Monday, October 10, 2011

An Eventful Day

Last Wednesday, October 5, 2011
6:00 am  The alarm on my iPod goes off. I hit the snooze button twice before I get up. I really like my Moroccan bed.
6:18        I get up, heat some water for coffee. Wash my face and brush my teeth (I took a shower – bucket shower – and shaved last night after my run). Have breakfast of bread with jam, corn flakes and milk, and coffee. Read at the kitchen table while eating.
7:00        Go online, check and answer email. Scan the NY Times.

In the space of about 10 minutes, the river went from a
slow-moving stream about 10 meters wide to...

7:45        Get my pack ready. Ride my bike to my landlord’s house.
8:00        My landlord insists I have breakfast with him, so I have a second breakfast of soup, dates, and coffee. We talk about a problem I’m having with my electricity. I share electricity with a neighbor. We agreed on a price before I moved in, but now he wants more. My landlord and I agree on what our approach should be, but it’s not clear yet whether my neighbor will agree.
8:30        I ride my bike to the sbitar (clinic). Wednesday is my normal day to go to the sbitar. It’s well-baby day, so lots of women come with their children for shots and check-ups.
8:45        I arrive at the sbitar. There are several women there already. I sit in the shadow of the wall with the rest of them and I read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time while we wait for the adbib (nurse).
10:00     The nurse arrives on his motorbike with several plastic shopping bags of supplies. I sit in the waiting room and talk with the moms. There are a couple of older children also today. I offer them crayons and coloring pages, but they’re too shy to try them.
11:45     Hamad, the nurse, has cleared the waiting room. We have a few minutes to talk. We make arrangements for him to pick me up here at the sbitar at 8:30 tomorrow morning with the Equip-Mobile (a mobile clinic). We’ll be going to some outlying villages to give shots and do other check-ups. I’m pretty excited about this.
12:00     I leave the sbitar and ride my bike to Kalaa.

...a torrent 70 meters wide and rose about 5 feet.

12:30     There’s no mail for me at the P.O.
12:35     I stop at the paint store where I’ve bought my paint. It happens that the co-owner is the treasurer of an association that has agreed to fund a literacy class for the new women’s association that I’m working with. We’ve had so many women sign up, I ask him if they’re willing to fund a second class. He tells me he’ll ask the association, but if they won’t, maybe another will, and he introduces me to one of his employees, who is a member of a different association that does similar work. We talk for a while and exchange contact info. I leave feeling we’ll get our second class funded one way or the other.
12:50     I ride my bike to the Gendarmes station to get my carte de sejour renewed and to notify them of my travel plans (this is common procedure for foreigners in Morocco). I’m daydreaming as I ride and go past the station. When I realize it, I do a little u-turn through the weeds at the side of the road.
1:05        I get my carte de sejour renewed for another month and chat for a bit with the officer about the destination (Nkoub) for my weekend trip.
1:15        I go out to my bike and see that I have a flat back tire. I pump it up and start heading back to town. I soon notice that my front tire is going flat, too. I stop and see that now both are flat. I walk my bike back to the dagger-maker’s co-op, where two of my host brothers have their shop, and ask them if I can leave my bike there while I go to souq (market)
1:30        I walk to souq.
1:45        As I’m wandering through the stalls someone calls my name. It’s Rachida, a friend and the vice-president of our new women’s association. She asks what I’m looking for. “A mousetrap,” I say. I’ve spotted a mouse in my kitchen – a rather brazen one. I need a trap or a cat. I’m planning to try the trap first. She say’s, “Oh, no, poison,” and takes me to a stall where I buy some rat poison. She admonishes me to wash my hands after I’ve handled it. Later, I buy some cord so that I can hang the white board I bought a couple of days ago. Then we wander for a while on her business, including stopping at her father’s stall (he’s a blacksmith), where I have tea and watch him repair a 3-legged tea tray. We take off and drop off the tea tray with the owner then go to another stall where her mother sells the handcrafted goods the women of the family make. I say goodbye. On my way out of souq I buy a mousetrap.

I waded to my knees in the rising water.

2:45        Back at the dagger-makers co-op I take the tires off my bike and discover they’re riddled with thorns. One inner tube has six holes in it, the other many more than that. My host brother says, “You need new tubes!”
3:15        He and I walk into Kalaa where I buy 2 new inner tubes (23 dh, about 3 dollars, each).
4:00        I put the tires with new tubes back on my bike, stop and talk with my landlord (who also has a shop at the co-op) some more about the power problem.
4:45        I ride into Kalaa and buy some things from the supermarket, then start back to my village.

5:30        As I near the river I see a bunch of people on the ridge on the other side and wonder what’s going on. As I get to the bank, I see that the river is higher than usual, and about 10 meters of water separates the bank (and me) from the footbridge. One of my host brothers is on the bridge and spots me. He yells, “hurry,” splashes back through the water, grabs my bike. and heads back across the bridge. I wade into the water with my shoes on, carrying my plastic bags of souq and supermarket purchases. It has taken me a few seconds to comprehend the urgency in his voice, but even as we’re crossing the bridge, I can see the water rising. When we get to the other side, a sheet of brown water is gurgling over the usually dry stones. I climb the ridge and watch with the other people. In the space of about 10 minutes, the river has gone from a barely moving stream about 10 meters wide, to a torrent 70 meters wide and has risen about five feet. The bridge has been inundated. I wonder where it will end up this time, or if we’ll even see it afterwards. (As it turns out, when the water settles the next day, the bridge is still in place and repairs are easily made.)

The Moroccan version of the old standby - just like the American, except
all metal.

6:15        I go home and wash and change into clean, dry clothes. I put my purchases away. And I set my mousetrap, baited with bread soaked in oil. I’m being clever. The brazen beast has been nibbling at the top of my bottle of cooking oil. He must need fat in his diet.
7:30.      I go to dinner at a friend’s house.
9:30        I come home, and see that I’ve killed a mouse. I dispose of its body outside and rebait the trap. In the morning I will discover another tiny carcass. I hope that’s the last. I really do not want a cat.
10:00     I go to bed. I read for about half an hour by the light of my headlamp, then go to sleep in my comfy bed.
The flat tires and flash flood are unusual circumstances, but the rest of day’s events gives a pretty fair representation of the pace and content of my days. I haven’t talked about work much so far in this blog. In fact some people have said to me, “But what do you do?” I’ll talk about that in my next post.


  1. Jim,
    I am now getting the Facebook feed. I enjoyed this so much I am sorry that I missed so many others. I know I could go back and look, but will I? Probably not. Heading to the GLIBA trade show Thursday- it will certainly seem strange without you there. As you may know Tom Lowery and Susan DeGaetano are coming back on the board. It will seem like a time warp.

    Terry Whittaker

  2. Jim,
    And I think my days are busy! I pray for you daily, and so enjoy getting little snapshots of your life on facebook. I can picture you so easily through your blog posts - I imagine you stopping for little chats with everyone you meet, and patiently accepting another cup of tea from new friends. I can see your genuine, wide smile when you greet people - it's one of the things I really miss about not seeing you in person. Please keep filling in all the details for us, and we'll keep picturing that smile of welcome. Fondly, Cynthia