Wednesday, August 5, 2009


All the pictures I've taken since I've been here:

New pictures from Casablanca:

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

مبروك, طارا! سعيد عيد ةيلاد بك! احبك


I love you, and I hope you're having a fantastic day in London, you lucky ducky.

Kisses and birthday spanks,

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Al Sahra

So, finally, a post about the Sahara. Sorry it's been so long in coming- the first day back i was sick and catching up on all the homework and lessons from Thursday through Monday, and yesterday I was just really tired. But now, finally, a post.

First, pictures:

So. I got up early Friday morning and met some of the other girls at 6:30 in the lobby to catch taxis. We got to the school, sat around for quite some time, then sat on the bus for quite some time, then left. At 8, instead of 7. But it's better than 9, which is what time they left on the last Sahara trip.

We had to take 2 vans cause there were a lot of us. The first day was a lot of driving, as well as randomly stopping at "sources" of water, one of which was apparently where the brand "Vittel" is bottled... I saw a lot of Moroccans swimming in it, so I don't think I'll be drinking that brand anytime soon. It was cool, but since we were already running late, I kinda wish we hadn't stopped at every source we saw.

We stopped to get lunch in Ifrane, a town near Meknes. It's where Al-Akhawayn University is, the only private university in Morocco, with lessons in English. I looked into a program there, but I liked the look of Qalam wa Lawh better. Lunch took a while, since there were almost 30 of us, but we got it finally and moved on.

We drove for quite some more time. I don't remember anything else that really stuck out. OH! The cat. We kept hearing this sound that sounded like a cat meowing, and it was driving us all crazy, but we finally realized it was the windshield wipers or something. We continued to make cat jokes for the rest of the ride, though.

We got to the hotel that night, and I was rather in awe. It was a quite a nice hotel, 4 stars I believe, with a huge pool, a fantastic dining room with yummy food, and nice rooms. I roomed with Nadia, a girl whose parents are Moroccan but they live in Italy. I'm not really sure why she wanted to room with me so badly, since she doesn't really speak English so we can't really communicate, and she was out most of the night with her Italian friends. But whatever.

In the morning we got up and drove the rest of the way to the desert. We stopped in a small town along the way to buy big scarves to use to block the sun and sand during our camel rides. We also go to see the tomb of one of the old sultans. It was pretty cool, but we did spend a lot of time there, and then we had to go to lunch, which took forever of course, so we were late getting to Merzouga.

We got to this little hotel like thing, repacked our bags, and got on camels! :D Except my camel was the devil. I don't know what you call the noise camels make, but he made it a lot. He kept getting untied from the caravan, and when they tried to retie him, he refused to sit down. It was a loooooooong night haha. I think I had eaten something iffy so my tummy wasn't the happiest, and that coupled with demon camel made for a little bit of discomfort and unhappiness. When we got to the campsite, I kinda crashed and slept for quite a while, drifting in and out. There was music, dancing, and all sorts of fun things that I was only half conscious of. Dinner was served close to midnight, and I didn't eat much because my stomach was not too happy. Then we slept out under the stars, which was amazing.

We woke up around 6:15 to watch the sunrise. Climbing the huge dune was really hard, so I climbed a smaller one instead and watched the sunrise. It was so beautiful. I love that time of day whenever I can wake up for it, but usually I can't. I enjoyed it, though. Then we hopped on the camels and rode back to Merzouga. My ride was a lot more enjoyable- no more demon camel, and my stomach was a lot better. My little caravan took a shortcut and made it back way before the others.

At the hotel we got bread for breakfast and then took showers before piling back into the buses to head back. I was sitting next to this Russian lady on the bus who really wanted to take pictures as we drove and for some odd reason insisted on videotaping the scenery as we drove past it. I couldn't really hear the other conversations so I slept. A lot.

We stopped for lunch at 4, and there were some problems, mainly the food was cold. That was because there were almost 30 of us and we were hours late. It really wasn't that big a deal, but some people got really upset about it. I don't really think it was worth it.

The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful until around 9:45. I was sleeping, so I missed part of it, but here's what happened. We were driving along happily, about 70 km from Rabat, when we hit something, maybe a bottle or something. The van grinded to a halt at the side of the road (this is when I woke up) and Mohammed and the driver got out to see that the tire was flat. No, not flat. Destroyed. The other van had been speeding ahead of us all trip, and Mohammed kept yelling at them, "What if something happens? We need to stick together!" And bam, something happened. They were ahead of us and had to turn around, cross the median twice, and come back to assist.

We all got out of the car and were standing on the side of the highway in the dark, a group of 8 women and 2 men. The van was only partially off the road since there wasn't much of a shoulder, and the driver was crouching looking at the tire with Mohammed standing half in the road waving at cars to not hit him. It was kinda nerve racking. We decided to stand behind the guardrail on the side of a semi-sketchy dark field. All of a sudden, out of nowhere this man cross the street and comes out of the darkness to ask if everything was ok. Almost in unison, we all called for Mohammed, and he came over and dealt with it. The man wandered off into the dark field.

Eventually, the tire was changed and we were on our way. We got back to Rabat and were dropped off at our respective residences. I got back to Beyt al Marifa at 1 am to greet a new roommate. It was kinda a bad first impression, but oh well. I got online to let people know I was home safe, then crashed.

In the morning I didn't go to class, partly because I was tired and partly because my stomach was not too happy. I spent the day in my PJs catching up on all my homework and eating cooked apples, pasta and bread, and a little chicken for dinner. Yesterday I felt much better and I went to class.

My roommate's name is Kathleen, and she's American. There's a whole bunch of new Americans here, and I think they all met on the plane or something, so they're all friends and go out a lot together which is fine with me. Kathleen isn't in the room much.

Tomorrow is a national holiday, Coronation Day, so there is no class. I might go out with some people to see the festivities in the city, but I'm excited to get to sleep a little more than usual.

Today there were presentations in school. Two people from each level did one, and I was elected to do it from my class. I did it on Curacao, and I began it with my new stock phrase:
انا اسمي عائشة و لكن انا ليس مسليمة و لست من اصل عربيةز
"My name is Aisha but I am not Muslim and I am not of Arab decent."

It's something that I have had to convince people of a lot, and I even had a bus driver try to convince me that I had Arab family.

Alright, that's about it. I'm getting ready to go to the super market. More updates later, probably.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Off to the Sahara

Just a short post to say this has been a fairly uneventful week. Because of the heat I've pretty much been coming straight back to my room and just hanging out. Today I went to the Archeological Museum, which was pretty cool.

I leave early tomorrow morning for a 3-day trip to the Sahara. I'm pretty psyched...we get to ride camels, sleep either in a Berber tent or out under the stars, climb the dunes, and watch the sun rise and set over the dunes. It's going to be pretty amazing! :D

My friend Ale is leaving this weekend, and I'll be sad to see her go. She's an awesome person, really fun. If I'm in NYC I plan on calling her up at Skidmore and saying, "Ale, anti jamila mithel sursur (You are beautiful like a's a long story). Come to NYC and see me right now. You owe me taxi money." And then she will come and we will have a blast. And she will bring Kelly along.

Alright, enough late night ramblings for me.

Until Sunday! (realistically, don't expect a post until Monday)


Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Ok, first of suddenly got really hot here. And humid. Someone checked the weather and this morning at 4 am it was 93 degrees. It's so terrible and no one wants to do anything and no one can concentrate and it sucks. A lot.

Anyway. This weekend I went to Chefchaouen, this tiny town in the mountains. It was so gorgeous! My favorite place that I've been thus far in Morocco. On Saturday, Sarah, Kelsey, and I took a train from Rabat to Tangier. It was about 5 hours, and there was no air conditioning. We were in a train compartment with 6 other people, and it was cramped and hot. When we got to Tangier, we tried to go find some places to walk around and see before getting a bus to Chefchaouen. We got a taxi driver that did not speak Spanish, as most of the people do in the northern parts of Morocco, so he didn't really understand what I was saying. He just dropped us off in some random square and there was a place to eat so we ate. And then we tried to catch a taxi to the beach but no taxis would stop. A ton of empty taxis would pass but ignore us as we waved them down. We started walking in what we thought might be the general direction of the beach. We stood on a main street for a while, and finally we decided that the best thing to do would be to get the taxi to the bus station so that we had tickets to Chefchaouen, and to decide what else to do after that. A taxi never came, though, so I asked for directions to the bus station. It was fairly close, so we ended up walking. We got to the bus station around 3, and the bus to Chefchaouen didn't leave until 5:45, but we were kinda fed up with Tangier so we just sat in a cafe in the shade and waiting. We boarded the bus around 5:15.

The bus ride was a little over 3 hours, and we left a little late. It stopped several times, but there was air conditioning, though it wasn't very strong. But it was good enough. And when the sun started going down, it was pretty cool on the bus. We got to Chefchaouen around 9:30, and started to follow the hordes of people until we found a taxi. He knew the hotel we were looking for, Hotel Madrid, and dropped us off right outside. We went through the process of trying to get a room for the three of us- they were all out of triples, and offered us a double and a single, but then they said they could put a mattress on the floor in a double and we could sleep there. That was fine with us because all we were going to do was sleep and then get up early and check out.

The poor guy at the hotel was very overworked- he was the only one dealing with the tourists coming and going. He told us it would be a while until the room was ready, so we went out to walk around a little. The town was surprisingly busy, considering it was near 11pm, and we found somewhere small to eat. I had mango juice- yum. We walked around a little and then went back to the hotel and to our room. We all took turns showering, and there was a TV! I was looking forward to watching news or something, but none was on. Kelsey watched some of a movie and we all went to sleep.

