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New Bike and Chicken Rotisserie

Yes, I finally bought a new bike. This one rides smoother, shifts easier and is quieter (no clanking chain) than the other one. I won’t hesitate to take it on longer trips out into the countryside, and since we are supposedly off next week while the students are on practicum, I just might get out and give it a workout. It’s a Peugeot mountain bike. It didn’t cost much, about twice of what I paid for the other one and it doesn’t have shocks. It seems like a good, sturdy, lightweight bike.

There are a lot of rotisserie shops here, places where I could see whole chickens and meats spitted and roasting over open flames, but I’d never bought anything at one them until tonight. I didn’t feel like cooking, so I went to one near the apartment and got a whole chicken to go. It cost about $7.50. I thought that was a bit high, but I saw the counterman put a loaf of bread (not an American loaf, but more like a puffed up flatbread style/shape) in the sack and thought, well, at least I got a little something extra with it. I took it home, planning to cook up some mashed potatoes and peas, but when I unwrapped it, I saw that, while I wasn’t looking, they had put two loaves in and had also put in a very large order of french fries, a bag of rice and a red sauce. Well, that certainly made it worth the price. The chicken was great, but I found that it was also stuffed with a very spicy, Moroccan rice and herb dressing. Quite a good deal, actually.

School and a Cycling Champion

There’s a definite chill in the air lately, but the days continue to be sunny. The high temperatures have dropped into the upper 50s and the lows are in the high 30s. Hopefully, this is the most extreme that winter will become in Meknes.

I just returned from an admin meeting at the CPR. Unfortunately, Mohammed had to work, so I assumed I would be engulfed and overwhelmed by the Arabic and French that would be swirling about me. Fortunately, the CPR decided to hire two more English teachers, Moroccans whose fluency level in English is very high. I had met both of them before when John and Hakim came down for lunch at the expensive riad in the medina (9/28/05 posting), and they were able to keep me informed of the proceedings. One of them, a very distinguished, gray-haired gentleman, speaks with a pronounced (no pun intended) Scottish/British accent. I’ll have to remember to ask him where he studied.

Next week was supposed to be the first week of the students’ practicum, when they go out into the schools to observe and to teach, but at the meeting it was decided to postpone it until the week after. There are several of these scattered throughout the term, some of them lasting two weeks, so I was looking forward to being off next week. That’ll have to wait, though I hadn’t really planned on doing anything special. So, if any of my students are reading this tonight, you read it here first. No practicum next week! The powers that be also decided to split the class of 50 students, way too large, into 2 groups of 25. Excellent news. Even though my teaching hours will almost double for a brief while, it will be much easier to teach and much more beneficial to the students within the smaller classes. The last 3 weeks I’ve been teaching 8 hours per week, but that will jump to 12 next week. After the practicum, the hours will probably drop back down to 8 again, with me teaching 2 classes per week for 4 hours each class.

I’ve about had it with my bicycle. It’s a very cheap, in both senses of the word, Italian-made job. I mean, it’s got a front shock AND a rear shock and cost less than $100. Cheap parts. The original chain broke, I have to keep tightening the handle bars every couple of weeks, and it slips out of gear quite often and/or the chain comes off, which can be dangerous when I’m trapped in a traffic signal change and cars are bearing down on me from the left and right. I tried adjusting the derailleurs, but to no avail. The bike shop to where I’ve taken it a few times has nice mountain bikes, Peugeots, for a couple hundred bucks, no shocks. I think one of those will be much better, not to mention safer, than what I have now. I met the owner of the shop, who is close to 80, I would guess. He doesn’t speak any English, but I managed to find out from him that he was the national champion bicyclist of the Tour du Maroc in 1950 and 1952; he has pictures of his past accomplishments posted on the walls of the shop. His son or grandson (I couldn’t figure out which) is a citizen of the U.S. and served in the American Navy. The old man was quite proud of the fact that he got to visit Washington, D.C., where his son lives, and Chicago and Texas last year (I think he said). He’s really a great, friendly fellow, so I don’t mind giving him my business. I think I’ll stop in after class tomorrow and buy a new bike. More later.

Ramadan, Bicycle, Eclipse

Today is the first day of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting and prayer. The small street running along my apartment was much more subdued this morning, quieter and less bustle. Many of the shops stayed shut for most of the day, opening a little later than usual. Most of them are shut down now, but only, seemingly, so that the employees can go break their fast (it is now after sunset). The patisserie is closed, but they haven’t pulled down their security shutters on the shop windows, so I assume they will open later on this evening. The normally packed streets are unusually empty, almost strangely so, though there is the usual assortment of vehicular traffic. Mohammed told me that most people stay at home in the evening, eating and drinking (non-alcoholic, of course) with their families. A few days ago, all of the restaurants that serve alcohol shut down, as well as liquor stores and the areas in grocery stores that sell alcohol. So, if you’re an expat looking for something stronger than mint tea, you’re out of luck until November.

I finally broke down and bought a bicycle the other day, a Bacini mountain bike (made in Taiwan) for about $110. I took it for a long ride in the country, which you can get to with just a short trek outside of Meknes. The surrounding farm land reminds me a lot of Montana, as I’ve stated before, with rolling hills leading into the mountains and strip-farmed land checkerboarding the landscape. It was a pleasant ride, though I have to do some adjusting to the gear shifters and derailleurs, which are a bit cranky, so to speak. Needless to say, after my 20-km (estimated) ride, my rear end was sore the next day. Here’s a look at Meknes from the southern edge of town.

Of course, I’ll put this image and most of the others that you see on the blog into the photo gallery in a larger size, so check there for these photos, and others, in the new section “Morocco.”

Monday I was tempted to get up early and watch the eclipse, but I decided not to bother since I had no way of observing it without going blind. By all accounts, it was fantastic. There is another one in this area on March 29th, 2006. Unfortunately, Morocco will be just outside the zone of totality.

Hah, Yanks win first game 4-2. I didn’t stay up to listen to it last night, even though it was an “early” game. With a 7pm Eastern time start, that meant it didn’t come on until 11pm our time. Tonight it’s even worse, starting at 2am (10pm ET). Of course, if the people upstairs are still up making noise because of the late Ramadan hours and keeping me awake, maybe I’ll try to watch or listen to it. More later.

Cross Town

So here’s the view of the medinah from a good vantage point in one of the quiet neighborhoods away from the downtown area. I attempted to “stitch” together a series of photos into one panoramic shot–not the best of results, but you might get some idea of what the medinah looks like. It’s a pretty small image, but click on it to get a larger version. I posted a much larger image on the photo gallery.

Tomorrow I might go shopping for a bicycle; I saw one for sale for about $80–nothing fancy, but it will suit my purpose.

The Meknes Medinah