Out of Africa and plans

Well… out of Morocco, at least. We made it to Tanger. Had pizza with Karim.

Said goodbye to Karim and went to the ferry terminal. Not quite sure if we have this whole ferry thing worked out. Both times we are among the last to make it through the ferry terminal on the Morocco side. Whether it is landing in Tanger and getting through immigration and customs or getting onto a ferry to Algiceira. I wonder if we are missing something. If we are doing something wrong. We heard from one source that putting some money in your passport helps, or if we chose the ferry company with the least ferries or if it was simply the grocery store complex and your line always goes slowest.

It was an entertaining day at the port, anyway. Saw 5 teenage boys remarkably being pulled from underneath various trucks. They were trying to get a free ride to Europe. So, that is why inspections were so thorough. All the cars were searched but the larger vehicles were pulled off to the side where we had to all get out of the truck and Maggie some high-tech truck x-ray machine went over the top of or dear truck. We just sat there most of the day. All in all, did alot of people watching.

We think we may have even seen Mr. Bean. Well, kinda. One guy was quite entertaining. I think he wasn’t quite all there. Every once in a while he would come up to our truck and say, “It’ll be about a half an hour” and ask for a euro. He was also in the habit of grabbing people’s suicases when they were most the way down the stairs and asking for a euro. He was like a little boy that had watched his dad doing official business but didn’t quite get the plot.

Finally made it through – well after dark and headed for Gibralter where we had some people to see. We took the opportunity to get some of the foods we remember like English tea, HP sauce, malt loaf, bacon and cheese. Mmmmmmm.

We also met up with Musa and hope to see him when we get to Beneficio. Musa makes amazing jewelry and is selling some in Gibralter now. We talked about having sort of an online store for travellers trying to support themselves by making and selling stuff. Don’t know how to do an online store. Something to think about.

We got kicked out of La Linea by the police again with the other motorhomes. Ahhh, just like old times.

We are somehow changed coming out of Africa. Some things are more obvious.

TJ went to a shop in Gibralter and saw a little butterfly t-shirt. She looked at the price of the t-shirt. “Hmmmm, 7 pounds. That’s alot of money. I think 3 pounds would be right and she started looking for the sales lady.” “TJ we aren’t in Morocco anymore and prices are fixed here.”

Hannah has been having a great time shuffling between 3 currencies in the last 2 days.

Alana and Abi are enjoying walking down a street without getting any extra attention. “So relaxing.”, They say.

Andrew is enjoying the macho feeling of coming out of Africa. We have been to Africa. Kinda like being in a new club. He also enjoyed putting a bit of wine in his spaghetti sauce.

I have enjoyed using some good washing machines and will, hopefully, enjoy a good clean out of the truck today. The outside of our truck looks great but the inside is falling apart a bit. Some of the cheap wood shelves are falling apart a bit. I think particle board is a poor choice for bookshelves in a home that is always bumping around.

Some things are not so obvious. People are right when they say Africa gets inside you. I have a feeling that many things we will not be able to label, they just are. I feel some sense of relief. Yesterday I was aware that every cell in my body was relaxing. I am also sad about leaving. Every cell in my body is also groaning.

I miss being woken up by donkeys and chickens in the morning.

We are now looking at the next season. Re-europing our truck. Pulling out the Europe maps and putting away the Africa ones. Looking at the next year. We will spend the summer in Europe. Not sure how much western europe or possibly Central Europe. Asking questions about the Rainbow Festival in Finland and Freakstock in Germany. Asking about other festivals. Thinking about friends we want to see. Thinking about making some things to sell and where and how to sell them. Got some fabric and wool for making some things. Thinking about wings. Yeah, I know, I just like the thought of making brightly coloured wings and seeing people walking around wearing them. Also thinking about spending time with friends. Making pottery.

In September we want to be in Turkey. We have met some other travellers that want to go to India. They all plan to meet in Turkey for a month of getting visas for Iran, Pakistan and India. I am the only one in the entire group, so far, that is carrying a U.S. passport, they think it will be no problem. There are 2 other families that want to go, A Croation family and a Swiss family. The Croation family has been there 4 times already. Seems like a good group to be going with. There should be about 4 or 5 trucks going, so far. We figure, may as well try. If it is meant to be it will all come together.

