310: Mask

This could be a post about the disguises we all wear  to hide the real people we are – even from our very own selves. But no. Actually, this is about masks, made of papier mache. The latest version is below. The horns are real – I picked them up from a trash fire after the Eid al Adha, where every family sacrifices a howli – male sheep. It, like the other masks I have made while here, don’t fit in the luggage, and had to be discarded. That hurts. Darned old airlines, restricting more and more.


Mask in aluminum

Mask in aluminum

309: Panic Time

People panic for various reasons. Usually, panic accompanies some life-threatening event, like the time I looked up to see a Rottweiler (BIG, bad dog) in full charge at me across a back yard, snarling, fangs visible. I did not know he was safely chained until he hit the end of the chain and flipped over in the air. It took a good half hour to get over the shakies after that one.

People panic understandably when they perceive that their lives might be in danger. Everybody understands that. Paramedics are trained to recognize the signs of shock when they arrive at an accident, because panic is expected then. Some people, however, panic over things that are not exactly life-threatening. Things like a spider. Or a mouse. Or a snake – OK, that one could be life threatening, I’ll grant you.

Some people panic even when there really is nothing whatsoever to panic over: like getting into an elevator or other confined space, like a MRI diagnostic machine’s patient tube. Or a visit to the doctor (or the dentist). Even though you know you are very unlikely to die, the panic reaction still sets in, complete with full adrenalin rush.

I am having panic symptoms over a non-life-threatening event coming up: I am going to be boarding a plane (with my three cats) to leave Morocco on my way to Panama City, Panama.  For weeks now, I have packed and re-packed, looking for one more crevice where I can stuff one more item. It’s not like other vacations, where I know I am coming home – I am moving home, so what I can’t pack and take with me is getting left behind. Apocalypse.

My husband will remain in Morocco for a few weeks, settling the last items, closing the bank account after insurance reimbursements and selling the car, finishing off the last items of furniture, etc. Then, he will get to have his OWN panic attack as he boards his flight to Panama City, too.



308: They Grow ’em BIG in Africa

Dandelion seedhead

Dandelion seedhead

I know gardeners who have personal vendettas gainst crabgrass and dandelions. It’s time for dandelions to be seeding here in Morocco, and I thought I’d let you guys in the USA know how blessed you are – these babies are huge.



And, Africa grows some grandaddy crawdads. Lunch today should be particularly good……


307: US Alien in Transit Visa

I am so angry I can hardly see straight. It will be very difficult to type this post without profanity, but rest assured I am thinking all sorts of bad words as I type this G-rated.

My husband and I met a Moroccan lady whom we adopted into our family. She is a delight, and I love her dearly. I accepted a new job in Panama, and we asked her to come and live with us. This means we apply for a Panama visa for her, and as a temporary Panama resident, she does not work while she is there – I support her, and her needs (living expenses, school if she wants, and healthcare insurance). I submitted documents to this effect for her visa.

We discovered in the process that we needed to get another visa from the US, in order to change planes in the US on our flight from Casablanca, Morocco to Panama City, Panama. It is called an “alien in transit” visa, and means you have permission to change planes in the US. It costs 160 American dollars to apply for this visa.  It took me hours to fill out the online application, because the form on the Embassy Web site kept kicking me out, no matter how many times I hit “save.” Once I finally completed the form, we got to sign up for an interview appointment time – but all the slots were filled. We called (only from 2-4 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays (WTF??)) and e-mailed (returned as undeliverable) for over a week, getting no helpful responses from anybody. It was not until I sent several nasty e-mails that appointments suddenly opened up on the site – and they sent me a nasty e-mail letter themselves, telling me I was unprofessional – who started it, I’ll ask you???

So, we scheduled an appointment (finally) and took two days to drive to Casablanca (five hours one way) paid a hundred dirham in road tolls each way, 400 dirham in gas, 300 dirham in the cheapest hotel I could find, over 200 dirham in taxi fares, and four meals for three people, plus the 1, 437 dirham in visa fees. This fee had to be paid at any branch of a certain bank in Casablanca, which closes at 2 pm every day, meaning we had to go a day early and spend the night to be sure we had the visa fee receipt paid for and ready to submit by her 9:30 appointment for her interview.

Three hours later, she returns with a rejection letter saying that all non-immigrant visa applicants are evaluated as if they had applied to be immigrants.

Excuse me.

If you have only ONE KIND of visa, why did you not SAY SO???? A non-immigrant visa would APPEAR to IMPLY that the applicant did NOT want to become an US immigrant, would you not think? And these bozos want to call ME unprofessional?? I would not have bothered to apply if this little fact had been disclosed on the site – IT WASN’T. They cost us money and time we did not have to waste.

