80: Rights and Responsibilities

We have a fight going on all of our lives: the fight between our rights and our responsibilities.

When we are born, we have few responsibilities. Mom and dad, our loving caretakers, handle all that stuff on our behalf. They provide housing (a huge expense), our clothing (ditto), our medical care (twice times ditto), our food (you get the picture). They even clean us. They also provide our entertainment and toys,all of our wants and needs. Well, our needs, anyway – even if not ALL of our wants.

Then, as we get older, we are expected to begin handling our own care. We are taught to brush our hair, brush and clean our teeth, eat nutritious meals (with VEGETABLES  :-(), pick up and put away our toys, be nice to other children when we play, and share. We are taught the word NO, and what that means. We are taught  not to hit others, even if we get mad and angry. We are taught to use the toilet, instead of our diaper. We are taught to wash our hands (I hope), and to take a bath to clean ourselves. We are supposed to clean our room. This process takes time, and we don’t learn all this right away. We need reminders, often! Our parents and older siblings help teach us to do these things for ourselves. These responsibilities usually result in new rights and privileges for us, and we show that we can be responsible persons.

Then, we get a little older, and there are more responsibilities. We start school. Suddenly, there are LOTS of new responsibilities: behavior and work in class and at home. There are rules to be obeyed, and we make friends, who have their own expectations of us. We learn more about what is right behavior, and what is wrong. We are expected to think, be honest and do our work to the best of our ability. We also gain new privileges: we can stay up later: visit friends outside the home, have sleepovers, and do more things than we used to be allowed to do. Soon, as the end of our schooling gets near, we gain the right to drive a car. That right comes with a host of new responsibilities: care of the vehicle, obedience to traffic signs, laws and officers. We must use our judgment and critical thinking skills to make the right, and best, decisions.  But what new freedoms we have! We can date, and attend parties, and do other things which have the potential to cause us great harm, if we are not sensible and careful, paying attention to our responsibilities.

Then we depart for college, and mom and dad’s influence is lessened a LOT, and we have the ability to decide many new things for ourselves: what time to get up and go to bed, what to eat, how to care for yourself and your laundry and your room and your vehicle.  If you ignore your responsibilities, you won’t do well. You can ruin your life, and actually cause your own death, as some do when they forget that life is precious, valuable, and must be cared for and protected.

Then you choose a mate and marry, and start a job and a family of your own. You just THOUGHT you had responsibilities BEFORE!! Now your whole life is ruled by them, even though you also have more freedoms than you ever did before, at the same time. You choose where to live, you choose how to deal with disagreements at work and at home. You craft your life in between your rights and your responsibilities.

When your children grow and leave home to begin their own lives, you can relax from the responsibilities a little, and begin to truly enjoy your rights and freedoms. You have earned them! As you continue to age, however, you discover that your freedoms begin to curtail as life begins to slow down for you, at least physically. As you age to the point that you cannot competently care for yourself, you find that your rights begin to diminish as you surrender to the care of others. At the end of your days, unless God claims you earlier, you will find yourself back at the beginning – cared for by others as you move towards death, your final surrender.

This is the cycle of life – a struggle between rights and responsibilities from beginning to end. How you handle that balance determines how satisfied you will be with what you lived and accomplished. Good luck – and be wise!

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79: New donkey baby

Today, as I was conducting part of my usual forty-five minutes walk to work this morning, I passed a construction site for a new villa in Ifrane. These houses are built of masonry, not insulated, and the construction workers mix the concrete on the road, making foot traffic swerve around the puddles and piles of sand and gravel. As I was nodding good morning to one worker who was sifting sand for the concrete mix, I noticed behind the big pile of sand, on the verge of the road, a pot-bellied donkey who had with her a nearly new-born foal. This little donkey was not yet a week old, and was fuzzily, long-leggedly, adorably cute. I watched as this darling tucked his head under his mama’s belly to nurse. 

As I continued on my way, I pondered this conundrum: humans are cute when they are little, too. WHAT HAPPENS? By the time they are grown, cuteness is a thing of the past.  So, for the most part, is sweetness. And innocence? I WISH.

Growing up is a desirable thing. Nobody likes a baby who has long outgrown their cuteness. Let’s face it, there are far too many adults who are still trying unsuccessfully to be children. They are avoiding responsibility, delight in being childish, have not disciplined their emotions, have little respect and fewer scruples, and are generally very disagreeable people. Especially if you must either work or live with them. Nothing matters but what concerns them, and what benefits or inconveniences them. Their opinion is the only one that matters (at least as far as *they* are concerned) and their wishes must be met.

The other thing I ruminated upon as I walked along was this truism: people who are wealthy, and people who were raised in cities or urban areas (or both, God forbid) have precious little common sense. What is it about being raised in the country that contributes so much to reason and intellect, and what knowledge is commonly called “common sense?” What is it about getting your hands filthy dirty that makes people’s brains turn on?

