Friday, July 16, 2010

One of the most common reasons people give for pulling up roots to live in Morocco is simplification - they want a slower pace of life, a better quality of life and time to not just smell the roses, but enjoy those roses.  The thing is, it's not always easy to figure out how to accomplish this.  There is a big difference between relocating to a slower-paced place and slowing down your own pace.

How many people actually know how to just live?  This means doing nothing but ordinary day to day activities that come up, if you want to do them or must do them, and simply ignoring the stuff you don't care about right now.  People who do that can go walking in the park during the evening, sit in cafes all afternoon, loiter on the street corners harassing girls and take the afternoon of from work just because they ate too much for lunch.  Work is not the primary focus of the day, chores at home like lawn-mowing or paying the bills can wait until whenever.  Or never.  You can just take things as they come.

People often remark on the incredible amount of time Moroccans take to socialize with friends and family.  Most are envious of this interaction and wish to experience it.  The thing is, you can't say, Well, sorry, I'd love to chat but right now I have to get to the grocery store; or little Penny has a dance lesson right now.  Some things fall by the wayside.  Not everybody in Morocco is laid-back either because I have seen just as many people working three jobs, speeding endlessly around in their car like its a second home and spending so much time on their cell phone they probably can't remember their last face to face conversation.  It's all about choices.

Chances are a first encounter with Morocco took place on a vacation.  As a tourist or foreigner, one has a different perspective on things than the locals.  You can pick up and go at any time whereas they have to live in the country they built.  Many retirees go down this road, following an idealistic image or memory of a great place they visited only to find that living there is not the same thing.  In fact, living in a foreign culture is a daily challenge that may ease over time, but will never entirely go away.  And again, it's about where you choose to focus.

Morocco is a nice place to live, but it has problems just like every place else.  Some are simple to resolve and others are challenging.  Some things you might consider problems are not problems for Moroccans and those issues will never end.  It's all about you.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Anybody who has been to Fez lately knows it is hot here.  Very hot.  And nothing wears on heat-stretched nerves worse than driving in Fez.  I have been on wheels for over a year now, yet I am continually shocked by how inconsiderate local drivers are and how absurdly willing they are to risk injury and property damage and even death just to be FIRST.  This is, as far as I can tell, the point of driving.  It is not to get to a destination, but to get "there" FIRST.  Cars jam up at the lights and intersections, pass each other on narrow streets, drive on any side of the road and hog any open space that will gain them a centimeter over somebody else. It doesn't matter where you are going as long as you are leading the pack.

Pedestrians are a pain in the a-- , too, since they are convinced green lights are for them and they also have a right to the road.  They weave in and out of the traffic, step in front of cars and fall off of curbs and never look in the correct direction for oncoming traffic.  And the newest thing in Fez is for young women to link arms and stroll slowly down the middle of the traffic lane.  This morning a giggling trio of young women was egging on some good ol' street harassment in the middle of intersection where two pedestrians were killed in the last year.  Thank heaven nobody was coming up behind me or the cafe on the corner could have served us all up for lunch after we landed in their kitchen.

There are no speed limit signs anywhere in the city even though it is "known" the speed limit is 40.  However, the real rule is to go as fast as you can as space permits.  If somebody is in your way, blast the horn and shout insults.  And of course, just drive down the oncoming lane and shout insults at them, too, while flashing your headlights to get them out of your way.  Another effective way to get ahead is just drive between two cars. What's a little lost paint on somebody else's car?  Knocked their mirror off?  Oops!

Despite this urge to be FIRST, the thing nobody seems to realize is that traffic is clogged and people are frustrated and pedestrians are hostile because everyone is so UNwilling to cede the right of way to another, even when it is their right of way by law.  I never thought about this before but a perfectly executed MERGE is a beautiful thing! 

Driving in Fez is just take, take, take and take some more.  For a culture where time has so no value and little meaning, this appalling behavior on the road is bizarre to say the least.  Shame on all of you!!
My daughter was assaulted on the street in Fez last weekend.  She was walking home around midday from a sandwich shop with her sister when a guy, old enough to behave better, started following them.  He was close enough to make them nervous and they did stop to ask some construction workers to speak to him.  They chose to ignore the situation and laugh it off.  How many times have you heard that following girls just gives men on the street a cheap thrill and something to talk about with their fellow lounge lizards?

Well, this harasser decided to grab my daughter and take a pinch.  She spun around and slapped him and he punched her in the face and took another swing that cut her over the eye.  By that time, the construction workers were on site and two cars had stopped.  They gave the assaulter a "talking to" and sent him on his way.

The incident was reported to the police and they did go out to the site and talk to witnesses, but nobody would give up the name or identity of the assaulter.  He is known in the area and was seen after the incident, but again, nobody would give up his identity.  The way I understand it, no harm done!!