Hi. My name is Ms. Nomad and I’ll be your guide on this trip through the twisted bowels and darkest depths that comprise shipping your things and moving from Morocco.

Part One: Your Shipping Agent and You

Begin by choosing your shipping agent. You can do this by asking a friend who moved a year ago for a name and number. This will land you with a young man in jeans and tight shirts who speaks English less well than he believes, who will nonetheless want to conduct all your interactions in English (which, fair play, is his 4th language), and you will be in for a merry-go-round of failed communication.

The agent will begin by telling you what papers you will need. We will cover these in part three, so let’s just assume you’ve already lost a couple weeks of your life and have the papers now. It’s time to go back to his office, just outside Casa, one Monday morning. He’ll put you in an empty office with a really really tall chair that collapses down when you wriggle and sort of hop up into it. There you will begin the various rounds of negotiations about things you thought were settled on the last visit, when you sat interminably in the same office.

You might say, for example, “We’d like the container to come the 27th.”

“Ok,” he will agree. “Whenever you like.”

You will think, surely this is not right. Surely he should now say, ‘Well there’s a ship this day and this day so choose.” But instead, he smiles and nods and agrees. You move on. 20 minutes later, he asks you what date you want. “Well, the 27th, we said…” you flounder.

“Sure, sure,” he agrees. “White just a minute.” He disappears. You sit. You sit some more. You wonder why so few Moroccan offices have air conditioning. You ponder the irony of how so many Oregonians have air-conditioning while living in a temperate climate, and so few Moroccans and Mauritanians, living in heat and humidity, do. You sit some more. You have fun staring at the pattern of mold patches on the wall, seeing continents and islands and oceans as yet unmapped. You sit some more. After a while, you give up on keeping your husband amused and pull out a book, feeling a bit rude, but not much.

Eventually he returns, with a piece of paper with two dates on it. Neither is the 27th. “You have to choose,” he says, jabbing his finger at it. “What about the 27th? Like you said?” you begin, but you are waved aside. These are actual boats, actual sailing dates, so we choose one, and he gently but firmly guides us towards the other. “Choice” apparently has a slightly different meaning when English is your 4th language. This means that instead of having the 8 days we’d thought we had to pack our house, we have 2. Fortunately “Captain Stress,” as Donn is affectionately known in our family, has started packing far too early—or right on time as it turns out. I’ll never hear the end of this.

He disappears again, only to reappear to rehash the date—the one we’ve settled twice now.

Next he turns to your packing list. “It’s good, it’s fine,” he says. “But, what are CDs?” You explain. “And all these boxes of books?” Um yeah. Between Ilsa and I, not to mention everybody else, we have boxes and boxes and boxes of books. Like, um, over 40 or so. But, let me hasten to add, that these are small boxes, since books are heavy, and also that many of them are Donn’s big photo books. Many, I tell you.

But the agent is mystified. Why do so many lines of the list say, simply, “livres”? What are these livres? Is it normal to have so many? He doesn’t seem to think so.

The book in my purse helps. “I like to read,” I say. “We all do.” I pull out the book and wave it at him. “Ah, romans,” he says (novels). “Ok ok. I told the guy at the port you were nice people. No problems.”

Coming soon: Part Two, Choosing a Port