We got up at 5:45, a time I had forgotten existed, because we wanted to get to the bus station and figure out getting tickets and what time we would leave. The nice bus, CTM, only had one bus to Rabat and it left at 7 am, which was not at all conducive to seeing Chefchaouen. So we found another company that left at 12:45. We bought our tickets and then tried to grab a taxi to Raas al-Maa, the waterfall on the outskirts of town. Since it was so early, the taxi situation wasn't great, but we just walked up the huge hill utnil we located a taxi. It was nice to be up when it was still cool, and I took a ton of pictures of the mountains and the houses and everything. The Chefchaouen color is blue, and it is so gorgeous.

Chefchaouen actually reminded me a little of the finca (farm) my family stayed at in the mountains of Venezuela for Christmas my junior year. I guess a lot of tiny mountain towns look similar, in terms of weather and quaintness. :)

Raas al-Maa was beautiful. I have a thing for waterfalls, and this one was gorgeous. Not very big, but still nice. In the bottom part, women and children were washing rugs. At the top there was a little dam. You could see a ruined mosque in the distance- I would have liked to go, but 1) I only had sandals on, and 2) the guidebook said it probably wasn't the safest place for women alone. So in the future inshahallah I will come back with a strong man to protect me, and then I will hike up to the abandonded mosque on top of the hill and get to see the whole town of Chefchaouen from it.

There was a guy at the waterfall that spoke a lot of languages. We communicated in Spanish, and I asked him about the cafe that was supposed to be there. He pointed it out but said it proably wouldn't open for another half hour or so. So we looked at the waterfall, and then waited for the cafe to open. After about half an hour, he came over and told us it looked like it wasn't going to open any time soon because the owners had been up late the night before. But he offered to walk us over to the sqaure, through the old city. It was a lovely walk, and he was a good guide, pointing out to us pretty things and explaining different things to us. If (when) I come back, I'm totally staying in one of the hotels/hostals in the middle of the old city- so much character!

We ate breakfast in the square- cheese omeletes and fresh OJ. Then we walked around the square, looking at the little shops and buying a few things. Afterwards, we went to the kasbah, the old fortress, and looked around in there and in the museum and gallery.

And then we had pretty much done everything there was to do in Chefchaouen. Well, that's not true. There's camping and hiking, which I would love to do when I go back. But we started making our way towards the bus station. We stopped somewhere to get drinks and were shuffled back into the women's section. It was certainly nice, with couches, but I don't appreciate being holed away in a back room and being forced to watch tv shows about decorating. When they changed the channel to a soccer game, we assumed it was time for us to go.

We caught a taxi to the bus station, and he was the sweetest taxi driver ever. We found a little restaurant right next to the bus station, and it was delicious. I had meatballs. But again, we were shuttled onto the women's balcony.

We found our bus no problem and started the trek back to Rabat. It took 7 hours. And it was hot. But we made it back.

On the bus, several people started talking to us- first the man sitting in front of me who spoke to us in English and Fus'ha (Modern Standard Arabic), then the "nice Moroccan boys", one of whom goes to school in Atlanta, then the kinda creepy guy who sold bus tickets who spoke to us in Fus'ha and wanted to know all about us. But we all managed to make it off the bus without getting engaged, so that's good. I'm sure all espective significant others will appreciate that. :)

We all caught cabs back to our residences and that was that. I am still roommateless.

Yesterday was when it suddenly got hot in Rabat. So after class, I went to the grocery store and then Ale, Aurea, and I went straight back to the dorms. My room was actually pretty cool- sun doesn't shine directly into my window, I kept the window closed so the hot air wouldn't come in, and I think the tile floors retained cool.

I have to suffer through another week of this heat, and hopefully that is all, inshahallah. And on Friday I leave for the Sahara! :D

Friday, July 17, 2009

So, this week has been fairly uneventful. On Monday, Kelly, Ale, and I walked to Label Vie, a mall-type place. Ale got lunch in the food court, and I had a fresh pineapple juice, which was good. Then we went to the grocery store part. I got enough food to last me through next week, including a lot of groceries. Afterwards, I just went back to the dorm, did work, hung out, etc.

Tuesday was the excursion to the Exotic Gardens. I don’t know if I would call them exotic, but they were really nice. I think hibiscus are my new favorite flower. They’re EVERYWHERE here. People use them as hedges lining the walls of their property. I would pick some and put them in my room, but a lot of the buildings here are embassies and embassy residences, and I don’t want to start World War 3. Also, the cleaning ladies would probably throw them out. They are so thorough. They do things I would expect, like make the bed, sweep, clean the bathroom and the sink, but they also wash your dishes, fold all clothes, straighten the desk, take out the trash, etc. It’s nice, but a little annoying- they throw away all my bottles, one of which was the Coca Cola bottle with Arabic script that I was saving. So anything I don’t want thrown away I put in my suitcase now.

Wednesday I stuck around after class because there was a lecture on the beginning of Islam. It was really really interesting. My teacher, Samir, was the one who gave it. It was in Arabic, but obviously he used basic vocabulary and talked really slowly. It was so interesting! I’m really excited to go back to Stanford and take more classes on Islam, as well as other religions.

Yesterday was the excursion to the Royal Palace. I was going to go, but I decided not to at the last minute. I was just really tired, so I headed back to the dorm and did my homework and talked to some friends. Apparently you need to show your passport to get into the Royal Palace…I’m not sure why. I went to another goodbye party, but I was so tired I came home soon after I got there and was in bed by 11:30.

Today class was really fun. He always asks us what we did the day before and if we have any news, and Kelly brought up Sotomayor. We talked about her for a while, and how good it was that the American government is slowly getting diversified. So that was really interesting. That lasted like an hour. And then, we were doing the conditional, and he asked, “If you were president, what would you do?” Elena, who is American, said she would throw Bush in jail. And Hanane, who’s Moroccan and Belgian, said, “That’s not fair, because he was fairly elected by the American people.”

And I could not let that pass. So I said, “Mumkin…”, maybe. And then Kelly and I tried to explain the American political system and the electoral college. In Arabic. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. But it was interesting. I don’t know how much the other students got it, but I think everyone got a kind of basic idea.

I enjoy class the most when we just talk about random stuff. It’s certainly more fun than grammar, and it’s a very organic way to learn vocab. For example, we learned the word for “to get dressed” from our vocab list the other day. And also the word freedom, because Maha, the girl on the DVD, was talkin about how her parents don’t give her the freedom to wear whatever she wants. And then we started talking about whether or not we thought people should have complete freedom to wear whatever they wanted, an interesting topic in a Muslim country, I think. There are two girls in our class who are Muslim, one born and one convert, and neither of them wear hijab. They do dress fairly modestly, though. And our teacher is Muslim and he said that his mother and sister wear hijab, but that to him, wearing hijab is not necessary. We pretty much all agreed that people should be able to wear whatever they want, although one girl said that she thought uniforms in schools are a good idea because then no one gets made fun of. But then someone brought up the fact that there should be at least some laws governing clothing or people would walk around naked all the time- we all agreed we don’t want to see all that. And then that lead to talking about things like naked bike rides in Belgium. It’s so random, but related to class, and a very good way to learn new vocab. Apparently Elena had always wanted to know the word for naked, but wasn’t sure how to ask, but now she knows! =)

Tomorrow morning I’m going to Tangier and Chefchaouen with Sarah, a high schooler from Pennsylvania, and Kelsey, a girl from Texas who converted to Islam a few months ago and wears hijab. I’m interested to talk to her and find out her story. And I’m also really glad it’s just 3 of us so that we can be more flexible. We’re meeting at the train station at 7, getting into Tangier around 12:30, grabbing lunch there and walking around a little, and then getting a bus to Chefchaouen. When we get to Chefchaouen, we’ll walk around there, and also try to figure out if there are buses that leave regularly back to Rabat. If not, we’ll catch a bus back to Tangier and a train to Rabat. We’ll see. We’re very flexible. I’m very excited because in the Tangier region, since it’s so close to Spain, Spanish is more common than French! And I love Spanish. And I miss it. So I plan on using that a lot.

I was planning on going to Spain by ferry, but I think I’d rather spend my time exploring Morocco, as I don’t know when I’ll be back here, but I plan on going to Spain for part of junior year. Actually, I’ll probably take the ferry down here for a little. I really like it here, and I might come back some other time to keep studying my Arabic. I’m really impressed by the Center- if anyone is looking for somewhere to study Arabic, I fully endorse the Qalam wa Lawh Arabic Center in Rabat, Morocco. Talk to me if you want more details!

I’m excited because today I paid for a trip to the Sahara next weekend! We’re leaving on Friday morning and coming back on Sunday. I think it’s going to be a blast.

Alright, that’s all for now. Look for more on Sunday or Monday when I write about my time in Chefchaouen!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Marrakesh part 2

Some pictures: (keep checking back for more)

So, Sunday mornnig we woke up at around 8, got dressed, and headed downstairs for breakfast. I had a pain au chocolat and some orange juice…mmm. We all left our backpacks and stuff in one room and went out to meet the tour guide.

We went to another palace and walked around. There wasn’t all that much to see, because they were busy setting it up for a huge cultural festival, complete with bleachers and a stage. We did get to walk around in the dungeon and climb up onto the terrace. It was fun.

