Pack your patience – this apparently is the key to setting up house in Morocco. We have been here three weeks now, and are still not officially into our new home. Thankfully, my father in law has been wonderful about letting us stay with him. Unfortunately, he lives about 20 minutes from where we wish to live, so we have had to rent a car and commute in order to get things done. All in all, it has been an adventure already!
The first step to setting up house here was to find a place to stay. Since I already have a job, we decided to try to find a place close to my place of employment: the American Academy of Casablanca, in the neighborhood of Oasis. In the United States, we would have looked on the internet, or in the newspaper to see what was for rent. Not in Morocco. Don’t get me wrong, there is Century 21 here, but trying to get them to return your call seems to be impossible. No, in Morocco, it’s all about knowing somebody who knows somebody. Fortunately, we knew a few somebodies. In fact, everybody in Morocco “knows someone who does that”. And if they don’t, they know where to go to ask. My father in law set us up to look at a few apartments, and a custodian from the school had a husband who finds apartments for people. The key for us ended up being the driver who works at the school and picked us up at the airport. He knew about a half of a villa that was available for rent. It’s in a perfect location, just a block from my school and a block from the school my boys will go to – plus it has a terrace for the kids to play on. [Of course, the nice gentleman who knew about the apartment expected to be compensated – the going rate is the same as a month’s rent.] At first we thought the villa was out of our price range, but as with everything in Morocco, we found that the price is always negotiable! However, negotiating takes time. We looked at our villa on a Wednesday, but waited until Friday to find out if the price was going to be negotiated in our favor. Then, we had to wait until Monday to sign the papers!
Now, you might be asking why we didn’t just sign the lease agreement when the money issue was worked out. Well, that is because a lease is not just a private agreement here. You must go down to a government office with 3 copies of your lease (2 filled out in black ink and 1 filled out in blue ink) and sign the papers in front of the right official. The official will then stamp your papers, and you must sign the big ledger saying that you filed the papers. Don’t forget to bring your passport too, or they won’t let you sign! It was quite an ordeal (think DMV type of lines), but luckily it only cost us 20 dirhams (about $2.50) and an afternoon of our time.
So, now the papers were filled out and we were ready to move in right? No, now it was time to get the utilities turned on. Luckily, water and electricity are turned on by the same company. [No gas needed as gas comes in propane tanks that you hook up to your stove.] Unluckily, it takes more than just a phone call to start this process. We had to go to Lydec (the company with a monopoly on these services) and bring them a copy of that stamped lease agreement. However, when we got there, they also wanted a photocopy of my passport (they don’t have a copy machine, so you have to get a copy and bring it yourself) and a copy of a previous bill for the apartment. So, we got to leave, dig up the correct documents, and then come back to take a new number and sit in line to wait again. Luckily for us, it only took the one extra trip, and then it was arranged for water and electricity to be turned on the next afternoon.
Ready to move in yet? No, we have had to scrub the villa down, as it has been empty for quite some time. Once our water and electricity was on, we went to Marjane (the closest thing to Walmart here) and bought some cleaning supplies, including the Moroccan version of a mop – a squeegie on a stick, with a large rag to be pushed around. Thankfully, my husband is familiar with how to use this, and I am learning quickly. We scrubbed floors and walls and poured the dirty water down the stairs to the drain that waits at the bottom, and now it is at least clean enough for my kids to sit on the floor without looking like they have been playing in a dirt pile!
Next step – appliances. We had priced out what was in our budget at Marjane, and headed there to order our appliances and have them delivered. Unfortunately, the appliances we picked out were out of stock. They thought they might be in by Wednesday, but weren’t quite sure. If we wanted to go ahead and pay for them, they would deliver them when they showed up. This didn’t work well for us, so we decided to remember that we were in Morocco, not the US and go back to the rule of them – everyone knows someone who _______. It turns out that my husband’s cousin and my father in law both knew of the same guy to go to for appliances. We took a trip down and picked out what we wanted (brand new, for significantly less than Marjane, and of course – the price was negotiable!) My father negotiated for us, and even added delivery in for 100 dirhams (about $10.50).
Delivery took place right away, in what is called a “Honda”. This “Honda” moving truck was actually a Suzuki, but “Honda” is just the word used for someone who will deliver stuff you buy at a souk, or market. The gentleman who delivered the appliances helped my husband lift the fridge up our flight of stairs and into our kitchen. Then, he carried the stove on his back, running up the stairs!! I was quick to get out of the way! Next week we will go back and get our washing machine and microwave (dishwashers and dryers are a huge luxury here, and we will not be having either for the moment).
Now that we have appliances, we need to buy a propane tank and the adaptors for our stove, get internet set up (going through our cell carrier) and move our stuff over. Hopefully our container of stuff will show up soon. The US office says it is supposed to be here already, the Moroccan office says next week. My husband’s cousin knows someone who knows someone at the port, so we are going to have him look into it on Monday. Hopefully it will arrive soon. We will then hire another “Honda” and get our stuff from the boat to our villa. Overall, it has felt a little chaotic – but we will be moving in soon, and it will be worth it!