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Empty Karaoke

MOROCCO | Saturday, 21 June 2014 | Views [1324]

On Wednesday, we didn't have politics class, going instead to the Center of African Studies. We got a short tour of the building, then sat down in a conference room.

The building wasn't that interesting. There were pictures of Mohammed V right outside the conference room, and on the walls leading up the stairs there were pictures of illuminated manuscripts of the Coran. (The latter were actually pretty interesting, since illuminated manuscripts in Islam can't have images of what's depicted in the text, so the images were floral or mosaic-like.) There was also a library with books in four languages (Arabic, English, French, and Spanish) but we only walked through that quickly, so I didn't have the time to linger over the books. But that part was interesting too.

The really boring part was when we went to the conference room. We didn't go there to hear someone lecture us- we went there to read books. Specifically, this one.

The front side is in French. The back is in Arabic. Wee! 

After about 15 minutes, Professor Adli (our politics professor was the one bringing us on this field trip) asked if we had any questions or comments about the text. (Internal comment: the text in that book was easier to read than the other texts for the class.) Someone asked a bit ore about the institution we were at. It's a research institute only, and it cooperates with other universities around the world. A lot in Africa, especially French-speaking Africa, some in Europe, one in Illinois...

Cynthia and I exchanged a look. “Where in Illinois?” The woman didn't know, so she went out to look. (Northwestern.)

Having exhausted all questions, we thanked her for the books (they were a gift, making the fifteen minutes of quiet reading time even less meaningful) and left. Ont he way back, our professor told us we should read it to prepare for Senegal, and also told us a little about the 3-5 page report we would have to write.

Nisrine spent most of the bus ride back talking about how there was nothing nice in Senegal. “I'm just trying to prepare you,” she would defend herself if anyone questioned that statement. “Make sure you don't have high expectations.” (Every other teacher would later give her grief for these statements, since this will be her first to Senegal as well.)

Someone suggested Nisrine write a report as well, a fact that reached general consensus as a good idea. “I'll write about all of the fun interesting things we're doing, and you can write about the academics,” she agreed.

I think we should swtich those,” the politics professor said. It sounds like a plan to me.

When we were back at the school, our professor confirmed that Nathan would present right before Megan on Thursday, and then I would present on Friday. I asked what reading I was supposed to present (I didn't know Nathan had a reading for Wednesday) and followed him back to his office, then to the classroom so he could check with Nathan and Megan.

The outcome of that seemed like I would not actually be presenting on Friday, but would instead be presenting twice the week we got back, which left everyone confused. We knew he wouldn't be here on Friday, but his previous statement had been that I should present anyway to Professor Lasri (Sociology and our substitute/Senegal informant.)

Even the people who weren't presenting were confused, as no one had thought we'd had to read today. But if Nathan was going to give a presentation tomorrow, we must have. We checked the Moodle, which had reading assignments for Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, and then the flashdrive we'd gotten, which had readings on the same days. Nothing for today.

Natasha went back to ask him. She came back a little later. “It's what he just told us, and we should follow what's on Moodle.”

We talked it through amongst ourselves, decided that following the Moodle was the sanest option, and then went back to clarify again. This time, Professor Adli came back to talk to all of us together.

Well the Moodle says...”

Don't follow the Moodle. Follow the course syllabus.”

I pulled out my folder for the class and found the list of readings for the class. It said the same thing as common sense, the Moodle, and the flashdrive. “Syllabus.”

I put aside a few more papers and found the syllabus. I said the exact same thing as everything else. We talked a bit more with Professor Adli, finally got him to say the same thing as the Moodle, the flashdrive, the course reading list, the syllabus, and everyone in the class, and he left.

It felt like a major accomplishment.

The faculty could not join us for karaoke, since they had a meeting with Chicago, but we were encouraged to go check it out. We weren't quite sure what time it started. The default plan was to show up and wait around. I went and checked their website.

I didn't know they had a website.”

Remember the pamphlet business card three people grabbed? Thad had a QR code on it? Them having a website was a pretty safe bet.”

Even without that card, it would have been worth a tray. And although Googling “Rabat Boat Cafe” does not have the website as the top hit, the top hit is a review of “Le Dhow,” the name of the restaurant.

But waiting around for it would have worked too. (It's what we ended up doing anyway.)

After class ended and Nisrine kicked us out of the classroom so that she could lock the doors, we went out in quest of a stationary shop. Nathan asked Nisrine, who told us it was straight, straight, straight, past the tram line, straight, and then there would be a brightly colored shop. Right next to it would be the store. A little past that would be a Carrefour.

