Posted tagged ‘Morocco’

“Once the travel bug bites, there is no known antidote, and I know that I shall be happily infected until the end of my life.”

October 5, 2021

The rain just stopped. It rained all day yesterday and all night. The air is chilly. The day is dark. I have no plans today. I figure to stay around and read a bit. My new housecleaner is here right now. I had reached my self-cleaning limit. Nala welcomed her with opened paws. Henry barked then was fine.

I don’t know what to do with myself. My laundry is done, and my house is in the middle of being deep cleaned. I suppose I could take up knitting.

When I was a kid, in the sixth grade, I caught Barrett’s disease. It was when I found out my sixth grade classmate Marty Barrett went to England every couple of years to see his grandmother. I was totally envious. He was the only person I knew who had been to Europe. My family vacations back then were either stay at home and do things or head to Maine to stay a tiny cottage with a million people. I dreamed of traveling and imagined my trips. I’d go to England first and see London and Stonehenge. I’d head up to Scotland to find the Loch Ness monster. I’d visit Ireland. I’d ride a camel in the desert and take train rides across Europe. My imagination worked overtime.

When I was older, I still held to those dreams. My count, by the time I was sixteen, was one county, Canada. In the fall of my senior year of college, my friends and I planned a trip to Europe on one of those 60 countries in a day and a half type trips. My parents gave me the trip as a graduation gift, but I was waiting, hoping to hear from Peace Corps. I did, and I accepted. I was going to Africa, to Ghana. My second country was quite a leap from my first, on my list: Canada one and Ghana two.

I have favorite places to which I’d return if given the chance. Ghana is the first. I’m hoping for one more trip back. I think about Ghana all the time with a sort of reverence. I watch videos which catch me in the throat. I want kelewele and jollof rice. Ghana is very much home to me.

I’d go back to Morocco, to Marrakesh. The time I spent there was not enough. Dinner at the Jemma el-Fna and coffee at the cafe were two of my favorite things to do. After walking through the city, I’d sit and watch the world go by. I could hear conversations in Arabic. In the square, I watched dancers and henna artists, magicians and water carriers by day and ate dinner outside at one of the stalls each night. I bought fresh figs in the market. I took a horse-drawn carriage tour. I was the only passenger. Every day I saw something new and ate something I didn’t know and couldn’t pronounce. Good thing the menus had pictures.

“Each day has a color, a smell.”

June 10, 2018

The clouds are back, but the rain won’t be. This will stay a dry weekend. My deck is just about ready for summer. A couple of pots still need flowers, the spawn of Satan ate the lights on the deck rails so I need a new set, and I have arranged for the deck and wooden furniture to be power washed. I have already chosen the first movie for the opening of this summer’s deck movie night. Get ready to roll out the red carpet!

I stood on the deck for a while last night. Henry was roaming the yard. I could hear him walking on the bed of dead leaves. The air smelled sweet. It was flowers and fresh mown grass. The night was warm. I could hear bird songs. I saw one firefly.

When I was a kid, the field below our house was filled with brown grasshoppers during the day. During the night, it glowed with hundreds of fireflies, maybe even thousands. That’s what it looked like to me.

When I landed in Marrakech, the air smelled of spices. I could see the orange-red wall around the city and some of its ornate gates. Horse drawn carriages, called calèches I found out later, were sharing the roads with cars. It was the most remarkable introduction to Morocco.

When I first stepped out of the plane in Ghana, I was hit with tremendous heat and such sunlight I had to squint. The air was thick with humidity. I could smell the greenery, the ferns, the high grasses and the trees. Now, so many years later, very time I go back, I can barely wait for that plane door to open so I can smell and feel Ghana again.

On some damp mornings, I can smell the ocean. It isn’t close, but the air carries that smell all the way to my house. I am always loathe to go inside. I want to stay until the ocean smell disappears.

I can smell the rain coming. I can feel the change in the air. I can smell those first drops hitting the ground. They smell of the dirt, an earthy smell.

