May 6, 2006

93 and cloudy

This is where we are. Neither here nor there. Suddenly, I feel like a child urged to come back indoors when it's so much more interesting at someone else's house. On the other hand, this is always a love-hate relationship. The "culture of despair" is eventually an illness that even a foreigner catches. Mohamed Choukri, the great novelist (For Bread Alone is his best) once accused Paul Bowles of loving Morocco but hating Moroccans. I may have mentioned this before. Asked to respond Bowles claimed, not entirely with humor, that his once close friend had lost his mind. Whether accurate or not I've felt that sense. The endless road blocks, the nuances of corruption, large and small, personal and professional, and as a teacher the relentless resistance of students to work, to examine, to question. For each there is a but, a qualification, a counter argument or scene, and of course the country itself, the place itself, that undeniable exoticism which is the like the arable land, being slowly dried up globalization, by the new Marjane's in Meknes, by "Notre Maisons" Magazine, a color glossy home and garden magazine, by the relentlessness of TV, by the constant contrast between proof of despair here and the promise of hope in Europe or America, by a trillion little nuances moving like locusts through the country.... By us, in part, despairing this and that.

And so I, we, are caught. The other reason to return, the one we keep repeating is that we want a better education for Dash. That he's been beaten up now and then — and that his class of six includes one psychopath (who recently did a science experiment to see how fast crayfish died in boiling water and is rumored to have burned up two kittens) and one porn addict (a character from Morocco's South Street), both 12 — of course, this could also happen in America but there is something else, more than when we arrived, a hostility. You feel in the marche. You hear of it from students talking of parents who wish the university would get rid of the American teachers, and the American style of education as well. The smiles are in tact; the motion to cover the heart as a sign of good will. But the threads are wearing thin. You can see through now.

For sure, the country is turning inward a little. Arranged marriages are all the rage in Fez these days. That wasn't true a few years ago. The Islamicists are expected to win big next year. I have the sense the Arab Awakening has reached the end of the day. So time to go. Better to pull back.

And yet....

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