Saturday, January 31, 2009

Locked in

We stayed with the McCallisters while we were getting settled in Cairo, and now we’re paying back the favor. Jaehee and Aden are staying with us while they are getting settled.

Rachel loves Jaehee. She calls her “Juh."

This morning the Relief Society met for breakfast at Lucille’s (that’s a restaurant, by the way, not one of the sisters). That meant that Jaehee and I got up early to get ready to go, letting our husbands sleep in.

Jaehee got up the earliest of all of us. My plan was to roll out of bed, get dressed, and go. Jaehee took a shower. Now that’s dedication.

I woke up about 10 minutes before my alarm clock went off to the sound of someone knocking at a door. I couldn’t figure out where the noise was coming from.

At first I thought it was Rachel. She will get out of bed sometimes and knock on her door to let us know that she’s awake and wants to come out. But, seriously, she had gone to bed so late that she should still be sleeping. And the knocking was pretty loud.

“Perhaps it’s the front door,” I thought as I rolled out of bed and stumbled sleepily out of my room.

But it wasn’t the front door. It was coming from inside our apartment. I quickly surveyed the scene, which was difficult in the dusky morning light without my glasses on, and noticed that the bathroom door was closed and the light was on.

Uh-oh.

I heard the knocking again. It was coming from behind the bathroom door.

“Jaehee?” I asked.

“I just closed the door!” she said, “And now I can’t open it!”

“The handle fell off on this side,” I said.

It was inevitably going to happen sometime. Our bathroom door is even trashier than our front door, which is warped so badly it belongs in an M.C. Escher drawing. It just should not be able to swing open or closed.

The bathroom door isn’t warped, but the handle is…not connected, apparently.

Jaehee and I did our best to get the door open, but we failed, so I went to wake up Andrew.

“The handle fell off the bathroom door,” I said after I had woken him up sufficiently to be a little coherent.

“Good,” he mumbled.

“No, not good. I can’t get the door open.”

“I’ll fix it later.”

“Jaehee is inside.”

After a series of moans and dramatic tosses, Andrew got out of bed.

He tried putting the handle back on. He tried turning the inside workings of the knob with pliers. Finally he just slammed the door with his shoulder a couple of times and it popped open.

Brute strength and brains? I married well.

“Sorry to wake you,” said Jaehee, “But I couldn’t really do anything besides knock.”

Andrew mumbled something about going back to bed and was back asleep within 5 minutes. I got out the duct tape and taped the latch inside the door so that it could be closed all the way without ever latching. Hopefully Jaehee will be the only one lucky enough to spend the morning locked in our bathroom.

Just another normal day in Cairo, what can I say?

Flashback Friday: Vindicated

I’m late with this again, I know. Maybe Saturdays are the new Fridays? I was just so busy yesterday, what with all the church-going, napping, and firesiding that I did I was plum wiped out by the time Rachel went to bed at 11:30 PM.

Sometimes she doesn’t want to go to bed. And she’s a very busy baby, so my spare time is very limited, indeed. That’s why it took me like 3 weeks, or something, to read Wuthering Heights.

The only reason I can write this right now is because:

A) Rachel really wants to “GO!” so she’s currently sitting in her stroller and singing a song about babies and “book-a-bonks” and “glu-glu-ma-ma-mas” interspersed with an inspiring chorus of “Go! Go! Go!” and “No! No! No!” Those last two are her favorite words lately.

and B) I’m using Windows Live Writer which lets me blog completely offline. Andrew’s trying to rewire our phone. We’ll see how that goes. When (and if) the internet starts working again I’ll post this.

Anyway, I finished Wuthering Heights while we were somewhere in Morocco and because I was bored and we were sitting on a train and Andrew was coloring so nicely with Rachel, I kept on reading through the “Reader’s Supplement.”

I earned myself a few more minutes of freedom from Rachel’s craziness as well as a bit of vindication.

When I was in grade 5 I always did my spelling tests with my friend Kaley. We often played together after school and her mom would make us study our spelling words before we were allowed to play. Our spelling tests were a little ridiculous, I thought.

Instead of getting a standard list of words our teacher would go through our work and pick out misspelled words. It wasn’t even just our polished work where we’d used the dictionary, either. It was from “free writing” time in our journals where we were assigned a specific amount of time to just write away, without getting out of our seats—for anything, even to look at the dictionary. That’s the kind of writing she took our words from, the hurried, sloppy writing from our journals.

