Friday, March 18, 2011


We live in a bubble. A bubble of privilege, crazy driving, parties, calls to prayer, travel, house help and parties. Did I mention parties? This is expat life in Morocco in the US Embassy bubble. We work together, play together, go to school together, exercise together, travel together and of course party together. And there is no escaping the bubbliciousness of it all.

The first thing you must know is, the bubble is weird. Way weird. Whenever you mix a diverse bunch of highly educated people with different politics, religion, temperaments, backgrounds, experiences, Northerners and Southerners, you are bound to get lots of spirited banter. But take that group and put them in a Muslim country, add children and little in the way of the comforts of home and you get what amounts a private New England boarding school. Not that I've ever been to one, but I'm sure that they exist. But wait, most of us have kids. Ok so make that one of those special private New England boarding schools where you can be knocked up and they provide child care and a have a great sushi lunch served up at the cafeteria. And the premises is protected by a big soapy, inpenetrable bubble.

The first misnomer about the bubble is whether or not you're in the bubble. You may think that because you or your spouse don't work at the US Embassy that you're not in the bubble. This is simply not true. You may also think, I'm not even American I can't possibly be in the bubble. Also not true. You may think I've given my soul to the embassy and the bubble, so I don't have a soul so I can't possibly be in the bubble without a soul. This is also not true!

To determine whether or not you're in the bubble please take this short test:

Are you employed by the US Embassy?
Do your kids attend Rabat American School?
Have you ever been to a party with more than 2 people work at the embassy?
Have you ever been to the US Ambassador's home?
Do you know what DCM means?
Do you drive a yellow plated vehicle?
Have you ever NOT stopped for a cop who is trying to pull you over because you drive a yellow plated vehicle?
Do you have an ID card to get into the US Embassy?
Does the picture on the Embassy ID badge remind you of that horrible 8th grade picture of yourself that you hate?
Have you ever met someone for the first time in Rabat who's glared at you and then said "Oh, so YOU'RE _____________(insert your first and last name here) aren't you"?

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions you are in the bubble. Don't worry. You're not alone. I didn't think I was in the bubble either until just recently. I thought I was on the edge of the bubble. But as you may well know, spheres do not have edges. Damn it!

Now that you have come to grips with your own bubbliciousness, you will now need to realize that the bubble knows things. Without you saying anything it knows things like: who you voted for in the last election, your SAT scores, where you were and who you were with Saturday night, the name of your childhood cat, that you indeed are the person who buys ALL the cheddar cheese from the ECA, whether you chalupaed at your child's birth and whether or not your having enough "mandatory fun" or not. (I stole this hilariously perfect term from a friend of a friend that I have only met in passing. But I heard she has fantastic verbal SAT scores, so I'd really like to get to know her better. I'm sure that the bubble will let her know that I think she sounds really cool and we should hang sometime....or maybe she'll friend me on facebook!)

So how does one burst the bubble? Your first thought may be, just make friends outside the bubble. Duh. Nope, that's not how this bubble thing works. Oh you can make friends outside the bubble, but this doesn't mark your exit from the bubble. No, it only sucks those new friends in and feeds the bubble, thus making it bigger and more powerful. Your second thought, when I move from Morocco I'll leave the bubble behind. Wrong. Even if you forget the bubble, the bubble will not forget you. The house you lived in will always be known as the " (Insert your last name here) House" Every time someone drives past it they will recount you and your bubble moments together and then tell whoever is in the car with them the name of your first cat. You can live on for several bubble generations this way. So you're thinking surely, when I die I will escape the bubble right? Well, no one knows for sure. And how do you know god's not in the bubble?

So what is the most stressful time in the bubble? Summer where things become even more absurdly strange than they already are. This is when all the families within the Embassy circuit move. So half of the bubble as you know it will move on to their new assignments in foreign lands. Then there are new families to replace the leaving families. What does this translate to? A total shift in the dynamics of the bubble and starting the whole get to know your bubblemate process begins again. From scratch! But of course you'll get to know them at a party where you're having some mandatory fun and fizzy drinks. And when you've had too many fizzy drinks having too much fun you'll wonder why your stomach feels all funky. Oh, it's just gas. Damn bubbles!

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