Friday, 31 August 2007

when good things happen to good people

At the Casablanca airport Q made her way through the line up for boarding passes with M.C. Solaar, and bags in hand, ticket at the ready. “Oh no,” says the agent. “We can’t make your boarding pass you must go over to ***.” By the time she returned they had filled the plane and had her on standby. When it looked as though she would get left they called her up and gave her and M.C. Solaar a first class seat trans-Atlantic to New York! How cool is that? Now she understands my aversion to coach.

She is doing well and says that M.C. Solaar is adjusting nicely to life in America. A is finishing up his malaria meds so he and M.C. both have her up at 0400 hours wanting to talk and play – in that order. Today on AIM she said, “The people at CVS don’t care how my family is doing.” This in reference to the very personal service one finds in Morocco, she misses it. It is true and one of the things I most love about this country. When I go to the apothecary the chap invariably ask, “How is the head doing,” and the nice ladies at the shop in the Medina said to some Moroccan customers one day, “She? She is our friend.” It only takes one or two visits and they have a going concern in the business of your life.

An excellent example is the 1,2,3 Shop at Mega Mall where Q and I went on quite a shopping spree once they declared their 50% Off sale. When the young woman was bagging our goodies I ask for hangers - my intent being that she put the dresses and skirts on hangers for us to transport home. She said, “Oh no, we don’t do that. No hangers.” Well fine, that’s not a problem I was just looking to spare myself a wrinkle or two. On Monday this week I went in – you know just to make sure we had not missed anything – and we had! I found six lovely shirts, but I only bought three. While standing and paying at the counter, the young woman who had been helping me (bringing more and more stuff, “This one?”) left for a bit and returned with what can best be described as a shit-eating-grin on her face as she placed at my feet one of the extra-large shopping bags filled to the rim with – hangers! I had not the heart to tell her it was not what I had meant, so I joyfully took them in the spirit offered. Once I arrived home I noticed she had put in the very posh kind with the padded clasp, so it was a score.

My housekeeper had taken herself off to the doctor this morning but without informing me. Just as I had FINISHED sweeping the floors and tidying the kitchen, she appears at the door. Oh well, I consider it today’s workout – but all in all I prefer the treadmill!

Designer brand tee shirts are ubiquitous here, with Dolce & Gabbana leading the pack. It is very jarring to walk along in the medina and see Versace, D&G, Nike, and a host of others on the young people. I did see one the other day that I found most amusing. This is a Muslim country in Northern Africa right? Keep that in mind. The tee shirt said, “Somebody in Texas loves me”. It was a young Moroccan male wearing it! I have to wonder if he made the connection

Apparently the Americans have begun their holiday weekend early (I can never remember which one I only know there is one at the beginning of summer and another at the end), as I cannot contact anyone at my bank. Soon I will be without cash. It could be really sad people. This could be that event James was writing about that has me ending on the streets, couldn’t it be the streets of Knightsbridge instead? I can do anything that will take a credit card but that does not include any of the hannuts for food, or the taxis. This is not a credit card friendly country. I did want to be nice and slim for the Canadian trip but this may be a bit more severe than what I had in mind. I was going to skip croissants for a while…

I was thinking about what constitutes success in Morocco and in general. I look around the Oudayas and I think it may be feeding, clothing, and housing your family. On the other side of town in Souissi it is not much different than in Belgravia, Bel Air, or Dulwich. Bigger car, bigger house, better accessories, better schools for your children, and getting invited to the palace. How much of how we decide we have had a good life is dependant on peer pressure? Of course peer pressure this century comes in over the satellite and Internet from all over the world, which makes me wonder about the thought process in the shantytowns one sees along the railroad tracks, and at the base of the new mansions I see going up by the Mega Mall. These people live in a structure with dirt floors, tin roofs, and no running water or poor quality, but almost everywhere I see the satellite dishes. So they are watching television. Morocco does have some censure; I see that on the Internet where I can’t access You Tube or Google Earth, but in large it is pretty open. Do the images of wealth make those who are not wealthy want to attend school no matter what, in order to have an education, in order to scale the ladder of success? Or is that a western idea? Do the images make them resent the people they are living next to in the mansions? It sets me to mind of the Medieval period, but then the images of the wealthy were not so readily available. You might well think you were as well off as most people. The contrast with India is striking. There you see the same sort of shanty villages, along the rivers or hanging on the outside of the cities, but I have not seen the ubiquitous presence of satellite dishes. I mean really you can’t quite conceive of it unless you see it. Going past a grouping of hovels you will note every one has secured to what passes for a roof – a satellite dish. What are they thinking?

Thursday, 30 August 2007


Once again I ask, “What is the meaning of life?” What are we doing here? What are we exactly? A biological entity that lives, procreates, and dies? A spirit housed in a biological body? If a spirit, to what end? To what purpose do we live? Surely not the continuation of life without other purpose, nor the spirit without destiny? Why are we here? What happens when the biologic dies? In what form does the spirit continue? Do we determine our individual end, or does some higher power hold the keys to our fate? Are we responsible for our own futures, both here and on to infinity? When we are ethical, loving, and compassionate is it out of fear or to a higher purpose? What causes that dark and evil side of us? We are all humans, and thus we are all part of the best and worst of us. This line of thought began running through my mind after reading an article in TIME magazine, “Cry of the Wild”.

At first I was struck by tragedy of the loss of members of an endangered species, but then I found myself asking what evil would cause us, human beings, to behave in such a depraved manner? In Congo’s Virunga National Park, four members of a 12-member family of mountain gorillas were slaughtered, murdered. No trophies were taken, no meat, two valuable (on the black market) infants were orphaned and left – it was senseless. One of the females was set alight after she was murdered. The park wardens who found the huge 600-pound male silverback said, “What man would do this? Not even a beast would do this.”

Hunting, especially in Central and West Africa is increasing to terrifying heights; hunting now constitutes the pre-eminent threat to some species. Hunting, even of protected animals, is a global, multimillion-dollar business. The logging and mining industries have opened the forest to the hunters by providing roads. Three weeks after a logging company opened up one Congo forest, the density of animals fell more than 25 percent; a year after a logging road went into the forest areas in Sarawak, Malaysia, in 2001, not a single large mammal remained.

What I find really offensive is the fact that eating bushmeat is now a status symbol. It’s considered supersexy to eat bushmeat. Every year a single province in Laos exports $3.6 million worth of wildlife… In Sumatra about 51 tigers were killed each year between 1998 and 2002; there are currently an estimated 350 tigers left on the island and fewer than 5,000 in the world.

The background to the horror occurring in the Congo is another atrocity – the Rwandan back and forth genocide of Hutus and Tutsis. After the massacre of Rwandan Tutsis in 1994 Hutu extremists retreated to the park. Three years ago 8,000 Rwandans crossed the border into Virunga and mowed down more than 3,000 acres of prime gorilla habitat in less than three weeks. The ongoing violence has seen the mountain gorilla population caught in the middle.

Global warming is a problem indeed, but what about a planet with no wildlife? It is a real possibility, and don’t we think that will affect the balance of life on the planet?

To me it is blood on more blood. I have traveled all about the world and I have yet to find a place that did not contain both good and evil, but in certain spots there is a conflux where a critical mass of evil clothed in violence seems to walk unimpeded. A witch stirs the caldron and sets countries afire. The Middle East through history is one, and Central Africa, along with what used to be Yugoslavia another. Seeing the pictures of the four gorillas bound to poles and carried from the forest full of bullet holes was heartbreaking. What could they have possibly done to deserve such a fate? Nothing, they had done nothing but live. I ask again what could bring us to such evil? This is the same area of the world of the child solider which is another post in itself.

