We’ve been in Rabat for a year now, and I am beginning to recognize patterns in likely and unlikely places; weather changes, school, items available at the stores. It’s a good start to feeling settled in a place. There is a huge difference between a new school year in a new school, and a new school year as old hands, experienced in bookstore locations and teacher requirements, with familiar faces welcoming you back, yourself able to befriend the new ones.

Ramadan was not such a shock this year; we knew it was coming, stocked our freezer with bread for lunches, were already prepared for its rhythms and changes. We have not spent our mornings wandering around Agdal waiting for bookshops to open, nor our evenings walking miles because no taxi would stop for us, getting lost in alleyways on the way home. Having a car makes a huge difference, but knowing what to expect even more.

Aside: yes, of course Mauritania celebrates Ramadan as well. But it is different here, and last year we were unprepared for those differences.

Last September, as a newcomer, I was disturbed at not being able to find tinned tomatoes. Great was my joy (don’t mock me; I cook supper most nights and I use tinned tomatoes in a LOT of different dishes) when I found some. I’ve bought them unthinking, casually, all year. But now, early September, suddenly they are nonexistent again. I don’t panic. I know that soon, I’ll start seeing them again. In the meantime, when I found a few cans at LaBel Vie the other day, I bought them all.

Yesterday, a friend came over, and we sat on our balcony in our wooden Senegalese chairs and talked and talked. It was muggy and overcast, and she told me it was supposed to rain. It won’t, I told her. It’s too early. Last year it started raining in late September, and everyone told me it wasn’t normal to have rain before November. But of course I was wrong. When it started to sprinkle, I thought of my clean dry clothes hanging on the line, and decided to leave them. I was sure it was soon be hot again, and I’d let them dry and then get them. Wrong! It poured for the rest of the afternoon. The children arrived home dripping. Last night, after the mosque, the streams of people going up the street were hurrying, hoods and umbrellas up, holding newspapers or plastic bags over their heads for protection. The drummer didn’t make his rounds.

Last year, everyone said it was the wettest winter in 30 years, the end of an extended drought. This summer the fruit was cheap and plentiful, but I have no way of knowing if this was unusual or not, if Morocco was greener than usual. Only now can I have a basis of comparison.

September rain. The lightning flickers rapidly. Last year I compared it to a mischievous child with his hand on a light switch, and that comparison sprang to mind last night. The boys and I stood on the balcony, breathing in gulps of fresh air, watching the glint of rain in the streetlight’s orange glow and the movement of leaves in the trees. Today there was another shower and now it’s back to hot and humid again, with the occasional sudden breath of cool air like a gift. The sky is blue. I find, looking back over my archives from last September, that the sky was deep blue then as well. Friday lunchtime, and the imam is chanting, his voice going up and down melodically. The wind bangs our open windows and doors.

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