Food Morocco

Looking back on our time in Marrakech

Looking back on our time in Marrakech. What a great camping spot we had in our own little quiet corner in the centre of the city. Here are some thoughts.

The Immam is SOOOO much better than Aourir. It is like waking up to an angel at 5 in the morning. I like this guy. I was talking to Karim about the responsibilities of the Immam. I think he has it rougher than the Christian priests and pastors. He does his big call to prayer 5 times a day. Yeah, think about it 5 times a day. He is hanging with a friend. Ooops, time to go. He wants to have a bit of a lie in. Oooops, time to get up. He does this every day of the week AND the call to prayer is just beginning. After the bit on the loudspeaker he goes downstairs and prays with people and does a bit of teaching. I think the Immam works hard.

So, the souks. Yeah, easy to get lost. At day you can wander through the souks. Well, wander is the wrong word. Because every stallkeeper wants you to come in. Now, I think we are getting a bit better at this but we still need to get better. Alana and Abi got lots of attention from the young men. They complained, of course, but they kept getting dressed up and going back in and well, 2 plus 2 equals… The hard time with the souks is if you have a particular place you want to be in them. By the end I found what I was looking for and had a greaat time walking around with the kids. We looked into lots of stalls that showed people working on the different stages of making shoes by hand. Saw a man soldering with a little heated hammer instead of a soldering iron. A man demonstrated how to make rounded discs of metal. We saw several people punching designs out of metal. Lots of smoke, lots of noise, lots of creative people. Loved it.

In the evenings to eat a couple of times as food to cook your own meals with in the centre is hard to come by and we figure when we go back into Europe we won’t be eating out much as it is much less expensive down here. There is this souk of prepared food that pops up in the evenings at the fna area. All these little swirly metal boxes surrounded by table and tarps come in to join the orange juice and dried fruit stalls. Every evening this village is created and stays up til about 4 in the morning. A note about eating out. You go to a normal western style restaurant, even one with moroccan food you will pay big. If you go and get pizza or other exotic foods and you will pay big. A rule for every country is that if you want to get better local food for cheaper prices go to where the locals eat. Sometimes you need to insist. One time me and the girls went into the non-touristy part of the souk. As we were leaving a man told us we were going out of the area we were wanting to be in. We said we were looking for Moroccan food. He directed us back to the tourist restaurants. No! We want to eat moroccan food where Moroccans eat it. We were directed into a tiny little restaurant with thin white-tile counters against the wall, little plastic stools and about 5 guys grilling lots of food next to us. All this in a stall about the size of our truck. We loved it! Back to the pop-up prepared food souk. We went out for Harrira (moroccan soup) one night with a desert, well. It was swirly and sweet and you eat it with your fingers. Karim said there is a legend about this sweet of a great battle between a japanese warrior and a moroccan warrior. Of course, the moroccan warrior won and this dessert is in the shape of a Japanese swear word.

I would like to finish off with a warning from Alana and Abi about their time in Marrakesh.

Beware of the Henna ladies – they are evil.

We are now in the Cascades. We have met up with the German family again and they told us of this German future campground in the Cascades on the way to Fez. Sounded good so here we are. They will arrive tomorrow.

Morocco mum's rants Travel

To wild camp or not to wild camp? Morocco

We are SUCH slow learners but we are finally starting to catch on. We continue to have bad experiences at traditional campgrounds. We normally meet some nice people but looking back, the fact is that we are weird and getting weirder is making it harder and harder to stay at normal campgrounds.

These are our problems. Our truck looks weird. We look weird. We are traveling full-time. We are traveling with kids. We are traveling with extra adults that we are not related to. We are now traveling with a Moroccan friend. We invite local friends, new and old, to come and visit us. So we have memories of getting kicked out of British campgrounds because we “didn’t look right”. We have had to smuggle friends into a campground in Portugal for a BBQ party. We are continually getting in trouble for the kids not wiping out the sink well enough after washing dishes or wiping down a toilet properly. Our kids are not slobs but they are not mini old people either. No matter how many bad experiences we keep on going back.