Afterwards, the guide took us to the Ensemble Artisanal, which he described as a “Berber cooperative.” That’s not what I understood from The Lonely Planet, though. The idea I got was that it was a place where the government collected genuine Moroccan crafts and sold them for a fixed price. The thing about that is that you don’t have a chance to haggle for prices, so you usually end up paying more than you would just out in the souk buying from people who are just trying to sell their stuff. It did give me more ideas of stuff I want to buy, though, that I’ll buy in the souk in Rabat. Afterwards, we drove to the souk, and got out and walked to a Berber pharmacy. That really was cool. The guy explained all the products to us, ranging from the typical Moroccan mint tea to different oils and salves for aches and pains. I ended up buying quite a few things there, including some mint tea, so now I’ll have to buy a teapot before I leave… =).

After that, we walked around the different souk areas. We saw the shoemaking, the ironworking/blacksmithing, the weaving, etc etc. We stopped for a while at the places where they made scarves. The guy showed us a little about the colors, and then he put the scarves on some of us the way Berber women wear them. That was fun. I’ll put up pictures soon.

There was one guy in our group, a grad student from Duke, who insisted on buy somewhere almost everywhere we stopped. I appreciate that he wanted souvenirs, but I kept trying to tell him he can get the same stuff for cheaper in Rabat. He even wanted to buy a carpet! I’m not sure how exactly he was planning on getting it back in the bus or in a taxi back to his house…it was just kinda annoying that everywhere we went, he had to stop and try to buy stuff.

After the souks, we went back to the same place for lunch, and then got our stuff and headed back to Rabat. I slept on the bus (surprise again!), and then when we got back we caught a taxi back to the dorms. I expected to have a roommate when I got back, but I didn’t. I don’t think I’m getting one until next week, and maybe not even then. I’m not really sure.

So, that was my weekend in Marrakesh! Sorry for taking a while for the update.

Later tonight I’ll write about the last couple days, inshahallah. I’d do it now, but I’m about to head to a lecture on Islam.

Maa salaama!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Marrakesh part 1

So. Saturday morning I got up to go to Marrakesh. For some reason my alarm didn’t go off so I got up a little late. I was supposed to meet Ale at 7:15 but I got up at 7 so I missed her and she headed off by herself. I got to the school around 7:35, the last person there, but I wasn’t left behind! So that was good. On the bus, I sat next to Ale. She’s from El Salvador but goes to school at Skidmore in upstate New York. She’s really nice, and I like her a lot.

The trip consisted of 16 students and Mohammad, the man who does the excursions during the week. We took a bus (really a van that seats 17ish). The bus ride was about 4 or 4 and a half hours long. We stopped at a small roadside place and got some breakfast- I had a pain au chocolat and a fresh-squeezed OJ. I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned the OJ here- fresh-squeezed OJ is EVERYWHERE and it’s delicious. So so so delicious. Anyway. I slept for a lot of the bus ride (surprise!), and also read a little in my Lonely Planet about Marrakesh. I also listened to some music on my lovely iPod.

When we got to Marrakesh, we went straight to the hotel. It was a riad, a guest house, and I think we were using most of the rooms. We were in doubles- Ale and I roomed together. The riad had 2 levels with just rooms, and then a 3rd level terrace that also had rooms, and a 4th level that was just a terrace. Ale and my room was on the 3rd floor terrace, and it was nice. We dropped our stuff off in the room and then we all went out to get lunch.

We went to a place that served Moroccan cuisine. I got a kefta (meatball- probably lamb, I guess?) and egg tagine. The tagine is the name of this clay oven-type thing (kinda like a tandoor) that you put on the stove or in the oven to cook stews or meat and veggies. My tagine was SO GOOD. I took a picture. And then we had these amazing dessert things named shabbek or something.

Afterward, we met up with a guide named Mustafa and drove around Marrakesh. He told us about things as we drove, and we stopped in some places as well. First we went to the Marjorelle Gardens, where Yves Saint-Laurent’s ashes are scattered. The colors in the garden were GORGEOUS. I’ve been trying to put up pictures, but it hasn’t been working. I’ll try to put them up again soon. And the plants were really nice too. Then we went to another garden that was really boring. And hot.

After that, we went to a palace. Not of a royal family, but of a grand vizier and his family, or something. It was really nice. All the architecture and decoration looked Andalusian to me until I reminded myself that Andalusian architecture and decoration is actually Arab.

When we left the Palace, we went to the Koutubiya mosque. We couldn’t go inside, as non-Muslims (the only mosque in Morocco that non-Muslims are allowed to visit is the one in Casablanca, which I plan to visit while I’m here), but we walked around outside. That was nice too.

After the mosque, we had the rest of the afternoon and evening to do whatever we wanted. Ale and I walked around the big square that Marrakesh is famous for. We saw this guy that we thought was going to pull a snake out of a bag, but instead we watched this rather convoluted and confusing something happen. I think maybe he was a psychic? It was all very confusing. And then he shooed us away. And we were confused.

Then we walked around the souks (markets) for a long time. I was wearing my Arabic Stanford shirt, so everyone was reading it and shouting “Stanford!” (or Stanfaaard or Stanfrd) at us. Hint: when you’re in a country with a foreign alphabet and you’re just wandering around and possibly going to get lost, don’t wear a shirt with words written in that alphabet if you don’t want to be recognized. =)

We saw a lot of cool things, and bought some things we hadn’t seen in the Rabat souk. And we got some interesting offers- for example, one for “flowers for your eyes from the garden.” It was certainly an adventure.

We ate dinner in a place with a sign that said “Lonely Planet recommended”….but the falafel was weird. It tasted like it had anise in it or something. My shawarma was good, though. And we met this American who had been backpacking through Europe for the last couple months, but then “I ran out of money so I decided to just come to Africa!” It was interesting to talk to him…which is a polite way of saying that I don’t really care about the silver bracelet he just bought his sister, or whether or not it’s real. Maybe it’s just me, but I travel to experience new cultures, not talk to Americans about the US. Why do they always assume you want to talk to them? Or that you’re trustworthy? This guy asked us to watch his stuff while he went and did something else. Why on earth would he assume that we’re trustworthy just because we’re American? It’s a pet peeve of mine.

When we got back to the hotel (thank you, sense of direction!), we went up to the top terrace. The view of the Koutubiya minaret lit up at night was wonderful. And there were these tents up there with couches and pillows. We ended up falling asleep for a little before we went back to the room to sleep. The shower was…interesting. There was a bathroom in the room, with a showercurtain blocking it off from the room, and the toilet, sink, and showerhead were all there. So when you used the shower, the water spread around the floor, and got the toilet wet. It was interesting. We had AC in the room, which was wonderful before Marrakesh was hot.

Alright, I need to head to bed. I’ll update more about the second day in Marrakesh, as well as a little about the last couple days back in Rabat.

Maa salaama!

Monday, July 13, 2009

So. I realize it’s been forever since I’ve updated. Sorry about that. But here is an extra-long post, or maybe several, about everything since last Wednesday.

First of all, I came home Wednesday to no stove and fridge, so I borrowed Kelly’s and cooked some food for Olga and myself.

Thursday after class I went to Hassan Tower. It was supposed to be this huge mosque with the tallest minaret in the world…but it was never finished. It’s pretty awesome, though. I enjoyed walking around. We were there for the call to prayer, and it gave me a chance to ask Mohammad, the guy who does the excursions, about prayer in Islam. I learned that they say the same thing every time, but for the 5 different prayer times they say it a different number of times. And all this in Arabic! It’s amazing how much more you learn when you’re surrounded by people who speak it all the time. Not that people on the street speak Modern Standard Arabic (Fus’ha), but that’s what the teachers speak around the school, even outside of class, and all the other students as well. And Mohammad’s English, though pretty good and definitely better than my Arabic, isn’t great, so he does his tours in Arabic (fus’ha). He speaks slowly and clearly with simple vocab, and I usually understand most of what he says. Sometimes if there’s a student who’s fluent in fus’ha who also speaks English, ze will translate, but I really prefer when I try to speak with Mohamma in fus’ha. It makes me happy when I can understand, and even happier when I can translate for other student, especially those in Beginner 1 who are just starting to learn the alphabet.

Thursday evening we came back to a fridge! And a stove! And a clean room! But…Olga’s jeans were missing. And this was a mushkil kabir jeden. They were literally nowhere to be found, and believe me, we looked. So she called Adil, the school director, who said they would deal with it on Friday.

Friday was some people’s last days, including Olga, Chris, Tifen, and Alberta. After lunch, Chris and Olga cajoled me into going to the beach. I’m so glad I went. We got an umbrella (thanks Chris) and beach chairs (thanks Olga), and just lay on the beach for a couple hours. It was heavenly. I got tan- I am reclaiming my African roots, mainly the large amounts of melanin that is my birthright. Then we came back to the school for Olga to talk to Adil again about the jeans- it was a very big deal to him that something was stolen from a student residence. After they got all that sorted out, we went back to the dorms. And our room had been cleaned. Again. But still, no pants. But luckily nothing else was missing.

There was a small get-together at the old school to say goodbye to people, so Olga and I got ready and headed over to that. As we were waiting for the taxi, Olga got a call from Alberta…she had found a mysterious pair of jeans in her room. The transformation was magical- she was literally jumping up and down in the street. We went to Alberta’s room and they were indeed Olga’s pants. And she was excited. Our best guess is that when they cleared some plastic trash out of our room, they picked up the pants with it by accident, and then dropped them when they were cleaning Alberta’s room (which is in another building, mind you). Then, they found them in there and assumed they belonged in there. So. Problem solved. The cleaning ladies do not steal, and I no longer feel the need to put a sign on my door asking people not to clean.