We each had our own individual list of words that we couldn’t spell.

In theory this was a good system, but in reality it backfired. Kids started purposely misspelling easy words and/or only using words that they knew how to spell. Their spelling tests were easy as pie.

I was a little bit of an overachiever and/or incredibly slow at catching on and kept using big words that I wasn’t really sure how to spell. I remember having words like curious, nervous, florescent, vanilla, and subsequent on my list. That might not sound bad until you saw my peers’ lists: shirt, ask, hand, foot. Come on!

My teacher, Mrs. Bienert, aka “The Homework Queen,” was a little clueless, herself. I had more homework than my sister and brother combined—they were in high school and junior high. I was in grade five and working on homework until 10 PM, or later. Every night. Hours after my older siblings had closed their books I was still plugging away.

When my mom brought this to Mrs. Bienert’s attention, she said, “I never expected anyone to actually complete all the homework I assign. Most of these kids don’t have a life after school and would just watch television if they didn’t have homework.”

“Well, my daughter has a life,” my mom said.

I had gymnastics on Fridays, Achievement Days one night a week, FHE on Mondays and swimming in the spring. I also participated in the school musical and an afterschool jazzercise program (did I really just admit that? It was the nineties, okay). And I helped babysit my younger siblings until our parents got home from work. Oh, and I did homework. Plenty of that. There was almost no TV watching in our house.

So the homework thing was a little ridiculous, especially for a perfectionist like me who had to complete everything, and get full marks, or it was the end of the world.

Just because I’m a perfectionist, though, doesn’t mean I’m good at everything. For example, I can’t spell very well. In any language. I love spell checker. It’s probably the best invention ever because I know way more words than I can actually spell.

I’m forever forgetting “i before e” rules and things like that. Spelling is like math. It’s just tricky. I can’t remember any formulas about triangles or anything like that, and I can’t remember any decimal in pi further than 3.14. And I can’t spell. So I’m not a genius, just a perfectionist, or as my cousin Elizabeth likes to say, a precisionist.

In order to help prepare us for our tests, Kaley and I would make up stories about our words, a method sanctioned by both of our mothers as a valid way of learning how to spell.

For example, in grade three I had the word “together” and my mom helped me make up the story “We went together to get her.” I knew how to spell to, get, and her. Putting them together in that order made “together” and presto! I never spelled together wrong ever again.

Beautiful is another tricky word. There are simply too many vowels in it. Kaley and I would say, “You look B-E-A-U-tiful today!” But since spelling out half the word would have been cheating we made up the sentence “Be an understanding beauty” or something like that so that we could remember the order of the vowels.

Vanilla was pretty simple, too. See, Mr. Illa drove a van and sold vanilla ice cream. You can sing that to the tune of Yankee Doodle Dandy. We had a whole song for vanilla.

And that’s how we’d memorize our spelling words every week.

Since every pupil had a different list, Mrs. Bienert couldn’t give a “test” to every student, so instead we partnered up and tested each other. Kaley and I were always partners and we would always use the sentences that we’d made up, or similar sentences.

One day Mrs. Bienert called us into an unused classroom to talk to us in private. Someone in the class had told Mrs. Bienert that we were cheating. She wanted to ask us about it.

I believe it was the week Kaley had the word “sword” on her list and we made up a sentence something like, “Don’t use the s-word or I’ll use my sword on you.”

So we told Mrs. Bienert about how we learned our words and used sentences to help us remember how to spell them.

Mrs. Bienert told us that was unfair because other students weren’t doing that. She tore up our spelling tests from that week and banned us from being spelling partners while expressing her disappointment.

I never told my parents. I don’t know if Mrs. Bienert ever did.

Part of me was too ashamed to because I was a “cheater” and part of me was mad because my mom had taught me to “cheat.” Part of me was livid because other children were cheating by purposely spelling easy words wrong and got away with it simply because Mrs. Bienert thought they were white trash.

I finished off the year taking every spelling test by myself. I memorized the words on the list and how to spell them and sat by myself and wrote everything down from memory. Still, I made up stories to do this, and felt a little guilty all year because I was “cheating.” But I couldn’t think of any other way to learn my words.

I’ve spent more than half of my life feeling guilty about this. When I had to memorize all the states and their capitols in one week after moving to the states, my mom helped me. We made up crazy stories about pigs with wings, flying through the sky carrying grapes in their mouths to remember that he capitol of New Hampshire was Concord; or my cousin Lance swimming across Lake Michigan while singing to remember that the capitol of Michigan was Lansing.