It is not relaxing at all when we go. We normally do mountains of laundry, shower, refill the water, recharge the batteries, etc. Campgrounds are hard work for us. And, as they say, it is hard to teach an old dog new tricks. When we lived in a motorhome full-time in America we could stay quite cheaply if we were staying for a longer time and we were driving an old Winnebago. So, we stayed at our 4th motorhome park since we have been in Morocco. 4 in 2 months, not to bad, especially since we stayed at 2 for 1 nite and 1 for 2 nites and the one we stayed at longer was called a campground in only the loosest of contexts (no door, or even a curtain, on the pit toilet and no security man sitting by the gate all night). We also frequently ate and sang in the house of the man running the campground while we were there. That is another story. A good one.

So, we went to another campground in Safi. The only campground in Safi. We hung up our mountain of laundry.  Karim was not allowed to stay with us because he had lost his ID and is waiting to get it sent by his brother. A drag but fair enough, he slept in his tent elsewhere. But when Karim came in the next morning to have breakfast with us the angry man at the front made him leave. I asked is it because of the ID or because Karim is Moroccan.

No answer. We left. DUDE.

The following nite we were on our way to Marrekech and decided to wild camp instead. What a great experience. Andrew and TJ found our place. They discussed the criterea. They were privacy, hills, rocks, trees., safety. We took a Piste (donkey trail) off the main road near some hills and found a great place! Andrew was quite pleased with our 4 X 4 vehicle and took lots of pictures of the Land Rover on the hill as we left. He took no pictures of the new sedan we passed on the way out.

While we were there we met lots of amazing people from the nearby villages who gave us Leben (fermented milk) and eggs and bread and goat butter. Alana and Abi have a great story of a house they were invited into. I think we all have stories of cows trying to steal the veg we were cutting on the table, bird houses in the bushes, snake stories, little kids, generosity. All in all a great time.

Coming into Marrakesh we were again confronted with the choice of campground or not. I mean, seriously, we are going into a big medieval city, we are big, we only have addresses of campgrounds and we ARE pathetic creatures of habit. Well, we resisted and instead of trying another campground we drove into the city looking for a parking place thinking we could just leave every night. Instead we found a parking lot next to the main mosque and the souks. Great location. When we came in they said it would be 50 derams and asked if we were planning on sleeping here. Uh…. yeah. We were sent to the back lot where we are hanging with about 20 white plastics and self-builds. We are a short walk from the souks and some public toilets.

Yeah, about toilets in Morocco. Don’t read the rest of this paragraph if you don’t want to know. It is kinda weird talking about it on a blog but it just needs to be said. The toilets are squat style and toilet paper is generally not used. They use water from a tap that you can find in each toilet along with a small bucket. You can buy TP here but it is expensive. To the defense of the Moroccan toilet system. Squat toilets are healthier than sitting down ones and water is much cleaner than toilet paper. Just facts that were established early in our time here. We STILL have had an extensive adjustment period but am now feeling comfortable with the Moroccan system of things in this area. Sometimes we still reach for the TP just not nearly as often.

While I am at it about getting kicked out of wild camping places in Morocco. If you are way out in the wild. Don’t worry. Just meet the neighbours, if there are any and be nice. Offer to share your meal with them or a cup of tea. We have been kicked out of one wild camping place in Morocco by the police but they were really nice and said some of the wild campers got robbed there, they haven’t been able to catch the thieves and they wanted to protect us.That isn’t so bad.

If you are looking for our great parking lot in Marrakesh and are looking for this great motorhome parking place we are under the phone tower with the storks that is behind the main mosque and the big park. The parking sign is on the main road going to the Fna place.

So to wild camp or go to a campground. I give you full permission to question me if I become a softie and go back to a campground. There are lots of alternatives to the campground for laundry and bathing and water. Yeah, swords raised, one for all and all for one. We shall wild camp!


New Tank and happenings in Aourir

Projected Lawrence of Arabia on the cement wall next to the truck on Friday night. Karim made a fire for us to cook our pizzas on a stick. Most of the people here at the garage came over to enjoy the movie with us. We all watched the movie until the power cut almost at the end of the movie. Wonder if we caused the power cut with our projector? Naw, can one projector cause a power cut for a whole village?

Some great neighbours from France with a great truck – all wood inside. Reminds me of a log cabin. Owners of the dog with the funny smile.

Other french neighbours. They have only had their truck for 8 months and look what they have done! It is like a small apartment. They have a full-size cooker (btw if you travel with a full-size cooker travel with an old one – they last better – I have heard), a bedroom with a real door, a RECORDING STUDIO!

