I’ve been living here in Morocco for one month and twenty four days. I am very close to getting married, legally, and all seems to be right with the world. Mbarek and I are trying to conceive our first child. Well, I’ve had a child many years ago, in fact she would have been 18, but she died hours after she was born. Of course this was a tragedy many years ago and I thought I would never recover from her loss. It took many years, the better part of 10 years to get my feet on the ground again and get out of an alcohol induced coma that sucked the life out of me. Finally here I am about to be married again, no doubt to my soul mate, and we are looking forward to trying to start a family at our respective ages of 40 and 42. I realize being 42 and overweight has me at a disadvantage of conceiving a child let alone the obstacles I would face during the nine months of gestation. None the less it’s what I want and hopefully I will have my dream of a family of my own. If not I’m ok with that too. I look at the other women in my house and I see how very different our cultures are as well as our reality gap. When I speak of “reality gap”, I’m speaking of the distance that my generation has with theirs and the cultural exposure as well as technological needs which are apart of my reality now. It’s noticeable that most of the women here do not work, and that’s ok, but it’s also noticeable that they are the most integral part of the home. The stay at home mother here is the norm. FYI for those of you who are wondering, there is no government assistance or welfare here so you don’t see many people who have more than two children. The mothers walk a lot. They make a trip in the morning to walk their children to school, they walk to get them at lunch, then return them to school and walk to pick them up. All in all that is 6 times they are walking just for their children. Most women do the laundry by hand and make their own bread. Most families eat at home because there isn’t a lot of money to throw away on eating out. Most people do not have cars so you either walk or bike everywhere. My sister in law, Habiba, walks to work every day so even though she’s never been to a gym she gets her exercise. She, in fact, would laugh at you if you told her you were going to a gym. She could give even the strongest man a run for his money when hand laundering these handwoven rugs and blankets we have.
I’m sure not every woman or mother here keeps a tidy and spotless house but I can say that the two I live with do. For those who know me I’m not much of a house keeper. I clean things when they get dirty but to just clean for cleaning sake, NO. So I can say that living in such a small space it is easier to clean and only takes a jiffy to have it nice and tidy. The problem with our space is that I am use to having an entire kitchen, living room, two bedrooms and a spacious living room. I want to fill it with all of the luxuries that everyone has, or at least that I’m use to. It’s funny I had just cleaned our room, made the bed, did the dishes and Habiba came into my room and started cleaning. At first I didn’t know what to think that she just opened the door and came in, started cleaning. Keep in mind I didn’t know how to say, “Please don’t do that”. So then for a split second I was kinda pissed then I thought, hell you hate to clean so let her do it. So I did, she swept the floor. I realized then that we had a big clean freak on our hands. At first I thought this was just her being nosy or maybe that she had ADD. I mean after all, she worked all day long, then wants to clean our room. What could her motives be other than being nosy or ADD, right? It was then I started to take a second look at the ladies I lived with.
I asked Mbarek what they do for fun and he said nothing. I thought about it and UNO cards are a must in the package I’m having my mother send from the US. This is the ultimate card game to have some laughs and everyone can learn to play. But I began to notice that both of these ladies clean all the time. I’ve come to believe it’s what defines them. I can understand my mother in law cleaning all the time she’s 79 and likes to stay busy but for Habiba, in her early 50’s, cleaning all the time? So I asked Mbarek, “Why do they clean all the time?” Evidently when Mbareks father passed everyone had a difficult time. Then his mother, over the course of many years, has had 5 children die. When I came here I read that the infant mortality rate in Morocco is currently 24 for every 1,000 births. The United States wanes in comparison 6 for every 1,000 births. He went on to explain that both of them are very sad after losing so many children and siblings. I could completely understand, completely. I certainly couldn’t imagine losing that many children. Not all of the children were infants, in fact, most of the children were over 20 when they passed. I’m not sure of all of the causes but I do know that the ones that lived longer were very talented. There was a brother that was an amazing artist. He could draw portraits better than anyone I’ve seen. The last sibling of Mbareks’ to pass was Malika. Still again I’m not sure what kind of medical condition she had but she was in a wheelchair for most of her life. Habiba spent most of her life caring for Malika and was a wonderful care giver and freind. They were sewing partners and made the most amazing garments, table clothes, napkins, drapery, you name it they made it. Looking through these hand made beauties was just too much for words. They truly loved what they did together.
So I sit here in my room and I am contemplating my life. This is truly the first time I’ve ever had to just take care of myself, mentally, physically, intellectually and spiritually. I don’t worry about buying food or car insurance or the light bill. As most of you know I converted to Islam in May of last year. I had many people ask me when I announced that I was moving here if I was going to convert. Just to be clear to everyone I converted and didn’t tell anyone that I had. I firmly believe that things like that are an individual decision between you and God. So when I told Mbarek that I had converted he was happy for me. In fact I didn’t have to convert in order to marry him but after reading the Qu’ran I wanted to because it made sense to me. I grew up Southern Baptist praying to Jesus but honestly I could never figure out why we just didn’t pray to God. I found myself always praying to GOD even as a Christian. So when I read the Qu’ran it answered a lot of questions for me about who God is and I love having the Christian background because it makes my spirituality much richer.
