A Travellerspoint blog

A Favorite Afternoon Activity

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Nothing says "weight gain" like fried dough layered with butter and honey, fried pancakes covered in homemade strawberry jam, or chocolate chip banana cake...at 4PM...chased down with super sugary mint tea. :)

In an attempt to "work it off"...or just to have fun...we have started playing afternoon volleyball and soccer in the backyard. I'm loving it!!
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Posted by chasethis 07:43 Archived in Morocco Tagged living_abroad Comments (1)

Recipe for Msmnen and Lentil Soup

Nothing like "fried pancakes" with soup!

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Msmnen (Those devilish fried pancakes I told you about…)

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Ingredients:
1 tsp yeast
1 tsp salt
3 cup of wheat flour
1 cup of cake flour
1 egg
1 cup milk
6 cubes sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 liter
1 tbl Baking soda
1 tsp vanilla

Steps:
Dissolve sugar into 1/2 liter of warm water
Mix all ingredients into a large mixing bowl and slowly add warm water and sugar solution. Keep adding water until you can knead the mixture.
Knead dough for 5 minutes...basically until you feel like you can't knead anynmore!
Melt Butter and mix it with vegetable oil in small bowl
Squeeze dough into small balls…dip into butter/veggie oil mixture and smooth the oil along the seam in the dough from where it was squeezed
Place on baking sheet
Flatten balls into a thin pancake – spread with oil/butter mixture…fold pancake into three section (like a legal letter), then fold into third again until it looks like a square.
Heat skillet w/ vegetable oil
Flatten sqare dough down into larger square…add more butter
Fry in pan until it’s golden brown (both sides)
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Hug your arteries later….enjoy now.

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Lentil Soup

3 cups kilo lentils (soak for 20 mins. In hot water)
1 small yellow onion
4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup of mixed cilantro/parsley
1 tsp powdered cumin
1 tsp powdered paprika
1/2 tsp powdered ginger
pinch of black pepper
1/2 cup veggie oil
1 red tomato
1 small can tomato paste
1 cube saffron
1/2 cup mixed cooking and olive oil
1 cube chicken bouillon
1 small can of tomato paste
1/2 tsp salt
4 cups water

On a large grater, grate tomato (first cut into quarters) to remove the skin and then grate onion (or chop finely)…put into large round bowl.
Spoon in 1/4 cup parsley/cilantro Put 4 cloves into garlic press.
Add all spices and mix
Add oil
Put ingredients into a medium sized pot on the stove
Simmer and stir
Strain water from lentils and add to pot
Add 4 cups water. Cover for 45 mins. On medium/low until sauce thickens. Add carrots if you wish.

ENJOY!!! :)

Posted by chasethis 03:58 Archived in Morocco Tagged food Comments (1)

A Heartfelt Video, From MY STUDENTS :)

This video warms my heart to the fullest degree

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Currently, I have been teaching a group of incredible boys and girls, ages 8-16. Though it took a lot of pictures, French translations, and explaining...my students were able to understand what my Aunt Kathy and step mom, Anastasia, are going through in their respective fights against cancer. For those of you who do not yet know, our family found out the night before I departed for Morocco, that the tumor that was removed from Anastasia's head was malignant. While it was beyond shocking, she respond with - "Bring it on!" She will undergo massive radiation and she plans to kick cancer's A@@!! And I believe it... So, our family is at "LIVESTRONG X 2" and we are praying and fighting to get through this.

Today my students were beyond happy and excited to send a message all the way to the United States. After the video was shot, I put my hand over my heart and then on the camera and said, "Thank you, thank you, thank you."

A little boy named Aeymon said, "We thank you, too, teacher. God bless your family."

The hearts of the Moroccan people are unconditionally huge. I am so thankful for each child I am encountering, as they are truly incredible beings, inside and out.

LIVESTRONG KATHY, LIVESTRONG ANASTASIA

Posted by chasethis 22:55 Archived in Morocco Tagged volunteer Comments (7)

GPS Does Not Apply

Fes, Morocco

sunny 100 °F

Forget GPS...and get lost in time - literally and figuratively.

We hired a "guide" (a.k.a. the con-man who lined his pockets with our money) named Mufassa to spend the day walking five of us girls through the Medina and taking us to various stores and to see memorable sights that tourists can miss on their own. He was knowledgeable, interesting, competent....and, let's be honest, he took us for a ride. We knew that he was getting paid commission on anything that we purchased...and paid he got!! We were taken to the nicest and priciest (no surprise there!) places in all of Fes...I am sure. What we failed to understand is that when bartering it's not personal. It is a game and you should never feel bullied into something. But to an inexperienced barterer, they make you feel bad and in the end, you actually pay a higher price than the item is worth.

