So this blog post is long overdue and I am really sorry about that- I had actually written a blog post before my parents came, but my internet ran out before I could post it, maybe I’ll post it up but it’s kind of out of date.
As some of you may or may not know the most difficult time of my service (thus far and hopefully all around ) was the time following my trip to America. I was legitimately bummed out and pretty unhappy, and I would be lying to if you I hadn’t been worried I would fall back into the melancholic pit that was the month of September after my family visited. Thankfully that was not the case! Getting to see Morocco through the eyes/experiences of my family made me love and appreciate this country even more. Morocco was on its best behavior, no angry drivers, pickpockets or harassers (minus one guy who yelled "condom" at us in the medina of Marrakech) instead my family got to experience what I have come to love here. I realized I had taken for granted/ just expected the generosity and kindness and hospitality of Moroccans as a whole- getting a handful of dates, a bundle of mint, an invitation for food or free cookies from friends and strangers is totally normal for me- but it was really touching to see happen for the first time for my mother and father. When things like that happened my mother said “this would never happen in New York!” and I’m hoping to keep that in mind upon my return to the states, hopefully I won’t become known as the creepy dreadlocked lady who invites strangers in her house all the time for food and tea- but for reals the generosity and the amount that people share here is something that America could benefit from.
So now onto the trip!
|the square from the side|
After a 2.5 hour line at customs mom and jack finally made it out of the Marakesh airport in our rental car- Mom and Jack killed it driving, and Kesh is not an easy place to be a passenger let a lone a driver- luckily our hotel was close by and super nice! Also within the first 45 minutes of them being on sovereign Moroccan soil I was asked twice about my unmarried relationship status. The fam got a great price on the hotel stateside and they only charged me 30 bucks or so to crash and even brought me up a bed. We got free tea, delicious snacks (that I actually think we were meant to pay for) and were even serenaded upon our arrival by a skinny French lady in a gold sparkly dress singing some jazz- it was all very fancy and NOTHING like being here as a PCV, we weren’t allowed to carry our bags, I was afraid to touch things, the food menu had things on it that cost more then I spend on groceries in a month. I told the ladies at the front desk that they might have to remove me forcibly because that shower was AWESOME. I jumped them into morocco head first by dragging us to the Marakesh center Jmee El fnaa- which was BUMPING. Because of the school break everyone and their brother, their cousin, their cousins wife and kids and mothers and grandmothers and everything in between were in Marakesh ( I know of at least 5 people from site who went to ‘Kesh during the break)- but I was told there was delicious tagine to be had at a legitimate price so we braved the crowd. I think Jack got a little overwhelmed, but it was cool to see it at night and so busy. Morocco is definitely a country worth listening to, especially in the square .
|some of the marakesh medina|
The next morning mom and I kind of ditched Jack and took an early morning adventure into the old Medina, and while not everything was open good god is Marakesh incredibly pleasant at 8am- if you are overwhelmed by cities get a good early start in the morning and you’ll have the old medina to yourself. We started the day with a very Moroccan breakfast of café ns-ns, Milwil/msmin and avocado juice- and while mom was a little skeptical of the bright green liquid placed in front of her, she was a convert just like the rest of us! We got to do some shopping; I got to show off my baller bargaining skills (and was only slightly ripped off). After our shopping trip we began the climb in our Air Conditioned car over the tishka pass.
|the very quiet morning in the medina|
|buying nuts for our car ride!|
I will admit that renting a car was my idea, and a selfish one. I have gone over the tishka so many gd times and every time it’s zooming by on a bus, we probably could have chartered taxis just as easily and have come out a little under the cost of the car but having the freedom of a vehicle made the trip so much less stressful (at least for me). Mom and jack both did a great job on the Tishka, and we were able to stop for fossils, pictures and much needed pee breaks.
|A storks nest on a mineret|
|a nice vista|
|our car and an amusing road sign|
|one of the many stone/earth villages along the pass.|
|the waterfall across the mountains after the "layer cake " section of the tishka|
|at the top of what i call the "layer cake section"|
Unfortunately for the fam, the managed to be here during the HOTTEST week of the year thus far, dude it was a crazy heat wave 100 plus degrees- this time last year I was still wearing a sweater/flannel to keep me warm during the day. Literally the day after they left it dropped almost 20-40 degrees (though that is now no longer true).
|mom coming down a set of stairs in n'kob|
|a lady near my house making bread in the traditional oven!|
|the oldest kasbah in nkob|
|the watchtower and jack|
|me at the watchtower|
|mom and I at the watchtower|
|pizza in my kitchen!!!!|
After N’kob we went out to Erfoud/Merzouga for
our camel trek, which was the part I was most looking forward to. Thank god we had AC because the trip was hot and long, and probably the most boring landscape ever, hundreds of miles of hot scorched rocks with a few mountains and scrubby plant life here and there (including the cabbage tree! My favorite.) Mom’s guide book mentioned a fossil museum with free admission so we decided to check that out. I was dubious about the legitimacy/fanciness of this supposed museum but I was thoroughly impressed and totally fascinated by all the spcemins on display. Most common were trilobites and ammonites, but there were also crinoids and stars and all sorts of other cool stuff, so many fossils! And so many of them from right around the museum.
