Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Free For All

*I re-write this post in my head on a daily basis

**I realize that my "driving common sense" is colored by America and the Moroccans probably think my driving is crazy.

There is one thing you can always trust when it comes to Moroccan drivers: they are NOT to be trusted!  Yes, everything looks similar to North America roads (signals, etc.) but the function is completely different.  Because Morocco's middle class has only come about in recent years, most Moroccans (as a society) have only been driving for about 30 years.  That may seem like a long time, but I'm guessing most of these drivers haven't taken Driver's Ed.  I haven't figured out how to organize all my thoughts into a post that flows so instead you're going to get a list.  Enjoy.

On driving in Morocco:

- I promise you, if a typical Moroccan driver flew to the states and rented a car, they would be pulled over before they ever made it out of the parking lot.

-Whenever I see a driver not only use their turn signals, but use them correctly, I find myself silently congratulating them.

-I was shocked the other day when I needed to change lanes at the last minute and the driver behind me actually waved me in.  After I moved over I waved my thanks and he waved back (like you would in the states, or at least in Texas).  I thought to myself,"Wow! I can't believe that just happened on Moroccan streets."  But then the car passed me a minute later and I saw the license plate was from France.  So no, that did not just happen.

-The city planners are big fans of the "lane and a half".  This is just as good of an idea as it sounds.

-There are many bicycles and motor-scooters.  These guys (always guys, never girls) are way too confident that I will not hit them the way they dash in front of and around me.  They usually drive on the far right, but their vehicles don't have enough power to keep up with traffic so everyone swerves around them...into the next lane, whether there is an extra lane or oncoming traffic.

-Much of the driving here depends on your status in society and how nice your car is.  If you are driving a Mercedes and waiting at the back of the line at a stop light it is perfectly acceptable to pull into oncoming traffic and move to the front of the line.

-At a stop in the States if someone flashes their lights at you it usually means they want you to go ahead as a courtesy.  Here, if someone flashes their lights it means "GET THE HECK OUT OF THE WAY BEFORE I RUN OVER YOU."

-My new pastime while driving is Ambassador spotting.  The license plate of the car indicates that it is the Ambassador's (usually with a driver) and their country.  So I crane my neck trying to see into the back seat for a glimpse.  It's all extremely safe.

-Street cleaners: Did you know that the best time to clean the street is during rush hour?  Yep.  And make sure your cart is out in the middle of the road and not on the huge sidewalk adjoining it.  These guys are normally sweeping on the side of the road with no regard to their personal safety.  If I was standing on the side of one of these roads, I would be looking over my shoulder like a paranoid schizophrenic to make sure I didn't get hit.   

-I can't decide if my biggest pet peeve on the roads is when a car just hangs out in the middle of two lanes, often for a mile at a time, or when I am stopped at a stop sign, waiting to turn left, and another driver passes me on the right to turn also, thereby cutting me off.

-This past weekend I was in conversation with one of the embassy's top officials' wife (get that?) and driving in Morocco came up.  She mentioned that she frequently uses her middle finger when out and about.  I probably won't go that far, but my kids do hear a lot of,"Wow!"  "Really?!"  "Good grief" and "Geez".

-There is not as much honking here as I anticipated.  The things that American drivers would honk at (stopping in the middle of a busy street to talk to a friend, turning right from the far left hand lane, cutting someone off) are tolerated beautifully.  But, KATIE BAR THE DOOR, if you are not halfway across the intersection when the light turns green.  This means that while the light for the cross street is still yellow you are expected to get moving.  Of course this makes perfect sense, as we all know that the safest time to be out in an intersection is during the yellow light.

-Car seats: fuggetaboutit. Most children ride standing up in the back seat or leaning between the two front seats.

Upon arrival, embassy officials tell you that you WILL get in a wreck at sometime during your stay here and to be prepared.  So encouraging! Fingers crossed my friends, fingers crossed.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Before I had children I was disdainful of the drive-thru.  I figured that if you are going to stoop to eating fast food, the least you can do is get out of your car and walk in to order.  (Unless you are eating at Sonic, which by the way, I fully support) After moving to our snobby town in Northern Virginia these ideas were reinforced- only 3 restaurants given the zoning to have a drive thru.

Oh, how the high and mighty are humbled.

As soon as I had that baby back there in the car seat I realized the absolute beauty of the drive-thru.  As he grew older and we added another friend in the back I loved those lanes even more.  When we finally gave in to McDonald's french fries because our child had been on hunger strike for the better part of two years, but found out that he was always ready to eat those, I became a REGULAR drive-thru-er.

