This is most certainly the year of the move. Easier in Canada where I can do things on my own until I can’t and then I just call Ryan and he comes over with a strong back and a truck. (With two kids, an active business and a wife who is 87 weeks pregnant however, I kept Ryan’s chores to a minimum.)
Moving in Marrakech is quite different. For one thing I don’t speak the language well enough to ask the more advanced questions. I don’t have a car. The Internet isn’t s0 helpful. And I’m sick. So.
First order of business – find a place. Two places, eventually. I have returned in high season you see. I can plan all I want to settle into a long term lease in an unfurnished apartment which requires buying furniture, appliances, a TV and setting up utilities and Internet. But all of those things must be done in partnership with a Berber who can assist me in this complicated business. Now is not that time. So it was decided that I will “settle” in a short term 2 month dealio, ride out high season, and await some time off for my assistant. Totally cool with that. I would rather take time to make the larger decisions together anyway and find the exact right long term spot for me.
Now, returning during a holiday AND busy season presents its own challenges. My first few days back were marked by a quick passing of ships as my Berber family came together for the sacrifice feast and I stayed in Marrakech to work with some clients. Great weekend we had! It was lovely doing what I do and getting on with business, even if the entire city was virtually shut down and full of sheep waiting for …..oh never mind.
So I laid low for a few days and with a little patience I was gifted with a brother for the day. Someone with whom I could search for a place to live. Tired and sick, we set out to see what we would see in the second apartment hunt of 2016.
We started with lunch. Good solid start. We both looked at places on our phones and then R made a call to an agency about a place nearby. We had to go to the agency. The agency was not nearby And that’s when the taxi ride happened.
We hopped in a cab already occupied by a woman (common) and drove a few blocks, dropping her off at a big intersection. The driver turned the car off and said to R, “there are two places with the same name, so call them and I’ll ask where they are.” (I deducedd, because it all happened in Darija). As I write this I realize that turning the car off in the middle of an intersection was textbook foreshadowing.
Off we went for a ride. We kept going and going. Away from the centre of town. I had a good grip on where we were the whole way, until we turned left. The houses became a little poorer. There were large expanses of empty fields spotted with not complete housing projects here and there. A random fully completed parking lot. Piles of debris here and there. A bunch of wild donkeys wandering around. A horse eating lunch out of a dumpster on the side of the road. Wait. What?
We stopped for directions about 4 times. I caught the “left” and “rights” and some small talk as they do. Off we went. We turned up a two way secondary road and rounded a bend. It became clear that we were off course.
And then it got weird. Buddy put his 1935 taxi in reverse and started to backup. Cars came up behind us, and he just stopped until they got the idea to go around him. Then he continued. Backwards. I started to notice some opportunities for him to pull off and turn around. He did not see those. He continued backwards. Cars approached. He stopped. They went around. He continued backwards. It went on for an uncomfortable amount of
time. We rounded the bend again and continued. Then came the car that pulled up right behind us and did not get the memo about going around. At this point there was clear access to a turn-around and I thought “oh good.”
No. Not good. Buddy turned off to this side area to get out of the way but instead of turning around and continuing right side up, he continued across this new found clearing. Very much cutting the corner over to the adjoining road. At one point I would swear we cut through a plumbers supply yard. And then we got back on the road. Going forward. Phew!
Yada, yada, yada. We saw some places. We went into one building and waited 45 minutes for the man with the key. I thought nothing of this because it’s Morocco. Here, we wait. The man comes with the key when it’s time. No sooner. And all my Canadian friends were aghast at my “games on my phone” habit when I first arrived back. You gotta do something while you wait.
The man with the key arrived and thats how we came to be in Mr. Abdou’s office. He is a leassor. His workers, brothers Simo and Redoun were also there. Nice boys. Turns out the last place we saw, was the place I am sitting in now. It is in the exact intersection that I have been pointing at on the map for months. Precisely the location I wanted. And I swear we did NOTHING to make that happen. They just said “there’s a place with 3 terraces” and we showed up. “It’s a gift” I said for the third time this week. So the hunt was only one day this time. I think I’m getting better at this.