We can’t just shake our heads and think, “it’s over there”. The world is too small for that. We are responsible for the evil in the world caused by man, each of us. We must pay attention lest it next call at our door.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

a new day

I couldn’t do it yesterday. In spite of all my brave words, which I DO mean, about Q starting her next adventure – I was desolate at her departure. I am better now. As I reminded myself when I woke to an empty house this morning – she is not dead, she is merely away. Away for all the best reasons, and how lucky am I to have had another year of her presence every day at this stage in her life? I was prepared (I think, I was prepared) to have no more long stints of time with her once she left for university. Hence my packing up of our house, and hitting the flight path for points north, east, and south. Having lost a child I know I practiced over-protecting parenting for which I make no apologies, but I am determined not to practice smothering parenting. I have already told you the tale of how she came back to me for long periods of time during her university days and after graduation. You know the story of Morocco so I shan’t bore you with repetition (if by any chance I didn't tell you, or you want to know - just ask!).

She is safely in America with A and says there “is such a story” of the journey there. I take it she is too tired, and more likely too busy to write the details just yet. I shall keep you updated. I leave to your imagination for the present a 4000-mile journey with a cat, a computer, and all her worldly goods for the past year along with gifts for family and friends – across an ocean, a culture, a language, and a century.

Last night I was doing something I know a few of my readers especially, and you know who you are, will appreciate. I have turned Q’s bedroom into a closet! Whoo hoo. A huge walk in closet. I love it. The bed remains so that with only a bit of notice I can still accommodate guests. Now I can more easily move a table upstairs to my bedroom for writing this winter if I choose. I am not a person who likes to spread out. Perhaps growing up in a place so huge I developed a need for a close quiet personal space? I know not, only that it is so. Every time in my life that I have found myself alone, I have collapsed the bigger area into a smaller one. For now I would be just as happy with only the upstairs of my little house. For this reason and those of geography, I am contemplating a move to the Souissi/Agdal side of town, though I am reluctant to relinquish my proximity to the sea. Q on the other hand is with the majority of people I think, she likes to spread out. What makes that difference I wonder? Do you prefer a small posh place or a larger area to live?

I spent this morning standing on the wonderfully chilly ice rink in the Mega Mall taking photographs of the Moroccan Curling team for my article. The photographer I hired was not able to come for some unspecified reasons – this being Morocco it could be too hot, too cold, his shoes were dirty, his mother is ill, or a holiday – Inshallah. Nicolas and team members were lovely giving me their time and posing for my ‘action’ shots. The photography session is a testament to the fact I am a writer.

I am fascinated and not a little concerned with developments in Pakistan. That is the true hot spot for now I believe. The Sipah-e-Sahaba/Pakistan (SSP) retains its hold in the Punjab and throughout the country really. It does not shirk from using terrorists’ tactics and has sworn violence should the U.S. send armed forces into the country as Cheney has said is his intent. Now former Prime Minister Bhutto has set a deadline for Musharraf to respond to demands that she be allowed a power-sharing position with him. That she feels confident enough to make the threat and the Supreme Court decision last week to allow the return of Nawaz Sharif (who has his own web site) (her opposition for power), all points out Musharraf’s declining power base. I don’t think this is a good thing for the area. For all his dictatorial ways (democracy is not a cure all) he has held Pakistan together and the extremists, the SSP among them, in check. With the military and the head of government on opposite sides I am not at all sure this can continue. On the other hand if the U.S. keeps showing their support for him so blatantly he could be killed. I would ask subtlety from the Yanks.

The latest word from CNN, who pays their reporters better than the majority of intelligence agencies around the world pay their agents, and thus has the most up to date news, says that Musharraf and Bhutto have reached a consensus. Musharraf will take off his military uniform. I can only assume we are speaking metaphorically here, not in the privacy of his home or hers. (Sorry couldn’t resist that one). In exchange Musharraf will secure another five-year term as president. I can only surmise he will do what is necessary in order to retain his control of the military through other means, or other men. Sharif no doubt is happy for the two of them, but will file protest with the courts against Musharraf having another five-year term.

Both Sharif and Bhutto are conducting their political coup from London. You have to love the historical irony of that.

As a closing item, the infamous hotelier Leona Helmsley left $12M in trust for her dog, and nothing for two of her grandchildren who have offended her in some way, and ‘only’ five million apiece to the other two on the stipulation they visit their father’s grave once a year. The thought process boggles the mind eh? What I do think was wise is that she left millions of dollars to her brother who is to care for the dog, so he has no reason to skimp on dog food…

Monday, 27 August 2007

her last day in Morocco

Today, to get Q ready to face America, and more importantly to see her fiancé for the first time since April, we spent the morning and the first part of the afternoon at Dessange. I had my hair color “refreshed” as I am not yet ready to be gray. Inside my head I am thirty (it was a good decade). Also from past experience I know the best French manicure I have ever had (the woman has a plum line inside her nail brush) awaits at the hands of Leila who is now glowingly six months pregnant with her first child. Q had her hair cut and highlighted, and also had the French manicure.

I was somewhat ambivalent about allowing someone to put color on my hair. Yes, hanging my head in shame at being such a control freak, I have been applying color to my own hair the past few years since it began to manufacture its own brand of frosting. Having become at last apparent to me that the natural color of my hair is not to miraculously return one morning when I wake, I have acknowledged the coloring is a matter best left to professionals, but just in case I brought my straw fedora.

Actually having decided to allow someone else to do the color in a salon environment was somewhat freeing in that I now had a choice to the color. I recently read in one of the American beauty magazines that women over fifty should not have red hair as it makes the complexion look aged and “splotchy”. Women who have been redheads should instead change to a “honey blonde” color. Monroe? Theron? Deneuve? Or Kate Hepburn? I considered it. “Do you want to be a blonde?” asked Q.

“I don’t really know. I don’t think I know how. I think being a redhead is part of my aren't I charming and smart routine. What do you think?”

“I don’t know Mom. I’ve never seen you with any other hair color. I think you’re too pale to be a blonde.”

In the end I have decided to remain among the flame-haired of the world, as the other seems too fraught with uncertainty. I mean would I have to change my conversation to include rapture about the latest it-bag? Would I have to give up boxing? Could I stand the blonde jokes? (please do not take offense blondes of the blog world as I know you are an individuated group)

Arriving at Dessange, Q for the last time acted as my interpreter and explained what I wanted. Fouzia, who is a lovely young woman with black hair, dark eyes, and creamy copper skin, reassured me immediately with her expertise and professional manner. I pointed to a color among the palette selection – “No.” I pointed to another, “No.” I looked at her expectantly. “We will combine these two colors. (not one I had picked out) You want an Irish red yes?” Being unsure as to the exact hue of locks of my neighbors to the east in Ireland I nodded nonetheless, knowing it was those self same Vikings that raided their shores as well as Scotland. Q left for her treatments assured I was in good hands, and anxious for her own pampering.

Fouzia mixed, painted, shampooed, massaged, and conditioned me back to the same color I have been used to these fifty years with a bit of a saucy shine. Well satisfied, I was happy to see Leila and her manicure kit. I was not disappointed; she continues to give the best French manicure I have seen. During the manicure Shizlom* arrived, blow dryer at the ready, and gave me a straight and shinny flippy do that suits me to a tea. As usual the twin sensations of having my hair brushed, and having my hands massaged sent me very close to a restful sleep state.

At the beginning of the treatments and again upon request I was supplied with espresso and bottled water, always a plus. As I had nothing to do now but watch my nails dry, I watched Q have her manicure by Leila as Karal shampooed, conditioned, and cut her hair, then took her off for her brushing. I pulled out my laptop and began my missive for you lovely readers. Dessange is located at 1, Av Ahmed Balafrej in Souissi/Rabat. The telephone number is I would strongly suggest you drop by to make your appointment as the same by telephone can turn to a lengthy and sometimes frustrating affair – much like the Treaty of Versailles.

There was a bevy of beautiful children today in the salon – getting those back to school hair cuts no doubt. One young man took particular delight in saying “Bonjour!” – everytime he spotted Q.

Q returned looking smashing! The highlights that Karal applied are subtle yet sparkling, and the cut not only gives her hair that sassy swing we all want but also volume. Really quite well done even though when it comes to haircuts my heart still belongs to Muss.

We had called ahead to check that the salon takes charge cards, as is a good idea anywhere in Morocco. After some internal political dispute over the arrival of the bill for the waxing, we were able to pay up and depart for lunch at Paul’s. As I write this sitting at my office at the Majestic in the New City, I toss my hands into the air and say, Mon Dieu! - as I realize I forgot to leave tips! Bugger, I shall return on Wednesday and remedy that – easy enough as Dessange is just down the block from Moving.

