Monday, December 27, 2010

Merry Christmas (or) Roman Holiday Part Two

Remember that time we went to Italy?

Our visit to Rome, in an unexpected way, helped us to put Fez into perspective. Ever corner you turn seems to hide some millennia-old treasure, just as it does here. And the fact that most Roman ruins predate their Fessi counterparts makes it all the more impressive. Being able to wander around and see the inner constructions of these early wonders of human invention put our own walled city into its proper relief, shaking us from our (often imprecise) assumptions. Walking these streets in the days leading up to and immediately following Christmas proved incredibly striking...

I'm only choosing a handful of photos here to attempt and represent the indescribable experience of touring Rome. Our time there, for the first time in a while, was spent as true "tourists" - speaking Italian straight from the phrase book, bumping into people because we were feverishly reading our Rick Steves' guidebook, all those things that people do with the express concern of pissing us off here in Fez. We saw the sights, got ourselves lost, missed busses, and stumbled into some of the most outstanding (and understated) restaurants imaginable. In so many ways, the time we passed in Rome was just perfect.

Then we went to Florence and Tuscany...

Check it out - we're in Agustus' house. Yeah, that guy who called everyone to head back home for a census. You may know the story.

The view of the Roman Forum and the Colosseum from the hill. This was what the Emperor saw when he peeked out the window. PS: Got to stand on a rock in the ground where the throne was, where history was decided.

This is what remains of Constantine's Basilica. (The Christians snagged their method of construction from these older justice halls, which then lent their name to the large churches.) If you look really, really closely, you may be able to see Annie standing tall under the arches.

Baby it's cold outside.

Behind the Pantheon.

We snuck into the Colleseum right before we had to leave for Florence. Quaint.

"Do you think that I'm allowed to touch it?"

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas (or) Roman Holiday Part One (More Photos)

Taking a much needed break with one of Italy's real treats, literal hot chocolate (what seemed to be melted chocolate in a cup)!

Even Santa went to the "Blessing of the World" after a long night of work.

It's a good thing we ended up in the front row. I can only imagine the sea of umbrellas behind us (and the need for some safety goggles if walking around back there).

In case you missed it, Papa says "Merry Christmas" (in Italian, English, Japanese, Spanish, Esperanto...)

Merry Christmas from the Trevi Fountain! (And yes, we threw our three coins in the fountain, so we should be headed back soon.)

Merry Christmas (or) Roman Holiday Part One

St. Peter's and a Christmas tree donated by Indonesia... Unexpected, eh?
We made it, and we made it back. Upon looking through the photos from our Christmas/Anniversary/Birthday/New Years excursion to Italy, I am stunned by the sheer mass of things we saw and did (and forgot about!).

This was one of my favorite statues that we saw in the vast Vatican Museum. The priest (center) is being held back by the gods because he is trying to warn the Trojans that letting the horse in is a bad idea... and therefore divert the fate set for the city. This is his punishment and his pain.
The internet here in Fez has been spotty, which I'm sure has absolutely nothing to do with the noisy construction that we returned home to. Workers are tearing out the road and replacing gigantic pipes in the street (2-foot-wide alley) behind us. At the same time, I've been seeing folks in blue lab jackets on ladders playing with power lines and, presumably, phone cables. Thus, these posts will be short. Consider it an effort to get something up before we have a communications blackout once again. (Today we had to climb over a pile of mud and rocks to get out of our house! But by the time we got back, the world was flat once again.) (PS: I don't think that was a pun about Galileo, whose museum we visited, but perhaps I should pretend that it was.)