Case in point: We went into a house that is currently owned by Berbers who have a long family-run business of making Berber carpets out of their home. They wined and dined us (read: gave us mint tea, showed us around their house, and called us their "sisters). Before walking into their home all of us said that we were not interested in purchasing rugs. Fast forward 1 hour and Jami has purchased two rugs, Kristen the same, and Alexandra has purchased three...and we all walked out with a "What the hell just happened look on our faces?!" Well, they used their Berber dialect against us and made us feel so terrible that we got suckered...again.

Jami liked these two rugs and expressed interest in them. In no less than a minute, both rugs were rolled up, covered in packaging tape and they were saying, "I give you good price. Basically free."

"Um....OK. How many dirhams for both carpets?" Jami meakly inquires.

They reply, "4,000 dirhams for the both."

"Yeaaa....I can't pay that price. How about 2,500 for both?" she questioningly counters (even more than she should have offered if she was following the typical "bartering guidelines").

At which point, the head Berber, takes her carpets drop kicks them high into the air...and starts shouting in Berber to his other "conmen" and Mufassa. We are wide eyed at this point and looking at each other for support on what to do next.

Mufassa then says, "You have offended his family business. This is good carpet. Worth good money. Because you are a teacher, you pay 3800 dirhams."

"Yeaaa...but that is still too much," she says. (She is giving in - I can see it in her face. She is way too nice, believing, and she is being guilted)

The head Berber then kicks the blankets again into the other room and says, "You are getting a good deal. Almost free. How do you expect? On the price you offer, my sister will have no meat for her couscous."

Yes, he really said that. While under "normal circumstances" one might think...Gimme a break... However, here, we start questioning what is fiction and what is reality.

I bet you can guess what happens next. Yes, Jami felt terrible; she felt as though she really had offended their family and worried that she was trying to cheat them out of money that they so needed...for chicken...for their couscous. Jami left the home with two carpets in tow - tail between her legs...3800 dirhams later.

And just as we walked out of the house, I turned around to see "Head Berber" slipping our conman guide some cold, hard, cash...with an accompanied smile, followed by a high five.

They must love us soft-hearted, clueless Americans.

However, surely without a guide we would still be walking aimlessly among the thousands of car-less alleys and streets that make up the walled city within Fes. It is an unmappable labyrinth of souks, alleys, and cul-de-saks. It is the largest car-less urban area in the world. The 9,000 or so streets snake and slither about in every direction including 13,380 historic buildings and - hide your credit cards - 10,539 shops.

Fes is a city that seems suspended in time between the Medieval Ages and the modern world. It is the third largest city in Morocco, and is highlighted by gorgeous textiles, beautiful leather goods, intricate jewelry, fresh produce and spices, and impressive restaurants.
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One of the highlights was walking into one of the cul-de-saks and coming upon a very small bakery or "hole in the wall" where we were able to sample the sweet, hot bread straight from the oven! Each family that makes their own bakery adds their "family crest" or symbol to the bottom of the bread to distinguish it from all of the other bread-making families.
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The delicious bread, was later followed by juicy, ripe nectarines right off of the street...
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We had the opportunity to visit the tannery and see the men in action as they prepare the animal hides, dye them, and then transform them into gorgeous leather goods.

Here is a picture of one of the mules carrying the animal hides down to the tannery.
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We came equipped with our Moroccan Gas Masks and peered over the edge to watch the tannery workers perform their disgusting, yet very interesting and amazing, craft. This process has been happening since Medieval Times and the jobs are passed from generation to generation. It is not surprising that it is a male profession.
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The red color is made from poppies, so it is a bit more expensive, while the yellow color is from saffron and pomegranate.

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I did purchase two bags here...after doing a thorough sniff. I asked about my stinky bag and was told, "Oh no...that is very bad. It only smells like that if the 'dirty' end of the animal is used."

Sweeet....I really do have an @#$ bag.

We then went on to a spectacular shop where they make hand woven scarves, blankets, and Moroccan clothing. In an attempt to ease the hold on our respective wallets...they buttered us up with - what else - mint tea, compliments....and, every girl's favorite pastime, playing dress up.
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Leaving the medina, bags slung over each of our shoulders and around our wrists - it was obvious - they saw us coming!