The only unpleasant note of the visit that was other wise just right, were the waxing treatments. Those of you, and you know who you are, who have the bikini wax and beyond, know there are certain things that must be done to ensure a satisfactory outcome – you must take two aspirin or Advil beforehand, the technician must trim the area before applying the wax, and you never wax an area more than twice. I fear all but one of these precautions were violated. I did take two aspirin before leaving home. In addition to not trimming the area until AFTER she had unsuccessfully and painfully waxed it once, Aziza used the thick cooling wax rather than the sugar wax used most often here and in Europe. All in all a very Unsatisfactory experience.

Still, we left the salon feeling pampered and lovely. That leaves only one thing for it – lunch (and preferably shopping of course if you have time). Lunch at Paul’s was up to its usual lovely standards with a cutting edge fashion parade of the ladies who were lunching today. Years of French colonization, when combined with the natural style consiousness of the Moroccan women has brilliant results. We had a delicious sautéed vegetable salad and gourmet hamburgers with French fries as only Morocco can do them.

Q is finishing up those errands today that can only for whatever reason be completed at the last minute – we’ve all been there – so we skipped café au lait and dessert. She has gone home to try for a quick nap as she was up far into the morning packing, and then she is over to the embassy to turn in her final report for the Fulbright Foundation and collect her last check. She is meeting me here after she has her final Arabic lesson with her tutor (is that perseverance or what?). I am relaxing with my café au lait, talking with you, and now to work.

Afterwards we meandered through the medina for Q to collect gifts for friends in America. I bought some of the King’s dates for her last night and we found some wonderful paintings.

I am posting this when I arrive home tonight. Since I am taking Q and M.C. Solaar to Casablanca tomorrow to catch her aeroplane, I will be posting late then as well. I should be back on schedule on Wednesday when I go over to the Mega Mall to oversee the photographs for my Curling article, and per request I shall take to the ice myself. That’s it for today lovely readers. Can you tell I am trying to stretch out every last moment with her (sigh)?


Saturday, 25 August 2007

it gives you a warm spot in your heart for bank robbers..

Frustration reigns! Some bloody sod has stolen my bankcard number and with it successfully emptied my checking account. I have been in communication with the bank via the online banking site as I think the more matters are in writing, the better shot you have at not having to ram your head into a brick wall and have your brains splatter and run down into the sewers. In spite of my saying, “Not mine. Not mine. Close the account.” They only managed to do so AFTER it was empty! Now when I call them to say, “You must send me new card straight away, use the Fed Ex please as I have no other source of cash down here.”

The bank person says, “Oh we can’t send that to you because there is no money in your account to cover the fifty dollar fee.”

‘There is no money in my account because YOU let someone empty it!” I moaned to no avail. Like talking to a brick, a brick with a very thick American-southern accent. Now I must deposit MORE money into my account that NOW is supposedly closed to the old number in order to facilitate the sending of a new card. Arghhhhh.

It continues as she says, “And where shall I send the papers?”
“Papers? What papers? The chap I emailed at the bank said all you needed was verbal confirmation to send the card, and start the dispute procedure TO GET MY MONEY BACK. Along with the bank fees you have charged me when you GAVE them more money on an overcharge.”

“Oh no Mam’ you have to fill out the papers and get them to us in ten days or you forfeit the money as we cannot dispute,” she says this like she is rattling it off a card.

“Are you mental? It takes two weeks for anything to get here and three weeks for it to get out!”

“We will be glad to fax it to you,” she says with a perky lilt.

“Oh sure let me just go down to me office where I have only one of the two internet connections in the Oudayas and pull a fax machine connected to what out of the air.” Patience is running a bit thin at this point. We can tell because the brogue gets thicker. “FAX machines are a bit thin on the ground here,” I say very slowly.

We left it that I will CALL BACK, because that is just so easy, when I have transferred money into the account at which time they will send the bloody card. Meanwhile I spent thirty minute this afternoon being led from one teleboutique to another by some lovely men who were being most helpful until I found a hole in the wall with the fax literally sitting over his head. This should be fun!

Friday, 24 August 2007

a year passes

Q is getting ready to leave. Her aeroplane leaves Casablanca on 28 August taking her to the U.S. It is an exciting time for her – beginning graduate school, planning her wedding next summer, having her own place for the first time. This mother business is tricky eh? It makes yin and yang look like a walk in the park. When I decided to have a child, I did it for lofty reasons. I don’t think one should have children to “look after me when I am old”, or to live out unfulfilled dreams, or as an accessory, or as something that is expected of you. I decided to have a child because I thought with the life I had lived up to that point, I had something to teach, that I could rear a being who would make a positive contribution to the universe. Ah yes, all that lasted until I looked into those eyes shaded by unbelievably long lashes in the operating room. I fell completely in love. I never expected that. I read all the pregnancy books, and the parenting books when I was pregnant, as I had never had parents so the mystery was complete. No one ever prepared me for that first moment I saw her. It was if every cell in my body was filled with light, and I knew for a moment the bliss described in the Dharma.

Then it turned to the reality of three am nursing sessions, the terror of high fevers, and the mystery of walking, potty training, and language. It has been the best ride of my life. She was, and is, the easiest child in the Universe. I have always imagined the gods having a conversation, “She’s had a bit of a rough time I think we should give her an easy one.” “That and the fact I’m not sure she could handle a difficult one.” Motherhood has been the most difficult and most joy filled job I have ever done. I had two pieces of great advice I remember and I’ll pass on to you. When she was only months old a chap came to the door with his young son to buy some weights I had advertised in the paper. As I opened the door, I heard Q cry out from the nursery. “Excuse me I have to get the baby. I’ll be just back then.”

When I returned I apologized for having to leave so abruptly and the chap said, “Take my advice. Hold her every minute you can. Once they begin walking, they keep going away from you.” I did and I am glad.

The other great piece of advice was from another chap actually who said, “If you want to know how you are doing as a parent, don’t look within. Look at your child.” I did, and she has convinced me I am a terrific mom!

She has excelled in both her personal life and her school career. She is well-rounded, compassionate, loving, physically beautiful, generous, curious, and only cranky when she is hungry. I am proud of her every day, and I am anxious to see what she will do with the rest of her life.

We have had a great year here together. I think we are both glad I came along, but for both of us a year living together is long enough. She is a grown woman now with her own needs, wants and routines. I am Mrs. Tittlemouse, she is not. I don’t cook, she does. I like everything pristine, she is more relaxed. I find it amazing that we did not kill each other over the course of the year. I had to back off from the mom role – as in offering advice, and not giving orders – not my best thing but I did try. I’ve had to learn to live with a kitchen that is to my eyes messy, and to her eyes fit for living in. She has had to tolerate my asking where she is going, and when she will be back. She has spent the year being my interpreter, and I have spent the year picking up her clothes. But we did live through it, and in good form. We had a fun trip to Marrakech, and adventures in both Fez and Rabat, especially the Fez Medina. I had the joy of watching her discover more of herself and her abilities. She took side trips all about the country with friends, while I banged at my laptop and waited for it to cool down. We entertained her fiancé over Christmas and they toured the countryside. She found places with great food, I found places with great atmosphere. We shopped together more than we have since she was ten, and went through the joy and fear of M.C. Solaar’s sojourn into our lives. We managed it all while being tolerant, considerate, and loving to each other – not easy all the time.

Now she leaves on her own journey, and I continue mine.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

out of it

two days of Migraine, Wednesday and Thursday . I'll be back on Friday hopefully.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

a dwarf in Scotland and a camera in your closet

Mark Lilla is professor of the humanities at Columbia University. This essay is adapted from his book “The Stillborn God: Religion, Politics and the Modern West,” which will be published next month. I have posted the entirety of the essay over on my data pages”. Please go read this, I think it is important. Professor Lilla gives his views on the evolvement of political theocracy as it progressed through changes to liberal democracy in Europe and America. He attempts a look at why the rest of the world for the most part is still practicing this political model, and how we must come to understand that. I think he makes some thought provoking points that can lead to further discussion. I hope so.