We found the Carrefour, and bought toothpaste and caramel flavored kit-kats there. (Everyone else bought toothpaste. I bought caramel kit-kats. Clearly everyone else cares way more about their teeth than I do.) But even backtracking and looking around, we couldn't really find the orange store, and certainly not the stationary shop. So we gave up and went home, planning to meet at Le Dhow later at 9:00 for dinner.

Natasha, Cynthia, and Nathan ended up being served dinner before they left, so they weren't hungry for a full meal. Erika and I hadn't, and were. (Megan didn't come.)

So we got there and, after a bit of waiting around, asked about karaoke. We were led downstairs to a sports bar. We found an area that could fit five people. I had a really comfy chair for a minute, but I offered it to Nathan so that he would have a clear view of the TV and the soccer match rather than hurting his neck by constantly craning around.

The waiter came and handed us menus for alcohol. (Drinks were fifteen dirham higher than they had been upstairs in the cafe.) We asked if there were menus for food, and were handed menus for tapas. Given karaoke hadn't even started, we apologized and went upstairs to the restaurant.

We went from a sports bar to the kind of restaurant that looked like every meal should be thirty dollars minimum even if it weren't on a boat. There were nice napkins, tablecloths, silverwear... it just felt generally classy. We said that yes, we were eating, and it would be OK to be seated upstairs. They put us at a table that wasn't quite clear, but presumably would be (with new silverwear and plates) by the time food arrived. And we sat down to order.

It took a while to catch the waiter's eye. He came over, took my order, warned Natasha and Nathan (who were splitting a dessert) that the crème brulee was small, asked Cynthia what she wanted to eat, and, when she also responded with a dessert, said something about how we all needed to order food, and left.

I never saw him again.

After sitting there a bit in confusion and rehashing what we knew (two of us needed food. Three of us didn't want to be forced to eat a meal. Splitting a dessert did not count as “eating,” at least not according to the restaurant. We wanted to check out karaoke, which had not yet started. We needed food.) Nathan went downstairs to see if we could talk to the woman who had seated us and seemed to know English. He reported back that if only some of us wanted meals, we needed to sit on the deck, but we could get served meals there.

So we were reseated in our third area that evening. We managed to order without incident (we also sat down with Nathan and Natasha next to each other, not halfway across the table, so sharing wouldn't be that difficult) and finally were able to relax and enjoy our food.

We talked about creating a diagram for the boat to aid future students in Rabat.

Below-deck: If none of you are eating and you like spending extra money on drinks, you can sit here.

Restaurant, first floor: If you are a composite number of people who are all eating, you can sit here.

Restaurant, second floor: If you are a prime number of people who are all eating, you can sit here.

If you are eating alone, you must sit on the literal top of the boat or balanced on a ladder. If you fall in, eh. You were eating alone, so there's no one else who will be annoyed but you, and it was your own fault.

After paying and leaving an especially generous tip (we'd put them through a decent hassle, maybe caused one of their waiters to quit on the spot, and, uh, kind of not tipped the last time we'd eaten there. We hadn't known if it was expected or not, or how it was done [In Rabat, at least 5 dirham, regardless of what you get, and it's per table, not person. Another reason not to eat alone.]) we went downstairs to check out karaoke.

The game had ended, but karaoke wasn't happening. There were two groups of older men, and none of us were drunk enough or bold enough to get up and start singing. We were about to leave when someone asked if we were here for karaoke, and wanted to see the songs. We'd come here to check it out, so we agreed. He handed us a packet, and we flipped through it, noting which songs we recognized.

There were only two songs that I'd feel halfway confident about being able to sing. (P!nk “Just Give me a Reason” and Tracy Chapman “Fast Car.”) This is possibly a sign I should more familiar with popular music (in any country. They had a lot of songs in English, and also some in French and Arabic) or a sign that I shouldn't sing that much karaoke.

After finishing the list, we left awkardly. We hadn't ordered anything else downstairs, and we hadn't sung anything, so it felt like we were just causing more trouble. But we made it out of the boat without incident, and then another possibly-illegal dash across the street.

Technically, given our only goals had been to “check out” karaoke and eat dinner, we'd succeeded in both. (Actually, I had a more appetizer-ravioli, which turned out to be a good move. About an hour after coming back to the host home I was served an empty omelet and bread. So, since Erika was the only one who ate dinner oat, we only really succeeded in checking out karaoke. In any rate, I call it a success.)

Maybe in another 2 weeks someone will actually sing.

Tags: boat, karaoke, school

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