Saturday, May 23, 2009

Morocco: Week 1

Morocco is a significantly more beautiful place than Senegal. It makes Senegal look like a landfill. Ok, not Senegal, just Dakar. I mean, there are actual trees here! And flowers! Can you believe it? I also saw rain for the first time since leaving the states this morning. I had a dream about it last night. I cannot wait to see my first summer thunderstorm in South Carolina. Mostly, I have been hanging out with my friend Zineb, and her friends and kids. I met her on an airplane on the way to Senegal, and she gave me her email address, and said come to Morocco. So here I am. Can't pass up a free place to stay. I could live here. One of my favorite places is the vegetable market. We went this morning and my mouth watered at all the fresh fruits and vegetables. And no, this wasn't like the Fresh Market where they say "Fresh from Nicaragua!" This was really fresh! There were so many colors. I loved it. I have pictures, but can't upload them right now. And all the spices and olives! Oh goodness. Moroccans do food right. I have had so many incredible food dishes. And yes, I have been eating chicken, mainly cause I didn't want to be a hassle, and how can I miss out on such wonderful food? I fully intend to learn how to make several of these dishes before I leave. Hopefully I get the chance. And the tea! Delicious. Tea is served all the time. And it is a nice sweet mint green tea...or something like that. I am going to learn how to make that, too! How could anyone eat frozen, packaged, or canned vegetables? Gross. I mean, unfortunately, it's just cheaper. It's sad but true. At least there are farmers' markets in the states. What else? We went to Casablanca, just to say I have been there. It is not a pretty place. The mosque, however, is beautiful. We walked around the outside and will be taking a tour on Tuesday. It is the 3rd largest mosque in the world. The 4th largest is in Senegal, and it, too, is beautiful. The mosaics of that mosque were made in Morocco! Go figure. They know beauty. I also went to a hammam. It is a bath house of sorts. They have them for men and women, and most people go once a week. You go, get down in your underwear, and an old woman scrubs you with gooey soap, and sometimes washes your hair. She scrubs you pretty hard, to the point of pain. But I have now had 4 months of Senegalese dirt scrubbed off me. It was pretty cool. I am staying in Mohammedia, 30 minutes outside of Casablanca. It is a beautiful town. Rather like California, very beach town. Ton of colors and palm trees. They even have a section called California. They have delicious bakeries everywhere. Mille Feuille cakes are the most amazing thing. Especially the chocolate ones. That's about it so far. My favorite thing? FOOD! And greenery. And the family I am staying with is wonderful. We are going to the desert next weekend! And then Marrakech and Fes on my own. Both beautiful cities I hear. We are also going to set up some private belly dancing lessons for this week. Awesome. We are going to Rabat, where the king lives, on Monday. So, it has been a pretty fun time. I can't believe I will be in South Carolina in two weeks. It has been awhile.

Friday, May 15, 2009

So, I finished my project and my presentation and now I am 11 hours away from leaving to go to Morocco. I have so much to write about my last week, but I am so tired, and will hopefully get a chance to do that tomorrow. In the mean time, here is a video of my performance.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Kora Kora Kora

The past four weeks of my life have been defined by the kora. I chose to study this instrument for my Independent Study Project. I took lessons 4 times a week for two hours each lesson and practiced everyday. I probably practiced kora more in the past 4 weeks than I have practiced my violin in the past 4 years. Truth! I need to change that. But anyway, I have learned so much and I cannot even begin to explain it. I had to fit everything into a little paper...well not too little, but there was just so much stuff I have learned, it was hard to get it together. I met musicians, interviewed and talked to different kora players, found some really incredible music, and learned to play the kora. The title of my paper is "From Griot to Toubab: The Evolution of Kora in Dakar." Toubab, being the term they use to refer to white people and griot the storytelling historians who specialize in music and dance. The kora was originally created and used only by the griots, and now has branched out into other areas of music. Some griots believe it should only be used by griots and cannot be understood by non-griots, but I have also talked to others who believe different. My kora teacher is a non-griot, but he most amazing musician. His teacher is a griot and believes that the spread of this instrument is like an honor to griots and the instrument itself. It is good that people want to use this instrument to spread music. I have so much other stuff about the kora rolling around in my brain, that I could better describe it to you if you asked me sometime. I just wrote a huge paper, I am kind of done writing for awhile. But you are welcome to read it, if you want it, just let me know. I can float it around cyberspace for all. It was nice to not have any classes for that four weeks and to be on my own doing my own thing. Especially because my best friend here left early, I was already feeling on my own and not really into being at school everyday with people who are really nice and wonderful, but I had not made an especially strong connection with. But I am glad I had Courtney for the time she was here! The only thing left to do is practice practice practice my kora for my presentation and performance Sunday morning. I will hopefully be able to post a video of it soon afterward, or sometime next week so everyone can see how awesome I am. Or how nervous I get and messed up my playing is. Then we go to a beach resort to finish up the rest of the presentations, which is basically just like vacation, or extreme boredom. But I am going to take a bunch of books, and hopefully there will be a market to buy the small things I have been meaning to buy all semester, but haven't. Next Saturday at 6am I am leaving for Morocco. I will hopefully be able to write when I am there, but I intend on leaving my computer at my school in Dakar, since I have to spend one night there anyway before coming back to the states. Luckily I get to leave a bunch of my stuff at school, locked up and safe, so I don't have to take it to Morocco. I definitely have stuff that would be completely unnecessary for my trip, and it will be nice not to have to lug it around. I am also going to try and ferry to Spain and explore for probably about 5 days. I am excited about this trip, and I think all the burnt out feelings I have about being in Senegal will be replaced by excitement and happiness about being in a new place. Luckily it is just for three weeks, not over three months, so there won't be time to feel burnt out again. I am relieved and content about being done with the project and almost done with this semester. Hopefully my nerves won't kill me during my performance. I will be home before I know it, happily and sadly at the same time. Traveling is fun, and I really have loved living in a different culture, as hard as it was sometimes. I hope I am not stuck in the US for too long when I get back. But I'll always come back to see my mama and the rest of my wonderful family. Gotta love them. The pictures are me at my kora teacher's house with my kora, my teacher's niece, and my teacher