One of my favorite sights at my “office” in the Mega Mall is the exuberance of the toddlers that pass, or rather - burst by throughout the day. The sheer expenditure of raw energy would be enough to power the a/c for the rest of us I should think, and the wattage of the smiles produced at outrunning mum or dad – priceless. When one of these ducks makes a successful break for it, I love the way it is a community affair to ensure the safety of the child. You see guards, mall workers (they are all about the place to clean the tables, and any mess that ensues), and any unattached adult racing after the errant child.

File under: Are you mental? The American Congress has given the Bush administration pretty much carte blanche to investigate its own citizens without warrant, and as well they have gutted any weight of the oversight court. You have to love it as now they are saying, “oops!” As in what? They were napping?

Meanwhile over in Italy they are having difficulty getting the globes just right in the face of ever changing boundaries and claims of sovereignty.

It has been said that wars are a way of teaching geography. And maps are caught up in the strife. You have to love it, you can literally have the world made to order, your order.

For a Turkish customer, Cyprus is shown split in two, a division that Greek Cypriots do not recognize. On one globe, Chile is given parts of Antarctica that on another globe go to Argentina. And in much of the Arab world, Israel is nonexistent.

And this from Long Way Home:

I officially feel that I am now involved in sticking it to the man, at least in some little way. As my Moroccan readers will know, the king decided an article that the weekly Nichane wrote about one of his speeches was "disrespectful" due to its a) daring to question the king and b) being written in dariija. He further decided not only to destroy all copies of the magazine in question, he then sent a team of people to the press which publishes Nichane and destroyed all the copies of their other weekly, TelQuel, I can only assume as punishment? A substantial amount of private property, seized and destroyed, without a trial or any warning whatsoever. This is the second time this year Nichane has gotten itself banned--the last time for publishing jokes deemed deleterious to the general morals and blashpehmous to boot. Neve rmind that the magazine didn't invent the jokes, they were common Moroccan street jokes. To be fair, the king was not nearly as responsible for the first banning, that was a different branch of the government.

But I digress, and don't want to criticize His Royal Majesty too much before there is an ocean between us. The point is, last night someone came over and said, "Scarlettscion, can I borrow that insert with all the election information on candidates and where to vote?"**
And I said, "Oh, you mean the one in Arabic that was banned?"
He said "Yes."
And I said, "Sure, I'll get it for you."

**note that the targeted issue just HAPPENED to contain information on the elections written in a language more people could read that the same French insert in the next week's TelQuel.

If you want to invest in some postive karma, Q has this to say:

The American Fondouk is a free veterinary service in Fes that's been operating since 1927. I've been there myself with M.C. and have seen what they do firsthand, in addition to having a friend who regularly takes her cat there. It's just the basics, but the basics are much more than these animals would have otherwise.
There's an appalling amount of cruelty to animals in Morocco, but a great deal of the neglect stems from both ignorance and the cost of private veterinary care simply being far beyond the means of your average family. I also feel obliged to point out that when there's an appalling amount of cruelty to people, sometimes animals just don't rank that high on people's priority lists--which I do understand. And while I've seen my fair share of disgusting treatment of animals, I've also seen many random acts of kindness. When I visited the Fondouk a street child had brought in a wounded pigeon in a cardboard box. It wasn't his pigeon, he just saw it hurting and brought it with him. Another man had brought a cat he found with its eye clawed out, and a woman brought in another cat I suspect was later euthanized--it looked as if it had been run over. So I feel that there's enough sympathy in Fes for animals to make this veterinary charity practical as well as compassionante--i.e., it only works if the people care enough to bring animals to the center. And they seem to do so.
From the human welfare angle, a donkey or mule well-cared for is an animal that will serve its owner longer and better than it would have otherwise. Often a poor family's beast of burden is the most valuable asset it possesses, and improving the condition of the animal will improve the life of the family. You can give online if you like. I've met the people who work there and I'm fairly certain they aren't lining their own pockets!

This just in – I couldn’t help myself..

British dwarf's penis gets stuck to hoover

EDINBURGH (AFP) - A dwarf performer at the Edinburgh fringe festival had to be rushed to hospital after his penis got stuck to a vacuum cleaner during an act that went horribly awry.

Daniel Blackner, or "Captain Dan the Demon Dwarf", was due to perform at the Circus of Horrors at the festival known for its oddball, offbeat performances.

The main part of his act saw him appear on stage with a vacuum cleaner attached to his member through a special attachment.

The attachment broke before the performance and Blackner tried to fix it using extra-strong glue, but unfortunately only let it dry for 20 seconds instead of the 20 minutes required.

He then joined it directly to his organ. The end result? A solid attachment, laughter, mortification and ... hospitalisation.

"It was the most embarrassing moment of my life when I got wheeled into a packed AE with a vacuum attached to me," Blackner said.

"I just wished the ground could swallow me up. Luckily, they saw me quickly so the embarrassment was short-lived."

Monday, 20 August 2007

Naughty and Nice

I have really good legs. I tell you this so that when I tell you I had great legs in the ‘70s you will see the continuity. During the seventies I wore the mini-skirt, I mean I really wore it – short to my knickers wore it. I had to learn to do the Bunny-dip in order to pick things up from the floor short.
* the Bunny-dip: a specialized move perfected by the Playboy Bunnies in the seventies to accommodate the rather low cut top when they needed to serve drinks, a move to prevent matters from falling out as it were where one would bend at the knees rather than the waist.

However I am British, more I am a Highland Scot and I consider myself somewhat prim - not because I would wish it, but it is an isness. I tell you this bit to let you know I have kept my assets up top covered for the most part, I mean there was the time line of the bikini, and the occasional evening gown that was cut a bit daring, but for the most part – covered. Why oh why are we pursuing this line of thought you ask? My days here at my “office” in the Mega Mall have brought this to mind. I am here again today, as the paper for which I wrote my article on Curling would like additional photographs, and has requested some of ME curling – the things I do for a byline…

I have been observing the women of Morocco since our arrival – and a lovely bunch with a definite sense of style they are. The hijab worn with Hermes scarves, pinned with a broach, highlighted with sequins and bright colors; the djellaba worn in every bright color you can imagine, fitted, loose, trimmed with all manner of lovelies like hand made lace and trims of gold, worn as more of a thought with the diaphanous coverings over tights and top, or jeans and t-shirt, western clothes worn fitted and with panache.,. And they are the queens of illusion. You see here that self same mini skirt from the seventies but worn over opaque tights that extend below the knee. In the very hot weather instead of a full djellaba you see many of the chiffon and silk coverings make to slip over the head and glide over the outfit underneath giving the illusion of coverage. Many of the youngsters wear the tiny t-strap sundresses or the short top wraps over a short or long sleeved body shirt. And everywhere and with everything the stiletto heels!

But what put me in this mood is that I have conceded somewhat to my adopted country. Oh no, not the djellaba, I began to wear those immediately I could have some tailored for me when we first arrived. I don’t wear them in the summer, as I can’t take the heat. No I am referring to the zones of a woman’s body that are considered risqué in the west. I remember reading about the Victorians, it was the ankle I believe that was shocking, and with the Chinese it was the breasts that were covered, where in the early American history it was the outline of the buttocks that was scandalous, and I do remember reading that at some point it was that spot on a woman’s neck just behind the ear, and in Morocco it is the legs that are covered. I can count on one hand the number of Moroccans I have seen in shorts, even here in Souissi where western dress is the most common. What area is exposed? The breast! We have been continually shocked at the revealing tops the women wear. And when we shop, much like the trousers cut with the long hems for the stilettos, we find the majority of the tops cut ver-r-ry low. I had resisted this trend until I remembered a quote from Shirley Maclaine, a woman who certainly kept her fabulous legs well into her seventies. She said as a woman passes sixty (not yet, but I’m going) she needs to highlight shoulders, breasts if you have them, and your legs if they have held up as these are the “last parts to go”.