We went to the old school, and Chris, Michael, Olga, and I went to dinner. I got some really good spaghetti. Then we went back and hung out for a while. I was my friend Samuela, who is pretty sick. She’s lactose intolerant, and the host family gave her some food with milk anyway, and then she went to the doctor, and the medicine he gave her apparently had lactose in it. So that was awesome. She got other medicine, now, and she’s doing a little better, but still.

Then, when Olga and I got back, Kelly came and knocked on our door. She’s been feeling off ever since we went to Fes, and had been to the doctor once already- he had given her some antibiotics. Friday night she was having bad heartburn that was spreading through her chest, so she called Adil to take her to the clinic again. Olga offered to go with, since Kelly doesn’t speak French, and if she had to get certain tests done Adil would have had to wait outside since he was a man. Good thing Olga went, because apparently Kelly had typhoid fever. She had been told the last time but didn’t really understand. So she got some other medicine to help her stomach and she’s feeling a lot better now.

So, that’s everything up until Friday night. Tomorrow, I’ll post about my weekend in Marrakesh- it was really really fun.

To my grandparents: I made it home safe and sound from Marrakesh! And I felt safe the whole time. =D

Tomorrow, look for a full update about the whole weekend, plus probably an update about the Exotic Gardens tomorrow.

Much love,

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Yesterday, I went to Chellah, this ancient Cartheginian/Phoenician/Roman city. It was really beautiful. There were a ton of stray cats and a lot of beautiful flowers. I would totally pitch a tent and live there for a little bit. It’s so beautiful! I would have fresh flowers everywhere and adorable little cats to play with. =)

I’m really loving my new class. The teacher is really good, and we just talk about seemingly random stuff, letting the conversation do it’s thing, and then at the end I look on the syllabus and we’ve done everything we were supposed to. It’s really interactive, lots of talking, and I much prefer it to my class at Stanford. But I think maybe in Advanced next year it will be a lot more like that. I would totally come back here again, maybe next summer for two weeks. Right now I’m trying to find an internship somewhere in the US that either pays, or that I can get funding for through Stanford or somewhere else. We’ll see. So far I’ve found one at the InterFaith Youth Core in Chicago that looks interesting but that I would have to find my own funding for, and one at Harvard called the Pluralism Project that looks really awesome. I don’t know much about it, though, and am trying to figure out whether or not it’s paid- my guess is probably not. I also might look into something at the State Department, see what’s available. I’d love to do a religious studies one, since that’s what I want to study, but I would do anything religion/international relations/public service/LGBT rights oriented. I’m not picky. I just can’t really afford another summer of not working, so I need to look into outside funding for internships. We’ll see what happens.

I’m really really loving my time here. Several of my friends are leaving this weekend, so that’s going to be sad- I’ll have a new roommate come next week. I can’t imagine that we’ll get along as well as Olga and I do…but that’s life. I was lucky to end up with Olga.

I’m headed back to the dorm now to see if I have a stove, and if not, I’m stealing someone’s. I’m cooking vegetables, either with potatoes or with pasta.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The impossible has happened: I have found a place where people actually think I'm older than I am. Here I never get mistaken for a fifteen year old. Instead, I constantly remind people that I'm 19, because they forget. I might just stay here forever. :)

By here, I mean at school, not Morocco in general. Because everyone here is of vastly different ages, and everyone has come together to school, you can't really assume anyone is any particular age. I'm almost the youngest here (a couple of 16 year olds left recently, and there's a new guy who's going into his senior year, but pretty much everyone is a rising high school senior or older. I'm like the little baby...only everyone forgets.

It's so nice to just go out in the evenings with people, sit at dinner or over dessert and have random conversations about life. Since everyone is from different countries and are at different stages in their lives, it's interesting to get people's perspective on different things. I'm really enjoying that.

Another thing I've found here is that it is a perfect place to relax. Yes, for the first week it really bothered me when things were as disorganized as they are, or when I didn't have a fridge, or when trains were late, etc etc etc. Into week two, though, I don't care. Everything is "leysa mushkil," no problem. They moved your classes from morning to afternoon, effectively preventing you from being able to travel about Rabat in the afternoons? Leysa mushkil (this happened to Olga and some others, but not to me). The dorms can provide you with double the number of pillows you need, but not clean sheets? Leysa muskil (this did happen to me, I came home to find 2 pillows hanging on the door, but I'm pretty sure I'll be using the same sheets for the entire 6 weeks). The bus for the 4 pm excursion leaves at 5:15, and you've just been sitting around bored waiting? Leysa mushkil.

It's very relaxing. We just laugh everything off now, and enjoy what we get.

Morocco: Always a surprise.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Fourth of July weekend, Part 2

Alright, part two of my 4th of July weekend.

We got to Fes and decided to go straight to the hotel that Abdul Rahman (the staff person at the school who coordinates school-sponsored weekend excursions and helps students plan if they want to travel on their own) had booked for us. It was a decent hotel, with in-room bathrooms that had real toilets! I stayed in a triple with Kelly and Olga. After we showered, etc, we took taxis to the new medina (old city- Fes is so old that there’s the old old city, and the newer old city, and then the actual new city) to try to find food. Sadly, there really wasn’t anything around there, so we started walking back. We realized it was 4th of July, and then we stopped at a McDonald’s. How American of us. I tried the McArabia sandwhich, which was flatbread with a halal patty and some sauce. It wasn’t anything special, but it was fun to try it. We sat and ate at McDonald’s, making comments about how the clientele at the Fes McD’s is so different from the clientele in the US- here it’s obviously the upper middle class, and the restaurant itself is very nice- two levels, outside terraces, a playground. It was interesting. And now I’ve tried it and I’ll never eat McDonald’s in the Arab world again, inshahallah. Outside McD’s was this huge fountain that sang. I promise, it did. And it had lights- pretty much it was dancing in time to the singing. And we made fun of the people that were parked on the side just watching it until we realized we were mesmerized by it too. It was quite the experience.

Afterwards, we just went back to the hotel. It was very hot, so it took me a while to get to sleep. In the morning, we woke up at 7:30, got ready, and went to meet everyone at 8:30. I tried to get a coffee from one of those little coffee vending machines, but my café au lait was bidoon (without) milk and it was gross. We walked to find a café for breakfast- I had a croissant and fresh squeezed orange juice. We found taxis, and then had a really hard time convincing them to take us to the tanneries in the old city. But apparently it’s illegal for them to just tell you they can’t take you.

A little bit of background: the old walled city of Fes is the world’s largest no-car zone, as designated by UNESCO. It’s amazing how winding and maze-like the streets are. Our plan was to find the tanneries, but in the end we had to ask for a guide to get us there. We found someone who worked at the tanneries who took us there and showed us around, and then I’m sure he got a commission off everything we bought.

The tanneries were quite a sight. We stood on the terrace of a leather shop that overlooked the tanning pits. When you walk in, they hand you a sprig of mint to mask the smell, and you think, “Oh, it can’t be that bad.” But it is. We stood up there and looked for a while, and then the guy told us all about it. Donkeys carry goat, sheep, and dromedary (which apparently are not camels) skins into the tanneries. First they put them in the white pits with lye and salt to cure them. Then they wash them, press the water out, and put them in pigeon poop to soften them- apparently the ammonia in the poop helps soften up the leather somehow. Then the wash and press them again, and then they dip them in the color vats. The common colors- red (poppyseed), brown, and black- are in the pits, but the expensive ones- yellow (saffron), orange (henna), blue (indigo), etc- are hand-dyed. It’s so amazing. And I can’t believe that people do this their whole life, just stand around in those pits, 6 am to 3 pm every day. It’s amazing. And then you walk around the shop and you think, “If I came back in a few weeks, I’d see that leather they were just tanning made into products.” And the guy said if you want a leather jacket and they didn’t have your size, they’d custom make one in 4 hours for you. That’s awesome. I bought a present for my sister here. It smells like pigeon poop. =) Afterwards, the guy took us to his friend who does Berber weaving. We didn’t really see the weaving, he just showed us finished rugs, scarves, tablecloths, etc. I bought a present here, too, but I won’t say for who. It’s a surprise!

Afterwards, we decided to just make our way around the Fes medina. It was certainly an adventure. We didn’t go down any tiny streets, but it was still really crowded and fun and an amazing adventure. I want to go back sometime in not so large a group so there’s a little more flexibility in what we do. I could have separated from the group, but then we would have just met back in Rabat, because there’s no way we would have ever found each other. So one day I’ll go back, maybe with just one or two other people, and really spend all day exploring. After we walked around a bit, it started getting hot and people started getting hungry. We eventually made our way out and caught taxis back to the train station. We found a restaurant near there and just ate pizzas. Then we took a 2:50 train back to Rabat. We had a whole compartment of the train to ourselves, which was nice, but because it was supposed to have air conditioning, the window didn’t open. And, of course, it didn’t have air conditioning. So we sweltered for 3 hours. But finally we got back to Rabat. We unpacked, showered, etc, ate dinner, and went to bed.

