My excitement at finally having a position in my chosen field, however, was not shared by my family. When my family disagrees with a decision you’ve made they will pull out every stop to try to make you change your mind… EVERY stop. When they come to the inevitable conclusion, as it was in this case, that your mind cannot be changed, they make it clear they have washed their hands of you. This is what led to me spending my final few weeks in Canada living at a crisis centre, effectively a homeless shelter, that had kindly accepted me as a tenant for as long as I needed to stay.
By that time, just 36 hours after we had placed my mother’s ashes into her mausoleum niche, the emotional dam I had been holding was starting to develop some serious cracks. I hadn’t shown any grief to my family. They had lost the right to share such an intimate exchange with me by that point. But there, in the shelter’s office, the tears started and wouldn’t seem to stop. There was something about the woman processing me that exuded safety. Staying there turned out to be one of the most positive experiences I have ever had. My fellow tenants and I were from, to say the very least, a diverse set of backgrounds, but we all had one very important thing in common. Life had turned left on us when we had turned right and we were each simply trying to find our way back to the right road.
This is all being shared to illustrate just how important it had become to me to create a space of my own again once I had reached my new home of Casablanca.
My Moroccan friend had done an excellent job in preparing me for the possibility that the search for the right place could take a long while. He also explained it would be far more advantageous if we could deal directly with the landlord, instead of an agent who would receive the equivalent of one month’s rent in commission. We both agreed that was an expense best done without.
We began by making a couple of casual online queries, just to test the water. Then, one morning at the end of June, we got up nice and early and started our first serious search.
There, on page 4 or 5 of our chosen website, I found my new home. It’s difficult to explain in retrospect how I knew this flat was going to be mine… I just knew. It was decorated in the traditional Moroccan style, which meant it was bursting with colourful walls and furnishings and the woodwork was exquisite. Cynical from experience, my friend’s first reaction was to wonder if the ad was even genuine but somehow I could feel in my soul that it was real and it was going to be mine. His second reaction was to wonder if it would still be available, in spite of the advertisement having just been uploaded. Again, I didn’t share his concern. I looked him squarely in the eye and told him, “This ****ing apartment is mine.” He laughed and dutifully called the landlord. Although it was still very early in the morning the gentleman answered and an appointment was set up for us to view the place later that day.
Any concerns my dear friend had expressed about the authenticity of the online ad evaporated the instant the landlord opened the massively large front door. It wasn’t perfect, but it was perfect, if that makes any sense. What I mean is that, once you got up close, certain finishing details in the paint became noticeable but they didn’t matter. The apartment was absolutely gorgeous. In fact, the inside of that front door had been so impressively finished with metal stud work, my compatriot recorded a video describing it on his phone. I’ve included a photo of it here. It was the landlord’s own workmanship and he beamed when I told him how proud he should be of his work. The apartment and my heart formed an instant connection. It had precisely what I had wanted to find, a soul. Good things had happened in this space over the years and I could feel it.
The landlord told us that a young man from France had already viewed the space and wanted it very badly. It was an old landlord’s trick and I left the negotiations confidently in my friend’s more than capable hands. I had seen him negotiate before… He was more than up to the task. In the end, not only was the apartment mine, the landlord had agreed to reduce the rent as a sign of good faith.
Just a few days later, we were back in my new home, getting me settled. We celebrated with a trip to a nearby supermarket so I could stock up on everything I needed. Well, I needed everything and then some. So by the time the final tally was counted, my poor friend’s face actually registered shock. In Canadian currency, the enormous order was a huge bargain, only about $120. But here in Morocco it added up to just under 1,500 dirhams. He told me he’d never in his life seen a total like that. To be honest, I wasn’t crazy about it either, but I was starting from scratch and I when I say I needed everything, I really needed EVERYTHING. Still, it was an invaluable lesson to me to start paying closer attention to the dirham and let go of the dollar completely. Now I don’t care how badly I want or need something. If I don’t like the price, I walk away and do without.