Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Lucky? - Alrica

Ever since we started talking about our travels, one of the things I keep hearing is how “lucky” we are. It always feels a bit strange to me because I don’t feel lucky. Seeing the world has been a dream of mine and we feel like it is important for our kids to see and understand how different the world can be so we planned for it. We saved up for years, choosing to not buy expensive cars, eat at expensive restaurants, and take expensive trips so that we could do this. And we are doing it as economically as possible. We are traveling slow, arriving in each location with the intent to immerse ourselves as much as possible in the local culture and live like locals.

While we have hit the occasional hotel, mostly we are staying in furnished apartments found on AirBnB. This hasn’t been a perfect system as they are not usually as well furnished as I’d like. Not just that they don’t have crock pots and KitchenAid mixers, but most don’t seem to have can openers and measuring cups. Morocco is a great example of this.

Arriving in Morocco, we spent the first few days visiting restaurants to get a taste of the local cuisine, seeing the must-see sights, and generally being touristy. We even took a cooking class! As we settled in, we visited the local grocery store and fruit/vegetable market. The languages spoken here are French and Arabic, neither of which do we know well. So we arrive with our cell phones installed with Google Translate and try to figure out why we can’t find baking powder in Morocco or tortilla chips in South Africa. Is it a language barrier, or just differences?  In South Africa, there were 18 different kinds of sugar and in Morocco, they seem to have a similar variety of flour. Today’s groceries cost us about $44USD and should last us about a week, assuming we will eat out a time or two.

Arriving home with our groceries, I put everyone to work: dicing onion, grating cheese, whatever, while I pull out the chosen recipe that is today’s challenge. We are planning to do a chicken couscous and the first thing is to start cooking up the chicken. The stove here runs on propane. When we checked in, they showed us that three of the four burners work and then left us with a lighter. So I turn on the propane tank and then turn on all of the burner knobs since none are marked. I can’t ignite the burners directly with the lighter without burning my fingers so I find a piece of paper, roll it into a tube, and light it. Now I have a “match” to light the stove with.

The saucepans seem serviceable, but are missing handles, no problem early in the process when the pan is cold but I better find a pot holder for later. Okay, a towel will work. Syarra volunteered to dice tomatoes but the knife isn’t very sharp, and she doesn’t have a cutting board. We find a wooden tray for her to cut on and a sharper knife to use. Now, the chicken is cooked and water needs to be added. I do so and then discover that the pan has no lid. Okay, I find another larger pan to serve in this capacity. We continue using a series of workarounds and adjustments and manage to pull off a delicious couscous.

I’m not really complaining too much. We are living in a country where the unemployment rate is 9.3%, the best they’ve seen in a long time, and the average monthly salary is $386.45 USD. Sometimes the lack of conveniences feel oppressive but I remind myself that people here live without those conveniences all the time. And most of them would not be lucky enough to be able to put aside enough money to live their dreams.


  1. Since we have moved to Paris we have had to fill in quite a bit in our furnished apartment, but we have 3 years to use the stuff. I do feel for you having to fill in every 2 months or so. That said, hopefully things are much more inexpensive there to fill in with.