Saturday, November 2, 2013

Pros & Cons

Pro: The heat has finally (finally) broken. It's officially no longer hot.
Con: This means that the long winter of struggling to type because my fingers have gone numb has begun.
Pro: The lack of heat means that the flies have disappeared and I no longer run the risk of smacking myself in the face trying to swat bugs away from me.
Con: I found four (!!) inch long bugs with giant (relative to their body size so, in fact, not actually giant at all) pinchers on my clothes when I took them off the clothesline.
Pro: They definitely weren't scorpions.
Con: They were on my underwear.
Pro: They were easy to kill and I found them before I put said underwear on.
Con: I can't even begin to describe how much I don't want to have to call the PC doctors if I get bitten (pinched?). They will ask for pictures and even if it's for medical purposes, I try to avoid emailing pictures of my lady bits to people.
Pro: Did I mention the part where I can walk places and not end up a sweaty mess by the time I get there?
Con: It's uncomfortably cold at night.
Pro: I do love sleeping curled up under blankets.
Con: But it's cooooold.
Pro: At least it's not hot.
Con: By cold, I mean it was 90° (32° C). And okay, that's like 50° cooler than it was in August, but it's 90° and I've been wearing a sweatshirt all day.
Pro: It won't get colder than ~70° (~20°) this winter.
Con: I won't be in Morocco this winter, so really, my countdown to going home (22 days!) is also a countdown to my death, since I'm going to step out of the airport and most likely immediately die from the cold.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

way more complicated than it needed to be

I was diagnosed with asthma back in February.  I blame Morocco's constant dust storms and the heat, but I blame most things on the heat.  I caught the plague while on vacation (I was in Florence, there was no chance I was calling it anything else), was horribly sick for two weeks and then never quite bounced back and never stopped coughing.  After five months (and friends threatening to call the doctors for me), I finally called the doctors, got to spend a few days in the capital and an inhaler, which cleared up the cough in a matter of days, and that was that.  I used the inhaler every day for a couple of months, but after a while, I started forgetting and when the cough didn’t reappear, I put the inhaler away and hoped that I was better, at least until the next time I got the death plague.

This summer, however, the dust storms were terrible, and between the lack of humidity (hovering around 15%) and the temperature (hovering around the high 130s/high 50s), the air was just painful to breath, and when I started coughing again, I wasn't surprised.   I unearthed the inhaler, but instead of clearing up, the cough kept getting worse.  It was just a dry, shallow little cough, nothing painful or distracting, but it felt like there was something in my lungs and it wouldn’t go away and I had been firmly instructed to call the damn doctor if I coughed for more than two weeks.  Finally, I was trying to sing to the kids at the orphanage and realized I was too out of breath to get through a verse.  That’s when I called the PCMOs (Peace Corps doctors, because it's not the federal government if we're not constantly using acronyms).  

The PCMOs upped the dosage of my inhaler, prescribed a steroid and told me to call them in the morning.  I ventured out to the pharmacy, but the one down the street from my house was closed, as was the one further down the street.  I ended up walking clear across town (and it’s not a small town), past eight pharmacies, but every one was closed and each one had an identical piece of paper taped to the doors. It was written in Fusha and I only speak Darija (the Moroccan dialect of Arabic), so I have no idea what it said, but I assume it was Fuck You, Sick People.

Fun story, the only other time I've been sick enough to need to go to the pharmacy, they were also all closed.

I called PCMOs back with the news and we discussed me making a trip to Marrakesh (the nearest town) for the medicine, but Kesh is an hour and a half away and it was too late in the day for me to make the round trip, plus due a screw up at the bank, I don’t have a working bank card and was going to be hard pressed to buy the medicine and make it to Rabat for training next week without throwing in a round trip to Marrakesh.  They decided to give it a day for the cough to improve with the inhaler, and when that didn’t work, told me to head for Rabat early.

My site to Rabat is a fairly easy trip (grand taxi to the next town over and from there a train straight to the capital) and it’s a trip I’ve made often, since Peace Corps is based there.  I’ve down it countless times without a problem, but this time, not so much.

