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A Transition

Saturday marked the end of my summer vacation, a much-needed respite from the doldrums of Ramadan. This was my second trip to Europe. The first was to Italy in the spring of 2005. I visited Vatican City and a pope died. This year I came to London and a prince was born. Make of that what you will. Some highlights:


  • morning jog along the Thames in London; no feral dogs chasing me
  • biking through London's parks with North Carolinians/NPR lovers Jake and Eric
  • evensong at St. Paul's and Westminster Abbey
  • Merrily We Roll Along at the Harold Pinter theatre in West End; more talent than you could shake a stick at
  • beautiful, beautiful music at the Royal Albert Hall; clapping only after music stopped
  • Bruges - all of it, from beginning to end
  • walking through the castle at Ghent
  • biking in and around Amsterdam (and serendipitously discovering the goat park); no feral dogs
  • taking in the view of the cathedral at Cologne
  • Black Forest hiking; nature without garbage
  • organ concert (and gargoyles) at the cathedral in Freiburg
  • peoplewatching at the apfelwein festival in Frankfurt
As much as I wanted to stay in these places for the rest of my life, it was surprisingly easy to accept the end of my journey and the return to Morocco.

Unfortunately, some of the discomforts of life here smacked me in the face immediately after disembarkation: the villainous heat and the scoundrels running the taxis outside the airport.

When I arrived in Aounate, I discovered that a wasp had built a rather large nest in The Beach. I stood cautiously at the door with a broom in my left hand and the door handle in the other. I'll tap it first to see if it's full of wasps, I thought, and if they swarm violently out towards me, I'll slam the door shut. Maybe they will become nervous and leave my house. 

I knocked on it a little. Nothing. I poked it and prodded it and became disturbed at how strong the damned thing was, and finally I was thrusting at it with all my might until the lower left side collapsed and dozens of larvae scattered all over the floor, leaving disgusting green smears wherever they landed. I resisted the urge to scream and/or throw up. 

A few grisly minutes later, I was cleaning up the last of the corpses, shoveling them into a dust pan and throwing them unceremoniously over the ledge of my roof. All that remained on my wall was the sad outline of what was once a nursery.

The next morning, as I was answering nature's call, the mother flew in. She was big. My reptile brain must have kicked in, because without even thinking about it, I went right into a crouch-run towards the door, my pants still around my knees. I knew there was a possibility that my neighbors might be on the roof or in the stairwell, and therefore the possibility of a rude run-in. That wouldn't have been so bad, I guess; considering Hamou once waded through my poop, he probably wouldn't be too terribly scandalized by my panicked, pant-less escape.

But nobody was there. I slammed the door. Only then did my capacity for conscious thought return. She's not going to be happy about the destruction of her young, I reasoned. I cracked the door and found her hovering unhappily around the spot where the nest once was. Oh no - she's caught on. Briefly, I considered and dismissed the broom; the handle would prevent the door from closing in the event of a retaliation. 

Happily, my mom is awesome, and when she visited a few months ago, she brought me two very precise water pistols. I loaded one of them and returned to the door of The Beach. I cracked the door and took aim. Then I noticed a fallen soldier: F. Scott Fitzkindle, my beloved e-reader, was lying vulnerable on the floor. In my panic, I must have set him down in abandonment. Stupid! Clearly, the stakes had been raised.

I shot the Queen-Wasp several times, until she turned and headed straight toward me, at which point I took shelter behind the door and regrouped. Again, I peeked in, first at F. Scott Fitzkindle, and then at the enemy, who was again surveying the smoldering remains of what was once the babies' house. I felt no guilt about it. Fitzkindle's life meant to much to let sentiment get in the way. I shot again, and with great accuracy. Again, the adversary made her charge. The third time I opened the door, I dashed in and rescued Fitz, pistol ever at the ready. Success.

My nemesis appeared to have been driven out, and I finished my chapter in 1776 feeling pretty good about my campaign. Maybe today won't be so hard after all. The adrenaline rush had certainly been nice. In good spirits, I practically bounded down my stairway to head to the big city of Sidi Bennour. I threw open the heavy metal door to the outside, and it groaned and shook on its old rusty hinges. As it turns out, another wasp family had built its home right above the door. When I stepped out into the dazzling sun, dozens of small wasps and a couple of really large ones immediately began swarming around my head and torso. I ran out of my alleyway, arms flailing wildly and terror in my eyes.

In the grand taxi, I struck up a conversation with a man in the front seat. He spoke english and was interested in why I was in the area. Of course, I gave him the whole Three Goals of Peace Corps gospel, and he was duly impressed. 

"Would you like a rabbit?," he asked.
"What?" I answered.
"A rabbit. Do you want one? I will give it to you."
"That's very kind of you. No thanks."
"Are you sure? It's no problem, really."
I laughed nervously. "Thanks, but no. Maybe next time."

The man nodded and smiled at me, and then told the taxi driver to stop the taxi (we'd arrived at the man's village). He then told the driver to wait, and amidst much grumbling and shouting on the part of the driver and other passengers (who were crammed into this little taxi on a very hot afternoon), the man did the following: ran across the street; spoke a little with a shop owner; entered a storage garage; emerged from garage with live rabbit; spoke some more with shopkeeper, who procured a cardboard box; stuffed rabbit in box; ran across the street; handed box to man in taxi; waved goodbye; ran away.

It all happened so fast, and before I could protest, I had a box of live rabbit in my lap. The man sitting to my left smiled knowingly at me, which I found unsettling. The guy to my right pointed to the box and then said "Sidi Bennour," while running his index finger across his neck. The driver was just mad at me for delaying the trip and shot me the evil eye through the rear view mirror.

15 minutes later, I was standing in Sidi Bennour with a really heavy bag (full of wine and gin) and a box that was bouncing and rattling under my arm. This requires advice, I decided, and called Evan. Pretty soon, we were at his apartment, freeing the rabbit into the neighbor's garden. I felt pretty good about this.

And reflecting on the transition from Europe to here, I thought, there are many differences between the developed world and Morocco.
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