After so many rooms and so many works of art, the world gets a bit dizzy.
Returning to Rome... I'm struck by the number of photos and stories we have of the Vatican. We made it back there more times than I had expected. My parents had told me that they went every day, and I was surprised. But we had more than enough reason to make the subway pilgrimage over and over again. This is partly due, of course, to our impeccable timing. And our absurdly inefficient efforts to see the vastness of what it has to offer. And Annie's last desire to get a rosary bracelet. I'm going to include mostly pictures here, simply implying the stories behind them. If you want to hear more, 'cause you're that kind of listener, you'll have to ask. Otherwise I'll get bogged down in the not-so-interesting details... (Like our Vatican Museum tour guide, who spent a half-hour in front of a TV screen talking about what we would see instead of showing us what was there!) So, here are some photos, and I'll try and post soon in an effort to embellish the rest of Rome.

Merry very belated Christmas to you all!

Michelangelo's Pieta at St. Peter's.
St. Peter at St. Peter's. After the museum, we took a short cut into the church. It was late, dark, and an impressive mix of massive and intimate. This was our first visit, we returned two or three more times after (and never had to wait in the long line!).

Monday, December 6, 2010

Happy New Year!

So I decided that this deserves a blog post.

Annie and I are sitting in our living room at 8:42pm waiting to find out if we have classes tomorrow. If so, we have to get up to get to school by 8am, and I probably won't have my homework finished. But if we don't, we sit and relax for a day.

See, tomorrow is "ras al-'am" or "ras as-sina." The head of the year, or the Islamic New Year. We should be singing "Auld Lang Syne," but instead I need to find out if I have to write a dialogue in Moroccan Arabic about going to the doctor for my early morning classes. I feel so not-festive. Earlier I told someone that we might come visit tomorrow since it's the New Year and we may not have classes. He thought I was crazy, and told me "It's only December 6th." "Hijra!" "Oh yeah, that's right." With a potential day off of work, you'd think people would be more interested!

So the change of the Islamic month depends on the moon (it's a lunar calendar). You can't tell when a new month begins until you have a sighting late at night. If you have a TV, you find out quickly, but if you don't (like us), you have to go around asking people whether or not it's the new year.

Our Advent wreath, burning bright
Keeping with the holiday season, we started an Advent wreath. The only candles that we could find on short notice, however, were from near the Moulay Idriss mosque. Shopkeepers line the neighboring streets selling these candles (and much bigger ones), all varieties of incense, prayer beads, rosewater, scented oils, and items from the Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca). All of these things are for specific uses during ceremonies and rituals, so we figured that we were alright using them for a wreath. Eh? You make do. Purple candles aren't very popular for some reason or another.

Turkey dinner!
Thanksgiving was a treat as well! Thursday afternoon we found ourselves turkey paninis. With great french fries. Yes, nothing says American Thanksgiving like a turkey panini and french fries. The next evening, though, we were invited to a Thanksgiving party that included a roasted turkey (brought live from Marrakech) and PB&J sandwiches.

PS: Just got a call from a friend, it's New Years! Happy New Year everyone!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Eid Mubarak Said!

He has no idea... Or maybe he does.
Today was day one of Eid al-Kabir, the celebration of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son. Each family finds themselves a nice "kabsh" (ram) for the household, and this week has been full of people asking us if we have yet to get our own. "Mazal," not yet... I never knew that rams were so loud, and I never got so much enjoyment from watching people attempt to convince these large animals to walk down the street. But all that is over now - this morning the unbelievable ram population here in Fez diminished rapidly.

The man with the plan, and the deed is done.
Preparations throughout the city were extensive. Men selling grains (for the short-term pets) and offering to sharpen knives (also for the short-term pets) filled the streets. There is an entire mini-economy around the Eid, especially considering that the animals go for a small fortune, $200-400 each! No, we did not get our own, although they are pretty cute.

Annie with Hiba, the youngest daughter.
A family invited us to their celebrations, they have been kind and welcoming to us for a few years now, smothering us with their generosity. We woke them up this morning (whoops), after the hour-long call to prayer. We didn't want to miss the sacrifice, of course! Following a quick breakfast, the man arrived who was to do the deed... The mini-economy also includes a number of wandering butchers, going from house to house and taking care of business. This fella, however, was a friend of the family, much more trustworthy than a rushing butcher! You can't mess around with your ram.