Yesterday I was working hard at my laptop all the day, until at 1830hours, when Q approached my “office” quite out of breath. She was supposed to meet me here after she had finished with her Arabic class for dinner and to work. On the way to my “office” she was diverted by the sale we have been waiting for! 1,2,3 shop on the second floor of the Mega Mall carries the most delightful clothes in linen and silk but is very pricey. We have had our eyes on several outfits, just waiting for them to put up the Sale sign, alas it had not come and I had stopped looking. Q however was not deterred and found the 50% off all merchandise sale in progress. Needless to say I packed up my laptop and followed her in a quick hurry to the changing room where she already had a very full repertoire of clothing to sort through. I garnered my own supply and took the room next door.

What followed was a frenzy of, “No not that one.” “How does this look?” “Do you think this is too young for me, too short?” “Where can I wear this?” “I shall need a plunge bra for this.” “That won’t work.” “That looks smashing.” “Oh you have to get that!” “That is too old for you, it’s something someone in their sixties would wear.” “I’m close.” “Not that close, put it back.” We had a sweet good time and walked out with two large shopping bags filled to the rim. And the point of this story is that I gave in to the low cut neckline on three different outfits. Q had long ago in the summer gone the way of “that looks so good on you, you must wear it!”.


Saturday, 18 August 2007

a very fine lunch

I have had my friends ask me why I have chosen to remain in Morocco after Q leaves, especially given my distaste for heat. In addition to the attributes I have listed in previous posts there is this..

I am sitting in my Souissi “office” (not to be confused with my office in the new city at the Majestic, or my office in Agdal, located at PAUL’s) which is in fact on the ground floor just off the food court. I love writing; it’s such a portable profession. Don’t think food court in the sense of most malls. I have shopped in the posh Prudential Mall in Boston, the equally posh Neiman Marcus mall in San Francisco, and the more family oriented mall in Glendale, California. I can honestly say I have never been to a mall on any other continent, or in any other country. The food courts in the above malls are not places I would eat.

That cannot be said about the Food Court in the Mega Mall of Souissi. I have been working there a good deal this week to escape the heat while Q is out of town. Also I very much enjoy the people watching opportunities afforded. I have been making the rounds of the various establishments for lunch, all have been satisfactory, and I found excellent coffee. But on Thursday I tried the Kiotori. Q and I had noted the chaps about in their Hakamas trousers and kimonos of black, looking quite un-Japanese but very handsome. We are both lovers of Sushi but considering the refrigeration processes or lack of them, we have seen in Morocco, we thought we best pass. I thought on this day I would have a look at the menu, as the restaurant is very inviting in appearance. The young man at the desk, who spoke English, greeted me with the menu and told me the specialties. After ordering I began to say where I was sitting, “Oh that is not necessary. We know where you are sitting. We have been seeing you.” I leave you to interpret that remark. I went back to work.

A short time later this same chap comes to my “office” and says, “Now we don’t want to disturb your office, so I will set up a table for you here.” At which point he pulled over one of the smaller tables, removed all chairs from it but one and set out a place setting, glasses, et al. Then proceeded to bring me a delicious lunch.

Toasted shrimp, vegetables, rice and fresh ginger served on a wooden Edo Fune, with chopsticks. Followed with café’ au lait that was superb. Total cost? 130 dirhams (16 usd, 8 pounds). There did seem to be some amazement at the neighboring tables caused by my expert handling of the chopsticks (years at the neighborhood Chinese/Japanese restaurants) in several cities.

Back to work for me. Ciao.

Friday, 17 August 2007

travel around the blogsphere time

The first Blogpower round-up is now presented at An Insomniac! The Blogpower Round-up is intended to showcase the best of the bloggers in Blogpower. I recommend a look at the interesting and varied post presented this 'round including one by the Blogpower's favorite Canadian Aussie Nobody Important with some sweet words on her home of Australia.

You may well find some new favorite sites.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

This one has ribbons!

I got another one! Yippee! Sorry, but I just never got over the whole “it’s a present” mentality. From Mama Zen the above pink ribbon award for being Nice. I love that. I really like that about me. I am nice. It’s fun; it is one of my best things. Thank you Mama Zen and my three nominees are:

And James (I don’t know if there is one with blue ribbons m’lord, but I think you are man enough to wear the pink!)

“This award is for those bloggers who are nice people; good blog friends and those who inspire good feelings and inspiration. Also for those who are a positive influence on our blogging world.” I think these three fit the bill.

Ah yes I recommend it for everyone, chaps included, a trip to a fabulous (has to be fabulous or it won’t work) spa when your brain is overloaded or just gone dry! I was at my Souissi office at the Mega Mall. Last week we had noticed the spa on the third floor, the Franck Provost of Paris, Rabat. I checked to make sure they take credit cards, not everyone does here, so I won’t have to carry all that cash. I worked for three hours and then headed upstairs. When I make a good decision, I make a great decision! I was met at the desk by Rajaa, who is the manicurist and salon interpreter for the English crowd. She is a typical Moroccan beauty with the sparkling deep brown eyes and silky, long black hair that curls down her back. She has a mischievous smile that appears often and makes you feel both welcome and like an old friend. I had timed it just right and they took me right away into have my hair washed. Not so much a washing as an incredible scalp massage. Rajaa had to shake my shoulder to get me to move!

“You are very relaxed?’ This asked as I am almost asleep from the combination of foot massage and having my hair “brushed” Rajaa raised her eye brows then grinned as I opened my eyes and gave the thumbs up that is universal for outstanding. She was massaging my feet into butter, and Halima, who is so tiny she could be an elf, was “brushing” my hair to shinny perfection. This is after the gifted fingers of Hafida had massaged my scalp to a fair the well during the shampoo, I almost fell asleep then.

My instruction to Halima was “make it very straight” (curly headed women will understand, black women will nod vigorously). When she turned me to face the mirror I was thinking, “Where were you ten years ago?” It was perfect!

Then came the manicure from heaven. I thought the foot massage was great, but the hand massage relaxed my entire back. The manicure became incidental. Not to say my feet and nails don’t look fabulous, they do!

When we were all done the credit card machine “is not working now”. Get this, the lovely woman at the desk (whose name I am sorry I did not get) said why don’t you go have some lunch and then come back? “It will be working at five?” I asked.
“Oui.” And I left! I love Morocco. At five when I returned, the machine was indeed working.

To add to the great day when I went back downstairs to work, the beautiful (really the only word) young man who works at the XO café spent five minutes flirting outrageously with me, then came by my table later to “make sure it is bon”. I love Morocco.

Then I saw THIS.

New York Times, 15 August, “U.S. Weighing Terrorist Label for Iran Guards”

But in recent months, there has been resurgent debate within the administration about whether the diplomatic path is working, with aides to Vice President Dick Cheney said to be among those pushing for greater consideration of military options

Cheney won’t sit still until the world is afire? Now understand, I am a pro-military conservative liberal. This threat/push to label the military forces of a sovereign nation, Iran, as a terrorist organization carries several connotations, but the blackmail Rice is using, no other word for it, is unconscionable.

Senior administration officials said current plans called for the declaration to be made this month, but cautioned that it could be put off, and that the effort could still be set aside if the Security Council moved more quickly to impose broad sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program.

So is what the U.S. administration saying is that if the rest of the Security Council does what they want and passes the additional sanctions the Revolutionary Guard is no longer a terrorist organization, and by the same logic if they do not enforce policy in the United Nations dictated by the American White House they are? Explain that to me.

When Bush attempted to glazed over the work and money Iran has spent in helping the government of Karzai, America’s boy, he raised some hackles in Kabul. So no one can assist Afghanistan but the U.S.?

Karzai, …during a visit to the White House this month. He said that Afghanistan and Iran were “brothers” and that both the United States and Iran were helping reconstruct his country.

Apparently Mr. bush and Mr. Cheney’s xenophobia is being applied to International policy for the U.S. and now “difficult to believe” constitutes hard fact instead of the use of concrete intelligence.

In June, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said the volume of weapons reaching the Taliban from Iran made it “difficult to believe” that the shipments were “taking place without the knowledge of the Iranian government.”

