17 September 2013

Back 'home' again

As we walk down the steps off the aeroplane at Marrakech International Airport, laden with burgeoning hand luggage, the warm air hits us - and we smile at the sudden awareness of being back in our second home - Morocco.

We never planned to live here this long - nearly two years now - it just sort of happened. Three months was our plan, but somehow each three-month period of time living here was never enough; there was always more we wanted to see, hear, visit, experience. Friendships have been made, both with ex-pats and locals, jovial relationships with waiters at local cafés have been built, neighbours have accepted us into their village and lives, we've even been welcomed as 'family' by friends in the desert and mountains alike. Morocco has truly and unintentionally become our second home.

So begins the all-too familiar routine of our first night and first full day at 'our' house.We are met at the airport by our friend, Adil, who has brought our hire car to meet us. 'Which car have you brought us?' we ask. 'It is your car, Mr Martin,' he replies to my hubby, '...always your car!' We arrange to meet up soon for a tagine next time he visits our village, then we are on our way, driving towards the mountains - and home. A quick stop at the local Carrefour supermarket is all we need to tide us over with basic groceries until tomorrow. As I look after the car which is full of our baggage, hubby buys the bits we need. It's only a few seconds before friends spot me hovering in the car park (too hot to stay inside the car) and make their way over. Life is like that here - always bumping into friends when you least expect it!

A quick chat later and we're off on that road towards home again, filled with trepidation as to what we will find has changed since the last time we were here. There's always something - and it can be either a change for the better or the worse!

Just to rewind a little...when we left the house in late July, there were 3 adult dogs at the house and 7 cute little 8-week-old puppies, plus a cat and her 3 tiny 3-week-old kittens. Will any of these still be there, we ponder. I do hope so; as you may have gathered by now if you read this blog regularly, animals play a very important part in my life here - but unfortunately this country is not a nation of animal-lovers in general; poisoning and shooting of dogs is rife, especially in the countryside as so many dogs are to be seen roaming around. Cats, however, tend to fare better due to the common belief that the prophet Mohammed was in favour of them. So who knows what we will find...

We notice very little the first night. Saïd, the guardian, greets us like long-lost friends, we find some bedding from amongst our belongings we left at the house...then it's to bed. We are very tired and our large comfortable bed is a very welcome sight indeed. We awake to the sound of a cat miaowing outside the window, a disdainful look on her face. 'Where have you been?' she seems to say haughtily, 'And where is my food?!' Soon, two lively little bundles of fur appear, following mum...they've grown so much and now look like proper kittens as opposed to having the rat-like features they sported last time we saw them! Saïd tells us that the third kitten has disappeared, 'eaten by mongoose,' he says. Moroccans are renowned for their storytelling - is this a story or is it the truth? Either way, only two kittens have survived. He also tells us he has 'given away' all 7 puppies and he proceeds to count...2 to my father, 3 to builders who have been working at the house, 2 to my friend and 1 to another friend....maths was never his strong point ;-) I really hope I can trust what he has said and that the puppies have gone to good homes. I am helpless to do or say anything - their fate is out of my reach. So I choose to trust that he is telling the truth and decide to put all negative thoughts to the back of my mind for safe-keeping. I still have 3 dogs, 1 cat and 2 kittens to look after! Having said that, Mrs Dog and Mr Sneezy are apparently 'having marriage' as Saïd so eloquently puts it. Hence they have disappeared into the long grass of the local fields and can only be seen from a distance through binoculars! Oh dear, not more puppies to be catered for, is my immediate thought. Why won't anybody take responsibility and spay the female dog? This cannot be good for her health. It is a real problem in Morocco.

So, what has happened in the house? We are told that workmen have been trundling through our home for the last 24 days! They have varnished everything in sight it seems - from furniture to ceilings and everything in between! Not only is everything now covered in splashes of varnish, but the beautiful geckos who used to live in the ceiling have now sadly had to find new homes...I will miss them. Grease has miraculously appeared on the cooker top in this 'vacant' property, the tagine has somehow broken its own lid, the chair covers have been washed and have now turned a weird shade of yellow instead  of the cream colour to which I had restored them when I washed them just before I left the house, and in general everything is covered with dust! To add insult to injury, the garden plant pots have been painted a hideous shade of dark green with a red wonky stripe, the same colours echoed in the large metal gate - which now also sports a red misshapen 'diamond' on one section. We try to laugh it all off and concentrate on the positive developments instead. I now have an 80-metre washing line, erected on flattish land so I no longer find myself standing with one foot in the dug-out section of the lemon trees whilst pegging out my sheets; we can see over the newly chopped down hedge and have a clearer view towards the mountains; the garden has generally been tidied.

Such is the fate of a vacant property left in the hands of a guardien in Morocco! One never quite knows what to expect after being away for a period of time!

The best thing of all has to be the fact that we are now back 'home' and can start the process of restoring the house back to its former state of cleanliness....until the next time we go away...

NB: Look out for my next blog coming soon - we're off to Fes this week, so I'm looking forward to writing about it already!