My government kisses the butt of every illegal alien who sneaks in and votes Democrat. But they discriminate against legitimate travelers who only want to pass through. This is FAIR?? I guess Barack needed the money to help pay the benefits of all the illegal aliens he’s already kissing up to. It’s a great scam – dozens of Moroccans were applying at our one appointment time. There is no telling how much money they clear a day, telling people no that they already knew were not going to qualify, and did not tell the truth to in the first place.

Michelle Obama has nothing on  me – I am thoroughly ashamed of my country. Hopefully it won’t take me long to formally repudiate it.

306: Cutting Out Carbs

I’ve been reading about how I am eating. If you read an article about sugar, you’ll have a heart attack on that information alone: much less about artificial sweeteners, or lack of exercise, or fructose, or processed foods, or…….(fill in the blank here). Apparently, if you did not pull it from the Earth yourself, or pick it off the tree, you should not eat it. And if it did not come gushing forth fresh from a mountain crevice, you should not drink it, either. Jeepers, creepers.

OK, some things I can control, and some things I can’t. I can learn to live without breads and grains – even without pasta and rice. I can learn to let vegetables be the primary component of my food, with fruit as dessert. I think I can do without any processed food, and I am pretty sure I can do without sugar. Maybe. If I try really, really hard. I can stop using margarine, and switch to butter. I can drink tea without sugar, and use lemon instead. Or cream. I can learn to love avocados, and coconut. I already like olive oil, so that’s a given.

It would help if they would tell you all these things when you are a youngster, so you grow up doing it the right way, ding, dong, dag nab it. It sucks waiting until you are fifty-something to find all this out and finally make up your mind to do it. Sheesh. Well – I wanted a fresh start in life – looks like I will be getting a complete do-over in the food department, anyway.

305: Turning Over a New Lifestyle

Nador, Mellia 056The good thing about humans is that we can change. And, SOME of us think about our situations and circumstances, and choose to do just that. Some of us don’t.

I was at the local chicken man a few days ago, and what I observed there struck me fairly forcibly. Not the fact that I went there to choose my victim for dinner – that would have been shock enough for many Americans, to look my dinner in the eyes and say – “that one.” No, this was even worse…..I noticed that the chickens were all congregated together in an open area at the rear of the shop, with nothing between them and the open street but a low, four-inch-tall barrier. They all stayed together, squawking only when the man went among them to choose the next victim, and then settling down again while the newly chosen was slaughtered, de-feathered, eviscerated, cut into portions, bagged and paid for. I caught myself thinking: RUN!!  RUN!! as the feathered ones settled down to nap again.

Then I began thinking about me and the chickens. Sometimes I am comfortable in my situation, too, with nothing between me and freedom, settling in for a nap, when what I should be doing is screaming: RUN!!!!  I woke up enough, with the help of my husband, to do that once in my life, when we sold our belongings and emigrated from the United States to live and work overseas. We wanted to travel and see some of this wonderful planet we live on, and he suggested that instead of waiting for retirement, that we just work abroad and travel while there, earning a living. It meant that we could travel some while we were still young enough and limber enough to actually do it, and also that we got to live there for a time, which is vastly different from visiting there on a vacation.

Besides, when we got overseas and I began my first job there, it felt like I was on vacation for the first few years, and when I accepted another job in another country, the “on vacation” excitement returned full-force again. Seriously cool. Plus, since I do not make enough money to have to pay US taxes on my teaching income, I have A BETTER standard of living now than I did when I earned, on paper, much more money in the US. This is also seriously cool. And what is best of all  is that I am no longer supporting an US government gone totally out of control. I can hardly credit what I read about how my beloved country is rather quickly morphing into a dictatorship, complete with rampant civil rights abuses, scandal and illegal behavior that passes for political business-as-usual. At least I am not helping to finance them anymore. That is the coolest beans EVER.

So, I am an expatriate, like Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and countless other disaffected Americans whose works I read and teach to my Literature students. Wonder if one day my ramblings might actually amount to something, too. Like Bogart in Casablanca, I sit in an American cafe across from the US Embassy in Casablanca, awaiting my woman friend to return from her interview with US government officials to see if she, also, can get her visa to leave Morocco. If God wills, she will, and then we three travelers will embark on the next chapter of our journey through life.

Moving to a new country also gives one the opportunity to start over, begin afresh. So, I will make changes in my lifestyle that I have known for a long time were the right thing to do, but have been too lazy to do before now – a new page, a new life. Time to BEGIN!!