Posted by chasethis 00:51 Archived in Morocco Tagged ecotourism Comments (2)

LIVESTRONG 4

The Roman Ruins, Volubilis, Morocco

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The LIVESTRONG bracelet among the ruins, shows that things of great strength - empires and love - endure beyond temporal boundaries.

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I love you!!

Posted by chasethis 04:56 Archived in Morocco Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Camel Burgers on the 4th of July??

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While most of you were BBQin', drinking beers, spending time with with family and friends, and celebrating our country...I was on a rooftop in Fes with 6 other girls...sampling tapas and tasting Casablanca beer. Not quite the typical way to ring in this July holiday.

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The restaurant, Mezzanine, tried it's best to be a "swanky" establishment...and it was, by most Moroccan standards. Our immediate thought upon walking in, was - Tao in Vegas...on a much, much smaller scale. There were fireplaces glowing with candles, rose petals, low pink and blue lighting, American hip hop (well, except for when they played Sade and Kenny G...which amused me and also made me think of my dad and Anastasia), and lanterns everywhere you looked. We walked up the three-story spiral staircase to the rooftop. There were about 16 or so white, low leather couches and even more candles dancing in the night air. We collapsed in the corner, so happy to have found a beautiful and comfortable spot...and one that served alcoholic beverages...without judgment. We were admiring the chandelier which was dangling over the bar...but as we examined it further, we saw that it was nailed into a 2X4 unpainted wood plank...which made me smile.

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I have written about this a bit in some of my posts, but being a woman can be difficult in a conservative Muslim country. I believe that this is especially true being a female American and who is so accustomed to independence. While the role of women here is changing, it is still very different from the United States. As a foreigner here, I really have been cautioned by guide books and Moroccans alike -not to mention my family - to always take someone with me wherever I go. This has been extremely difficult to get used to and there have been times where I have felt very secluded from the outside world and even "imprisoned" in the house if there is no one to accompany me to the corner store, for a walk around the neighborhood, to the bus, etc. There are a lot of coffee shops in Rabat and Fes, but most appear to be "men only"; however, in hip/new/trendy areas there are more choices for women to go. So, us girls were really happy to find a terrific restaurant in Fes where we felt safe, comfortable, free from leering eyes, and even free to have a beverage of our choosing without causing offense.

It was interesting though - the owner of our hotel in Fes said that we would get lost if we walked on our own through the labyrinth-like medina. He said that he would walk us, but that we were not to talk to him and to stay 10 meters behind him at all times. He explained that he can't be seen with a large group of women and that since he is not a certified guide of the city, that walking us anyplace would be illegal and that the police could arrest him. It was very interesting. So, we found ourselves walking as fast as we could to keep pace with our "guide". After a 15 minute walk past donkeys and every spice you could imagine, and nearly getting our feet run over by various mopeds and wheelbarrows, and being accosted by pre-pubescent boys... we arrived at our destination, Mezzanine.

We ate tasty treats such as crostinis topped with goat cheese, walnuts, golden raisins, and honey or goat cheese with olives and roasted tomatoes. We also sampled brochettes, pastas, and roasted potatoes. It was fantastic! The only thing that made it better - was when Michael Jackson came through the speakers - and the other patrons of the restaurant turned to us, raised a glass, and said, "To the Americans...and to Michael Jackson!"

It's Too High To Get Over (Yeah, Yeah)
Too Low To Get Under (Yeah, Yeah)
You're Stuck In The Middle (Yeah, Yeah)
And The Pain Is Thunder (Yeah, Yeah)
It's Too High To Get Over (Yeah, Yeah)
Too Low To Get Under (Yeah, Yeah)
You're Stuck In The Middle (Yeah, Yeah)
And The Pain Is Thunder (Yeah, Yeah)

You just sang along...didn't you?? :)

On another note, when we walked out, we heard, "Obama! We love Obama! We're from Chicago, too!" Well...it appears that Moroccans love Obama (yes, I'm generalizing) - but, I have been told this numerous occasions, by numerous Moroccan that I have encountered thus far - and many Moroccans claim to be from Chicago, too. Coincidence? I think not.