Cleaning up the blood, in heels.
The entire family went upstairs, and of course I brought the camera. I'll spare the gory details (but not all of the gory pictures), and just say that it took a while to get everything taken care of, and this family, like the rest of Fez, is going to be eating meat for a long time. The highlight: the mother decided that it'd be funny to scare Annie with the ram's head.

A picture is worth a thousand words. Mama Boujma goes after Annie...
Eid Day 1 involves sacrificing the animal (you only get two cuts, so you better make them good), skinning it, and getting all the organs out. The skin, now inside out, gets salted and saved for later, when it's given to the leather workers and made into decoration, a prayer rug, or sold. Kids  in the street spend the day roasting heads for the neighbors, which become breakfast for the next morning. (If we visit anyone tomorrow, we're going to be sure to be late...) The liver and heart turn into brochettes (kabobs), which, for our lunch today, were cooked over an open fire in the living room. Unexpected. Then, nap time. At this point, we found our way out and came home. I believe that the stomach turns into dinner (slow cooked), and the meat becomes a consistent meal for days to come.

One down (on the right, hanging), one to go.
The man of the house.
My secret hope for this whole process? I want to get a pair of ribs, so I can play the "bones" in the bluegrass band when I get back to the states. Tomorrow? We're heading back - Annie's getting henna (I'll post pictures) and we're going to partake in the more "meaty" meal, now that the liver's gone.

Eid mabarak said!

Liver brochettes for lunch. They were quite good! And followed with liver-stuffed heart.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Suq al-Rsayf

Our seafood man.
The weekend menu? Fresh seafood. Despite the fact that Fez is far from the ocean, there are deliveries of fruits of the sea every Tuesday and Saturday. I prepared to make shrimp with chermoula, a mix of spices (paprika, saffron, others), lemon, cilantro, and garlic. When we got there, though, we just couldn't resist the idea of trying shark. Yes, shark. We had shark. It was tasty, not quite like fish, not so flaky, but still fishy. Curious, eh?

The Rsayf (often spelled Rc'if) market is smack in the middle of Fez's medina, the old city. It's still operating in much the same way that it did in the past, with the addition of margarine and boxed milk. The butchers have cows hanging in the back of their small stalls, they cut a piece off, grind it up with spices, garlic, onion, and cilantro. The chicken sellers are in stalls full of chickens running around. (They smell.) The best part? They weigh the chicken alive, to make sure that's the one you want, before they do what they need to do. The struggling, and loud, poultry is a sight to see. PS: You can also get pidgin, duck, turkey, and quail. The camel seller advertises with a giant hanging camel head (see the photo).

The sign says "ground camel." Note the hanging head.
My favorites, however, are the spice guys and the parsley/cilantro sellers. The spice men know what they're doing. You walk up, tell them what you're making and what flavor you want, and they mix the appropriate spices into a small packet of rolled newspaper. To get cilantro or parsley, however, you need to speak with old men and women sitting on the ground, usually with a crate of some sort, surrounded by greens and mint. This particular woman refused to sell me one (huge) bunch of cilantro. I just must have two. Why? I only need one! Six dirhams for two. And for one? Six for two. I don't understand. The Eid, of course, everyone needs two bunches of cilantro! Oooooh, well, I just need one. In fact, only a half. Oh, ok (she says as she must assume that I'm a terrible, terrible host). The conversation took longer that I could have possibly imagined, but I'm going to make sure I return to her next time I need anything from her carton.

She was quite concerned with my Eid preparations. But her cilantro was great.

Fighting through the crowd of women in an attempt to find thyme and oregano.

Mandarins are in season!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Al-Ashiya al-Gnawiya

Hamid, Abd ar-Rzaq, and Annie having some pre-ceremony tea.
One week in, and I think my dissertation research is done.

