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5/29/08 Red Letter Days

Today was a GREAT day at the bosta (post office).

Mail only comes into town three times a week – Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and only after the post office is closed for the day. So the days to check mail are Mondays (for Friday’s arrivals), Tuesdays (for Monday’s), and Thursdays (for Wednesday’s). Since I was in SouqTown on Monday – and will be for most Mondays – that means that Tuesdays are especially exciting, because there’s twice the likelihood of getting mail.

So Tuesday, when K** dropped me off at the bosta, I was eager to see what I’d find. I got a card from a friend in the States (thanks!!) and scored two packages of books from the Peace Corps librarian (my new best friend), which included some technical materials on environmental education in the schools as well as some fiction (since I’d told him I’m a fan). I got The Jane Austen Book Club, which I’ve read before but enjoyed, Northanger Abbey, which I’ve never read but wanted to, and Dreams of Trespass by Fatima Mernissi, which I’m pretty sure is on my wishlist. I heard about Fatima Mernissi just before getting to Morocco, and wished I’d had time to read her books. She writes about women in Islam, women in Morocco, Islam and Morocco, etc. Pretty fabulous, really. In the 40-ish hours since I got it, I’ve read 211 pages of this 242 page book, and that’s with me limiting myself to only reading when it’s bedtime. (The goal of the first three months of service is to integrate into the community, not to hole up reading good books.) The harem life that Mernissi describes, from her childhood in the 1940s and 1950s, is different from the life I see Berber women living today, but many of core issues – the separation of men and women, the role of the veil, etc – are still vital in today’s Morocco. It’s also fun to see the Darija words that she drops into the text. Some are identical to words I know, and some are different. (She lived in Fez, which is well north of me; the local Berber dialect is different – it’s called Tarifite – and that means that the Darija, aka the Moroccan blend of French, Spanish, Arabic, and Berber, is slightly different as well.)

So that was Tuesday.

Today, Thursday, I went back to the bosta to check my box and to mail some paperwork to Peace Corps HQ in Rabat.

What’s fun about knowing nothing is that every moment is a chance to learn. :)

What I learned this morning: most in-country letters cost 3.25 dirhams to mail, but only if you stay under 20 grams. I had enough documents to hit 26 grams, so I had to pay double postage – 6.5 Ds. I think postage rules are the same in the States; 0.1 ounce up to … some limit … is a regular stamp, but once you push past that, even by an smidgen, it jumps up to two stamps. (Right?)

There was also a long-awaited letter in my box. OK, 9-day-awaited. It was the 60D stamp that I need for my carte de sejour (Green Card-like document). I’m only allowed to be in the country for 3 months without a carte de sejour, and that three months elapses next week. Eep. Of course, getting the carte is a several-month process, but as long as I have the stamped receipt showing that I’ve applied for it, I’m still law-abiding. :) [Update: I went to the gendarmerie, spoke French, English, Tamazight, and my most useful phrase of Darija: “I don’t understand Arabic”, and emerged (six hours later) with the stamped receipt. I’m good to go!]

But I still haven’t gotten to the best part of my trip to the bosta. Sorry for the rambling.

In addition to the 60D stamp in my mailbox, the bubosta (postman) had not one but TWO packages for me from loved ones in the States!! Lhumdullah!! They were sent a week apart, but arrived on the same day. (I’ve started tracking shipping times; so far, the average time for a letter or card to get here is 10 days, and the average time for a package is 21 days.) I got a card, a book, burnable CDs, pens, pencils, and some seriously good Philadelphia-made chocolate. Mmmm. Thank you thank you thank you!! I also got a copy of Innocents Abroad; now I can read my blog’s namesake and decide if the literary allusion was a good idea or not. :)

When I got home with my armful of postal goodies, my host mother was curious. I showed her the packages from my xalti (maternal aunt), my sadiq (a way of saying “my friend” that is gender neutral, since it was in fact from a guy friend and I didn’t want to run into the “boyfriend” issue), and from the hayat salaam (Peace Corps). I added a big lhumdullah and she smiled, saying Kawtar ghors familia ixatr iHla. Lizzy has a good, big family. :D And I do. (Friends are, of course, part of my family.) Lhumdullah!

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