Everyday is Saturday



(please scroll to the bottom for the latest entry- also, if you roll over the thumbnail photos you will have the option to open a full-sized image )

location: Paris, France
date: 11/19/2006

Laura's thoughts: So, I'm sure you realize that Paris is most definitely not in Morocco. However, as I got carried away in my usual loquacious style, our Scandinavia page became full. Therefore, we will include our final entry from Europe on our Moroccan page. If any of you have had both the endurance and interest to make it this far into our European account, than you are either a true friend or a procrastinating net surfer. Anyway, thanks for your dedication. We hope our entries bring these amazing places to life for you and whet your own appetite to travel. If so, please indulge more as we begin the second major phase of our trip.

But before that, a bit about Paris...While most of this year has been about discovering new places, a few turns have offered a chance for me to see somewhere that I had previously visited in a different light. My third trip to Paris has certainly been my best. As I rambled past Notre Dame, the Louvre, and L'Arc de Triumphe, it was interesting to realize that my first impressions of these iconic structures were formed before I'd even been kissed. At fourteen, my most notable memories were getting profoundly lost on the metro and bumping my head against the hotel wall after consuming "le bombe atom" (my first alchoholic coctail ever). Too young to appreciate the cultural aspects of Paris and too naive to get swepted away in its romance, I was unable to experience this city in all its glory. However, this time, sharing the experience with Geoff who marvels at every architectural curve and seeks out hidden galleries on every corner, I came to understand most people's love affair with this city.

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photo caption: Arc de Triumphe and the Seine

I was most struck by the particular quality of light that sets the sumptous Parisian views. Especially along the Seine, the flat white light of autumn creates a purity that many an artist has been obsessed with capturing. And, in contrast, as has been said many times before, Paris is best at night. No baroque ornament is without its own spotlight and I will never forget the exhilaration of actually running down the stairs of the Eiffel Tower at dark while it was lit up as if with a million flashing icicle lights. Trite, I know, but even with so many preconceptions, this must-do attraction truly lived up to all the hype.

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photo caption: Eiffel Tower at night

Geoff: Parting shot from Europe: The people weren't mean at all, and I even got to try some French. So much to look at, all the time, but I did manage to get more than my fair share of bike facility pictures. (Paris has narrowed a large number of fomerly arterial streets and added bike lanes and wider sidewalks and trees to the delight of residents and the ire of commuters. Je l'aime.) As one of the Big Five, or Four depending upon who you talk to: (London, New York, Tokyo, and Paris) there is years worth of urban studies to obsess over here. I only had four days, so I tried to get a sampling of Hausmann's Grand Boulevards that seem neverending, the old Latin quarter, and then compared that to the new developments to the west in La Defense.

I unwittingly became an extra in some sort of Sci-fi movie set at La Defense which is fitting for an area that feels as much like a gigantic park where the buildings are the sculptures as an actual commercial and office district. Usually these kinds of modern buildings are planted along traditional street grids that end of up limiting the scope of your view. At La Defense the point of view is expansive and the buidlings are only modern so the effect was unique for me.

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photo caption: La Defense skyline, Paris, France

location: Marrakesh & Essaouira, Morocco
date: 11/27/2006

Laura's thoughts: This may be the last familiar place we visit all year, and how strange it is to recognize so much in a place that is so "other". It has been five years since we travelled to Morocco and, to our relief, little has changed. We had heard that tourism increased here considerably since 2001, but especially in the chilled coastal town of Essaouira where we will stay for the duration, this does not seem the case. In the more popular Marrakesh, hearing English (albeit the British kind) is no longer a novelty since it has become common for the English to bronze their pasty whites and exchange their pork & kidney pie for more exoctic fare here. So, in the lively Djemma El Fna, where thousands of locals flock each night to be enchanted by storytellers and snake charmers, hundreds of tourists were also joining in the fun at one of over a hundred food carts where you can still gorge yourself for about $3.50. Our favorite is the irridescent-colored orange juice which tastes equally intense and costs 35 cents per glass (up from 25 since '01).