Oh...and the part about eating camel burgers...that wasn't our group. I have trouble eating couscous here without fear of wretching my insides out and living in our bathroom (and...as a side note...we can't flush toilet paper)...I would have to be highly sedated or feeling quite insane to eat a camel burger!! But, Olivia, a girl from our program, did indeed have a camel burger. She said it tasted a lot like meatloaf and was happy that she tried it...well, that is, until we walked past what is shown below in the medina the following day...

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Posted by chasethis 04:47 Archived in Morocco Tagged food Comments (1)

LIVESTRONG 3

Casablanca Style

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Part of life and living strong is finding enjoyment in our everyday lives...and we thoroughly enjoyed toasting "Happy 4th of July" with our Casablanca beers! My thoughts are with you...all the way from Africa! xoxo

Posted by chasethis 05:03 Archived in Morocco Tagged food Comments (1)

I'm admittedly neurotic about many things...

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I have always known this...yet, somehow, hoped that it wasn't entirely true.

A group of 16 of us arrived by train to Fes, Morocco for the 4th of July weekend. Let's just say that the "Morocco" I have been living in is the "Beverly Hills" of Morocco. I knew that it was gorgeous, safe, clean, and that we were living in a ritzy and well-to-do neighborhood in Rabat, yet I didn't know how true this was until arriving in Fes.

Fes is fantastically filthy.

Yes, it's fantastic...and yes, it is filthy.

We arrived around 8PM in the medina and walked to our hotel. We weaved through small alleyways, around Moroccans waving chickens and pigeons in the air, others selling fruit, spices, meats, eggs, and orange juice, and about 8,000 malnourished and mangy cats. A multitude of things were shouted at us such as "Hey Sweeties", "You are sexy girl", and "I love you 'Spice Girl'" (that one made me laugh).... We were stared at everywhere we went by young boys to grandpas alike. Awe, man, I'm thinking...this can't be right. We can't be staying right here. But, just then, we saw a sign for "Dar Iman", our hotel, which was pointing down a dark, skinny alley.

Deep breath, I told myself.

We turned left and we noticed that along the alleyway there were offshoots of narrower alleys (if that's even possible) with people sitting in the quiet darkness. Can you say, "Creepy?" Well, I sure did.

We found the door to the hotel, but it was locked. We knocked a few times and then a hunched woman with sad eyes opened the door for us and motioned for us to enter. We...well, I... cautiously walked in and stood in the courtyard. Looking up through the open ceiling, I saw hundreds of black birds squawking, scavenging, and spiraling in the barely lit sky.

I couldn't help but think - I had either just walked into the making of Hostel III or The Birds II.

The owner of Dar Iman came out and greeted us. He wore a t-shirt saying "Simply Casual", a baseball hat, jeans, and Moroccan slippers. He had a huge smile and said "Welcome to my home. I hope you like it. I am here for whatever you need...and then looked us each in the eyes (a bit creepily) and put his hand over his heart.

I couldn't help but think something was "off" in his over-the-top niceness. Intuition or me just simply being neurotic? I'm still not sure...but, I made a mental note to sleep with one eye open.

We then noticed that each of the rooms were closed off - not by doors- but, by red velvet curtains...even the ones on the bottom floor. So...basically "Simply Casual" could just pop his cheshire-cat face in whenever he pleased?? I don't think so. I made a "B-Line" for the upstairs and staked my claim.

Let it be known that I'm neurotic (as if you couldn't tell already...:) ) about my relatively unjustified fear of earthquakes, groundlevel living, bed bugs, small spaces, bad/old food, other peoples pillows, old buildings that may or may not have the potential to collapse, and much more... As I look around at this old hotel with its missing mosaic tiles and moldy bathroom...I begin to think the worst.

I follow the rest of the group up to the rooftop terrace and to take in the view...aka the remake of "The Birds." No one else seems to have a problem with the place or even feel a sense of unease. They keep saying things such as "This place is perfect!" "How did we find such a gem of a hotel?" and "What a nice man he was."

Are we talking about the same place?? I don't get it...

I have to remind myself that just because something is new and different, does not make it wrong or strange...AND to relax! I think that most of the draw in traveling, living abroad, or visiting a culture so totally different than you own, is in experiencing all the quirks and eccentricities that make a city or place what it is....and in being EXCITED about them. I know that I shouldn't judge and I should do a better job of checking my neurosis at door...whatever sketchy, or non-sketchy, door that happens to be.

If I could only get my mind and heart to that place, I know that it can only impact my travels in a positive way.

