We've been absent. Since we returned from London there have been birthdays (me), sickness (Joe), and our favorite, potty training, which just about sent us all into the depths of despair. All you really need to know is that the diaper is BACK ON.
As always, though, I go through my days in Morocco constantly writing blog posts in my head because there is just that much crazy. For today, some observations in a nice little list.
1. Between our house and the embassy there is a street with traffic blocked off and lots-o-guards because a princess (we think) lives there. Side note: we need to remember that this isn't necessarily a "Jasmine" from Aladdin; a princess is still called a "princess" when she is 80. Anyhow, this blockade causes quite the detour and adds several minutes to the drive. Or at least it feels that way. A few of my friends with diplomatic plates drive straight through the blockade all the time without getting stopped. After a couple of months here, and after we had our diplomatic ID cards, Joe and I would do it together once in a blue moon. Well, after what seemed my hundredth drive to the embassy this week (French class 3x week, doctor appts, fuel, meeting up with Joe, commissary, etc) I got a little cocky. I started driving brazenly through the blockade MULTIPLE times a day. And it kind of changed my world. This is my trick- I smile and wave at the guards every time and they EAT IT UP. My license plate indicates that I am an American woman and since I'm waving at them, they most likely think I am something akin to a prostitute, but as long as I have a straight shot to the embassy, I'm OK with that. (Walking on the street I would never look a man in the eye, much less smile or wave)
2. Moroccans love them some Rhianna. (Which is actually refreshing considering most of the stuff on the radio. I swear they pick the nastiest American songs (explicit versions) to play, which is the exact opposite of what I thought would be going on) Anyhow, just about every other song is Rhianna, always doing giveaways involving her, etc. So much so, that when I am 78 years old and hear “We Found Love” on the oldies station, I will instantly be transported to Morocco.
3. Here’s the thing- most of us posted in Africa have big beautiful houses. It is a perk of living in a third world country. The houses are usually big, open, and full of light. And coming from a small townhouse in DC we surely appreciate the space. However, I think sometimes outsiders can get the wrong idea of how we actually live. For one thing, the landlords don’t take good care of the houses and in turn my girlfriends and I all have a long list of things broken, missing, or leaking. And once someone is sent to fix it you have to watch them use some bizarre method of repair that most often doesn’t end up solving the problem. Currently, we have a hole in the front of our house with mildew growing from water coming from the master bathtub. Something is big time wrong, and the tub won’t even drain now. The landlord’s solution? Re-caulk the tub. That’s right, that will absolutely help the stopped up drain. Let your eyes travel over to Joe’s pedestal sink. Behind it you will find the largest bowl that will fit between the pedestal and wall to catch water leaking. For the first couple of weeks we had to empty the bowl every few hours to prevent overflow. If one of us didn’t wake up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night we woke up to a flooded bathroom floor. Thankfully the drip has considerably slowed. And why hasn’t Joe just turned off the water to the sink? Well, as soon as we can locate the cut-off we’ll get right on that. We actually have it pretty good right now. One of our friends had their kitchen tiles buckle up out of the floor before their eyes (reminiscent of tremors) while simultaneously water started shooting out of a hole in their house. Thankfully it is shooting out of the house, but still. (I should mention that if the maintenance issue is something for the embassy to fix, it generally is done quickly and correctly.) Also, Africans have never heard of weather stripping or sealing their homes. Sitting on my couch right now, I can see about half an inch of light coming in under my front door. When the windows are “shut tight” and it is windy outside you will still see our curtains billowing in as if a fan was blowing on them. It isn’t even necessary to go into the ant issue, you can put all that together. I’m just thankful snakes aren’t a problem here. I would never sleep. Thankfully, most of us can laugh about it while we swap stories of housing woes, and of course, it is a free house, so we'll keep it.
Instead of widening the road they just painted a line down the middle of the right hand lane. All this does is push that lane of cars halfway into the next lane. And though not shown in the picture, 2 lanes of traffic drive down a lane and a half. To add insult to injury, half the bikes and motorcycles don’t even use the lanes. It is all so safe and logical. P.S. Not all the streets are this beautiful, but this one is because it's right outside the palace.
5. A few years back, after nearly 100 animals died and animal rights activists made a big enough stink, the Rabat National Zoo was closed down. This past week a new location opened to much accolade from those concerned and anticipation from the public. On Thursday my friend Denise and I accompanied our boys’ pre-school on a field trip to the zoo. We had already heard from friends that it was pretty sharp, and after pulling into parking lot that was actually paved and had equidistant lines drawn and everything, we were pretty excited. Seriously, I almost took a picture of the lot for you guys. Upon entering the zoo we felt we had been transported out of Morocco. Everything is brand new and beautiful. There are restrooms, wide paths, concessions, and actual tickets. The park is groomed and clean. We saw lots of healthy animals in habitats that could’ve been in the San Diego zoo. Of course, upon closer look, you notice that it is still in Morocco. First of all, there are 2 huge infinity pools near the entrance. No step or anything to slow any child down from running straight into it. Then, the fences keeping the animals in are solid wood- not chain link or some kind of wire. They are only about 3 ft high, but just high enough to block a toddler’s entire view. For a place that is largely geared towards children, that is a major fail. However, as a community of moms, we are thrilled to have a place to take our kids and largely impressed overall with the zoo. P.S. There is a petting zoo and Grayson can now add Shetland Pony to the list of animals he has kissed on the lips. (As my friend says, better the pony than a Thai prostitute, and she speaks from experience.)
6. As much as you want to be totally exotic and on board with a foreign culture, especially a Muslim one, some days it just gets old and annoying. So Joe and I have taken to talking about the pros of living here and one thing we didn’t expect is all the quality time we get with our friends. Unlike DC, everyone lives, works, and plays within a 20 minute drive. At home it is difficult to adjust schedules, pay for babysitters, and then get to where you want to go. In Rabat it is not uncommon to have girls’ or guys’ night out in the middle of the week. You can help your spouse put the kids to bed and still have plenty of time to go anywhere in the city with your friends. Also, child care is cheap and usually done by your regular housekeeper/nanny so it’s not a big production of instructions/planning to leave the kids at home. Because we are a medium-sized embassy, there isn’t a huge expat community in Rabat, and it’s considered to be a “quiet” city, everyone is built-in family and we entertain each other. It seems this differs from other posts, especially Europe, where there are so many other outlets for friends and activities. I am sure not everyone loves this aspect of Rabat, but it works for us and really helps morale.
7. This is not Morocco related at all, but two weeks ago our dear friend Jason had his esophagus removed and a new one fashioned from part of his stomach. It has been a really rough road and yet he and his wife Megan have stayed so positive and shown what graciousness really looks like. Ya'll are both champions and we love you so much!!!
I suppose that's enough random-y bits for now. I need to go see if I have time to wash my hair before half the city's water supply is turned off for an UNDETERMINED AMOUNT OF TIME to repair a water main. Thank you and goodnight.