Smell triggers memories more than any other sense. Turkeys cooking at Thanksgiving, the tree at Christmas and wood charcoal burning are reminders of family celebrations, places visited and a life so far filled with sights, sounds and, best of all, smells.

“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.”

August 26, 2016

Today I’m back behind closed windows and doors. I went without the air conditioner for about an hour. The house went up 4˚ so on went the air. Last night it rained. I was in bed in that not quite asleep not quite awake stage when I thought I heard raindrops. I lifted my head from the pillow to listen and heard drops against the window. That was the sound which lulled me to sleep.

Th Mousetrap is the last play of the season at the Cape Playhouse. I saw it a couple of times in London so I’m not all that excited to see it again, but the play got a wonderful review in the Cape Cod Times so I’m back and forth about going tonight. Right now I’m in my cozy clothes and comfortable and cool. I’m even contemplating a nap. I figure laziness will factor into my decision as will a pizza delivery for dinner.

It is getting darker and cloudier. The sun has disappeared. The breeze is greater but is still hot. There is only a possibility of rain, but I’m hoping. I read an article this morning about how easy it is in Europe to recognize American tourists. Hoodies, running shoes, fanny packs, t-shirts with graphics, big tips, North Face, good teeth and water with meals were some of the identifiers. When I was young, I had a backpack which, back then, was probably screaming American. I wore sneakers and jeans. I couldn’t afford a big tip. When I was older, I used suitcases and dressed better.

I read an article this morning about how easy it is in Europe to recognize American tourists. Hoodies, running shoes, fanny packs, t-shirts with graphics, big tips, North Face, good teeth and water with meals were some of the identifiers. When I was young, I had a backpack which, back then, was probably screaming American. I wore sneakers and jeans. I couldn’t afford a big tip. When I was older, I used suitcases and dressed better. A red Marimeko bag I had bought in Finland was slung across my shoulders and carried what was important like money, my passport in a case I had made in Ghana and my camera. I still didn’t tip well.

My last three trips have been to Africa: one to Morocco and two to Ghana. It doesn’t matter what I wear or what I carry as my skin color is enough of an identifier though in Ghana they think I’m a European.

Now I bring one suitcase and a carry-on which has adapters, medications, my iPad, a change of clothes, a notebook and my camera. I still carry the Marimeko bag I bought in 1972 and it still carries what is important including the passport case made in the Bolga market in Ghana in 1970. They are the only continuity when I travel.

“Half the fun of the travel is the esthetic of lostness. “

January 15, 2016

It is warmer today than it has been. I didn’t gasp from the cold when I went to get the papers. It is around 40˚  and will even be a bit warmer tomorrow; however, the cold will be back with a vengeance on Tuesday so these warm days are a bit of a gift from fickle Mother Nature. Gracie and I have a few things to do today so I’m glad for the winter warmth.

My heat is forced hot air. I hear the blast when the furnace goes on. When I was growing up, we had forced hot water. I used to love the sound of the radiators. It was comforting in a way. A few years ago I lost electricity because of a winter storm. My house was 37˚ before the heat came back on. I don’t ever remember losing electricity in the winter when I was a kid. I remember we lost it during a hurricane when a tree fell on the wires, but that was in late summer. I never felt inconvenienced. I doubt kids do. Most things become an adventure of sorts. Having to use candles for light and the barbecue for cooking was a kind of camping, but at home with comfy beds and no mosquitos. I thought it was great fun.

I still love adventures. Around here I go for rides down roads I’ve never been on before. I take all lefts or all rights and am always surprised by what I see. I went to Morocco on my own, and that was an adventure. I did all right turns in the souk one day. I loved everything I saw and found. At one point I had no idea where I was, but I didn’t care. I knew I’d eventually find my way. I just had to choose a direction.

I love my life, but sometimes I wish I had more money to travel. I want adventures in places I’ve never been before. I want to get lost.


“It’s the unknown that draws people.”

February 14, 2015

When I first woke up, it was 7 o’clock, and I could see sun and blue sky outside my window. I smiled, turned over and went back to sleep. The second time I awakened it was 8:30. The sun was gone as was the blue. Today is now like all the other days: grey and cold and uninviting. The snow will start tonight and come in waves. The biggest wave is due tomorrow.

