The Last Man On Earth is Sitting in His Room. There’s a Knock at the Door.

September 30, 2008

I’m told that the title of this post is the shortest science fiction story ever written. I don’t know why the story seems like a good title for what I’m about to regale all up ons you.

So I’m sitting in my apartment and the phone rings. I don’t reconize the number, but that doesn’t mean anything. I recognize nothing these days. I stared at a package of cream cheese the other day for five minutes before I remembered that it is for eating. It’s a California area code. The phone number, not cream cheese.

Anyway, I answer the phone. SALAAM ALIEKUM says a voice that sounds like he’s in a car. Reflexively, I drop the old wa-aliekum-salaam on him. He then says a phrase, which I know to mean “how’s it going?” but I didn’t hear all that frequently in Morocco. I forget what it is now, it sounds like KAY BA HAAL. Anyway, that throws me for a minute, but I stutter out glory-be-to-God-I-remain-unharmed. There’s a long pause. WHO IS THIS? He asks. It’s Aaron! I tell him, in Arabic. And to whom am I speaking, again in Arabic.

There’s this long pause, and then this is the part that sort of weirded me out. He says HOW DO YOU KNOW SALAAM ALIEKUM. But the tonation of his voice, it’s not a question. It’s a statement. There’s a period at the end. It was just weird. Like when someone’s asking you a question but is really accusing you of something, but in reverse.

Anyway, I stuttered out that I speak Arabic, and he hung up with out replying. I wasn’t really sure what was going on, so I left my apartment and went for a walk for 20 minutes, just because I was sort of weirded out. What are the chances I get an Arabic wrong number phone call here? And what was with the guy’s voice? Dude, creepy creepy creepy creepy.

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Paperwork

September 29, 2008

One of the weird dichotomies that I saw living in Morocco was that it was actually easier to buy Alcohol in an Islamic nation in Africa than it is to buy alcohol in the state of Pennsylvania. But here’s another dichotomy: the paperwork process.

Everyone complains about beaurocracy in Morocco. The only real paperwork I had to do was get my residence permit. For this, I had to go to the town council and get officially stamped photocopies of my passport and such. Then, I had to take them to the City Hall and fill out some paperwork. With the photocopies and a stamp (purchased from a convenience store) in hand, I returned to the City Hall with the filled-out paperwork. After that, they twiddled around a little bit, asking for a letter from the University I was at and such like, but here’s the thing: when they made up some silly shit for me to go get, the told me what that silly shit was and where to get it. After only one round of being turned away to go get some silly superfluous folderol, I submitted the paperwork and was issued my permit.

Now here’s how things work in America. Well, more specifically at my university, Drexel University. Right after I got to Morocco, I was told that there was a hold on my account because I was listed as having not paid for health insurance in 2005. That’s right, they waited 3 years to get money I owed them. Because of this, I was unable to register for classes. So my time in Morocco has so far, from an official standpoint, counted for bugger all. That’s British, I think, for not a gall-darned thing.

Anyway, I can’t take care of this hold from Africa. Both my bank and the bursar’s office tell me to come in in person. So I come back to America. Friday, I try and go to the library and they tell me I can’t get in because the hold has deactivated my card. So today I go to the card office. They tell me that because I have a hold, I can’t have my card activated.

I then go to the insurance office. They say I look like I’m fine, but they don’t handle the billing. I have to go to the Bursar’s office. At the bursar’s office they say there are not any holds on my account, and that furthermore, no other university entity can put a hold on my account. So I’m free and clear, right?

I go back to the card office, and they tell me that there is a hold on my account and have I gone to talk to the bursar’s office yet?

Now which of these two things sounds better? Doing paperwork IN THE THIRD WORLD is SUBSTANTIALLY easier than here at my home university. Doing paperwork at my University, which is in the US, makes me think things like “this would be easier IF I WAS IN AFRICA.”

What happened here? It’s like I’m in the Twilight Zone.


The Hole in the Wall

September 22, 2008

So, I didn’t watch a lot of TV overseas. And what I did watch was old reruns of American shows that were being shown on the Dubai channel, but with all the kissing scenes cut out and any word involving “god” awkwardly silenced.