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photo caption: OJ gorging, Djemma El Fna food stands at night, Marrakech, Morocco

After an enjoyable evening in the tourist capital of Morocco, we headed for the beach. In Essaouira, we will lead a rather altered existence for two such go-go people. Our days will consist of little more than eating, sleeping, studying french and reading (with a bit of yoga, running and wind surfing mixed in as the inspiration hits us). We have already spent a week here unwinding before our course begins and the slow pace suits us just fine. In our first hour's search we scored a great, typically Moroccan pad, complete with tapestries, cushions, lanterns, whitewalls, blue-shuttered windows and a terrace with a sea view. It has been a no-brainer to settle into a daily ritual of morning coffee and sunset snacks on the roof. Tomorrow, we hit the books, but only for two hours a day with a private tutor, which, combined with ample local interactions in French, should help us become a bit more conversational. Nous esparons.

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photo caption: Our Moroccan pad and the sunset from our terrace

location: Essaouira, Morocco
date: 12/01/2006

Geoff: December 1st has arrived completely stripped of all the normal sensory cues that I have always experienced making December=Winter & Christmas - which is a welcomed disorientation. We have been here about a week and a half now, and my windsurfing windjinx seems alive and well. The luxury of having beaucoup de temps is that I have not really cared yet and know that the odds should play out and deliver the goods eventually. Though around this time last year, a drought ended with 3 straight weeks of rain and the river mouth just down the beach did deliver the goods: tons of dead cows, dogs, turtles and other organic detritus flowed down stream and ended up a metre thick on the gorgeous beach.

The tranquil conditions have left more time for socializing with our new friends here and time for wandering- both along the beach, throughout the medina and its incredibly vibrant souk and market streets. As Laura mentioned, while the country still feels exotic- maybe even more so on this trip - I think that we both feel more at ease this time around to take it all in. In light of, or a result of, all the public discourse about the Islamic world, we are even more sensitive now to observing and learning more about the role it plays within the state and the culture. It does not take a lot of effort to observe when one of the mosques is 10 metres away and the live call to prayer echos through our room at 5:30 AM these past few mornings .

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photo caption:Getting lost in the Souks, Marrakech, Morocco


A Day in the Life

Soft, lilting chant -
haunting my dreams,
teases the veil to lift.
I wake...

Days framed
by five Moroccan calls -
this first -
my favorite.

Sweetest sleep follows,
borrowed time,
suspended moments.
With baby's first breath,
I stir...

Hands warm
around ceramic bowl
of cafe au lait
savored on terrace
with sea view.

Then, sun's bright orb -
mirrored in sheets
of waveprints on sand -
invites me.
I walk...

Ghostly promenade
hypnotizes until
I sit...

To breathe,
to listen,
to empty.
I move...

Sun salutations to east,
King dancer to south
and always
the handstands of children.

my heart, head and tongue
in knots,
I speak...

Oh to express my soul
with sounds so foreign.
But again,
the ocean calls.

Basquing in words -
more familiar -
books transport,
carry me into evening.

A prelude to
the symphony in the sky -
crimson and gold,
spreading like honey.
I watch...

Now hungry,
twisting, turning
through coriander pyramids
and cotton rainbows,
I forage...

Bunches of mint,
heavenly bread,
fresh veg
and a sweet for a dollar.

End of day lingers,
time for play, music, and more words.
So many hours,
so little desire.
I sleep...

location: Essaouira, Morocco
date: 12/16/2006

Geoff: Well today we partially broke our self-imposed no travel period. After 3 months of almost perpetual motion, we have anchored ourselves here for 23 days, and I mean here. Other than runs and walks along the beach, we have not ventured more than 1 km from our apartment for over 3 weeks- even our first adventure outside the city was just to a nearby beach village 18km away. I don't think either of us has really felt the need or desire to do otherwise. It has been incredibly novel to thoroughly explore and just be in this place. I can't remember the last time that I spent this much uninterrupted time anywhere, and it has forced me to rewire my daily expectations. The sense of other is continuous even after 3 weeks and it, for me, arouses an insatiable curiosity that seeps into our reading, discussions, eating, and...french.

