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I'm admittedly neurotic about many things...

sunny 100 °F

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.

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.

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

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Oh, the thrill of getting down into the trenches.
The "game is afoot". Keep one eye on the target and one eye on where you have just been.
Been to any smoke filled cafes lately? Can't wait to find out if you run into any characters like Bogie and Peter Lawford.
Keep soaking up that culture. Your photos are wonderful. Love you much.

by LouLou

Another great day abroad! It will benefit you to let go, but I also tend to lean towards neurotic as well and I think it helps to stay a bit on guard especially in a foreign place (with creepy men), but don't let it interfere with your experience! :)

by Jojo

Hey, Lorni...how many meals have you survived at the Gavin's...I really thought we were helping to get you over the "slightly aged" food phobia. Just kidding...we are so proud of you for what you are doing for others, all the new experiences you are having and your adventersome attitude. Luv you!

by Judi Gavin

I so want to be there with you!
I can totally imagine the two of us looking at each other, ever so discreatly of course, while meeting "Simply Casual".
It took me five minutes to stop laughing after reading your 'Mini-list' of neurotic tendencies (especially after some of our talks). So, apparently a school year filled with sick second graders, the Swine Flu, and a school-wide outbreak of lice just scratched (pun intended) the surface of the challenges you would face this year.
Really though, I'm so excited for you and the personal growth you are experiencing. You are such a strong and beautiful person already. I can only imagine the strength and wisdom you will bring back with you.

by Tina

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