Thursday, May 17, 2007


When my niece Valerie gets a toy or doll she really likes, she wants to go to bed with it. That way she can wake up and it’s right there. When my friend Martha put on a shirt she loved, she said she would marry that shirt if it were a person. When my friend Joanne loves something, she love love loves it.

Put this all together and maybe I can begin to describe how I feel about my new refrigerator. I finally got it this week! Amanda suggested I have a sbor party for it (that’s the party you have seven days after a baby is born). It has a name – Siera – that’s its brand name, but a good name so I’ll keep it. I usually sit here on my plastic kitchen chair at my plastic kitchen table when I write, and now I am going to be looking at the refrigerator quite a bit. I may draw a face on it, like Wilson the volleyball in Cast Away. Or maybe I could put some pictures on it. Or get some magnetic darts. Siera!

Actually, I don’t want to go to bed with it, I wouldn’t marry it if it were a person, and I don’t love love love it. In fact, it gurgles – a new noise for me to get used to. What I love is that I have it. It seems that for a month now, maybe longer, I have thought in the morning, “maybe today is the day I will get a refrigerator” and ended the day with, “well, another day went by and no refrigerator.” I am so happy to not have to think about it anymore – I can be thinking of something else!

Maybe food, for example. It’s actually quite possible to live here without a refrigerator – you just have to shop frequently and have no leftovers. Until a couple of weeks ago, my kitchen was cold enough to keep milk on the counter for a couple of days and leftovers out overnight. But I thought it was time, and everyone told me I absolutely needed a refrigerator (the Moroccans, that is). Also, I don’t shop frequently – every so often I buy a kilo of onions, a kilo of tomatoes, maybe some peppers, maybe some eggs, and far less fruit than I should – after clementines left there was nothing all that interesting: I’d buy bananas occasionally. Now, a delicious melon is in season and I want to have one every day, but I haven’t bought any since last week.

I’m lucky to have daily access to a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables – some volunteers have to buy theirs at the weekly souk; I’ve never been good at planning out meals in advance. I suppose it’s easier now, because I always make the same things! I usually have scrambled eggs (breakfast, lunch or dinner of champions) and then pasta or rice with the above-named vegetables. I am also lucky to have restaurants available – I go our for rotisserie chicken about once a week, to make sure I get some other protein, seem to find myself in the pizza place about once every two weeks (they also have rotisserie chicken, cheese paninis, and, thanks to Amanda’s persistence, now have spaghetti bolognese). There’s a soup place (one item – bisara, fava bean soup – that I go to as well. But it looks like I picked the wrong day to run out of food (a subtle reference to the movie Airplane – would I have said that had I not seen it recently?) – I have a temperature of 101, sore throat, sneeziness (should be a word), and watery eyes and I’m down to five garlic cloves.

So, I may have a refrigerator now, but it’s basically empty. Here’s an inventory of my kitchen:
Refrigerator: two bottles of champagne (from the vacation luxury hotels), unopened bottle of soy sauce (which could easily remain unopened until I leave, but I can use on the rice and vegetables some day, if only I would think about it), opened bottle of molasses that my sister brought me (thought I would make brown sugar with it – it’s open because Amanda wanted a spoonful), ketchup, tomato paste, coffee, two brackets that came with the refrigerator but I am not sure what they are for. All of those items are in the door – the shelves are bare. When I opened the refrigerator to do the laundry, there were two eggs, but both had cracked (not used to the cold?) so I decided to throw them away.

Countertop: Almost empty bottle of olive oil, unopened bottle of argan oil (it’s a Moroccan exclusive but I’m not sure what to do with it), half-empty bottle of regular cooking oil that I have used in recipes, three-quarters of a tub of something that I thought was honey but Amanda told me was syrup – I bought it to mix with the peanuts when I made homemade peanut butter, the aforementioned garlic, six triangles of laughing cow cheese, little tagines with salt and ras-al-hanut (a combination of every spice in the spice shop – each spice shop’s is different), bottles of water (which I know I should not keep refilling).

Hidden under the counter with the oven: Two packages of Betty Crocker chocolate cake mix. I prefer to make things from scratch but when I saw these in the market in Ifrane I decided they may come in handy some day. Also with the oven – a brownie-sized silicone pan and a loaf-sized silicone pan. And my blender with spice grinder.

I now have two pans and a new set of pots, after eating non-stick coating last week along with my rice and vegetables. I don’t know if I need any but the big pot and the small pot, but they came in a set. Note, the set did not come with lids, so the saying “there’s a lid for every pot” isn’t true! My romantic hopes shattered? I have one lid, the one that came with the pot I threw away – also the steamer basket from that pot, which I was using as a colander until I got a flour sieve to use as a colander. The pots and pans I use are hanging from hooks and the rest are under the sink, along with my bag of plastic bags.

Under the forno (the burners) – the butagas, and cleaning products – laundry detergent, window cleaner, multi-use cleaner that I use on my floors, dishwashing detergent, tile cleaner, extra sponges, Woolite that I brought from home, Lysol and Febreze that Debbie sent me so I could get the mildewy smell out of the mattress.