I got 100% on that test. And I felt like a cheater. Because I had made up those stories. And no one else had. Which gave me an advantage.

I make up stories to learn vocabulary words in foreign languages. I wrote a whole paper for my Historical/Comparative Linguistics class about creating “folk etymologies” as a learning strategy.

I learned in my TESOL classes that creating analogies and things like that is a perfectly valid tool for learning.

All this time I still felt like a cheater, because I had been accused of cheating in grade 5 for doing the exact same thing.

So it’s a good thing I read the “Reader’s Supplement” at the end of Wuthering Heights because, after reading that, I don’t feel guilty anymore. In the “Spelling Exercises” on page 30, it says,

Write the word so that the difficult part for you (the part you misspelled) stands out…Now compose a bond, some association or clue that reminds you of the difficult part, or use a spelling rule (if a good one exists) as your bond. All this helps you THINK THE WORD! The sillier the bond is, the better.

Even a ROSE makes him moROSE.

Granted, it then suggests practicing the word enough that spelling it becomes habitual, which I’ve done by now. My spelling has improved immensely since grade 5, even with the crutch of the blessed spell checker. Do you really think I spell “together” or “vanilla” wrong anymore? Spelling vanilla with two els is pretty habitual for me by this point in my life.

Realy. It is.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Back to normal life

Obtaining normalcy in Cairo is a bit of a stretch. Such a stretch, really, that "normalcy in Cairo" is basically an oxymoron. But here we are, back to normal life in Cairo.

We went grocery shopping today. That's a pretty normal thing to do after getting home from a long trip abroad. See? Normal.

We walked there because we don't have a car. Walking when you don't have a car is pretty normal, but I'm guessing that most of you have cars. You probably don't walk to the grocery store. But we do so, for us, that's normal.

We put normal things like spaghetti noodles and frozen vegetables in our cart.

Rachel grabbed a pad of butter and bit through the foil wrapping and got a big chunk of butter in her mouth, which she enjoyed thoroughly. While it's not normal for her to do that with butter, it's not unusual for her to do that with cookies. I will leave it up to you whether or not it is normal to enjoy a mouthful of plain butter.

We went up to the cashier and paid for our groceries, including the mangled butter, which is also pretty normal. We even used a credit card, which is so beyond normal here that you can't even begin to imagine. Cairo is not a cashless society, but we are American and America is a cashless society so every once in a while we like to use some plastic, which is normal.

We then loaded up our groceries in the jogging stroller, which isn't exactly normal, unless, like us, you happen to not have a car and instead have a jogging stroller, in which case, it's normal, and then we started on our way home.

The roads in Maadi are lined with trees that form a canopy above the road, giving you the illusion that Cairo is greener than it really is. Don't be fooled. It really is located in the middle of a big desert. But the greenery is nice and we enjoy the shade. It's pretty normal to enjoy shade outside when it's hot, I think.

So, there we were walking down the usual street we walk down when we go home from the grocery store and everything was normal.

And then we see this huge semi-truck coming down the street.

That's not normal because huge semi-trucks don't really fit under the canopy of trees that so nicely shade our streets. It was a noisy, messy affair; the branches were scraping against the side of the trailer and then sproinging* back into place. The less adaptable branches simply snapped under the pressure. The truck sounded kind of like this while breaking its way through the trees: CRASH! SNAP! SPROING! LURCH! THWAK! VAROOM! SCREECH! THUD!

It was dreadful, to say the least, and certainly not normal.

We lugged the stroller between some parked cars to wait in safety for the road to clear, which is a fairly normal thing to do...here, at least, where they try to keep usable sidewalks to a bare minimum.

It so happened that there was a tree very close to where we were standing. Its branches were adding to the canopy of branches the semi was belaboring against, and unfortunately they were of the less adaptable, less bendy kind.

When the semi truck reached our tree and began pulling against its branches we didn't hear any thwacking** or sproinging. Instead we heard snapping, which isn't something you want to hear when you are standing underneath a big tree. At least, if you're normal it's not something you want to hear.

Small twigs and leaves started showering down on us, which for some reason (normal or otherwise) made me want to look up to see if we were lucky. Maybe, just maybe, that loud snapping noise was a couple of insignificant twigs and the tree had nothing else to send down to us on the ground. Nope. There was definitely something else.

A decent-sized branch had also broken off the tree and was on its way to bash me on the head even as I was looking up at it.