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photo caption: our Arabic sand signatures (with a little help from our friends), Sidi Kaouki, Morocco

A couple of discoveries for an Anglophone Canadian trying to learn french at age 37 after a 22-year hiatus:
1. Just because I grew up in an officially bilingual country, and occassionally watched the French CBC station, (because they had less nudity censorship) does not mean that I had any foundation in french to build upon.
2. I erred in thinking that because I knew my numbers and occassionally imitated french salutations with my friends with a bad Pepe le Peuw accent, that I had a foundation in french to build upon.
3. During Grade 9 french class, instead of filling my notebooks with journal entries of how hot Debbie Adrain looked that day, I should have been more concerned about whether the notebook in question was un cahier or une cahier. Because I still know that a notebook is a cahier, but will always forget the gender, like most objects that I know, I will always sound like an idiot and, as such, I did not have a foundation in french to build upon.

Those misconceptions dispelled, we are really excited about the progress we have made and can now when asked, "est-ce vous parlez francais?" honestly answer, "un peu."(just like I did before I started instruction) Ignorance is bliss.

Okay, one more example of ignorance for today. The other day we were chatting with our friend here about renting movies and asking where we could do so, etc. After a VERY long, drawn out conversation, in our beginner french, about what kind of ID we would have to show to rent a movie- recalling the mortgage-like credit checks that Blockbuster carries out before issuing a card- he asked us why we wanted to rent a movie instead of buying it anyway. While I slowly and incoherently tried to explain about not wanting to carry around stuff on our trip and wanting to save money, he just nodded away and when I finished he replied, "but to rent a movie is 5 dirhams and to buy it is 7 dirhams." (65 and 90 cents respectively) Never assume...Intellectual property rights not being rigorously enforced means that the rental business model does not exist.

Laura's thoughts: Without a snowman, santa sleigh or reindeer in sight, December in a Muslim country makes one forget that Christmas is just around the corner. However, the traditionalist in me made sure to remedy this situation by traipsing all over town, for hours, in search of a special surprise for Geoff: "une l'abre Noel avec une touche Marocainne", complete with hand of Fatima and camel ornaments (SEE BELOW). Since few other aspects of our lives resemble ours at home, it is a welcomed familiarity. Certainly, unscheduled days in a place where many people don robes and veils and some still use donkeys for transport can quickly transport us far from our usual routine. But, not all seems so foreign. Morocco is full of striking contrasts with specialty restaurants serving pesto gnocchi, imams wearing nikes, surf shops playing Jack Johnson, and internet cafes on every alley.

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photo caption: Moroccan Christmas tree

In fact, to me, this place seems a veritable oxymoron. While, here, one can dine on delectable seafood, caught that hour, surrounded by impeccable decor and fountains filled with floating roses, the route to said establishment may be strewn with animal poop and half-eaten fish heads left for the town's thousands of stray cats. Also, though the Koran forbids alcohol, there still exist hidden liquor stores and beer & wine on every menu which provide the local government with handsome sums in tarifs. Then, the role of the female in this society is the most dualistic of all. Some are lawyers wearing Chanel, others teach school and show their midriffs dancing at nightclubs in the evening, and many are devoutly religious but are rarely allowed to enter mosques. However, most will end up traditional wives, no matter how modern they dress and think as teens, who cover their heads as told, avoid public gatherings, on rare occasions still share their husband with 2 or 3 other wives (only if the husband can love them equally, as it says in the Koran) and tend to their home and children - however now, perhaps, they hold jobs, as well, to double the average income per capita of $250 per month, for the household.

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photo caption: Beautiful Moroccan Riad contrasted with street scene

With all due respect , such contradictions exist everywhere. Perhaps travelling merely highlights the hypocrisy of one's own country by illustrating the same in new environments, where one's sensitivity is heightened as a visitor.

We have also been able to learn these eye-opening lessons by gaining a deeper perpsective from our friendships with locals. Moroccan hospitality abounds, and our pals, Said and Fasca, in particular, have provided us with infinite entertainment and assistance in seeking the best groceries, haircut, etc. where we won't be charged tourist prices. Just this weekend, Said arranged for us to wire $ to his friend who will guide us for a one-week desert tour over the holiday. Thankfully, instead of paying the $50 fee at Western Union, he took us to the back of the same building where this service cost only $3. And, financial benefits aside, the insight and amusement our friends have shared with us has been invaluable. So, again, we are faced with the question of how to appropriately reciprocate.

