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June 1, 2008 Travel travails (time, time, time)

This past week, the government announced its decision to introduce Daylight Savings Time to Morocco. It’s arousing lots of discussion… among those people who have heard of it. More on that in a sec. I’m sitting in my favorite hotel in SouqTown, and the maitre d’ just asked me my opinion on the subject. When I was sitting in front of a café in Berberville, people at the next table over were discussing it in raised voices. “Arguing over it” might be a more accurate way to describe the scene. It’s a hot topic.

It’s especially timely today (pun intended) because this is the first day that Morocco is on Daylight Savings Time. Not the first time ever, but the first time in several years, from what I understand. I guess that makes today historic. Woo-hoo!

This big shift has been all over the news – print and TV and probably online, though I haven’t looked – but not every Moroccan watches or reads the news daily. (Neither does every American, I’ll be the first to admit.) Which means that not everyone *knows* about Daylight Savings Time.

And that is a bit of a mushkil. (Problem)

For many Moroccans, especially out in the bled (rural areas), it will make no difference. Especially since the school year is effectively over. (There are tests this coming week, but that’s more or less it.) If you wake up when the roosters do (which I’m still doing, though I’m trying to learn to sleep through their call like I’ve slept through so many alarm clocks before), it makes no difference what the clock says. Let alone what the government clock says.

But if, say, you want to take public transportation somewhere, then it does matter.

I woke up this morning planning to ride the tranzit into SouqTown. There are many transits each day, leaving approximately at 5, 7, 9, 11, 1, and 3. Emphasis on the approximate, but it’s usually within less than half an hour of that. Because the drivers do round-trip runs between Berberville and SouqTown, if there’s a delay one way, it delays the next trip, but in my experience, they’re generally on time.

But I also woke up knowing that this is the first day of DST, and that not everyone has heard that news.

I’d thought about that last night, and meant to go ask the local tranzit experts (usually the shop-owners next to the station), but I wasn’t feeling well yesterday, so I didn’t. When I woke up, I wondered whether the 9am tranzit would be leaving at 9am yesterday’s time (aka 10am today’s time) or today’s time. I also wondered whether Ama would worry if I slipped out at 8:00 (because, since I didn’t reserve a seat yesterday, I’d need to get there at least an hour early to be guaranteed a seat – I *might* get a seat if I showed up half an hour early, but no promises), since she had worried about me being under the weather yesterday.

I decided to sleep in a little longer, then remind Ama I’d be leaving today, then double-check at the station to see whether the drivers were on DST or not. It sounded like a good plan, so I rolled over and fell back asleep.

The plan rolled out smoothly. At 9:30am (DST), I went over to the station. The tranzit was gone. Since they never leave early, I took this as good evidence that the driver knew about the time change. I told the shopowner that I needed a seat on the 11am tranzit, bought some yoghurt for the host fam, and headed back home.

10:45, I was back at the station. No tranzit in sight. I asked my shopbuddy, who just said assul (not yet). So I made myself comfortable at a café and prepared to wait. I did some journaling in Tamazight, as practice for my meeting with H**, tutor extraordinaire, and kept an eye on my watch. 11am came and went. So did 11:30. Every time any car or truck came up the road – which was about every five minutes – I’d think that this was It.

It wasn’t.

Until 11:55, when the tranzit pulled in. I jumped up, trotted over, and asked the driver when he’d be pulling back out. “Half an hour.” “So, at 12:30?” “No, 11:30.” “But it’s already 12.” “No, it’s not.” “Yes, it is. Last night, an hour was added to the time.” “ ? ” Fortunately, my host-uncle the moqaddim (the mayor) was biking by, and he added his voice to mine. Yes, his Tamazight is (obviously) a thousand times better than mine, but he was saying the same things I’d been saying. I heard “zayd” (add) and “tes3t” (hour or time) repeatedly. The driver ignored both of us.

Long story short, we left at 12:30 (according to my watch) and arrived at 4:30 (ditto). I was supposed to meet my tutor, so I texted her to let her know I'd be later than our meeting last week. She said no problem, so when I arrived, I gave her a call to say, "Hey, I'm here!" Turns out she hadn't gone on DST either, so she was surprised to hear from me an hour early (by her watch).

This is going to be an adventure…

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