Now where would I be if I could be somewhere else? Much as I love Ghana, the 100˚+ degrees is just our weather turned inside out. Back to Morocco is a possibility. It is winter there but a sweater is enough. I remember the colors in the spice market, the aromas of meat cooking and glasses of mint tea. Colorful rugs hung from balconies. Cranes nested. Okay, Morocco is definitely on the list, but then again perhaps it should be where I haven’t been. I love exploring new places and being by myself never matters. All of the sights and sounds become fodder for my journal, my hand written journal. The markets are for losing myself, for following unfamiliar paths. They are the places for discovery. That restaurant in Marrakech in a garden at the back of the furniture store is one of favorite finds, but I had help. A small boy led me there.

Asia comes to mind. I want off the beaten path, maybe Laos, Nepal or Myanmar if it gets its act together.

My family worries when I travel alone, but they don’t share that with me. They know I’d pooh-pooh the notion. My brother-in-law was the designated rescuer when I was in Morocco. He would fly there and accompany me and my injuries home. They were thinking broken leg. I didn’t even get a scratch.

I don’t ever mind getting lost as there are discoveries to unearth and I know I’ll always find my way.

“It’s a bizarre but wonderful feeling, to arrive dead center of a target you didn’t even know you were aiming for.”

November 20, 2014

The sun is in and out of the clouds this morning. The day is warmer than it has been. Tonight will be cold, but I’ll be under my down comforter with the dog beside me keeping me even warmer. Today is an errand and an early dump day. Gracie gets to come.

Earlier I turned on the TV to watch the news. It was NECN, New England Cable Network News. An on-site reporter was in a small town where a town meeting had become raucous and subsequently shut down when banning cigarette sales was being discussed. “It’s not about tobacco — it’s about control” and “Smoke ’em if you got them” were some of the cries from the protesters. “This is about freedom; it’s my body and it’s my choice to smoke.” The reporter commented that all the outbursts caused the meeting to be adjourned. “They had a went to postponement.” That is not a typo. That is the reporter speaking off the cuff and outside the common rules of English grammar.

A totally new topic follows.

In Columbia I went to the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá which is inside an enormous salt mine. The mine was amazing, huge and almost eerie with blue lights shining off its walls and on the statues and altar. I noticed the salt was blackish, not at all the free-flowing white of Morton’s. I asked my guide, whom I had hired in Bogotá car and all, how the salt gets to be white. Before I knew it, I was being driven down a highway into a huge salt factory. The guide went in then came out and had me follow him. Inside the main office I got a yellow hard hat to wear and a tour of the whole factory. The man leading us spoke English and was a boss in the factory. We went all over, climbing up metal stairs and around huge machines. I learned the journey of salt from the mine to the table. The factory boss gave me a huge chunk of blackish salt as a memento. I still have it stored always in my refrigerator. I have two outstanding memories of that factory. One is walking from one side of the factory to another on a metal walkway looking down at a huge machine. The other is the taste of salt which filled my mouth during the whole tour. The air was permeated with it. I’ll never forget that taste.

In Morocco I hired a car and driver to take me into the Atlas Mountains. The driver asked if he could bring a friend. I didn’t care so the three of us left for a whole day trip. On the way back we stopped at a small factory which made olive oil as the two men wanted to buy the fresh oil. I walked around and saw the whole process of making olive oil. The men working there just nodded as I walked by them. The air was filled with the aroma of the newly pressed olives. It was not an aroma I knew but rather one redolent of many aromas.

I mention these two adventures as they were unplanned, spurn of the moment. They were serendipitous.

“Everything you can imagine is real.”

May 20, 2013

Last night it rained, not a furious rain falling in sheets but a steady drop by drop rain. I had my bedroom window opened, and I fell asleep to the sound of the drops. This morning when I woke up, the day was cloudy and damp. Since then the sun has taken over the sky and brightened the day. It’s a pretty morning.

