptural installation over at the studio. I have to keep my schedule to get it done

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Around the town

This morning Mike and I decided to head out explore the city and see if we can find our way out of the meandering  alleys of the medina, while the girls slept in.

Heading down our "street"

We took this photo of the name of our "street" to help us remember our way.

There are cats literally everywhere in this city.

A sleeping box of cats.

Me in the medina.

Finally out on the street.

A big cage in front of the mountains.

Images of King Mohammed VI are all around Morocco.

It was cloudy morning, in fact it's been overcast since we came to North Africa.

A stop sign.

       This building was one of our landmarks so we wouldn't get lost again. Last night we went out after dark to try to get dinner, but we arrived at the house in such a rush that day we were unsure of where we were. So we immediately got turned around in the medina and couldn't find our way to the street to find a restaurant. Finally a vendor was pushing some of his cooked potatoes and fish on us so I tried the fish, and we bought some potatoes. After getting a few things we went back to our riad.

I think it was around this spot this morning that the fish from that vendor the night before made my stomach cramp up and we had to rush back home.

         I was pretty sick all morning after that. Just as I was feeling better, Jeff from Green Olive Arts showed up. He took us over to the studio for a tour and orientation This is the sign out front. Everyone seemed incredible nice and the studio looks great! Jeff also gave me some activated charcoal and I've been pretty good ever since.

This is a photo of some masks I liked at a kiosk, mostly because I like masks. Anyway we've been doing laundry, getting unpacked and settled for the month ahead. 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The train to Tetouan

    Our time in Casablanca was very short, but we needed to move on and get to Tétouan in the north as my artist residency starts with orientation on Monday. So this morning we were up surprisingly early and quickly got ready to race to the train.

Waiting at the train station

Getting out of the apartment was a bit tricky. We managed to return the keys and get our ridiculous amount of luggage down the street to the boulevard.  Almost instantly upon standing there with our bags we had a red "petite taxi" parked next to us, as I was asking the driver about the train in my High School French (very crappy), another taxi pulled up. Suddenly we negotiated a price our luggage disappeared into the 2 cabs and we were on our way. After some fumbling we managed to buy some train/bus tickets to Tétouan. First we take the train for just over 3 hours, then transfer to the bus.

        It took us a bit to get our bearings in the train station, but soon enough we found track #8 and boarded our cabin.

   The girls started complaining that all I ever do is post pictures of them so I told them to take our picture for once. :)

Phoebe and Chloe putting up with a photo.

One of many stops during our over 3 hour train ride.

Construction by the tracks outside of Rabat.

      This is the toilet onboard in first class. As you can see there is a light at the bottom. That light is the outside and when you "go" you are actually peeing (or other) on the tracks at high speed!

        I have other photos from the train as we sped our way north, but the train was going fast and they are pretty blurry. As the Atlantic came into view, we reached Asilah and we needed to get off and hop on the bus... No easy feat with 10 bags, some of which are pretty huge.

As we wound our way into the mountains on the bus we passed this mosque.

This cute little town.

   The Rif Mountains were looking prettier by the second. We also passed about a hundred cows, donkeys, sheep and goats. 
   Before we knew it we were in Tétouan and being dropped off on the side of the road, not a station. I tried to call the owner of the riad we were renting who was picking us up, but my hours of French failed me on the phone. A man in the kiosk by the pay phone took over and helped Amed find us on the busy street. In fact it was so busy he couldn't stop in the street. He just drove right up to us on the sidewalk. People jumped out of the way without a thought.

He drove us through the city, parked outside the medina, and handed out our suitcases, then at a mad pace set into the crowded medina as we struggled to  follow in a line to the riad. It was madness trying to keep up through the market with the people and shops everywhere.

Here's Chloe writing in her room for the month.

This is the view of the hall from Phoebe's room.

This evening when the call to prayer echoed again through this city, I went to the roof to take photos at sunset.

The roof is actually my favorite place. It's breezy and you can see and smell the city and feel the ocean breezes but you're outside of it all.

Anyway, we are here and the adventure of our month in Tétouan has truly begun!

“As my artist’s statement explains, my work is utterly incomprehensible and is therefore full of deep significance”-Calvin (Calvin and Hobbs)


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