Consider which segments of the U.S. population elected Barack Obama to be the President of the United States. Invariably, it was the out-of-touch, illogical, wishful-thinking, hands-out-for-a-handout, urban dwellers who overwhelmingly voted for this idiot who had absolutely no credentials to hold this country’s highest office. Overwhelmingly, people who lived in rural areas saw through the hype and rhetoric he spewed, and did not vote for him. The only trouble is that in this modern age, the people who work for a living are outnumbered by the people who vote for a living.

So, we elected a President that was supposed to change America. Boy, has he. I did not know that vacating the country would be such a wise decision when we sold all our possessions and left to go live and work overseas. America does not look like the same place, and may be unrecoverable. And all that is because of the donkey’s baby: Democratic President Barack Obama.

78: Students

I am a teacher of students grades 1 through grade 12. We just concluded a grading period. I am going through the usual flack from students who have been less than careful about getting all assignments announced in class completed, or made up, on time. Consider, now, that I accept late work FAR later than I should accept it, in spite of the course syllabus all students recieved that says that it is my choice to accept late work OR NOT, and that I reserve the option to accept it late for reduced credit. I have not so far this year *not* accepted late work, even work turned in DAYS after the term is over, for FULL credit. You would think students are grateful for this. This is not the case. I have been perceived as weak, and have been verbaly abused not once, but several times by several students in the last few days.

I can learn from my mistakes, too. What I have just been taught, by my beloved students, is that students are not grateful for extra consideration, not grateful that I accepted late work for full credit. I can learn from this mistake. I will simply cease to do this. Any late work I do choose to accept will be for major points off – at least one letter grade for each day it is submitted late. And, I will not accept just any late work: on some assignments I will provide zeros for any work, by any student, not submitted on time.

This should end the problems, no? I have, after all, been counseling students ALL YEAR to WRITE down assignemnts due in their agenda book. Is this happening? Obviously not. If it were happening, I would not be grading the majority of work I get late. We’ll see if this new policy makes life easier for me. They don’t pay me enough for this grief.

77: Number Five: Sweetest of Them All

This is not about husbands. I reached the magic number at two on that one. This is not about children – I reached the magic number of those at two, too. This is not about cars – I have had too many of those to COUNT. Or cell phones, or any other thing like that. This is about cats. I am a cat mom. I have five, and one in foster care that I am firmly, desperately claiming is NOT MINE.

Number one is emotionally damaged (not her fault) and has only recently, after a move and a year and a half, begun to really enjoy petting – but she is still astonishingly skittish and shy. A sneeze will still make her bolt.

Number two was a little old when he was adopted, and is the  most stand-offish of the set. He still asks for pets and cuddles occasionally, but maintains his “I just don’t care” attitude. And he is the roamer who always has to be searched for and rescued.

Numbers three and four were adopted together as a matched set of sisters.  One has claimed me as her personal human, and the other is full of personality, so my husband likes her best. They are more affectionate than the previous two, but still prefer their space in the same room with their humans, just not actually touching.  

Number five? We struck gold with him. Humsa is Arabic for the number five, because we fostered him, and did not really want to give him a name, hoping that he would soon be adopted, and would then be someone else’s baby. By the time we decided he was just too sweet not to keep, his temporary name was firmly stuck, at least as much as he was stuck within our hearts. What a genuine lover-boy! He loves people. He loves being stroked, cuddled, kissed and petted. At night, when one of us has to get up to visit the bathroom, Humsa is the only one that ALWAYS wakes up and accompanies us to be petted. He will stand up on his hind legs, paws firmly upon the knee, to better facilitate the resultant ear-scratching and back rubs. If you are sleepy and don’t pet him, he will give you a gentle love bite on the leg to remind you that he is there, and wants his loving. He is regal, kind, laid-back, gentle, always wants to play, and is genuinely just happy to be here. And he is a handsome, big, husky, eight-month old orange tabby who is still growing into what will eventually be a gorgeous, luxurious male, like a regal lion. What a charmer!

76: Symptoms of a Galloping Zebra

I looked up some annoying symptoms I have been experiencing lately on the Web. I am dying.

Apparently, these symptoms (muscle aches, joint pain, fatigue, inattention) mean I have several different terminal illnesses – all at the same time. I did not know I was so sick!

Actually, I am not really that sick, and all of these can be explained away with fairly simple reasons: overwork and more-than-usual mental and physical stress right now. But, when I looked things up on the medical sites online, I could not help but freak out – just a little bit. Everything pointed to a variety of dreadful diseases and conditions that mean I should go on permanent disability from work immediately, or at least see several medical specialists this week, as soon as possible. No wonder hypochondriacs love the Internet – of course they do, because it says they are dying!!  