And the back opens to a garage and a back patio. We are SOOO impressed!

Andrew is softening on the dog front. Figures a dog might be good for security. We have been talking to some other travelers and they said it is no problem to bring back a stray dog from Morocco. We just need to get a rabies vaccine, a computer chip and a doggie passport. Ireland and Switzerland have a blood test required as well to show the vaccine is working. So, Alana and Abi found a stray at the Souk that they appropriately named “Soukie” that they thought would be a candidate. Andrew went out to meet the dog and thought he was a possibility. “Just bring her in to the yard and we’ll see how she gets on”. Sounds easy huh.

Maybe some fish heads would bring him in.

After what seemed like FOREVER of coaxing the girls returned to the truck exhausted and with no dog. Maybe Soukie isn’t the dog for us afterall.

TJ has been collecting animal bones. Hannah thinks they are gross and scary so TJ only brings them out to show to whoever she can whenever Hannah isn’t around. After looking at each bone thoroughly and discussing where it could come from Hassan put together this face with the bones. A true innovative mechanic putting things together in unexpected and bizarre ways. He must have been an interesting child to have around when he was a boy.

One of the men working on our truck is a very nice young man who has a serious crush on Abi. In the photo he is the barefoot one on the right. Alana says it is just like the movies. She and Abi were walking past him and he swooned. You know a lingering look, a smile and a full body sigh. This happens every time he sees her. Just like the movies.

We had a whole lot of men working on the truck yesterday. The diesel tank is here. The 2 tanks are side by side in the photo. We have more than quadrupled our diesel capacity.

Andrew was trying to describe 3 point torsion-free mounting so they wouldnt put the tank in too high. You see, where the cab and the cabin of our truck meet they move independently as they are only connected at one point in the front. They sort of pivot on each other. So the cab and the chassis (underneath the cabin) tilt one way and the cabin stays straight. It makes it so we don’t stress the box on rough roads. Took me a while to understand. To try to get his point across to a bunch of unbelieving mechanics Andrew jacked up the right front tire of the truck to show how much smaller the space gets above the petrol tank. They got it and put the tank in the lowest position.

So, Andrew is a very happy man. After a full day he finished off the day painting his new tank with orange primer. I went out to see him laying under the propped up tank slowly and affectionately finishing off the painting as the sunset behind him. You see, men do get emotional – just about completely different things than us. At the end of the day Andrew crashed. Happy, tired man.

Morocco TJs Writing

Going on the Slides

Hello, I’m the youngest Jonesberries. I’m TJ. Do you see the 3 girls up there on the yellow, blue and green slide? That’s me, Hannah and Abi.


Oh, do you see that yellow and green stripy slide. That’s the best slide. We call it the toilet bowl . That is Alana on it. She has the family record for going around the toilet bowl the most times. She went around 5 times. Dad tried all day to beat Alana’s record but he could only do 4. The big orange slide is really cool too. Well, I think so.

At the beginning of the day, I was too scared to go on any of the slides ,except for the little blue slide at the other side of the park. At the end of the day I did all of the slides.

Oh,  did I remind you this was my 8th birthday party.

Morocco mum's rants

Dressing like a Woman in Morocco

Andrew was reading a book online that included bits about the changing role of women in the western world. I woke up this morning with my mind spinning with observations and questions from my time in Morocco so far. Unfortunately, not many answers but hey if we spend our lives rushing to answers we shortchange the journey and dont ask enough questions or make enough observations. Or we only see what supports the answers we came up with to early. So, in trying to keep my eyes open here are some of my thoughts.

The most obvious thing to look at first seems to be dress. It is difficult to know how to dress. I live in a personal dilema of trying to balance individuality and cultural sensitivity. I have found this has special challenges here. I have found that it is easier to dress like an individual in cultures that we are more comfortable in and are similar to our own. This is only a recent observation as this is a culture that is alot more different than anything I have ever known. So, when we first got here I put on a headscarf everytime I exited the truck. This seemed to work quite well. I enjoyed the rare times I got the headscarf on right and snug. I loved it when Rachel said that I looked Berber when we went into the ladies co-op in the atlas mountains. I enjoyed feeling like one of the ladies. However when I put on the same headscarf and baggie clothes in Aourir I was asked if I was muslim and laughed at. Someone told me that it makes the locals feel comfortable for the tourists to look like tourists. Back to boxes I suppose.

