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3/6/9 Ruminations on the Fifth of March

On March 5th, 2008, I woke up in a hotel in a Europeanized city for my very first full day in Morocco. Though I now know that it's a thousand-dirham-a-night fancypants hotel, at the time it seemed a bit quaint. As I recall, I claimed first shower, took a quick one out of consideration for my two roommates (and felt vaguely righteous for doing so), then dressed and headed down to the enormous buffet breakfast, where I helped myself to pastries, fruit, and juice.

March 5th, 2009, awakening and breakfasting looked a bit different. I opened my eyes, slithered out of my sarcophagus-style sleeping bag on a living-room ponge (where I've slept for the past several nights, because the living room is warmer than the bedroom), then ran into the frigid bathroom, whose door doesn't fully close, and squatted over a ceramic plate. Then I opened the spigot to one of the two functioning taps in the house, positioned a banyo (rubber basin) under it so that I'd hear the water splashing into it whenever the pipes opened, and went back into the living room. I pulled the sleeping bag over my lap and reached for the lighter & candle. The lighter struck on the first try, lhumdullah. I lit the candle. Once its flame was steady, I released the lighter, set it down, and reached for the gas nozzle on the small heater. (The big one is overkill for daytime.) I cranked it all the way up, holding the candle in front of the flame-plate. It kept catching in bursts, flaring with spurting blue flames that died instantly. Once the gas had increased from a trickle to a flood, it finally caught with a sustainable, rumbling red-blue sheet of butane-scented flames.

Then I booted up my laptop to see if anyone had responded to the email I'd sent out the night before, about my first year in Peace Corps. An hour or two later, I heard the splishing and gurgling of water pouring into the bathroom banyo. I waited a few moments to let the banyo fill, then slipped on my shoes - cement floors are cold, even through the wool socks I never go without - and went into the bathroom. Once the basin was brim-full, I turned off the tap and walked into the kitchen.

I filled the large aluminum teakettle, then lit the stove and set the kettle on to heat while I did the dishes in my rubber gloves. Once the water was hot, I rinsed the last of the dishes, then made a pot of cocoa while I straightened up the kitchen. (When I want just one cup of cocoa, I use a Swiss Miss-style packet from a care package. When I want a pot of cocoa, I make it from scratch.) To make the cocoa, I scoop 3 heaping tablespoons of powdered milk into an old jam jar. Then I pour in hot water, till the jar is about half full, screw on the lid, and shake it till the powder is all dissolved and I have a jar of cream. I pour this into the white-enameled coffeepot. Then I light a candle off of the flames under the teakettle and use it to light the tiny burner for the coffeepot. (All the other burners leave too big a gap in the iron cage over the flames, so the coffeepot tips over when I try to set it down.) Then I pour more water into the jam jar, to get every last bit of milk off the sides. (Why waste it when I wash the jar?) I pour that into the coffeepot. I add in a heaping tablespoon of cocoa powder and another of sugar, then enough hot water to fill the coffeepot. If there are still traces of milk in the jar, I swirl the hot water in there before pouring it in the pot. Then I leave the coffeepot - cocoapot, more accurately - on the stove until it just starts to simmer. I know when it has reached the precise moment because the cocoa starts to inflate, swelling higher in the small pot with all the tiny puffery of a winter bluebird. Just like that, I have a pot of cocoa, with enough for 2 full mugs and a little extra. So I pour a cup, carry the pot and mug, and come into the living room to drink.

Not exactly the same start to a day.

I imagine that the next March 5th will look rather more like today than like last year, but who knows...and of course, two March 5ths ago, I was restarting my long-dormant Peace Corps application.

Life is funny.

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