After realizing that my surrounds are now my reality I am looking within myself to try to understand those around me. I’m still stuck on the cleaning thing. It’s almost like I’m living in the 19th century where women in the country did nothing but farm, clean house and take care of children. It’s interesting the basic things that people do here and they are content with it. I mean everyone has a satellite dish for TV and everyone has the internet but it’s the basic things that I have overlooked all along. Can one find joy in just cleaning the house? Is there a solitude in picking through the wheat, washing and drying it? What do they get from all of it? See I would prefer to find solace in watching tv, reading, listening to music, sewing, blogging etc and leave the cleaning for later. I would rather enjoy myself with other things. Both Zahre and Habiba are very simple. When I mean simple they are simple. From the things they cook to the technology they use it’s all remedial and basic. However there is a beauty to this simplicity. Their minds are not diseased with the everyday world. In fact if you ask them about what’s going on in the world they don’t know and furthermore they don’t care. This is their world. For me that is very difficult to get my arms around. I must know what’s going on 24/7, I have to know, I’m addicted to technology and what’s going on in the world. So for someone like me to come to Khemisset and having been living in a different reality this is eye opening. It was my goal to slow my life down when I got here. I’ve been a bottle rocket all of my life living full speed ahead and now I’m learning to be a snake and sparkler.
Last week I hand washed all of our dirty clothes. I have never had to hand wash so many things all at once but it’s a must here because there are no laundry mats. There are washer and dryers but we, like many people, do not have one. I have wondered if we bought one would the ladies in my house use it? I’m not sure they would. There are cleaners here that will dry clean your clothes and wash them but they are very expensive and not in most families budgets. Really it’s not that expensive but relative to what the wages are here it’s for the rich. $6.00 to wash and dry a large bed blanket. Not expensive per US wages. All I can say is I was worn out and even sore for days after my arms hurt worse than if I had gone to the gym.
So I’m still left with the question of Why all the cleaning? Does all of this build character? Could that be the answer? The old saying, a little hard work never hurt anyone, it makes you appreciate things more. Maybe that’s it! My grandfather use to say that hard work builds character. With that in mind I have used my time today to read about what exactly character is. What I found gave me great insight on why these ladies do what they do.
Our world today is so much different than in the 19th century where the word “character” was used to define a person. For example, “he is of strong character”, “he is of weak character”. Our society shifted from producing to consuming. The consumption of mass produced goods, expansion of personal leisure time and the internet has all made it possible for us as individuals to create our own identity that we present to the world. Instead of defining yourself through your hobbies, virtue, dress we have toggled to defining ourselves with material possessions. In fact when you look up articles on character it’s difficult to weed through the plethora of listings describing how to create your own character on profiles, in games and avatars. It takes a minute to find information on something that individuals actually possess. What develops character are the life events you have experienced and how you were raised. In fact a brief conversation with a person when you were little has impact on your character. In fact we are being made every single minute we are alive. Everything we do, everyone we meet sculpts our being and character. In fact you become characterized by your deeds. And, the more frequently you do the deeds the more pleasurable it becomes. These deeds become habit and I’m sure everyone knows we are a creature of habit. Actually our character has become known as a habit of will. It doesn’t take a dramatic test or crisis to define us, it starts with the simple things that we chose to do, “at will”.
At our time in life we are bombarded with two major things that have shaped the way we have become. Celebrities / Reality TV and multitude of self help workshops, books,etc. I think you know what I’m talking about, it’s everywhere. People want to look like, dress like, Kylie, Kim, not so much Kanye but it’s these types of exposures that have helped us forget who we really are and what we have and don’t have. I mean people are famous for what? The answer is anything these days, I mean they haven’t actually accomplished shit but they are famous. Many years ago I had a conversation with my grandpa and I said something very profound to him. He was talking about how he bought the first radio for his family back in the 1930’s. How the world came into his house with music and talk shows. I then told him that it was only until that moment did they realize how poor they actually were. He said that I was absolutely right. We don’t know how poor in the pocket we are until we are able to see and compare our life to others.
In fact we have become a society that no longer looks a character but at personality. When you are asked, “Why do you like this person”, what is your reply. Do you reply because their outgoing, adventurous, friendly, sweet, hilariously fun person. Or do you reply, I like them because of their citizenship, loyalty, work ethic, morals or manners. I think we all know the answer to that, it’s just the most basic way to tell how our society and people have changed over the years. All of these personality traits, being fascinating, attractive, magnetic, glowing, etc., are wonderful and they can certainly help you navigate the world maybe make you famous but keep in mind, my friend, there is no substitute for character.
Yet again, “WHAT’S WITH ALL THE DAMN CLEANING?”
As best as I can figure after thinking about this all day and many days prior, is that it’s what builds their character. It’s not just that these ladies love a clean house or that they don’t have anything else to do. Cleaning house for them and washing the wheat is a part of what has molded them into being wonderful people. I have never met such caring ladies, ever. They don’t judge me for not doing what they do or the fact I chose to spend my time doing other things. They are not tainted with ideas of racism, prejudices, or always trying to keep up with the Joneses. In fact most of the ladies I’ve met here who keep a spotless house have wonderful character and amazing personalities to boot and they are not monetarily rich. I think that people need to concentrate more about what they have within them and reflect on what they have become as a result of their free will. The humbleness that these ladies exhibit is overwhelming, literally. They are happy with just the basic material items and the simple things in life. They have almost zero waste and I can’t foresee their carbon footprints combined is as large as mine. I think there is a lesson to be learned here. I’m going to try to be closer to God, kinder to people, more helpful to others, not as selfish and really try to see the beauty in the simple tasks such as cleaning. Maybe mankind should really take a step back from the mental pollution we are exposed to and reflect on what is really good for us. As a great philosopher said.. We are always in our own company – Friedrich Nietzsche.
So at the end of the day, does it matter anyway?
Yes I believe it does.
I’ve attached some photos of the needlepoint that Habiba and Malika did. Malika was paralized in one arm so she used her wrist to hold fabric and she would stitch with her right hand. Not only was she a talented at making the items but she created the patterns too. FYI all of the crochet was hand done as well.
My photos are very slow uploading I will get them on here asap.
Until next time…..Ciao Bella