Sunday, May 17, 2009

Comings and Goings (and stayings?)

People come and go in Fes; particularly foreigners. Of course there are the expected comings and goings of tourists. And then there are those foreigners who have invested in a house or apartment in Fes and they periodically show up to check on the progress (or often, the lack of progress) on the restoration of their houses. And finally there are those expats living here who are from nearby countries. A trip home to France or England is just a two-hour flight so they ‘pop’ home several times a year to visit friends and family or renew their visas. For me, it’s a little more difficult to arrange a trip home because it’s so far away (which makes it a costly trip) and I really don’t have a home to return to. I divested myself of all my possessions in the U.S., including my condo, my car and all my belongings. It looks like I am here to stay.

But with summer looming ahead, I am loathing the thought of spending the stultifying month of August in Fes. Add the fact that Ramadan and fasting begins in the latter part of this month and it’s just one more compelling reason to find a way to get out of town and head north for some relief from the heat. But where to go? Finances dictate that it be a free place to stay. I tried camping my first summer here and it’s not something I want to repeat. I’m just not made for life in a tent and cold water showers from a hose or communal shower --- at least not for an extended period of time (like more than two days). We have contemplated going to England to visit Hassan’s sister but that involves getting Hassan a visa and so far, no movement has been made to get this underway. So, I’m still pondering my options. The least attractive is staying in Fes and frequenting the water holes daily. The most attractive is a miraculous invitation to stay with someone (who?) in a climate-friendly place. Time will tell.

Busy, busy, busy

It’s been a while since I’ve taken the time to write because I’ve been so very busy. The house has been full of guests. Some university students from America occupied the ground floor for a week whilst a friend and her two young sons occupied my bedroom upstairs. Fes was booked full with tourists and my friend was here from England to check up on the restorations of her house. I offered her our bedroom for a few days because they had no other place to stay. Counting Hassan and me there were ten guests in the house! What a crowd.

School continues at its predictable pace. We are now midway through the term and this is when the teaching begins to feel like a bit of a grind. But I know from experience this feeling will pass as the end of the term draws near. After this semester ends, we have a very short break of five days and then the two week summer intensive courses begin. I will teach two classes, six days a week, for five hours a day. What makes it difficult is the heat. There is one more intensive semester in July and then a month-long summer break. I wish I could travel to the U.S. in August but I don’t think finances will make it possible this year. Hassan and I are thinking of going to visit his sister in England, but it all depends on getting him a visa and, of course, the cost. I loathe the idea of August in Fes and simply don’t know what I will do if I have to stay here. It’s unbearably hot and I get cranky just thinking about it. But let’s see what the future brings.

We have ordered the tiles (zelig) to finish the stairs up to the terrace. Just the tiles cost nearly a month’s wages so it’s been a long period of saving to finance this project. With any luck, the tiles will be cut to size and ready for installation within a week. I already have the cedar wood treads for the stairs and what remains to be paid for is the installation, the cement and the sand. But the big costs have been covered so I am anxious to finish the stairway. Access to the terrace is very important in the hot weather for sometimes sleeping on the terrace is preferable to sleeping inside at night. Even with the mosquitoes and bats flitting about! Early morning hours are delightful on the rooftops and Hassan is full of plans to set up a barbeque for cooking and even the installation of a shower (cold water only).
We can arrange a tent for shade during the sunny part of the day and this will expand our living space.

I have been delighted to meet a fellow Californian who is married to the Moroccan man living on the street next to ours. We share a common wall with this family and Hassan grew up with the myriad of boys (there are 8 of them I think) who make up this lovely family. Amanda and her husband met and married in Brazil and have now come to Fes to meet her husband’s family and have a Moroccan wedding fest. She is from Southern California and is managing editor of a magazine in the states. Amanda is articulate and one of the most balanced people I have ever met. I enjoy her company so much and I think I’ve been very helpful to her as she tries to acclimate to Moroccan life. We laugh and laugh at the absurdities and inevitable mishaps that are a result of the cultural differences. I am hoping they elect to stay in Fes because it’s really great for both Hassan and I to have this couple to share experiences with.

Today I am hoping the man we hired to build a door on the downstairs bathroom will show his face. Right now there is just a curtain from the salon to the bathroom and it’s not all that private for the person sleeping in the salon. It’s been over two weeks since we hired him (really, just how long does it take to build a door?) and yesterday he promised to arrive and install the door but he was a no-show. Not unusual, just mildly irritating when you are anxious to complete a project. Anyway, we’ve been trying to track him down to come finish the job. The last “woodman” we hired didn’t complete his job (again, not unusual) and I’m hoping for more success with this guy. Lot’s of doors need to be installed (they were taken off to strip down to the cedar wood) and more need to be built (for those that were left out in the rain and warped beyond recognition). Shutters to the salons upstairs need to have the furry wood sanded smooth (the fur coat is a result of the product used to strip off the years of lead paint) and some of the transom windows with colored glass need to be rebuilt and missing glass needs to be cut and nailed into place.

There are so many projects. Some beamed ceilings need to have the plaster and cement scraped off and tinted with a unifying color. All the cedar wood needs a new application of linseed oil. Metal grillwork needs a thorough cleaning and painting. Walls need to be plastered. Sinks need to be purchased and installed. Windows need to be built, etc, etc. etc. The list seems endless.

So, life is full of projects and work to finance the projects. Socializing and family life need time and attention too. Most mornings I wake up and need a few hours to just stare off into space and gather my energy for the day’s ‘to-do’ list. And things don’t get ticked off the list like I’m used to. Things progress in fits and starts. But I’m getting used to the pace and don’t get frustrated like I used to.

Unwittingly, a terrace garden began to take shape today. Hassan picked me up from school and as we were walking home I spied two young boys hoisting some terracotta planters onto the sidewalk. After a little negotiation, we bought all three large, cylindrical shaped planters for about $8. They are very old as some elderly woman gave them to the boys to sell for her. The boys carried them to our house and situated them on the terrace. Ten minutes later there was a knock at the door. The boys had returned with two more, large planters. These we bought for about $6. Now all I need are some plants to put in them and the rooftop garden will have begun! I laughed to myself as Hassan and I were just talking about his plans to create a nice space on the terrace for summer. And the containers for the plants miraculously appeared. It all felt a bit magical to me.