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The Tangier Book Club

I love books.  Among the adjustments that you must make when moving to another country, is the lack of printed reading material in your native language, particularly books.  Granted, with computers, e-readers, etc. it is not the problem that it once was.  However, it is still an adjustment.

I bought my first Kindle when I moved to Italy in 2007.  In Florence, there are several English bookstores in the historic center, but they don’t always have the exact book that you want at the exact time.  For this, e-readers can’t be beaten.  A quick search and download and voila!  You have access to most of the books in the world.

Maybe it’s just my age, but aside from the convenience on many levels of e-readers (storage, availability of books, and ease of carrying), there is nothing quite like turning the pages of a real book!  Even with my e-reader, I still try to read a printed book every now and then.

Imagine my delight when I discovered the Tangier Book Club.  Mentioned to me by a friend and avid fan of the book group, I couldn’t wait to visit.  The location is near the Median, near the Grand Socco, and near Villa France, but still, if you don’t know exactly where it is, it’s difficult to find.

It’s well worth the search though. The Tangier Book Club is open to residents and visitors of Tangier.  There is a small membership fee, which entitles you to any/all of the almost 8,000 books in the library.  They even have an online card catalog where you can search for the book that you want.

The library began around 1950 and stays vibrant with volunteers, folks who contribute money and books and by those who frequent the library regularly.

I can’t even begin to explain the feeling I had the first time I stepped inside.  Even though I try to read a real book occasionally, I don’t even remember when the last time I went to a library was.  It was probably when my sons were small, so at least 25 years ago.

The smell of the books, browsing through the shelves, spotting old favorites and finding books that I didn’t know existed was so wonderful and brought back so many precious memories.  The library is currently open on Wednesday and Saturday from 10-1.

You can find more information at their site here, including the librarian’s email address if you would like more information or to arrange a visit.

Irwin, Librarian
Librarian

Enjoying the Flavors of Morocco

It is so hard to decide what to share with my readers! Every day there is so much that happens, that I see, that I think, that surprises me, and that I write about. But, everyone enjoys hearing about food experiences, and I’ve already had some great ones.

One of the surprising things about the food here is how international it is. I’m also surprised at the offerings of pasta and pizza. I haven’t had any of that yet, and suspect like Italian food in the USA, or anywhere outside of Italy, it’s not that authentic, but it seems well loved here.

French offerings are prevalent and I’ve enjoyed crepes! I’ve ordered both sweet and salty and they are delicious. Some fresh vegetables almost always accompany food.

Moroccan Salad
Moroccan Salad

Olive oil here is strong and often in restaurants, there are cloves of garlic and peppers inside it for additional flavor. The spices most used are turmeric, saffron, cumin, and paprika. They don’t use salt at all, which is a little hard for my western palate to adapt to, but I can do without so much so I’m trying. Flavors are bold enough so that I am starting not to notice.

Additional items used in cooking are raisins and dates, nuts, preserved lemons, olives, and cilantro. All flavors that I love. Tajines and couscous reign supreme on menus. You can get them with chicken, beef, fish, shrimp, or simple vegetables.

Chicken Pastille
Chicken Pastille

Near where I live now, there is a large supermarket, which has everything anyone could want. I am delighted at my choices, which weren’t always available in Italy. There are all type of spices, sauces, toppings, and products from all over the world there.

Today, however, I was searching for oregano to make a Greek dish at home for dinner. We searched the bulk spices; we searched the bottled spics and didn’t find it anywhere. We both had our phones out translating Oregano into French (Origan) and Darija (I don’t have the keyboard for that). Finally, we had to ask someone.

The man we asked was surprised we were looking in the spice aisle and directed us to the teas. There we found teabags full of 100% pure oregano. It is a tea used for an upset stomach. So, I bought a pack to use for my recipe, and maybe I will try the tea if the need arises. It is an interesting cultural difference!

When we move to our new apartment, it will be near shops and souks where vendors sell fresh fruits and vegetables, spice stores, fish markets etc. That will be an entirely new experience and one I am looking forward to. I’ve already seen unidentifiable vegetables and fruits that I can’t wait to learn about.

Shrimp Pils Pils
Shrimp Pils Pils

We’ve been eating out a lot more than we normally do. Since we aren’t in our permanent apartment, we feel a bit like we are on vacation and are treating the experience like that, as we go through the stress of setting up our lives and learning the city.

A picture speaks a thousand words, so I have pictures of many of the things we have eaten. I’ve labeled the photos for your “eye dining” pleasure. Bon appétit!

