Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ruth and the Absolutely Terrifying and Awesome Genies

So the past couple of days have yet again escaped me, but I wanted to post before the inevitable madness of the next 10 days begins.

First - Saturday at the Hamaam. Saturday was freezing cold, complete with rain and mud - the perfect day for being warm and toasty inside. At 3 o'clock, Khadisha, who makes our food at school, came by to pick us all up, laden with buckets, stools, and dipper-thingys, and off we went. There are 4 rooms in our hamaam - first the changing room, so in we went, stripped down to bottom undies only, and stashed all our belongings. Then you go through to the first room, which is a little warmer than the first, but not a lot. In here hair washing and conditioning is usually done, but that's not the first step. We went through to the second room, again carrying all our buckets, dippers, and stools, and set ourselves up in a line facing the way. There are faucets at intervals all the way around the room (some of which are dysfunctional in this hamaam, and some apparently just have one set of faucets near the door), so we placed buckets under the ones in front of us and set about filling them. Then, using the traditional soap, which is argon oil-based, we began the scrubbing. And then scrubbed some more. And then the spaghetti began coming off us all. But we kept scrubbing. And then Khadisha called each of us over one by one to literally scrub our backs raw. There is also a women in the hamaam who will throw you down on her mat and scrub you all over, for a fee. Managed to avoid that, but it looked intense. So, cleanly scrubbed, you can then go in to the hot room if you so choose, where if you have mat you can lay on the hot tile floor (which you'll want a mat to do). I didn't make it in to that room this time, because it actually wasn't as warm as I had been told it would be - probably because it was fairly quiet when we were there - the more people in there, the hotter it gets. The point of the story is that I got really clean though, much needed. We came out, and per tradition everyone says bsHHa, which means, to your health - said after the hamaam, buying new clothes, a haircut, or such.

Sunday was the first that our CBT group spend in our site - usually we've been venturing off somewhere, leaving all our families undoubtedly wondering where we've got to, especially when we turn up again, covered in mud. So, first on my priority list was having a lie-in, the first since, um… yeah. In a while. After breakfast in the new house, I helped my host mum do some cleaning - reorganizing the salon, straightening the pillows, then in the kitchen with taking out the trash and the such. Then we all lounged in the salon, with various neighbors and friends flitting in and out, and I tackled the massive amount of homework we'd been given (all in good practice, I know). Lunch was the main affair of the day, yummy tagine with lots of veggies. The for most of the afternoon, neighbors continued to come and go in a constant stream, but it was generally pretty quiet. I managed to get in some much needed rearranging of luggage, and general sorting out, and even an episode of Flight of the Conchords. Since lunch was the main meal of the day, the evening was quiet, with my host parents both dropping off in front of the tv - it was funny how much it was like being at home!

This morning a few of us went on a early morning hike before school today, which was great - since we sit in school 10 hours a day, every day, it's nice to stretch our legs from time to time and scramble up the side of a mountain. We saw the sun come over the mountain, and had a great view of the whole town from the vantage point we ended up at.

This afternoon, we spent a couple of hours talking about genies, which are very much believed in in Islam, and a really interesting conversation. It is believed that genies are similar forms to human beings, and generally benign, unless you provoke them in someway. They are everywhere, although we can't see them, but our teacher told us stories of friends of his who had acted as innocently as pouring some hot water down the toilet, inadvertently on to a genie, who then basically possessed them. The tale that followed was of how this girl had the genie inside of her and became very ill, and acted very out of character, and the only way to get rid of the genie is to have the imam (the leader of the mosque) perform a ritual similar to an exorcism - reading verses of the koran, until the genie promises to leave the persons body and never return. It was really interesting to hear about it - especially as compared genies as I know them, which is pretty much based on Disney's Aladdin - they usually look and sound like Robin Williams. But in some ways the Islamic beliefs are similar to our ideas about spirits or ghosts.

Our teacher informed us after this discussion that we've officially worked our way through all of the material that we were going to be learning, so we're to spend the remainder of our time reviewing and getting ready for our language proficiency tests (eep!) which are on the 15th and 16th of November. We learned this week all the sorts of phrases that we're going to need for our site visits - we leave on Sunday, and are expected to negotiate taking a taxi or bus to our new site on our own, where (hopefully) either a current PCV or host family member will meet us. We are now slightly (not fully) armed with phrases like, where is my bedroom, please, and I will be here for the next 5 days, god willing, and the Peace Corps is an American organization, for those who have no idea why an American just showed up on their doorstep. Oh, and my favorite, b shwiya, aefak! Which, in context means, speak slower, please!

This weekend we also found out that while we're in hub we're having Halloween night, and a faux-wedding on Saturday as a cross-cultural experience. I'm sure there will be plenty of pictures from all that, so at the very latest I'll be able to post again when we're back in hub late next week, in'shallah.

Until then,



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