I let the girls dress like they feel comfortable. I encourage them to note the amount of attention they get showing different amounts of skin. After we had been here just a few days TJ was wanting to stay in the truck all day and when I asked her why she said, “everybody stares at me and I find it disturbing.” My 7 year old used the word disturbing. We had a long talk about being different. I am beginning to think we all get lots of attention no matter how we dress because of our hair and skin colour – or is it something else like posture, walk, eye contact or smiling? Trying to nail down something in regards to dress.

One good idea we got from Perine. She bought a man’s Djellaba. She puts it on and pulls up the hood when she doesnt want to be noticed. Like at night. People assume she is a man and leave her alone. So here are my temporary conclusions in regards to dress. Go native in small villages that dont get tourists. Leave your head uncovered but cover up your upper arms, at least, and have something hang over your backside and keep your legs covered at least over your knees.



But, if you are getting ready to go on a 4 hour hike into the mountains on a very hot day your might opt for comfort.

If this hike involves hitchiking in the Sahara, like some of our friends, you might try to incorporate more modesty.

Sometimes I think too much about all this and go out afraid to smile or look a man in the eyes. Then I realize that is walking in fear and that is a place I don’t want to be. Obviously no conclusions yet.

Dang, this is getting to be long and Andrew is up and wanting the internet dongle. I think I will have to limit this post to my observations on dress.


Is Blogger Blocked in Morocco??

Hello – what’s going on?? I find it curious that blogspot, the world’s leading blog provider, cannot be accessed in Morocco right now. Can someone explain? Is there a censorship thing happening? A few of us here are having the same problem. I am using a Maroc Telecom USB stick – the same company that blocked youtube a few years ago. Have they blocked and all the Blogspot blogs? Hope not. Google seems really slow so we are all using Yahoo.

Also, the Best of Morocco Blog Awards (BOMBies) and the Maroc Blog Awards are a good place to find blogs and vote on them. [Oops – voting is closed now, sorry] Blog of the Year award in 2009 went to Robin Des Blogs. HT: Global Voices

Speaking of blogging, its good to see the blogging world is alive and well in Morocco. The Association of Moroccan Bloggers was formed last year – read it in English here and there are already 500 members. Estimates of Moroccan bloggers suggest about 30,000 Arab language blogs, according to Said Benjebli, and quite a few French language blogs as well. As for English language blogs in Morocco, I havent found many but my favourite is Calabamuse, who uses wordpress rather than blogspot so his blog can be picked up from Morocco.

Also check out Eatbees and The View From Fez, although the last one is a blogspot blog so I cant access it. Maybe next week?


Nice Days with no Crisis in Morocco

A more normal day yesterday.

Abi was in a baking mood and made fresh bread, lemon cake and banana bread. All of our collapsable stove-top coleman stove. Oh yeah, I like it when Abi gets in a baking mood.

TJ lost her second tooth and is unsuccessfully practicing her sssss sound.

Abi woke up in a cheeky mood and is showing off her 10 stitches during her dressing change.

And the new dressing is in place.

Had a great time with our old friends from the rainbow gathering that we found in Guilmim the day before.


The time was great but way too short time together before they took off to hitch to Mauritania and Senegal.

We were hoping to go with them but have decided to start going north at this time. We have heard that we need a Carnet de Passage to go further house because our truck is too old. I think we need to get to work on a Carnet so we can go next time.

After they left Andrew got some work on greasing up the wheels and steering. A messy job with lots of gooey grease.


A Terrible and Wonderful day and Angels

Well, do you ever say it was one of those days. This is one of those days that is one in which you fall into bed at the end of it and try to block out thoughts of “what if”. You just dont want to go there. Here is our day.

It started out just like the day before, only less wind. You see the Plauge Blanche is a part of the Sahara that pushes out to touch the Atlantic Ocean. One of the most beautiful, most void of people beaches. Little overland jeeps showing up like ants to drive up and down the 60 km stretch of beach. Fisherman shacks dotting the coast. No shops. Only an occasional fisherman offering some of his days catch. We had to bring in all the food and fresh water we would need for our stay. We showed up to find 3 other trucks full of friends already there. Friends from Holland, UK, Spain, Morocco, Czech Republic. Actually, more like family now.