Oh, great... I thought.

There wasn't really anywhere to go. We were trapped pretty snuggly between the semi-truck, two cars, and some shrubbery. All we could do was sheild ourselves a little, and maybe try to deflect the branch onto one of the cars.

I was still staring up at the branch torpedoing towards me and trying to decide where best to fling the groceries I was carrying so that I could call upon some superhuman strength within me to save our little family from being crushed to death by falling debris when the branch stopped midair. It levitated there for a few minutes before lurching forward with the semi. Each time the truck lurched forward the branch lurched forward, too.

It had landed between the truck and the trailer, right where they hook up, just a few feet above our heads. Miraculous.

So much for having a normal day in Cairo.

*Technically not a word.
**Now this is a word.

She found the golden ticket!

We had a games night at our house tonight. A new couple just moved here and we wanted to meet them/welcome them into the branch/socialize, that kind of thing. Since they've only been here for like 2 days and have been staying downtown, Rachel and I went out to the metro station so that we could walk them back to our apartment.

I explained to Rachel, several times actually, that we weren't going to take the metro, that we were just there to wait for some new friends.

She didn't quite get the concept.

"Go! Go!" she'd say, grasping my hand and tugging me towards the door.

After failing to convince her that we weren't going to ride the metro I started trying to convince her that we couldn't ride the metro.

"We can't go," I'd say, "We don't have a ticket."

Nothing was going to dissuade her from having her metro ride. As soon as those last words escaped my lips, Rachel was off like a rocket. At first I wasn't sure what she was doing, but it was obvious she had a purpose.

Finally she ran up to me, absolutely beaming.

"Ah! Titit!" she exclaimed, thrusting a discarded, ratty metro ticket into my hand. She pointed valiantly to the entrance and commanded me to "GO!"

Then I had to explain to her that, although we now had a ticket we still couldn't use the ticket because it wasn't valid anymore, having already been used. That was tricky. Pretty much impossible, really.

She didn't see the problem. We had a ticket. Why was I being so unreasonable?

We were on the very cusp of a terrific meltdown when our new friends arrived. Rachel couldn't really understand why I was calling them "friends" before we'd even met them, but she took to Jaehee right away. I think it's pretty safe to say that we're friends now. Even Rachel likes them!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Casablanca

Several weeks ago, Andrew and I decided to watch Casablanca for the simple reason of not having seen it before. It's a classic movie and someone mentioned something about it and we decided that watching it would make us more cultured. Or something.

We also wanted to try renting something from iTunes.

And thus our Casablanca date night was born.

It took days, probably, for the movie to download, at the rate our internet connection goes, but only about an hour to watch it. The movie was good enough, but it did raise several questions, not the least of which was who the heroine actually loves. The ending was a little ambiguous on that account. Besides the whole love story plot, which was entirely fictional, the rest of the movie was pretty much historically and culturally inaccurate but still made us curious about Morocco.

And thus our Casablanca date night turned into a trip to Casablanca.

Casablanca seemed to lack charm, compared to Marrakech, but after spending the day here we found it was definitely worth our time. Our hotel, apparently, is a hip-hop happening place. There is a big dance party going on downstairs, from the sounds of things, with lovely pounding drums thumping out staccato, syncopated rhythms. All of this is offset by the magical sounds of scooters whizzing by and taxis blaring their horns. And the eerie sound the pipes are making.

Our hotel, to summarize, sucks.

It's called Hotel Volubilis. Don't stay here.

The sheets and towels are stained a strange brown color but we think they were white once. The elevator door jams and we got stuck inside. We have seen several curious-looking bugs. And our room smells funny. It's not even in a good location so I'm not sure why we chose it.

I suppose we've been lucky though, since this is only a one night stand and our other hotels were really great.

Since we didn't want to spend the afternoon chilling in our less-than cheerful hotel room, we decided to spend the day out on the town. We first went to the Hassan II mosque, which happens to have the tallest minaret in the world. It's a beautiful mosque but, unfortunately, we weren't allowed inside. They only do organized tours and the last one for the day is at 2 PM. There were several disappointed tourists outside the mosque.

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Rachel fell asleep for about 15 whole minutes. When she sleeps she sleep so well, I guess, that she doesn't have to sleep very long. We took a picture so that we could prove that she doesn't just climb on things all day long. (Our fellow passengers on the train from Marrakech to Casablanca probably wouldn't believe it, otherwise. She was completely out of control on the train ride. Luckily she made great friends with everyone in the compartment and they took turns entertaining her with origami, chocolate bars, and walks down the hallway.)