A group of us ended up going out for dinner right by the medina gate. We ate on the terrace and took in all of the sights...including the feral cats balancing themselves on the restaurant fountains...or walking their skinny bodies across our table. I order bottled water and vegetable couscous cooked in individual tagines. There was a warm breeze that delivered mouth-watering smells throughout our meal.
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Alright...I'm getting the hang of this, I'm thinking.

Later that night, I went to sleep feeling grateful for where I was...red velvet curtains, potential bed bugs, and all.

After I woke up and in the light of day, the place was actually quite charming...inside and out.
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The beauty about travel is that one's insecurities and faults often shine through...which beautifully allows for the potential of personal growth. I know the areas where I am lacking, as I always have, and I am forced to deal with them almost daily. I am working on "letting go, and letting God"...as Anastasia would say... I know that I have a lot to work on and I intend to do so - which will only better myself, my experience, and those around me.

Posted by chasethis 01:00 Archived in Morocco Tagged lodging Comments (4)

Morocco's #1 "Flower"

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All of Morocco is covered in white "flowers", as Moroccans have termed them. It's quite amazing, and admittedly a bit ridiculous looking, to see buildings and communities spotted with an endless array of satellite dishes. A lot of these buildings look as though they could have plucked from the Old Testament...minus these white detractors.

Posted by chasethis 04:58 Archived in Morocco Tagged photography Comments (5)

Leaving With More Than I Bargained For

A lesson learned in the Rabat Medina

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It's safe to say that I took home more than I bargained for, literally.

I'm going to Fes, Morocco, this weekend and Fes is known for its leather products and ceramics. We will be taking a trip to the tanneries where you can see how animal hides are turned into soft leather products in a variety of colors. But, the dyes used in the tanneries are made from natural materials such as pigeon poop, cow urine, and acids....can you imagine the pungency of the smell already?? Ughh... Supposedly it smells so terrible, they give you a "Moroccan Gas Mask", which is essentially a handful of mint leaves that you literally shove up your nose. If this sounds familiar...you may have seen the show "Dirty Jobs" where the Fes tannery is highlighted...or, in this case...lowlighted.

So, in preparation for Fes, I took my second trip to the medina (an enclosed carnivalesque market) as I was planning on pricing out leather items in Rabat, attempting some meager bargaining, and hopefully learning the price range of certain items. My goal was to gather enough info to not be naively "taken to the cleaners" in Fes. We took the local bus to downtown Rabat where we stuck out like a sore, and sweaty, thumb. Envision me with my pasty skin and blue eyes accompanied by blonde haired friends, in American clothing, boarding a bus filled with dark skinned locals in traditional clothing. I think that every man on the bus offered up their seats for us. Although it is a male dominated society, I will say that I have felt a since of chivalry here that I did not expect.

We got off at the gate to the medina and walked through the large gates. The gates and surrounding area of the medina give a false impression on serenity.

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However, as soon as you pass through the orange entryway, you senses are attacked from all angles. You see narrow alleyways filled with a myriad of shops and people. It is also not everyday that you see an entire lamb being cooked (well, unless you come to Greek events with me, where you can see glistening Greeks hovered around the spit in excited anticipation) or see the upstanding lamb heads set upon tagines. While it may not be culinary heaven to most...it sure is a sight to see! There are also gypsy carts set up with a continual line of people wanting the fresh squeezed orange juice. You smell mint, cumin, and hot beef with onions being cooked on rolling carts with small grills on every corner. You hear the meat popping and frying on the grills, mopeds whizzing in and out of the foot traffic, rythmic Arabic music, and conversations in a multitude of languages. You can feel yourself sweating as you navigate in and around casual walkers, while maintaining a tight grip on your purse at all times.