Yesterday we were invited to an Ashiya Gnawiya, a Gnawa afternoon. Now, I'd been to a Gnawa layla before. In fact, the layla (night) ceremony made up a few chapters of my masters thesis. In the layla, people (mostly women) who are possessed by a mluk (spirit) go into trance during the segment of music dedicated to that particular spirit. Some of the mluk are from Islamic history (Moses, Abraham), while some are sub-Saharan (Aisha, Mimun). The maskun (possessed) are covered with cloths matching the color of the spirit and feed on the jawi (incense) to strengthen the possession.

This ashiya (afternoon) was not supposed to have any of this. But it did.

The event was held for a woman who was having trouble breathing. The belief is that these types of health issues can come from an unhappy mluk, or a new one. In order to appease the spirit, the maskun must hold a ceremony. The ashiya, however, is cheaper than a layla, and shorter. After two or three hours (and no possession) we expected the event to end, but then the woman went into a deep trance, screaming, rolling on the ground. People came from around the room to help her, bring her to the incense, and push her into the next stage. Then the layla portion began as the musicians went into the series of songs that bring on each mluk.

If anyone is interested in the specifics of the theology and traditions, let me know. This is hardly the venue for such a conversation.

The big news, though... unlike in the past, the musicians allowed (even requested) me to record the entire thing. In the past, I've taken pictures and recorded the opening portion, but once the trances begin, it's all off limits for obvious reasons. This time, however, they kept asking me for my recorder and putting it prime position between them. If I had to, I could transcribe this event, get the lyrics, and write a paper. Pardon my excitement. Upon later listening, however, it's shocking just how intense and frightening the entire experience is.

The musicians. Abd ar-Rzaq was my teacher during the last few trips, in red. The man to his right is restringing his hajhuj.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

School Days

Annie and Tigger (the camera was supposed to focus on Annie...)
Week one, check. Classes are pushing right along, and we both already see incredible gains. Conversations are quicker, negotiations are easier, and life is more comfortable in general thanks to this quick start. The timing has been just right - arrive and jump right in. Annie is picking up where she left off in Modern Standard Arabic, the dialect used in newscasts and Quranic education. She'll be able to better analyze textbooks, interview teachers, etc. I'm starting over, in a sense, by taking daraja (Moroccan colloquial Arabic), the dialect used on the streets, especially by the less formal musicians that I'll be dealing with. The days, though, are long. 8am to 6pm at the school, four hours of class for each of us and a few hours for doing the mid-day homework. My teachers couldn't be more different (or entertaining). Slowly getting to know the other students, most of whom have already been here for two months or so.

Annie still wants a riad. But she also wanted a canal house in Amsterdam. (She thinks that her "wanter" might be a bit broken.)

تهلا ف راسك
(Tahla f-rasik: Take care of your head.)

Studying hard, and sporting the new chapeau.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Leaving Amsterdam...
We made it to Fez. The flight from Amsterdam was uneventful (in a good way), but included the stock applause that you seem to hear whenever you land, while flying a lesser known airline, that is. I guess expectations are a bit lower? (I hope that the expectation that we land is not an extreme one...)

The Casablanca airport has been in a constant state of construction over the past few years. This trip, however, we were able to fully experience the shiny new long hallways as we trekked from place to place, hunting for a way back to Fez. The new domestic flight waiting room held us in place for hours when all is said and done. Our 3 hour layover quickly (or slowly, I suppose) became 5, 6 hours long. Suddenly everyone left in the room, at about 12:30 or 1:00am, got up, screaming. The mob appeared to be led by a frail old woman, leading us to believe that it had to do with a domestic argument. It became apparent after a short time, however, that everyone who was supposed to be on our flight was involved. As the mob shifted around the room (following the Royal Air Maroc employees wherever they went, and followed, at a long distance, by an uninterested group of security guards), we were occasionally updated by kind neighbors. I wish my daraja (Moroccan Arabic) were a bit better at this point, I'm sure I would have learned an array of colorful phrases.

