Saturday, June 27, 2009


It seems to me that drama is a way of life here. And it plays itself out in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.

Take yesterday, for example. The heat was on and tempers flared along with the temperature. The workmen in our house all wittingly or unwittingly participated in the black mood of the artisan working in our entry way. And what is normally at the heart of the drama is money (or the lack of money to be more accurate). The result at the end of the day was an argument with the supplier of zeliig. He didn’t give us the correct amount of tile and was demanding more money to provide us with what we needed. Egos got involved and we refused to pay more. So this meant we couldn’t finish the stairs we’ve spent an entire year trying to do. No more zeliig to finish the final four steps. So the workers laying the tile called it quits. And the worker who was stripping the front door of its toxic lead paint got a piece of something or other in his eye so he had to stop to tend to his wound. And the artisan who set the dominoes tumbling grumbled off the job complaining that we was hungry and wouldn’t pay him (not true … we just wanted him to finish his days work before giving him his daily wage. A lesson we learned the hard way after paying people before the job was done and then never seeing them again.) I am at the end of my pay period and money is tight. So I was in a foul mood when I left to teach because everyone was asking me for money ahead of the agreed upon schedule. So my class suffered because of my short fuse. When I came home after teaching an extra class due to a last minute request from a colleague, it looked like the Moroccan mafia waiting outside me door. Everyone wanted money and the peacemakers had arrived with them to settle the mob down. But money was dispensed and today everyone is friends again.
And that’s an example of the more subtle type of drama.

The more exciting drama is when shouting and yelling occur. And oh boy the volume that can be generated is awesome. This can result in people not speaking for a year or more and the entire town seems to take sides. I myself have participated in this. And yes, the issue was about money. Who owed whom money. And while I now give a slight nod of recognition to my antagonist, his wife still won’t allow her children to say hello to me. But one of her sons likes to greet me when neither of his parents is around. He sneaks a look right and left before kissing me and exchanging a few words. Then he hurries off. It’s a secret love affair along the lines of Romeo and Juliet. Drama. Life is full of it here.


No Moroccan household is complete without squeegees. And I don’t mean the handheld type that I am used to … the kind used to clean windows or the windshield of your car. No, Moroccan squeegees are long-handled and are used to clean the tiles floors. And if you have squeegees, you have to have buckets too. I have three squeegees and an ever-changing number of buckets. I try to keep a bucket or two for household cleaning and one to wash dishes in (no sink yet for dishwashing). I fondly refer to my dishwashing bucket as my dishwasher. “Just put the glasses in the dishwasher, I’ll take care of them later …” But whenever a construction project takes place, one of my buckets is inevitably used to mix cement or plaster. So I am constantly buying new buckets.

I keep a squeegee in each shower and one in my ‘utility’ closet in the downstairs bathroom. I have tried to keep the shower squeegees designated for ‘bathroom use only’ but those darn workmen always grab the nearest one and use it to wash down the wet cement mixed in the heretofore mentioned buckets. It’s a losing battle so I just clean the squeegee after the workmen and put it back where they found it. I’ve tried hiding them but there really isn’t anywhere sacred in this house. And I’m often away at work while any construction project in happening. I do swear under my breath when I have to clean my cleaning tools before I can clean the house because I haven’t found any solution to this ‘what’s yours is mine’ mentality except surrender. I’m not too gracious about this surrender yet. Perhaps with time I will find this grace I used to think I had.

It’s funny. I am so keenly aware of my feelings of ‘ownership’ of things. This is my glass and that is my towel. Don’t touch them! Can’t seem to fully integrate into the ‘share and share alike’ mentality. Perhaps it’s because I am with one with the good stuff to share. And the people wanting to share with me can’t replace anything they break or ‘lose’. My CD player and my camera have been shared to death. Likewise some of my tools. One of my favorite outfits (shared with a friend) was lost at the cleaners. I swear – someday I will attack the woman I see wearing it on the street. See what I mean about no grace? It’s shocking when I think about it but this graspy attitude sticks with me.

I share my house with groups of friends who want a safe harbor. But I am the one left to clean up afterwards and I am the one with the job to pay for the place and the electricity no one can seem to remember to turn off when they leave the room. I try to remind myself to be grateful that I have a job but it’s kind of challenging when everyone else is staying up all hours of the night and then traipsing off to Essaouira for a music festival while I must go to bed early because I have a class in the morning and must remain in Fes to keep my job … and pay for the things that Moroccan hospitality demands that you share.

But I’ve gone off on a tangent. Where was I? Oh yeah, squeegees.

I’m fairly proficient with a squeegee now. I’ve mastered the technique of wrapping a towel around the rubber part to damp mop a floor. I can turn it over to the clean side with a flip of the handle and wrap it around the rubber once again with a flick of the wrist. I can squeeze the water out of the towel so that it’s almost dry and mop the house from top to bottom in a short amount of time --- that is if I don’t get distracted by the dust somewhere. So much dust collects on a daily basis. When I mop the floor the dust collects in big clumps that look like cat hairballs. Ugh!

It’s raining now and of course the halqa is leaking so the water is collecting on the ground floor. Time to get my squeegee out and push the puddles into the drain. Hey wait a minute … why isn’t someone sharing this work with me?!!????