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At the beginning of the medina, there are a lot of small items such as plastic toys, cheap watches, wallets, purses, and shoes, everyday American clothing, traditional Moroccan clothing, and even clothing items showcasing American pop culture (picture "fancy" t-shirts with Lindsay Lohan's face...in an Ed Hardyesque fashion...I don't get the fascination, yet I just may pick one up for my "Secret Santa" gift this year...won't you be lucky, whomever you are :) ). However, as we walked further into the medina I began to see fantastic Moroccan items - hand painted ceramics, colorful glass lanterns, Berber rugs, a plethora of colorful leather items, and so much more. I was really nervous to walk into a store, express interest in an item, or even make eye contact with a vendor. Without knowing French or Arabic, I have often felt very powerless...ignorant even. But, we walked into this leather store where orange, saffron, magenta, teal, and green leathers line the walls. It was overwhelming how many choices there were! I started to barter on the price of these "poofs" as I call them....they are like bigger leather stools used as Moroccan seating. I quickly learned that things are not as expensive as I thought. I had heard that all prices are negotiable and that you don't take the first offer...instead, you slice it in half - offering 50% of their original offer. In Morocco it is a game that you must play. It is a piece of the culture that is woven in the fabric of society. You smile and joke...yet, stay firm in what you can pay. For example, the "poofs" were first offered at 300 dirham (8 dirham to $1.00, so the price was about $37.00). I countered with 150 dirham and was laughed at....I wondered though...is that the desired reaction, or am I wrong in my bartering skills?? Hmmm.....I'm good at games...yet, I'm a little unclear on these rules. In the end, it was offered to me for 200 dirham...not bad I'm thinking...but now what? Is it ok to invest this time, get a final offer, only to walk away? I end up saying "Merci...but, no thank you, " in an embarrassing jumble of French and English. As I walk away, the man says surprisingly in English, "Ok. 180." Hmm...I'm getting the hang of this, I think, feeling good about myself. But I shake my head no and say, "Merci." I scan the rows of bags and come up on a gorgeous magenta bag about the size of a carryon...jackpot!! Now that is what I am talking about! The same man comes over and we go through our little game of offers and smiles until I decide that I don't only want the bag....but I need it. I end up taking his third offer, pay him the money, and then slip my beautiful new item into a large black garbage bag. I'm so excited and happy with my purchase that I decide this moment needs documentation.

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On a "shoppers high" we decide to walk to the nearby cafe which is perched on the water's edge and frequented by Europeans and women alike. We are in need of a cold beverage and a small treat. We immediatly feel welcome and relaxed...which is not a common feeling here. Most restaurants and coffee shops are for men only....while not a rule, but general knowledge. I happily put my leather bag on the seat beside me, order a Coke (it should be noted that since arriving in Morocco I have been dying for a beer or cocktail....but seeing as how alcohol is prohibited under Islam and not sold in many establishments...I go with what they have) and a coconut cookie. Delicious!
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We start telling stories, laughing, and joking and while feeling very thrilled to be "out and about", we quickly wonder...what is that awful smell???? We are sitting under a terrace while the warm breeze helps to cool our skin...yet... this unappealing smell is wafting through the air. I can't help but think where are those "Moroccan Gas Masks" now? I quickly realize that that the horrid smell is coming from my beloved new bag. I take a big whiff and nearly gag! It turns out that my fantastic "deal" is stinking to high heaven! I proceed to make everyone smell it....only to confirm that I got duped into buying a rank leather item. "They should have paid YOU to take that off their hands," Jami exclaims.

Sucker.

After we finish our treats and take in the view one last time, we trek back to the bus, where not surprisingly...no one wants to sit next to me. This is especially true since - go figure - all the windows are closed, turning Bus 58 into the carrier of "Eau de Cow Poop Parfum."

We got back home and I quickly put the cow-pasture purse outside on the balcony. Later, it surprisingly rained. One might think that the smell might just "wash off"...but, no, now it's a spotted-magenta malady of a bag! I brought it inside to dry. It was 12:00 AM...so I couldn't entirely be sure if the mass exodus to the bedrooms were a result of tired eyes...or my pink pooper of a bag.

Yet, I can deduce that I got more than I bargained for...and, sadly, so did my roommates.

Posted by chasethis 09:31 Archived in Morocco Tagged shopping Comments (3)

Recipe for Chicken Tagine with Lemon

Morocco might make a cook out of me yet! :)

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Most of you know, especially those who have lived with me (sorry Kinger!), that I don't know my way around a kitchen. But, today we took a cooking class at our riad where we learned how to cook chicken tagine with lemon...and it's literally to die for! I wish I could physically share this delicious dish with you...but since I can't until I am back...I thought you might want to try it for yourself! :)

Chicken Tagine with Lemon

Ingredients:
1/2 olive oil, 1/2 veggie oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 onions
3 garlic cloves
1/4 cup cilantro
1/4 cup parsley
1 whole chicken (skin included)
1 tsp. powdered cumin
1 tsp. powdered ginger
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. Saffron
1 cup water
Green olives
1 lemon (to make sweeter, let whole lemon sit in water and salt for 2 weeks in the refrigerator. 3tbp of salt for one large jug of water….you may skip this step if necesary)