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Is it possible that this little monkey is the same sweet, sleeping baby in the picture above? It's hard for even me to believe. Those sleeping moments are so far between!

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They did let us take a few pictures from the threshold, which was nice of them. The inside looked gorgeous--oddly enough the first thing that came to mind when I looked inside was "Joseph Smith Memorial Building." I don't know why--maybe it was the color scheme--because last time I checked the Joseph Smith Memorial Building wasn't a mosque.

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Rachel was roused from her nap by some little boys running around. They greeted me in French and asked if they could kiss my baby. I told them that I prefer that they wouldn't since she was sleeping and a kiss would wake her up. They insisted on kissing her, anyway, and she woke up. And then they asked me for money.

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Have I been able to explain yet how sick I am of being asked for money? Those little boys did me a disservice and then wanted to be paid just for existing. I wish someone would pay me for existing.

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Anyway, with Rachel awake and the mosque closed to the non-Muslim public, we decided our next line of business would be to find a nice beach, or at very least a nice-ish beach.

The Hassan II mosque juts out over the ocean, so from the courtyard we had a pretty good view of the ocean. From the looks of things the Moroccan landscape ended in cliffs before meeting the Atlantic Ocean.

This was a little upsetting because, you see, I have never before had the privilege of touching the Atlantic Ocean and I was very much hoping that today would be the day. But after looking the coastline up and down from the mosque, things looked pretty grim.

We grabbed a taxi, anyway, and went to the restaurant strip on the "kornishe" and found, to our pleasure, that there was a beach. It took us a while to find our way down to it, but it was well worth it once we did.

It was wonderful to be on the beach again.

Since it is January, the beach was rather empty. At least, I'm hoping that the only reason it was empty was because it's January. It's really quite a nice beach and it wasn't even very cold, so there was little reason for it to be so deserted. Most of the tide pools were empty, also, which was a little worrisome, but maybe they are always empty. I don't know.

Anyway, our first line of business was to have me touch the ocean, since that's been on my "list" since grade 5. Andrew got all ready to take my picture and I got all ready to touch the water. I'm wearing my cool pants, but none of these pictures show of the pants very well since it was more than a little breezy (and wrap around anythings look a little skiwampus in the wind) and after this first picture I was soaked in water up to my knees.

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The Atlantic Ocean was so happy to meet me that it almost swallowed me up. Apparently our desire to touch each other was mutual, although the ocean was a lot more enthusiastic about it than I was.

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Before this point the ocean was affectionately called "wa-wa" by Rachel. After she saw how powerful the waves were (we almost fell over) she started calling it "wa-wa BA!" which is, roughly translated, "Bad water!" She took to commanding it to "GO!" and would run away from the waves before they were within 10 feet of her.

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It took several hours to convince her that the water was alright. And really it was alright. It was a whole lot warmer than I was expecting it to be. If I had brought my bathing suit, and if I wasn't in a Muslim country, I would have gone swimming. I can't say that I feel that way about the Pacific Ocean in January. The Pacific Ocean is too cold for me in June and July, let alone January.

We spent the whole afternoon at the beach, and it didn't really start to get cold until the sun went down.

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I think Andrew was the only one who wasn't soaked by the time we decided to call it a day. Rachel had stepped in so many tide pools that her socks and shoes (and pants) were absolutely drenched. She sat on Andrew's lap in the taxi and his lap soaked up a lot of her wetness. He was positive that she had peed on him but, upon checking, we found that she was as dry as a bone...from her knees up.

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We had a great time at the beach and I was happy to have finally met the Atlantic Ocean. Who would have thought that I would go all the way to Morocco to do that? I certainly didn't think that was how things would pan out when I made that "goal." We were just mapping out a trans-Canadian trip to learn about the provinces and we had to list some things we wanted to do in each province.

That's when I realized that, although I had spent a lot of time at the ocean, I had never seen or touched the Atlantic Ocean. So I wrote down that I would visit it. And now I have though, come to think of it, I'm not sure it exactly counts since visiting the Atlantic Ocean was supposed to be something I'd do in the Maritimes. A dream half-fulfilled, I suppose. There are still so many places to visit and things to see. It's an addiction, really. The more you travel, the more you want to.

Marrakech

Thankfully, Fez is not the model city for Morocco. Marrakech is so much unlike Fez, actually, that it hardly seems possible that they are in the same country. Our train rolled into an actual station, complete with a platform, and things went off without a hitch.

