Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I was walking home the other day past the hotel on my street where I heard a tourist yelling at a Moroccan guy about the price of a taxi.  She was sure that 150 dirhams for the taxi from the airport was 10 times the real price.  Actually, it's the going price and there was probably more than one person in their party since they were tourists.  The hotel clerk was being very polite and patient with a type of rudeness he must encounter frequently.

Morocco is not a free country.  Yes, that's exactly what I said.  Things cost money here just like everywhere else and increasingly, the prices are becoming more like those in Europe.  Gone are the days of wandering around for pennies a day while mooching off the hospitality of locals.  Moroccans are still hospitable and generous to a fault at home, but if you want that trinket or you eat in a restaurant or crave that maqooda dumpling, it's going to cost you more than a dirham or two or three. 

It's the same when you have something shipped into the country.  There are customs taxes on certain items and EVERY country has this, not just Morocco.  Other countries have more severe restrictions on what can be shipped in order to prevent competition with their local businesses.  In many cases, when you are reasonable and nice, and haven't shipped in a new computer or high-priced sneakers or whatever, the authorities just look the other way and send you on your way. 

But, it's their call, not yours.

Friday, May 14, 2010

In the book of wisdom called Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu says "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

We have all heard this somewhere before and nodded, thinking, Well,  ...duh.  We never really think of it in terms of facing a crossroads or a crisis in life, or maybe we do if we're into Chinese wisdom.  It hit me today as I sat on the internet searching baking sites and bread-making techniques and thinking to myself that I can't possibly learn all of this stuff.  I was overwhelmed to the point of panic.  So, take a deep breath, calm down and pick one thing.  Just one.  Try to make it.  If it's successful and good, then keep making it and add one more thing.

Any skill we develop, anything at all we learn to master, begins with that first step.  I am going to keep a date log of every loaf of bread I bake, with a photo, until I reach 1000.  When I am done, I will be able to look back to the first day, the first loaf, and remember how I thought I couldn't do it and realize that I did do it.

Take that first step, whatever it is and go for it.  Dare to do something new.
Mail-order love is alive and well in the 21st century. It has moved into the electronic age with video chat and online dating where aspiring couples continents away can meet, fall in love and marry for papers.  Cynical?  Well, yeah, and you can check it out here on Romance Scams.  The Internet Bride and the Passport Marriage have become so common now that a whole website has been dedicated to all the ways they love you.  And so like the old X-Files theme, "I want to believe" is the answer to the reality check.

Internet dating, in fact, is quite popular and numerous websites like E-harmony, Speed-Dating and are devoted to it.  There are even internet dating coaches to help you navigate the world of electronic love.  Many claim it's the modern way that savvy young professionals with limited time sort through the flotsam and jetsam of the dating world to find their perfect mate.  People with baggage can make a cautious re-entry and people with no morals whatsoever can circle like sharks in wait of unsuspecting new fish. Some people must succeed because it continues, but I suspect a lot more people wish they'd never logged on.

Even before I came to Morocco, internet chat was a popular way for guys to meet foreign women in Morocco and even with the limited resources of Yahoo Messenger and no video and barely audible audio, there was a lot going on.  And even then, a lot of scamming was going on.  I remember sitting in an internet cafe one night while the guy next to me, with his wife on his knee, chatted a storm with several English and French-speaking chicks.  Chat boxes were popping up all over the screen.  I had to wonder, you know, if the wife had a clue or not.  She didn't seem to mind if she did.

I discovered guys would use the same chat log on and pretend they were all the same guy, sharing info, laughing at the questions they were asking to see what kind of response they could provoke.  They openly shared emails, information and traded stuff around, sent fake or barely visible photos to the beloved.  The unsuspecting gal on the other end may or may not have had a clue, but the sure thing was that they tried to convince her to come on over because they were so in love, had found their soul-mate in her, and unfortunately weren't able to go to her. Again, multiple boxes were popping up and several women were being wooed at the same time.

Once I went to a wedding where several of the older women commenced telling me about their foreign daughters-in-law, all working in Europe, and all the benefits they had gained through their sons' marriages to these women who they'd all met via internet or vacation tours.  All the sons were at the wedding having a good old time while these absent wives were fondly remembered for their financial and material contributions to the family.  I removed myself from the women's room as gracefully as possible and spent the rest of the night wandering around in no-man's land.

Just like I find it odd that the reason for a marriage might be taking a man out of Morocco to give him a boost in life, I find it odd that one would get into the situation of supporting a family with monthly payments, regular shipments of gifts and working abroad while the partner remains home (maybe internet dating with someone else?). 

Love is blind has a very literal meaning on the internet scene.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

It's May Day, Labor Day today.  We are all supposed to take it easy from the daily grind.  In honor of the day, I have been reading an interesting book called How to be Idle by Tom Hodgkinson.  He chronicles the history of labor and how with the advent of the Industrial Revolution, work became the enemy of fun.

How many of you have heard the advice to follow your dreams, or do what you love and the money will follow, or that you should love your work so much it is fun to do.  We have all heard that, given a nod and turned back to the grindstone.  Work is serious stuff, work results in money and someday, if we are one of the lucky few, there will be enough money to stop working.  Well, when is the last time anyone you know succeeded with that formula.  Don't say how somebody you know started a business and...and...  Anyone who starts a business does it because they care enough about what they are doing to go out on the limb and that means they are getting something more important than money from the work they do.

Today is a good day to relax in the lovely sunshine we are having and think about why you do what you do and where you expect to get by doing it.  Are you happy?  Are you getting satisfaction, or pleasure, or fulfillment from your work?  If you could drop your job right now, no worries financial or otherwise, would you do it?  Why?  If you want to, what's really stopping you?  Don't say money because we all have money somewhere or can borrow from someone and jobs are a dime a dozen anyway (yes, even in this economy). Answer the question, what's really stopping you?

Tomorrow, or Monday, when you return to the workplace take a fresh look around at your space, your job duties and even your coworkers and ask yourself, Is this where I belong?

Happy Labor Day!