Last night I went to what they call the countryside for something they call an engagement party. A few days ago, when my host family told me what the plan was, I assumed I had misunderstood. Of course, I had, but surprisingly only partially. I had thought I was being offered a fifteen year old cousin in marriage- I was wrong about that part. Yes, she is fifteen and a cousin but she’s not for me. She’s getting engaged, and will be married in two years. Next, I thought my family was saying that she’s getting engaged to her cousin. I turned out to be right about that part. It’s a bit odd because it’s known here that marriage within a family is dangerous because mental disorders are common among the children of married cousins. But I guess whatever floats your boat. Also, 15 is somewhat young to be engaged here. It seems many people aren’t really sure how old they are because birthdays don’t really matter, so she could easily be significantly older that fifteen. It seems to me people are more likely to lose track and underestimate than overestimate their ages.
So anyway, we get in a minibus on the outskirts of town and ride about 5 or 6 kilometers up into the hills to a small town- the kind of place where there’s one paved road through half of town and plenty of animals, alive and dead, in the street and hanging from shops (respectively). Very strangely, there was a chock full karate studio we walked by. We walked straight up this scrubby hill- lots of exposed rock, some mint and bushes and trees and a couple donkeys along the way. At the top of the hill there were about a dozen houses and a mosque. And as we were walking the sun set and all the mosques on all the other little hills surrounding the village sounded the call to prayer at the same time, and the sounds reverberated back and forth between them- it was wicked cool. And it turned out to be the best part of the trip. From the hill you could see Sefrou and a bunch of surrounding mountains.
Once we arrived at the top, we went to the neighbor’s house, which was visibly older than any other place I’ve been in Morocco- the roof was basically made of crossed sticks below some cement (I think), but I felt some water leaking through a few times, so not sure what was going on there because it wasn’t raining. The house, however, was actually fairly large. A group of men in one of the rooms read verses from the Quran together out loud for a while and my host brother told me it was because of the engagement.
It turns out that for an engagement party, at least in this case, everybody is strictly segregated by gender. The men are in one house (in this case the neighbors, who didn’t seem to mind at all), and the women in the other. I could hear lots of drumming and singing and probably dancing and other fun activities from the women’s house, but the men basically watched tv on a fuzzy screen for about 8 hours, including an unbelievably shitty John Travolta movie where he’s a fireman (English dubbed into French so I couldn’t understand any of it). We ate two dinners in a row for some reason, one of which was three whole chickens. Reminded me of Boggis and Bunce and Bean. Except, of course, there was no drinking of any kind. I started falling asleep on myself by 10:30 and at around two I asked my host brother if we were going to be staying the night or going back to Sefrou. He said he didn’t know. I asked when we would know. He said he didn’t know. At around 4:30 I started to fitfully sleep and was woken up at 7:30, splashed my face with some cold water, and one of the cousins walked us down the hill.
One surprising take-away I got was a bunch of the guys in the husband of the aunt’s family had really good teeth. Which is incredible- everybody’s teeth are terrible here, they don’t brush them and they obviously can’t really afford dental care. Also, even though the family sort of lives in the countryside, they seem to be comparatively well off. The cousin who walked us down the hill had a little red car of his which he drove us back to Sefrou in. He had racing seatbelts, the interior was red, and he had a strawberry smell-thing handing in the car. He also had a big Snoopy sticker across the top of his windshield, which I’m pretty sure would be illegal in the United States.
We got back to Sefrou and I had about 20 minutes to get my stuff together and walk to class where I found out that I will Not be allowed to go to Fes for the weekend because the Peace Corps decided we can only stay overnight out of site on two occasions during the training and surprise, one was last weekend but they didn’t feel like telling us until now. I can tell I’ll be seriously upset with the peace corps for curbing our freedom in the name of security in the future.