Mar 31, 2006

End Games

On days like this with blooms roaring, you wonder why you would ever want to leave. Where will you ever find such a blue sky, such clear air, and a sunset even memory cannot enhance, not to mention a large house with a bristling garden. And the bleating of sheep, and the dog stretched out on hot bricks, the call of the muezzin, all the developing part of this world out of feel and touch. All the possibilities still to come. Not to mention a measure of security.

Earlier in the day I went to try to finish registering the car. It has taken days to get this far. I should have done it a year ago, but I thought somehow it had happened, that by transfering ownership and sending off papers to God knows where I had put the matter in other hands that would hand me back what I needed. Meanwhile, the papers sat in the trunk which at times was filled with snow and slush. Now the signatures and stamps have washed away. There are 31 pages of documents but now they're useless. When I realized the mistake I had forgotten what was involved, how many offices you need to go to, to collect all the documents and then each must be legalized and copied and the copies legalized. The last step was to legalize a copy of my carte de sejour, which has taken four months to renew.

The legalizers work in the old Hotel Bellvue, a colonial Hotel Marienbab, with long narrow corridors and what once must have been a lavish entry. Now, the walls are cracked, the paint has flaked, nothing works, the radiators are unhooked, the rooms which must have seemed grand in the 1930s now seem like former interrogatoires. The garden is dry and dry and dead. Occasionally, a light bulb hangs ominously. You'd think the interior was designed by torturers. The floors are swept but the dirt is so old, so enameled in the walls and floors and ceilings that nothing could get it out. In fact, it is no longer something to get out. It is the place itself.

In the tiny office of the legalizers three men sit in no particular place. And never in the same place. One is always quiet. The other two are always quibbling. There is a small L-shaped counter. On the left, along a short wall there is an old cupboard filled with records. The records are canvass binders marked by month and number. Inside, each page holds thirty entries, with the name of a person, a description of a transaction, the date, and a stamp.

But today the legalizers are gone. And not just here, in Azrou as well. Throughout the province they're on strike. To protest the lack of heat last winter. The strike is a week old. They're coming back on Monday because there is no strike fund. Ironically, the termperature now is in the 80s. The teachers did the same thing. Every Friday they would not show up. There is no heat in the schools. Teachers are rarely paid. They go for months unpaid. And you wonder, how can that be? This is a developing country — and my students do not like to hear of it described as a 'less developed' country — education is a solution as well as a promise. Everyone mentions that education is no. 1.

Some days B. wants to stay. Today, for example. But other days she would rather teach in her own country. It's her Midwestern nationalism at work. If this country doesn't want it, and as there is no heat in the public schools, there are corresponding lacks in the private schools, then let it all go. Let the sights and sounds of Africa go. Be done with it. It's one revelation of living in the Arab Middle East. If people ask you for help, in some minor way, then do it. Otherwise, go away. Let them sort it out themselves. It's like a woman in child birth. At a certain point you can't do anything. You can swab her brow, you can encourage, you can just sit there, be present, but in the end you have to give up to nature and let it take its course.

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