Anyway, I turn on the little TV set I have at my apartment, is has a 3 inch screen, and there’s a show called hole in the wall. In it, you have to stand in front of a pool of water as a giant foam wall comes flying at you, and you either fit through the hole or get thrown into the pool. On the episode I watched the teams were three dwarfs vs. three female body builders.

Remember the scene in Farenheit 451 where Guy goes to his wife’s house, and she’s watching a show with clowns in racecars that die in bloody crasahes, and he’s simultaenously disoriented and disgusted? Yeah, it’s like that. US TV got weird as hell while I was gone.


Re: Readjustment

September 17, 2008

So, I think I am readjusting fairly well. I got over the being sick (after a week or so) and now I am back at work, trying to sort out one million tons of paperwork so that I can get back into my science groove. I’ve eaten a pretty good amount of chinese food (I love the orangey beefs, and had forgotten why we call it that) and had myself a fair number of pub nights. Plus one birthday party (mine), one birthday party (someone else’s) and one bachelor party (not mine, ahemdullilah.)

Anyway, there are some odd things that I guess I should mention. I was gone from Drexel’s campus for about 13 months, but when I went to the Chinese lunch truck, the woman there remembered me. When I walked past the lunch truck where I used to get soda all the time, the guy remembered me by name. “Hey Aaron! Long time! No see!” Communicating with the guy, a Cambodian, is about as easy for me as communicating with a Berber-speaking Moroccan, but I think he got the gist that I’d been away. Still: by name.

It’s not all been good times, though. A number of people have asked me if I ever saw any theives get their hands cut off while I was in Morocco. Dude… they don’t do that any more. They haven’t for a couple of hundred years. (Now, Saudi Arabia and Iran, on the other hand… actually, I don’t know. I just know I’ve heard people mention it, but I don’t specifically know from my own knowledge.)

There have also been a couple of people that asked me if I was scared. I said no, except for one time when I thought I was going to get mugged, but that was my fault (I should not have been in that area that late at night) and I was more concerned than scared, but anyway. Both people gave me a funny look and followed their question with “No… I mean, because they’re Arabs.”

Well. There that is, I guess.


Happy 9th of September!

September 9, 2008

Okay, so I’m back in the US. Last night I moved the last of my stuff into my apartment, it’s just a question of getting it all situated now. I returned to my grad studentry yesterday, and so far it’s a big ol’ hassle. I’ve got paperwork out the patoot to fill out and no keys to labs or offices.

I’ve been sick as a dog for a few days now. Everything I eat leads me to a half hour on the john. Another day and I’m going to go get whatever the biggest antibiotic is. Amoxycilin’s just not rill enough.

I’ve heard the Arabic language guide I wrote might be published, electronically first and then in print, sometime in early 2009. That’s really all on the Morocco front. the question now is what do I do with this blag? My time in the Morocco is over. Well, I don’t really need to hurry to a decision, but I think I will keep commenting on the expat life, on things about Morocco and all that, just not as frequently.

Right now, I can say that returning is starting to feel stranger and stranger to me. I am getting sort of tired of that “hey, you’re back, how was it?” Conversation I have every time someone sees me. Also, I am terrified of spending money and I can’t figure out why. I keep speaking Arabic to waiters.

Ugh, got to go. Flooding in the basement.


Holy moley

September 5, 2008

I am at my folk’s house in doylestown. All my stuff is moved back into the apartment except the bed and couch.

I hate to be brief but I am sick as hell. I think it is either a reaction to the bacteria here just like I had when I got to Morocco, or it was because the airplane was full of sick children. Anyway the point is I know I have emails to send and people to call and stories of the trip home to tell you all, but instead I am going to go riotously ill on the john for a while.


Went out with a floof

September 4, 2008

So, I am postign this from back in the US. Why? Because the computers at the sibeer wouldn’t let me open the Marakablag. Anyway, I am tired and need to get my apartment together and all that good business, but let me mention that I left Morocco the way it should have been – a proper big ol’ iftar dinner with Nicole on tuesday night, and then a cab driver trying to screw money out of me wednesday morning. Ah, morocco.

Now let’s just hope my baggage shows up. It’s still in New York. Who ever heard of a flight being 40 minutes early?