The window view from here in the den is one of my favorites. The branches of the tall oak tree fill the window, and I get to watch the tree change every season. The leaves now are young and a bright green. Hanging off a couple of the branches are bird feeders, and I get to watch the birds zoom in and out or stay for a while at the suet feeder. The winter view through that window is bleak. I can see only bare branches and dead leaves fluttering in the wind. When the first buds appear, it’s time for a celebration as I know the tree will soon be full and beautiful. It’s almost there now.

Sometimes I ponder my life and every time I do, I realize how lucky I have been. First of all I had great parents though I didn’t always appreciate them, especially when I got sent to my room or yelled at or had a slipper thrown at me by my mother who had absolutely no aim. She never once got any of us. We always ducked if it came close. I got to wander my town and go to the zoo or the swamp or play in the woods. I had a bike which took me even as far as East Boston to see my grandparents which scared the bejesus out of my mother as we had to travel on Route 1A, a busy highway which didn’t always have sidewalks. That bike was one of my childhood joys. My parents took us to museums which developed in us all a love of museums. They let us dream our dreams. I went to college and had no debt when I graduated because my father thought it was is responsibility to pay for school. My parents once told me they never thought any of their kids would go to college as no one in our whole family had ever gone. They were thrilled one of us did and so was I as I had chosen well. I loved Merrimack. The Peace Corps was the defining moment in my life which gave me a love of teaching, two years living in Africa of all places and friends for life. 

I have traveled many places in the world and have filled my memory drawers with those adventures, those vistas, the bumpy roads and crowded busses, the tastes of unknown foods and the joy of seeing all those pictures from my geography books come to life. Every year I went somewhere foreign, somewhere to satisfy my wanderlust. I got to retire early and since then have been to Africa three times: once to Morocco and twice to Ghana. My retirement has been so much fun: greeting the sun on the first of spring, sloth days, game nights with my friends, sitting on the deck doing absolutely nothing, movie nights and on and on and on.

Every now and then, like today, I give thanks for the life I have been privileged to lead. I don’t ever want to forget that. 

“Love is a selfless service to mankind like a showcase done by the twinkling stars in beautiful nightly sky.”

April 19, 2013

The sun is on hiatus again. The sky is white cloudy and it’s chilly, not cold. The birds are busy at the feeders, and the chipmunk is somewhere else. Gracie has been in the yard most of the morning. Every now and then she barks and then comes in to check on me then goes back outside. She loves the yard.

Every morning since Monday I have turned on the TV just to check for any news about the bombing. If there is nothing, I turn off the TV, but this morning’s news has me intently watching what is happening. It didn’t take long from yesterday’s briefing by the FBI which showed the pictures of the two bombers, brothers, for them to be identified. A comment the other day was that this isn’t a CSI case and don’t expect an instant ending, a quick solving of the crime, but it does feel quick, only three days to identify the bombers. One has been killed, and the other is the subject of a manhunt the likes of which this state has never seen.

I have traveled many parts of the world and been treated with kindness and sometimes even concern. When I lived in Ghana, I had my pocket picked, was the victim of an attempted purse snatching (during training and during my first weekend in Accra) and had my house broken into, but I was never afraid for myself. Even the purse snatching was a bit of adventure as the snatcher and I fought over the bag, each of us pulling a handle. That incident didn’t stop me from continuing training and taking my oath as a volunteer. It just became a story to tell.

Once on a train from Denmark to the Hook of Holland, our train-mate fed us, my friend and me, the whole trip from a huge basket she had packed for the ride. She was an East German heading home to England and her husband, an Englishman. The food was amazing, and, like the loaves and the fishes, the basket never went empty. In Morocco, I’d get tired and my back would hurt so I’d stop and stand for a while. Each time I did, someone offered me a seat, and I always took it and sat and watched the world around me. They’d tell me to stay as long I needed to sit. Once I even got coffee, strong Moroccan coffee, in a small cup.

In South America, my travel mate and I were quite often the only non locals on a bus or train. At every stop someone would tell us where we were, and when we stopped for dinner on the night bus, the whole menu was translated for us by another passenger. In Columbia, in the salt mine, I asked how the blackened salt was turned white. A man heard my question and invited my friend and me to see the factory down the road where he worked. We were given hard hats and a complete tour of the factory. I remember the taste of salt in my mouth stayed for what seemed liked forever.

