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September 1, 2008 …and the living is easy

I met some Japanese tourists the other day, who asked me which is better, Morocco or America. I’d already given them my stock response – I love them both – but they were pushing the point. When I’ve had this conversation in Berber, I stick to “I like them both the same” (which is expressed with the very simple, “Kif-kif, ghori”). But this conversation was in English, and I felt compelled to explain myself more fully…

“I can’t say which is better. They’re too different.” I looked at them to see if they understood me. “It’s not even like comparing apples and oranges; it’s like comparing apples and…pine trees. Which is better? Well, do you want a snack or some shade? Do you want the tang of mountain air or something that crunches between your teeth? If you’re hungry, take the apple. If you want to think of Christmas, take the pine tree. Which is better?” I shook my head. “I honestly can’t answer that.”

As I’ve thought about it in the days since, it has occurred to me that, while I really can’t make a value judgment either way, I can say that living in America was easier than living in Morocco.

I don’t mean to over-generalize; there are certainly people living in luxury in Morocco, especially in wealthy cities like Rabat and Azrou, while there are millions of people struggling in America. I’ve spent years working with impoverished American children and families, and would never dare to say that I know how hard or easy they find their lives. But *my* life in America is significantly easier than *my* life in the Moroccan bled.

For example…

Hot water available 24 hours a day vs cold water available for a few hours each morning.
Nearly unlimited steaming hot water at the turn of a knob vs heating water in a 3L teakettle (which entails lighting the butagaz stove) or 2L hotpot (which blows my circuit breaker every 20 seconds).
Hot food available with the push of a microwave button vs cooking over butane gas.
Laundry cleaned by machine vs scrubbed by hand.
Transportation whenever, wherever in my car/on Metro vs waiting for buses & grand taxis.
Central heating vs wood stoves and butagaz heaters.
Central air-conditioning vs open windows.
Sterilized, hyper-cleaned everywhere vs walking through manure and endless flies.
Showers daily, with high-water-pressure spray and (nearly) endless hot water vs showers weekly (or less), from a faucet with hose-like water pressure. (And the hot water has lasted for an entire shower exactly three times.)
Nearly unlimited communication with all loved ones via cell phone and internet vs $5/minute phone calls and weekly (or less) internet access.
Pre-packaged frozen meals vs cooking everything from scratch.

…But Ramadan is beginning, and with it the tangible lesson that what is right is not always easy, and that what is easy is not always right.

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