As you all may or may no know two of Peace Corps goals for volunteers is the exchange of culture back and forth- and while as a PCV I’ve made a point to become part of my community sometimes it’s easy to feel like you’re doing it more for your own benefit then anyone elses- you start asking questions like “does anyone really care?” and “do they actually want me here?” It’s easy to get wrapped up in this cloud for quite a time, but while we were at the museum I definitely felt like what I was doing meant something to people- the museum guide/leader who was fluent in 5 languages found us while we were browsing and offered us a ‘backstage tour’ telling me he wanted to show us how they did things and give us a discount at the shop (20-40% on everything geez!) because how important it was that I was there to “learn about their culture” – people were also impresses when I told them my town, which I’m learning has a bit of a reputation for being mskin (sad/poor ) . Our impromptu guide took us into the initial cleaning room where boxes and boxes of rocks were piled high along the walls with fossils waiting to be uncovered by the little metal dentists drill. Then he took us to the professional workshop- equipment and training provided, I believe, by a partner located in Arizona. Then they took us into the flashy room where they kept the expensive stuff as well as special commission and museum pieces. It was cool to see creatures that were 300 million years old that looked like they were still in motion under the prehistoric ocean. We went a little banana’s at the gift shop and filled up on ammonite shells and keychains, a gorgeous crinoid for jack and all other sorts of gifts for ourselves and people at home. I will admit before this trip I was pretty ambivalent about fossils, but I’m now pretty excited about all of it, also it turns out the guy who did planet earth came and did an piece about the fossils in the area, so I’m definitely going to check that out!
Still buzzing from our fossil purchases and exciting excursion back in time we made our way to a restaurant for some food before heading out on out camel trek. We ordered cous cous and I’m disappointed in the fact that that was the cous cous my family had over here because I love couscous so much! But it wasn’t all bad. After we met up with our driver/ guide who took us in his 4x4 over glorified ruts in the desert to the auberge in Merzouga. We had some tea, and chilled by the pool for an hour until the temps went down a bit and then headed out to our camels! Our guide Hassan (I think) wore his sahara blue jlaba thing and a bright turban and led us out into the desert. The dunes were gorgeous and made me miss my days in lighting design, there were so many blues and purples mixed in with the expected oranges and whites and yellows of the desert. It was so cool riding along on a camel into the Sahara. We arrived at our campsite, which was a little sandless valley among the dunes that was actually a bed of fossilized coral. For being out in the desert it was super swanky; nomad tents with full on mattresses, western toilets, hot showers and electricity. We shared the campsite with three French dudes who were a little rowdy, but in a very French way. In typical Moroccan fashion we were given tea and peanuts upon arrival and hung out then were stuffed with food – a salad/veggie plate, tomato stewed beef a GIANT tagine with some of the best eggplant I’ve had in this country followed by fruit and dates finally followed by a campfire and some drums and music. The moon and stars over the dunes were incredible and mom and both witnessed a star go out/die which was crazy! I’m glad she saw it too otherwise I would have thought I was crazy. Suddenly this star in the sky got really really bright then just faded away. In a way, that day was time travel day between the fossils and the star we traveled back in time (and space! ).
In the morning we were woken up to catch the sunrise over the desert which was a beautiful (however early) start to the day. Then we settled down for a very Moroccan breakfast of juice and coffee and bread and olives with butter and jam and olive oil. After breakfast we headed back out of the desert astride our camels- in case you were wondering camels sound like a combination of Chewbacca and a gurgling drain. Our ride back was uneventful and pleasant, not too hot because of the early start. After we exited the desert our driver met us in his 4x4 and took zooming back over the more mars like desert landscape. He had heard us talking excitedly about fossils so on the way back stopped us off at this small field area where they mined for the bigger pieces for tabletops and counters and other household items. This was literally a field of fossils, never in my life would I have thought I could just bend over and pick up something that lived 300 million years ago in the OCEAN, but that’s what we did. At first the driver left the engine idling then realized that we were all to entranced crawling around picking up fossils that he turned his car off. Before we left we were swarmed with a few guys holding polished fossils in old display boxes and mom bought two gorgeous ammonites and jack bought this long spiney guy whose name I forget. Our guide also assisted us in buying some dates on our return to Erfoud and I’m talking the big money show pony dates- these puppies weren’t the shriveled up 1.5inch things I can get here but dates the size of a babies fist that were absolutely delicious. In another example of the generosity here our guide invited us over for a tagine lunch and so we drove along the road towards errachidia to look at the palmeries and earth towns of the ziz valley to pass the time.
We made it back to N’kob that night and prepared mom and jacks baggage which mostly involved the very difficulty decision-making process of what rocks would be going back stateside.
The next morning we stopped off for some bread from the cookie ladies and some laughing cow triangles and made our way back over the tishka. We spend the night with my love Sarah Quinn who took us around Tamslohte’s zowei/ancient religious school. We hung out at the café and ate some cliff bars, and made some chicken tagine. Bright and early the next morning we packed back into the rental car and made our way back to the airport.
It was hard saying goodbye and the trip definitely could have been longer. But it was amazing to be able to share the place I’ve been calling home for over a year with people I love.