A couple of days ago I related the saga of the rental process culminating in our signing a one year lease for an apartment in Fes. I am sure a number of questions bubbled to the surface in many minds. Likely the most pervasive is, “Why would you do such a thing?” It is not a question that has escaped our attention. We prefer not to be considered irrational in our decision making or seriously misled about how we might affect the lives of people with whom we engage on a regular basis, and we hope that engagement occurs in some sort of meaningful way.
Most of you are aware that on two separate occasions, 1986 and 1997, we came to Morocco with the intention that we would be here on a permanent basis. The first effort resulted in our being here about 30 months, the second about 20 months. Though neither provided the longevity we envisioned, it is also true that neither period persuaded us that our commitment to be acceptable outsiders living in a cross-cultural context should be abandoned.
Health issues prevented us from being able to live here permanently, but they did not preclude our traveling here on a regular basis. We have done exactly that, at least one of us being here every year since 1995. These periodic visits have enabled us to maintain personal relationships that were established more than twenty-five years ago. Like extended family, we have seen our children’s contemporaries grow up, and we now interact with their children. In a very real sense, we seem to them as aunt or uncle, or perhaps even grandparents.
Before reaching retirement age, we considered the possibility of establishing a residence of some type after we both retired in order to leverage the time we spend here in a more effective manner. We feel being a part of a specific neighborhood will enhance that possibility. Being known in a certain locale can contribute to a credible presence, an important characteristic for a person different in appearance, background and language.
A second reason we proceeded with the decision involves our intention to be a catalyst for introducing Americans to Morocco. In 1999, we established a small non-profit organization with the objective of promoting improved relations between the people of the countries of Morocco and the United States. One track of activity we support is the promotion of student exchanges between the two countries at the university level. A second area of interest has been the promotion of cultural awareness through short term tours. These tours focused on visits in ordinary citizens’ homes, while still introducing the important tourist sites in this very ancient country. This part of our organization’s purpose will definitely be enhanced by having a fixed residence as a base of operation.
We recognize that much of our rationale is more a justification for what we enjoy doing, rather than a persuasive argument that we are spending time and money in the very best way possible. Nevertheless, we sense that we are not engaged in trivial activity, a meaningless exercise in avoiding more difficult tasks in other places, or avoiding more mundane responsibilities in our habitual routines at homes.
Circumstances beyond our control introduced us to this culture when I was stationed here with the U.S. Navy in 1971-72. However, our affinity and affection for being here developed as a result of our choices, our commitment, and our continued conviction that we have something to contribute to this country and especially to those citizens we number among our friends and acquaintances. Advancing age convinced us that we needed to act now, doing whatever we could within our physical and financial limitations to maximize ournpresence and influence here. We believe that having a familiar place to reside maybe one to three months at the time, perhaps twice a year, presents the best possibility of our being able to accomplish that goal.
“En-shah-ah-llah” is an arabic word we hear many times every day and it’s translated as “if God wills” or “God’s will be done”. It is used at the end of every future tense sentence. May God bless our new home and relationships, “En-shah-al-llah”.