Manage episode 156125838 series 1177469
Shwia bi shwia—the progression of life here in Morocco. It seems that some days have their ups and others have their downs. I have had a couple down days recently, but the days are trending up.
The dar (house) is a reflection of my roots here in Morocco. It was the same back in the States. When my room was a mess, or I lacked clean clothes or food to eat, my days tended to be tougher.
When I return home, I need a safe place, a retreat—a fortress of solitude. And for awhile, I did not have too much of a fortress, and I lacked the appreciation of solitude.
Upon entering my dar, you might notice that there is not much too it. At first, it came completely unfurnished, aside from a gray table and two crate-like supports for a mattress. These were the tough days. But I did have running water, and it became hot when I needed to take a shower, that is, if I succeeded in not blowing myself up first, trying to light the heater.
Yet gradually, the furnishing process has come along. I have had the good fortune of having a tutor, Lala Assia, who has helped me acquire three Moroccan couches and a cabinet for my stove. I also have acquired a mattress, a refrigerator, and an assortment of kitchenware and other necessary knick-knacks.
And this past Monday, with the added expertise of my friend Stephanie in the kitchen, I was able to host my first dinner party—a lot of good food and fantastic company. And although we basically planned it at the last moment, dinner went off without a hitch.
Although, there was plenty of opportunity for mishap, including the uncertainty of the stove and butagaz connection, which I completed. And while purchasing the meat for the Ragu we were making, I almost bought one kilo of horse meat, before the gentleman I was ordering from kindly pointed to the large painted horse on the sign above his shop, and the unmistakable French word: “cheval.” I still wonder what horse meat would have tasted like.
This past Wednesday night, with the recipes from a cookbook my grandmother and grandfather provided me, I made the best tomato bisque I have ever had in my life. I am basically cooking every meal now, which is really cheap since vegetables are so inexpensive here.
And little by little—the dar is coming together. I am securing and furnishing my fortress, as well as establishing a sense of peace that comes with solitude. And getting work done, of course.
A Much Appreciated Package
After recounting to my mother one afternoon on the struggles of acquiring cheap, yet comfortable sheets and towels here in Morocco, I receive a care package in the mail containing an assortment of sheets and towels for my dar. I pick up the package and immediately return home, lugging the bulky brown broken box into my bedroom, ripping ravenously at the tape. Although of the ordinary, the contents surprise me. I am not expecting a load of sheets, and the thought of my family sending me sheets from America makes me laugh.
One of the hidden gems in the package—something that my family failed to claim in customs—is the smell that accompanies the linens. When I open the box, I have the impression that I have just released something magical into the air. Something—a smell, a fragrance—that is not immediately distinguishable, but conjures memories in my mind. I feel the toxins of home and I am already infected.
I quickly grab the big white blanket that my mother has enclosed, and shove my face into it, almost suffocating in the odor. Through the fabric softener and the detergent I catch a glimpse of it all. My grandmother toiling over the laundry. The sun refracting through the bay windows in the kitchen. The neatly pressed sheets and towels on tables and chairs. It is all there before me as I push my face even deeper into the blanket, feeling the stitching imprint the tattoo of an afternoon nap on my cheeks. I breathe in deeper, taking in the air from home. I suspend time. I am home again. Then I need to exhale, having expanded my Morocco ravaged lungs to their capacity. I let the air out. Exhaling slowly. And I am back in Morocco.
I take the usual extra care that I have acquired making beds for a month at Fort Knox two summers ago. Carefully piling each sheet, folding the corners into each other, I tightly mold the fabric to the bed. Sometimes I succeed at performing this task so well that my feet fall asleep near base of the bed where the folds are the tightest.
When I finish, I look at the bed. The neatly folded sheets overlapping each other and bound tightly. One of the more perfect jobs I have completed in awhile, I think. I have plied all I that I have into this bed, hiding the mysteriously uncomfortable Moroccan mattress. But it still feels incomplete. I am missing a critical step. I take another deep breath, and look at the bed. Then I realize—there is one more step—but this step was never mine.
Blythe, having been in a relationship with me for a year, undoubtedly had seen me complete this chore countless times, always humorously watching me enamored in my task. And always, after I had completed the makings of a perfect bed, she would look at the bed, look at me—then like a little kid amassing the force and velocity to complete the perfect cannonball, she would spryly launch her attack on my masterpiece, catapulting herself into the folds of the bed, releasing the tension that the sheets held, messing the pillows, and perfecting the perfection.
I look at the bed, close my eyes, and dive in. It is imperfect, but I am happy. And for the first night in Morocco, I sleep soundly until the call to prayer, content and reminded of friends, family, and home.