My husband looked at me and said, “You’re hardier than I thought you’d be.”
This was day three in a foreign country. Day three in a Moroccan five-star resort. Three days before we took the leap to expatriate living.
Day three in our villa? That was something different. My husband went to work. I sat alone in our white living-room and watched a grasshopper jump through the window.
Really, it wasn’t bad. I had a 3G internet antennae and a Nook. I planned to spend my time writing and reading. It would be an adventure.
We settled into Marina Blanca, dar Bouazza, Casablanca with its 200 hillside villas and red tile roofs. It has three fabulous swimming pools overlooking the beach front, water aerobics, lifeguards, and lots of expats who speak the rainbow of languages, mostly Arabic and French.
On day one, I met a woman from Chicago and her three kids. Her husband’s French. Her full-time maid and the lifeguards babysit her little ones. Really, life didn’t seem too bad.
On day two, I went shopping with a woman from Russia. We went to the butcher, the wine shop, the vegetable stand; the coffee shop, the fruit stand, and the only store in Casablanca that sells pork.We scooted around donkey carts and cattle and motor bikes carrying helmetless toddlers.
On day three, I was invited to the dar Bouazza Women’s Coffee Group potluck lunch. The group exists for international women who are not Moroccan. I was to travel there with the woman from Chicago and another woman from Belgium; but first I spent the morning sobbing for no other reason than the fact that my new maid came.
Hardy indeed. How can I explain to my husband that hiring a maid was a stressful thing? But it was. She arrived a day early and spoke no English. I didn’t even know what to pay her. The Chicagoan tried to speak to her in French; Nadia only spoke Arabic. Eventually, we found someone who spoke Arabic and a little French who could translate to the Chicagoan who could translate to me in English; then I gave her a key.
What the hell, the day before, some twenty-year old knocked on the door, said the words “Satellite” and “Karim” and I led him to the upstairs master suite, shaking my head at myself for such reckless behavior. He climbed onto the deck and jumped to the rooftop and turned the dish to the German station. I guess that’s something.
Watching TV in German shouldn’t bring anyone to tears. Hiring a maid shouldn’t bring anyone to tears. Living on the Atlantic Ocean with beautiful sunsets shouldn’t bring anyone to tears, but there I sat, blubbering like an idiot.
I pulled myself together and decided to make deviled eggs to take to the luncheon. I’ve never boiled an egg, but it’s the only thing I had most of the ingredients for. Mayonnaise, eggs, onion, red pepper, and Zatarain’s Cajun Seasonings. I figured I could give it a shot.
I now know I can boil an egg, I just can’t peel it. So I scrapped the dish, splashed on some makeup and headed to Villa 123. When I arrived, a Moroccan boy answered the door. I said the Chicagoan’s name and he stared at me. Wrong address. I should have paid more attention in French class.
I walked all around the neighborhood carrying two bottles of Coke Zero. I became utterly lost.
When I returned home, I sat down and sobbed. I would miss my ride. I cursed myself and cried some more.
The maid came downstairs and tried to speak to me in Arabic. I looked up at her through my tears. I shook my head slowly and pointed to myself. “I’m a big baby,” I said as I stretched my arm high and then pretended to hold an infant.
“Oh, something, something, something,” she beamed as she also pretended to hold a baby and pointed to me.
“No, yes, I have kids,” I stammered, “but they’re big.” I put my hand over my head again. Then I pointed to my tears, and again to myself. “I’m the baby.”
Nadia smiled sympathetically and reached her hand out to my shoulder. She gestured for me to sit and rest; she brought me a tissue and smiled her toothless grin. There, in our different languages, we found common ground.
Maybe I don’t have to be hardy to live in a place like this. Maybe I just have to be good at charades; and take French lessons.