The house is empty and clean except for a little dust; we await a painter who will actually come to work instead of saying he’ll show up and then not appearing. The garage door, crinkled into a horseshoe shape by a load that was just a little too tall, has been repaired, as have the tiles on the steps that were cracked by zealous skateboard riders. A home has been found for the dog. We have sold or given away or stored everything except our car—it’s still for sale, but so far the only offers we’ve gotten have been from people who want to resell it, so they offer us a third of our asking price. We have closed out our account at Mauritel, which means we have no internet options except cyber cafes. We are in process of closing out other accounts.
Moving in Africa can be a humbling experience. When I go through our junk, I always separate out anything that I think could be of use to someone else. This can go into the garage sale; this can be given to the kids who live in the tent near us; this is just trash, etc. We threw out tons of junk. But our guard followed Donn out to the trash flats to see where he dumped stuff, then he returned and went through it. “We found a lot that we could use,” he admonished Donn later. “Just because you don’t want it doesn’t mean that we don’t. Let us go through your trash before you throw it out.” This is the man who took our broken water heater to use as a table. I saw him the other day wearing a pair of Elliot’s old shorts, the ones with a big irreparable hole in them. The thing is: I knew he’d want those old shorts and I gave them to him. What I threw out really was trash. Honest. How could they find things to use?
It has taken us days and days to get this far. How can we have so much junk? To be honest, compared to most of our fellow-countrymen, we live pretty light. Compared to those around us, we have piles and piles and piles of things. A whole laundry-tub full of legos, not to mention several lightsabers and board games; 4 or 5 big suitcases just for clothes alone; and you wouldn’t believe the boxes of books—how can just 5 people possibly read 10 boxes of books? (They have no idea that we got rid of several boxes as well—nor that we are hoping to get more books! And Ilsa and I are going crazy for lack of reading material) But recently, a new family set up their tent in the big open space in front of our house and now they live there. We watched them arrive. All their household belongings would pretty much fit in our car. We wanted to take a picture, of the type where people drag all their household belongings out in front of their house and have their picture taken and it’s compared around the world. This would have to be one of the smallest, especially since that pile included their house. They’re nomads; they travel light. By passing on our junk, we’ve probably doubled what they have.
We have sold almost all of our furniture, keeping just our one big comfortable armchair and 4 wooden Senegalese chairs, local craftsmanship. When we move to Morocco, we’ll start over, buy local stuff there (cheaper than moving our old stuff). What we’re keeping (legos and books and china and darkroom equipment) is in storage with friends.
We have tickets now too, for July 25th. We leave at 3:30 a.m. and arrive in Portland, Oregon at midnight that same day. It’s about 28 hours of travel. We’re going to live in Oregon for a year, working and saving money, and then move to Morocco next summer. This will give us a chance to reconnect a bit with our home culture, which is especially important for our children, who carry American passports but know little practically about the country itself. For them, America is the land of Perpetual Summer, root beer and Cheetos, where people take you out for really good pizza and it never rains. It will be good for them to see it as a place where people go to work and school, where it drizzles for weeks on end, where normal rules on the consumption of sugar apply. Since we assume they’ll go to American universities, it will be a good bit of preparation for them, and it’s a natural transition for our family.
We sold our old computer (at least parts of it; it was really old) so I am typing on the laptop. For some reason, the laptop adds in weird spaces when I post. I don’t know why, and I haven’t been able to fix it. When I try to edit my posts, it doesn’t help. So for a while, my posts will be very annoying. I do apologize; it bugs me, if possible, even more than it bugs you. We’re staying at friends’—they’re gone for a couple of months, so we’ve spread out and gotten comfortable. We’re still busy, as in order to say goodbye properly, you have to spend at least an evening with someone.
In the meantime, a little boy pushes one of Abel’s old trucks through the sand. In the soft sand, it doesn’t matter that it’s missing a wheel or that its windscreen is a spiderweb of cracks. His mother rests in the shade under their tent, leaning against an old stained cushion with a hole in it—another of our hand-me-downs. When they decide to move on, they’ll spend a lot less time and stress on it than we have.