Category Archives: Uncategorized

Ode to Moroccan Orange

I can complain about Morocco all I want, but I can’t hide one essential fact. This country consistently has the best oranges I’ve ever had. The two most important words in that sentence, consistently and best are accurate, I assure you. I thought I knew what an orange was before I came to this country. Turns out I was wrong. I have yet to have an orange that was not better than any orange I had previous to my visit. Sweet, juicy, fresh, slightly tart, it’s impossible to fully describe the regenerative beauty that is a Moroccan orange.

That’s why, in order to hopefully communicate the symphony of each bite, I was inspired to write a few poems.

Oh hello orange

Your seedless bounty astounds

Please let me juice you

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There once was an orange of islam

that was blessed by the best of imams

I unpeeled its dress

and then licked its flesh

that was too far, sorry mom

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What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear’d,
Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone: orange

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Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! The orange is Holy!

Also asshole. Or something.

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Greetings from the Festival Au Desert

Sorry I’ve been lax on posting. A trip to Dogon country and some business in Bamako have sapped my time. I promise a better update soon. In the meantime, I’ll be hanging out with Tuaregs and Phil from Phil in the Blank at the festival au desert. This will be the time of my life.

Merry Christmas from the Muslim World

Though I’m not finished chronicling my time in Ghana, here’s an update: I’m currently in Bamako, Mali, and aside from a few regaling expats, no one seems particularly aware that it’s Christmas. Ok,. that’s a lie. I’m currently staying with a Cameroonian family. They’re Christians, so I’ve managed to find a somewhat authentic way to celebrate Christmas here. I miss my family though. Still, I can’t help but marvel at the lack of shopping mall Christmas music, which is pretty nice. For the first time in my life, I’ve managed to miss out on the entire holiday season. Muzak renditions of Little Drummer Boy have been replaced by griots, catchy but generic Ghanaian hiplife harmony has been replaced by meandering, melismatic Wassoulou melodies.

In Accra, I’m sure people are celebrating heartily: going to church, dancing, eating inhumanly spicy things with large rodents (believe it or not, it’s delicious). Do I feel like I left Ghana a little too early? Maybe. But I’m alive and happy in Mali, my soundtrack is much more up my alley, and it’s not too hot to sleep at night. And for that, I’m thankful.

In the meantime, here are a few selected photos from my time in Mali. More to come.

Why I’m So Glad I Came to Africa for Four Months

Today I sat on the patio. I read, ate a lunch of rice and sauce from a local vendor, and napped. That’s what I did. All day. And I didn’t feel guilty about it. I didn’t feel like I wasted my time. I didn’t feel like I should attend to more pressing things.

The neighborhood wakes up around 5 am and remains consistently lively until after sundown. Children bathe in buckets, women sing songs while washing clothes, young men walk by briskly. By now, many of the residents know me, and I know many of them. I get invited into people’s homes for a drink or a meal on a regular basis. Pretty much everyone walking through stops by the patio for a brief chat. To be fair, our conversations are typically stunted: “Good afternoon, how is your family?” “Have you had a good day?” Still, from my patio perch, I can sit, observe, and interact in a way that you rarely can on a tour. Static, lazy days can be just as culturally insightful.

In this neighborhood as with others, most of all, you notice the noise. There’s noise everywhere. Roosters crow, goats and sheep emit warnings, children yell and cry, adults argue, cell phones ring incessantly. No one seems particularly concerned about the racket, neither solitude nor quiet ever seem particularly virtuous.

Even the most basic homes often come equipped with a decent stereo system. Music is an essential ally for work, play, conversation, boredom, and even sleep. Sometimes neighboring houses will blast different tunes at the same time, competing for airspace by creating a unique polytonal, polyrhythmic sonic collage. This makes no sense to me, but those dancing don’t really seem to mind. Still, going on walks can seem like a constant field demonstration of the Doppler effect.

Suddenly, about 50 feet away, a spontaneous dance party erupts. Some neighborhood kids are dancing to an extremely popular hiplife anthem. Despite its liberal use of autotune, it’s catchy as hell. Intrigued, I go join them. Their laughter at my attempt to dance attracts more neighborhood children, and soon what seems like the entire neighborhood is watching the Obruni try to move his hips. A few older women come join me, laughing hysterically. One in particular starts inching closer. As we start suggestively dancing, I think, “Aren’t there children around? Isn’t this a highly Christian society?” But that’s the wrong way to think. Though it seems hypersexual, it’s not.

By this point, I’ve grown accustomed to seeing small children bump n grind while adults casually look on. Had these parents discovered a teenager’s secret love affair, I would probably hear the punishment from half a mile away. But this? No problem. I’ve been conditioned to view this dance as an unrefined display of drunken sexuality, the only appropriate venue a hot, dimly-lit dungeon of overpriced liquor and sordid mistakes. Here, it’s so much more than that.

To say that it’s more innocent is an oversimplification. It’s just more universal.

And that’s why I’m so glad I did nothing today.

You may have noticed that I’ve developed a particular affinity for pictures of Ghanaian children. Those of you who’ve watched Dodgers baseball in the last 20 years might call it the “Vin Scully Effect.” (V.S.E.). Either way I can’t help it. And I’m sure you can’t either.