You Can’t Make This Stuff Up

I said just last night, “if you are going to be a traveller, period, you have to be flexible and prepared to give a little.” It has been my experience that Morocco takes this to brand new heights. I learned a long time ago that what happens next is none of my business. You can not live in a country where your native language is completely optional unless you are willing to give up almost all control to others. Because if you can’t understand what people are saying then what happens next ……well….SURPRISE!

So I recently secured a long term lease in a lovely building and moved in. Didn’t take me long to unpack because it was just some suitcases really. I bought a bed and for the first night that was it. That was all that was here. Then came the fridge, stove, washing machine and TV that I had bought. So that was nice, I could make coffee. Then I went shopping nearby and found a chair with a nice ottoman so I had another place to sit. Things where coming together. I needed to get to the place with the Internet to get a proper connection but I couldn’t seem to get out of my house for two days. Trapped you could say.

You see, when I moved in to this spacious, three bedroom apartment on the third floor with a corner balcony overlooking the courtyard and prison, it was in need of some paint. The colour is lovely. A bright yellow in every room. Quite a difference from the dark reds and browns traditionally found in many Moroccan homes. But the walls were “used”. It needed a coat of paint to freshen things up for the long term. So I asked the nice lady manager and she laughed and responded in French. I smiled and nodded and we parted. I then had my BB call her and enquire after the “peinture”. Then I asked again and then again. Finally one day just as I was getting up and getting organized to go for Internet, the peinture arrived at my door. Surprise. I could tell he was the peinture because of the way he was dressed. Like a peinture. So he indicated he wanted to look around and I pointed to the walls I wanted painted (all of them), and he left. He arrived back a short time later with a bucket of paint and the tiny little roller that we use for trim in Canada. But, you know, when in Morocco, just go with it.

I was in for the day. I stayed in the living room with my laptop for much of the morning while he worked in my bedroom and the hallway. Later I moved back into my room to get out of the way. I made him tea. He speaks nothing but Berber but we got along fine. He enjoyed his tea and I know that because he sipped it loudly from the other room and said “mmmmm,” you see. Later in the day I had an invitation from a lovely friend to get out for dinner which I gladly accepted because – paint fumes. I think they use mineral spirits here. He brought this giant bucket of paint, wide open top so its clearly made of something that doesn’t dry out. He was adding tint to it as he went. I can assure you – the colour he put on the walls is only loosely associated with the colour ON the walls. But again – it’s Morocco. I don’t own the place and I’m not paying him. And the roller marks are better than the dirt. So move on and focus on something more important than matched paint right?

So that first day I managed to get my hair washed while he was out for a refill and I got dressed and ready as soon as he left. I also got a call from a little brother saying that Hakim was coming by tonight with my desk and would I be home? So we made an a plan to meet at 9:30 and bam – I had a wonderful meal with friends AND got my office furniture and half a painted house by sundown. It was a good day. And not remotely close to the day I set out to have when I awoke. Planning is for fools.

It’s probably worth noting that I was originally meant to be in my home on this day to wait for delivery of a second bed at 11am. But it rained. Downpour-all-day-weather-changing rain. So the bed never came. I assume because it rained but until I get a chance to go to the store, no bed, no clue. Also noteworthy that while I was trying to clear out the head spinning fumes from inside, I had all the doors wide open. Lovely had it been the day before when it was sunny and 23 but not so much when its raining and 16. And MAN did those fumes smell bad! Doors wide open all night. It was like camping.

So, I awaken the next morning to a knock at the door. It’s the painter and he’s here bright and early. Wow. Early. So I let him in and he sets about his work in my “office” while I make a coffee, lock myself in my room and try to wake up a little. I hear some noises but ignore it all until I’m finally ready to emerge and be human. And there is the painter, crouched on the floor with a plastic spatula tool, scooping up spilled paint.


Nobody needs a clumsy painter. “Ah monsieur, je suis tres desole” (I’m so sorry). What else could I say. I’m certainly not one to get upset about things like this. Not my fault, not my problem, I’m sure he will clean it up and if he doesn’t I know where his boss works. It’s just paint. It’s not bunny nose pink so that’s a bonus. So off I went. I offered him some sort of cloth which was useless but felt I needed an additional display of empathy before getting on with my work. So I took my laptop to the living room and the door bell rings. Its the handyman / electrician. He consults with the painter and leaves. Then comes the building cleaning lady. I opened the door to her and she told me a rather long story in swift Darija and then stopped, awaiting my reply. Really? So I moved out of her way and she went to see the painter. Then she left. Yadda, yadda, yadda. The room gets cleaned. He comes and goes a few times. I fit in a shower during his lunch and a trip to the hanout. I offer him water but instead he asks for atay. (Tea). I think by the way he was smiling he thinks it’s “our thing” by now. So atay it is.

Later in the day, I am back in my office, focused like crazy on my work, and the doorbell rings again. I get up and there is a man. He speaks in Darija, smiles and goes to talk to the painter. I do not know who this man is and at this point, none of my business. I go back to my task in my office, and the doorbell rings again. Its the nice cleaning lady. She’s back. She comes in and sets to work cleaning ALL MY FLOORS. I am not going to argue with this. I strand myself on my bed because it’s the only safe place.  A while later the floors are dry and I go back to my desk. Something catches my attention, and there on the balcony is that other man. Apparently he is the outdoor painter. And he is unaware of safety procedures. As you can see in Exhibit C below. Yes, those are sandals. And yes, I’m on the third floor.

But you know – it’s Morocco. I don’t know what to tell you. It’s all just one big surprise. Later, I heard the nice lady cleaning my kitchen floor! No paint had occurred in there so I was feeling pretty happy. She even did my dishes. HONESTLY. I was thrilled. It was the best unplanned day all week! But I really feel like I want to get that fella a proper roller!


SO – I was later able to get out of the house after the painter left finally. I had to get over and find out what was wrong with the bed delivery man (assessment – bit a dementia sadly, but it was delivered today). As I came off the elevator to leave the building, and I’m not even making this up I swear I’m not, there in the elevator lobby, was the painter, crouched down, cleaning up spilled paint. I’m not kidding. I almost died. There is a lot to said in favour of lids.



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