Thursday, March 24, 2011


Yes, it has officially happened. I was offered a job as a clown. The offer induced laughter, then excitement, and eventually terror.

I was chatting with the shoeshiner, who tends to stop and say hello, gesturing at the seat across from me to ask if he can sit there while he waits for customers. I always say yes but usually add - "but I do have a lot of work to do, sooo..." He sits down anyway and makes a mouth-zipping gesture and promises to be quiet.

A group of four was sitting beside us and kept looking over as though they wanted to ask for something. I smiled, we got to talking, and I said something about how "kanhbb tanja bzzef bzzef walakin makaynshi khdma. WALU." (i love tanja soooo much but there's no work. NOOO WORK). I say this sentence at least ten times a day.

"Join us!" they cried jovially.
I asked "Shnoo khdma dyalkoum?" (where do you work?)
"Shnoo??" (in my usual squeaky 'shnoo' voice)

The shoeshiner, who was annoyed for the entire conversation and definitely did not want to take part, finally rolled his eyes and translated:"Clowns. They are clowns," as though we had just lost a round of charades.
I'm not sure what sound or face I made, but both of sheer disbelief and delight.

I fear clowns just as much as the next guy, but it was some sort of twisted reflex. And since no one was wearing their gear at the time, I felt pretty okay. So we all chatted and I learned some clownish vocabulary in derija (Fessi derija mind you). Perhaps their invitation was in jest, but they appeared in earnest when they asked if I would want to join them as their "woman clown," and then asked me to at least come see them perform at a local Moroccan school the next day. Of course, OF COURSE, I said yes. Who can say no to a clown?

The next day we all piled into a shady white van. When we arrived, the children were all lined up, waiving their tickets to the show in the air, entering one by one. After everyone was in or being kicked out, and before I could assemble myself, the music started pumping and the kids were singing along with a terrifyingly dressed Moroccan clown who, although a man, had perfect control over the swaying of his hips. I eventually recognized that it was the shorter of the two boys that seemed so ordinary at the cafe the day before. I sat through the show which mostly consisted of him yelling "khyba!" (bad) at the kids, and they accusing him of being "khyba!" back. (This sort of exchange is typical with kids here. They love it.) At one point he jumped onto the benches and started running around frantically. There is no way he didn't step on at least one kid. All in all, a good show. I wondered if a tasteful clown dress of only mint green and black would any less insane. I'm sure it could be considered couture some day. Besides, who are any of us to say what is and is not clownish?

We gathered equipment, got back in the van and things started to feel uncomfortable and not entirely real. We headed back to the cafe where the woman was trying to make plans with me for the next day. The shoeshiner was there and took me aside and warned me, very seriously, not to trust these people. "They want something from you." And he walked away looking like a worried father. I felt slightly suspicious of their hospitality but hey, it's Morocco. It's normal. The more you are able to trust people, you learn things you would ordinarily never get to know. This has always been my philosophy, and I am consistently being warned about it, but you can't change a hardened woman.

Things got quiet and I gradually began to notice that all of them kept making eye contact with each other silently and then the woman would ask me a question either involving making plans or where I lived. She made at least four attempts to figure out exactly which street I lived on. I hoped that maybe she was just an impolite woman, and quickly called a friend for backup, just in case, to make sure I didn't get captured by this Insane Clown Posse. Things were feeling sinister. They sensed my fear and started to loo like they were going to either boil me in a pot and eat me or chop me up and sell me for parts. Or just sell me whole.

My friends showed up, immediately agreed that this was not a good situation, and we left just after I promised the woman that we would go to the hammam the next day. My friends made me promise not to go because they both agreed that they were definitely planning something for me and it was not the hammam. BUT THEY WERE CLOWNS! I ask myself, is that a reason to trust them, or a reason to think they might capture me or sell me into white slavery. To their defense, they are from Fez. (And yes, that was another jab at Fez and how awful it is.)

Various members of the ICP traveling show called me from different numbers thirteen times the next day, and I didn't answer. They left for Fez the following day and I figure I'm rid of the temptation of seeing them again and facing the possibility of capture.

But O, to be a clown! Even just for a day.
No one would be able to notice how big my nose is, hiding under that big red ball.
Enough reason to be a clown.
Did I lose my chance?
I'll sleep on it.
They return to Tanja in one week.

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