My Last Christmas in Morocco was nice. December 18-26, 2019
I had a very nice Christmas, but am so grateful I will be home for the next one. At the Youth Center, we continued our Christmas week activities. I picked up the cookies baked by my host sister, trees, stars and what she thought were bells were actually tulips. I made red, green and white icing and the kids all helped to decorate them. We also made paper ornaments for our tree. The weather cleared and I hung the wreaths on our doors.
On Friday, our Christmas party was open to all subscribed members of the Youth Center, but sure we had extras, with about 40. We had our cookies, and more cookies, and hot chocolate. The noise from the children drowned out the Christmas music, so I had to sing the carols for musical chairs. Whenever I forgot the words, no one knew. We played “snowblower”, racing to blow cotton balls across the ping pong table through a straw.
Saturday & Sunday, soccer continued with only one big change, my next to the last adult coach, one of the association committee founding fathers, quit. I was too busy to kiss his hand (metaphorically) when he arrived, and he turned tail and left me with 4 teams, two matches, no coaches and no help.
As Christmas approached, I received 3 packages and 3 beautiful cards. My step-brother sent about a ton of gifts, ranging from Grapenuts cereal to Starbucks Christmas Decaf. My friend who had served in the Peace Corps in Tunisia, and his wife, sent warm socks and long underwear. I was really overwhelmed by it all. I opened my Aunt’s Christmas card to find a cute pop-up that inspired me to clean and decorate my house, with a big basket of greens, a bowl of pine cones, and display of my cards. Very cheerful.
But not all the post was cooperating. My sister’s package was sent to the wrong city. My Postman friend is trying to reclaim it and get it back. The day before Christmas Eve, my shipment of brown sugar to myself had not arrived. The same Postman tracked it to the distribution center in Fes, where his mother-in-law works. She located it as I was headed that way by taxi, as it happened to be my one day off. I found her, and the sugar, and after 6 hours I was back home making sweet potatoes (and roasted potato medley) for Christmas Eve dinner.
For Christmas Eve, I splurged on a door-to-door taxi to the home of a fellow Peace Corps Volunteer. With food, gifts, clothes and sleeping bag, it was too much to manage alone through 6-7 taxis. It was glorious, beautiful scenery, easy, peaceful. Mohammed and I stopped for coffee and wifi along the way, so I could send a few Christmas messages. My afternoon and evening with the group of PCVs was the happiest I have been since arriving in Morocco. We shopped, had lunch out, cooked, everyone making their favorite dish, singing Christmas carols as we did so. All the food was wonderful. A Moroccan friend of our hostess roasted and gifted her with the biggest turkey I have ever seen. It was delicious as well. We had a “white elephant” gift exchange, that went on a long time until limits were reached on stealing. Mine was the first to max out on steals, several items re-gifted from America. We played a silly card game that made fun of life in Peace Corps and other organizations that seek to “help”. I laughed. We were up ‘till past 2:00. Everyone found a place to sleep. The next day, I helped clean up, snagged some of the turkey, and made the 6-taxi trip home.
At home, Christmas night, I had phone calls with friends and family, several nice texts and emails as well. I enjoyed the glorious turkey sandwich with Best Foods mayonaise.
Other day-in-the-life events of the week included; a “site visit” from my Regional Manager. Since this was the second year in a row this was planned for the day before Christmas Eve, it is unlikely a coincidence. They seem to want to make sure we stay in our Moroccan mode. The transformer box on the telephone tower caught on fire and my landlady cut our power for the morning. A generator ran outside the house a few days, but they got it fixed. I cut my finger while hanging the wreaths, said “owww” and a group of teenage girls in the park next door took delight in mocking me. I went over there and asked why my blood was so funny, and later they came to apologize. I had two nice lunches with my tutor, and Kaskaroot with the Postman/French Teacher couple. He joined us late, as they could not leave until it was determined where 1000 dirhams had disappeared to that day. Cameras showed a mistake in handing out money to a customer. Our discussion about problems with the Moroccan health system turned out to be prophetic, as they complained of the inability to get care, even though they pay 500 dirham a month for insurance. He told stories of public hospitals doing absolutely nothing, and private doctors inventing needed treatments, to the point of telling families that only an expensive operation can save their loved one (who is already dead by the way, in the next room). Unethical was his word.
One night, my host sister showed up at the door with our friend from the nearby hanoot. His brother had brought home some Americans, and would I come speak English with them and help entertain? Sure. Long story short, they were Germans. He spoke no English, she a little. They had given the brother a ride and wound up as guests. I managed to leave when an English-speaking cousin arrived.