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O Fim duma Viagem

Chocolate for Dinner

MOROCCO | Saturday, 5 July 2014 | Views [282]

 On Wednesday, we handed in our papers for the Dakar trip. They were due to our two non-Arabic teachers. Our lit professor was delighted when Megan turned hers in and shocked when the rest of us also handed in our papers. Last year, the students had kept pushing it later and later and later. Three of the students had gone back o the United States and then e-mailed in their papers. So having it done on the day that it was originally supposed to be was a huge surprise.

As a reward for our timeliness, we were told that we would in fact be having a midterm. Not one in class, so it doesn't even solve the issues of scheduling, but a take-home midterm for the weekend. He'd give us the prompt tomorrow, and we would need to turn in our essay response the next week. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, whenever. After the description of last summer's students, I'm interpreting this as “any time before the final is good.”

He asked us whether we wanted us to put the assignment on Moodle, and we'd turn in something through that, or to hand it out during class, and we'd turn in a physical sheet (or however many pages this midterm would be) a few days later. Exclusive or. “Both” was not a valid option, for reasons that I don't quite understand.

 In Poli Sci, we had another normal class. Another normal class, except that we were all worried about the midterm. Throughout his lectures, he'd had some questions in red, which he'd warned us were all material that could show up on the midterm. But none of them good 3-5-page-paper material. Most of them could be answered in one sentence. Maybe two if you were creative.

At the very end of the class, I asked the question that we'd all been wondering. “Can we use the readings?” No one except me was paying attention, so no one but me heard him say “of course.”

After class ended, we agreed to get together that night to study for the midterm. None of us knew how to study for it, but we figured it would go better if we met together.

 The soup for dinner was not the traditional Ramadan soup it had been the last few days. (As Nisrine described it: “Whenever I hear 'Ramadan,' I'm thinking of that soup. And the drivers, an hour before sunset? They're thinking of that soup too.”) It was instead the light-colored (and light-tasting) soup I'd been served a few weeks before.

For everything else, my host family had apparently decided that chocolate was as good as a vegetable. We had pancakes (they tasted like normal pancakes) with chocolate sauce on them. There were also small brown dough-like things which tasted like they had cocoa, but no sugar. They were rather bitter, which was especially surprising given Moroccan cuisine's normal sweetness.

Tempting though it might have been to just fill myself on chocolate, I decided I should probably have more real food than just soup. So I took some of the special bread that they had for Ramadan only. It looked like a “flatbread” that wasn't terribly flat and tasted like naan bread. Disconcertingly similar, in fact.


After dinner was over, I went to go meet with my group. The streets were disconcertingly quiet, but the cafe we were headed towards (Marina Bay, same as the debate preparation. Natasha needed her banana juice) was open.

We had six people, (despite not being in the class, Cynthia showed up to officially not study and keep Natasha company between the house and the boat) and we all wanted to use our laptops. They gave us two tables that could have each fit four if they weren't pushed together. (One of the ends was against a wall.) I waited until the waiters left, then pulled over a third table. They immediately reappeared, but they helped me instead of yelling at me, so that was nice.

Once we were there, I learned that no one else had paid attention when the poli sci professor had said we could use readings. Once I relayed that, Natasha said “we could use readings? Screw it, I don't need to study.” She proceeded to anyway, which is more than most of us could claim. (We also figured that being told we could use the readings was blanket permission to use any of the presentations since we could claim legitimate confusion about what a “lecture” was.

Sometimes the questions were obvious, like “what was the real problem that the Sultan Mohammed Cheikh faced?” Other times, it was much more ambiguous. “Why?” In any case, I was much more familiar with philosophy papers than poli sci papers (that's not saying much) so I kept figuring out how to turn the red questions into philosophical questions.

“Philosophers have long pondered the question of 'why?'”

“'How was this?' Well, at the very beginning there was nothingness. And then you go from there.”

“The true problem he faced was the problem of suffering. And then three and a half pages of Buddhist thought.”

“That prompt calls for three pages on the origins of government before you can really attempt to answer that question.”

It didn't prepare me for the midterm, but I'm not really sure what could have.

“What was the Mahgrebian reaction to the 19th century?” Natasha exclaimed. “How am I even supposed to answer that? Hey, waiter. What was your reaction to the 19th century? You're answering for all of Morocco now.”

“All of Mahgreb.”

“Oh. Even better.”

At one point, one of the management figures came oer to talk to us. He'd lived in Florida for some time, and was somehow still fond of Americans. We had a very pleasant conversation, and he ended it by giving us free bottles of water.

We stayed until a waiter nicely if abruptly made us to shrink down to two tables. The cafe that had been empty when we arrived was now full. We took that as our cue to pack up and pay. None of us quite remembered the price of our drinks (we were only a dirham or two off, but that makes a difference for if you're not paying enough or leaving a super-generous tip) so I took a menu from another (empty) table. Then we paid and left.

The outside was as crowded as the inside. There were cotton candy machines and tiny cars for children to pedal around in and the light things that you throw up in the air. We'd come out too early last time, when everyone was still iftarring (Megan insists that's a verb. Everyone except Nathan agrees it should be) and it took a while for their meals to finish and them to come to the street. But once they did, the change was astounding

We all wanted to get back to our houses and finish any other studying, or sleeping, or possibly reading for the lit class that we needed to. It was impressive just to walk past, though.

Tags: cafe, food, iftar, midterm, school

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