Two days before we braved coming out of the truck with goggles and scarves to face the wind for the sheer adventure of it.

The day before was filled with eating together, surfing, boogie boarding, smothering ourselves in blue mud and rolling in sand dunes.

Yesterday started with boogie boarding and surfing. Andrew and Hannah went out with boogie boards under their arms to join Leike and Pavla  to get some surfing tips. Being around so many surfers lately has caused Andrew to frequently reminisce the days of his youth on the beaches of New Zealand. Here was his chance to add to his image of surfboards strapped on to Maggie somewhere like some kind of trophy. I am glad that I was up at the truck and oblivious to what happened next until all were safe and back on shore.

It was Andrew’s turn to sit on shore while the boogie boards and surfboard were occupied by the other three. Andrew looked out and saw Hannah way out at sea being tossed by unrelenting waves. Leike and Pavla were desperately and unsuccessfully trying to reach her. Without even thinking about his own safety only thinking of his little girl, Andrew plunged into the water only to be caught up in the same rip tide being pulled out to sea WITHOUT A BOARD. Leike, like an angel, caught up with him briefly so that Andrew could rest on her board then catching a wave in to find help. Pavla, in the meantime caught up to Hannah, like a rescuing angel and brought her in to shore. Leike now came back out with Pavlas board only to find no Andrew. All feared they wouldnt find him again. Andrew was still being pulled out to sea without a board, continuing to be tossed about. Andrew was now too tired to do anything but kick his legs slightly while he tried to keep above the unrelenting waves. He was completely disoriented by this time. He didnt know where the shore was. He focused on staying afloat. At one point he tried again to touch ground with the tip of his toes. He touched ground and realized he was coming in to shore tho thru no effort of his own. There must have been an angel in the waves.  He finally reached shore completely void of any strength and shaking with cold and sheer exhaustion.

All went into a fisherman’s shack belonging to Hassan and his brother who had also gone into the water like a brave warrior angel, bringing people into safety then wrapping them in blankets and serving tea to the shaken swimmers at his shack.  Later the 4 came walking back up to the trucks emotionally and physically exhausted.

As we were still recounting from the events Abigail, Alana and TJ decided to go for a mud plunge. Smothering themselves in blue-black mud like the day before. Forming their hair into bizarre shapes like the Leningrad cowboys. Having a great time plunging themselves into the bank of mud. I was in the truck still reeling from recounts of the other events, laying down and having cuddles with Hannah, who was still shaken. Pavla comes in and is being held by Rachel as she starts to recover from the events. Abi comes to the door and says, in a very calm and composed manner that is very Abi, “Mum, I think I cut myself”. I look out the door to see Abi covered head to toe in blue-black mud except for the blood streaming down her right leg. I grabbed a jerry can and doused the leg with water to show 3 bloody stripes across her leg. The worse being a gash about 6 inches long and open about the width of my thumb. I yelled to Andrew inside the truck who was in a half stupor from exhaustion that we needed to go to the hospital. I wrapped the wound with clean rags and Alana, our cleaning angel, brought Abi down to the small inlet to rinse off some of the mud while we packed up the truck. We were ready in 5-10 minutes to drive an hour to the hospital in Guelmime. After a very bumpy one hour ride and alot of assistance by the newest member to our truck family and resident communicating and culture angel, Rachel, we arrive at the hospital.

Walking into the Urgencies department we expected to be there for hours and pay a huge bill. Quite to the contrary, we were out within half an hour after great care, 10 stitches, no bill and a perscription to fill.

After filling out our perscription and replenishing our fresh fruit and veg supplies we were driving out of town to Hassan’s, our friend and personal oasis in the Sahara, and Abi (our family observer par excellance) looks out of the window and sees Philip, a good friend from the Rainbow gathering. Andrew pulls over, I jump out and half an hour later 5 old friends are jumping into our truck on the way to Hassan’s. They say we were their angels bringing unity after a very difficult day for them. I like being called angels. What is better than that.

At the end of the day we arrive at Hassan’s house where he reminds us over and over, “this is your house in the Sahara, this is your garden, you are home”. Hassan was our homecoming angel. We all contribute to a nice, life-giving soup and bake the beautiful fresh bread started by Abi before her injury. We then fall into bed.

Angels all around when times are rough if we just take the time to look.


