Bread. Or ‘hobbz’ to anyone in the Arab world, including Morocco. I was sure I’d heard ‘Hobbs’ in relation to bread before, was it a brand? Here, in any case, it is much more than that.

Women in Morocco make bread. Clearly not all women, but a lot more women than I would have expected. A mother of five children, with a family shop that sells bread, nevertheless makes her own bread. The husband says it’s her job. The bread in their shop is just bought in for selling to customers (like me). My neighbour who often works a 10-hour shift packing peppers to go to Europe, makes her own bread. This isn’t just the occasional loaf, it’s enough to eat with every meal, every day. When I say eat with, I mean instead of a fork, and as an accompaniment to the meat, veg and dried apricot if you are lucky. Even an academic with two children, a full time job and writing her thesis, makes her own bread.

Obviously the double shift for women is nothing new to us. Although just because it isn’t new, it doesn’t mean it isn’t worth noticing. That’s what I’ve been doing recently, noticing things. Other people work and make bread. I notice things. People also notice me. So it’s not a one-way process. Sometimes I notice people noticing me. In every country I’ve been a foreigner there is a word, you just have to listen for what it is. I’d recognise myself as ‘la Gringa’ in Latin America, ‘Guirri’ in Spain, or ‘Gainjin’ in Japan. I now recognise myself as “l’Goeriya”. Or, in the Spanish pronunciation even better: “Goerilla”. In hindsight, I think Gringa sounded pretty good!

If you want to understand something I sometimes think it’s worth skirting around the edges first: what is not the thing you want to understand? I want to understand seasonal work. So what do people do when they aren’t at work? Maybe that’s what I’ve been noticing recently: the bread-making, the floor sweeping, the hand-washing of clothes (I get to take part in that one). It means things are coming more into 3D. You don’t just see a worker you see a person in their context.

The same goes for the Goerilla. I’m fast losing novelty value, so if I expect people to continue having patient conversations with me, I’d better get 3D fast. People don’t want to talk about their work all day. The art of staying put is quite different to the art of travelling and arriving. For a start if I’m not making bread I can at least make some salad. However, I have found something that is more interesting to people than my (lack of) bread-making. I have found a job.

I was tempted to go for a job picking veg, but I think that could lead to trouble and I’m told to be careful several times a day. So English teacher it is, only a few hours. It costs me nothing to share my ‘goerilla-ness’ in Thursday and it doesn’t cost them either. Languages are the currency of social mobility in Morocco. In all major cities middle class children go to bilingual or trilingual schools and have private tutoring and classes in the evenings, adults too if they want to. There is no after-school tutoring in my town, people with good language skills tend to socially move themselves elsewhere. So you could argue that I’m helping a process of westernisation and globalisation, which would be true. I might contribute to people understanding the terrible songs that are on the radio. However, this isn’t preaching in an untouched village, it’s sharing words with people who don’t want to pick Europe’s tomatoes forever.

There’s one more thing about bread. It gets recycled. It’s the one thing. Other things might be re-used, if they are put in the bin and perhaps taken out again. Or more likely all the disposable stuff will just begin to blend in with the rubbish and rubble on the streets. So the bright pink yogurt pot will slowly fade as it’s trampled into the sandy ground. That’s not the case with bread. Bread is separated and saved. It has a detectable ecological cycle. The crusts and end are collected up, dried out in the sun, collected on a horse driven cart and taken to be eaten by the ‘bugra’ – the cow – as I was told my landlord, but I think the horse gets a bite too.

Conflict of interests: The writer admits to disliking yogurt, and enjoying her daily bread. Personal preferences may therefore have affected the analysis above.

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I have moved to Thursday. When the taxi was going to the town I was going to, and was going to Thursday, I thought nothing of it. Then, on the first Thursday I was in my new flat, my landlady said that the landlord had gone to Thursday. Right. Then I heard my lovely new Moroccan friend here tell some people that no, I didn’t live in the city anymore, I’d rented a place here in Thusday. So, the case is settled, I live in Thursday.

What I had been told that helped me make sense of this was that in each of the towns there is a big market one day of the week, and in this town, that day of the week is Thursday. So although I didn’t realise I was moving to Thursday when I moved here, because the town has a proper name too, I was able to work out (and I’ve checked this with people) that the town is known as Thursday because the market is on Thursday. Needless to say that the market is a big deal.

So if you are outside of Thursday and you go to Thursday that means that you are going to my town. If you are in my town and you say you’re going to Thursday that means you’re going to the market. Everyone goes to the market. So everything seems to revolve around Thursdays, and the market. It’s the day that people get off work (if they work in agriculture which most people do), it’s the day that they buy their food for the rest of the week. I should say we. It’s the day we buy our food, because I live in Thursday now.

Food isn’t the only thing at the market, but I think it is the main event. You have to go through the clothes and the stationary and the pots and pans to get to the food and everyone is headed for the food. Let’s take fruit for example. At the moment you can get apples and bananas (grown in greenhouses too nearby), the last of the grapes, the odd melon, and oranges and pomegranates. The oranges are small and green so I would have thought they were limes if I hadn’t eaten one the other day. Very nice. My taste-buds feared the acid of a lime but got the sweetness of a small orange. Not even the bland taste of a nectarine. Orange it was called and orange it was.

What else do we need to know about Thursdays? Well, there is no water. I think this is quite an important detail. On my second day here last week I mentioned that the water had been off for several hours and my landlady said (you guessed it), “yes, that’s because it’s Thursday”. Whenever too many people are trying to use the water at once it cuts off, but on Thursdays it seems everyone higher up the water-chain is using the water because it doesn’t come back until about 10pm.

Things have changed now I’ve moved to Thursday. I am now the only foreigner in town and so getting extra special care and attention, in both good and annoying ways.  Although I haven’t changed, the Morocco around me has, and that’s changed me in it. While the me in Morocco in Rabat was comfortable walking around with a modest pony-tail, and covering my hair would have made me feel like a fraud, the me here fits in a bit better with the pony-tail under a scarf. There doesn’t seem to be anything fraudulent about it. Apparently the baby downstairs was afraid of my hair. So covering it doesn’t feel like wearing a cross if you’re not a Christian any more. It feels more like taking your shoes off in someone’s house when that’s what they do. Things have shifted a little and I need to fit in a bit more here in order to be comfortable, and for others to be comfortable with me.

What was that I heard someone in some seminar say? Meaning is subjective. Maybe that’s the research moral I’m dragging out of this…. What does Thursday mean? Well it looks like it depends where you are, doesn’t it? And the headscarf? Well, right now for me it means I get a few less cat-calls and the baby downstairs looks slightly less frightened.