Strangers Things Too
Sometimes living Marrakech can be a little like living in Harry Potter novel. You often, and by often I mean daily, have to shake your head, blink your eyes and look to a neighbour. “Dj’you see that too?” Quite honestly, with a battle cry of “expect the unexpected” I think there is nothing left that can surprise me. I am also sure that I will reevaluate that statement three times before the week is out.
I was recently negotiating with my land lady Rachida to get my Internet fixed. Rachida is a lovely woman with a huge job and she is very, very capable. She does not speak one single word of English however. And when I am around her my French collapses into a heap. She moves too fast for me. So here we are one day with a task ahead of us to coordinate help for me. When trying to communicate like this, hand signals invariably come into play. At one point she raised all 10 digits to me and said “4 minutes, he comes.” Is she mistaken in her language skills or communicating Moroccan time? (Because in Morocco, NO ONE shows up at any kind of assigned time. Ever.)
Later in the same day I find myself in her office paying my rent for the first time in a year because my prepaid installments have come to an end. I wasn’t sure I remembered the monthly figure correctly but thought I had it. I handed her cash, and a lot of hand signals and counting ensued. I counted and handed to her and made a hand signal. “5” Then she counted and came to the end and looked confused. She waved to me that things were amiss, I waved back to say, “I could be confused, help me.” She looked up the figure and wrote it down and we laughed because I have transposed the numbers. I counted out the balance. She gave me a thumbs sign, and an OK. I stood up in my joy, and getting ready to leave I put my hand up and unabashedly gave her the finger. I kid you not. Flipped the bird right there. She laughed. I was shocked. I tried to cover it up quickly by transitioning to something else and probably swore at her in American Sign Language for all I know.
I was MORTIFIED. Honestly. It was awful. I don’t know if she caught it. I don’t know if it means anything here. And to be honest I can’t bring myself to ask a Moroccan because I do NOT want to know. (I did. It does.) I still can’t even think about that day without going into convulsive hysterics.
Another odd occurrence happened just the other day as my friend Kate and I were walking to yoga. We took the back road out of our apartment complex and shortly up the road ran into the sweetest little dog. Of course that brings about the “hello dahling” from the Aussie and the “hi puppy” from me. As we look at the pup and survey the situation we notice not one, but four men are standing nearby also engaged with this pup.
This is unusual for a few reasons. Dogs are not a favoured animal here so to see a stray at all these days is pretty rare, and to see four Moroccans who actually have happy, pleased faces concerning said dog is another rare sight. Of course we are thrilled because it means this dog may be cared for by someone and may have a chance of being fed on the regular it seemed. We stopped and stayed because we also look for obvious signs of abuse so we can remove said pup if needed. But they seemed genuinely happy with the puppy. Heart.warmed.
So as we stand looking at the dog and doing our level best to ignore and avoid the men, we do as you do when you see a cute puppy. We stoop slightly forward, make silly noises like “hello puppy, come ‘ere boy, here sweetie” and pat our respective thighs to indicate “come here for a little scratch baby.” The dog did nothing but bark at us sweetly.
Suddenly Kate straightened up and said “let’s go”, swung around and marched off in a hurry. As I caught up to her to continue our walk, she mutters to me sideways, “That man beside me started patting my leg too. Just like I was. To call the dog. But he was patting MY leg.” And so it goes. (It should be noted that Kate is a magnet for weirdos).
One last story to lighten your day and help you to believe that sometimes Morocco redefines weird in a way that is really hard to describe. Again, this happened to my friend Kate. She must have a sign on her forehead beckoning to the crazy underbelly.
So there she is, sitting in a street side café with a friend enjoying a refreshing beverage. On the table is a glass of water that was delivered along with a pot of tea as often is the case. Out of the blue a man approaches their table, from the street. He picks up the glass of water, takes a swig, and places it back on their table. Then he hands her one dirham in compensation, (about 10 cents), and walks off.