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Sometimes I feel like all I’ve done since we arrived 2 ½ weeks ago is go shopping and get the kids in school. It’s not true, of course, but part of getting to know an area is getting to know what’s available where. One store carries no Italian spices; another has them but the butcher is really dirty. The very nice and bright butcher-shop that we found seemed clean and reasonable, although with perhaps not as much hand-washing as one would prefer. We now know where to find oatmeal (so far, only one small store seems to carry it) and where our favorite brand of juice is the cheapest.
Morocco is, in many ways, nothing like Mauritania, but it’s still very different from America. There is much that needs adjusting to, especially since we were in the States for an entire year, which was more than long enough to re-enter our home culture. I became American again; now I need to once more become a traveler, a nomad, comfortable as a liason between two very different cultures. So while it’s fun to be able to take the kids to Pizza Hut as a treat, there are still cockroaches in my kitchen and people still stare at my blonde head as I walk down the street.
I mentioned waiting to buy the twins’ sandals here; that has proved more of a challenge than I was expecting. Unlike Nouakchott, there are choices, but unlike America, the choices are severely limited. There are name-brand, expensive, on sale for More Than I Would Ever Pay for Children’s Shoes. There are fall-apart-cheap and ugly.  But there seems nothing in between, in that realm of great-sale-great-quality or okay-quality-decent-price.
We tried. We tried the mall adjoining Marjane; we even visited the Mega Mall, Rabat’s answer to Edmonton, where there is even a bowling alley in the basement, and gleaming glass and metal shops bespeaking money. I saw many people shopping but no one buying. It was fun to wander through, but I don’t think it’s a place we’ll visit often–except possibly to a restaurant that promised “Tex-Mex“ but was closed for Ramadan.
In contrast, Donn and I spent a recent morning wandering through the medina. The medina is the old part of the city, and it’s fascinating. It’s a warren of medieval alleyways and narrow twisting streets, following its own logic as to layout. There, you can buy anything–shirts and sunglasses and fresh mint for tea and pastries and lamps and local pottery and, um, offal.

Why do I feel the need to take pictures like this? But I do, obviously.

And so much more.

I liked this guy, his bike laden with two baskets filled with grapes. He gave tongue loudly, calling to passers-by, praising the quality of his produce.

We saw more tourists there than we’ve seen anywhere else (and dressed most inappropriately too!), but the place was still mostly filled with locals.

We got lost, sort of, but we worked our way out.

We loved it. We found twin sandals for good prices and decent quality; the problem was that I was guessing at the European sizing, so Abel’s are too big and Ilsa’s are too small. Abel’s will work out fine, but Ilsa can’t get hers on, in spite of my best efforts to force them, short of cutting off her big toe a la Cinderella’s Wicked Stepsisters. So she’s still having to wear black sneakers with shorts, which looks odd.

We also bought ourselves two sconces (isn’t that the word?) to cover the bare light bulbs sticking out of the wall in our apartment. We paid about $5 for each one. Isn’t it beautiful?

We caught a taxi home, content with our purchases. We’ve spent many mornings wandering the downtown searching for the last of the school books, or looking at cars or houses–none of these other expeditions leaving us with that feeling of quiet happiness that comes from having bought something fun and inexpensive for your house, a promise that you will someday feel at home here in this place of fantastic goatskin lamps and crowded masses of quiet people.

September 2008

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