Today the new classes started. A ton of people got moved to the afternoon, but I didn’t. I started the Beginning 3 level. It was fun. And now I’m hanging around cause most of my friends have afternoon classes. I’m about to go to the bank so I can pay for next weekend’s excursion to Marrakesh. And then I think tonight we’re going out to dinner somewhere. Hopefully I get a fridge and stove soon so I can start cooking myself dinner.

Up next: a blog post especially dedicated to my grandparents to reassure them that my trip to Marrakesh will be safe.

Ma salaam,

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Fourth of July Weekend, Part I

So, I’m going to do this weekend’s post in at least two parts, so I don’t have to write a lot tonight but also so you don’t get overwhelmed by the amount that I write.

So, Friday night I moved down the hall into Olga’s double. It’s nice to have a roommate now, a lot less lonely. No more sleeping with the bathroom light on (yes, I’ll admit I did that. It was scary and lonely and dark). And Olga and I get along very well, so it’s perfect. But sadly, we don’t have a fridge or stove. I’m working on that.

Before I talk about my amazing weekend, I’d like to give a heartfelt THANK YOU!!!! to my parents for providing me with everything I needed for this trip and more, namely street smarts, a sense of direction, a sense of adventure, hand sanitizer, tissues, and a Lonely Planet guidebook. It made this weekend easy, fun, safe, clean, and awesome. It also made me the mother hen. You’d think, a group of 8 people ranging in age from 19-29 traveling in a foreign country, everyone would kind of be responsible for hirself. But no. Although I was the youngest one (albeit by 5 months), I was the one who got us places (thank you, Lonely Planet), who silently counted heads each time we stopped somewhere, who placated disgruntled group members…haha that’s not completely true, everyone did stuff. It was mainly that I was the one with the guidebook. So useful.

Anyway, Saturday morning we woke up at 6, got our stuff together (I took a backpack with a change of shirt and underwear, small toiletries, guidebook, and important documents), and met the other girls at 7. We took taxis to the train station and then met the guys. The group was: me, Olga, Elena, Kelly, Tifen, Geoff, Michael, Irish Patrick (as opposed to American Patrick), and William. We took the train for 2 hours to Meknes. The train was very modern, air conditioned, but there weren’t enough seats. I stood and sat on the floor for the two hour ride. When we got to Meknes, we took taxis to the medina, or old city. We sat and got some lunch (I got shawarma and fresh squeezed OJ…mmmmm), and then decided to split up and meet back at 1 to head to Volubilis.

First, I ran to the bathroom and had my first experience with the squat toilet. It was…interesting. A hole in the ground surrounded by porcelain or something, with two little places to put your feet and a spigot to use with your left hand instead of toilet paper (I carried tissues and used toilet paper- I’m not too adept at cleaning myself with a bucket of water while perched over sewage. But maybe that’s just me). There’s a guy that you pay 2 Moroccan dirhams (about 25 cents USD) who squeegees the floor after every use. It’s honestly pretty sanitary, considering there’s no seat to collect germs, but I just try not to think about all the people who clean themselves after bathroom use with that little bucket and then prepare my food and sell me my souvenirs.

After that fun experience, we walked around the market. Apparently we found the grocery store section: figs, olives, spices…and then as we got farther and farther in…pastries COVERED in bees….chickens, rabbits (all alive)…and the butchers, and then….the cow head.

Yes. A cow’s head. Just sitting there. Being shaved. By a man. There is no way on this earth I will EVER forget that. I really really really wish I had taken a picture of it, but I think I was just kind of in shock. The smell of blood, the cow’s eyes, the man shaving it with a bored expression on his face…we had to leave after that, it was too intense. We walked around the other part of the market, and then to the museum. Honestly, the architecture of the museum was much nicer than the stuff inside. It used to be the house of a rich family, while the stuff inside on display was really modern (1800-1900s). It was pretty, and it was really really nice to be out of the sun.

Then we caught two grand taxis to the ancient Roman city of Volubilis. We paid the taxis to take us there and back, and to wait for us for two hours. Honestly, I could have done with a little less time- ruins are nice and all, but there was absolutely no shade- but it was still nice. I didn’t make the connection that the Roman Empire stretched into Morocco, although I’m sure I must have known. The ruins are impressive- even having been around for over 2000 years, and having been exposed to the elements since the Lisbon earthquake decimated the city, many of the mosaics are still practically intact and still have color. It was very impressive. The site is huge, too, bigger than I expected, and the view of the countryside and neighboring cities is wonderful.

The taxi that I was in had a problem with hills, of which there were a lot- it would lose acceleration going up and just not get it back going down. So that was an adventure. Also, our driver felt the need to pass other cars around curves while our taxi couldn’t speed up. It was only by al-hamdulillah (the grace of Allah) that we made it there and back ok. Inshahallah (God willing).

The thing about countries that speak Arabic is that, because it is the language of Islam, everything uses the language of Islam as well. So even non-Muslims say inshahallah to mean hopefully, sort of. It’s interesting. I’ve gotten used to saying it. Along with other random Arabic phrases/words that I fully intend to keep using when I’m home, so it might do you well to learn them.
Mumkin: perhaps
Mumtaz: excellent
Leysa mushkil: not a problem
Leh shukran: no thank you
Maa salaam: good bye (literal=with peace)

After Volubilis we took the taxi to Meknes and the train to Fes. And now I will stop. Tomorrow I will tell you all about my wonderful 4th of July celebration (there were 5 Americans in the group), the singing fountain, the pigeon poop, the streets in the Fes medina, and the train back.

Here are pictures; I’ll put up the ones of Volubilis tomorrow.

Maa salaam,

Friday, July 3, 2009

Long post

So, I promised a long post about yesterday, my long, busy day.

We ended class early and went to listen to student presentations. The students that have been taking classes for a while gave presentations in Arabic about whatever they wanted- recycling, the Iraq war, the U. Michigan/U. Ohio rivalry. It was super interesting, and I was surprised by how much I could understand. And, inshallah, next time there are presentations I can do one.

After class, I hung around school, took a nap in the tent, and then went on an excursion to Villes des Artes, an art museum. It has art by Moroccan artists and international artists, and it was pretty nice. I'll put some pictures up on facebook. There is a section that is the 6th largest virtual museum in the world, or something like that, but it was closed yesterday so we couldn't see it.

When we got back to school, we decided that instead of going home we would run some errands before we met the guys to go to the restaurant. So we walked to the bank, the grocery store, and the cafe. I was proud of myself for having a decent sense of direction and getting us places. At the cafe, Samuela and I decided we were going to try coffee; neither of us drinks it or likes it, but we thought, we're in Morocco, let's try something new! Like I said yesterday, I had café au lait, and I actually liked it, but Samuela had an espresso and did not.

We walked to the villa- the old school that’s now a residence where some of the guys live, then we caught a cab to the restaurant. It wasn’t that exciting of a restaurant, and I don’t know if I would go back, it’s kinda expensive and I can eat all that at home. But it was nice to socialize with people. We talked about a bunch of different things, and we found out that Olga is deathly afraid of spiders when she saw one on TV and screamed. The whole restaurant went silent.

Afterwards we had to walk around and find a ton of cabs. All the guys are really nice, and they’re really good about making sure we’re all ok before they find cabs for themselves. We all really appreciate it- it’s one thing to be walking around alone on the Stanford campus at night, which I barely do, but in a foreign country, as a westerner and a women, head uncovered…not a great idea. Then we got back, I talked to some people online, and then I headed to bed.

This morning I was exhausted because I didn’t get much sleep. But class was SO interesting. It was like, tailor made for me. We talked about religion basically the entire time, basically the Abrahamic religions- Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. I learned so much, and it was so so interesting, basically exactly what I’m planning on studying for the rest of my time at Stanford. We talked a lot more about Islam after the break, and it was so wonderful. I loved it! Today was the last day in this level, next week I start Beginning 3 with another teacher. I’ll miss Hasan, though, he was a great teacher.

Today for lunch there was couscous. I learned in class that the reason Moroccans traditionally eat couscous on Fridays is because it’s an easy meal to prepare a lot of in case guests come to eat after prayer at the mosque. So that was interesting. This couscous was with lamb, squash, potatoes, carrots, and this sauce of caramelized onions and almonds that was sweet. It was delicious!

After lunch, I went to the medina (old city) with Samuela, Tifen (sp? it’s pronounced like Tiffany but without the y, but it’s spelled differently, I know), Alejandra, and Patrick. We just walked around in the market- the farther in you get, the more traditional stuff they have. But on the outskirts is just places Moroccans go, so they have western-style clothes and shoes and DVDs, etc. I bought a pair of red sandals that are really comfortable, at the suggestion of Ale, who has several pairs. She bought them all at different places, and she said the ones from that stall are by far the most comfortable. I wanted the turquoise ones, but they didn’t have my size, so I got red, which I think will go with more things anyway. I’m really excited to have them, they’re really cute!

We walked through and got the same bread with honey that I got last time, and then went back to Oudaya to sit at the little café. We got drinks, and some people got some of the pastries that we had last time on the excursion. It was so pretty, just sitting out over the water. I took Tifen’s Coca Cola bottle because it says it in Arabic (كوكا كولا)- I think it’s cool. My drawmates and I have a habit of putting flowers in glass bottles, like San Pellegrino or Izze, so I thought I’d bring one home to take to my dorm with me next year. A free souvenir!

Now I’m back in my dorm. I’ll be moving to Olga’s room tonight, so I’ll have a roommate until next Saturday, and then we’ll see if I get another one. But at least I’ll be in a double.