This morning I woke up to moving day. After a coughing jag that nearly saw me lose a lung I thought, “Hhhmm, time to see a doctor today? Ain’t nobody got time for that.” And off I went. I had to get to an ATM to get my rent money plus a deposit. Rent day is always a challenge because Morocco is all about the cash and the currency is just too small during these times. I had to go to 2 different machines and complete 4 different transactions because you can only take out 2,000 MAD at a time. ($270 Canadian). My rent is 6,000 MAD a month. So there I was playing the machines like I was at CasinoRama.
Then I went to the office to see Mr. Abdou. But you see he shows up when he wants to show up. And I was on my own because R had to go back to his village last night. So there I was in the office with Redoun and Simo. Nice, nice boys. I have been told many many many times to not be friendly to people, don’t trust, don’t talk. And I get it. I really do. I know I can come across as a little…..exuberant. But these boys were just nice. And besides, R said yesterday he liked them. So they were pre-approved. And SO respectful. So incredibly respectful.
So here’s what happened. I gave a lesson in English for about 35 minutes. While listening to Adele. (Because she really does sing in clear English.) The biggest problem with Moroccans and English, oddly, is masculine and feminine. Which is funny because Arabic and French have those odd and nonsensical designations but English does not. You would think it would be a vacation. But most Moroccan’s I know call her him. So we went over the whole he, she, his, hers. I thought it was ironic and mildly unsettling to have this conversation with people who are oblivious to the terms “gender neutral” or “gender confusion”. So.
Mr. Abdou arrived and wrote out the receipts and the contracts and then they all got up to go. Simo took off on his scooter to coordinate the cleaning, and Redoun and I moved to the car. We had to go to the moukatar (sp?). He said “in French we call it the prefecture. What do you call it in Canada?” “Uh, the Internet? We don’t?” I had no reply. But I was familiar with where we were going because I had been there before. We were going to the room where they sit with 5 stamps and red stamp pad. I said “we are going to boom, boom. Boom boom.” Redoun laughed and laughed and said “yes that’s right – boom, boom.” Because these people are stamp happy.
So we arrived at this building with nothing in it but rooms and entered the first floor “room of stamping”, ahead of a rather long line. Someone took Redoun away and there was talking and laughter. I ignored it. I was transfixed by the stamping. I swear its my dream job. Just sit and shuffle papers and stamp them. Boom, BOOM. So satisfying in a weird way. I signed yet another paper ledger book, got my official lease and off we went.
When got back in the car, Redoun said in very broken English, “that doctor he saved me. Me. Mort. I love life.” I looked aghast at this 19 year old and asked for further explanation. He told me (in his way, which included a lot of hand motions) that he was trying to get into a bar one night, and the girl he was with got in but they told him no, because he was wearing jeans, and out of nowhere they started beating him up and a guy came up behind him and knifed him in the stomach. (I am so good at understanding hand signals and half languages!) So he just just run into the doctor that did the sewing. Then he lifted his shirt and showed my his side. It was one long and angry gash. Stitches everywhere. Healed now. But man, that doctor maybe didn’t take the plastic surgery elective. Jesus!
Anyway. We both rejoiced and agreed that Redoun was entitled to love life.
Now, all of this exchange took place in the car on the way back to the office. And I mentioned there were a lot of hand signals. In fact, there was not a lot of forward motion. We stalled a few times. At one point we stopped about 20 ft short of the stop sign. Just stopped. Middle of the road. People went around us. It’s OK. No problems. I got the story AND I got back in one piece.
So after a really really really long day, I am deeply ensconced in my huge new temporary apartment, happy, ready for bed.
And ready to admit that I may need some antibiotics next week.