For the most part we have been thankful to not have fast food options available to us in Morocco.  Joe and I have both lost weight without even trying and we eat better when Chick-fil-a and Chipotle aren't staring us in the face.  Of course when I'm out with the hungry kids, heading home, not knowing what to make for lunch, it has crossed my mind that it would be nice to be able to swing through somewhere in the car.  I have been here more than 2 months and didn't know that this was actually a POSSIBILITY.

I have no idea why any of my fellow mom friends didn't fill me in on the McDonald's drive-thru at Marjane!!!!  Honestly, is this some kind of new mom to post initiation?  Let her suffer until she hears a rumor randomly somewhere and rushes over to sniff it out?  Really!

Not that I'm a huge fan of McDonald's per se.  But my big boy LOVES french fries...and so does his mama.  Before we left the states he knew when we went through a drive-thru that he was going to get his beloved french fries.  However, he couldn't say the words yet so there was a lot of "uh,uh,uh" from the back seat.  But today, when we pulled away from the line and I told him we had french fries he got so excited and kept saying, "french fries, french fries!"  Such a fun moment for me.  Oh, and I made sure the fries were actually in our car before I mentioned them- I just knew I would get him all excited about fries and the McDonald's guy would say, "Sorry Madame, we do not have french fries today."  (Because that's how things roll around here).

Anyhow, pulling through that drive-thru a few hours ago was a pretty great 5 minutes.  Go Morocco and go McDonald's!

G enjoying the goodness

They even have the old-school Happy Meal boxes!

J got to try one too.

Here's your bonus picture.  This was heading out to the party mentioned in my previous post.  You know, the one that got J banned from parties for life?  Or at least the next few months.  Didn't things look so promising?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Week

(Because don't you want to read every detail about our week?)

We are in the middle of national election season here in Morocco.  And it's a little complicated.  But don't worry there are only 33 different political parties running against each other so I'm sure you'll get it in no time!  Since Joe works at the embassy, the elections have pretty much taken over our lives. We thought that after a month plus of late nights, meetings, visitors, etc that he would be done with his duties by Friday evening.  (The elections are the day after Thanksgiving) We even went so far as to plan a big post-election party for Saturday and send out invites. And then we found out the next day that in fact he would not be done with his election work until late Saturday evening.  Right.  Thankfully, all of our invitees are either embassy or military families and they know ALL about last minute changes.  (Especially those military mamas.  Whew!).  Anyway, here is a little glimpse at how the rest of our week went.

Every Monday I teach a two hour English class to 5 Moroccan six year olds.  These kids learn Arabic and French at home, go to a Spanish school and then come to me for their fourth language.  Sounds just like the States, right? On Monday I also continued my quest to find meat for sale in the city that wasn't lamb.  There was literally one little piece of beef that I snatched up at the butcher.  (But really, who cares?  I have cheddar!)

I can't remember Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Morocco hosted a meeting of the Arab League here in Rabat, which evidently was a big deal in the news.  Of course, all that meant for us was an insane amount of black Mercedes outside the Foreign Ministry building clogging up the streets.  Still not sure what those drivers do all day as they patiently waited.  Networking, maybe?  Just kidding.  The other exciting part of Wednesday was that I went running for the first time since we moved.  What's that, Ashleigh?  After your big blog post in June about hitting the trail again, you haven't been running in over 2 months?  Yes.  And it's actually been closer to 3.  I haven't been able to join a gym yet because they think they want to charge me $100/month- all up front for a year AND because it is always an intense language experience for me and the salesperson trying to communicate the information back and forth.  Anyhow!  There is a new wife on the block and she likes to run too so we went to the big city park and ran.  Not together.  Oh, no.  She is about 5'10, runs like a gazelle, and has done a full and a half marathon in the last year.  I'm just a big tangle of spindly limbs.  She did lap me once, so at least for a few yards we were running together.

I can't even go into Wed. night, Thursday, and most of Friday because I am still in shock of those days with my little friend J.  Oh dear he has developed the most terrible screech.  It used to just be when he was tired.  And then tired and hungry.  And then tired and hungry and separation anxiety.  But now, it's just all the time.  And after Friday night he has blown his chance at going to parties that even children are invited to.  It's that bad.  We'll try and take him out again when he starts elementary school.

