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Waiting for the King

MOROCCO | Monday, 21 July 2014 | Views [297]

 As politics class was ending, it became increasingly difficult to ignore the noises outside. I've gotten relatively used to the occasional honking. And by “occasional honking' I mean “occasionally there will be a solid minute of honking.” It's still frustrating and hard to talk to, but it's not uncommon. Drum, however, were.

Our poli sci teacher explained that the king of Spain would be driving by, and the drums (and other musical instruments, just mainly drums) were there to welcome him. Megan went out to investigate, and after a bit the rest of us (teacher included) joined her. We stood out there for a bit, watching.

 Red robed men with flag                         White robed drummers

 There were two different groups making music. One group, standing in the island in the center of the road, were wearing yellow (or is it saffron?) djellabahs. The other group was on the opposite side of the street, wearing white djellebahs. Next to them were people in red djellebahs (and white, or occasionally green) caps holding up the Moroccan flag. Sometimes the two groups would get into musical fights.

We watched for a bit, then went inside to straighten out the reading for politics. We were doing that when Nisrine came in and asked us “who wants to see the king?” Um... everyone? We went outside around 3:45, assuming that he would be there soon.

 "Once they stop all the cars, that's when you know the king is going by,” Nisrine said. My own limited knowledge of processions suggested the same thing. So I was waiting for them to stop all the traffic.

After a bit, the cacaphony resolved itself into normalcy. Besides the drumming and occasional horn playing (sometimes there was even singing, though that was from the group across the street and was fairly quiet) there were still car noises. The whistles of policeman with the unenviable job of trying to tell Moroccan drivers they needed to stop, and the honks of Moroccan drivers when they felt they'd been stopped for too long.

There were busses that were driving by and dropping people off. Nisrine explained that they were given free transportation to and from here to see the king. She pointed proudly at the large crowd that was forming. “It's Ramadan. People are fasting. They don't have that much energy. But they still want to come and see the king.”

They stopped cars from driving down the road that I used to get to school. “They closed that road,” Nisrine pointed. “That means he's coming that way. Soon.”

The crowds of people of people disappeared, walking further down that road. A bit later truck came by to take down the makeshift fence they had put up separate the people from the road. Then the musicians left, walking further down the road.

It felt eerily quiet. There were still cars driving past, and cars honking, and policeman whistling, and policeman yelling. But without two different groups drumming, it felt quiet and peaceful.

They started letting cars drive down the road again. One by one, Nisrine, Erika, Nathan, Natasha, Megan, and Cynthia sat down. The woman who lived right next door to the IES center open her door and saw us sitting around it, leaning against the wall. She didn't seem upset or even surprised, just looked out with her infant for a bit before going back inside.

I walked down to the edge of the street and looked around. When I came back, Nisrine asked if I'd seen the crowds or mujsicians, and I said I hadn't. I hadn't really gotten myself to an angle where I woul dhave been able to. So I walked back to the corner, turned it, and peered down. Still nothing. I turned in the opposite direction, tlooked at the pretty flowers, then walked back.

 Flowers and the flags of Spain and Morocco

They stopped the traffic to our right, on the route we use to get from school to my house.

Our neighbor came back, this time with two children. The older one was probably about three. Nisrine pointed at his toes (which had flecks of nail polish on them) and commented that the was a boy wearing nail polish. He had no idea what she was saying, but could tell she was talking about his foot. He reached down and gleefully grabbed it. I was expecting him to pll it into the air and fall flat on his butt, but he kept his balance.

The woman went back into the house. They let the cars drive down the road from our right again.

At the beginning of this experience, I'd titled a recording on my phone “Waiting for the King.” It conjured up ideas of Beckett and Godot, though at that point it hadn't been accurate. Now, I was beginning to understand how Vladimir and Estragon must have felt. I was still actively waiting. I'd followed Nisrine without grabbing anything more than my phone and my notebook. My pen was having difficulties with ink, I didn't have a book, and I could use a drink of water. But driving past could happen in a moment. I knew it would take longer for him to drive by then for a taxi, but I was worried that I'd miss it.

 At the same time, I'm not sure I was even convinced he would come. Godot didn't. Plans change. Maybe he'd driven down two streets over. Maybe he would be another two hours. Maybe he wouldn't drive by at all today. The longer we were waiting, the less likely it seemed he would come, but if he was going to come, then the longer we waited the sooner we were to seeing him. It depends on what you believed.

 Megan, Erika, and Natasha went inside. Mahjid came out to check on us, then went back in. Nisrine, Nathan, Cynthia, and I waited.

 There are times that living in Morocco feels like an absurdst play. Like the moment where you realize that queues have absolutely no meaning. Or when you get into a cab and realize that not only does the driver not know where he's going, but he's picked up another passenger along the way, and that despite speaking a combined 5 languages, you only have about 20 non-name words in common. The unexpected and illogical is an almost daily occurrence. You get to school one day, hear drumming, and learn that you'll have the opportunity to see the king of Morocco. And then he never shows up.

 I think that to spend significant time in Morocco, you have to have a lot of faith. Either faith that in the end, everything will work out OK, or faith in your own ability to think clearly when something goes wrong. There are probably a lot of countries like that, and my experiences in Morocco so far have been only the mild things going wrong. It's not a good place for a control freak, but it's a decent place to build up your experience working with small uncertainties and mishaps.

 A police car, siren blaring, raced through the roundabout in front of me. And traffic stopped.

 Nisrine, Nathan, Cynthia, and I looked at each other, then got up and walked to be closer to the roundabout. I'm not sure what brought them out again, since they came sepately, but Natasha, Megan, and Erika rejoined us. And we were back to waiting.

 This time, the quiet was more than relative. I could hear the radio of the police officer standing several meters away, anay. And I could hear the drums again. They were in the distance, but they were beating. I wondered how long that had been going on fro, if I'd just misssed in with the noises of traffic.

 Official cars and motorcycles came down the street, spaced pretty far apart. You could tell that the cars were official because several of them had flashing lights in the front (some blue, and some red and green, which was a nice Moroccan touch) and most of them had a chauffer in the front, and a man in the back wearing a military or governmental-looking hat. (Probably the rest of the unfirom too, but I could mostly only see their heads.)

 Then a triangular formation of motorcycles drove by, surrounding the car that held the king of Spain and the king of Morocco. The people next to me (Moroccans, not my IES classmates) were waving, so I joined them. A little bit later, Nisrine announced “that's the ladies” as the queen of Morocco and queen of Spain rode past.

 And that was that. After an hour and a half, the king had indeed come. In a single day, I've seen more royalty than I will probably see for the rest of my life. There were some more cars, but no one knew who was in those.

 “I just saw the king of Morocco and the king of Spain.”

“I'm so happy right now.”


 “And what do we do, now that we are happy?”

“We wait.”

Tags: absuridsm, cars, king, music, queen, waiting

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