Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The laziest vacation ever

You too would be hard-pressed to tear yourself away from a gorgeous pool in a gorgeous garden all to yourself, with a good library of books upstairs and with every day sunny and warm! Yesterday I was thinking that if this exact place were a hotel I would not love it as much. There's something different about having a luxurious place entirely to yourself. Consequently, there isn't all that much to write about lately.

Our friend, Leila, came to dinner the other night. It's quite an experience cooking dinner for friends in someone else's kitchen, but by now I know my way around it. You have to be inventive, since the familiar ingredients and implements aren't there. When I go to the market I see a lot of vegetables and fruits I don't know, and wish I knew how to cook the vegetables. Next Monday the housekeeper will be here and offered to make us dinner, which of course I accepted with joy. I also asked her to teach me how she made the two salads the first night we were here, one of eggplant and the other of green peppers. She said yes and that her daughter Sana, whose French is so much better than hers, could write it down for me, but I said that she could just make them and I'd watch and write it down myself. I'm looking forward to that.

When Leila was here we spoke as usual a mixture of French and English, and I realized that the way my French gets better is by islands. What I mean by that is that some things are really easy for me to think and say in French, surrounded by other things that are much harder. With time, the islands of easy things get larger and larger: a much more complicated process than a slow linear one. She insists my French is excellent, but of course I can't help comparing it now to how fluent I was 35 years ago, when I could dream in French. I think she means she's impressed that my grammar is usually right, but then if that's how you're taught -- and even more important, how you have taught it yourself -- then that's the easy part.

Yesterday we managed to tear ourselves away from the pool and went into town to the huge mosque. Rick couldn't go in: shoulders and knees had to be covered (= decent dress) and he didn't qualify. I did while he wandered, which he loves to do. It was extraordinary: I'd really like to come back so he can see it too. Only the mosques in Mecca and Medina are larger. It's so big that 20,000 men (not a generic!) can pray inside at one time, with room for 5,000 women in the two side balconies fronted by ornate grilles (is that French? Can't think of the English word). Many years ago I was in an orthodox synagogue and sat with the women in a balcony, watching the men pray below through the edges of curtains in front of me, so the women's balconies are just like that except here they're much more beautiful. Outside in the plaza is room for another 80,000 people. Ramadan starts on Saturday and it will be full then. Muslims pray 5 times a day, the first at FOUR AM (I could NEVER be a Muslim!) and the last at 9 PM. Imagine Moorish architecture and multiply it by a zillion: as big as a Boeing hangar space inside, just acres and acres of marble and mosaic and elaborate metal chandeliers. I tried to take some pictures but doubt if any will please me: the real point is the vastness of the space, and my camera, at least, couldn't capture that.

Afterward Rick tried to take the car into the old town and we quickly realized that was a mistake. Streets are narrow and people walk in them. You try to squeeze around the people, the cars, and the donkey-drawn carts with potatoes or guavas being sold and it's obvious that markets and cars don't mix. But it was hot and it was time to go back to the pool! We'll do the market another day, especially because it stays open well into the evening.

We have another week and a half here -- leaving next Friday -- and between now and then we'll get up the energy to explore. I hope you are not bored, wanting more action. This blog, after all, is being written by someone who is utterly content to spend two weeks in San Diego going to a beach every day and reading! But we're starting to at least think about tearing ourselves away from the pool: progress!

Our love to you all,


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