A day in the life at Hassan’s Garage

As we are leaving Hassan’s wonderful garage we thought we would give you a glimpse into our day for the last several weeks.

The day begins at 5 am here with the call to prayer bellowing from the mosque only a hundred metres away. I know the thought “hey cool. Praying at 5am. I might do it too.” It has crossed my mind. But, FIVE OCLOCK comes SOOOO EARLY!
6 oclock is when the cement brickmakers next door start working. They use a machine, that sounds like a jackhammer, and emits bricks out the other end when the right ingredients are shovelled in the other end. If this doesnt wake you the flies do.
Hassan and his men arrive between 7 and 8. There are normally at least 6 vans and horseboxes and trucks to work on. The men from these vehicles increase the workforce by another 6 or so.
Hassan is a gentle berber man with a ready smile, creativity, diligence and honesty. His men are the same. We found Hassan through other travellers and he has a great reputation. They do not have as many fancy tools and expensive paint. Many times they weld with sunglasses instead of a proper shield and the paint isnt cut to be super shiny after painting but…. they are fast and efficient. I think it might be because they are used to keeping old things going instead of throwing them away. They have found the oil leak caused by the French mechanics. They have fixed the step that the Scottish welders said couldn’t be done. They have made numerous old vehicles new, including ours, with meticulous attention to detail to bodywork and paint.

The oil leak was fixed in true Hassan fashion. Andrew opened up the hood and showed Hassan where the oil was leaking on the inside of the bonnet/hood. Hassan put Andrew to work by showing him where to start looking. Andrew found the leak. He thinks the french mechanics forgot to put sealant around the valves when they fixed the engine. Hassan concurs and gives Andrew some sealant to do the repairs.

Jose has been our main guy working on the truck. Referring to Hassan when he gets a job too difficult. As Jose and Andrew are getting the cab ready for painting, Jose finds out the passenger door doesnt open from the outside. This has been a real problem at times as it is the only door that is not in the traffic if we park up on the side of the road for the night. Jose thinks nothing of it and fixes it right away. Andrew goes to show Jose the step that the Scottish said couldn’t be fixed. Done already. I think Andrew likes going back and forth between computer and boiler suit. He takes his laptop down to the hotel with wifi and does some email and intellectual work. He comes back here, puts his laptop bag on the hook and puts on his boiler suit. The extremes of it all. Once again he comments that he likes that he is just another working man when he has on his boiler suit. He is one of them. It is funny how that happens. The power of the boiler suit. It is a communal working experience here. Everybody helping each other out.

Sometimes other workmen come in from other business to help out. Hassan introduced us to some men from across the street to do the canvas bit of our work.
As for me and the kids. I think I have become my mother. After homeschooling I clean up as much as I can after all the workers and the kids help me or Andrew or hang with the other kids and army of dogs and sheep.

There are other calls to prayer during the day but people just keep working, hardly noticing.

During the day we sometimes go out onto the street and get avocado juice, fresh squeezed orange juice or pistachio yogurt. We would normally go out for an ice lolly but they are probably made with unboiled water which rules them out.

The workday ends at dark – around 7 pm. We have dinner. Sometimes we cook and sometimes we go out for harira (spicy bean soup) bisara (pea soup) or Andrew’s favourite. His favourite is, what he calls, Moroccan fast food. A man with a small silver cart who emerges on the sidewalk surrounded with local moroccan men. He makes a different kind of meatball (kefta) or kebab sandwich each day and puts it in some bread with some sauce and onions. With either of these meals we can feed the whole family for about 12 – 15 mad or a little more than a euro. The price makes it even more of a favourite for Andrew. We have gone out for tajine a few times but this is less often than we thought we would. It is difficult to cook here in the mechanics yard. We also suspect that it we dont save any money cooking for ourselves.

We do have electricity and we sometimes use this to watch a movie but we normally dont. We talk, read, play a game, do a blog entry on the computer and go to sleep early to the sound of music and barking dogs. The barking dogs give way to the roosters before the 5 o’clock call to prayer and another day begins.

As we are leaving we got our bill 6000 mad and a bicycle which translates to less than 600 euros. This is what we got done – rebuilt exhaust, raise the roof, rust removed and cab painted, black underside repainted, new hinges on box, collapsible roof rack, 13 small jobs. A pretty good deal. And we got to camp out with some very interesting people.