Directions:
In a large skilet, add olive oil and veggie oil and salt. Stir and then add cut up chicken (6-8 pieces, depending on the size of the chicken). Flip chicken over so that it doesn’t stick. Add saffron, cumin, ginger, and pepper. Add 2 onions and 3 cloves of crushed fresh garlic. Cut up the onions into halves and then separate pieces. Flip chicken over and lay on top of onions. Add 1/2 cup of parsley and cilantro mixture. Cut parsley and onion very fine. Now move the ingredients into a large roasting pan. Add 2 more onions and 1 cup of water. Cut lemon into 1/6 pieces. Lay on top of chicken. Cover and bake in oven for 45 minutes on 200 degrees. Add cut green olives as a topper to finish.

BON APPETIT!!!

Posted by chasethis 06:50 Archived in Morocco Tagged food Comments (0)

LIVESTRONG 2 - Thistle

sunny 78 °F

"Thistle is beautiful, yet prickly, just like life," said Jami McKey.

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LIVESTRONG

Posted by chasethis 16:40 Archived in Morocco Tagged health_and_medicine Comments (0)

Unconditional Love

sunny 78 °F

It's all about heart and giving as much as you can fit into four hours.

Upon arriving at the orphanage on our second day, Jami and I bounded up the stairs and raced towards the kids. Today felt so much different than yesterday. There was no apprehension or sitting back...we didn't want to waste anytime that could be spent loving these kids. We were quickly greeted with unconditional love as we jumped into the playpen. I became the "Chase Train" and these kids all hopped on. They wore the biggest smiles I've ever seen. They have an ease in their laughter that comes out with uninhibited cackles or quieter giggles.

Man, I love these kids.

I was so happy to see some rather wealthy-looking French men and women walking around the orphanage today. There were two couples "window shopping" in the baby unit and a man inquiring about one of our toddlers. This man spent the next two hours hugging, loving, and playing with Wadir, a handsome, smily boy. I felt gratitude for these people and so hoped that they would bring a child into a loving home.

I think I may have even surprised myself with my ease in loving these kids and in playing with them. The awkwardness in me had gone away, realizing that all these kids needed was for me to smile at them, lift them above my head, hug them, or swing them around, and they were happy. I fell in love with kids and couldn't picture myself doing anything else with my time in Rabat.

I hadn't even expected to volunteer in an orphanage in Morocco. I had been told that I would only be teaching English. I have to admit, that when finding out that I would be in an orphanage until my language school opened up, I was a little disappointed that I wasn't teaching right away. I guess you can say that my experience in the orphanage, and the love I felt for these kids, kind of came as a shock....I just didn't expect to love it as much as I do, or to feel so necessary and important in these kids lives.

I am scheduled to start teaching English tomorrow. While I am excited to teach again, these kids so need me. But I was able to work something out, where after three weeks, I will be teaching English in the mornings and then volunteering in the orphanage in the afternoons.

I am so lucky to be able to volunteer in such a dramatic way. While I am giving so much love, I am getting it back to the nth degree. I couldn't be happier with how I get to spend my time here in Morocco.

This experience is, without a doubt, life changing.

Posted by chasethis 10:14 Archived in Morocco Tagged volunteer Comments (2)

An Obsession with Doors

I can never live in a home with a boring door again! :)

overcast 65 °F

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We went on a walking tour of Rabat yesterday and were taken to a very gorgeous area on the coast. We actually saw a cafe that is frequented by many Europeans - men and women. It is difficult to find locations where it is appropriate for women to go. We are happy to have found this one spot. I took some photos during our walk, which obviously shows my obsession for doors - especially blue ones.

Enjoy!

I promise to post some pictures soon that I am actually in....but, let's just say, that I need to wait until I have my luggage to ever be caught dead in a photo....I feel as though I've been walking around in my pajamas with bed head for the last few days! This Cal Poly hoodie and yoga pants are so overrated...not to mention, funky. :) I am going to the airport today...cross your fingers that I get my luggage!

Currently, I am finishing up some of the best coffee that I have ever tasted...dark and delicious...with a side of Moroccan bread and laughing cow cheese (there appears to be a minor obsession with it here!). In just a bit, I am off to the orphanage to work with the toddlers....I am sure that it will warrant a heartfelt post soon.