Smoked Turkey and Cheese Crepe
Smoked Turkey and Cheese Crepe

Fava Bean spread, eggplant spread and harissa
Fava Bean spread, eggplant spread and harissa

Nutella and Banana Crepe
Nutella and Banana Crepe

Mushroom and Cheese omelette
Mushroom and Cheese omelette

Chicken Couscous
Chicken Couscous

Sushi
Sushi

Mint tea, Fava Bean soup and olives
Mint tea, Fava Bean soup and olives

Typical Moroccan Breakfast, bread, frittata, olives, cheeses, honey and jam
Typical Moroccan Breakfast, bread, frittata, olives, cheeses, honey and jam

Moving to Another Country?

If you’ve ever moved, and I’m sure you probably have, you know that it is no fun and a lot of work. Well, all of that just increases when you are moving to another country on another continent. As a child, we only moved once. I had little responsibility then, as I was only eight.

Once I got married (I was eighteen then) it seems I’ve been on the move ever since. I moved six times from ages eighteen until twenty-two and eight times after that before I moved to Italy seven years ago. During the eight times, my work was the reason and they paid for and hired movers to pack, transport, and unpack. That is a great help, but it’s not everything.

Some of the difficult things about moving to another country are finding out the legal requirements to do so. Do you need a visa? What type of visa do you need? What type of documents should you take with you? What will be required of you to stay there? What will you do about a driver’s license? What about health insurance? What about tax responsibility? I don’t recommend that anyone take it lightly. It requires a real desire to move there and a lot of research. Then, once you have the facts, you have to decide if it is all worth it.

For me to move to Morocco, I do not need a visa. Americans can enter without a visa and stay 90 days. Since I am married to a Moroccan, there will be documents to gather to complete my residency there, but in the meantime, it is sufficient to stay 90 days and leave the country (take a ferry to Spain) and return the same day for a new passport stamp.

We had to find someone to move our goods. We didn’t bring furniture or anything that we really need. We plan to rent a furnished apartment and buy household goods. The things we brought are only those things that make a house a home. There are books, artwork, glassware from my grandmother, and clothes. Our lives now fit in 30 boxes. My husband hired a man who does import/export between Italy and Morocco and is a family friend. Otherwise, we could have hired a professional relocation service, paid three times the cost, and received our goods in about three months.

The things that we weren’t taking, we had to sell. “Yard sales” are never fun and never profitable and it is even worse when you live in a place like Italy where apartments are small and people don’t accumulate things. Getting rid of everything turned out to be one of the most difficult parts, right up until midnight the night before we left when we waited for the “quadrofoglio” or Florence’s large trash removal service, to come for a large wall unit that we had bought and couldn’t sell.

We wanted to bring our two cats, and boy is that a fiasco! Pet passports, microchips, vaccinations and health certificates all had to be gathered. That requires an entirely separate blog.

Cats moving
Cats moving

In addition, when you move you have to close accounts, turn off utilities, shut down automatic payments and all types of administrative items. Accomplishing these things in Italy takes several steps for each one. It usually starts with a phone call and ends about a month later when you have to send a registered letter asking them to cut off the service and include copies of your residency card.
We knew that we were moving to Morocco about six months ago. I promptly located an apartment and found our transportation and then we had to wait. Administrative items, packing, and selling things really have to wait until you’re close to the move date.

Friends asked, “What things are you redoing on your last days here? Romantic walks, visiting museums, eating in favorite restaurants?” We had to say no to all of those. Our last two weeks were filled with lots of hard work, stress, and a few shining moments when we had a meal or a drink to say goodbyes to friends.

I’m writing this from the ship and can’t tell you what relief we feel at this moment to be finally on our way. Our new life waits.

Genoa to Barcelona
Genoa to Barcelona

True Story-Small World

Sometimes the world seems big and scary. Especially when you are going to a new place. Especially when you are going to another country where you don’t know anyone and you don’t speak the language.

Modern technology really does help a lot in these situations. The minute I knew we were considering a move to Tangier, I got online. I researched and looked at forums of people who already live there. I joined Facebook pages and looked for Meet=up groups.

When I visited Tangier in January, I put out offers to meet for lunch or drinks to anyone who could share some information and tips on the area. Three wonderful women took me up on the offer. Two were British and one was American. We met at different times during my visit and they were so generous with their time and information. They were honest and forthcoming with questions I asked and that I didn’t ask. I hope we can become friends once I get there.

Anyway, the other day, a friend who I met in Florence who is from Boston and lives in Florence now, wrote me to say that a musician friend of hers from Boston has a sister in Tangier and I should look her up. She said that she was friendly and gregarious and would be a great person to show me the ropes. She gave me her name and email address. As I looked at it I was stunned. It was the American woman I had already met when I visited Tangier!

I don’t know about you but that seems a strange and happy coincidence to me! The world isn’t as big and scary as it sometimes seems, and the six degrees of separation are maybe only three or four! You only have to reach out to find someone.

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