Tomorrow morning we’re leaving the dorm at 7 to catch a cab to the Rabat Agdal train station. We’ll go from here to Meknes, walk around there, then to Volubilis, the Roman ruins, then to Fes. We’ll return from Fes on Sunday afternoon or evening. I’m excited to go!!

The following weekend there’s a school-sponsored weekend excursion to Marrakesh. The weekend after is free, and then a 3 day trip to the Sahara!!!! Then another free weekend, and then I’m home. During one of the free weekends, I think Samuela and I are going to try to go to Spain. We’ll go up to Tangier, take the ferry across the Strait of Gilbraltar to somewhere in the south of Spain (I don’t care where, it will just be fun to go!), and stay a night in Spain, then head back Sunday to Rabat. We’ll see if that happens.

Ok, that’s it. I know I wrote a lot, but it has to hold you until Sunday when I’m back with my internet.


Thursday, July 2, 2009


is how I feel right now. So I'll give a brief update and fill in the blanks tomorrow.

Ater class and lunch I hung around school, and took a brief nap in the tent outside. Then we went on an excursion to Ville des Artes, an art museum. It was nice- I got some gorgeous pictures. I'll put them up tomorrow. Then we came back to school, went to the bank and the supermarket, and a cafe. I had coffee- my first time really drinking more than a few sips. It was actually pretty good- cafe au lait so it had a lot of milk and I added sugar. But actually, not bad. So it was good. Samuela and I said we would try coffee, because neither of us like it. But she's lactose intolerant, and so she got an espresso, and it was bitter, of course. Then we met up with the guys at the villa (the old school building, it's a residence now), and went to Les Deux Palais (the two palaces), a resteraunt. It wasn't Moroccan, though. It was nice to go out, but starting next week I'll hopefully have a stove and will be cooking a lot. And when I go out I want to eat Moroccan food, except when Olga and I go to McAraby- McDonald's but with a local twist. It'll be fun to see once.

Ok, I'm finishing up some work and then going to bed. I left the dorm this morning around 8 and i got back at like, 11:45, so it's been a long day. Tomorrow I'll be relaxing, so I promise I'll write a long post, and I'll also be around on Skype and gChat and AIM. And then Saturday morning we go to Meknes, Volubilis, and Fes!


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Another day down!
Today, I woke up, went to school, and ate breakfast, and then I had class. First we talked to partners about what we had done the day before, and about other stuff. We do a lot of talking, it's mainly building oral proficiency. We did some grammar, and then we made up a story together. The point of that was to see that it's not as hard to think in Arabic after all! My teacher is not a native speaker (I'm not sure where he's from, he may be Moroccan but Berber, because the Berber speak their own languages), so he told us that he was once in our position, knowing no Arabic, but now he is an expert! Our story was about a frog and a cockroach that are friends, but secretly the frog wanted to eat the cockroach. It turned out to be a kind of myth that explains something- Lisa had a cockroach in her room this morning, and in our story the frog and cockroad live in the dorm in which I live, but then the cockroach figured out that the frog wanted to eat it and moved to Lisa's house- it's her new roommate. It was fun. I like sentence stories. It wasn't as good as some I've written before ( it was probably close.

For lunch we had a peper and tomato salad, and a meat tagine (stew) with potatos, tomatoes, and other vegetables. There was also bread and water. And then I Skyped with Matt while he was getting ready for work! It was really nice- I sat outside, first at a table and then in the tent and had a short conversation with him before he headed off to work in Boston.

Last night, I decided I didn't want to go to the beach today because I was really tired. I thought the same this morning, because it took me a while to fall asleep last night. But this afternoon I changed my mind. I dropped my laptop off at the dorm and got swimming stuff, and then headed back. We left the school around 3:30, caught a grand taxi. They're these old Mercedes' that go between cities. You get very close with your fellow passengers- besides the driver, they manage to squeeze 6 people in there. We went to Temara, about a half hour drive outside of Rabat. It was lovely. The sand was HOT. And the water was cold, but really nice. We spread out some towels and sat. I wasn't sure what to expect people to be wearing, but there were a lot of Moroccan women there in bikinis. I wore a pair of swim trunks and a sports bra, and no one realy looked twice. I definitly got some sun. Afterwards we took a grand taxi back to Rabat and ate in a small cafe. I had penne "pesto" - it was very white, for pesto.

Then we came back, I did my homework, and I'm going to head to bed soon. I'm exhausted.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


So, we went on our excursion to Oudaya. There was a fort and a prison and the beach. We mainly just walked around. For pictures:

It was really fun just to walk around. Our guide, Mohammad, who guides all the local excursions with the school, doesn't speak much English at all. We got vocab sheets with info about Oudaya. I was talking to Mohammad a little, and we talked about my name (inevitable, really, in a predominantly Muslim country. Aisha was one of the wives of the prophet Mohammad, the youngest- and prettiest, of course!), and I spoke some Arabic with him, just talking about some stuff. It made me feel good to be able to do it! I know that he's used to dealing with the students, so he speaks very slowly and with simple vocab, but still. It was nice. And so so gorgeous.

When we came back, we showered and stuff, and then walked down to the same area I've been eating. We ate at a place that was a little bit nicer. I ate chicken brochette - like kebab- and it came with fries and a little salad and a little rice. I didn't finish mine, so I think tomorrow I'll stay in and eat some leftover rice, chicken, and bread, and I have bananas and yogurt and mango juice. I also had fresh squeezed OJ today...mmm.

I'm in my room now, just hanging out. I'll try to go to bed soon cause I'm exhausted from walking around. Oh, and I need to do my homework. Tomorrow we're going to try to go to the beach.



If you don't have a facebook, you can look at the pictures I post on Facebook with this link, since it's easier to post them there than here.
So, I'm done with my second day of class! It was good. Angela ended up in my class, too, and Olga was but then moved back to B1. Today we talked about: death penalty, birthdays, and getting married. It doesn't sound related, but somehow my teacher, Hasan, managed to flow neatly from one to the other. Even though I'm ahead in the book, I'm liking the review and there's a lot of talking, and new vocab I haven't learned. I also wrote a personal ad. It was fun.

This morning, I got up at 7, got dressed (in my new awesome shirt from Gap that I'm in love with, and my wonderful linen pants that I wish I had more of- yes, Mom, you were right). Olga and I headed over to find the shuttle, which actually came today. This morning it was overcast, but it burned off and it's lovely outside again. The weather is mild- Rabat is on the ocean, so it's not as stifling as other places. There's a lovely breeze (Tara, LOVELY!), and it's cool. Apparently, though, Fes and Marrakesh and those places are very very hot. So we'll see.

I had breakfast here at school again, bread and OJ, and tea at 10:30- it's so yummy! I'll probably have tea again before I leave at 4. I ate lunch here at school- lamb stew and bean soup. And now I'm hanging out. We tried to get them to organize an excursion to Fes, Meknes, and Volubilis for the weekend, but the school won't organize one. We're going to plan one ourselves- so far we have 6 girls and one guy and hopefully another guy. We'll catch a train to Fes, walk around, and stay for the night, then head back sometime on Sunday in the afternoon or evening. I think it's going to be really fun!

At 4, there's a school-sponsored trip to Oudaya, part of the old city. I'll be going on that. The transportation is free, but we have to pay the entrance fees. I'm excited about it. That's really all I have for now- my day until 2 is class and lunch pretty much. I'll try to update later with stuff about Oudaya.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Day 1.

This won't be a long one, because I'm headed to bed soon (I have to be at school in 9 hours!)

I have internet in my room now...yay! Ethernet (I'm glad I brought my cable even though they told me it was wireless), but it's connected. It was very complicated. But! I figured it out by myself, from instructions in French, no less! I was very proud of myself.

Last night I fell asleep fairly easily, but I woke up several times during the night. When I woke up at 7, I got dressed and went outside. I knew a shuttle came to take us to school, but didn't know what time- it was all very vague. So I stood outside and waited for the Americans, just like I said I would. And what do you know, I found one, and sure enough, she was headed to the School. But the shuttle never came and we ended up taking a cab. But we got there and had breakfast (egg, toast, LAUGHING COW CHEESE - I love that stuff - and OJ. Then I had a placement test for the first 2 hour block of class. I was pretty confident with it, some stuff I didn't know, but randomly scattered throughout the sections, so mainly just vocab stuff. At 10:30 we had a tea break- yummy Moroccan mint tea, but with a TON of sugar. Then I went back to class- there are three girls that have been here and one other new girl in my level. We finish out this week in Beginner 2 and then move to B3 next week. Chapter-wise, I'm behind a little now, because we finsihed through Ch 12 at Stanford and right now we're in chapter 8, but it's a good review, and by next week I'll be back on track.

Then we had lunch and new student orientation. Among the new students, there's a guy from Spain, girls from Italy, France, and Belgium, and the rest of us (about 3 or 4) are American. Our orientation was about an hour and a half and covered a ton of stuff, a lot of which was in the orientation guide they emailed out before. After that, I was just kinda sitting around, and then talked to Chris, here for 2 weeks from the State Department, Angela, from Ohio, and Olga, who was born in Russia, grew up in Italy, and has lived in Belgium for the last 11 years. Angela and Olga decided to go the medina, the old city, so we walked to a bank to change money and then caught a petite taxi to the medina. Once we got there, we just walked around a lot, looking at all the different vendors. Angela bought a leather purse (camel, probably), but mainly we looked. I'm defintely going back to buy stuff- shoes, shirts, wooden boxes, candle holders, scarves, wallets, jewelry, Lovely! (Tara, I'm WHALISH!) We also found this lovely bread stuff and got it with honey and it was delish.

