Saturday, February 13, 2010

Do you come to Morocco often?

posted Wed, 03 Aug 2005

Megan and Steve have been house hunting since they got to Morocco in mid June. Each house they have found has been shot down for some reason: too big (regulations determine how much house they can have), the owner has decided he doesn’t want to rent after all, whatever. In the meantime, they are in a two-bedroom, one bath apartment. They don’t have any of their stuff – just what they could carry out of Uzbekistan in their suitcases when they left on about one week’s notice. They have a small child who could really benefit from a yard.

They would really, really, really like to have a house with some furniture, some dishes, a yard. They would like their lives not to be on hold any more.

In Fez, we visited a traditional pharmacy. The guy there – I don’t know if he was a licensed western pharmacist – explained how the traditional herbs are used. Black aniseed is used for migraine. I bought some of that. I’ll let you know. Modern pharmacies exist as well, of course. Rather than the cross as a sign, they have a crescent. (Analogous to the Red Cross/Red Crescent.) This is a water seller outside a pharmacy.

Today, we saw a house Megan saw yesterday with the rental agent. It’s the right size. The right neighborhood – the minister of the interior is next door, along with one of the king’s cousins. The embassy’s security guy went with us to make sure it met the embassy security regulations.

The house is lovely – big yard so Henry would have a place to play. Four bedrooms, so I would have my own room when I visit again next year. Big front room, covered porch.

The owner showed up. French guy, good posture, short gray hair, early sixties. Megan and I had been trying to speak to the current tenant, a Frenchwoman whose husband works for some French company and who is moving to Tunisia, and we were exhausted. Speaking French will do that to you.

So when the owner appeared and spoke to us in English (should I even bother to say “charmingly accented” or is that a redundancy?), I was thrilled to take a break. He told us he had been in the US in 1974. “Lackland Air Force Base,” he said.

“Oh! My dad was in the Air Force,” I told him. “What were you doing there?”

“I was flying C130s,” he said.

We chatted briefly about that, then he mentioned being base commander at a French-US joint operation in Morocco during the Carter administration. He asked if I were Megan’s sister – no, I am her very good friend. Is this my first trip to Morocco? Yes, but it won’t be my last, etc, etc. I am trying to answer in French, parce-que il faut practiquer.

This is just an ordinary, polite conversation as far as I am concerned. These little bits are actually woven in among other parts of the conversation – details about would the maid stay with the house, how much does she get paid, the landlord would need to put iron bars on the door for security, no, Megan and Steve really don’t want the trees replanted in the front because they have a petit enfant who is tres sportif, and so on.

Megan and Steve are crossing their fingers hoping they get the house. The landlord will have to make some improvements for the embassy security officer to sign off on it and then the Peace Corps general services officer will have to approve it (or maybe the embassy GSO – I can’t keep up with the bureaucracy – but trust me on this – your tax dollar is not being wasted over here). The landlord is hesitant about some of the upgrades. “Metal work is very expensive here,” he says.

As we are driving to lunch, Megan said, “CF, if you had flirted just a little bit with the landlord, we could have closed that deal for sure!”

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

“He was totally hitting on you!” she said.

“He was not!” I said.

“Oh yeah,” Steve said. “I saw it too. Damn pilots are the same all over the world.”

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