626: Trying: better than NOT trying

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I never considered the difference between moving on and moving forward, and it is, indeed, a profound difference!

Reminds me of the difference between ignorance and stupidity. Ignorance is how we all start, and it is fixed with education and experience. Stupidity is a choice.

There’s also a difference also between living (existing) and trying. I am trying. That means I expend effort in doing, striving, reaching, creating, fixing, repairing, expanding – and not JUST my waistline.  🙂

How about you?

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573: Unacceptable Risk

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In America these days, there is no acceptable risk for something someone does not find useful to themselves.

We all get in our modes of transportation on a nearly daily basis, and willingly take the (rather significant) risk that our routine daily trip will not, this time, come to a horrible, bloody end. It does happen that way for many people the world over. We take that risk with nary a qualm.

We take other risks with insouciance, too.

Have you actually read the warning labels that come attached to most small appliances these days? Seriously? I think we should just improve the gene pool and leave these labels off, thanks very much. WHO showers while using their toaster? Or tries to dry their hair while still in the shower? The awful part is that SOME one obviously did it, or there would not be a warning label for the rest of us…who don’t actually need one, thanks.

I remember the prenatal class I took during my first pregnancy. They were very careful to warn us moms-to-be not to have sex (immediately after delivery) while we were still in the hospital.  I’m not too sure about the other moms, but that was a totally unnecessary warning for me – any man who got anywhere near me immediately after delivery had better have had a shot of morphine, not sperm. It wasn’t actually an experience I was looking forward to beginning all over again at that point, believe me. It took me nearly three YEARS to forget about how much better it felt going in than coming out. Once again, this warning prompts the question: WHO did such a thing, and was she conscious at the time? And as for risk, pregnancy and childbirth are still (even in this modern age) statistically pretty high risk endeavors, and still women do it all the time.

Risk. Actually, I take lots of risks when I get out of bed in the morning. Your home is full of mortal dangers: the electrical circuits, the bathtub, ceiling fans, the stuff crammed on the top shelf of the closet, the pets that weave in and out between your feet, assorted cleaning chemicals which can’t be combined (that bleach  and ammonia thing gets a few people every  year), food left on the counter, or saved a few days too long in the fridge….you  just don’t know all the stuff that can kill you once you take the risk and get out of bed.

Let’s just understand that risk is part of living. The only way to eliminate risk is to die – and then you have to hope that the funeral home dude isn’t a necrophiliac. You just don’t know – and at least, at that point, you just would not know (or care much, either).

Let’s get on with the business of living – and be mostly careful, without being nuts about it.

550: Overwhelmed and undervalued

Teacher receiving an apple from student

The first year at a new job is generally more difficult than the succeeding years. You have the routine of the machine that is this particular organization (different one to the other) down to some manageable extent after the first year, and you somewhat know in advance what they are likely to dump into your already-busy lap, and know somewhat when they are likely to do it.

The reports that they wait (often) until the day they are due to tell you about (and sometimes the day after they are due) to tell you about. The routine processes that you need to know to perform your job on a daily basis, which they did not tell you in advance of performing that job, and left you to discover unpleasantly and then struggle to figure out on your own, or go crawling to someone who does know, confessing your ignorance and begging for a mini-lesson to get you up to speed.

The five different professional development courses, all running concurrently, that take up your 50 miserly minutes of precious planning time that you have each day – assuming there is not a parent conference scheduled, or an after-work meeting that you are required to attend, or an out-of-town meeting you are required to attend on what was supposed to be the time you have left over after work to actually live your life – assuming you actually have any such thing.

The planning you need to do so as not to appear a drooling, blithering idiot in the daily performance of your job (at least in the eyes of those observing, and YES, Virginia, they ARE observing).

All those things that were unwelcome surprises during the first year are familiar minor annoyances the second year, not panic-attack-times like they were that first hectic, far-too-busy, overloaded first year. The second year, you can look back on the chaos of the first and smile a little, knowing that you made it with your sanity largely (at least to casual observers) intact. So the second year is better. Somewhat.

None of that helps a whole lot while you are in the mentally and emotionally tense, gut-wrenching, hyper-ventilating maelstrom of the first year. *sigh*

494: Cultural Clash

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My expectations.

Your expectations.

Things that are done this way, or that way, just because they always have been.

Conscious living

is thinking about why I do what I do the way that I do it,

and why your way is different.

Not always better, not always worse,  but different.

Sometimes when we think it through, yours is better.

Sometimes, mine.

Sometimes, we choose different.

And sometimes, that’s really, really good.

383: Coming to Conclusions

Through circumstances not of my making, I have been husband-less for nearly a year. I left to start my new job in June of 2013. Except for a visit from him of about one month, I have been living alone in a four-bedroom house since then. It is now May of 2014.

What I have learned is that being by myself (four kitties notwithstanding) is that I do not in the least mind being by myself. I have not BEEN by myself before for any length of time. First I was a child with my family, then with roommates and housemates in college, then married, with children, then widowed with children, then re-married with children, married with children in college. Never alone. Until now.

I think I like it.

I don’t think that was the conclusion my husband hoped I’d reach.

I’ve reached it.

354: Retiring…..in MOROCCO????

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Published February 25, 2014, in the Herald Leader, Fitzgerald, Georgia (USA) weekly newspaper.