My morning walks collecting shards of glass into a blue plastic pail, to make the beach slightly cleaner and safer, seems an enormously insufficient gesture. And, hoping the copyright gods will forgive us, we are burning our fair share of CD's, from our laptop, for the many music-lovers we have met here. But still, it's hardly enough. And so, our search continues - on internet and asking around - for service projects or other ways we can help. However, these are surprisingly not simple to find. For me, this is the greatest quandry of travel - taking so much and giving so little. But still, we are determined to return, in 6 months time, with even the littlest sense that we have contributed something. At least, we hope.

location: returning from the Sahara to Essaouira, Morocco
date: 12/31/2006

Laura's thoughts: The meteorite which illuminated the Christmas Eve desert sky for nearly two minutes was unforgettable, and starting Christmas morning with sunrise yoga and a camel ride in the Sahara certainly make this a holiday to remember. However, our guided trip through Morocco's desert and mountain communities raised many questions for me about the ethics of travel. I often felt an intruder passing through Berber villages, at 8,000 feet, where some live as trogladites in caves and others find sustencance from a few goats and hens, wheat they can grow in summer only, and supplies taxied in weekly from the nearest twon, 100 k below. Then, of course, each tourist visit is seen as a potential sale of some trinket or other these artisans have made by hand. So, the pressure to spend money is constant and young children learn quickly that we are the HAVES and they the HAVE NOTS as they swarm your body or car singing their mantra "un dirham, un dirham". But our guide discouraged such handouts explainig that begging kids would use it for candy not nourishment and each moment spent on the street was one not spent in school Fortunately, some measures have been taken by the Moroccan government to help these nomads. They have built schools which several distant communities share, and they have developed associations to which tourists and locals can contribute philanthropic gifts of money or supplies. This indirect oprion is preferable to placing a dirham in the hand of a child and ensure the aid will go to proper use. Also, the state has created co-operatives where multiple Berber families can receive loans to run gift shops while sharing labor and profits from selling their wares.

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photo caption: Saharan sea, Middle Atlas Mountains

But still life is tough for these hearty souls. Daily, we saw 80 pound women, hunched to 90 degrees, carrying loads of laundry, wood or figs equal to their weight. And 4-year old boys shoveled dirt to repair roads miles from their home. Such images inspired a myriad of feelings as we comfortably cruised by in our chauffered Land Cruiser. So, the least we could do was offer rides to Berbers travelling long distances to work or shop, which we did numerous times. But still, I could not shed the sense that it was somehow hurting their spirit to affront them with our wealth. And this notion manifests as a guilt I carry with me everywhere. Therefore, each monetary exchange here is complicated.

Even after two months, I have failed to reconcile these conflicted emotions and I am no closer to decoding this country's subtle, complex ways of dealing with money. While their desparation is understandable, their way of earning income through tourism, sometimes, is not. On the one hand, faux guides abound, making false friendly overtures to help travellers, when ultimately they seek pay for taking you around to their friends' shops. Then, in contrast, many Moroccans offer strangers tea or a meal when they want nothing in return. Next, an unspoken kick-back system affords some Moroccans commissions for recommending a hotel or restaurant to a tourist. So, you never know when one's help is genuine. In fact, we have been asked for compensation when someone has offered us simple directions, unsolicited, as we strolled the souks. And this has left me wondering if every human exchange must be viewed as a commodity. Yet, I certainly cannot blame them for seeking financial gain from our presence. However, I am not sure if tourism is contributing more to their culture than it is taking. Would it be better for us to leave them to create their own means of sustenance, or to bring tourist dollars to their economy while, perhaps, robbing little pieces of their souls?

