12 Dec 20
I was never a huge fan of Christmas, but I have to admit that I’m a bigger fan now than I have ever been. The reason, four years in Morocco during the season of good cheer. And what does that mean – well it means four years in a small Moroccan town where nobody gives a shit about Christmas and the houses are all built of concrete with no insulation, no fireplaces, no chimneys, no roasted chestnuts, no Christmas at all.
That’s not entirely true – at the k-mart like Marjane in Fes they have one little corner of an aisle with santa hats and Christmas decorations – it’s tacked onto a huge aisle of kids toys and games set out just for the season. So, like everywhere, the commercial end of things is there – even if just a little bit. I saw a shop window in Fez yesterday that said Merry Christmas.
The thing that’s missing is Christmas. If the visa gods ever approve my wife’s immigrant visa to the USA or I get deported for some reason from Morocco – I’m sure I’ll become jaded with Christmas again, but I have this memory of people smiling at each other and saying Merry Christmas and a sort of electric energy in the air from about this time until the actual day. I remember the lines at the post office, the awful times trying to park the car at the malls, and the annoying canned Christmas music everywhere. I remember how it all starts right around Halloween now and is a big slutty commercial fest and I remember how disappointing some presents are but I also remember the Christmas day phone calls with friends and loved ones, the surprise of a card from someone you haven’t heard from in a while, and the joy of sending out a card or package and the hope that it will reach them in time.
Here, in Morocco. There’s none of that. My wife says “Are you going to buy me presents?” and of course I am, but my answer is “You’re a Muslim, you don’t celebrate Christmas.” Her answer, “Yes, but I like presents.” Everyone likes presents and I suppose the ideal of them is a caring reminder that someone loves you but unfortunately what it comes down to is something for nothing.
I offered to take my wife and daughter to Belgium for Christmas this year – a chance to see a big, grand Christmas in a European style. My only condition was that my wife download and fill out the paperwork to get her visa (the baby and I don’t need one because we are both American). Apparently, that was asking too much because she looked it up online and told me about it, but that was the end of it. She was waiting for me to download, fill out, submit, and send in the paperwork – but I”m tired of that process. I guess it wasn’t enough of a present without me doing every bit of it. Too bad.
The immigration visa to the US has been a year long process of twisting her arm to get the necessary papers, translations, photos, and more. I’ve faithfully filled out the forms, submitted them, enlisted my mother in acting as a relay person on the ground in the States and my uncle as a co-sponsor for her. I’ve photocopied, filed, sent, and paid every fee – I wrote early last year and back in 2011 that I hoped to be celebrating Christmas back in the States this year – at this point, that obviously isn’t going to happen. Maybe in 2013.
I did finally get the last of the paperwork all gathered and sent off to the US Visa and Immigration Service though. About the same time I sent it (but before they could have gotten it) I got a notice that our address in Morocco had returned mail from them as undeliverable. The same address we get our utility bills, phone bills, etc on – but when something really important comes – leave it to Morocco to just return it to sender.
Still, the finish line is in sight. I hope. I’m looking at where we will go in the US and trying to figure out the best way forward – assuming that we don’t get slapped with some crazy refusal because some bureaucratic is having a bad day in Rabat or D.C. Perish the thought.
Any way about it, this is the last Christmas I spend in Sefrou. Ever.
Still, being here isn’t all bad – since there’s nothing else here for me, I managed to write a new novel ‘The Keys to the Riad’ in November and this month, I’ve been on a marathon re-edit, rewrite of Slackville Road which has so far been cut from 120,000 words to 20,000. If brevity is the soul of wit, I was obviously witless when I first wrote it. I like where it is headed this time though – I may even have to change the title because the book is so incredibly different than it was.
If you’d like to join me for that, you can sign up for it at http://eepurl.com/rMijn – it’s free and hopefully fun. A once a week email from me with (to start) a freshly rewritten chapter of Slackville Road (or whatever it is now) delivered to you each Sunday. It’s my Christmas gift to you – all you have to do is sign up for it.
What am I doing here? Just waiting for permission to leave.