And here President Bush is attempting (I live in a country where the press is only sort of controlled, in Iran it is a bit more severe) to dictate to a foreign nation the need for what can easily be construed in this part of the world as uprising, revolution, coup - pick a word. I’m sure he meant elections…

President Bush addressed the Iranian people directly. “My message to the Iranian people is, ‘You can do better than this current government,’ ” Mr. Bush said. “ ‘You don’t have to be isolated. You don’t have to be in a position where you can’t realize your full economic potential.’ ”

In theory, the threat or imposition of embargoes and sanctions would appear to be a powerful leveraging tool in the conduct of foreign relations between countries. In practice, no state sponsor of international terrorism against which the U.S. has enacted an embargo or sanctions has renounced its role of sponsorship or denounced terrorism as a tool of its foreign policy. Nor has any state once placed on the state sponsors list ever been removed. This is from Bruce Hoffman at the Rand Think Tank.

So if it doesn’t work, why do it? Is the U.S. trying to provoke a confrontation with Iran? Are they trying to justify another invasion? I don’t know but from where I am sitting it looks not only suspicious but also dangerous for anyone living in this part of the world. Do these chaps just not READ history?


Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Look what I have!

James gave me an award! My word what a good day. Thank you my lord graf... I shall do my best to deserve it. I do want to inspire people – to travel, to think, to be grateful, to be kind, to feel good about themselves, to practice compassion, and to think.

AND I was over to Coming2Terms to visit last night and found this Acts of Kindness award from PJ. I am awash in joy and rapture. I especially love this award as I am a big fan of random acts of kindness. One of my favorite ways to practice Benevolent Selfishness.

I am so touched that these two fine people and outstanding bloggers would think of me when it came time to pass on these awards. I am amazed that so many of you have found me fit and deserving of your praise, and I do thank you. I try to make my blog both interesting and of value, and to live life the same way.

I intend to inspire you today by going to the spa and having a hair treatment (with ozone?), a pedicure, and a manicure in order to inspire my brain to work better. No really, trust me, it works.

In honor of my Acts of Kindness award I am going to take my now almost full glass of change I keep on my desk (to collect the small change from my wallet) and give the entire lot to the first beggar I encounter. I did this in Fez and the look on the face of the chap was priceless! It is too much fun.

I am working like crazy to finish my two final papers due on Friday. I’ll do just about anything to ward off Alzheimer’s. I am hip deep in researching terrorists groups. Joy and rapture. Really not a cheery subject hence the need for the spa. I'd much rather work on the novel, and since I am bored now complaining about the papers I shall finish today.

I MUST get my camera out tomorrow and get shots for you of the reconstruction on the walls of the Kasbah. They are doing a splendid job. It looks brilliant.

Q was in Fez, took her friend from New York City to visit Mohammad, and of course she bought more rugs and J. bought one as well. This is really good timing as I intend to visit him in September to purchase two more of his antique princess robes for my trip to Canada and that will help my bargaining position (see the Scot rubbing her hands together in anticipation of a great deal!). They are off to Casablanca today to do the tourist thing and then put J. on the aeroplane on Thursday. She was so kind as to bring Q the cat-transport bag for M.C. and Q's trip back to New York City later this month (sniff, sniff).

I'm off to the spa, laptop in hand.


Tuesday, 14 August 2007

sounds the same, but oh my! not the same

There are some problems with the language beyond my novice status. Apparently, this from someone fluent in Darjia, sometimes the singular tenses of a word means something quite different from the plural. Rebecca revealed the following to us over lunch at Paul’s as we sat outside in a shady corner by the fountain. Our backs at rest on the white cushions of the wrought iron chairs after a long walk, our thirsts was being assuaged with cool orange drinks for the girls and café au lait for me. We had just discovered we are all fans of the occasional Graycliff's cigar when Rebecca told us her story.

Our friend Rebecca, the brilliant, blonde, highly energetic, one who is engaged to a chap from Morocco, was trying to help her future in-laws with some medical jumping through the hoops. Her future father-in-law was poisoned (yes it IS a Ludlum novel) by the Chief of the Some-intelligence-organization (I don’t want to have to fast track it to the airport, and I don’t want anyone brought in for questioning. All names are changed, as are the professions, times, and positions. The story is true.) He lost his job and his fortune, but by sheer luck, not his life. Because of the poisoning he developed kidney failure and has been on dialysis for six years. It is even more difficult here to get a kidney transplant, albeit not if you have enough money (around 60,000 usd). Rebecca was explaining to the family about the different doctorS and what they would be doing. The plural of the word doctor unknown to her at that time, is pussy. Um, yes. (I did get permission to use this story). Just to make matters a bit more entertaining she was explaining that both of his kidneyS are now affected. The plural for the word kidney is balls. Consequently she was earnestly talking to her future in-laws about her father-in-law’s pussy and balls. Can you imagine the depth of red to which she blushed once she found this out? I think it is the sound rather than the actual word, I'm sure we will hear from Q on that.

Her fiancé is a young man who lives and works in New York City, and supports his family here. Long before meeting Abdul, Rebecca says she realized she was a Muslim. She says it was truly just like that. She was sitting at the table in her Christian parents’ home telling one of her cousins what she believed after study and thought, and she just realized she was a Muslim and so began to practice as one. She is understandably a bit prickly about the majority of people thinking she converted so she can marry Abdul.

Her other sticking point is the popular conclusion that she came to Morocco because of Abdul. It was instead one of those destiny happenings. She had applied for and received her ***** Grant (I told you she is brilliant) before she met him. They met and were engaged two months later. She has now had full immersion with his family as he is still in New York and she is here in Rabat doing her ****** research on business in Morocco. She is remaining through the end of the year to have the wedding here. That is one social event I am really looking forward to! They will then return to New York to live.

She is one of those young women that takes your breath away both with her knowledge and her enthusiasm. I shall be most interested to know where she is in ten years, and what she is doing.

I must get back to writing. Two more papers to go… the things I do to ward off senility!


Monday, 13 August 2007

My Morocco

I see Karl Rove has resigned, isn’t that a bit like Hitler in his bunker saying, “I am sorry about all the bother but I’m done now. May I just go?” Only in Rove’s case I assume they WILL just let him go. What a world.

WE have a ditzy wasp in the room with an identity crisis that flies in the doors at least once a day and stays ten to twenty minutes. He thinks he is a bee and the straw ceiling decoration is a bloody hive. He dives into it, sits on it, preens for it –nutty as a bugger I tell you.

I stood on the outside Terrance just before sunset with the cool ocean winds blowing my clothes firm against my skin, and I saw a movement out of my left eye. Turning my head I saw coming up from the other side of the towering sandstone building on the far ridge, flocks of what had to be from this distance, huge birds. One, two, three mighty flaps of their black wingspan, then the white underpinnings could be seen as they settled onto the air currents like legions of hang gliders.

I ran back inside, and lunged for my glasses in order to get a better look. As I passed through the double doors to the Terrance I saw them - huge birds flying out of the setting sun in staggered bursts of formations.

Hurdling themselves forward, up out of the flames of the setting sun, they launched into the thermals above. It was magnificent. They passed over, high above our villa. This must be what it was like watching the British Spitfires during WWII as they leaped into the air, and flew out over the coast of Britain to defend her. I imagined standing on the cliff as they passed over.

The birds passed overhead, coasting on the thermals still. There is a bird in India, in the mountains, the Oriental Honey Buzzard who flies in much the same manner but alone, never like this. There is not so much sky in the mountains of northern India. I wonder what that feels like…

In Morocco The people of the North still look down on the people of the south as backwards. The people of Fez still say, "We only go to the North for commerce."

The charm that I remember from my visit here, now decades ago, remains. The faces of the beautiful women and the adorable children are still here. The Medina with its secret doors, winding passages, cool salons, and hidden gardens behind high walls is still here. The obnoxious hawkers outside the tourists’ shops and restaurants are still here. The fantastic food, sweet green mint tea, and wonderful coffee are still here.

The Sahara remains a political dispute, home of the Tribes, and a source of endless stirring to the imagination. The camels are still smelly, bad tempered, foul-mouthed spitting beasties. The majesty of the desert birds as they ride the thermals coming off the dunes is the same enthralling sight. The sounds of the dunes remain- dunes sing,did you know that? They make musical notes, different deserts produce different chords.