After my second surgery, I got on the bus and immediately the man in the front seat stood up and said take my seat. You shouldn’t have to walk.

I am not naive just because I believe in the innate goodness of most people, their willingness to help, even their eagerness to help, but goodness doesn’t usually make headlines and small stories like mine are seldom told, but good heartedness is not rare. It is all around us. We just have to look.

“I have learned that to be with those I like is enough”

August 13, 2012

We have sun, that bright orb in the sky which sheds light on the world. It has brought warmth and dispelled the damp so tonight will finally be the oft postponed movie on the deck night. It is supposed to pleasant and cool.

It was a mirror under her nose to see if she’s alive type morning. The dog wanted out. I don’t know when. I heard her bells, went downstairs, opened the door and turned off the AC so I could leave the door opened and she could come in which she wanted. I went back to bed. The phone woke me at 10:30, that’s right, 10:30, but I didn’t let the late morning change my ritual: two papers and two cups of coffee later, here I am.

Now I’m stuck with nothing to day; my mind is a tabula rasa. I write six days a week (it used to be every day) and have been writing this blog for at least six years maybe even seven I’m not sure. I have discussed every aspect of my childhood, my teen years, college years, Peace Corps service and the day-to-day stuff which keeps me busy or idle depending upon my mood. I have excoriated tourists, supermarkets, slow drivers who can’t see over the steering wheel and the weather, can’t forget the weather. I have taken you with me to Morocco, Ghana and South America, though that last one wasn’t live. Soon enough you’ll be going back to Ghana with me. You have been made privy to the number of underwear I’m bringing on my journey, and I’ll be posting my flight times and numbers so you can make sure I arrived safely. I have told countless dad stories. You even know some of my failings as I’ve lamented them a few times, a tin ear being one and impatience being prime. You have essentially become family but don’t expect post cards!

“Food is our common ground, a universal experience.”

June 2, 2012

5:30 is far too early to be awake unless I’m hurrying to catch a plane. My papers weren’t and still aren’t even here. Gracie has gone back to sleep. It is an ugly morning with dark skies and a cold wind. Rain is predicted for the whole day, even heavy at times; of course, that would be the prediction with my friends arriving later. I had planned a lovely Cape Cod ride by the ocean today.

I should be eating my Rice Crispies and watching cartoons instead of the early news. I guess this is one of the by-products of adulthood. Crusader Rabbit gets replaced by news, sports and weather.

With the rain coming, Ms. Flamingo and Mr. Gnome didn’t make it outside. They are still safe and warm in their winter home here in the den. They can both oversee the weekend festivities.

My friends want one of my famous dinners. I gave it some thought and figured I’d make my curry. I then called my friend Jay, a friend for over thirty years who has partaken often of my cooking. I asked him what dinner he’d asked for if he could choose. Lo and behold he chose curry so curry it is!

The first time I ate curry was in Africa. A doctor and his wife from Fez, Morocco lived in my town my first year. He was a doctor at the local hospital. They came over to my house, introduced themselves and invited me to dinner. I went and they served curry. I’ll never forget that meal. My hosts were amazing telling me all about Morocco and Fez and then they served dinner. It was like manna from heaven, a taste treat I have never forgotten, and one I have made many times since which just about the same reaction every time I eat it.

The first time I served my curry was close to forty years ago, and I invited a houseful of people. They were, at first, tentative. Their eyes and the unfamiliar smell of the curry meant they put very little on their plates, only enough to be courteous. I told them to add the toppings then the chicken. They did then sat down and took their first bites. The room went silent. The only sound was forks on plates. The food disappeared quickly and all of them went for second helpings, generous helpings, plate filling helpings. They were now curry fans.

I love watching first time curry eaters. They are amazed by the odd combination of tastes and the heat of the curry then the coolness of the fruit. I expect most of the meal will be silent. I can hear those forks now!

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