Strange and New

As I sit here working away this morning (at my patio desk because its currently the only table I own for working in a proper seated position), it occurs to me that many of you are interested in some of the more mundane daily challenges that I am running into.

Many of you travel frequently and you know that toilets and showers and street signs and the way power works can vary from country to country and that things are foreign and new and that’s what makes travel fun. I had so much fun in Japan which was probably the most foreign place I ever visited. But here in Morocco, because I am living here, I find that I am running into different daily oddities that I have already gotten used to, but feel I should share with you. Boring perhaps to some, but good reading if you are trapped inside by some massive twist of winter weather back in Canada.

So here we go.

Cooking : In my apartment I have a very basic kitchen. My counter top is granite, but as I sit on my couch and look over at it, I realize it is two slabs of granite one atop the other. I don’t know why. There is not a lot of counter space. As I designer I would certainly have demanded that the counter be extended the required 36″ over the washing machine to make it more useful. The sink is very shallow and much like what you might find in a mobile home. Other than that the only thing that is really different is the cook top. It’s gas. I has no starter so you have to have a lighter to get it going. And its powered by the removable tank stored next to it (in my case), under the cabinet.

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Next up is clothes washing. It is very common to have only a washing machine, and it is almost always in the kitchen. While this might seem annoying to some of you I have to tell you – I love it. It makes washing so quick and simple. The only problem is the spin cycle is so violent that it propels everything on top of the washer to far corners of my home. (Hence the need for the extended counter. Just sayin’) The first time it happened two of us leapt across a large expanse to grab, among other things, my laptop and a pile of cell phones that looked like they were about to take off. Drying of course takes place outside because ….Morocco.

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Then there is the constant need for clean drinking water which needs to be bought at the local store. I am an absolute BITCH when it comes to those stupid tiny one sip water bottles that people buy by the case from Canadian Tire for soccer games and construction sites and general in home drinking, but here its a must. So I get the large bottles always and for in home I make a trip up the street and haul back the giant ones for longer term use.

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Milk and eggs are a new thing for me as well. Eggs are stored on the counter top and not the fridge. I haven’t bought any yet because they only come in flats of 24 and I am going away soon no need.

I was told to buy the milk cartons that you find in the store NOT in the refrigerated section but in the aisles. That made me tilt my head with a suspicious side eye when I first heard it, but it makes sense now. There is no pasteurization process like we have to keep things fresh and full of chemicals for days on end. So if you buy from the fridge you have to be prepared to consume in 1-2 days. I use it only in coffee so off the shelf it is.

On the subject of food and beverage, I went to get some sugar for tea and coffee and picked out the small cubes (which in reality are rectangles) and next I looked in my basket there was a second box of cubes. “Its the bigger ones, you know, for making tea in a tea pot.” Oh right – the Moroccan need for very sweet tea. Its really the only place they condone any amount of sugar. So when I opened the package the other day to see the difference, and pulled out a BRICK of sugar, I laughed out loud. Its almost the size of my head.

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The other challenge I have with food, which is not a bad challenge, but for my habits is a challenge. No processed food. No prepared foods. Can’t find a tin of soup to save my life. No frozen dinners (except fish sticks??) and no “grab and go”. My food staples. If I want peas in my tagine I have to buy them in the pod and shuck ’em. I have a choice of numerous, healthy beautiful fruits and vegetables, fresh meat, and tins of beans or bags of beans and pasta. But no Campbell’s. If I want soup, I gotta make it. Huh. So 1968.

Some of you know I have an obsession with stationary. It goes well beyond social norms and it includes file folders. I have to say though that I strongly approve of the Moroccan file folder system for its neatness, consistency across the city (so far) and simple effectiveness. They just use 11 x 14 thick stock coloured paper. Fold it in half and Mohamed’s your uncle.

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Lastly, we come to my own home-grown Canadian innate need to save the earth. There is not a big tax base in Morocco and the infrastructure, while developing and certainly great in a number of areas, still reflects a country that is poor and not yet first world. Hence – no recycling. While this is a much broader issue for a number of reasons, and a remarkable paradox of trash heaps and plastic atrocities in a country that wastes NOTHING else, it has impacted me in only one small and slightly irrational way.

I find that I am not able to put cardboard or plastic into the rubbish bin. I have to separate it. With my mothers spirit dancing around my head, I create a bag full of plastics and paper. I take it down to the dumpster and put it all in the same dumpster, but in separate piles. Some habits are just hard to break I suppose.

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3 thoughts on “Strange and New

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  1. Too funny. I separate my garbage too even if I don’t need to. And the story about the washing machine reminds me of my time living in Japan. It was a pain to dry jeans in the winter – no dryers and no central heating meant it took 4 days for jeans to dry.

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      1. This sounds a lot like England in the 80s. Things have come a long way since then but the gas ‘hobs’ (rather than stoves), the washing machine in the kitchen which is still the norm here although I have the luxury of a separate (f)utility room, the outdoor washing line that teaches you to ‘peg out’ (I always thought that was another activity!) and the mediaeval recycling arrangements in some places and we’re in one of them, makes one wonder why they can’t get with the program (or programme as we’d say here) and make it easier. It’s all coming but slowly and in fact the UK leads the way in mobile (sorry, er, cell) communication and is streets ahead of North America. It’s swings and roundabouts as the English would quaintly say. I find jeans take 9 hours to dry on the drying rack. If you can put them in the sunshine then maybe a couple less.

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