Well, here we are, back home in Morocco. It was an interesting couple of months as my wife, our infant daughter and I explored Turkey. We got to see a lot of places we’d missed on previous trips, got to take part in some amazing activities and we even learned something about limits. One example of that is that we learned that two months is far longer than my wife likes to be on the road. When it comes down to it, she is a home body and needs to have her kitchen, the comforts of our house and family and friends nearby. For her, a two week trip is more than enough, but since she married a born rover – that means that I need to sometimes head out by myself. One of the great benefits of this trip is that all of this is now clear to us both.
I had intended that we would travel for a total of three months this time, but since it was making her miserable – we came back home to our apartment in Morocco. I have to admit, it’s nice to come back and have the bills all paid for another month, find the weather perfect and of course to enjoy reuniting with family and friends. And yet, as those of you who know me have heard, I’m not entirely happy living in Morocco.
I often meet people who tell me that Morocco is on their short list of places they want to travel to. When they find out that I live here, they say things like “It must be wonderful.” I tell them that Morocco is a beautiful country filled with wonderful people and beautiful landscapes but it’s better to visit than live in.
Then, they seem surprised when I tell them that, in fact, I’m not very keen on it. In fact, if my wife weren’t from here, I probably wouldn’t live here at all. Here are a couple of examples taken from a single day when we arrived back in Morocco after several months in Turkey.
We arrived at the airport and headed towards customs and security. Moroccans don’t understand the concept of a que. It’s a funnel and you have to fight to maintain your place in the line. Even then, people will simply come and step in front of you. One woman came and shouldered by me saying “I need to go past.” I let her, but her need was only to move to the front of the line. I like orderly lines. I like not having to fight for my turn. In Morocco, that never happens.
Next we gathered our bags, left the arrival area and went to the train. As we walked toward the train, a corpulent security officer called my wife over. “Where is your husband from?” he asked her in Arabic. “Where have you been?”
She told him I was American and we’d been in Turkey at which point he rubbed his fingers together in the universal sign of money and said to her “You should tell him to give me something.” I understood all of this, but simply was looking at him. She said to me “He says you should give him some money.”
“Why would I want to do that?” I said and motioned for her to walk past him and leave him behind. We watched and he pulled the same routine with every Moroccan, some gave him money and some didn’t.
On the train, I became aware of something that somehow had escaped my notice before. Moroccans love to complain. They love to complain to each other about everything. I don’t know how I missed this before. This is what conversations are about. They complain about the prices, the weather, people they know, people they don’t know and anything else. It’s a part of the national mentality.
At the Casablanca train station where we had to change trains, we filled our baby’s bottle halfway with cool water, added the formula, and then I went to ask the man in the cafe if I could have some hot water. During all of our time in Turkey, this was our normal practice and we were never refused, never scolded, never asked for money – for hot water for our baby’s milk. First, the Moroccan told me to pay for a cup of coffee, then he refused, then he dumped out the formula, then when I began to harrnague him in Arabic, he filled it with milk and steamed it.
Arriving in Fes, we were approached by the usual touts. Since my wife’s suitcase had just broken, we were tired, and the baby needed to get home (and have some formula), I decided to negotiate for a taxi directly to our house rather than a small taxi followed by large taxi followed by another small taxi. Our usual 3 taxi route costs us about 80 Moroccan dirham. For a single taxi, the first price was 400! Then it dropped to 200, finally, I offered to pay 150 if they drove us to our door. They accepted.
When we arrived in our town, the driver told my wife that we had to pay an extra 20 dirham. I told him to stop talking to her and that he could either drive us to our house or he could drop us off and get paid nothing. I told him if he didn’t like those options, we could go talk with the police. He dropped us off – at our house and grumbled when I gave him the agreed upon 150 dirham.
Of course, it’s not all bad. Arriving at our house we found my wife’s sister there, cleaning it so it would be comfortable for us. She had brought groceries, made us a welcome home meal and welcomed us with the warmth and smiles that make being part of a Moroccan family worth having to live in Morocco.
Still, I stand by the fact that Morocco is a nice place to visit, but a lousy one to live. That’s why I tend to leave every three months instead of getting a resident permit. That way, I remain a visitor but I still get the chance to complain along with all the Moroccans I know and love.