304: Medina, Queen of the House

Medina and friend

Medina and friend

Medina awoke, and stretched luxuriously beneath the pile of warm covers. She freed her tail, which had somehow gotten tangled in the blankets, and pushed the warm pile of blankets to the foot of the bed. She stretched again, yawning, and then proceeded to give herself a nice, long bath – licking carefully in the proper direction her fur grew, of course. She licked her left front paw and cleaned carefully behind first one ear and then the other. She smoothed her whiskers, and then she was ready for the day. She decided not to wear a jeweled collar for today, and chose instead a plain green leather one – simple and elegant. She picked the chosen collar delicately from the pile, and carried it between her teeth into the kitchen. Her house servant had her milk and banana smoothie just made, and was carefully pouring a saucerful for her to drink for breakfast, as usual.  She dropped the green collar beside the saucer, and her servant obediently buckled it around her neck for her, brushing one hand delightfully down her back a few times, before he left to clean her bathroom. She hated using a dirty bathroom, and her house servant was particular about cleaning it for her each morning while she had her breakfast, so she would not be offended by anything….nasty.

Breakfast finished, Medina briefly cleaned her face, inspected her nails (flawless, of course) and sauntered into the bathroom. She frowned. Her servant had not quite finished cleaning, and she mentioned this tardiness to him as she moved inside and made use of the facilities. Then she went to the sink and glanced back over her shoulder at the man. Obediently, her servant turned the tap and a thin stream of fresh water issued forth – just like Medina liked it. She glanced approvingly at him as he waited for her to complete her drink, to let him know she had noticed and approved of the prompt, and correct, service. Servants were so tiresome, really – it was required to praise them incessantly just so they would perform their basic obligations to her correctly and promptly! Why should all this encouragement be necessary in order to get proper service? They knew their places by now, surely!

Lashing her tail to and fro with the intensity of her thoughts, Medina retired to the living room, furnished with soft couches arranged in front of a fireplace. She noted that the servant had not yet started the morning fire, and sighed with impatience. Really! Good help is just impossible to find nowadays, she thought, and she arranged herself artfully on the couch corner closest to the cold fireplace, as an accusing reminder that her servant had better watch his p’s and q’s. When the infuriating man returned from disposing of the nasty bathroom things, she mentioned the cold fireplace to him, and he obediently went to work setting a nice, warming fire for her, not too large, so she was able to stretch out on the warm hearth and bask in the heat. Honestly, she thought, rolling over to toast the other side, do I have to do EVERYthing? Can’t he remember ANYthing without a reminder? We have been living here together for a full year, and he still needs reminders just to perform his job properly! I simply must reconsider his employment. Even if I do like the man, there is just no excuse for slothfulness. Yes, he does have a mate to take care of, but I am his first responsibility, and he had better know that, and he had better start showing it, she thought. She relaxed in the warmth of the fire and slid into a delicious nap, fur nicely warmed by the glowing coals, only to have her sweet dreams disturbed as the servant lifted the fire screen to deposit more wood into the fireplace. She would have sacked him on the spot if he had not volunteered to stroke her fire-warmed fur for her (without a reminder this time), she thought, as she lazily kneaded the man’s knee while his hands stroked down the length of her back, over and over, hypnotically. She was almost asleep again when he left to finish some other chore.

When she awoke from her nap, her servant was watching TV, so Medina left for a bit of lunch, and thankfully for him, the bowl had just been freshly filled. After lunch, she returned to the bedroom to find the bed nicely made, with the soft fuzzy blanket she liked best on top, as she had requested. It was nice that he remembered some things, she thought, as she tried out the cushy cover. No, she decided, not another nap just yet, I think I’ll take a bit of exercise.

When she inspected her box of exercise equipment, she was disconcerted to find her favorite missing. She glanced up from the search accusingly, and asked the man where her favorite piece was, the green one, you know? And he obediently searched the room, and finally found it where she had left it (she remembered suddenly), after last night’s exercise session, under the couch. She did not, of course, thank him when he presented the thing to her, since that would put ideas into his head (and servants must know their place), but she did accept it gracefully. She took it to the top of the stairs and made a show of dropping it to the floor. Obediently, her servant retrieved it and presented it to her again. She repeated this performance a dozen times or more, until she tired of the exercise, and then she left the equipment where it had fallen and retired for a nap to the bedroom. Just before she drifted off to sleep, she reflected that dinnertime was coming, and it had better not be that old dry diet food again: a girl had to keep her figure, but three times a day of diet was just not ON. As she slipped into slumber, her whiskers twitched as she dreamed of tuna, salmon and steak – which would tonight’s repast be?

She awoke to the pleasing aroma of oven-grilled chicken, and was pleased to know such care had been taken with her dinner. Walking gracefully into the room, she observed that the table had been set for two, and she frowned – where was HER place? Surely the infuriating man did not think she was eating with the two of THEM? And then she spotted her place, removed a discreet distance from the other two. She was satisfied, especially since she knew she would be served first, of course. THEY got the leftovers, as befitted the servants. After dining, and another long, luxurious bath, Medina decided to retire for the night. She found the servants already in the bed, as was proper, warming the cold sheets for her. They moved over, of course, making room for the mistress of the house, who settled in the warm place between them, and everyone drifted off to sleep – another good day.