Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Movin’ on up in Morocco!

Yes, shwiya b shwiya (little by little), I’m moving into my new zwin (nice) apt-on the top (3rd) floor w/a balcony and shared rooftop deck w/360 view of Ribat El Kheir. Yipee! And yes, there’s a story to furnishing a home Morocco/Peace Corps style.

First, need to get the stuff that I bought off of Rose (former PCV-made me a great deal) from Sefrou. OK, so a couple of challenges to making that happen. First, it’s 50km away and I have no vehicle, nor am I allowed to rent/drive one. So I’m depending on the kindness of my host family to help me with this. Second (and for a while, the first) concern-getting access to my stuff. So I keep trying to get a hold of the woman who is storing the stuff for me. Only met her once. She’s tutored for Peace Corps for years-was good friend on Rose’s. OK, right? She won’t return any of my calls or text messages-about 10 contacts over 4 weeks. Gulp. Then one of my training mates relays the story about all the stuff she bought from a PCV who left-and stored the stuff w/his former host family until she got her apt-and they are claiming that all of it is theirs. Gulp. Repeat performance for me?? Hamdullah, I got a call from the woman in Sefrou yesterday-all is kulshi bixir (just fine)-and I can come get my stuff whenever I want. Let’s have another Hamdullah! OK, so the bed, 2 blankets (will need more!) and some kitchen utensils are taken care of.

Now I need everything else. On the allowance that Peace Corps gives us to fully furnish a home. Another gulp. Now of course they encourage PCV’s who are leaving to give/sell their stuff to new PCVs. As you might guess, this doesn’t usually happen. So I’m starting from scratch w/everything else. Need to keep in mind I’m only here 2 years so I can keep it very simple. On the other hand, I’ll be here 2 years, and do want to have a comfortable place, since I’ll be at home a lot.

And where do you buy all this stuff you ask? Great question! First, of course, you start with the hanuts of your friends’ friends. For big purchases, bring said friend with you so the friends give the friend (not the lets-rip-off-the-foreigner-she-doesn’t-know-any-better) prices. So I’ve bought a small refrigerator, my butane stovetop and a shufu (butane water heater) from Mustafa’s friends. Next big purchases included a butane oven, ponges (large foam cushions-think Moroccan couches lining the walls of the salon), and table for work and chairs from Zahra’s family’s hanut (Zahra is president of Coop)-and they had my shufu installed for me-but that’s another story and I’ll spare you the details of what that “free” service cost me.

Obviously there will be a lot of other misc. purchases, since apts come bare-no closets, shelves, drawers, cupboards, etc. That’s when you check out the souk- where you can find anything and everything-all in several very muddy acres! Quality may not be top priority, but it’s all there. The challenge with this option is that the souk is on the opposite side of town, so getting stuff to my apt is a challenge. Now, this same stuff can be purchased in the village, at slightly higher prices, but easier to get to my apt (and I want to support the community). The challenge with this approach is that there’s no one-stop-shopping. It requires poking your head into every hanut to see what they have. No such thing as “window shopping” or “just looking”. You don’t even walk into most hanuts-many times it’s a counter just inside the door and you tell them what you want and they get it for you. But one may have buckets, but no brooms, one may have dishes but no silverware, and there aren’t many that have any of this type of “furnishings”-most are food/staples only. So you poke your head in, and everything stops and everyone stares, maybe whisper “mesqina” (poor thing) to one another while sneaking glances at you. I’ve found that a friendly “Salam Alekum” usually gets a friendly response and a smile. Struggle to communicate-not always understood or understand, but if I’m patient and ask them to repeat what they said, they’ll be patient with me. The world really is a mirror and you get what you give.

For actual furniture, the selection is very small in town-siddaris (wooden platform for ponges) made to order, maybe a wooden table for the salon, and the rest will (unfortunately) be eco-unfriendly plastic, assuming I can find it here. And of course, there are the 3 butane tanks I’ll need-and have to get set up and keep refilled.

Fyi, I thought I’d pass along some of the prices for things here-it makes for an interesting comparison to US prices (remember that it’s about 8DH to the $1):
Rent: 800DH/month, or $100. And that’s expensive for this town. It’s also a lot better than the guy 4 years ago who paid almost 2x that amount, since the landlord knew the Peace Corps budget. The budgets are now ½ of what they were, and as a taxpayer, I’m ok with that, as the budget gets me what I need.
Small refrigerator: 2600DH-a relatively expensive splurge
Water heater: 1300DH-again, a splurge that will pay off routinely w/hot showers. (This will heat only the shower water-the kitchen and bathroom sinks will only have cold water)
3 burner stove top: 200DH (just a shell-connects to the butane tank-like a camping stove
Frran (oven): 300DH (also just a shell to be powered by butane tank)
While ugly plastic table (aka picnic table): 330DH
4 White plastic chairs to go w/aforementioned ugly table: 260DH
2 Ponges: 800DH
Bed: 500DH

All in all, pretty cheap, but even so, I am adding a little of my own $$ to to buy the splurges like the refrig and shufu. Also, Inshallah I will have internet access in my apt. On my trip to Sefrou to get the bed, etc., I’ll go by the Maroc Telecom office and get that set up. That’s after I stop at the bank for more cash-all is done on cash basis-no credit cards except for big cities-and my town doesn’t have a bank.

I signed up prepared to be in the bled w/o water or electricity, and look what I’ve got. Life is good!


Anonymous said...

The excitement over your new "pad" is building! I'm tempted to send you something, but I don't think you received my first padded envelope yet (sent Dec. 2), so I wonder if someone "inspected" it along the way and decided they wanted the contents?

Any tips from your end on making sure you receive what we mail? :o)

P.S. I know you received my greeting card, so I guess Hallmark isn't that desirable internationally!

P.S.S. That's really exciting about Internet access...unbelievable!!!!!!! What a luxury... It's a small world after all... :o)

muslimguy said...

hahah this statement is so true "lets-rip-off-the-foreigner-she-doesn’t-know-any-better"
a taxi from JFK to Laguardia cost us $70.
I am glad it did not happen to you.

P.S: reply to the comment above: I have sent so many things to REK over the past 5 years including laptop, digital camera, camcorder... and it takes some time to get there but they always received it. as a matter of fact I just sent a package few months ago and they just got it.