Jan 30, 2006

Puppy Love

Perhaps, it's the snow, which is drifting to three and four feet. And so people act strangely and badly. Or before that it was the cold, which was bitter, or before that, the heat, which was stultifying. No doubt before that it was that this is, after all, a foreign place and before that.... Before that in the slime of personal history there is one's nature and no end to excuse.

Last summer S. asked if she could board Lucy while I was away. I agreed. S. is middle age, round, gray. short. she reminds me of Susan Smith the woman who killed her children. She teaches in the business school. She is single. She lives in the residence. She always has the look of someone who has a trick up their sleave. When I saw her apartment, to deliver food and Lucy's overnight bag, there was little in it. She was glassy eyed and slurred.

She speaks in a low voice. When I first heard it she was traveling in the university van. She was complaining. The van was late, it was too slow, how these people behave. On and on she went. She was so obnoious that one day I said something.

But then after that she came to me one day and asked if she could board the dog. She loved dogs, she said, she loved puppies, she was lonely, she wanted a dog to walk. I agreed and so I went away for three days, to Agadir. When I returned Lucy was not in good shape. She was chained up outside. Night and day, I was told. The guards had done that, because those were the days when Lucy was terrifying the maids, the guardiens, the guards. But S had not touched the dog, had barely fed it. Clearly, Lucy had been causing a rucus. I apologized to S. and told her I would repay any damages.

I went away again for a couple of days and upon return found the same situation. And then some weeks later S, sent me an email with a bill for more than $100. It included money for food, collars, chains, broken something, ripped sofas. I paid half. It was a hold up and I told her as much.

I didn't see her much after that. I avoided her if I saw her in the distance. Once she called to say she'd seen Lucy wandering around the residence. I thanked her. When Lucy disappeared for a month I wondered if S. had kidnapped her.

Yesterday, I heard a story. It was that S had found a puppy, one of these local dogs. She had had it for a couple of weeks. Then the holidays and she went looking around for someone to care of the dog while she was away. She couldn't find anyone. Someone said they would watch her then pulled out. The dog was a few weeks old, perhaps a month. So, having found no one she took the dog to Azrou and had it put down. The next day a neighbor volunteered to watch the dog. "Too late," S. said. "I couldn't wait anymore. Don't worry I'll get another."

Jan 20, 2006


Not long ago the university appointed a new head of security. Apparently, he came with no experience in educational institutions; it is said he headed airport security before this job, and before that he was in some other job in the ministry of the interior. In fact, he served in the ministry during les annees de plomb. Since he has arrived morale among the guards has gone from bad to worse. His style is intimidation and threat. It has always been true here but now even more so that the career progression among guards is based not on length of service or professionalism, but on the amount of scurrilous information brought in. 'Any news, from any source, is good,' I was told, 'but bad news is particularly sought after.' Everyone is a dossier. Everyone is someone else's pawn. The one with the largest dossier loses.

Meanwhile, the university is no more physically secure now than it was before. The guards have orders to pat down students suspected of drug use, raid dorms looking for sexual liaisons, and cultivate sources among students. Part of this is in response to parents. The univeristy receives 20 calls a day from parents demanding news of their children, or demands that administrators coddle or encourage kids to participate in activities, or that administrators not let them off campus. Like all private schools this is one that serves the interest of parents who don't want their children causing any more trouble at home, in Casa or Rabat. Here, it's no matter. No one knows them. Whatever trouble they get in, whether sex or drugs, can't amount to anything.

Jan 11, 2006

Identity Crisis

I have not verified this story. It is the Marxist-feminist who told me. According to her, one of the professors, who is well known, widely respected and considered one of the insiders, as much an old boy as an American can be, offered to give up his extensive collection of Berber art and artifacts to the university. What a prize. He has been collecting these things for years and is an authority of certain aspects of Berber culture. He contacted the university but they didn't respond. He tried again and still no response. Finally, someone from Washington State University was passing through and expressed interest in the collection. The professor agreed and the collection left the next day. The university's motto is "Excellence and Identity." And indeed the university's charter is to encourage this region and establish a sense of both regional and national identity. But then why did they give this up — if they did.

If they did, it tells you something of the way in which is identity is seen here.

Jan 10, 2006

Jan 9, 2006

The Bicycle

W works in the housing department. He also runs a small drama club, not unlike mine. Actually, he's very good with drama exercises. In June, I ran into him one day at the residence where he was helping to oversee some renovations. He wanted to borrow my bike. Of course, I said and when he returned I urged him to use it as he liked. He is endlessly charming and a jovial fellow, always laid back.

Whenever I saw him W would tell me how corrupt the university was, all the secret deals going on, all the little decadences. And how the workers putting in the central air heating system are treated, how no can make an error, and who does what to whom. "You can't trust Moroccans," he said. "They always betray you." "Why is that?" I asked. "Well," he said, "it's just who we are." I could never tell if he was joking because he always wears the trace of a smile.

I told him I needed the bicycle back in August, because it's Dash's and although a little too big for him, he uses it, and indeed we all use it. August came and went. I asked him one day in September if I could get the bike back. Oh, he said, I'm so sorry. Of course, I will bring it right back. September passed. I was gone in October. In November I began inquiring again. Oh, he said, yes I will get it right back. December came and went. I sent him several emails. In one he told me he was going to return the bike but it was raining and he didn't know what else to do so he gave it to a friend in a far district of the town, to store. I wrote him back saying I didn't understand the logic but I didn't care what had happened before, I wanted the bike now. No reply. More emails, No replies. I said, 'listen, either give me the bike or its worth.' Which was about $50.

Then finally yesterday I saw him leaning against my car, as I came out of the bank. He was charming as always. He said he had tried to call me again and again. Perhaps, there was something wrong with my phone. I said everyone else reaches me. He said, well let's get the bicycle right now.

It was a gray, dark faced day. We drove into a district at the edge of town, went down one street and then another. He had forgotten where his friend lived. Eventually, we found the address. But the word was that the man was not there. W was told to check with his friend's brother who works in centreville. He had the bicycle now. We drove to centreville, first to the police station then to a liquor store. Finally, W found the brother who said he had given the bike to a third man who lives in the poor district next to the quartier des voleurs. We drove to the district and finally found the house of the third man, but he wasn't there.

We returned to Centreville, to the bank. He withdrew some money, got back in the car and offered me $50. I told him the bike was worth only $40, took that much, and drove him to the taxi station where he was going to make his way home, which is in El Hajib.

As we were driving around I said to him, 'listen, you're a nice guy but I don't trust you anymore.' He said, "I know it's my fault. I should never have given that bicycle to my friend. But still you should trust me.'

"I like you", I said, but I don't trust you, particularly after all you told me how I shouldn't trust Moroccans. I do trust Moroccans for the most part; I just don't trust you."

But what does it matter if I trust you or not? I thought.

"I have excuses," he said.

"I'm not in a position to forgive myself much less you," I told him.

"But you can't ignore my excuses," he went, with this dangerous little smile. "You have to honor those. You have to...."

Jan 3, 2006

Everyone Gone to the Moon

Everyone has left the university for the break. The campus is empty; the students are not allowed to remain. And hardly any faculty left, save a feminist Marxist whose last tour of duty was in China. Her desire is to design parameters for programs to help the Moroccan people. Why not just ask communities what they want? you might wonder. Her reply: "We need a Marxist-feminist perspective in this country....."

Of all the things this country needs, certainly that.