Our hotel is just a few hundred meters from the train station and it was a beautiful walk. There are sidewalks here--ones that really work. It was so even and straightforward that we put Rachel down and let her run. That almost never happens here.

The hotel is very nice, nicer than our hotel in Fez, and even had freshly squeezed orange juice with breakfast. Could things get better? I submit that they could not!

We walked from our hotel to the Medina. That was a bit of a trek, but it wasn't quite as far as we had imagined. We got to the Koutoubia minaret in no time and stood for a few minutes just taking in the sheer magnitude. It's tall. While we were watching it was saw a crane fly out of its nest on the top, which was pretty neat.

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We didn't want to stick around there too long, though, because surrounding the Koutoubia are the ruins of a mosque, which the public seem to use as a makeshift bathroom and it smells rather terribly. We had a lot more to see, anyway.

So we struck off again on our way to the Medina. Rachel walked most of the way by herself. She likes to balance on curbs or, if there isn't a curb, any line she can find.

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We saw some interesting things on our walk, including some more djellaba-cloaked Jedi with a bike and some fountains that were slightly less than appealing.

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We entered the Medina through the Bab Nkob and found ourselves in the wildly African Jamaa el Fna, welcomed by the sound of beating drums, tinkling bells, and wailing flutes. Fortune tellers, snake charmers, and henna artists all vied for our attention while some cross-dressed belly dancing men tried to seduce a dirham or two out of Andrew's wallet.

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Witch doctors gave lectures and shook lizards at the throngs of people and "dentists" showed off the hundreds of teeth they pulled and tried to convince unfortunate souls that they had incurable tooth aches.

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This last dentist allowed, rather encouraged, us to take his picture for payment. We didn't think this was unfair, so we snapped our pictures and handed him a few coins. His meek, friendly demeanor quickly dissolved into a flurry of indignant passion. He grabbed Andrew's arm before he could put his wallet away and demanded more money. Andrew wrenched out of his grasp and told the man that he had been paid. The man followed us around for a few minutes shoving and heckling Andrew.

We told him, again, that he had been paid and that he was being incredibly rude and we would not pay him more. Eventually he left us alone, but not without a few choice words.

Later, when we were taking a few pictures of the general chaos of Jamaa el Fna, a snake charmer descended on us quite virulently, fittingly enough. He insisted we had taken a picture of him even though we had our back to him when he approached us. He, also, wanted a few coins for his "trouble."

We refused, for we had not taken his picture. I even showed him the pictures we had taken to prove that we hadn't taken a picture of him. He insisted that the man in the red-orange jacket was him.

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When we pointed out that that was impossible since that man was most definitely not a snake charmer, he still wanted to be paid insisting,

"He is my cousin."

Are you serious? Your cousin? Well then, come, and let me pay your cousin. Since your cousin is watching some grotesque male belly-dancers mincing and shaking, I really doubt he cares if we took his picture.

He refused to leave us alone and, embarrassingly enough, we got into a bit of an altercation with him. A yelling match, if you will.

He was getting right into Andrew's face, demanding money and talking loudly, while gesturing threateningly.

"NO!" Andrew yelled.

We were advised, by AUC, to get loud if things were turning dangerous so that people would rally around us. Or at least so that there would be witnesses if anything too terrible happened.

"Don't get angry!" he yelled, pulling Andrew closer, close enough now that he was spitting in his face while talking.

Andrew pushed his arms away and yelled in Arabic, "May God destroy your house!"

The snake charmer returned Andrew's cursings while we walked away, but didn't pursue us anymore.

Perhaps I wouldn't be so upset about these situations if my baby and I weren't treated like a circus act, ourselves. We go outside here, or anywhere in the Middle East, and people are constantly staring and snapping pictures. Perhaps I should start charging as well. We draw much more of a crowd than a grumpy dentist or surly snake charmer. 5 dirhams for a photo. 10 to stroke Rachel's cheek or pull her pigtails. 20 per "boosa" or "kiss."

If only her visa wasn't stamped with "NO WORK." We'd be rich.

Can you imagine the reaction I'd get if I asked for money--or worse, if I assaulted someone for refusing to give me money--after someone took a picture of Rachel? Can you imagine the reaction I'd get if I refused to let someone take a picture of her, or if I got mad at them for taking a picture of her?

I would be tut-tutted and tsked at for sure.

