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I believe I have mentioned, once or twice (cough!), that Rabat is damp, and that our houses are cement block  with no insulation to keep in warmth or coolness, so that they are cold in winter and hot in summer. Last year, when we were house sitting for that doctor, we were amazed at how prone his house was to mold. It crept up the corners of the bedroom walls and spotted all our leather sandals, tucked into the closet. Even our clothes started to mold. It was amazing.

One thing we liked so much about our present house was how light and airy it is. We’re on the second floor, for Americans, first for French and Brits. (And yes, I am always completely confused in elevators now. I have to think about what country I’m in) We open our windows, let the breezes through. It’s not as rainy this year as it was last year. So I assumed that odd smell in the boys’ room was, well, THEM. Adolescent boys are stinky by definition, even in our age of frequent showers and deodorant use—especially after two hours of rugby at school followed by a couple hours roller-blading out back.

Then I happened to glance at their bookshelf, where “Captains Courageous” (my childhood copy) and “Dangerous Book for Boys” were both sporting green spots on their spines.

Mold! On books! It was appalling!

It seemed to be only on the hardback books so I pulled them all off and stuck them on the carpet in the hall until I figured out how to deal with it. Sunshine, obviously, but we don’t have that at the moment. However, just getting out of the situation seems to have calmed the mold. (Bleach or vinegar I know, but on books? I am not getting rid of these books…that’s not an option. I hope)

The smell seemed to be worse, and the whole house felt dank and musty. I dared to pull Abel’s bed out from the wall a bit and saw the mold all the way down the wall and spreading onto the tile floor. The corner of Elliot’s pillow, shoved up against the wall, was starting black spots down the side.


Their room is in the corner of the house, so 2 of their walls are outside walls. That’s why books are moldering away on their bookshelf and not (so far) on mine out in the hall. However, close inspection revealed that the corners of my bedroom weren’t in such great shape either. And so yesterday was a day of deep cleaning. At the end the boys’s room smelled of lavender-scented bleach, fresh and clean, with only the merest hint of sweaty gym sock.

That afternoon I left to catch a taxi to my class downtown; the class meets at 4, and I take a taxi to avoid having to park. As I left the house it was bucketing rain and really windy. Of course there was no taxi in sight; in keeping with the impenetrable laws of taxis, they are only there when you don’t need one. The wind turned my umbrella inside out and broke two of its ribs. By the time I walked the block down to the main road, my linen trousers were soaked and my hair was wild. When I finally did catch a taxi, the umbrella, triumphantly broken by that point, refused to fold properly and insisted on opening again in the back seat, scattering fat water drops everywhere.

I made it to class on time, in spite of having to drive down that one street with TWO primary schools on it, neither of which has a parking lot, so that parents just stop their cars in the one-lane road and get out and go in search of their children, unhurriedly chatting with friends, kiss kiss and how are you, while I stress and fume and explain to every taxi driver that IN AMERICA (say through gritted teeth) they have PARKING LOTS at EVERY SINGLE SCHOOL and you can’t just park in the street and block any hope of traffic getting by. And the taxi drivers always agree with me and we discuss how crazy drivers are and how they disregard the traffic laws, and then the driver pulls out in front of everyone else at the red light.

After class, when I step out of the office building a little over an hour later, the rain has ceased and a brilliant late sun has turned the entire world into a giant mirror to itself. Visibility is reduced to silhouettes but at least I don’t have to fight my umbrella. I go home coughing—thanks to the twins, who had it last week, Donn and I have spent the last several days wheezing and hacking.

And today, we found mold all over our dress clothes, the summerweight ones that don’t get worn much these cold damp months, and in the corner of the kitchen counter behind the blender, an area that gets wiped down fairly regularly, at least once a week. It seems to have come out of nowhere, spreading rapidly. In spite of the rain, we’re keeping windows open and bundling up in blankets. The forecast calls for rain and more rain, but in the garden I have a daffodil getting ready to bloom, planted by the woman who lived here before me. Daffodils are my favorite flower, and I tried several times to grow them in Mauritania without success. A friend who’s lived in North Africa for over 20 years tells us it’s the first daffodil he’s seen on this continent.

If winter comes, can spring be far behind?

Spring. April showers. Should be fun.

February 2010

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