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Books and Cups

MOROCCO | Sunday, 27 July 2014 | Views [415]

 After class, I met up with Cynthia and Natasha for book shopping. Natasha was looking for an English/Arabic Koran for her brother and Cynthia was looking for 1001 Arabian Nights. I just like surrounding myself with books.

 It had begun on Tuesday, when Natasha asked if she was more likely to find an English language Koran in one of the street stores or a real bookstore. I responded “a real bookstore, and I can tell you which one” My poli sci final paper procrastination had led me to the bookstore on the street, and I remembered that when you entered, there was a display of French Arabic books with some words in roman characters. I was pretty sure they were dual-language Korans. So on Wednesday, to procrastinate on our poli sci final, Natasha, Cynthia, and I went to that bookstore.

 The display was in fact Korans. Some of them were in multiple languages. Specifically, they had Arabic/French Korans and Arabic/German Korans. The Arabic/French might have been useful for Natasha or Cynthia, since they both read French. The Arabic/German was useful to no one, least of all Natasha's brother.

 We went further into the store with me as guide. And by “guide” I mean “Ocasionally my memory would trigger and I'd be able to show them the books they were looking for. I should Cynthia the French translation of 1001 Nights and specially recommended the Antoine Galland one. I tend not to remember translators names, and when I do it's usually because they've done a good translation, not because they've taken the names from a Cimerian novel, the plot from a French novel, and tried to pass it off as a translation from the Polish. (That only needs to happen once.)

 Cynthia was looking for a single bound copy of 1001 Nights, or at least one that looked slightly prettier. I was a little skeptical of her ability to find the former, since 1001 is a lot of nights. And there are problems with expecting multi volume books to be bound in a volume. (I was checking the Wikipedia page for The Windup Bird Chronicle and it mentioned that the English translation was 25,000 words shorter than the Japanese original. So now I need to learn Japanese, find a copy of The Windup Bird Chronicle in Japanese, and read it. I'd be more annoyed if I wasn't decently on the path to learning Japanese.

 We went from the French books to the Arabic books. I'd remembered there being some books in Arabic upstairs, and misrepresented that as “the Arabic books are upstairs.” Natasha and Cynthia both wanted to see them. So we went upstairs, and were faced with a lot of textbooks in French.

 “I think this is just the textbooks,” Cynthia said.

“No, no. There are definitely Arabic books farther on.” They might have just been Arabic textbooks. It's not like I could really tell the difference.

 Cynthia and Natasha were happy when we found fiction in Arabic. I was just relieved. Although I would not have technically been lying, I knew that neither Cynthia nor Natasha wanted a math book where the explanations looked as complicated as the equations.

 As we were walking around looking at the books, everyone expressed a longing for the ability to actually read and understand Arabic. “I wonder if they sell books that teach Arabic,” Cynthia asked. “They'd probably give the explanations in French,” Natasha pointed out. “I don't mind,” Cynthia continued looking at children's books in the hopes one would teach Arabic.

We finished staring at titles we couldn't read and went back downstairs. Then I remembered that the store did definitely sell “teach yourself Arabic” books, and I even remembered where. So I showed it to Cynthia and Natasha and we looked at the books for a bit before wandering on and out of the store.

There was the store we'd been in on the Fourth of July. That was pretty big. It might have Korans, and it was only one road over. So we took one of the streets. On the other side there was a children's/textbook store. It had the primary colors of an elementary school supply store, but it advertised textbooks.

“Do we want to try going in there?” I asked. “I mean, you never know.”

Natasha and Cynthia gave me a strange look, but we crossed and went in. There, just inside the doorway (actually slightly blocked by the open door) was a section devoted to seling Korans. Besides coming in all sizes (the smallest was a boxed set smaller, though thicker, then a deck of playing cards. The largest would probably take up my entire desk at college when opened.) they also came in a variety of languages. English, French, German, and Spanish (and of course regular Arabic.) I think they had a reasonable price too. I didn't look because I wasn't interesting in buying one.

As Cynthia and Natasha checked out, I looked around nearby. We were standing by the science section , so I decided to look at what Moroccan math textbooks looked like. The first ook I pulled off the shelf was preparion for an oral exam that was good for military school. The cover was a carton a big, muscular guy holding a CV and saying "I got my degree in kickboxing. What are you doing here?” A nerdy-looking guy responded “20 on the oral.” That was the most interesting part of it, since the introduction didn't explain why military schools needed people taking oral exams in math. I gave up and put that one back. I was trying to see how Moroccans teach real analysis when Cynthia and Natasha finished checking out.

 With books out of the way, we all still wanted cups. So we walked back to the entrance we had been on a week ago Saturday to find that store. There were three of us, so we couldn't split them in halves. We could split them into thirds (12 is divisible by 3, even if 150 [the price] is not. 6 would have been the ideal number, but 4 was good as well. I'm certainly not going to complain because we ended up splitting the set that I'd been eyeing from the first day we entered the store, so I got 4 nice Moroccan tea cups for around $7.

 I made Cynthia carry the cups. I claimed that it was because she'd paid the least (by a dirham or two) and I'd set that up as the criteria for who had to carry them before we bought the cups. The truth was that I was handed the bag containing the cups and realized immediately that I should not be trusted with 12 class items if I only own 4 of them.

 Figuring out what to do about 12 fairly fragile items posed an issue. We settled on going back to Cynthia's house because she had plastic bags we could use to put the cups in. I took my four out of the box and carefully wrapped them in my scarf. Then I put that bundle in a plastic bag which Cynthia knotted tightly (too tightly. I cannot undo tight knots on plastic bags without physically ripping the bag open. I've learned that this trip.) and put in another plastic bag. And off I went.

 There was a slight moment of concern when I walked through kids playing soccer. I'm generally paranoid about balls hitting me as I walk by (I had basketballs hit me in the head more times than I care to remember during high school gym) but my paranoia was so much worse. Still, my glasses and I got through unharmed.

 Once back home, I tore the bag, reclaimed my scarf, and set the glasses on the dresser. Then I adjusted my list of “things I still need to buy before I go home in a couple of days” without admitting that that's what the list was called.

Tags: arabic, books, tea

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