I left my house around 8:00, walked to the taxi stand and caught a taxi to Ben Guerir. The woman sitting next to me said she was going to Casablanca, I said I was going to Rabat, we talked about the weather (hot) and when we got to Ben Gurrir about 20 minutes before the train left, which was not quite enough time to walk to the train station, she suggested we share a taxi. Instead of hailing one of the small taxis, though, she tried to get a grand taxi.  Grand taxi’s have set routes, usually only travel between towns and also, don’t leave until all six spots are full, so I double-checked with the taxi driver to make sure we were going to the train station.  The taxi finally filled up six minutes before the train was suppose to leave, but trains are usually late here, so I was hopeful.  We sped down the road towards the train station, and then we sped right on past the train station and out of town.

"Wait," I said. "That's the train station. I need to go there."

The driver kept on driving and said they were going somewhere else, somewhere I'd never heard of.

"But I need to catch a train," I protested.

He kept driving and I told him to stop and let me out.  There was no hope of catching my original train, but we were only ten minutes outside of town by car and I could walk back to town and catch the next train. The taxi driver kept driving and the other passengers assure me that once we reach our destination, I could catch another taxi to take me to the next train station.  I pouted for a little bit (I mean, I was essentially forcibly taken to an unknown place against my will and also, probably going to miss my doctor's appointment, I think being a little out of shape is allowed) (I should preface this by saying at no point did I feel unsafe; the taxi was full of sweet old ladies who were patting my leg and calling me a poor thing, and I truly think this was do to a misunderstand, although I'm not sure how, because I know I can say “take me to the train station” correctly).

We got to our destination thirty minutes later; a tiny town that was more of an intersection than an actual town. My fellow passengers offer to get me a taxi, but since I wasn't sure I would be able to catch up to the train, I opted for a bus.  They led me to the appropriate patch of dirt by a dude selling grapes to wait for the bus. Eventually a bus to Casablanca passed through, and I decided that I would rather deal with the Casablanca bus station than standing in the sun on the side of a road, being stared at.  (I'm 100% positive I'm the first foreigner to ever show up there and all the attention was a bit uncomfortable.)  I took the bus to Casablanca, transferred to a bus to Rabat and made it with just enough time to still see the doctor.  They gave me the appropriate medicine and my cough cleared up almost immediately.

This was way more complicated that it needed to be.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Two Years

September 2011 YD Staj
PC Morocco, September 2011 Staj @ COS Conference
Peace Corps Morocco, September ‘11 YD Staj PST (October, 2011) → COS Conference (September, 2013)
Two years in country today. We made it.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

coming clean

One of the side effects to the spate of break-ins this spring was that there were a lot people in my house.  Obviously, that's implied in the name of the crime, but not just the thief.  My host family, neighbors and the police also spent a lot of time in my house, which was... messy.  Yeah, let's go with messy.  It sounds better than shitstorm.

I am not naturally a tidy or organized person.  I like living in a clean space, but actually cleaning is really boring and there are all sorts of storage issues in my apartment (mainly, there's not any) and yeah, basically, the only times my apartment has been properly clean since I moved in a year and half ago has been when I've had someone spending the night, and even then, I tend to toss all the random crap from my living room into my bedroom and shut the door, so my bedroom is always especially messy. 

After the first break-in, when it took me forever to determine what had been taken since I couldn’t tell if something was missing or just lost in the clutter, I started (slowly) unfucking my habitat, one room at the time.  (I spent the week before the second break-in taking everything out of my kitchen and scrubbing all the things.  Progress was being made!)  It's not like I can't take care of my house; I just don't, and normally I don't really care, but it was a bit embarrassing when all of a sudden, my trashed-out house was full of Moroccan housewives judging me.

The evening after the second break-in, my downstairs neighbors came to check on me and said she would come over the next day to move some furniture.  Or something.  I don’t know, it was in Arabic and it was late, which isn’t a great combination for comprehension.

The next afternoon, she knocked on my door and asked, “Do you have a rag to scrub the floor with?" as soon as I opened the door.

"Um, I have a squeegee?" I told her. 

She sent her son to go find a rag and the appropriate buckets (mine weren't the right size?), and told me she was going to clean my bedroom.