Turns out that our flight was canceled. Rerouted to Oujda, which is on the Algerian border. Feel free to scope out a map of Morocco to get an idea of why that doesn't make much sense. Eventually, we were offered a choice between staying the night and taking a 7 hour bus ride. We were itching to get to Fez, so we elected for the bus ride. In the confusion, we befriended another couple, visiting to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. They managed to keep incredible spirits, considering the impressive welcome. For us, though, I think the delay may have kicked us firmly into the correct headspace that will be necessary for fieldwork. Things move slowly, have hitches, and need to be worked out (sometimes loudly). Yet you end up where you need to be. An impressively informal formality pervades these types of interactions and scenes. They took us to get bags, we waited, they took us to a different belt to get bags, waited again... Bags came, after another chunk of time passed us by. Annie's happiest moment was seeing her new sewing machine (from Amsterdam) come down the belt.

Scoping out the new digs

A visit to more baggage areas, an upstairs office, and finally, the curb followed. Turns out someone forgot to tell the bus company that RAM had offered a bus... When we got to the curb, there were two busses, and a mass of further confusion. No one knew which bus was going where, and it turns out that our chosen bus went to both the hotel and Fez. Since those were the only two options, I'm left to wonder where the other went...

The bus was freeeeeezing cold. And 7 hours long. But, alas, we make it to Fez in the morning sun. At another bus station. Just in time for another lengthy wait (for the keys to the house). An insane cat at a coffeeshop kept us entertained. Insane. But entertaining. Eventually, we heard from Mouaniss, who picked us up, found a driver, and got us back to our new home safely and securely. It's just as we remembered, but with some improvements. The staircase to the terrace is no longer death-defying. And there's even a light.

Just in time for Tuesday morning's classes.

 الحمد الله
(Alhamdu li-Lah. Thanks be to God!)

PS: visited the Royal Air Maroc office later in the week, turns out that we can't get any compensation for the affair, and we happened to enjoy a nice, expensive, and cold bus ride.

 الله يجازيكم
(Allah yajazikum. May God compensate you for your deeds.)

The view from our terrace

Monday, August 30, 2010

Stumbling into Surprises, Last Night in Town

Last full night in Ghana. The plan is to head down to the coast, find someplace to grab a bite, and meet Annie at Bywel's, the same place we heard some high life music when we were here a few weeks back.

That's not at all how the night went down.

While walking through something of a beach town slum, I hear some drumming. Crossing a makeshift bridge, I see some dancing. Surprisingly enough, Accra's oceanside coast is not home to international hotel chains or posh pool bars. Instead, it's a 15 year old corrugated steel Hooverville that sits peacefully, waiting as the tide laps up, just feet away. Just beyond this interconnected maze of propped up housing stands the presidential palace, looking like a fort on a cliff from behind.

The music and dancing that I'm slowly stumbling into is part of a royal drumming school, and 30 or so people are digging into the sound as the sun goes down. I stand, noticed, but untouched, and start passing by the group's concrete stage. Rounding the circular building, I found the head drummers, who invited me in and introduced themselves and their resident white guy, Claas (Klaus).

Gettin' down in the back...
Claas, from Germany, does most of the talking, although his English is staggered and smells of gin. He has been living with Senegal (the royal drummer) and the rest while making a documentary film on the group, who had just performed for the president the previous afternoon. Ghana's royal drummers are chiefs, and they claim authority over the musical/ritual activities of small regions, with Senegal, the leader of the Osu neighborhood, declaring his hierarchical dominance over the rest of Accra.

I'm excitedly pulled into one of the corrugated houses, and I find myself standing in front of a full bar. The English Premier League is playing on a TV set. Everything short of darts. Claas orders a Star beer, asks if I'm interested. No, haven't eaten dinner yet! I change my mind when I see the tasty beverage in front of me. He also gets a "Striker" - about 2 shots of gin in a plastic, sealed pouch. The 'tender has to find the scissors to clip off a corner and fill a glass, along with some lime juice. "Claas, that's my summer drink of choice right there, a gimlet!" He's surprised and gets excited. Later in the night, I have one of my own and we toast my lost wanderings while sitting in a shack/bar looking over the coast.

