Sunday, May 06, 2007

Bad News Beard 3

I'll be going home soon, so I decided to make a list of some of the important lessons I've learned while I've been abroad. Here it is, in list form, Bad News Beard #3:

1. 1 bottle of vodka = 3 belgian beers.
2. you can always tell the point when a german gets too drunk when he starts singing the german national anthem.
3. moroccan girls are weird.
4. being abroad isn't as fun if you have to spend most of the time in bed.
5. german girls are weird.
6. the autobahn isn't as cool as i was told.
7. sudoku gets old after a while.
8. it's good to know how to speak more than one language.
9. moroccans are bad at terrorism.
10. you can't talk to puppies on msn messenger.
11. living in a country with lax copyright laws and enforcement is pretty awesome.
12. myspace is no replacement for a hug.
13. everytime you go away, you take a piece of me with you.
14. they don't make airplanes with me in mind.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Sink, Ifrane, Sink

This is what happens when I am on painkillers, Chrisoph sneaks his digital camera into my room, and Neyl gets his groove on.
*Warning for those with sensitive ears* - the f-word is said a couple of times, and we can't sing.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Bah, Hum-bunny

Well today's Easter Sunday. Right about now everyone back home is either in the kitchen preparing the big feast, playing with their new toys or eating their candy that the easter bunny brought, or sitting around watching TV or chatting with family. I know that my Grandma Frankie is in Williston for the holiday. I imagine here and Marlene are playing cards or sitting on the couch together chatting it up. Although I wish I could be home with my family today, this isn't going to be a sentimental post, but rather one of observation.

There are obvious differences between the American and Moroccan cultures. Too many to count or cite. But one difference I've noticed is how people celebrate holidays. For example, in Western cultures the birth of Christ is surrounded by the most extreme consumerism and commercialism for the entire year. Christmas is an event that results in paid time off from work, week-long vacations, people traveling hundreds and ever thousands of miles to be with family and friends, and the Christmas "season" lasts an entire month. It's a BIG deal.
However, in Morocco "Aid Almawlid Nabawi" which is the celebration of the birth of the Prophet Mohammed, came and went with barely even a whimper. No where in the entire country did I see a fabulously decorated Olive tree (to Christmas' Christmas tree), window decals, super-sales at the Marjane or in the medinas, and the school week went almost uninterrupted. While the academic calendar indicted a 4-day weekend for the holiday, we were only given one due to the fact that Aid Almawalid Nabawi fell on Sunday, and not Monday as had been anticipated. There were no carollers, big community events, plays, or concerts, or even tales of fat men dressed in red coming in the middle of the night to leave gifts for the children. In fact, there were much bigger celebrations for Valentines day, Halloween, and Christmas on campus than for any Muslim holiday.

What does this say about the two cultures? I've always been a little jaded towards the American/Western/Christian holidays. I've always felt that they are abused by corporations to increase sales and abused by people as a means to get more stuff. I've felt for a long time now that the true meaning of the holidays have been lost and buried under layers of greed and self-serving, gratuitous acts of "generosity". Easter is a little different in that it isn't so overboard with the buying and marketing, but the stores shelves are still stocked full of candy, little bunnies, plastic eggs, and baskets. The one redeeming quality to the holidays is that families DO get together for dinner and activities. This is something I truly miss during this Easter holiday.

Morocco, on the other hand, does the absolute minimum for the holidays. There was one day this year (I can't remember the name of the occasion, and if anyone knows please remind me) where there was big feast of lamb and the cities all but shut down. I believe it was the Muslim new year. But again, there was minimal advertising, and I don't know if anyone got any gifts. It seemed as though it was just a day of feasting and celebration with family and friends. One thing's for sure, Muslims LOVE to eat. However, this is a little too minimalistic for my tastes. I feel as though the Moroccans are passing up a great opportunity to get together as a family and share in celebration. This could have something to with my impression that Moroccan family ties are much stronger than those in America, so by the time a holiday comes around the last thing they want is another reason to be with their family. I know that if I had to eat with my family every night I wouldn't be too excited about Christmas or Easter dinner.

Anyway, that's enough out of me on the topic. I hope all of you had a wonderful Easter weekend and I hope all of you now have a couple of more cavities due to all the sweets that you undoubtedly eat.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Drugs are good...

...they let you do things that you know you know should.
and when you do 'em people think that you're cool.