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photo caption: 1 hp (human power) appliance delivery lorry, dentist a go go

location: Ourzazate, Morocco
date: 12/30/2006

Geoff: I love our Apple ibook. BUT, when the charger actually burst into flames, I was not impressed. All little day to day tasks take much longer when travelling, but if people think that it is difficult to get Apple service and parts in North America, they just laugh at you here. Apple might as well be Tangerine. After 2 weeks, we were able to locate a 3 year old model that works, yeah and we are back in business. Amazing how our daily life is integrated iwth this thing. (read scary)

Along with the existential torment that accompanied our foray into the desert region of Morocco, we experienced a phenonemonally powerful landscape. It was supposedly peak tourist season between Christmas and New Year's, but the fact that we usually had the hotels to ourselves or shared with one or two other groups provides a frame of reference. Our primary goal for the tour was to spend some time in the Sahara, which we had skipped on our last trip here in July 2001 because... it was JULY, and Irish-blooded Canadians don't do so well in 45 degree heat- kind of like the Abominable Snowman from that Bugs Bunny classic, "and I never saw my little bunny rabbit again, jeeez its hot." Anyway, this time around it was almost perfect for exploring: no wind and a sheltering sky.

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photo caption: it just feels like the edge of the earth, Chagaga Dunes, Sahara Desert Morocco

Tourist-driven it may be, but a couple of nights in Berber tents tucked into the dunes is truly otherwordly. The northwestern top of the Sahara desert is blowing right up against the Moroccan Atlas Mountains and results in an amazing diversity. We found the stereotypical sand as far as the eye could see vistas where we camped in proximity to a 600 metre dune. We also followed the Paris to Dakar rally route for 100 km one day across open salt flats at 120 km/hr, and saw the route marking preparations for the annual event which happens soon. Our "guide" didn't believe in talking but he did stop adjacent to a several km long rock shelf jutting out of the sand- for a smoke- and nonchalantly pointed at the fossils in the rocks. The place is littered with billions of rock fragments of fossilized snails and other creatures that remain from when the desert was under water a million years or so ago.

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photo caption: pseudo wisemen sans frankinscense, myrrh, and gold on December 25th, and snail cemetery, Sahara

On Christmas Eve, we hung our stockings with care (in our tent so that we could find them in the middle of the night when temperatures dropped to freezing, not that we could move under the 5 blankets) and rose before sunrise to absolute silence. The kind of quiet that makes me realize that I do have some degree of tinnitis, or static feedback. Each day we saw nomads with flocks of goats or camels in the grasslands on the edge of the desert. It appears so unhospitable and difficult to comprehend how 1.5 million people can live in the Sahara. Then again 3 million people live in Phoenix...

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photo caption: Palm forest outside Todra Gorge, and rocking Kasbah (1st of 43 in 5 days) Ourzazate, Morocco.

location: Essaouira, Morocco
date: 01/04/2007


Portrait of a Moroccan as a Young Man
A 24-year old policeman in a small Moroccan beach town, bright, young Ali never ceases to amaze.   With an undergraduate degree and one year of law school behind him, he has had to abandon his dreams of becoming a lawyer for lack of funds to complete school.   Instead, he sought the only practical option available by pursuing training as a military policeman and was posted in Essaouira, 400 kilometres from his family, as no choice of his own.   A gentle soul, he feels unsuited to his work as he prefers to offer a pat on the back and some sage advise rather than a ticket or an arrest to one who warrants police action.   So, he has now been assigned administrative duties instead of street patrol and he receives 2,000 dirhams per month (250 dollars) for his work. 500 DH a month goes towards his one room apartment, 200 to help his brother raise the 80,000 necessary to immigrate to Spain, 300 for his cell phone, and 200 for other bills.   Another 100 per month is saved for the 1,500 DH his family requires to purchase the sacrificial lamb they will eat during the annual December religious feast (Aid Adha).   This will be enjoyed without him since he has to work on the holiday rather than travel to the desert as he wishes.

Only 700 remains (80 dollars) for thirty days of meals plus extra expenses.   Still he has found a way to earn his third level black belt in karate.   He has a deep passion for Indian music and film, which he devours on line in his spare time. And he himself is an accomplished percussionist. Then, the rest of his hours are spent communicating with his fiancé (by phone and email only).   They met last summer in a fateful moment on the beach when he admired this 20-year old beauty and found the nerve to collect her number.   Within a month he asked her father for her hand, but was told that they would have to wait two years to marry.   Both devout Muslims and dutiful sons and daughters, they have resorted to one 5-minute visit per month (with her mother and sister present) and daily passionate love letters (or, as we say in the 21 st century, "test messages").   Ali even steals away from work in a friend's car, a few times per month, to drive the four hours, round trip, to Marrakesh, just to gaze at her in the window for a brief instant before returning home.

