Yesterday we met a believer and another worker at Carrefour, which is like a Super Target surrounded internally by a mall. We hopped in “L”‘s van (first time we’ve gotten to all ride together in 1 car!) and went to a few of his humanitarian aid sites.
We went to 2 schools that serve over 800 students each and have no running water or workable toilets. The toilets, sinks, faucets were stolen a few days ago and school starts on Monday. L is trying to raise money to repair them before then (hoping for something from us), but we had some reservations:
- Is the government using L to fix problems that is should be fixing itself?
- What’s to prevent someone from doing this tomorrow?
- Why were there people there working on washing the floors and paiting the walls when there was a serious health crisis that needed to be addressed?
- Why does the director of the school not delay the start a week?
While we were at the 2nd school, someone there placed a call to the governor’s office, who, in turn, called L and asked to see him right away. We ran back to L’s house so he could get changed and dressed up to meet the governor, who was most suspicious of our presence at the school: 5 westerners walking around, taking pictures. L had to convince him we were with a humanitarian aid organization, and were not giving our photos/videos to the opposition party. From what I understand of their politics, it’s pretty much a 1 party system, and the president is pretty much a king. His picture is in every store, and is the equivalent of a business license. He’s also president for life, apparently.
We spent the rest of the afternoon at L’s house talking to N, his wife, who is an amazing Christian woman and had an amazing story of her conversion from Islam. She was the only fruit that the workers who led her to Christ ever saw during their career in XXXXX. But what a fruit… we were blown away with story after story of how others have come to know Christ, through contact with her.
Speaking of fruit, we ate something at L & N’s house that I’d never had before: cactus fruit. It’s the seedy core of the cactus fruit, and was delicious and juicy and sweet. You should eat it cautiously, though, as all those seeds can really do a number in your digestive tract.
Quick note about homes in XXXXX… they’re beautiful! Most are surrounded by a protective wall, like a castle, and have sort of a courtyard between the wall and the house. Beautiful trees and flowers and vines grow all over everything. Most rooms are tall, and the roofs are flat. I think they make it that way to help draft and ventilate and shade from the heat, as very few people had air conditioning, or if they did they only had it in one room of the house.
About 7 pm, L returned and took us in his van to Sidi Bousaid, a picturesque city on the bluffs overlooking the bay. Really beautiful place, obviously a popular tourist site as well, judging by the amount of vendors there. I talked to one of the vendors about a huge drum he wanted 300 dinar for. I told him I’d pay 75 dinar and he laughed and said make a respectable offer. I tried to leave many times (while my friends watched and laughed from a distance), and he lowered his price each time I tried to walk away, but I didn’t want the drum. I think he went down to 30 dinar, which was probably a good deal, but I didn’t want to carry something that large back on the plane, knowing we’d be really full with B’s things that we needed to take back.
Afterwards we went back to L’s house and spoke with his daughter (who spoke perfect english, even her mannerisms were completely American) about music here. This was my main reason for taking this trip, from an ethnomusicology perspective I was interested in what the music of this culture was like, particularly that of the youth, and particularly that of the emerging Christian church.
She played me a CD of some local, indigenous worship music, which, for me, sounded very middle eastern and minor, with its micro-tonal scales and tunings. To her, the music sounded dark and depressing, not at all worshipful or uplifting. I thought that was interesting, and requires some further study I think, to consider how to contextualize worship music here without losing their arabic identity. The youth obviously preferred western music, and even know most of our worship songs, in both english and arabic. N told me that Christians have no identity to draw from. There is no music in muslim worship, and there’s not many resources available to them (b/c of islam based government) of Christian arabic worship music from countries where its Ok to be an Arabic Christian, like Egypt or Lebanon.
The youth are into the same pop music that American’s are in to, probably because everyone, even the poorest people, have satellite television. Global culture has invaded even the most remote reaches of the Sahara!
I gave the daughter a short guitar and keyboard lesson, for which she was extremely grateful. Also talked with B for a while about contextualization.
Went back to the hotel, and decided about midnight to go on a spooky, dark walk through the Medina. It was more of a group dare, I guess, as we had read in the travel guide that this was a place for foreigners to avoid at night. So we kind of dared each other to go tag the mosque and make it back alive. Saw a one eyed man and several other shady characters walking around in there as well. The mosque itself just cast an eerie glow of darkness or deceit or mistrust. No way would I have gone there if the other guys weren’t with me.