Ah, NOFX really knows how to say it.

So it's been a while, eh? Well nothing much has changed. I'm still in Morocco, still going to AUI, and still having back problems. I have a had a few visitors though.

I've had a few visitors the past month. For Spring Break, Sus and Regan came for a 8 days. We traveled around Morocco and saw Rabat, Fes, Tangier, Casablanca, and Ifrane. We had a lot of fun and the time flew by. A week after they left, my friend Chelsey from Fargo came for 5 days. We also had a lot of fun, but her time here was shorter. So we spent time in Ifrane, Tetouan, and Fes. She left a few days ago, but not before she got to witness me fall on my ass. We laughed, but my back is in worse shape now. The fall combined with all of the traveling I've had to do has left my back in really rough shape. But the health center here has some pretty awesome drugs. So I've been staying "happy" for the past few days and have been able to miss classes, which doesn't help much with the major case of senioritis I've been suffering with all semester.

Anyway, I blame the drugs for what I'm going to say next. Since Chelsey left, I haven't been able to stop listening to pop/dance/hip hop music. The day that I got back to campus I downloaded a few songs and have been listening to them non-stop. Here's the current list:

What Goes Around Comes Around - Justin Timberlake
My Humps - Black Eyed Peas
Pump It - Black Eyed Peas
Hips Don't Lie - Shakira (carry-over from Auschwietz
Smack That - Akon feat. Eminem.

I've tried to stop listening to these songs, but with no success. If anyone has any tips on how to kick the pop, please let me know. I'm hoping that it just plays itself out by listening to them constantly, but Shakira has been around since January...she's obviously going no where.

Well I'm gonna go now so I can continue to enjoy being stoned...legally. Plus there are some Sudoku puzzles calling my name.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Short Winter in a Mediterranian Climate

There were several things I was looking forward to about coming to Morocco. Among them was this: one whole year without a North Dakota winter. No snow. No ice. No sub-zero temperatures. Warmth. Sunshine. Africa.

Here are some pictures that were taken by my friends and I on this thursday and friday:

Today's monday and most of the snow is gone. As for the sub-zero temeratures, it DID get below zero, but in celsius. So it was only 25 degrees fahrenhiet. I know it looked like I was having fun in those pictures, but I can tell you that I certainly was not and was merely acting so Holly (the red-head in most of the pictures) wouldn't cry.
Stupid Morocco.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Bad News Beard 2

1. I went to St. Mary's Basilica in Krakow over winter break. It was a beautiful church. Like most Catholic Churches I've visited in Europe it has a rack-type-thing where people could light candles for their loved ones. I lit a candle for Grandpa Carrier.

2. The only reason I've ever gone to Tangier was to take the ferry across to Spain. Because of this I've spend a lot of time at the port. My first time there, while waiting for my ferry to start boarding I noticed a commotion below from one of the windows I was gazing out of. I notcied about 3 or 4 teenage boys running away from security guards and random port workers trying to corale them. One of the guards was especially rough with one of the boys.
I realized that security is most likely constantly having to deal with people, mostly young men, trying to illegally cross the strait to Spain in search of a better life, work, or just for some new entertainment. On this visit I witnessed the plot of a small handfull of young men get thwarted by the port authority. But at least they tried.

3. Last night Brittany, Rachel and I were on our way back from building 10 after a failed attempt to watch the latest episode of 24. On the way back to our dorms, we ran into a wild pack of dogs...on campus....sniffing around for food and peeing on bushes. I saw them again tonight on my way back from eating dinner. There were 3 of them that I could see, and I could hear another one in the bushes adjacent to me. I'll bet he was peeing on them.

4. I slept through my first earthquake. Apparently at 10am, while I was asleep, there was a small earthquake in Morocco. My roommate said he could feel it, but it wasn't very strong. His mom in Casablanca said they could really feel it there. No reports of damage, which is good. I really hope I don't sleep through the next one.

5. Today is Valentines Day. Cassie got a package from Christina, a student from Seattle that was here last semester. In it was lots of goodies. I got: Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Sour Patch Kids, and some totally bad-ass Glow-Worms that came with an electronic tong that made the worms light up when you picked them up. Thanks Christina!!!!