Love & Hugs

Posted by chasethis 22:50 Archived in Morocco Tagged photography Comments (1)

Lalla Mariam Orphanage

sunny 82 °F

Dressed in a white doctor's jacket and armed with antibacterial lotion, I thought I had things under control.

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My fellow CCS volunteers and I boarded the white CCS van and headed towards the orphanage. I was asked if I wanted to work with babies or with toddlers...whomever has seen my unease with holding a baby, knows what group I chose. Our job was to provide love for the orphans - hold them, talk to them, and kiss them - basically provide the love and attention that they are starving for.

I walked with Jami and Natalia into the orphanage and up a flight of stairs. At the top of the stairs, I peered into a room as I crept by. It was filled with rows and rows of babies in small cribs. I almost cried from the sight of so many babies that I knew didn't have mommies or daddies.

We continued on to the end of the hall, opened a door, and was greeted by a scene I was totally unprepared for. Aside from the stuffiness and heat, the scene was complete madness. There were two playpens with eight toddlers in each one. Toddlers were screaming and crying crocodile tears. Some were crawling out of the playpens that they had so clearly outgrown, others were reaching up and slamming wooden shutters against closed windows, there were toddlers standing on tables, and two boys in high chairs rocking back and forth with such force, I was scared that they were going to do a face plant. The noise, heat, and smell seemed unbearable.

Once the little boys and girls saw me, they cried harder and reached for me with outstretched arms sobbing, "Mama...mama!" It was absolutely heartbreaking...

Whatever I envisioned I would see or experience at this orphanage was shattered in an instant. It's not that the conditions are that awful or that the kids appeared to be uncared for...but it was the unconditional love they so needed and were literally aching for. They had never seen me before, but wanted my love and touch more than anything.

One of the nurses had me start changing diapers right away. Let it be known that I have never changed a diaper before and have always been hesitant around young children...feeling like I have no clue what I'm doing, or that somehow I will hurt them, or not do something right. At that moment, I felt a sense of panic and a "get me the hell out of here...stat" feeling.

I hesitantly changed diapers only to be yelled at in Arabic and then pushed aside by one of the nurses. I was ushered into the toddler room were a nurse mimed to me to pick up one of the boys and bring him into the bathing room. As I kneeled down to pick up a cute, curly haired boy, they all swarmed me and grabbed at me with tears streaming down their faces. This is so sad, I keep thinking....these kids are so lonely and so not getting what they need. I managed to pick up the boy and then brought him to the sink where I was given shampoo. I quickly, and rather awkwardly, gave two baths to a very adorable little boy and a sweet, loving little girl who kept trying to kiss me as I washed her.

After all the babies were clean and in their playpens I watched as Jami crawled into the playpen with the boys and girls. I followed suit and was pounced upon by the eight toddlers. I had one in each arm, one of my back, and three across my legs while the two remaining cried in the corner, feeling left out. We played around for a while as I managed as best as I could to divide up my time and love between the kids. I then was told to carry two kids downstairs and out to the play area. I thought that they would want to run wild on the grass or in the sand once I set them down, but that wasn't the case. They just wanted me. I sat down and held two boys until they fell asleep on me. Looking around at the other CCS volunteers I saw two kids in each of their loving arms. Man, these kids need so much love. I knew that in the four hours we would spend with them, that it would only scratch the surface on what these kids so deserve. It was difficult not to think about the lasting effects each of these kids would have after growing up in an environment where they have to fight for love and attention on a daily basis...only to come up short, no matter how many volunteers there are. As I looked into the faces of these two sleeping boys, my heart broke for them.

After we brought the kids back upstairs, it was lunchtime. I was able to feed eight of the kids and then lay with them in the playpens afterwards. The cutest part is that no matter which kid I looked at, if I gave a big smile and said "Aji" ("come here" in Arabic) and opened my arms to them...their faces would light up and they would sprint to me and throw themselves at me. I kept thinking how incredible it must feel to them to land in open arms and to be cared for, instead of waiting in the playpen, filled with an ache to be touched and loved.

When I left the orphanage that day, I was emotionally drained, yet I felt as though I truly made a difference in the short time that I was able to love those kids. I was also amazed at the quickness in which I felt connected to them.

As I attempted to sleep that night, I was restless. I still felt like I was holding a child in each arm, and as I heard the screams and cries of the kids over and over again.

I was dying to get back to them and to have them in my arms.

Posted by chasethis 11:23 Archived in Morocco Tagged volunteer Comments (3)

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