Having lived in various climates across the U.S. before moving to Morocco, we know how greatly seasons can differ from one place to another, and how people’s perspective on such can vary greatly due to different experiences. When we arrived in Casablanca people told us that we would freeze in winter time because it gets so cold and wet – and without central (or even baseboard or radiator) heating, the temperature inside of the ubiquitous concrete buildings tends be even colder than the outside temperature.
Then we went through our first winter last year and thought, “That’s not so bad.” The typical daily weather turned noticeably colder in November and the rains started in December. January continued a rainy and cold default, like winter in London or Seattle; but we found it quite tolerable as long as we had a nice fire crackling in the fireplace to warm our apartment. By the end of January, it had started to warm and by this time last year we had wildflowers bursting bold colors across fields everywhere we went.
Not so this year.
Instead, this year seems colder and windier and wetter and rainier than last year; and that condition seems to have lasted longer than it did a year ago. Indeed, looking around we see Morocco greening, as it does in Winter; but that process seems to move just a bit more slowly this year than what we experienced in our first go-round with Moroccan seasons. Heightening further our sensitivity to the clammy cold, the tarp Brian put over our firewood supply on the roof got blown off by the strong winter winds and our entire abundant supply of more than a ton of firewood got soaked by the prodigious rains. In other words, while the cold season has continued, our fireplace season ended over a month ago. In other words again, it has been very cold in our apartment for over a month. We have a space heater in our bedroom that does a nice job keeping our teeth from chattering all night long while we sleep. In the common areas of our apartment, though, we have adopted the typical Moroccan practice of wearing 93 layers of clothes to stay warm in Winter.
Sharing our meteorological observations and household status of apartment-as-refrigerator with some long-time expats we know, they smiled and taught us about the not-quite-season of “Alyiali” in Morocco. “Alyiali is that time from the end of December for a few weeks when it is cold, windy, wet, and rainy. Sometimes it lasts 30 days…sometimes it lasts 60. This is a longer Alyiali this year.”
So, it lasts from New Years until the weather gets warm?
“No, mostly just until the dang cold is done.”
For weeks we have had dang cold. It rained with howling winds beating raindrops against the windows every day this week. Again.
It is not that we do not know cold or that we cannot endure it. Brian’s parents both came from hearty Minnesota stock, and we and our girls made it just fine through half a decade of Cleveland winters. During our Cleveland days, Brian used to call his 90+ year old grandmother outside Minneapolis in a regular contest to see who had colder temperatures. We have both closed schools for COLD instead of for snow. (Side note: In Cleveland, the magic number on the thermometer for closing school because of cold is -20°F.) But one can escape Midwest winter cold simply by going inside (a building, a car, etc.), while in Casablanca this DANG COLD is everywhere: from the cold tile floors to the cold cement walls to the very cold water left for a shower after your 17 year old daughter uses up all the hot water.
So Audrey was very happy to escape the Dang Cold last week by traveling 27 hours each way (Casablanca to Paris to Atlanta to Cedar Rapids, then back reversing the route) to and from Iowa to recruit teachers for GWA at the University of Northern Iowa Oversees Recruiting Fair. Our Academic Team felt great accomplishment last month when teacher contracts for 2018-2019 came back and we had only 11 spots to fill. (Contrast this with the roughly 45 spots in our class two years go and about 35 spots last year.) Not only do we have fewer spots to fill this year, but we also have moved far ahead of previous years in jumping to fill them. While we have seen people hired as late as July in the last couple years, we hoped to complete our hiring early in order to snatch up good candidates and then be finished with a process that typically has taken lots of time and resources through the Spring here. When one thinks about the best places to go to hire international school faculty, the town of Waterloo in northern Iowa probably does not garner the attention of most folks. But the annual UNI Oversees Recruiting Fair is an unexpected gem that features several hundred teachers speed-dating with over 120 international schools to land overseas teaching gigs. After causing much excitement in Waterloo by popping a champagne bottle in attention-getting celebration every time another teacher signed a GWA contract, Audrey returned from Iowa on Monday night with almost all our faculty positions filled for next year with a spectacular crew of student-centered 21st Century educators anxious to join our already excellent teaching staff.
Perhaps the hire that excites us the most, though, is that of our new Upper School Principal. Audrey felt conflicted deeply over hiring someone to replace her as Upper School Principal. We both served as heads of schools stateside and know the glories and challenges (most heads of schools will admit to far more of the latter than the former) of HOS life. By contrast, Audrey relished her time last year as the Upper School Principal, able to focus on students and teachers instead of on less people-oriented institutional matters. So while serving satisfactorily this year in both the HOS and USP position, and as much as she loves the student proximity a Principal gets to enjoy, she knew she needed to hire someone for the USP position if she wanted to keep her sanity and have an occasional moment to breathe in her new HOS role at GWA. After spending the Fall exploring candidates, in December Audrey and the search team she led chose a person whom we know will be not only a great Principal at GWA, but also a great addition to our leadership team. Since then, she has Skyped and traded emails with members of our leadership team with regularity. Better still, last night she arrived from China, where she is currently a principal at an international school, to spend a week getting to know GWA and our team well in advance of actually starting with us next summer. Through the week she will meet students and teachers, and parents and experience the warm community that GWA offers even amid Alyiali.
Perhaps as a sign, the Alyiali weather broke yesterday. After a few raindrops in the morning, the clouds parted to share clear sunshine and temperatures climbing shwea-shwea (little by little) toward the warmth of Spring. Bring it on…We are ready!
On your mark…get set…here we go!