Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Sort of Homecoming

Two months ago my Moroccan apartment was filled with dead cockroaches, dirty walls and explosive plumbing. One month ago my salon was nothing more than a pile of stuff waiting to be sorted and a kitchen of unknown spices and sauces. In the last two weeks, I have successfully turned the corner from a mskina (poor) volunteer coming home to a ugly cement block to a disorganized, busy woman who is in the midst of vast home improvements. It feels good. While the apartment is still a work in progress, I am increasingly returning to a place that I am proud to call my own.

Project 1 -  The Hot Water Heater and Shower
Initially started in late October, this project has consisted of moving a working hot water heater from my former site mate's apartment to my home on the other side of town. Relegated to the sidelines for weeks, this project finally got underway when Olivia was officially leaving (aka, the heater needed a new home) and it was starting to turn chillier in the South. Weeks passed with the heater sitting outside of my bathroom. The man who was supposed to do the installation was initially out of town on holiday, then I was out of town for work, followed by a week or two of me simply not caring about heat.

Two weeks ago, I decided that enough was enough and I wasn't about to take another cold bucket bath in this house. Ahmed turned out to be a master of his craft. We had a terribly confusing discussion in Darija regarding the installation process (pretty sure I agreed to simply 'everything' to make matters easier). For roughly six hours Ahmed and his worker bee, a man who turned out to be the creepy stalker from the oven incident, turned my sad bathroom into a glorious hammam of warmth and western luxuries. I couldn't understand a single word on the bill, but I was happy to pay this man-angel whatever amount he asked for since he brought me hot water at the touch of a button and the first shower I had taken in two months. Take my firstborn, Ahmed, it's totally worth it.

Project 2 - Painting the Walls
Everyone told me to simply pay someone to paint my walls - labor is inexpensive, the work is long and I didn't have any of the materials. Maybe it's because my mom loves to paint so much, but the idea of asking someone else to do that manual labor seemed silly. Looking back, it might have been the better option. I've never painted household walls before, let alone in the developing world. I quickly discovered that I hadn't the foggiest idea how to go about doing this. I knew that I wanted strong colors, I would need a ladder, and it would take time - besides that I was totally clueless.

The search for supplies began at the end of October when I narrowed down the only store in town that sold paint, mind you, it took me another two weeks before I was able to ascertain what colors they sold. Little by little, I managed to purchase brushes, oil-based colors, dilution and a GIANT can of white paint which I had to enlist Leah's help in carrying back to my apartment. Between the two of us, it was still an unreasonable feat.

While Leah's dad skype-questioned my choice in colors (hot pink bathroom!) and inquired as to whether the paints were oil or water-based, I realized I hadn't the foggiest idea what I got myself into. During the mixing process I sacrificed several spoons and scissors since I couldn't find paint sticks, several useful buckets previously used for laundry and bathing as well as an endless number of shirts and linens. Using my refrigerator as a ladder, Leah and I managed to paint my bedroom walls purple. We have may encountered chunks of the wall falling off and a slight disaster with the back wall turning a completely different shade, but overall it was deemed "good enough!"

Traveling, the start of classes and cold weather left me in a tight spot for continued painting. I wanted to pursue the project, however late November was clearly not the best time. Since I had obtained a giant ladder from approximately 1954, I decided to attack the kitchen with a bold green before winter set in.The mixing and set-up process was much smoother the second time around and I was thrilled not to be pushing my giant refrigerator from place to place every five minutes. Paint in hand and classic rock blaring, I clambered up the rickety ladder with a smile on my face. Surely, this has "American success" written all over it!

Then I fell off. No really. About ten minutes into the process, the ladder wobbled as I tried to place my weight on a non-existent step and collapsed onto the ground. Quickly scanning my body and surroundings, I determined that my right knee and back were sore and I had hit my head; in spite of it all, there didn't seem to be permanent damage and I hadn't even spilled my paint. Lying on the kitchen floor, I thought of possible other outcomes of this situation and was relieved that Moroccans knock on my door several times a day. Best not to be found three days later, eaten by cats.

A few minutes later Boushra had arrived at my doorstep and we continued the painting process in tandem. She proved to be a quick and efficient worker, not to mention she was giving up her free afternoon to help the American girl with unnecessary labor. Not sure how many of us would do the same. Between the two of us, we finished the spearmint green kitchen in less than three hours while listening to Adele on repeat. After a long clean-up process, I said goodbye to Boushra and strolled into my wonderful shower for the first time. Thanks to the help of my Moroccan and American friends, my apartment was one step closer to being a home.

Project 3 - Decorating for Christmas, Hanging up photos,etc etc etc
Leah learns the hard way that oil-based paint doesn't come out easily. Redrum.

After adding the dilution, my purple paint turned into a lovely shade of  feces

My kitchen that lives in the entryway...

Another chance at success on the ladder
I will get there, but it might take a few weeks...

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