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In the early mornings, when I set off for the train station, it is foggy. The fog is thick and wet and even close landmarks are invisible. My fellow commuters wear thick sweaters and boots; they are dressed for fall, for this weather at this moment. I am not, because I know in about 30 minutes it’s all going to disappear. The sun will break through and instantly the mist will melt away, dissolve, a wisp of ephemeral shining white vanished in a blink of time. I stand out, in my short sleeves and sandals on this crisp October morning, and I wish I had thought to wear layers. Next morning, straining to reach a scarf (which will keep me warm in the morning and can be tucked in my bag when it gets hot), I slip, bang my arms very hard on a shelf, and emerge with a spectacular bruise on my inside elbow. Afternoons are hot and humid; nights unbearable because of the humidity and the windows closed against fresh night air and hordes of mosquitoes.

I’ve spent every morning this week in Casablanca, doing some orientation for my new job. It’s gone well; nothing was earth-shatteringly new, or new at all really, but I’ve met some nice people and caught up on my reading. I’ve memorized the train schedule between here and Casa; I’ve memorized the train stations. I’ve taken a lot of taxis, both Rabat’s blue “petit taxis” and Casa’s red ones. (Who has turquoise, you’re wondering. That would be Mohammedia. This is the stop before Ain Sebaa, where you must change if you are going directly to L’Oasis.)

Trains in Morocco can be quite pleasant. Most mornings I have managed to get a coveted window seat facing forward, mainly because it seems many people do not care if they sit by a window or if they face backwards. I care. I stare out the window at the fields and forests whipping by, past apartment buildings hung with laundry and children playing soccer on a patch of packed dirt. We flash past trees gnarled and twisted by the fog. I watch a stork land in a plowed brown field, folding its enormous black-tipped wings. I see women stooped to work a field in identical poses, as if they were modeling for the passing train. On the way home, in brilliant sunlight, I see the deep deep blue of the Atlantic waters, and the houses of beach communities shining white in the sun.

I’ve taken a lot of taxis this week. I realized something I already pretty much knew: if you are in your car, the sight of a taxi nonchalantly cutting an entire block-long line waiting at a red light by driving into oncoming traffic and then whipping over just at the intersection and waiting patiently for the light to change will enrage you. But if you are sitting in that taxi, anxious to not miss your train, you will secretly rejoice. You will be basically happy to have just missed that line, to have not waited your turn. It’s kind of fun for your inner five-year-old.

I have spent more time traveling than I have spent in class. I am very tired; I’m not used to leaving while my children are still in pajamas, my travel mug of coffee in my hand.

Casablanca is not a romantic city of white houses tucked amongst Mediterranean hills. It is huge, noisy, crowded, polluted. The traffic there is worse than Rabat. Every day class ended early and I would calculate which station to leave from. Casa Port, located across town and necessitating a white-knuckle taxi ride through the noon rush, was a direct train that left every 30 minutes. L’Oasis Station was closer, walking distance, but train left once a hour and I had to change at Ain Sebaa, which involved sitting in the sun for 20-25 minutes. Once on whichever train, I would lean back against the window and relax as we glided through the countryside like a snake. Every day I would arrive back in Rabat, climb the stairs through the interminable construction feeling the fresh sea breeze against my face, happy. Home.

October 2009

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