(Editor's note: Carson City resident Rebecca Goldenberg is serving in the Peace Corps in Tiznit, Morocco.)
The holiday season is upon us, even here in Tiznit, Morocco - Northern Africa. Well, maybe it's not exactly the same sort of spirit as back home.
Moroccans are celebrating their last week of the holy month of Ramadan. On one of the next few days, when the moon is just barely visible, King Mohammed VI will tell us all it's time to chow down again. My neighbors,
friends and the rest of Morocco have been fasting for nearly a month now.
Fasting during the month of Ramadan is one of the five pillars of the Islamic faith. I wouldn't say the holiday spirit is the most joyful here, I'd rather describe it as grumpy. It's very understandable though - everyone is hungry.
People may be a bit on edge, but a sort of community spirit is alive among them. Every evening at 10 minutes before 5 the sirens ring out to let the people know it's time to eat. Men literally take off into a sprint at the stroke
of 4:50 p.m. headed home carrying the freshly baked bread. I've noticed that outside the homes of the effluent the poor are gathered eating their "breakfast." Everyone eats the same foods for this first meal of
the day: Moroccan soup called harira, a sugary cookie called chebakia, dates and coffee. Except for the poor eating their meals on the steps of people's homes, the city feels devoid of life. I've walked the streets many of times while the town in enjoying their meal and I must admit it is the most peaceful time I've experienced here in Tiznit.
My plight to suffer along with the rest of this country lasted only seven long days. I got too hungry and gave in -sneaking meals inside my apartment with all the windows closed and the blinds drawn. I still fear my neighbors will smell the sweet perfume of peanut butter sandwiches on my breath when I leave my house after my devilish lunch.
No lights have been hung, nor are there Christmas trees in the windows of the homes I pass, but bells have been ringing. Two nights ago the prayer bells from the mosque rang for 10 minutes in the middle of the night. It was raining for the first time in five years and the bells were rung to wake the city up to pray to Allah (God) to say thanks. I awoke in fright since back home bells only ring like that if a disaster is in the works.
The neighbors were happy to explain though and my mind was put to ease. Of course, the freshly washed socks and shirts were soaked from the rain, but I was happy to celebrate the joy of the much needed water from the sky with my neighbors.
My acquisition to life here is still progressing in a positive manner. My language skills are coming along swheeya b swheeya (little by little). But even my knowing just the basics of Moroccan Arabic still surprises and excites shop owners when I ask the price for apples or oranges, or the beautiful red scarf.
Everyday though I do not forget I'm in a place far from home. Yesterday this reminder came in the shape of a chicken. As I sat waiting to meet a friend I took note of some chaos on the balcony of a neighbor's home. Out
of nowhere a chicken came falling through the sky. I'd say fly, but chickens don't actually know how to fly. It did flap it's wings frantically which eased the landing three flights down. Once on the ground the chicken sought escape - it must have known it's inevitable doom in staying near the home of it's owner. In the chicken's efforts to flea it began to dance with several men who surrounded it's escape route. At this point I knew the chicken was dancing for a lost cause, but I still found myself rooting for it. It took five men to end the dancing and take the chicken back to the owner. I sighed for the underdog, but knew this was the way it had to end.
It's not everyday chickens come falling from the sky, but it sure did remind me I wasn't home.
My Christmas will be spent in the mystic city of Marrakech with my Peace Corps "family." Someone has promised to bring cranberry sauce they had sent from America and another has promised to bring red and green Christmas M&M's also sent from the states. Anything that reminds us of home brings all of us joy and therefore American goodies are always shared among us.
Some much needed R&R from my life in Morocco will be taken for the New Years celebration. I'm headed to Italy to join Dave, Melody and Chris - Sicily here we come! I look forward to being in the company of people I love, plus
eating some gelato, pasta, and sipping on some Italian wine. What a wonderful way to bring in the New Year.
Wishing all of you the merriest of seasons and best of luck for the new year.
Rebecca Anne Goldenberg