The skies at night remain the cerulean blue velvet colour I remember, with the brightness of the stars overwhelming as you gaze upwards at the vastness of the sky. The rains are still pernicious, and the streets dusty. You pay a nothing price for a meal fit for kings, and a fortune for paper.

The stunning architecture remains -the horseshoe arch, the ribbed vault, the street facade, the square minaret,the great domed space – all steeped in centuries of history and culture. The rich colours of bright reds, a thousand shades of bronze and gold, all the spectrum of orange, and blues in shades that defy you to name them all are still here. Intricate designs laid in tile, bright patterned rugs thrown on the sand, hanging on the wall, on the floors of palaces, homes, shops, and decorating a tent are still here. Sidewalk cafes crowded with men in robes and varying stages of western dress arguing, discussing, drinking endless cups of coffee or tea, acrid cigarette smoke, beautiful women with smoky eyes that hold the secrets their mothers passed on, the prayer call at four a.m. ringing through the city –remains as before. The noisy bazaars, the great haggling in a polyglot of languages, dust, dust, dust, beautiful horses, and spitting camels continue as they have for centuries.

Movement in this part of the world flows like silk, as do the desert sands. It rubs up against you rather than pushing; time slides by rather than ticking. The impish smiles of the children as they peek ‘round the skirts of their mothers, or laugh out loud at my Arabic pronunciations is beyond joyful.

I have seen the destructive environmental damage when “modern civilization” comes clashing up against a society that has no infrastructure for it - desertion of the countryside, migration to cities without the capacity or social structure to care for huge influxes of population, mounds of plastic water bottles thrown down the nearest hillside or gully, Coca Cola cans and bottles, plastic refuge of every description in piles and mounds of trash; and health problems that could be solved with organization and the application of sanitation and rudimentary vaccinations ..that is here as well.

The women have made many steps forward since my sojourn in the 70's. The mode of dress continues in the cities to be a matter of choice. You see the djellaba, in various stages: with and without the hijab, loose, fitted, cut to the knees with flared trousers, and in a hue of pastel colours. When you see a woman in Fez in a black burqa, your automatic response is, "Ah a tourist. Not from 'round here."

As you may know the djellaba is a feminist statement. Before around the 30s I think it was, the women here wore the haik, that resembled an Egyptian shroud, and allowed just about as much free movement. The djellaba was restricted to men; the women have (as one salesman distastefully said to me) “girly –ed it up with the tassel on the hood”, and they have made the colours their own.

And you see the women, mostly but not always the young, in western style. I must say we have noted, if the style is Western it is "fitted"; no baggy jeans, no oversized t-shirts, and no basic black.

The young women my daughter has made friends with here are smart and ambitious. All is not rosy by any stretch. I do not mean to imply that at all, but it is progress.

Are there individuals in Morocco who are corrupt, vile, poor, rich, ignorant, highly educated, wife-beating, enlightened, chauvinistic, charismatic, sickly, healthy, bastards, saints? Yes.


Saturday, 11 August 2007

A story in two parts: with the II part first, because you know.. the time difference.

And when he was ill he lay on the bed, on the girl, and the mother read Harry Potter to him as he snuggled up to her. And now look at the pretty cat!

the story of M.C. Solaar

M.C. Solaar was born on the streets of Fez becoming an orphan when he was only a few weeks old. He wandered the streets for a bit but it was cold and dark, and he was hungry. He thought he saw a light in a window of a building, for some reason he knew where that light was beaming was his future. He went into the building, and not having any opposable thumbs, he waited out side the door until someone opened it. He walked into the apartment and saw the Jane (the religion, not the girl) sitting on the couch. He made a beeline for the chap as that was most likely the safest lap in all of Fez for an abandoned kitten. Then he found the girl. She was in the apartment as well. She was kind like the Jane, but she was practical as well and in need of a pet best-friend. She gave him a bath, put him in a basket and brought him on the train to Rabat. His house in Rabat also has the girl's mother who is a real sucker when it comes to cute kittens. Once the girl had him cleaned up she set about to get rid of the ringworm on his face and neck and all the worms infesting his little body. In a few weeks he was a beautiful, fluffy, well-fed, happy, leaping cat. Then he went to the vet to have his neuter-job done so he could go to America and get his green card. He had all his shots, and had a passport, he was ready.

But then it went all wrong like sometimes happens. He was very ill with a fever and he hurt in all the wrong places. Once again the girl bathed him, fed him special food, and stayed up with him when he was afraid. She took him back, and back again to the vet until they got it right. She spent HOURS with him in her lap as she searched the Internet for answers, and spent more time on the floor feeding him water and yogurt through a syringe. Thanks to the girl known in blogworld as Q, once again he is a fluffy, beautiful, clean, leaping cat.

Friday, 10 August 2007

past TEN THOUSAND! and counting..

Oh my giddy aunt I have passed 10000 visits to my blog. Ta da! That is amazing to me. When I began this blog in May 2007 it was to continue the journal I had begun while in Fez. On my last extended trip to India I had kept the experiences and memories by constantly writing to Q, but this trip I have her with me, so I had to address someone unknown which is never as much fun as telling the stories to someone. I had no knowledge of the Blog World, and no idea at the richness, variety, and depth of the people and offerings contained within. It has allowed me a view into the lives of people as varied as Mutleythedog to I Beatrice, with talents as far flung as Dulwichmum and rilly super to pig in the kitchen, and omega mum. I am amazed at the depth of knowledge of the political bloggers, Ellee Seymour to Iain Dale, and the breath of knowledge and variety of topics explored at Nourishing Obscurity to Sicily Scene and The land of Sand. Hearing the views from the other side of the pond from lordnash, Blooming Marvelous, and wake up and smell the coffee has been enlightening. I have gone along for the ride with Nobody Important to Alaska, and taken a long hike and gone skinny dipping with Sally in Norfolk. Family life at its funniest and warmest can be found at Mountain Mama, ‘Twas Brillig, the zen of motherhood, and Pass the Chocolate. On My Wee Scottish Blog I read about the bringing up of Bambi and the travels of her continent hopping parents, while Sparx keeps me in stitches with tales of the Spud. I have learned so much as well, from the heartache of infertility beautifully told at Coming 2 Terms and Upon Awakening to the power of stay-at-home-dads at the aptly named Stay at home Dad and the often hysterical and always delightful darth sardonic. Mutterings and Meanderings keeps me up with the horsy set, and Long Way Home tells me what my child is up to that day. I go to drunk mummy for wine recommendations and to Better oot than In for a laugh on almost any subject. These and many other bloggers amaze with their talent for writing, their zeal for living, their ability to see the humorous and the absurd, and their courage in facing personal trauma and everyday life. The Blog World is indeed a phenomenon, and one I am thrilled to be part of, if indeed only a small part.

I never expected more than a few people to even find my blog let alone read it every day, but thanks to James, global voices online, expat interviews and some other wonderful cyber friends who found my blog and spread the word, I now have over 10000 visitors in three months. I have been honored and made to feel special by what Lost in the Bible Belt called a “list of awards as long as your arm” given me by my fellow bloggers. Directly from the writings in my blog have come two writing assignments and hopefully a future non-fiction book.

I am a storyteller. I always have been, but then I am a Highland Scot and that’s what we do around the campfire, the fireplace, or the heather. It is however, as I have learned, a long way from the fire to the written word on the page. I aspire to be a writer, but I am with Mickey Spillane on this one – I don’t want to spend my time writing if no one is going to read it. I want to write so to make people laugh, and cry, and most of all hope. If I can make people see the world around them in terms of everyone in the world around them, if I can pass on what it’s like to feel the pain of loss, the joy of creation, the bliss and despair of love, the serenity of compassion, and the power of random acts of kindness I will be well pleased. I want to write stories that readers will want to share with their friends, and perhaps even their enemies. Having a forum such as this to flex my writing muscles is a daily step toward those goals. The fact that over 10000 times people have chosen to read what I write is encouraging. I know there are blogs that have numbers to make me blush, but I am working on it!