Something they told us in orientation that is definitly true is that the merchents in Rabat are used to foreigners (since it's the capatial, all the embassies and their assocaited staff live in Rabat), so they're a lot more laid back. There's not really pressure to buy, once you say "No thanks," so it's easy to just browse. Olga said she was in Tunisia and once you touched something, there was no way there were letting you out without buying it! And Alejandra- from El Salvador, goes to school in upstate New York, and has spent the last year abroad in Paris- said that's how it was in Fes, as well. Most of the foreigners there are tourists, so it's a different vibe.

We spent a long time in the medina, and then headed back to get our stuff from school. Angela is staying in a homestay, but Olga is in the same dorms as I am, two doors down, so we decided to try the walk back to see how far it was. It was about a 45 minute walk, totally doable, but not ideal. We came back and showered, etc, then went over to Ale's room. She gave me the information to set up internet. Then Audia (sp?) came over- she's Brazilian- and we all just talked for quite a while. They're all super nice. Ale's here until the end of July, Audia until August 19 (she'll be here a total of 6 months), and Olga just for two weeks. Then Olga and I went to get food at the same place I went yesterday. I swear my burger had strawberry jam on it. I bought more water, and now I'm back in my room, getting ready to go to bed.

Olga is in a double, but her roommate never showed up, and I'm still in a single, so we asked today if we can maybe move in together. We seem to have simlar habits- neither of us wants to go out at night, really. She's leaving after two weeks, though, but we might do it anyway. I'd have moved down there today if we could have gotten another key tonight, but I didn't want to without the key. So we'll see how that goes. We're meeting tomorrow morning at 7:40 to go out and get on the shuttle. Apparently it came today, but not until 8:05 or so, and the girls I was with just caught taxis with us. But hopefully I can get one tomorrow.

At orientation, they told us that there wouldn't be a weekend excursion this weekend, but as this is Olga's only weekend and she was really looking forward to it, she and Angela pressed for one. They said they needed at least 8 people, but out of the new students, there were already 6 that said they would go, so we felt pretty confident that we can find 2 more students out of all the rest of the school. We'd either go to Marrakesh or to Fez, Meknes, and Volubilis. I'm excited...I have class all morning but after lunch we're on our own, and it's lovely to hang out with people, but I think the weekend would get really long if we didn't go out of the city.

The weekly excursions, though, are still on- tomorrow we go to Ouadaya, part of the old city, I guess. I'll let you know more tomorrow after I go!

I guess I'm going to head to bed now, since I'm getting up at 7 or 7:15. More tomorrow, especially since I now have internet in my room!

Much love,
An update from last night. I'll try to write more tonight if I get internet.

I’m back at the dorm now. While I was at the Center using the internet, I met some of the students who are staying at the apartments that are right there. One of them, Mike, is American, and actually has family that lives in Durham. He was wearing a Carolina shirt, though…boooo! I guess he’s already graduated from college but is planning on doing something focusing in the Middle East for grad school, but doesn’t know any Arabic. So he came here a little while ago and is going to take all the Arabic classes offered, starting with Beginner’s 1 and going through Advanced 3- he’s going to be here for a while. We cover about 2 chapters a week, I think- I’ll be starting with the last week of Beginner 2, spending most of my time on Beginner 3, and finishing with a week of Intermediate 1, assuming my placement test goes about as planned. Mike was really helpful, letting me know that the address I had was actually just a residence, and that if I need to get to the Center another time, which address and what landmarks to provide to the taxi driver. And one of the staff members stopped by and provided me with something I can show the taxi driver that describes in Arabic where to go to get back to my dorm. That was really helpful. Mike walked me out to a bakery to grab some food, but they were closed, so we walked over to the main road and I caught a taxi back to my dorm, Beyt Maarifa. I wish I spoke French because it’s actually an official language here, and it would do me a lot of good. Luckily, though, that means that most people are fairly good at reading the Latin alphabet, so I can write down addresses and they can find it. The thing is, I can sound out Arabic script, and I can spell things phonetically, but phonetic spelling isn’t always right, and sometimes it’s not even close. But tomorrow I’ll start class and study a lot and focus on being able to communicate, and on trying even if I’m not sure I’m right. I’m going to spend some time tonight looking over vocab in the textbook and phrases in my guidebook.

I made it back to my dorm and managed to figure out where to get food, though it took a little. I asked for “ta’am,” food in Arabic, and finally they figured it what I was talking about and pointed me to what I thought was “Compass” but was, in fact, “Campus.” My residence is actually a dorm located on the campus of a college here in Rabat, and I guess this is a little shopping center type area students hang out. There were several small markets and café. So for tonight, I’m having a hamburger, fries, rice, strawberry yogurt, bread, mango juice, and a lot of water. There’s a little fridge in here, but no stove. Tomorrow I’ll get breakfast and lunch at the Center, and then figure out dinner. Supposedly in the morning a bus will come that picks up all the students for the Center and drops us off. I’m not really sure what time it comes, so my plan is to get up, eat some yogurt, and go sit outside and wait for the hordes of Americans to show up. =) That’s not completely true, but Mike did tell me that the majority of students at the Center are American, though today I met Patrick and William, who are Irish and Belgian, I think. But I assume it’s not going to be too difficult to spot the Westerners among all the Moroccan students that are here.

I’m trying to figure out if I’m going to stick way out in the clothes I brought. With the Center’s dress code- basically being covered from neck to knees, including sleeves on shirts, I don’t have shorts or tank tops, but I would definitely stick out in those if I had any. Most of the female students I’ve seen around the dorm are either wearing jeans and long sleeves or traditional Moroccoan robes that, while flowy and probably pretty cool, button up to the neck, have long sleeves, and fall at the ankles. My knee length skirts and fitted t-shirts, while fairly conservative on the Stanford campus and in Durham, will probably stick out a little here, though they are definitely still appropriate.

I found out today that Morcco now does Daylight Savings Time, as of last year, so we are actually 5 hours ahead of the east coast and 8 hours ahead of the west. Since this is relatively new, my computer refuses to recognize it- when I put it on GMT-Casablanca, it’s an hour behind GMT- London, which is what the actual time is now with DST. So that was a little confusing at first, but I managed to get it squared away before I left the Center so I know I’ll be up at the right time tomorrow for class. Thanks to Matt for helping me figure it out…

My dorm is so lonely and quiet (Erica, if you’re reading this, I know exactly how you feel out there in your shed), so I’m listening to music. I’m going to finish eating and then do some reading and then get some sleep. Tomorrow everything starts! =)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

In Morocco!

So, after all my build-up, I'm finally here! It's been a long day, 2 days, technically, but they've run together with the time changes.

So, this morning at 11 am I left my house (after a frantic search for my cellphone), got in the car, and drove to the aiport. I checked in, and my bag was pretty much dead on weigh-wise. But then I walked away from the counter and realized I didn't have any boarding passes. So I had to go back and get those from him. I got through security...and then my sister called me to tell me I had left my sweatshirt outside with her. So then she had to send it through security for me. The rest of my time in Durham was uneventful. I talked to Tara a little (lions! haha) and highlighted stuff in my guidebook. Then I saw a little girl getting ready to fly by herself to Boston, and her mom and sisters were at the gate saying bye to her. When I asked if it was the first time she had flown alone, her mom said no, but that it was still hard for her to let her little girl go. I told her I knew, that I'm almost 20 and it's hard for my mom to let me go. :) My mom went kinda camera crazy at the airport, so here are some of those pictures. Just a couple, and maybe more on Facebook later, and I'll stick a link on here.

The plane to Boston was tiny- it was only 13 rows, and my backpack didn't even fit in the overhead bin. Even though I usually sleep on planes, this one was cramped enough that I didn't really, just dozed a little. Mostly I read this book my Mom got me, "Dreams of Trespass" by Fatima Mernissi, who grew up in a harem in Fez, Morocco. But not the kind of harem you're thinking about, where a man, usually a prince or king or sultan, has hundreds of wives. Instead, Mernissi classifies it as a "domestic harem," which is basically extended family living together. Her father only had one wife, but her father's brothers, their wives, and all their children lived together in a house. Mernissi says that what classified this as a harem was the restrictions on women- not allowed to leave the house very often, not supposed to listen to the radio, etc etc. I'm about a third of the way through, but so far it's really interesting. I think the guy in the seat next to me thought I was kinda weird because I was sitting with my stuffed coyote on my lap the whole time.

After about an hour an a half, I landed in Boston. The plane was too small to go up to the gate at such a big airport, so we walked out onto the tarmac and then inside the terminal. And then Matt came to see me! We spent a little over an hour together, getting food outside the international terminal in Boston and just talking, and then I stood in the ridiculously long security line until they called all passengers to Paris to walk down the faster side since the plane was supposedly about to board. But then it didn't board for at least 20 minutes, but I was glad to be at the gate anyway.

When I finally boarded, it was a very nice plane. I was on the second level. We had individual movie screens, and I watched Coraline. I missed the beginning, but I thought it was pretty good. Then I listened to some music, dozing in and out. They fed us dinner- chicken with green curry and rice, a breadstick, water, cheese, tapioca pudding, and a brownie that I didn't eat because it had bananas in it, and I don't like bananas in things. I dozed in and out for the rest of the flight, just listening to music. At 5:00 am Paris time, what my body thought it was midnight, I got breakfast (yogurt, a chocolate chip roll, and OJ) and watched the sun come up over the clouds. It was really pretty.