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Rachel didn't really enjoy all the hubbub of the square. She was crying "No! No! No!" the whole time we were there. Perhaps she didn't like seeing her Daddy yell at people. Perhaps she didn't like all the funny people pulling on her and demanding "PHOTO!" Perhaps the cacophony was just too much for her little ears to handle. Eventually we had to put it all behind us and delve into the suq.

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I found the coolest pants. Ever.

Unfortunately, since I was already wearing pants when I bought them and there was no where to change I had to wait for the rest of the day to put them on. It was almost torture.

They are wrap around pants. Really cool.

We got a few other items and wandered around some of the "food" suqs. They have a Suq Djaj that sells, what else but, chickens. There were chickens, eggs, turkeys, and pigeons all over the place. We went to take a picture but were yelled by some man holding an egg carton in front of his face, as if to shield him from the sheer awesomeness of our camera lens.

We did, however, get some pictures in the spice market and the snack area.

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Who thought of escargot first, the French or the Moroccans? I know the French claim it, but really? snails? That sounds a little exotic. It sounds like something the French would take back to France from Morocco, since Morocco seems a lot more exotic than France, at least to me. As for the dijon mustard, I'm sure the Moroccans borrowed that from the French. It is served with every meal here, like mayonnaise in Russia or ketchup in Egypt.

Instead of the escargot, we had couscous at a little place in the Jamaa el Fna square and then headed off in the small, winding, labyrinthine streets of the Medina to find some museums. Rachel was happy to leave the square behind, once again.

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Unlike Fez, the streets of the Medina in Merrakech (or Mrr-A-ksh as the locals are wont to say) are fairly void of people, donkeys, carts, or otherwise. There were a few roads that were crowded with motorbikes and had people milling about, but mostly we were alone.

Finding our way was a little tricky, but we had our map and there were signs pointing the way to the museum. We had just found our way to a little alley leading the way to the museum when a little boy appeared out of thin air.

"You want to find the museum?" he asked in an odd mix of French, English, and Arabic.

"Yes, of course," we said, pointing to the sign.

"I will show you the way!" the young boy offered, pushing his way in front of us.

"We can read the signs," said Andrew, in Arabic.

The boy continued to wait for us at every turn, right under the signs that also were showing us the way at every turn. The boy's services were overtly superfluous. We'd much rather have paid the sign painter than pay the young man pestering us to follow him. So we pointed out, at each turn, that we didn't need him and wouldn't pay him because we could read.

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He insisted on walking us the whole way to the museum, which was, disappointedly, closed for lunch. We thanked him for walking with us and reminded him that we had known where we were the whole time, were following the signs, and that he had done us no service.

"Give me money!" he whined, sticking out his hand.

After a little back-and-forthing we eventually paid him just to go away before heading back to the square to wait for "lunch" to be over.

I wish that I had something to give to everyone I came across, but I don't. It breaks my heart to see so many poor people, but it creates cynicism to be swindled so often. Wouldn't that boy be better off in school than begging pithy amounts of money from lost tourists? Does it really help to give him a coin for doing little, if anything?

I'm not really sure. And I wonder, further, why the restaurant we ate lunch at would allow acrobats to perform outside the restaurant and then run around pestering their clients for a few coins and yet would throw out, quite roughly, a vagrant--muttering constantly, quite crazily, and smelling so strongly of human feces that I thought an outhouse had walked by.

Surely he needed the money more than the acrobats. But would he even be able to use the money? I'm not sure. So perhaps we should have just paid the acrobats.

This world is in too much of a mess for me.

It was nice to finally get out of the square, once and for all, and into the silent seclusion of Dar Si-Said. It was quite an amazing house, displaying an array of insignificant objects of unimpressive age in inadequate lighting.

We weren't allowed to take pictures, which, due to the lack of interesting displays, would have been fine, were it not for the amazing architecture. Luckily, the house was all but empty and we had most of the chambers to ourselves. We didn't take any pictures, still, because that was against the rules, but we did make up an echo game that Rachel found wonderfully entertaining.

Soon one of the groundskeepers caught up with us and proceeded to lead us on a personal tour. We went into the harem, which was rather impressive. He pointed out a few things and tried to make friends with Rachel. We thanked him, and turned around to go back to the public part of the museum.

He stopped us, though, and beckoned us into another room off the harem. This room was quite unimpressive, compared to the rest of the house, let alone the harem, and we couldn't figure out why he wanted to show it to us.