More disciplined than many of his young peers he has never taken a drink and prays five times per day without fail.   Yet he frequents the only nightclub in town serving alcohol because the live music there is so good.   Also, when introducing us to his fiancé, he proudly explained that she has covered her head since age 12 (younger than most young girls).   Along with his traditional values, he maintains an open mind as reflected by two of his closest friends, a very modern Moroccan couple, with attire from Mango and Zara, who live together though not yet married. Ali claims "my rules are only for me".

Even more impressive are Ali's language skills.   He is fluent in Arabic, Berber, French, and English and studies Hindi on his own.   He is insatiably curious about the world but unable to travel, as Morocco poses enormous bureaucratic and financial obstacles to residents seeking even short term visas to leave the country for fear of losing valuable citizens and employees.   So, he is left with the internet as his window to the world and he enthusiastically seeks connection with the many tourists who visit his city.   We have been so fortunate to be amongst those to whom he has reached out and his friendship has offered us so much.   Through Ali, we are learning to unravel the seemingly contradictory facets of this complex culture.   I am sharing his portrait as I feel that it so typically represents the current state of Morocco - a nation committed to ancient religious traditions while also striving to evolve with a rapidly changing global society.

location: Essaouira, Morocco
date: 01/12/2007

Laura's thoughts: As we conclude our two-month stay in Morocco, I find that my state of mind has changed dramatically since our arrival. Time passes differently here. Days are not marked by ever-changing responsibilities and accomplishments. In fact, with a consistent climate of 68 degrees and sunny, a simple daily routine and the same setting for almost our entire stay, little has distinguished one day from the next. This has been both wonderful and difficult for me. I continue to marvel at Moroccans ability to find variety in repetition. Their music selection is both limited and hypnotically redundant. Their diet consists only of tagine (stew with potatoes, carrots and zucchini or chicken) or couscous (with these same four accompaniments). It is common to see Moroccans, young and old, standing still (in an alley, on a street corner, at the beach), for hours at a time, seemingly content to just observe the world as it passes by them. Certainly, little work opportunities and a somewhat monochromatic culture (with only one religion, few immigrants, and almost no chance to travel and import diversity) there may be few alternatives to such a lifestyle.

And so, this has me wondering about the value of choice. I certainly appreciate, more than ever, our freedom to select everything from our partners and professions to our mode of dress. But is it possible to have too much choice? I have heard that a new anxiety disorder has developed in North America caused by the stress that some people experience trying to complete the easiest tasks at home, like selecting the correct brand of butter or choosing what to watch on TV. And I am disappointed to find myself bored at times, rather than reveling in this rare and precious free time. But old habits die hard and the propensity to feel fulfilled by busyiness is strong. It has just been interesting to watch this and try to shift, slowly but surely.

I know that one of the objectives of travel is to let go - of old patterns and attitudes, of regular conctact with friends and family, and of Western needs for PLENTY. But, for one, the internet makes 21st century travel far less detached than it has in the past. And, again, this is a blessing and a curse. So, I choose to remain in this in between world, where I am tethered to home by email and getting my feet wet in new worlds at the same time. And as we prepare for our India departure, I am bracing myself for perhaps the greatest shifts our journey has in store yet.

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photo caption: evidence of our high tech trip, contrasted with our beautifully low tech discovery of new places and people

location: Casablanca, Morocco
date: 01/15/2007

Geoff: When we designed our rough trip itinerary, our thought had been to plug in several 2-month stints at several places to give us a little more time to absorb how a place works and feels. That goal has been accomplished for both of us, both here and in Copenhagen. Yesterday, while Laura was taking a horse tour with a friend, I was sitting outside a little dive of a cafe in Diabat, 3km down the beach. The view of the bay is incredible from there but currently the area's first golf course is being built between the town and the beach. So, there is a constant stream of oversize CAT bulldozers and dump trucks passing 2 metres from the dozen of us, sitting at the tables outside the cafe. As a disciple of urban planning, this kind of setting usually drives me crazy. It is unsafe, dirty, dusty, loud, and aesthetically suboptimal; but, I looked around and all the locals were completely laughing, playing guitars, and chilling- and soon I was doing the same.(the cafe is called the Jimi Hendrix Experience, although the owner admitted that Jimi didn't actually make it past the castle in the sand 1 km from here)

