Les Ventilateurs de Plafond

This morning Brian awoke very early despite, or maybe because of, the continuing Eid al-Adha holiday. The smokey haze covering the land, residual from nights of charcoal braziers roasting sheep parts over open fires, carried a pungent earthiness that marked the ongoing celebration of the Feast of Sacrifice across Casablanca, Morocco, and the Muslim world. This major of two Eids recalls how Ibrahim (Abraham) was willing to sacrifice his son in obedience to God before God stayed his hand and provided a lamb that he sacrificed instead. Unfortunately, the roasty smoke smell wafting through our open windows and sliding doors this morning provided Brian with a migraine that woke him unhappily. He popped a couple Tylenol, generously brought over for us from the U.S. by Becky when she arrived last month, and went back to sleep. Waking again a few hours later, he felt much better and the earthy haze had settled back into the ground to make way for another beautiful day.

As we draw close to the end of our third summer in Casablanca, we feel quite spoiled to have enjoyed this one’s weather. While winter ran long, progressing slowly into a cool spring, the tradeoff for a cool climate late harvest from our balcony garden has been an otherwise delightful summer.

Two years ago we arrived on a hot and humid night, followed by hotter and humid days and nights that reminded us of our time living in Louisiana…except that in Louisiana we had central air conditioning, whereas Moroccans eschew air conditioning due to a standard belief that having (what Americans consider) refreshingly cool air blowing around a room makes one sick. The apartment buildings at GWA stand at a perfect angle to catch the ocean breeze blowing up the hill year-round, so leaving doors and windows open to invite the breeze inside our Moroccan concrete walls knocks the thermometer down a few degrees. But when temperatures approach high 30s Celsius (nearly 100°F) with humidity well over 90 percent, that does not help much. We survived days in our first summer with floor fans that we bought at Carrefour Hypermarche, our own Walmarty superstore, but we found most nights fairly miserable through August and well into September.

As our second Casablanca summer approached last year, and as we decided we would keep our balcony sunset view by planting long-term in our on-campus apartment, we decided also that we should install ceiling fans to make summer’s hot and humid days – and especially its nights – more bearable. We looked everywhere for ceiling fans that we could buy, but found only one warehouse type model with three spindly blades that hung several feet from the ceiling and included no lamp for illumination – not something that would work in a private home setting. We asked people we knew where we might find ceiling fans, and they seemed not to know what we meant. Apparently, fans in Morocco stand on the floor, on a table, or on a dresser. They do not hang from the ceiling, or le plafond. One guy said he knew someone who knew someone who might know where in Morocco we could procure ceiling fans, but eventually that lead dwindled to nothing as well.

Then, that July, we headed to the Dordogne region of southwestern France for a month of intensive French study as a family. While there we again explored ceiling fan options, and again found les ventilateurs de plafond to be a foreign concept. We found no shops selling ceiling fans in the hamlet of Sainte-Eulalie-d’Eymet where we stayed or in the nearby village of Eymet where we spent many afternoons. We found nothing two hours west in Bordeaux when we had a weekend wine junket there. We struck out in Bergerac a couple times that we shot north a half hour to stake out Cyrano’s territory. Nearing the end of our stay, we looked into buying ceiling fans on Amazon and having them delivered to our host family, but had not enough time to guarantee their delivery before we would depart on our journey back to Casablanca. Not wanting the quest to dominate our closing days, Audrey wavered in her resolve; but Brian’s determination encouraged one last trip to Bergerac to try one last Lowe’s-type store called Tridôme the day before we started driving from France to Morocco. Walking in, Brian asked the first Tridôme person he found, “Avez-vous des ventilateurs de plafond?” Following the seemingly-helpful person’s directions, we landed in a spot that had fans…but not ceiling fans. Foreign concept strikes again. While Audrey pronounced the quest failed, Brian grabbed another Tridômer to ask again, “Avez-vous des ventilateurs de plafond?” He told us to go clear across the store, requiring a solemn promise from Brian to Audrey to quit the pursuit if this last location again resulted in nothing more than extra steps on Brian’s Fitbit and one more confirmation that the world did not know what a ceiling fan was. We trudged across the store to the designated aisle, looked around, and saw no ventilateurs de plafond on the shelves.

But then, just before conceding defeat, Brian spotted a small and random collection of les ventilateurs de plafond in a stack on the floor in the middle of the aisle: three models, one of which looked exceedingly ugly, one like a small airplane propeller, and one that seemed OK but took an usual size/wattage halogen bulb. We grabbed one small propeller fan for our bedroom, and the only two strange halogen bulb fans for our living room and dining room. Our resulting giddiness lasted much of the two long days driving back to Casablanca, and when we arrived home we called Thamy (Tommy) our handyman to install them dans notre plafond (in our ceiling).

So for the last year we have had what may be Morocco’s only ceiling fans. We used them constantly in August and September last year after Thamy installed them. This year, because we have had such accommodating weather, we have needed them only four or five days all summer long. Yet, we have kept them spinning for much of the summer because we can…because we have them. Just knowing they look forward to welcoming us home after long days and to serenading us to sleep with their low hum white noise makes those few hot days we have had this summer less intimidating.

We have not located a source for the odd halogen bulbs either locally or internationally, though each time we travel we inquire at whatever hardware store we may find around us. No luck in Spain, Belgium, Denmark, Cyprus, or Italy. Last December, Brian bought the right shape but wrong wattage bulbs at the famous Hardware Sales, Inc. in Bellingham, Washington. He was sure that they would fit, but doubted they would work successfully. He was correct. Loading a bulb into the fan above our dining room table and flipping the switch, it flashed and died from the excessive wattage. Through our ongoing travels, we will continue to hunt for 80-watt halogens that fit the ballast of our living room and dining room ventilateurs de plafond. Meanwhile, they both have LED spotlights, plus we have other lamps that provide sufficient illumination in those rooms. As our friends in Louisiana say, “It’s all good.”

On your mark…get set…here we go!

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