But we didn't want to hurt his feelings, so we poked around and tried to look interested, before going back into the harem. We almost made it back through the harem doors and into the museum when he stopped us, again, and asked us to follow him.

He took us back to that boring old room again and then fumbled with his keys before forcing a squeaky door open revealing a dark passage way filled with junk.

Against our better judgement, but not wanting to pass up an adventure, we followed him, tripping on loose tiles and stumbling over unknown objects. It was too dark to tell where we were going until we emerged into a little living area, complete with a bed, a tv, and a little kitchen. Presumably, this is where the groundskeeper lived. He spread his arm out and nodded proudly as if to say, "Yes, this is all mine!"

He walked us to an old, wooden door that looked like it hadn't been opened in hundreds of years. It's hinges were rusted and so corroded that it seemed impossible that the door should open, but he took out his keys again and found one that fit in the ancient lock.

Andrew and I looked at each other quizzically. We didn't have time to wonder what the other was thinking, we were so consumed with our own thoughts. Would it lead to a magnificent chamber, or would we find ourselves locked away to rot in a dungeon?

The old door slowly opened, protesting loudly against its hinges and before we, ourselves, could protest the groundskeeper gave us a little shove that forced us through the door. He shut it quickly, and tightly behind us.

Having just been through those dark tunnels, the light was much too bright and we had to blink a few times to clear our eyes. When we had adjusted to the light and got our bearings straight we looked at each other and laughed.

We were standing in the street. The groundskeeper had kicked us out of the museum, for some reason or another. We'll never know what the rest of the museum looks like and we'll never know why we were kicked out. Maybe the groundskeeper was just crazy. The creepy way he led us through the house, I'm more than half inclined to think he was.

After getting our laughter under control we sauntered over to Palais Bahia, which was very similar, architecturally speaking, to Dar Si-Said, but much bigger and we could take as many pictures as we wanted. Oh, and there were many more tourists and zero creepy groundskeepers. We had fun exploring all the rooms and courtyards.

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While Rachel and Andrew were taking a potty break I found a mirror and took a self portrait. I thought it was cool because it doesn't necessarily look like I took the picture.IMG_7114

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Rachel saw a fountain in one of the courtyards. She loves fountains. She calls them "wa-wa" for obvious reasons, because she loves water.

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Andrew thought it would be a good idea to let her get close enough to touch the fountain. He also thought it would be a good idea to instruct her to "splash," hoping that the water would splash in my direction.

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I'm not convinced it was the smartest idea he's ever come up with, but it ended up being pretty hilarious for me! It backfired on him, royally. He ended up soaked.

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Rachel found other ways to prove herself a regular little monkey, besides just splashing her Daddy. We spent at least 20 minutes at this window grate, playing through it with Rachel. She was sticking limbs through it, trying to climb up it, kissing me through it, and was being silly, in general. She even ended up pulling off her shoe and demanded that I put it back on, through the grate, of course.

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Oh, and then there was the fountain in the middle of the harem. She ran to it the minute we got in the room and immediately started swinging from it like it was the bathroom sink.

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This is a common sight in our house whenever Rachel hears the words, "Let's brush your teeth!" or "Let's go wash your hands!" or whenever she's feeling just a little bit bored. She loves to grab onto the sink and swing back and forth. She really is a little monkey. We're not sure which side that little trait comes from.

From there we headed to the Jardin Majorelle, which we hadn't originally planned on going to but saw a picture of in the hotel elevator and decided to add to our agenda. When we got there, however, we found that the garden closed for the day in just a half hour and, since I'm a tight wad, didn't want to spend 30 dirhams (each) to get in the garden to spend just a few minutes wandering around.

So instead we decided to just walk back to our hotel. To make the most of our walk (ie: ensure that Rachel wears herself out sufficiently before bedtime) I had Rachel take a turn wearing the backpack. She was so excited to wear the "ba-ba," even though it was much too large for her. She had to push her little tummy out in order to keep her balance and kept tripping on the straps. We only let her wear it for a little while and she gave it up, torn between being relieved of its weight and upset that we took it away from her.

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Luckily for us, it did the trick and wore her out! She was in bed, and asleep, by 8:00. That hasn't happened in who knows how long!

So, there's Marrakech for you! Hopefully you got through all that. This was l-o-n-g. But Marrakech was so neat, so it was worth it. I still have more to say (don't know if that's good or bad) but we have to get to bed. We have a long day ahead of us tomorrow.