Dry goods shelf: Aluminum foil and plastic wrap, three bags of chocolate chips (like gold!), plastic containers with flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder, a little oatmeal, a little pepper, a little cumin, some bay leaves, some chocolate powder. Leftovers that Carly gave me – ranch dressing mix, taco seasoning, basil, garlic powder. An assortment of teas and more coffee – both of which I only have when guests are here. Nesquik. Cinnamon, in an old vitamin bottle. Half a jar of peanut butter from Marjane. A handful of cashews. Some protein bars that my sister gave me (will save for long bus rides) and some coconut oil that she brought. Goji berries and Skippy peanut butter sticks that I had sent to myself. Half a package of tri-colored rotini. Three packages of Knorr tomato soup. I believe I will be having soup today! Cookies – I got into the habit of having a few cookies for breakfast in homestay, when I didn’t want to rattle around the kitchen, and now I just like having some around – and chocolate batons, a discovery from VSN weekend – there are a ton of them in the box, and one or two is enough for a taste of chocolate.

Four big plates, four little plates, one big bowl, four little bowls, a metric measuring cup, an American measuring cup from my sister, measuring spoons, a garlic press, a vegetable peeler, some non-stick cooking utensils, a set of translucent-pink-handled silverware, six tiny glasses, four handle-less Fes ceramic mugs, a set of small knives to chop vegetables with, a can opener I haven’t used yet, a wooden spoon and wooden tray from the artisana that are so far only decoration, a kettle, a stove-top coffee maker, a teapot, a cheese grater, napkins. Under these shelves – a lot of paper towels and toilet tissue, and my files (since I have no closet or cabinet for them, and they’re best not seen).

Maybe tomorrow I will get some food, but I don’t know if I’ll get to the point of ever stocking up, really – it’s still good to eat things that are fresh! I may get more storage containers and keep nuts or other healthy snacks on hand. I may get a tagine or a pressure cooker. I’d like more spices but haven’t figured out what to do spice-container-wise (when you but them, they come in little pieces of paper or little plastic bags, loose).

The funny (or not) thing is that in the U.S., all of this could have been done with one trip to a store like Bed, Bath and Beyond and one trip to a supermarket. Eileen was here yesterday – she is the volunteer who ET’d from Ain Leuh, opening the spot for Barbara. She said that her biggest adjustment in going home was the waste. My friend Steve said the same thing – when he got home from Benin in the early ‘80s he went to the supermarket with his mother and cried and was angry, because in that one store was more food than his town had seen in two years. I am looking forward to stocking up on some things when I got back for Reunions – though the key thing I want to get is running shoes! Also pants – can’t run here in the shorts I brought.

I thought I’d mention something about harassment. It hasn’t been a big issue for me – maybe because I’m mid-career, or not that pretty, or dress conservatively, or live in a pretty liberal site that has a number of Westerners go through, or while I walk around aware I also am somewhat oblivious. My coping strategy is to ignore – but lately I guess it has built up – Katie calls it “spring harassment season” because more people are out – or maybe my language is getting better and I realize people are talking to or about me. So, when I think about it I realize I am harassed all the time. People are constantly saying “Bonjour” or “Ca va” to me (I’m actually not sure what they are saying in Arabic, just more aware it’s directed at me). The definition of harassment is unwanted attention and even though it is harmless it has begun to bother me a little more lately – I find that my coping strategy of “ignore” is now joined by “muttering under my breath.” I was subjected to a bunch of wolf whistles yesterday and I said, “okay, that’s not for me, okay, that’s enough, okay, find something else to do, okay, I’m not going to turn around, okay, who knew wolf whistles were the same in this culture too.” I’m not sure what is worse – the men or the kids. I usually try to say “bonjour” back to the kids because I don’t want to be unfriendly to kids, but often I ignore them too. It’s tiresome. But some people have it much worse, so I’m not complaining, just sharing. And I try not to be out at noon and six, when the high school gets out and there are hordes of immature teenage boys overflowing the streets. I was about to say that at least seven people don’t try to sell me “Streetwise” as I’m on the way home from work, but there is a steady supply of beggars too, both as I’m walking and as I sit at cafes. Everyone seems to have their own rule – don’t give at all, don’t give to kids, give to the old men with the disability, etc. – but that’s another constant here too.

P.S. I didn't have the soup - even though I was told to feed the fever, I just had no appetite. I thought about the cashews, but only because then I would have gone from soup to nuts!
P.P.S. - Present cold notwithstanding, I think I am finally over the sniffles I have had since September (and that were most prominent in homestay, when I had food in one hand and no access to hanky or tissues in the other). Will they come back in the fall or am I finally used to the climate?
P.P.P.S - Thank you to Jeff for rotating my picture for me!

The harassment issue is a difficult one. I guess the only comfort is in knowing that others are struggling with how to handle it as well. Sounds like you're doing OK with it in any event.

Hurray for the fridge!
It really isn't bad - I know people who have to brace themselves when they leave the house - but I thought I would mention it since it is a big issue for Peace Corps Morocco (and probably many other countries as well). However, if it gets worse, I will be writing about it again!
Hope you are feeling better now!

Congrats to Jeff - how did he rotate the picture? I am jealous - tried to figure it out for you and couldn't!

PS Thanks for the honorable mention!
Jeff's a magic man, what can I say...he did it outside of Blogger. I guess my rotating it in iphoto doesn't mean it's really rotated - somehow when he does it, it is.

And I am glad you appreciate the mention - I hope that everyone mentioned does!
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