New Year, new house. December 27, 2018-January 11, 2019. Yes, New Year’s Eve was as predicted. It was an enjoyable time, though incredibly loud, as everyone tried to out-do the TV at full blast. We made it until after midnight and then headed to bed. The next day, we did not make it all the way to the park, but my “brother-in-law” did run 8 of us (in a car designed for 5) out across the valley, to the base of the mountain and I was happy for the outing. I add “three kids, front seat, hanging out the window while driving through the country” to the list of things you will not see in California.
On the 3rd I secured my own house! My interim Regional Manager came to visit and approved my first choice. It is very nice and quite large. Two bedrooms, two salons, large kitchen, bathroom, interior utility porch and roof access as needed, no appliances, all for the equivalent of $90/month. I am really only using the one bedroom, kitchen and bath. It is near my host family and I am really happy about that. I can usually walk the kids to school and easily visit the host sisters. In fact, I am bumming lunch today. Since my last post, my olive picking sister took the visiting cousin back home and is due home today in time for lunch. Not only did they help me find the house, but have been helping me to find everything I need to outfit the house.
I bought a used hot-water heater and can take warm bucket baths and wash dishes without needing to heat the water on the stove. I bought a new range top, like a three burner camping stove, that sits on the counter. Both powered by bottled butane, the norm here. No oven or refrigerator yet. I am also thinking to buy a clothes washing machine. Both my sisters have them, so not too scandalous an expense I hope. I bought a new mattress, currently on the floor like some crack house. Ah, these things take time. My family has loaned me a lot of stuff and I have bought a lot as well. I bought a small electric room heater. I run it a little in the evening and morning, so changing clothes is not such a shocking experience.
I am battling cockroaches for the second time since arrival to Morocco, (first at the hotel near Rabat). I have taken all the doors off the lower cabinets to sand and finish. I have all the food, dishes and utensils in plastic. So far, I have only seen them in the kitchen, dead on the floor. I have some serious chemicals at my disposal and not afraid to use them. My brother also killed a huge rat. He kicked it as it came running down from the upstairs apartment. The place is all newly painted, clean and spacious, so these problems were a surprise. Still, I think that I can win the battle.
Before the move, most of my free time was spent chatting with sisters as they cooked and then doing mountains of dishes (the least I could do since I didn’t cook). After dinner I would retire to my room and try to catch up on some emails or lesson planning before sleep. Since the move, most of my free time has been spent shopping for things for the house. I am trying to buy as much as I can used and local. I made three trips to the souk this week on Monday. I am cooking for myself, but now dinner is whatever veggies fit into my one skillet, maybe some ground beef. My lunch may be an apple, can of tuna or some peanuts. For breakfast, just some tea or coffee. I bought a stove-top coffee maker but made the mistake of buying that used. At first it leaked in the middle, no coffee. Then, when I wrenched it tight enough, I got coffee, but cannot get it apart now to clean and re-use. Grrr.
Today the youth center, and all the schools are closed, for Moroccan Independence Day. There were no visible celebrations in our town, but I am sure there were some in the larger cities.
My typical work day includes leaving the house about 8:45, so I can walk the kids to school and have a brief visit with the sisters. I live just 3 blocks from work. My youth center does not open until 10:30, but I like to open all the shutters and clean up. We are open Tuesday through Saturday. My Director does not care if I come in early, but does not want kids inside before the appointed time. If time permits, I will go to the post office (or hardware store, bank, …) also before opening. If I have time, I like to sit out front, in the sun, with my Moroccan Arabic textbook. Kids will usually come and talk with me. 10:30-12:30 is normally “free time”. Anyone can come in to play games or talk. Sometimes I have drawing or a craft project. I would do more crafts but all the money for paper, pencils, etc. comes out of my pocket. Again, not a lot of $ but not wanting to appear the “rich” American. Ping-pong is popular and I now make them sign up to play in order, to cut down on the wrestling and arguing. I often play UNO with them, as long as they speak the numbers and colors in English. We are closed from 12:30 to 2:30. Now that I am on my own, this leaves me time for work or errands. Wednesdays and Saturdays, the afternoons are occupied by the music teacher, who really draws a crowd. I will manage the flow in and out, and occupy the overflow with something quiet in the big room. Tuesday, Thursday and Friday afternoons are a combination of my English classes, game time and our Art Club. During Saturday morning we have the Ping Pong Club. I am trying to use the Peace Corps methods of using clubs to teach “life skills”, such as goal setting, critical thinking, self-control and more. So far, my best chance is the Ping Pong Club, because they have goals of participating in competitions in other cities. The Art and Music participants don’t seem to really care enough to be a real club at this point. I also want to revive the “travel” club, really a hiking club. I also met an English teacher from the High School this week. She has a lot of activities going on, including public speaking. I hope to cooperate with her. All the kids are friendly and many speak a little English. I am starting to develop repour with some that come in often. The constantly tell me they love me and are very sweet. A group of teenage girls will laugh and giggle like they are being tickled if I just talk to them. Even the boys, who are quite concerned that I don’t have children, will tell me that they are my children now.
I had a trip to Sefrou. The Police called to say that my Carte Sejour (my “green card”) had arrived. I am now legal for a year. While I was wandering around, waiting for the right guy to come back, I also found a liquor store, with wines. Still, I am not allowed to drink in my town, so this is only useful if I go somewhere else and want to grab a bottle on the way (such as my Christmas visit).
The weather continues to be dry and sunny. It has only rained one night since I have been in this town, going on 6 weeks now. I fear for the agriculture that surrounds me as this is their normal rainy season and this must be looking like a serious drought. Still, it makes for pleasant days and a chance to get relief from the cold in the sun.
Next entry I will try to spend a little time describing the experiences of shopping Moroccan, and the beautiful landscape, both of which are becoming part of normal life, but worthy of sharing.