Claas and Senegal, chillin'  hard. Yes, that is the ocean in the background on the right.
I went back the next day - left my notebook at one of the bars. Claas and Senegal wanted pictures, hundreds of pictures of the school and the young drummers. A guitarist was visiting the night before, he was still there in the afternoon, giving us the chance to jam a bit, playing a bit of reggae and a great "Hey Joe." As a member of Fela Kuti's band, I was a bit star-struck, and he was a fantastic player. Me, I was using an acoustic guitar that was missing a string, forcing me to play as a bass. I'm more comfortable there, anyhow, but when the drummers joined in, my straight reggae lines suddenly felt much, much more difficult. I made it, and didn't make a fool out of myself in the process. In the end, that's all we can hope for, eh?

Lessons from royalty.
Annie and I left that night, Friday. Her boss took us out to a meal of Ghanaian food, complete with fried plantains, spicy sauces, perfectly mixed spiced rice, and large plates of grilled fish. All alongside the local milk stout. Perfect.

Delta, in trying to keep us "safe," took us through 18 checkpoints and consumed the 3 hours that we spent in the airport (good thing we were early!). They let us on, found a place for the kora, and plopped us in our spots. Bam, going home. Two movies, a book, and some TV later, we were in Atlanta.

I finished "On the Road" just as we came home. Felt right.

The drumming and dance school.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Other Saint Louis

She finally found one she likes. She has since found many more.
Left yesterday morning, 7am, for what was supposed to be a 3 hour trip. The destination, Saint Louis, was the previous capital of the region. The French used it as their center for the entirety of French colonial West Africa. Saint Louis was the hub that administrated over Mali, the Ivory Coast, Guinea, Senegal, etc. As a result, it's booming with old colonial architecture.

Well, it was. And maybe is, but not during Ramadan.

Conducting business.
After the 5 hours that it took to get there, we dropped Annie off at the university, where she was to conduct a whole slew of interviews. Dirt roads, dirt parking lots. The things that you take for granted. I couldn't imagine the University of Florida with goats wandering the main lot. Later in the afternoon, though, Annie had to worry for her hair as they started to get closer...

(Her hair is ok.)

A moment of repose.
It was good to get out of the big city. We passed people waiting for buses, small-scale farmers collecting their wares, thatched huts inside concrete compounds, twisted trees that seemed to jump right out of a film, horse-carts, children porting water, and the most well-dressed hitch-hikers that I've ever imagined. Especially the women, decked out in expensive fabric, home made dresses.

Most everything was closed for the holy month. The hotels in Saint Louis date back to its glory days, but alas, I was denied entrance. I had two qualifications in finding a place to spend my afternoon.

1: Air conditioning.
2: A toilet with a seat. (I didn't even need TP, had my own tissues.)

First try: small bakery, coffee shop. No air con, no seat on the toilet. But it was inside, and I was hungry, so I sat. Even got some WiFi. Since I had some work to do, I decided to give it a chance. After a half hour, they closed and kicked me out. Dang.

Second try: ran into the taxi driver, who wandered into another restaurant. Looked good, but lacked, again, on both necessities. Plus, I had just eaten a slice of pizza, so no need to stick around. I was hot.

Third try: the riverside pool bar. Yes! Toilet seat! Outside, boo! It was hot, but I was done of wandering. So I sat. A few hours of writing online course materials for UF, and it was time to move on. So, three tries, and no one really passed my two-teired test. I believe that the city has much, much more to offer, and I'm sure I'll be passing through again sometime to check out the old hotels and bars.