When I got to Paris, I had to go to a different gate for my last flight. The security line was really, really long, and so I asked one of the employees if I had to stand in it- at this point it was 6:45 and my flight was supposed to board starting at 7:05 and leave at 7:35. Again I got to cut the line. It was really hot, and really cramped, and took a while even so, so by the time I got to the other side it was 7:05. But I didn't have to take off my shoes, so that saved a little time. Then I ran to the gate, and they were boarding. I found it, and got in line behind this guy. I hoped he spoke English and asked him if he knew if they were boarding everyone or not. He did speak English, but he had no idea. So we decided to stand in line and hope for the best. The line was kinda long, so we started talking. Turns out he was also coming to Morocco to study Arabic, but in Marrakesh instead of Rabat. He was a UCLA basketball player (Jess, I thought of you...) When we finally gave them our boarding passes, we walked down what I thought was the jetway, and then at the end down some stairs...and there was a bus. We were a little confused, but we got on it. We ended up sitting there for quite some time, just talking about school and Arabic. The bus pulled away around 7:30 and drove around the tarmaac to another terminal and finally to our plane which was sitting out in the middle of the tarmac. I'm not sure exactly what time we actually left, probably close to 8 or maybe even later. I was sitting next to a really nice Canadian couple who helped me put my backpack in the overhead bin because I was too short (the lady actually said, "Here, let me help you, I'm 5"9'. My life is sad.) I dozed in and out on this flight too, and read some. I woke up when they brought breakfast- croissant, roll, cheese, and OJ. I didn't feel that great- had a headache and felt hot because the airvent didn't really reach me. I was hungry, though, so I started eating, but it didnt' help much. I'm not sure if the lunch I ate in Boston or the dinner or breakfast on the plane to Paris were bad, because my stomach decided to empty itself. I did feel better after that...and the couple I was sitting next to was really nice about offering me napkins and calling the flight attendant to take my tray away and bring me some water. For a while after that I just curled up with Dug, my coyote, and my iPod, and dozed in and out. I woke up when we were flying over Morocco, and looked out at the buidings and landscape.

When we landed in Casablanca, I took my time getting off the plane, and then out into the airport. I stood in line for a while at Immigration, only to learn that I needed a stamp on the information card I had filled out on the plane. I'd walked right by the guys that were supposed to stamp. But it wasn't just me...they just weren't telling people that they needed to get stamps in their passport. So I went back and got it, and then stood in line again, and finally got out. The guy I met on the plane told me that you had to have your boarding pass from your flight into Casblanca, that if you didn't still have it they could make you pay for another ticket- luckily I had mine. Then, right after they stamped my passport, I had to get it checked by security before I could get downstairs. The long time it had taken me to get down to the baggage claim meant that my bag was ready for me when I got there. And it hadn't been lost! Quite a feat, considering I took 3 flights and had last seen it about 20 hours ago...kudos to Delta and Air France for that. I went out into the arrivals area, and it was a little disconcerting to feel out of place because most of the women were wearing headscarves and long, long-sleeved robes. I wasn't dressed scantily at all in a blue t-shirt and long linen pants, but it was just a little bit of a shock to be surrounded by people that were so covered up. Even a lot of the men were wearing the traditional Moroccan robe and hat. When I got into the arrival area, my lifelong goal was finally reached: someone was standing there waiting for me with an official sign with my name on it. I was so happy! I went and changed a little money and then got in the taxi to Rabat.

My taxi driver was very nice- I don't remember his name now, but he told me. And he also told me his mother's name is Aisha. He works with the Center, driving people back and forth to the airport. He spoke English fairly well. I felt bad because I kept falling asleep because I hadn't gotten a full night's sleep, and, let's face it, I tend to fall asleep on long car rides anyway. He seemed surprised at first that I was tired, but when he found out that I had been on airplaces for about 11 hours, he seemed to understand a bit more. What I did see of the area between Casablanca and Rabat struck me as very very similar to Curacao- same brownish vegetative ground cover with some trees and what looked like oleander and bouganvillia bushes to add color. The bases of some trees were even painted white- I used to know why they did this, but I forgot. I think it has to do with stopping goats and sheep from eating the bark, but I could be making that up completely. I saw a lot of goats and sheep, too, and a lot of people walking around. When we got to the Center, I checked in, paid, and then got in another taxi to my apartment. I guess because it's the weekend they couldn't get the key to my double room, so I'm staying in a single tonight and maybe another couple nights. But they also couldn't get the internet access code, so right now I'm back in the Center using the wireless there, and then hopefully tomorrow I'll be able to get on the internet in my room at night, which would be when I would probably talk to anyone because of the time difference.

The apartments I'm staying in, more like dorms, really, are gorgeous. They're a bunch of buildings clustered around a nice gardeny area. I didn't get pictures of the outside, yet, but here's a picture of the inside. Right now I'm in a single with a private bath, but then I guess I'll be moved to a double with a private bath. I guess I'll meet my roommate when that happens. When I got there, I took a shower, changed, and then caught a taxi back to the Center so I could get on the internet. It was an adventure, because he didn't really know where the street was- we stopped to ask several times- and we couldn't communicate all that well. But I'm here now, and I need to figure out how to get some food and also the address of my dorm so I can get back there eventually. And then tomorrow I have a placement test and some other stuff to take care of, and then I start class!

Wow, this was long. But it's pretty much the last 24 hours of my life, very eventful. And now I'm on my own in terms of food and to do what I want until 7:45 tomorrow morning when the bus comes. I think I'll probably sleep pretty well tonight, considering I didn't really sleep last night.

I love you all! :)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

In about 9 and a half hours, I'll be on a plane that's pulling out of Raleigh/Durham International Airport, with a stopover in Boston (and an hour with Matt!), another stopover in Paris, and then finally arriving in Casablanca, Morocco!

I'm finally all packed, with a suitcase weighing only 40 lbs to meet Air France restrictions, a backpack full of necessities in case my luggage is lost, and a shoulder bag with some reading material and Dug, my stuffed coyote, to keep me company. I'm pretty excited...

Look out for another post on Sunday sometime as I get settled into my apartment, and maybe some pictures, too. If you'd like a postcard, please send me your address and I'll do my best. Assuming the internet connection is decent, I'd love to Skype with anyone interested! Remember, I'm 4 hours ahead of eastern time and 7 hours ahead of pacific, so we'll need to plan Skype dates accordingly.

I'm off for a little bit of sleep before I have to wake up in the morning and run last minute errands.

!مع سلام

Thursday, June 18, 2009

برنامجي (My schedule)

In just over a week, I'll get on a plane to Boston, then one to Paris, then one to Casablanca. I'll be picked up and driven to Rabat, where I'll check in and be given an orientation to the Qalam wah Lawh Center and the apartment I'll be living in for 6 weeks. I'm a little nervous, but mostly just really, really excited!

At the Center, I'll have an apartment with a roommate. There are three different residences that the Center uses, all within two miles, so walking distance for sure, and I can always catch a bus or taxi if I'm running late. All the residences have private or semi-private (3-4 people) bathrooms, kitchen areas, living rooms, gardens, etc. There is wireless internet in all of them, and a cleaning service comes in to clean 2-3 times a week. They provide breakfast at the Center for all students staying in the residences, and you can order a lunch service as well. Dinner, as well as breakfast and lunch on the weekends, is on your own.

I'll have 6 hours of classes a day, broken into 2-hour blocks. Breakfast is from 8-8:30, with the first class block from 8:30-10:30. We have a a 15 minute break, then another class block until 12:45, at which point we have an hour and fifteen minutes for lunch. At 2 we have the last block of classes. Block 4 of the day, from 4:15-6:15, allows time for Arabic calligraphy lessons, art class, clubs (cooking, music, film), lectures, and the weekly excursions.

Included in the cost of tuition is two local excursions each week. These excursions, around Rabat and its sister city Sale across the Oued Bou Regreg (a river), are meant to expose us to the culture in Rabat, and I'm pretty excited about them. They include such sites as the National Archeological Museum, the Royal Palace, the اسواق (markets) and the beach.

On the weekends, we're pretty much left on our own. I'll definitely be taking time to travel around Morocco. The Center does offer weekend excursions; they have 5, so I could potentially do them all in my time there, or pick a couple and do some other travelling on my own. I'm defintely going to do the 3 day, 2 night trip to the Moroccan Sahara and Merzouga: it includes a "two-hour camel trek to Berber campsite"! The rest look fun too, so I'll decide cost-wise which to do, and whether I just want to travel some on my own.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


مرحبا (Welcome) to my Morocco blog!

I thought I'd start a blog to update everyone on my time in Morocco so that I could have a central place to upload updates and pictures. Once I get to Morocco (June 28), I'm hoping to update regularly. We'll see what happens...

In two weeks I'll be in Morocco!! With a fairly detailed packing list drafted and a gift of the "Lonely Planet" Morocco guidebook from my mom, things are really shaping up. I'm pretty psyched about going; I'll be studying Arabic for 6 weeks at the Qalam wah Lawh center in Rabat, the capital. I'm hoping to knock out a full year of Arabic study at Stanford so I can take advanced next year.

Look for more posts to come, especially starting on June 28.

(go with peace/goodbye) مع السلامة,

عائشة (Aisha)