6. Last night I was in the library searching for articles for a paper, when I heard what sounded like a gunshot. I looked around the room and no one else seemed to notice as they were all still busy at work or talking to their friends. I went back to my search when I heard it again. This time I was sure it was a gunshot. Immediately following the loud bang was the sound of a dog crying. Constant. It went on for a few seconds then stopped. The university must have hired a hitman to take care of the wild pack of family dogs that had been running loose on campus. Fortunately I heard them barking again this morning on my way to the gym. Take that AUI...

7. This school has some of the stupidest rules ever. For example, the doctor wants me to use the swimming pool to provide for a good healthy, low-impact workoout for my back. However, the school chooses to make this a unecessarily tedious. Here are SOME of the rules:
1. All swimmers must wear bathing caps (these must be purchased from the campus store)
2. NO shirts are allowed. (Not that I would have worn one, but seriously...making it a rule?!?!)
3. Ladies: one or two piece suit or an over all suit (I've yet to see a no-piece of 3 piece suit)
4. (Here's the kicker) Boy: Must wear swimming briefs or an overall suit... NO ATTIRE WITH POCKETS IS ALLOWED.
If I want to swim, I have to wear a freaking SPEEDO! I am NOT wearing a speedo.
Sometimes this place just confused the piss out of me....

Bad News Beard

There are so many little things that happen to me everyday. I'm constantly making observations about what I witness during the mundane events of my daily routines and ventures. So, I've decided to make a list of these things, or at least some of them that I've experienced up to this point. I hope to make this a recurring issue for this blog with random updates when I've amassed enough little things to post. So here's the first edition of "Bad News Beard" - Morocco:

1. My favorite person in Morocco is the deaf bathroom attendant at La Paix in Ifrane. He can't talk or hear what I say, but he and I have formed this wonderful relationship without typical modes of communication. Usually just a hug and a kiss and a few awkward gestures occur when we encounter, but it's beautiful nonetheless.

2. There is a man who sells souvenirs in the park. Mark and I have passed him on several occasions and we are always obliged to stop and visit with him for a short spell. He doesn't speak English or Arabic. I don't speak Darija and my Arabic is really bad, so I never really get to talk to him.
Around the time of our first encounter I decided to let my beard grow (I have since trimmed it a couple of times). As Mark was talking to him he kept saying something, pointing to me, and rubbing his own chin in a manner that indicated he was talking about my beard.
Mark and I departed his company and he informed me that the man was asking Mark if I was a "fundamentalist". Jokingly, or course.

3. I decided to fast during Ramadan. Towards the end of the Holy month, some friends and I traveled to Casablanca, and I subsequently stopped fasting. As we walking through a market in the city, I stopped to admire the chebekkia at a shop. The man insisted that I try a piece and I refused because I didn't want to be disrespectful and eat in front of all of the fasting Muslims.
People in Morocco are very persistent, as was he, and I had to come up with an excuse now to take his chebekkia using my VERY limited Arabic. Since I HAD been fasting for over 3 weeks prior, I decided to use that as my excuse and said in broken Arabic "I can't eat because it's daytime". The man then asked me if I was Muslim, to which I replied, "Na'm (yes)" and the man buried his head into my chest and began hugging me.
Now I know some of you, or not all, may be a little disgusted with my lie. In my own defense, the lie wasn't intentional. "Na'm" is just a knee-jerk reaction when I'm in a situation where I don't understand what's being said and I want to get out of it. The friends who were with me contend that I'm going to hell, while I insist that even though I told a small, unintentional lie, I made this mans day. You wouldn't believe how happy he was.

4. It could be simply because I miss my friends and family, but I've noticed that a lot of people I know have Moroccan dople-gangers:
Aaron Baker
Jeff Sorenson
Tara Garneau
Michael Anderson
Lauren Furlong
Olivia Thorson
Uncle JD
Chris from Cheapo Discs name a few.

5. No one on campus will talk to me in Arabic. They all insist on speaking english.

6. I've taken to teaching Omar slang. It's fun.

7. We just got a foot of snow, and the people in charge of clearing the walk-ways are forced to use spade-shovels. On the other hand, they do have a Bobcat-style Caterpillar for the larger areas.

8. My MSN is and I'm ALWAYS online if you want to chat.

9. Moroccan Fanta is better than American Fanta and European Fanta is better than Moroccan Fanta, but Moroccan Coke is better than any other Coke. And Moroccan Oreos are incredibly stale.