And then today, Saturday.  Glorious Saturday.  We finally made it down to Casablanca to visit some AGGIE friends, sans children.  Scott and I participated in the same ministry during college and Diana and I ran in the same group of friends.  In theory, Casablanca is only an hour away...or 60 miles.  We got there 2 hours later thanks to traffic and had a wonderful lunch.  We talked and talked and laughed,  and it was SO good because we get each other.  That is a real comfort when you are far from home.  Then we got to stop in Zara and Zara Home, and oh by the way Hope, ZH was such a disappointment.

This is Scott and Diana.  They are pretty great and will probably make more appearances on the blog.
Still trying to get a blog up about driving here.  But really there are no words.  Or too many words.  I can't decide.  But soon.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Pretty catchy title, eh?

Today was spent taking a few pics of the boys to post on here because some of the Moms are getting a little antsy, si vous plait, and I aim to please!

Recently J has been trying his darnedest to crawl, mostly just scooting backwards and rocking on hands and knees.  I will enjoy this for as long as possible.  He is also still eating everything in site and getting over his first cold.

Couldn't seem to get a good picture of J today.  Probably because I had to use my phone for a camera.  Aunt Wendy, do you see what he' s playing on? 

G is now the proud owner of and sleeper in a BIG BOY BED!

He is really loving our yard, having all the toys here and the "bas-keek-ball hoop".

Here he is kissing a picture of Hank that he found while we were unpacking.

After French class today it was time to go forage for some more food for the fam.  The post-Eid pickings at the grocery store proved slim and my vegetable stand was still closed, BUT(!!!),
OH MY HEAVENLY STARS DO YOU SEE WHAT THIS IS?!!!!! (If I could find any way to make that sentence more dramatic, I would)

Cheddar cheese, my friends.  C.h.e.d.d.a.r., I say!  I had been told that on VERY rare occasions it will show up randomly here and there and TODAY was the day.  It took all that was in me not to buy (and freeze) everything they had.  As it was, I bought about a fifth and spent $29.  Worth every dirham.  The guy could see how happy I was and sliced off a bit for me to eat right there.  And friends, I am a little embarrassed to say it, but I kid you not, I got a little teary. (I don't know if this means I am emotional, I am homesick, or I just love cheddar that much.  Probably the latter.)  And then I told the man, "C'est tres bon! Je pleur!" Which means, "It is so good, I cry!"  Because I am not sure how to say,"I could cry." And then he chuckled with a slightly scared look in his eye.  (What is wrong with this lady?!")

There were two other major succeses at the grocery store today:

1. I ventured down the flour aisle AND actually bought some.

I was trying to get wheat flour and since wheat bread is "pain complete" I figured by buying "farine complete" I was buying wheat flour.  Nice logic, Ashleigh, but no.  It translates to "wholemeal" flour, so it is "strong" as Khadija (my housekeeper) says and coarse.  We'll see what happens when I use it!

2. The cashier actually helped me bag some of my groceries! I try to go to the same one each time and I have been speaking to her in French as much as possible and Voila! I now get assistance.

All in all, a good day.  (Even though my toddler had his own Chernobyl when he got up from his nap.  What can you do?)

p.s.  You might have noticed the new fancy button at the top right of the blog.  Pretty much all of my favorite bloggers that I read on a daily basis are on the same Compassion trip to Equador.  Click the picture to link to their posts.  

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Our Shipment + Eid

We've been out of pocket this week because our stuff got here.  Hip, Hip, Hooray!  The past few weeks we have been so looking forward to this and now that it's here we are totally overwhelmed.  Not only is there so much work to do, but we are feeling like spoiled Americans (and we didn't even pack anywhere near our weight limit).  Hopefully we can go through our things over the next two years and leave a lot of it with our new friends.

How many Moroccans does it take to open a shipping container?

By far the most exciting is the arrival of our car!  We are not encouraged to use public transportation in our city, and with the embassy several miles away it has been a challenge to have one car.

Yeah, we were pretty comfortable with the rickety pieces of wood they used to unload the car.

In other news, we have a 4 day weekend because Monday and Tuesday are Eid, the biggest Muslim holiday of the year.  For Eid EVERY family buys a sheep to sacrifice, cook, and eat.  This means sheep everywhere, in pens outside the grocery stores, in taxi trunks, and on top of apartment buildings.  They cost roughly $140.

This pen is outside one of the grocery stores we frequent.
It's funny because it has felt like the Christmas season around here.  Not only did the weather turn cold, but everyone is excited, rushing around doing their Eid shopping and thinking of gifts.  For our part (and most of our colleagues) we are hunkered down at the house resting and trying to avoid the smell of roasting sheep lingering throughout the city.

Be back soon!