Saturday, July 10, 2010

Amreeka the Beautiful

If you know me, you know that my favorite non-religious holiday of the year is, hands-down, the Fourth of July. I wouldn’t call myself a particularly patriotic person, but I just love the spirit of this holiday in America: families and communities gathering (usually) outside over big meals, neon carnivals with creepy carnies and canoodling pre-teens, fireworks displays to shock and awe.

There WAS a carnival this year...right next to the ancient Kasbah and below the mosque.

As I have spent more and more July Fourths outside of America, I have grown to appreciate what the holiday represents: democracy, the struggle for independence in order to build something stable for the next generation, universal suffrage, citizenship. All good things which are severely lacking in many non-democratic nations (ahem). As I’ve been immersed this year in learning about monarchy, authoritarianism, state terror and abuse, and civic nonparticipation, I was more excited than ever to get my groove on, so to speak, this Fourth of July.

My contribution to Jesse's baptism: USA! cookies... An homage to the mothaland.

The weekend (and yes, I celebrated for the entire weekend), begun with a trip back to Fes to celebrate with Marine Jesse as he prepared to leave the country and received a legitimate Arabic name. (Congratulations on your baptism, Abdel Jalil!) For this blessed occasion, he bought and slaughtered a sheep, which is the correct practice when endowing any newborn (or 30-year-old) with a name. Cooked it up into a tasty tagine, and invited friends from all over the country to a potluck. Of course this included dancing, hookah, and one very swollen watermelon, before we all crashed on the salon couches, snuggling head-to-toe.

The birthday boy, in his finest garb.

I snuck out early the next morning to visit Lalla Fatima. I used to visit this sweet old Gambian-Moroccan lady regularly back when I called Fes home (so long ago!). She is the half-sister of one of my old profs from the UW, and has become my surrogate grandmother in Maroc. We’d sit and have tea and speak in English and watch the Muslim equivalent to “The 700 Club” on tv. It was so good to see her again and to know that some things never change.

My sweet Moroccan granny, Lalla Fatima.

Quick! Catch the morning train back to Rabat (4 hours). Coffee and chocolate with my uber-chic landlady. Bake up my contribution to tonight’s 4th of July impromptu shindig at Sam and Rod’s. Then…it wouldn’t be a complete Independence Day without…surfing!

I surfed a little in Senegal and fell in love with it. And you already know that I have a love affair with the ocean. When I discovered that I live just a little ways from the Rabat Plage Club de Surf, I promptly registered for lessons and have been going regularly. And by lessons, I mean, “lessons”. Usually my “instructor”, Jelal, wishes me good luck and tells me to stay away from the big rocks. But surfing has become one of my favorite parts about living in Rabat. I plan on spending the entirety of Ramadan (this year in the yuckiest, stickiest summer months) on my surfboard.

Americans. In fine form.

Quick! Shower, head to the Dar Side for pizza (I abstained) and gluten-free cinnamon rolls and mojitos and hookah and Beyonce and Michael Jackson and plenty of National Geographic magazines with American friends. I barely had time to blow out my sparkler (just kidding, there were no fireworks, malheureusement) when I found myself at the Casablanca airport, waiting for my red-eye to take me to the Land of Legitimate 4th of July Celebrations. That’s right, peeps, I am home! For a whole month! I have lots of appointments and weddings and, yes, work to get done here, but it’s so nice to take walks with my parents, and have gluten-free pancakes and super speedy internet whenever I want. Ah, the a land of opportunity….

Hangin' Ten, towards the Oudayas. AKA: "Rockin' the Kasbah".