22 February 2012


(L)A typical meal with local friends; bread, oil, salt, tea.
(R)A snap from the souk

(L) Always love rustic doorways

(R) A typical street scene with a 'box shop' as I'm calling them, next door to a home with the washing hanging out on the street

21 February 2012


Jo drove me to my class again this morning but this time I drew a map as we went so I could retrace my steps afterwards. I was expecting to go over what we had looked at yesterday so had been frantically repeating Kem andak minam? Shnoo li zain andak? - How old are you? What do you like? We didn't look at them so I guess I have some extra time to try and lodge them in the ole brain.

Today's class provided me with two opportunities today to speak that I wouldn't have managed otherwise. I went to Las Dunas again by myself and this time I ordered my coffee in Hassaniya! Ridiculously chuffed at such a simple act. Later in the day I needed to spell my name to someone and I managed three of the four letters that make up 'Joy' in Arabic.

I ran into someone on the street today that I knew. It was a great little moment to see someone in a foreign town that I recognised, could speak to and embrace. A little thing you'd accept as a nice but normal occurence back home felt like an encouragement and reminder that I'm not on my own here.

I found my way to and around the market, drawing my map as I went. Bought the ingredients for tabbouleh and haggled a pair of shades down from 30 dh to an impressive£1.86 equivalent! If you've not been to a North African market before, imagine it like this; stalls piled high with fruit and vegetables like in England. Now shove them all together so you can just get by each one, add shoppers who stare at you, throw in flies and suspect smells, add litter, dirt, piles of sand and market stall holders calling out to you to try and get your attention because you're white and therefore fabulously rich (or so they think), intersperse vegetables with dirty, brick rooms full of chickens, stalls with whole goats hung upside down, most of the meat stripped off but with the heads still hanging intact with fur. Now if you can, pluck up the courage to pick something up from a stall. You're given a bowl to put in what you want and told how amazing the rather tired looking tomatoes are and how much do you want, a kilo? Grab some herbs and wince thinking you're going to be ripped off because you're white. End up paying pennies for everything you've bought. Leave surprised that some of the women smiled back at you and even spoke to you. Feel relieved the guy who followed you saying; 'Bonjour. Hello. Hola...' finally understood 'DEGAGE' (shove off in French) and left you alone.

Slept for a couple of hours then had a quiet evening watching Jo's 'Gilmore Girls', which isn't my thing but is an easy distraction, then several episodes of Arrested Development.


Johanne dropped me off at the language school today where I had mistakenly been signed up for Derija lessons rather than Hassaniya but it was quickly sorted out. I had the same teacher as when I was here two years ago and had taken a one hour lesson. We covered how to ask and answer questions about our name, place we are from, languages we speak, things we like, if we are married, what we do for a job and how old we are. Zain andi safar - I like to travel! After ten minutes, the board was covered with Arabic script that I tried to copy for a while but I couldn't keep up, so resorted to writing what I could hear.

I walked to Las Dunas cafe and haltingly ordered coffee, I think in French..? Jo joined me soon after and we ended up having a drink and a pastry each. I generously paid the £1.76 Dhiram equivalent! The weather was absolutely perfect; sunshine, very warm (even though someone Johanne knows stopped her on the way home to ask how she was coping with the cold!) and a gentle breeze.

I spent a good while trying to remember the phrases from this morning's class; Inta men mneyn? Shuny kha dimtek? - Where are you from? What is your job?

Spent a good 20 minutes tracing a map of Laayoune from Google Maps (roads, no street names or landmarks) and went out to orientate myself. It was going brilliantly until I got to the main road that wasn't there! I soon realised I was totally lost. Men were staring at me all the time even though I was wearing a high cut, long-sleeved top. I didn't want to make it obvious I had a map in my hand and there was nowhere to stop and gather my thoughts so I resorted to turning on data roaming, found to my horror that it was already on and located myself in the right direction.

Some time after 5 we went out visiting with one of the cakes left over from the previous night that we couldn't possibly manage. It was a really special time and I felt genuinely blessed to be so thoroughly accepted and welcomed into someone else's home. Heartfelt words were shared. They invited us to stay for dinner and we said yes. It was 9:30 at the time but we didn't finish eating until close to midnight at which point Jo and I were dead on our feet!

19 February 2012

The eagle has landed. The first evening.

So it didn't take long before the craziness set in! Stood at passport control for about half an hour before getting through. A was waiting for me at the other side and it was great to see her again. The first taxi we piled into was already full to my eyes but we sat in the front passenger seat together while her friend got in the back with the three existing passengers. I was closest to the driver, my spine hanging on to the edge of the seat and the gear stick wedged against my leg, with gear changes proving an uncomfortable experience. A 'discussion' began which was deafening even above the Arabic/French radio! A threw herself into the conversation at full volume and the driver turned his head when he 'spoke'. The resulting effect was that he had his eyes off the road and was effectively shouting in my ear! All the while, I'm not at all sure if we are heading towards the right place! A told me I had to go to hers first and that buses don't run after 8m and if I stay at her flat, I can just tell J that I arrived too late for the bus. It wasn't until we were in the third taxi and after repeating the importance of getting my ticket from friends, that I felt confident we were going where I needed to go!