Since arriving here in T–, Liz and I have been trying to set up work for ourselves at our Dar Chebab, women’s club and with various associations around town (see previous post for our successes!). The real work for us, however, is to get our lives set up here so we can concentrate on youth development, which is our actual assignment.
A big part of setting up your life in a new town, whether in the United States or any other country, is finding a place to live. Shelter is, after all, one of the basic necessities of life, and as much as we love our host family here, our American-ness dictates we want a place of our own. Moroccans typically live with their families until they get married, so it’s a strange concept for them that anyone would want to live by themselves. I think it helps though, that Liz and I will be sharing an apartment, so we can be like our own little family.
After a couple weeks of searching, however we have found our apartment.
Finding an apartment in Morocco is nothing at all like finding an apartment in the United States. Here there’s no classified advertising, no online listings like Craig’s List. You go entirely on word of mouth, unless if you want to fork over some extra cash to an intermediary, kind of like a realtor. The way to do it is to ask pretty much everyone you know if they know of someone who knows of an apartment for rent. Thankfully our family is connected to almost everyone else in Taroudant, so we had plenty of people to ask.
Our host uncle began taking us around to various apartments, and we saw a handful of them before deciding on one. Here in Morocco, houses traditionally look inward, not to the outside, which is another physical expression of the cultural division between private and public space. Windows onto the street are small or non-existent, so when you’re preferences are more inclined to lots of natural light and windows to look out of, it’s a bit of an adjustment. Several we saw were very dark on the inside, which we didn’t like. One we loved with a beautiful roof, but the landlady wasn’t able to drop the price far enough for us to be able to afford it.
And then we found it. It’s in a building where we looked at several units, and didn’t like them because most of them were dark. Our apartment, however, is in the middle of the building, and is the only one that opens onto a miniature courtyard, about the size of a large dining room table. The courtyard goes up through the middle of the building, with apartments above us having windows onto it. A lot of natural light comes in without the noise of the street. It’s in the middle of the house, so it will be relatively cooler in the summer.
In short, we love it, and our landlord is a jovial Moroccan guy who spends a lot of time living in France. The building is brand new and we’re the first tenants in our unit. Currently the bathroom is being torn apart for a larger pipe size to the toilet, so we’re waiting for that to be finished.
To get the apartment, we had to go to a public notary and get a contract written up in Arabic, which we then signed and got notarized. That contract then is taken to the electricity utility office and the water utility office. In Morocco, tenants have to get their own water meter and electrical meter installed, which involves lots of trips back and forth to various offices. Luckily our host dad is a former electrical utility employee, so we got our electricity meter right away. We still have to finalize some stuff for the water meter, but once that is in, we can do a quick cleaning and move in.
Peace Corps provides us with what is called a “settling in allowance,” which is a chunk of cash that is intended to cover the cost of whatever you need to buy to live in your apartment, including the charges for the utility meters. Luckily, a health volunteer who lives about an hour away from us is closing her service soon and is giving us her entire household of stuff so that we’ll only have to buy another bed and some other miscellaneous items. Pictures will follow as soon as we have the keys…