10. My little sister sent me a package containing two different kinds of deoderant. When I got the box, there was only one in it. A friend of mine got a package that was supposed to contain a backpack, tissues, wet-naps, pens, oreos, lactaid, a wooden bowl, and some medication. The oreos were missing.

Well that's it. The first edition of "Bad News Beard". I hope you enjoyed it.
Bye bye.

Friday, January 19, 2007

An International Language

Never trust a German and a Pole. Well, you can trust them, just be wary.

For some reason, people find me easily approachable. The reasons for approaching me vary. Sometimes people just want to know where I'm from. Other times they are trying to get some money from me. And sometimes I have absolutely no idea what they want. This final instance was often the case when I was in Poland. Not speaking a word of the language, people would come up to me and receive nothing more than a few mumbled syllables non-distinguishable in any dialect, a shoulder shrug, and what I imagine to be a grotesquely contorted face of confusion. These people may have wanted nothing more than to comment me on my pants or to inquire about who does my hair.

So being in Poland with Polish and German friends, I confront them with my problem stressing my frustration that I wasn’t even able to, in the simplest terms indicate to these people that I don’t speak any Polish and their efforts were wasted on me. Here’s what I remember of the dialogue:

Me: So, how do I say, “I don’t speak Polish” in Polish?
Christoph (the German): Just say “Yem Guvna”.
Jerzy, laughing: No, don’t say that.
Me: “Yem Guvna”? What does it mean?
Jerzy: It means...uh...something like…
Christoph: Just say it. Trust me…they will get the point.
Me: But what does it mean.
Jerzy: It means, “I eat shit”.

After picking myself up off the street from laughing so damn hard, I committed this phrase to memory, and it remains the only Polish phrase I know. Jerzy, being the great friend that is decided that occasions might arise where it may be beneficial to know more variations of the phrase, so he taught me the plural form “I eat shits”, the future tense “I will be eating the shit” and the present continuous “I am eating the shit”.

The justification for teaching me this is quite logical, and there in lies the crass brilliance of Christoph. For example, if you were trying to get someone’s attention, tossing out a simple “Hey, can you help me?” and this person replies with “I eat shit”, you would undoubtedly get the point that this person either doesn’t speak your language, or this is just quite simply someone you do not want to talk to.

I never got the chance to use my new phrase on any poor unsuspecting pedestrian or panhandler. Maybe someday I’ll be able to go back to Poland, armed with the perfect phrase for any tourist to know.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

New Years Eve - Poland Style

New Years Eve was quite the experience this year. I spent the evening playing cards with Kendra in the hostel, drinking wine, and prepping myself for the near-midnight plans. Our hostel was about one block from the main square of Wroclaw where crews had been working hard for the past couple of days in preperation for the nights events, which were to include fireworks, euro-pop, lights, a mile of guard rail, thousands of drunken Polish, a couple of drunken Americans, and a Christoph.

At about 23:00h we made our way to the square. All of the foot traffic was squeezed through one checkpoint where guards were frisking the partiers for weapons and booze. Unlike Germany, it's illegal in Poland to have open containers of alcohol in public. Of course this did not deter anyone.

As thousands of people were trying to funnel through one single entrance, Christoph took it upon himself to start singing the American national anthem. Why? It's Christoph. We don't ask these questions. Sensing a sudden feeling of patriotism I decided to belt it out along with him. People began to take notice, especially a small group of 3 girls and 1 guy next to us. After we finished, impressed by our beautiful tenor voices and amazing ability to harmonize, they offered me their champagne. I took, pulled a couple of swigs, and told them it's their turn to sing the Polish national anthem. I can't remember whether they did or not, but I do believe Christoph gave it a shot.

I assume that due to our sudden publicity, Kendra and Jerzy decided to distance theirselves from us, so I stuck by the sides of my new Polish friends with the bottle of Champagne. Once we were close to the gate, one of the girls pulled a bottle of vodka out of her purse and asked me to try to get it in for her, since they were going to check her purse. I agreed and proceeded to the guards with bottle in hand. The gurad pulled me forward and at that moment I realized that I had to do something drastic, so I stuck my arm with the bottle of vodka back into the crowd befind me as I got frisked. He passed me through and I sneakily pulled my arm back and placed the vodka into the liner of my jacket. Brilliant! With their bottle back safe in their possession, my new friends insisted that I follow them and ring in the new year. However, Kendra and Jerzy, who had seperated from us earlier, were still standing by the gate waiting for us, so I had to watch as my new friends disappeared into the crowd, calling back to me "Come on! Come with us!" I cried a little.

