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November 25, 2008 Warm Face, Warm Hands, Warm Feet…

(Thanks to Rogers & Hammerstein, or whoever else is responsible for My Fair Lady.)

Christmas has come early. At least a month early. :) Wonderful loved ones from the US have sent me presents focused on keeping Kawtar kozy. Hats, mittens, electric gloves, down comforter, Uggs, thermal underwear, cocoa packets, chai packets, oatmeal packets…and I love it all. Also, one relative just funded my single most expensive purchase in nine months: I bought myself a butagaz (gas) stove.

I’d been planning to buy a wood-burning stove, for several reasons: I love the smell of burning wood; I have tons of waste paper from old newspapers and magazines and junk mail (yes, even in Morocco); butagaz stoves pose a carbon monoxide risk; wood stoves are dirt cheap… I think there were more reasons, but that’s enough. But on the flipside, this area is dying from the deforestation driven by fuelwood consumption. I’ve been blaming the erosion and desertification on the ravenous sheep and goats…turns out there’s more to the story. Anything the sheep and goats don’t eat – notably a prickly plant known as ifsi – is fed to the fires. Wood brought in (not to say poached) from the National Parks up north is also absurdly expensive – easily ten times the price elsewhere in Morocco, simply because it has to come so far, over such awful roads. So if I buy a woodburning stove, I’m contributing, very directly, to the deforestation (and subsequent erosion, and desertification, and general degradation) of Morocco.

And in a non-environmental aside, wood stoves are inconvenient. Splitting wood is a pain. My friend’s tiny stove that we used at our pre-Thanksgiving party – the size that would meet my needs – needs to be fed smallwood every few minutes. Most local families have larger stoves, that can be fed larger chunks of wood, but those are even less efficient.

So yesterday I splurged horrifically and bought a big butagaz stove. It’s about three feet high, 18” across, 18” deep. Most of the depth is used to hold the butane tank. It has wheels, which are a huge advantage; I can bring the stove anywhere I go. It can be in the kitchen when I cook, in the living room when I entertain, and in my bedroom when I’m swunfuing at home. (Have I made swunfu a word-of-the-day yet? I don’t think so. It’s onomopoeatically perfect: it means rest or relax, and is pronounced like swoon-foo.) It has the one drawback of all point-source heaters, whether electric, fireplaces, or whatever: the side closest to it gets mosty-toasty, but the side facing away stays cold. But I’m OK with that. As all of my relatives can attest to, I’m the one most likely to sit on the mantle when there’s a fire in the fireplace. I’m OK with flipping back and forth, like a human grilled-cheese sandwich. :)

So thank you, thank you, thank you, to all of you who have contributed to my physical warmth. And thanks to you all, for reading my blog and making me warm and fuzzy on the inside. :)

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Think local. Act global. Learn more about the Peace Corps