Lately, most Islamic countries have been pretty much OFF the list as desirable places to live, work and retire. Political unrest is not attractive for those in the market for a place to live. This black eye, however, is undeserved in several cases, and Morocco is close to the top of the list as a pleasant place to consider living. Morocco is located in the upper north-western corner of the African continent. Morocco and the United States share a companionable history – did you know that Morocco was the first country to officially recognize the fledgling USA as a nation? Morocco is an Islamic country in that Islam is the official state religion, and the majority of its citizens are Muslim, but there are people of other faiths here as well, and tolerance is the theme, espoused and endorsed by Morocco’s progressive king, Mohammad VI, as well.

A lot of Morocco is hot, often too hot to be comfortable without expensive air conditioning. After all, the Sahara Desert begins in eastern Morocco, and hot was invented there!  However, Morocco has mountain ranges that run lengthwise down the middle of the country like a backbone: the Middle and High Atlas Mountains. In the Middle Atlas, you will find the lovely little city of Azrou. Azrou is a little less than a mile high in elevation, and has a comfortable climate that is much cooler than other locations in Morocco, even seeing some snow during the winter months. There is a ski resort in the neighboring town of Ifrane (10 miles away), which incidentally, is home to Morocco’s only English-speaking University (Al Akhawayn University). For those who enjoy winter sports, there are African slopes waiting!

And, unlike some other places, Morocco enjoys excellent water. Several brands of bottled mineral water originate near Azrou, and water here is delicious straight from the tap. Being in the mountains does no damage to the views, either! There are lovely, rolling hills all around Azrou, and the drive to either of the larger cities nearby, imperial Meknes (UNESCO World Heritage site) or imperial Fez (UNESCO World Heritage site) includes some breathtaking scenic spots begging for your camera. Meknes is surrounded by vineyards, and local wine produced there and elsewhere in Morocco is both tasty and relatively inexpensive.  There is a good selection at prices less than 10 USD a bottle. The extensive Roman ruins of Volubilis (yet another UNESCO World Heritage site) are a little over an hour’s drive away from Azrou.

Morocco 034Azrou adjoins one of Morocco’s National parks, and there are Barbary Macaques (monkey), that make their home there who are accustomed to being fed by park visitors, though for your safety consider photos only. Hiking, biking and camping opportunities abound nearby in nearly any direction, including being able to explore some nearby extinct volcano calderas and some lovely waterfalls. Outdoorsy people will find plenty to do.

My husband and I moved to Morocco knowing not a word of Arabic or French, the two most common languages spoken in Morocco, and we have done just fine here for three years. The Moroccans are lovely people, helpful and generous, and many speak enough English to be able to transact business, even for us Americans, and are appreciative when you do your best to learn and speak Arabic. Azrou is primarily a farming community, with a few tourist shops featuring handicrafts thrown in for good measure.  The weekly souk (farmer and flea market) here is on Tuesdays, with inexpensive,  fresh produce, all manner of household goods, clothing and livestock sold weekly, but anything you might want is also available from small shops all over town any day of the week. There is also a fish farm in town that sells smoked or fresh fish, dressed fresh to your order. Restaurants in town range from inexpensive sandwich shops (where you can eat for less than two dollars USD), to dining experiences featuring the finest in French cuisine, without the expensive European price tag.  Medical care and dental care both are good and inexpensive. My husband’s recent oral surgery cost us 125 USD, and his bridge will be made by a Boston University-trained dentist, for thousands less than what the identical services would have cost us back home.

Our two-bedroom, two-bath rooftop apartment, with a balcony and a private roof terrace, sets us back 1,500 Moroccan dirham a month, which is 176.50 USD.  Water, gas, electricity, phones and Internet run about 500 dirhams more a month: 63 USD more. We can do just fine here on much less than a thousand USD per month – our living expenses alone run about 650 USD, without including the costs of our small car, which accounts for the rest of the thousand per month. We bought the used car for our occasional trips around Morocco and to Spain, which has two toeholds, nice little cities, five hour’s drive away from Azrou along Morocco’s northern coastline.  Morocco has excellent, inexpensive bus service and the trains are quite nice, too, as well as inexpensive, for those who’d rather not maintain an automobile.

For those considering locations around the world for potential retirement, Morocco has a low cost of living, a good standard of living even on a limited budget, and a very nice proximity to vacationing in Europe, while not paying Europe’s often higher costs of living. A small, but efficient, regional airport in nearby Fez serves cities in Spain, Italy, London, Paris and more, on one of several low-cost carriers. Seasonal fares can be so low we can actually afford to fly to Rome for just the weekend, occasionally. Try THAT in the US! We had high hopes for Morocco when we made the decision to move, and it has certainly fulfilled them. If you are looking at international locations, consider exotic Morocco!

Resources:

Moroccan Arabic Phrasebook (2nd ed.), Bacon, Andjar and Benchehda, 1999. Lonely Planet Publications, ISBN: 0864425864.

Moroccan consulate in New York: http://www.moroccanconsulate.com/, requirements for Moroccan visas and other information for travelers to Morocco.

US Embassy in Casablanca, Morocco: morocco.usembassy.gov/news.html, has hours of operation, directions, visa, passport information and more resources.

Friends of Morocco website: friendsofmorocco.org/, friendsofmorocco.org/

Above: Site has MANY useful links all about Morocco, in English – including links for learning Moroccan Arabic.

Learn Arabic free online: learnarabicfree.info/, learnarabicfree.info/

Above: Free Arabic lessons online. For beginners – starts with the alphabet!

Learn French free online: www.lsfrench.com/beginners2.html, http://www.lsfrench.com/beginners2.html

Above: Free online French lessons for beginners.

Map of Morocco: http://www.journeybeyondtravel.com/news/travel-morocco-map