Tata city is a town that I travel to frequently to use internet, buy special groceries, have meetings with my boss, and meet up with other volunteers in the province to share a meal and maybe go to the hammam during the winter. It is by far the most enjoyable day trip for me and I go there once every week or two weeks. Without fail, every time I go to Tata I hear at least one Celine Dion song playing in some store, full out, balls to the wall, speakers cranked up as high as they will go, with a couple people hanging around who, even though dancing in public in Morocco is more or less a social taboo outside certain festivals, are fully engrossed in lyrics such as “Because you loved me….”. I will admit that Celine Dion is a very good singer and if I hadn’t lived in Morocco for as long as I have I may occasionally enjoy a flashback to Titanic, but sometimes I think: If I have to listen to Celine Dion one more time, ahhhhhhhh! I was joking and laughing about this cultural anomaly with other volunteers the other day when I received the inspiration for this blog post. It occurred to me that this, and many other aspects that are frustrating at times, are what make life here so entertaining for me, and they will probably be the same little details that I will miss the most once my service in Morocco is done.
Another cause for frustration is the way that Moroccans deal with the various money currencies. All the money in Morocco is printed in the official currency dirhams (there are about 9 dirhams to the dollar) but there are another two currencies that are used in Morocco, the royal and frank. The vast majority of the time that I bargain and buy items I am given the price in royals, and there are 20 royals to every dirham. For example, I took a taxi ride this morning from Skora to Ourzazate and when I asked the driver the price for one seat he told me, 260, which means that I counted out 13 dirhams. This fun Morocco math fact is something that I am so used to now that it hardly matters, however bargaining for larger items where the royals gets into the thousands is rather annoying, not to mention the fact that royals and franks aren’t actually printed on anything. Sometime I just want to hold dirham bills and coins in people faces and say “Look at the number, it says 5, not 100.”
It is going to be so boring when I am no longer in a place will multiple currencies, or where everyday people ask me how my health, family, house, and cats are, just in passing as a normal everyday greeting. I have seven months left in Morocco before my time is up, and even though it may sound long, after having been here for 20 months, it feels like it is just around the bend. Some of the cultural details I love, like being told to eat more instead of worrying about weight, and some I like somewhat less so, but I know that I will carry all of these with me forever. For the rest of my life when I hear a Celine Dion song I will smile to myself and remember going into Tata city and my time in Morocco.