Once reunited with my friends, we made our way to the middle of the crowd of people. It was reported that there were about 120,000 people in the square that night. It was a mad house, but a nice one. There was a definite sense of comradery. We were all there to get inibriated and ring in the new year. In fact, there was such a sense of brotherhood that if someone saw someone else with something to drink, they were immidiatly given a bottle to pull from. It was so amazing. Everyone was so happy.

The music sucked, but I didn't care. I was with my friends in Poland. Once midnight came, everyone started counting down (in Polish, so I didn't know what they were yelling about until all of the champagne bottles burst and the fireworks began to errupt), everyone embraced and sang.

Here are some pictures:

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Winter Break Part 1

Let's just say that I would write forever on the details of my winter break. However, neither you nor I have the time it would take to give intricate details of what I saw, smelled, tasted, heard, and so on. So the following will be a skimmed down version of the past 3 weeks. Consider it a sort of "Cliffs Notes". If you like what you read, you can always sit down with me sometime in the future and I'll recollect every single nuance and detail of what I would consider the best of what I have done so far.

I won't waste any time explaining the routes of travel, other than to simply state that we did travel by land, sea, and air. Well, I guess a little explanation is in order...

Kendra and I started by taking a cab to Meknes and a train to Tangier. We stayed over night in Tangier in what is officially my favorite cheap little hotel in all of Morocco. This mainly has to do with the staff. The next morning we woke early and hopped a ferry across the Strait of Gibraltar to Tariffa, Spain. Once in Tariffa, we had to take a bus to Algeciras, where we took a train to Granada. That night we had a room in a very nice hostel booked. We explored Granada a little and I quickly decided that one night is not nearly enough time there. Spain is definately my favorite least it was at this point.

The following morning we got on our pre-booked flight to Frankfurt. Some of you may remember an email that I sent at the begining of my travels containing some information about a little mistake that I made. There's really no need to beat a dead horse, but I'll give a quick explanation of what happens here...for those of you who are new. I booked the flight to Frankfurt, told Kendra that I booked it to Stuttgart, so Kendra got our flight to Dresden from Stuttgart. Oopsie. This mistake ended up being not so bad though. Once we got to Frankfurt (the airport is actually a couple of hours away from Frankfurt) we had to explore our options. We quickly figured out that a flight to Dresden was out of the question. The costs of a same-day flight in Germany close to Christmas is enough to drain the red from Rudolphs nose AND Santas suit. (HA!)
The best option, and what we eventually decided on was renting a car and driving to Dresden. It was the cheapest, most time-efficient least that's how it seemed in the begining.

I really don't want to get into too much detail, but let's just say that the Germans are great at many things, but labeling roads is NOT one of them. Of course it would have helped if Kendra and I stuck to the main roads, but we decided that since we have a car and time to waste, we may as well take the scenic route. Well, several u-turns, cursing fits of rage, and a few hours behind schedule we pulled into Dresden at about midnight, and we were finally able to find the apartment at about 2am. Instead of waking up the people who had the keys we spend the night in the car. How's that for excitment?

The night in the care was so cold. We didn't have any blankets, pillows, sleeping bags, or heavy winter clothing. But we made it through most of the night and were able to get into the apartment at about 7am. The next 10 days or so would be spent in what to us is that lap of luxury. An apartment all to ourselves, phone numbers of people who would be willing to help us, a map of the tram/bus system, and a Dresden guide book. It was wonderful, relaxing, and just what the doctor had ordered.

Not much happened during these ten days. We just did a lot of relaxing and soaking in of the Western world. We did do quite a bit of exploring. The things that stand out the most were the christmas markets and the architecture. (I'll try to post some pictures later. Morocco doesn't seem to want to give up that much bandwidth right now)

We also made a great new friend. Laquas left a phone number for one of Jeans co-workers, Chee Wan. So we called Chee Wan and had a blast. She showed us some really cool stuff in Dresden, took us out for drinks (3 Belgian beers = BAD) and then led us to an amazing Taiwanese restaurant on our last night there. We spent 3 days with her and had such a blast. Thanks Chee Wan!!!!