"That's okay," I assured her.  "You really don't have to," I said, but she didn't listen, and over the next two hours, her son, one of her daughters and she picked up all the crap in my bedroom (which involved her eleven year old son holding a bunch of my dirty underwear *facepalm*), threw away all the trash (which involved me running after them saying, “No wait, that’s not trash.”), removed the rug so she could scrub the floor by hand (which I have never done and, let’s be honest, will never do) and rearranged the furniture (I'm not sure why).  Then she took all the furniture out of my living room so she could mop that floor.  (I'd like to point out that my living room was actually clean.  Okay, so I had thrown most of the junk into my bedroom.  And I hadn’t mopped it in ages, but it was clean, dammit.)  Then she moved on to the kitchen, which as previously mentioned, actually was clean.  (Also, there were a half dozen liquor bottles hidden in the corner by my dishes and I REALLY couldn't let her see those, so as she mopped my kitchen floor, I wedged myself in the corner and bodily blocked my shame.)

Three hours later, my apartment had been cleaned from floor the ceiling.  It was simultaneously incredible kind because the mess, especially the bedroom, was overwhelming, but also incredible embarrassing because she was, in the kindest way possible, judging the hell out of me.  I had to keep excusing myself to another room so I could claw at my hair and wish I could call someone to flail at. 

I spent the next two weeks going through my now clean apartment and actually organizing everything.  I threw away a bunch more stuff, shoved even more stuff in my suitcase to deal with when I leave and finally hung up some artwork (okay, cut-up calendars) in my bedroom.  I also tackled (and conquered) the absolute mountain of dirty laundry (and when you have to wash it by hand in a bucket with a washboard, laundry takes a bit longer), and by the end of June, my apartment was well and truly clean for the first time possible ever.

That was two months ago (almost three, if you count from the original cleaning date) and my apartment is still clean.  I mean, I haven’t mopped the floors and I’ve only washed my sheets once, so it isn’t clean by my neighbor’s standards, but I wake up every morning to a clean kitchen, a clutter free living room and I sweep my floors every other day (thank you, dust storms), which is pretty damn spotless by my standards.

Maybe I’m finally maturing?

Anyways, now that I no longer have to ashamed of people seeing my apartment, here's a tour of my house.

The video’s actually from the end of June (I’ve been meaning to make this post for a while).  Since then, I’ve bought a fan and my wall of cards has turned the corner and is marching towards the next window.

Monday, August 5, 2013


I was at the orphanage the other day, like I am most afternoons, when Troll Baby projectile vomited all over me.  It was actually really impressive that a child that small could throw up that much; it was a regular Old Faithful of formula milk.  (Troll Baby, who has only existed in this world for 13 days, has thrown up on me roughly half of those.  I think he doesn't like his nickname.  Don't worry, baby, you'll grow into your face someday.)  Anyway, I mopped up Troll Baby's little face, then went to the bathroom to clean myself.  My skirt was pretty light and filmy and would dry fast, but my shirt was drenched in regurgitated formula, so I just took it off, scrubbed it in the sink, and one of the caretakers hung it on the roof to dry.  It was 118 degrees that afternoon, which is awful on so many levels, but it does mean that laundry dries very quickly.  I had worn a cardigan to work over my T-shirt (no short sleeves in site, so I end up wearing a lot of T-shirts with lightweight cardigans that I can take off once I'm no longer outside), but it was hot, so I didn't bother to button it up.  Hey, we were all ladies or boys under the age of four; I wasn't too worried about spending an hour or so topless so long as I could avoid Troll Baby barfing in my bra.  (My life is so glamorous.)

ANYWAYS, my shirt dried quickly (thank you extreme heat and total lack of humidity), but when Bouchra brought it back to me, Abdellatif was sitting in my lap and I didn't want to to move him just to put my shirt back on, so I tossed in on the counter and waited.  It's not like anyone ever visits, right?  Wrong.  Around 6:00, right when the evening caretaker usually arrives, there was a knocking on the door, but instead of being Faiza, it was a woman I had never met before and her thirteen year old son.  And there I am, sitting on the ground, topless.  Oh, and did I mention it's the middle of Ramadan.  It's not as bad as it could have been - I was wearing a cardigan, it just wasn't bottomed, so at least my shoulders and arms were covered, and the four year old on my lap was hiding my front.  I clutched Abdellatif to my chested to hide my state of dress and hissed <i>sit</i> in his ear when he started to squirm.  Luckily, mother and son weren't there long and they left without noticing, or at least commenting, on my state of dress.  So yeah, the story of the time I was caught topless by a teenage boy.