Hiding from the heat and hunger of late-afternoon Ramadan.
Ride home? Lots of pictures. Also, waaaaay too long. We managed to find the only taxi driver who wasn't in a rush. He even slowed down to close to a stop whenever he saw an animal to photograph! We were ready to get back to our posh hotel. We eventually did, where we sat on the roof and ate a delicious dinner to make up for the unprecedented hassle of the day.

Tonight we're off to Accra. We leave at 12:55am. Hopefully it will go better than last time...

La Fourchette (The Fork). We found a way to spend over $50 on dinner, enjoying a meal that would have been impossible to afford stateside. I had a "tornado" of beef with vanilla sautéed and puréed potatoes with a glass of cab. Annie had a type of fish that was cooked in such a way that it caramelized on the outside. And, the obligatory giant bottle of water...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Dakar. Check.

You're either on the bus or you're off the bus.
Dakar comes through. It has music. It has roads. It has water. It even has construction with workers doing work, more than I can say for most of the US.

We hit the town hard yesterday. We dedicated ourselves to food. Breakfast on the terrace (it was hot), good coffee, great breeze, perfect. The hunt was already on for lunch. After checking in on some clubs in the trendy Point E district across from the university, we found ourselves at an Ethiopian restaurant. Finally we find some good African food in Africa, but to our surprise, it's from the wrong side of the continent. We eat, injera toasting in the heat of the day. Coffee and ice cream were just right for a finish.

Back at the hotel, I hunt for musical activities while Annie makes her inroads for the week's work. (She's on the terrace now completing her first interview in Senegal.) It took a while, but we decided on an adventure for the drowsy night. It's Saturday, and Dakar knows how to party (even Lonely Planet says so!).

The ocean from the upper terrace. I can almost see Florida from here!
Off we go - the long cab ride takes us to Les Almidies, the Westernmost point of the African continent. After a few questions directed at folks walking the street, our driver finds his way down a dark side street with distant lights. As we get closer, we see no sign, but there is, interestingly enough, a signpost that happens to have nothing on it. "This is it." We pull in to the parking lot and sure enough, it's our spot. For $3, he'll wait. Thank god! As we pulled in we passed a family desperately trying to hail a cab on the empty, black road. As an aside, this may be the first place we've been with a parking lot.

Inside, it's an entirely different story. The many tables are empty, save for two or three, but the dining room lowers to within 20 feet of the incoming ocean tide. We settle down right on the edge, a table looking out over the black ocean, surrounded by the sound of lapping waves. It's something, how you can stare out into the sea, just as it's almost impossible to keep from staring directly into a late-night bonfire. Beers, paella, coffee. A bit overcooked, but worth it for this table and view alone.

Souleymane Faye at Just 4 U, the self-proclaimed Senegalese bluesman.
Time for some music. Souleymane Kaye is at a nearby bar, kindly called "Just 4u." Oh the internet, the havoc you've wrecked with the English language. He's a bluesman who listens to a whole lot of Fela Kuti. (As an aside, if you haven't listened to any Fela, go do it. Now.) Great show. The band would kick into a groove, led by the absurdly tall bass player and the Sabar drums, a staple in Senegalese music. Souleymane Kaye stands back, sits in the pocket, you see the sound flowing around him, he's barely playing. Suddenly he's screaming classic blues licks, but he's three, four feet away from the mic. Yet it's loud and clear. The show goes on like this. It's exactly what Dean hears in good bop in On the Road (Kerouac), the book that's consumed my plane rides throughout the trip. This guy has IT.

We're tired. Annie's falling out of her chair. Time to go. Day 1. Check.

As Ramadan passes, sights like this pop up everywhere. Sacrificial animals appear on street corners, in main roads, crossing streets... There's a group tied to a telephone post outside the window right now. One's pretty angry. The pressing decision for every family: buy one now for the feat, while they're nice and cheap, or do you wait until the night before. Most wait, you don't have to feed them, and you keep your kids from getting too attached before the big meal. (PS: check out little brother on the left, trying to keep up!)