I want to say thank you to every person who has taken the time, and made the effort to read my tales of life in Morocco, rants from my soapbox, and my opining on everything from education to proper bra fittings. The comments that so many of you take the time and effort to leave are true conversations with friends. Even on my most difficult days, I look forward to checking for the comments from that day. You have made me happy, and I appreciate that. I really, really enjoy being happy! I don’t have champagne and balloons for this one, but just you wait until I hit 100,000.

Thank you for coming by.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

days in Morocco

I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the beauty that is Morocco, or rather that is the cities, not having been out to the country that much yet. Is she an ancient woman, worn and knowing, showing her wisdom and allure? Is she only a shoddy remembrance of the glorious past that is never to rise again? Is she a Phoenix rising out of the ages of colonialism and years of harsh rule by an unforgiving dictator? There is so much natural beauty here, but it is hard won – not the easy beauty of the lush English countryside, or the stark majesty of the Italian coastline. You have to adjust your sights, narrow your perspective, bring in the frame – to catch that cascade of begonia, to look up and see the huge black birds spread their wingspan on the thermals and ride with what seems boundless joy, to catch the bright colors of an intricate rug design, to see the lushness of the fancy kaftans, and the bright flash of silver. Then you can look anywhere, everywhere for the faces – the people are handsome, their features and coloring pleasing to the eye, but the children – the children are luscious. They are everywhere, and they are not the haunted, starving faces you see in some parts of India and other parts of Africa. Most of these children are treasured, cared for, and it shows in their laughter that rings out with abandon and the smiles in their eyes.

And then there was this almost mysterious encounter, which was quintessentially British, with our Aussie friend Sally who is one of those people who are always looking out for everyone else. She was of the in-between age while at the Villa, older than the twenty-something’s, yet younger than I; she was a favorite of everyone. She works for the Australian State Department and is using her sabbatical after ten years to study Arabic in Africa. Her romantic liaison is with a handsome Chinese chap who lives in Taiwan. She stands tall, pale, with a lovely soft face and gorgeous long wavy hair the soft brown color of the best Chinese silks.

I was already bored writing the two papers that are due, and want to finish so I can stop hearing myself complain about it, When…
At the door comes a knock from Sally the Australian who pulls me out the door and into the salon with the look in her eye of someone living a Mickey Spillane novel.

“Oh you have to help me. You must tell me what to do,” she says.

I admit it, I am looking for the blood on her men’s djellaba that she wears preferring its warmth to the fancy but not as warm women’s version that makes her look like a “Lord of the Rings” character, and/ or the dead body on the floor.

“What‘s going on Sally?”

She breathlessly begins the tale. “I was in my room. I heard knocking across the hall to room one. Soft knocking, three times. So I poked my head out to see someone going in the room, not Madelyn. I saw a black-headed person poke their head out and then quickly in again when they spotted me watching. So I made a big noise of leaving my room. I wanted to get you, to have another witness, but I didn’t have time. So I waited, hidden in the lobby, and I saw him come out the room.” She finished and looked at me expectedly as though now I should know who the murderer was.

“Saw who come out Sally?”

“Simo. I think he was in Madelyn’s room stealing.”

“All right let’s go see if Madelyn is there, perhaps it was ‘you know’ a social visit,” I said raising my brows.

“Oh I rather think not, have you heard some of her opinions. A true snob,” said Sally, in the know.

Together we knocked loudly on the door. No answer. “Shit,” I am thinking to myself.

“I am concerned,” Sally says, “you know Rebecca has lost 500 dirhams from her room. She is very careful to always lock up, and keeps a journal of all her expenses.”

Oh great, I am thinking, a wave of thefts!

We went then out onto the front balcony to discuss what to do and of course guess who saunters over..
“Salam Simo,” I say smiling like Henry before he told Anne Boleyn the need for shopping for a new bonnet was off. We retreat to the salon.

Sally wants ME to call David who runs the school, to tell him of the problem. What is this? I am the oldest so I should be in charge, and interrupt my day…oh bloody hell! So yes, I call David and give him all the details in a completely detached manner as in “here are the facts you decide what they mean”. Thinking, ah good I can pass this off to someone in charge. But noooo, the bloody coward wants me to tell the tale to Bagdadee, his Moroccan counter part who is second in charge.

“Oh yes would you? He knows the people and the situation so much better.” In other words, he wants to stay out of it so he can stay the “good guy”. Yeah, I know the feeling.

We go over to the school (Arabic Language Institute in Fez), and get the number for Bagdadee from Nageeah; covering the old two bases with one stone I tell her I need to find someone to clean because Lela is always “too busy”.

“Ah, that girl she has nothing to do. She will clean your room. I will tell her.” Nageeah dictates.
Oh this is great this is, the entire staff will have my number. I need to negate some of this.

“Alright Sally when we get back I am going to ask Simo if you can have the heater from room one. That way when this hits the fan, we are out of it.”

I go down to the staff cottage and Simo informs me “No, Madelyn is gone.”
Holy crap, he must have been in there just cleaning the room or something. So I now make a really big deal that Sally and I called David to get her the heater from room one cause now I know Bagdadee is going to make a stink and we will be in the middle of the shit pile.

I went inside to disconnect the wire from the telephone in the lobby to restrict the number of phones he could use. This way he would have to call in on Lela’s mobile and we would know.

“Yes, the heater. WE called about the heater,” I am shouting to Lela as Simo is on the mobile to Bagdadee. Now Lela is moaning and taking the mobile and not running, but a very fast trot into the Villa with us following and still pantomiming to Simo about the heating. You have to really sell it.

As we follow Lela into the Villa she gets off the phone and informs us, “No Madelyn is not gone. She leaves tomorrow.” At this point Sally’s eyes went a bit boggledy as now we both return to the original thought that Simo is thieving. I keep smiling and making the heater pantomime. Got to sell it. Got to sell it.

Bagdadee calls again, and Lela is now handing me the mobile. “I want to talk to you. I want to hear your side, “he says.

“Oh lovely to hear from you. Yes, Lela is standing right here,” I say. Very slowly. “I have called you three times, but there is no answer.” He continues like I am not telling him the people we are trying not to let know we are nicking on them are standing right there. We have to live here for the next three months! “Lovely to talk to you. Yes, you can call me on my mobile. It is in my room. I’ll get it right now,” I am talking as fast as I can think, and smiling at Lela, and motioning to Sally.

“I am calling you right now then. You are answering your phone?” he continues.

I hand the phone to Lela and lunge into my apartment to grab the phone (where Q has barely turned over and batted an eye during all this) get the keys with my other hand, flip the phone up to answer Bagdadee, as Sally and I sprinted out the front door trying to escape the grounds of the Villa for some privacy.

We just make the gate as Bagdadee continues, “Yes I would like you to tell me all the details.”

As we wait for Simo, the chap in question to open the gate…
“Shukran. Shukran” we chime and we shoot out the door.

“Yes Bagdadee, here is Sally to tell you what she saw, “ and I hand the phone to the beauty who began this Nancy Drew adventure.
Sally gives the details, again just as I had told David. I know this because I am holding my little black moleskin book where I recorded her first dictation, as I told it to David. I motion for the mobile to return to me.

“Yes and we have gone to some trouble to make it known the only reason we are talking to you is to find out about a heater for Sally. I would like it to remain that way no matter how it falls out, “ I stated.

“Yes they think you want the heater. I am concerned as Simo has said he never went into the room number one,” he said. Sally and I met eyes, here we go again; but joy and rapture over the news the heater story sold.

“You have my number. We shall be at the Villa. You can call if you need any more information,” I said.

As I closed my mobile phone we both threw up our arms, and shouted “Coffee now!” Inside!” I had herded us in our flee from the Villa to the corner café with the great chairs. Where Sally was then ripped off by the waiter to the tune of a 100 percent tip. We were still so flummoxed we didn’t get it until we were headed out the door and it was too late to dispute it.
“I’m going to need a nap now,” said Sally.

“YOU need a nap!” I yelped thinking of my nice quiet morning that had fled into a remake of some obscure Poirot mystery. Just another day in the Maghreb.

You haven’t read the Featured Post at TopBlogMagazine this week? Go now lovely reader.

Ciao lovely readers.