In Pursuit of Electrical Adapters
Originally posted on August 6th 2016 on my tumblr.
It’s Day 10 in Casablanca. A lot has happened, but I think the week since my last post can be distilled into a single story. That story is my search for an international outlet adapter.
Because I do dumb things sometimes, I forgot to bring the adapter for my computer charger to Morocco with me. I think I changed my mind during the packing process about whether I wanted it in my checked bag or my carry-on, and then I didn’t put it in either one. Once I was reunited with my wayward suitcase, I realized that I didn’t have the adapter.
It wasn’t a pressing concern, because I have a European/African style phone charger. However, once my laptop battery was exhausted, I needed to find an adapter before I could use the computer again. I’d asked about a place to find one last Friday at my new job, and I was advised to check a nearby electronics shop. There, in a mix of English, French, and charades, I asked about the adapter. No luck. The attendant was helpful though, and he recommended a different place to try.
The following Monday, I searched unsuccessfully for the other store. It was also my first day of work, so I was preoccupied by my training, and I figured my computer could wait.
Tuesday, I found the store, but they didn’t have the adapter either. I wandered up and down the nearby streets, looking for other electronics shops, but the hunt was fruitless.
Wednesday, I struck out yet again. I found another shop, but they didn’t have the adapter, and they directed me to places I’d already been. At this point, I knew I could ask my colleagues at work again, but I was too sheepish to admit that I had been stymied by this problem for five days without asking for help sooner. I knew that procrastinating would only make the embarrassment more acute if I did have to resort to assistance, but by now the adapter hunt was becoming a personal crusade, a quest that I needed to accomplish to prove to myself that I could survive and thrive in Morocco.
Thursday, I went into work early to get help calling in French and Darija about apartments, and then I taught my first classes, arriving back at the hotel at 9pm, so I continued to neglect the adapter situation.
On Friday, I left straight from work to visit an apartment. It went well, and I’m moving in tomorrow! I got back to the hotel after 8pm feeling relieved and excited to have found a place to live. And yet, the adapter quandary was still unresolved.
This morning, I left the hotel with a few errands in mind, but the one that loomed largest on my to-do list was my elusive white whale: the US-European/African outlet adapter. I wandered down Zerktouni, not feeling particularly optimistic about finding something on a Saturday. However, once the road had curved a little and I could see the Atlantic a few blocks farther down, I found myself outside an electronics shop. It was open.
Inside, a tall teenage boy was the only employee. I explained what I needed in clumsy French and showed him my American phone charger. He rummaged through baskets of gadgets, some in their original packaging, others a loose tangle of cables. He found one, which almost worked but didn’t accommodate the third prong of the charger. Then, under the glass counter, I spotted a package that said, in English, “universal travel adapter.” The boy took it out of the packaging and tested it with my charger and phone in the outlet behind the counter. When the little lightning bolt lit up in the battery icon, I wanted to high-five him, but I contained myself. I paid 40 dirhams, about $4, and practically skipped the rest of the way to the ocean. For a while, I wandered along the seawall, watching adults and kids pick their way around the tide pools below, the horizon split between the flat blue of the ocean and the massive outline of the Hassan II Mosque.
Once I completed my other tasks, I returned to the hotel. In the solitude of my room, I plugged in my laptop and did a victory dance when it began to charge.
In the grand scheme of things, the adapter was not important. I didn’t need to find it by myself. I had resources at work, or my new roommate could have helped me get one, or I could have lived without my laptop for a few months. It was not as vital as my search for an apartment or my first week at work. But I decided to share this tale because of how surprisingly well it represents the progression of settling into a new country. Simple tasks are suddenly much harder, and sometimes you wonder why you were insane enough to leave behind the place where you knew how to navigate daily life. You fail repeatedly, you get discouraged, and you’re forced to confront that you’re ignorant to where things are and how they’re done here. But when you eventually do succeed, you find that tiny accomplishments have never tasted sweeter.
(I mean, just look at this adapter. Look how beautiful it is.)
I think the benefit of any good adventure comes in two stages. First is the actual thrill of the adventure, of tackling new challenges and meeting people and seeing weird and beautiful things. The second stage doesn’t occur until you’re home again. It happens when you start noticing all the things that had never crossed your mind until you couldn’t do them or you had to learn to do them differently. Just like my stint on the Appalachian Trail gave me a heartfelt appreciation for any bathroom not full of spiders, my first ten days in Morocco are making me appreciate what a capable and well-equipped adult I am in the United States. With time, I hope to feel like a capable and well-equipped adult here in Morocco, but it’s cool to know that my adapter adventure won’t just benefit me with the feeling of accomplishment from today. I expect it will also resurface when I eventually return to the U.S, and I appreciate how easily I can function at home.