Thursday, October 27, 2005
This morning I was at the cafeteria vending machine, when I ran into Ulrich, a guy from our company's site in Germany who was visiting this week after one of our company's user conferences in nearby Las Vegas.
We chit-chatted for a bit, exchanging the usual polite pleasantries, when as luck would have it the potato chips I was trying to purchase got stuck in the vending machine panels. When our exchange came at an end, and partly as an excuse to exit gracefully, I mentioned my quandry to my friend, and announced I was going to fetch another $0.75 to purchase my chips again.
Without any hesistation, he said, in heavily accented English: "Shall I borrow you something, so that you don't have to walk?", and immediately produced a dollar bill.
My cube is only 10 meters away from the cafeteria, so I expressed my thanks and declined the offer, but all the way to my cube and back to the vending machine (where my chips got stuck again for the second time, by the way), and then back again, I smiled as I thought that, with the broken English making it all the more endearing, how nice it was that in some countries guys still know how to be gentlemen.
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Life is now.
Yesterday I was bored after work, so I went home and read Book I of Rousseau's Social Contract.
Monday, October 24, 2005
Coming back to the US I found my senses were heightened. I could see more, hear more (my piano at home needs re-tuning), and, paradoxically after the strong spicy mixed smells of the markets and food of the Maghreb, I could also smell more.
Upon returning, the U.S. smelled like brand new plastic.
Saturday, October 22, 2005
There are lots of very old bills in circulation here. They must be at least ten years old, judging by the age of the coins in my pockets (coins always last much longer than bills) and the state of the bills themselves, crumpled, thin and soft as tissue paper, torn and broken and often mended with scotch tape, a bit like Mexican bills were about 20 years ago.
This must mean something in terms of economics, you know, the rate at which a bill is replaced must reflect something about the economic state of the country, but I don't know what, never having taken an economics class in school due to my aversity for the subject. Perhaps someone here can tell me in the comments (Carlos, give it a shot for me?), for I am quite sure that in the US a dollar bill circulates for a couple of years tops before it is replaced by a bank somewhere (and this is true now in Mexico too, not counting the new 20 peso note that is made of plastic, precisely to make it last longer, but without tears and the "tissue-papering").
Just like in Mexico 20 years ago, too (before the NAFTA and consequent influx of cheap repleaceable stuff from the US, a la "Walmart"), everything seems to have several lifespans here, things are very much recycled, but not in the "granola" sense: old medicine bottles, used shoelaces, cassete tape cases (that is, cassete tapes without the actual tape inside), vaccum tubes, metal pipe fragments, and all manner of odds and ends is sold and re-sold at old city souqs, typically near or at the outside of the walls, away from tourist eyes, and the clientelle for these goods is vast.
I asked a 26-year old from Rabat, how long did he think it would take for "things" (and I was deliberately vague when asking in terms of designating what exactly "things" were) in Morocco to get better. "I don't know," he said. "It may not be during my time, or my children's time, or my grandchildren's time, but in the meantime I will do whatever I can, because it is up to me, to make a better life for my children and those that come after me, even if I don't live to see the benefits."
Thursday, October 20, 2005
Started in 1987, and at a budget of about 800 million US dollars, the majestic Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca took only 6 years to complete....
The rest of Morocco is in a perpetual state of continuous, unfinished construction.
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Sunrise calls to prayer delayed two and a half beats in time at Largo, sung in two separate monotones perhaps an augmented 4th apart in the darkness of 5 o'clock in the morning off two separate Minarets in the Marrakech medina with an alarm siren wailing in the background.
Eerie, but strangely beautiful.
Saturday, October 15, 2005
Thursday, October 13, 2005
Hassan, our guide, weaves in and out of the labyrinthine corridors of the souqs of Meknès, and we hurry to keep up without losing sight of him, until eventually he just passes, reconsiders, and then returns to suddenly stop in front of a, to us random, door flush with the white old city walls. The door happens to be ajar, and from where we stand we can see the marble floors and elaborate tilework of the walls inside: it is a typical medina house, it seems.
"See here this floor," he says, "it is Italian marble, imported from Carrara. We import marble from Carrara since we don't have it here."
"What does Morocco export to Italy in trade for this marble?" I ask, already marvelling at the sure cost of these particular floors.
"Sugar," is the reply.
But then he adds after a short pause, as if in afterthought, in what we've come to perceive as a characteristically Moroccan pride and sense of humor: "We export sugar to the Italians, and we get this beautiful Carrara marble in exchange. But you see, Italians eat the sugar, and once it's eaten...poof! it is gone, but we...." (and here he gestures back at the white marbled floors) "we keep the marble."
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
We drive alongside the walls of the old city of Fès (the petit taxis are red here, in case it one day happens to be the $64,000 question for you, unlike in Rabat, where they are blue, or Marrakech, where they are beige, or even Tangier, where they are green, but like Casablanca....enough detail for you to win the game, you think?), and pass the unmistakeable golden arches of the empire of McDonald's, this particular locale decorated in green tile, the color of Islam.
With a hearty laugh replies our cab driver, upon being asked whether he ever eats there: "Americans already have lots of money. No need to give them more."
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Olives, in order from least to most flavor: yellow ones, light green ones, dark green, black, dark red, pink, and (not dark) red.
The best ones are the pink ones.
Monday, October 10, 2005
Heh. :) I travelled back in time yesterday. I think it is the first time I've managed to do that successfully: leave Madrid at 12:00 p.m, arrive in Tangier at 11:20 a.m.
Sunday, October 09, 2005
Approaching Tangier from Gibraltar, after landing, the first smell of Morocco that reaches my nostrils is that of Diesel and horses.
It is only later, in the late afternoon, strolling through the deserted cobblestone streets of the old Medina, that the month-long smell of Ramadan hits you: it is the mysterious and spicy aroma of warm bowls of harira being served deep inside the hidden Riads.
Thursday, October 06, 2005
"Hi, my dear, would you like to join me for dinner on Friday?"
"Ah, sorry, darling, but on that day I'm flying to Tangier."
Heh. I've always wanted to be able to say that to someone. :)
Saturday, October 01, 2005
Today I woke up and after I showered, breakfast, etc. I sat in front of the piano and basically played Bach all day.
Sometimes I pity my neighbors.