I guess we have a way of getting comfortable and adapting to new surroundings- maybe the body can only produce so much dopimine, eventually leveling the ecstatic highs of travel to a more even state. Because of that, I found that in the last couple of weeks I was able to let down my travel defences and start to try and walk in their shoes. Well maybe more like try them on several times, because it is impossible to be objective- every observation passes through the lense of living in North America. I do feel that we have a much better understanding of the workings and challenges of an Islamic state where the king is both the head of State and protector of Islam at the same time.

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photo caption: dozens of kitesurfers in Essaouira

I also know that kite surfers are better than windsurfers. I only managed to get 6 days of suitable sailing conditions, whereas the huge kites were able to have a blast four times as often. Sure the odd person may get a finger cutoff from ropes or a back thrown out on a cliff, but the effortless speed and air constantly elicited pure envy and awe. We are leaving with no real regrets and unsure if we will ever visit again- which kind of flies in the face of our natural tendency to try and hang on to the places we love. Thanks to watching a government of Quebec-funded TV show on practical french dialogue in bars, we are now under the delusion that we are also several steps closer to conversational capability.

Today we arrived in "here's lookin at you kid" Casablanca which is, for a traveller, much less interesting than Marrakech, Fez, Tangiers and a variety of others. This touristic judgement comes from the selfish desire to see typical Moroccan architecture and ambience everywhere and to discount places that are simply functional and more ambiguous in their aesthetic. For example, we did stumble upon an Italian restaurant downtown that had a beautiful, well-designed interior which would fit right in downtown Scottsdale. After this entry, I will probably forget it because it did not have some of the stereotypical cheap tagine pots, moroccan carpets, and ottomans everywhere. Oh ya, the food was excellent and the same price as the other more poorly located, conceived, executed, and serviced locations we frequented- but the same price- we never did figure out the economics of this country.

location: Casablanca, Morocco
date: 01/15/2007

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photo caption: Our last Moroccan sunset, daily beach acrobatics

Laura's thoughts: Were I at home and flying, tomorrow, to India (my dream travel destination), I would been in a frenzy of anticipation and exciting plans . However, the unique circumstances of a year-long trip truly allow the senses to wait until they are immersed into a new environment to fully soak it in. So, instead of looking towards the future, I am surveying the recent past as my head spins with memorable images of our time in Morocco - snapshots which will remain imprinted in my mind forever:

- Moroccan men, forbidden to touch their wives in public, satisying their natural need for human affection by holding hands with each other, for hours, as they share jokes and stories
- A plate of hot, fresh, melt-in-your mouth limsimin, swimming in butter and honey (Moroccan's version of fried dough which I indulged in nightly, with a pot of delicious mint tea)
- Doing my first front-handspring in 25 years, inspired by the endless and impressive acrobatics that we witnessed daily, as every young Moroccan boy regularly used the more forgiving "mat" of the Essoairan beach to launch their lithe, sinewy bodies into ariels, backhandspring passes, and various other twisting flips
- Geoff and I wandering the streets at 1 am, homeless and locked out of our apartment, only to be "rescued" by two British woman on holiday, who amazingly shared their decadent, three-story Riad with us, as complete strangers, for the night
- The sacrifical lamb, hanging by a noose on my neighbor's rooftop, still twitching minutes after his throat was slit and all his blood had spilled from his body
- The 30-second wave that Geoff and I caught simultaneously when we finally learned to surf
- Feeling like I'd been transported to L.A., listening to Ella Fitzgerald in Latif's Greenich Village-style, retro-memorabilia store turned totally hip, Italian/Morrocan bistro
- Galloping on my rented horse, between giant dunes and the sea, literally into the Moroccan sunset - the last of dozens that left had our mouth agape since November

And along with these moments, I will remember the faces of so many Moroccans who touched our lives during our stay:

trip image here

photo caption: All of our Moroccan friends