I once read a story about an old doctor that was interning a new medical student, and he said, “son, when you hear the sound of hoofbeats, don’t automatically assume they belong to a zebra.” What this was supposed to mean to the youngster was that you look for the common causes of a symptom before you begin to consider the rare and exotic things. Rule out the simple things before you begin to suspect the complex things. I think I was looking up the zebras, when all I really have is a plain, old, ordinary horse.

75: Morocco cars

Our car is wrecked. On Monday, the first day back at work after a week’s vacation, my husband was hit in the car. The other driver was at fault. We have been told that this means that he will be paying (or his insurance company) for our expenses to repair and replace the car, plus other costs. What it does not pay for, however, is the trouble and inconvenience. And when I say inconvenience, that word just seems a little too small for the trouble and maneuvering that must now take place in our lives since we no longer have a little plastic car, which I miss very much.

First, there is the laundry. We used to bring our laundry to the apartment laundry room, and I would wash it before school, hang it out at lunch, and take it in, dry, at the end of the day.  I cannot, however, bring several loads (not even ONE) of laundry with me from Azrou in a Grande taxi, not to mention the detergent and bleach I would also have to carry. I am not a donkey who can carry heavy loads for much distance! So, I have been reduced to washing my laundry by hand. Even the jeans and blankets.    

Second, there is all the walking. I walk, at a fast clip, fifteen minutes to the taxi stand each morning. Then, I walk thirty minutes from the taxi stand to school, to arrive before eight o’clock. There is a free shuttle, but it gets me there a minute or two late. I take it only when the taxi gets me to Ifrane too late to walk. And then, there is the trip home: back to the taxi stand (30 minutes) if I leave before 4:30, or after the shuttle leaves at 4:30, and then the fifteen minute walk home. This is an hour and a half walking a day – and it is not leisurely walking. I am developing friction sore spots from my clothes rubbing on my skin!! I have been reduced to wearing my loosest garments to cut down on the tender spots. Plus, since the accident, Ifrane and Azrou have been experiencing dreadfully nasty weather – weeks of rain, sleet and snow – which I am walking through.

Then, there is the problem of repairing or replacing the little car. We are unsure of how to proceed. Our avocat, our lawyer, has told us because the other party, which the police AND the judge have told us was at fault, is insisting that the accident was NOT his fault, that the court case could literally take three or four YEARS to settle. This is not how things are done in the U.S., so we are not sure what to do. Do we repair the little car, or does that end the court case, since the car would then be fixed? Do we purchase another one, and leave the little car totaled, as the insurance adjuster says that it is?  If we need to buy another one, the least expensive ones are to be found in Spain, but there are problems importing them into Morocco, and fees to pay. We don’t have this sort of money. Cars in Morocco are much more expensive, even when used. It will cost us less to repair the car than to buy another one, even a very-much used one. *Sigh*

In the meantime, I am walking, and wearing hand-washed laundry – all the LOOSE ones.

74: Food shopping in Morocco

Food shopping in Morocco is lots of serious fun. Generally, the best prices are at the local souk, or farmer’s market/flea market/yard sale sort of weekly affair that goes on once a week in most towns and villages. Produce vendors bring all the fresh produce, and some towns are large enough that there are also livestock sales, too. You can buy your meat live, ensuring it is fresh, or order your chickens prepared for you while you shop.

Usually, there is clothing (new and used), household goods, furniture and appliances, and pretty much anything else you can think of available, too. Whatever produce is in season will be available, plus some imported, out-of-season specialties. What is growing and ready for harvest now, though, is what is the best price, and Morocco grows a LOT of good stuff. Generally, produce is sold by the kilo, or fraction thereof. A kilo is 2.2 pounds. If you want a half kilo, you ask for “Nuss kilo,” in Arabic. I have not figured out what a quarter kilo is yet – at least how to say it in Arabic.

Fresh fruit includes melons, grapes, apples, oranges and other citrus, strawberries, peaches, kiwi, coconut, dates, plums, cherries, pineapples, apricots, bananas, and mangos. Vegetables include fresh English peas, green beans, cabbage, turnips, lettuce, radishes, artichokes, squashes, pumpkin, sweet and hot peppers, cucumbers, cauliflower, Jerusalem artichokes, herbs and spices, beets, okra, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, and fennel. You can also get honey and various nuts and dried beans, dried fruit, as well as olives and olive oil, eggs, milk, buttermilk, butter, and fresh cheese. And then there are bags of salt, sugar and flour, corn meal, pasta, rice, and cous cous.

All of these things are at prices that will make Europeans and Americans swoon – and  over buy. Tomatoes usually cost 2-1/2 to 3 dirham a kilo. That is less that 40 cents U.S. for two and a quarter pounds. Fruit is the most expensive, and even it is at bargain prices – especially in full season. Literally, a week’s groceries will cost less than 50 dirham. Dirhams are at 8-1/2 to one U.S. dollar. That means I can feed us both for less than 6 American dollars a week.

The only problem is carrying all this bounty home!!