on the move

packing once again I go through an accumulation of receipts
we are leaving tomorrow morning for Ouarzazate
I love these names
Chefchaouen, Ouarzazate, Tagounite, Essaouira

I am packing once again and trying to organize my “stuff”
what goes in the large backpack; where
what goes in the smaller backpack
what goes in my purse

I empty everything
I even wash the smaller backpack
I think somewhere along the way there was a leak in the ice tea bottle
it got soaked, it dried, I forgot about it
today it looked dirty and felt… well, like it needed a wash

my purse had accumulated a series of receipts, directions and hotel names on the back of printed boarding passes, museum tickets, grocery lists, business cards
I look at them all
I paid 75.00 (euros, pounds, dirham?) at Rodeo something for three Bonnie
three Bonnie?
what was that?
think, think, think
oh yeah, those were chicken wraps just outside the train station in Casablanca
we were starving
they tasted good

I found a map I drew of the main streets around our apartment in Barcelona
brings me right back to the holidays when the boys were with us and we walked the town
memories

tomorrow we leave for Ouarzazate
there isn’t much there apparently except for their film studio
I’ve never visited a film studio
this week we watched “Gladiator” because some scenes were shot there
so cool we thought, we’re going there!

the main thing is that we are heading south and are going inland
rather up and down land
we will be getting into the Atlas mountain range
and then, when we come out of there, we will be at the edge of the desert
the cool thing is that we will be getting further away from tourist traps
if that’s possible
I hope

this week we are to meet and live with a Berber family
still through this helpx thing that we do
I am looking forward to it
It has been nice enough to be by the beach and stay with our American hosts
but we are in Morocco
it only seems right to spend some time with Moroccans

maybe by next week I will have learned how to make tagines
or a proper couscous
maybe I’ll tell you about it

have a good week

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Textures

it’s been an interesting week
moving deeper into Morocco
new sights and smells
more interaction
with locals
with other travelers
with a new host

we’re by the ocean near Casablanca
Dar Bouazza it’s called
there is a little port where fishermen bring their catch
there’s a few fruit and vegetable vendors
the beach in front of us is sand with the regular pounding of waves
nothing too big
gentle and steady
further along there are very interesting rock formations
their design make me come back for a photo shoot

it is busy this week end
the weather is nice and several cars are parked in rudimentary parking lots along the ocean front
you wouldn’t think much of it
unpaved dirt lot overlooking the ocean
but in the shade with a glass of tea
an attendant keeps watch
over the nice looking cars

I was looking to buy chicken the other day
on the main drag there are several small shops where you can find all the basics
but meat
for that there are meat stalls
I see a big side of beef hanging and a nice array of cuts in one of them
I’m looking for chicken though
I ask the man if he has any
I ask in French
turns out French is the unofficial third language in this country and is definitively not spoken by all
in the north more people speak Spanish as a third language
the two first ones you ask: Arabic and Berber
in Tangier for example, the first boy we met spoke Spanish, French and English aside from Arabic and maybe Berber
I’m thinking of my kids back home
the ones I used to help with french at school
who struggle with one extra tongue
back to my chicken; I am stubborn and ask again, in french, if he has any other type of meat
maybe mentioning lamb (but not pork) will help
the man graciously points to a nice piece of beef
he obviously thinks I want a particular cut
I understand that we will not understand each other if I keep on like this
so, I resort to a universal language and mime a chicken while clucking
that works, the man has a good laugh and points up the alley to another stall

I have been using this method daily with Mina the maid who works here
she too only speaks Arabic
on the first day after many “merci” for this or that
I muster the courage to try it out in Arabic
“shukran”
I can tell she is pleased
later she uses a few words in french
here we go, between gestures, a little of this and that we may understand each other

the photos were taken yesterday
fascinated I was by the various textures on my path

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Chaouen blues

On the ferry we saw the edge of the Rif mountains
Africa
looking for a culture shock
looking for extra heat

we had been told many things
the cabs, the haggling, the food, the art, the hospitality
go to: Chefchaouen, Fes, Marrakech
do this, don’t do that
and
it won’t be much warmer

we experienced the cab first thing
an old Mercedes
the grand taxi
from Tangier port to the city
a good half hour drive
full speed

as soon as we step out a young boy is offering us direction
I know where I am going
I have my map
it’s around the corner
still he is one step ahead of me
pointing to where I am going
I tell him I have no money
which is true, I will need to find a bank first thing to get some local change
it doesn’t make any difference
one step ahead of me he goes

we’re at the hostel
still the boy and now another one are waiting around for us to be done with checking in
they want to take us to their uncle or other relative for dinner
we are exhausted and just want to settle in
it has been a long day
the clerk who knows them shoos them off

welcome to Morocco

Next day Chefchaouen or like people say Chaouen
the blue city
the Medina (the old city) is so pretty
just big enough to think you may get lost
but really, small, so you don’t

cats are everywhere
most of them look good
I think it’s a good sign
our hosts at the Riad are most welcoming
our house is your house
truly

we venture around
I click away
every door, every step
every shade of blue
catches my eye

there are shops everywhere
everything is beautiful
I don’t dare let my eye linger too much
the vendors know
they will catch me
once your caught it’s hard to get out

eventually I get caught
come to see this carpet shop one says
I will take you there
innocently I go
sure, let’s have a peak
we are treated the royal way
the place is large
mounds and mounds of carpets and blankets
all of them absolutely gorgeous
two men are busy picking several out to show
unrolling them on the floor
tea is offered
we agree
it’s a ritual
it’s also a trap

I really didn’t have any intention of buying anything that day
I was going to be smart and inform myself first
I had been told to bargain
I was not going to buy anything big
we are backpacking

you see where this is going

a couple hours later I came out with a large carpet
two small ones
and two blankets

did I bargain?
no
I couldn’t get myself to do it
the craftsmanship shown to me was so beautiful
how could I undermine it

later I felt a bit like a fool
my daughter and I, on another walk, got caught in a different shop
the vendors are so slick
so nice
like fine fisherman, they know how to hook you and slowly get you in
I am the biggest fish around
he offers prices that are way below what I just paid
I feel tired, I had enough
we manage to get out of this one empty handed

my daughter tells me what we got was way better
thanks Charlotte

there is much to adjust culture wise
as a foreigner I don’t want to offend anyone
we are in Muslim country
what do I know
much to learn

we are in Fes today
biggest Medina in the world
this time we will get lost

here are some Chaouen photos
enjoy

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La Taha

two more days until our visa expires

on another journey we go

this one has been good

the kind of good that makes you feel like you could stay a few more days or a few more months

that you could easily slip into this community

be yet one more wanderer that stumbled upon this place and never left

we have found generous people

that took us in

shared what they had

made us feel at home

tomorrow we will cook a big gumbo

invite a few neighbors

make one last almond cake

today we will go for another walk

maybe not the great big one we had planned on

but at least a little one

I was hoping to see almond blossoms before we left

even the trees in their greatness granted me my wish

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