Dribs and Drabs
Sorry! Sorry! It’s been awhile since I posted. It’s been blissfully busy this month. I took a little trip to Essaouira for a weekend away. Business is picking up. Lots of my local family are around so we’ve been having really great visits for tea and meals. Its also that in-between time of year where things are slower on the front side, so the business side gets a lot of love and attention. To be honest, all my attention and focus, all my blood, sweat and tears is spent on my little bubble at the moment. And that’s good! I love my life here. But little time remains at the end of the day for waxing poetic so I will just share with you now some (really) random incidents and the occasional observation.
First, the water heater for my house hangs in the kitchen and when it’s heating it rumbles like a hungry tummy but quite loudly. Sometimes I go in to the quiet kitchen and think “Holy shit!!!! I just ate…..oh.”
I am trying to learn French I swear I am. But years of a frought relationship with the language makes all the words fall right out of my head. I find myself standing in front of my cleaning lady Latifa saying “je suis” repeatedly. This is my French version of “um.” It’s tres difficile for me to recall words under pressure. Ftlog.
Speaking of my cleaning lady, she asked me to have “journal” (newspaper) and Ajax, on hand for next time. So like a good girl I went out and bought bleach. Right?! Ajax is bleach? Of course it is. I asked my Moroccan alter ego, “What’s Ajax? It’s bleach right?” (Insert the shoulder shrug and half nod of the noncommittal).
So she arrives on the day and I have no journal sadly, but I proudly put the bleach out for her to see and went about my business. “Madame, journal?” I panic. “Je suis, je suis.” “Pas de problem, Madame.” She picks up “the house phone” and calls her buddy the Guardian downstairs and a journal appears 5 minutes later. This woman has more juice in the building than I do. Good to know.
Next she comes looking for the Ajax. I panic again and point to the bleach. “Je suis.” “Non, non madame. Ajax.” Ok well I don’t know wtf you’re talking about then. Again, she picks up the house phone and 10 minutes later the Guardian appears with a small bottle of AJAX. Well now I know. She hauls me towards a window and squirts the liquid at the surface and starts cleaning. I’m pretty sure it’s concentrated Windex.
By the way, if anyone in Morocco needs bleach I have a big bottle of it.
One day I was at the French grocer. I picked out a bottle of spice from the rack with two fingers grasping the top of the bottle with great care. Another jar came out with it by accident and smashed to the tile floor. What can you do? Accidents happen.
There is an older French woman beside me who bends down rubbing her ankle. I guess she caught a shard in the blast. I’m stood there, a little dumbfounded, as I watch the DRAMA unfold in front of me. She looks up at me as if I had just snapped the neck off a beer bottle and went at her bar fight style. Jesus lady. I think to myself “Self, she is giving me the ACTUAL evil eye! What.the.f*ck?”
I looked at the older French man that was with her. He is also watching the utter horror of this woman’s melodrama with a look that only comes after many long years of marriage. I said to him, with great disdain, “I didn’t throw it at her, Jesus.” And that pretty much sums up how English expats coexist with French expats.
Morocco is a predominantly Muslim country and therefore Friday is the Holy Day. Essentially this means that everything stops Friday at lunch as the faithful head to the Mosque for Friday prayers. This is when the Imam delivers the khotbah, similar to the Christian sermon. This is not a disruptive time. My BB’s (Berber besties) will spend more time in the Mosque this day and there is usually a local hammer visit. You will often see people sitting in groups on the street or in business’ over a shared meal of couscous. That’s about it. A respectful if not introspective day but pretty normal as you move about your business.
The weekend comes and all things are normal as with anywhere in the world on Saturday. Things are busy in public places. People are off work and children out of school. Tourists are out in number coming for the weekend from Europe. And then Sunday comes.
Sunday in Morocco is like days of yore. When business’ were not allowed to be open. Remember when you couldn’t buy liquor on Sunday? Here, most places are closed. Pharmacies, businesses all shuttered. It’s family time. The streets are quiet. There are no scooters parked all over the sidewalks. The city is slow and peaceful. People are at home with their families. It is striking really although I didn’t really take full note of it until New Years Day.
January 1 fell on a Sunday this year. It’s important to know that New Years is a western holiday. Amazigh New Year is not until January 13. So there I was walking about on our New Years Day but noticing odd things. As I left my building I thought “Huh, why does the regular day Guardian have the day off. Special.” Around the corner and I’m thinking “Well the old man* is open but the pharmacie and the paper store close?” It struck me as so strange that they would all observe this holiday in such a Western way. And then I realized…. it was Sunday. I love it. I really love that Sundays are a day of rest and calm. Its a value that I am missing in the modern west.
*There is an old man who owns a patisserie on my corner. He is one of a handful of what I would characterize as “people in my neighbourhood” that fill my heart with love for this place. He is so pleasant and so nice and so kind and so gentle. He is a delight to be around. My encounters with him always leave me full of love and respect and happiness. He has told a friend of mine that he remains open at his shop at all hours and every day because he is afraid if he closes or takes a day off he’ll die. Indeed like a beacon in the fog whenever I pass there he is. If I ever see the doors closed on his store I am almost certain I will cry immediately.
And let me leave you with this. I was sitting in a cafe in Essaouira with my friend Kate. Having a nuss nuss and waiting on a friend. There is an older European man sitting in the doorway and he somehow cornered an English speaking passerby into an extended conversation. Of course, it’s English, so we sit and listen in.
After some “where you from” “how long have you been here” type words, this man reveals he came to Morocco many years ago and found a wife. Which suits him just fine he says. He looks around furtively, spots Kate and I sitting there, CLEARLY listening, and regardless, he says “Western women are too emancipated.”
Kate was trying to put her eyes back in her head. Being a good Canadian I looked straight at him, leaned in a little for affect and said “Hell yah we are.” The other traveller was clearly mortified by this comment and quickly took his leave.