Saturday, June 30, 2012

Roman Morocco

June 29, 2012

Morocco was once part of the Roman Empire, called Mauritania. Volubilis was the most south-eastern expansion of Roman rule. We went there in 115+ degree heat.

Mary with Trisha Bailey, a Gambian Peace Corps Volunteer  who joined up with us.
 What is left of a city of 20,000

 Arch into a rich person's house
 Part of "Main Street"
 Ceremonial Arch constructed for the Roman Emperor, Caligula
 Vestal virgin, Trisha, on steps of the temple
 City of Moulay Idriss
Mosque at Moulay Idriss, unavailable to us

The Medina of Fez

June 27-28, 2012

The Medina of Fez is one of the oldest and largest. This is the part of the city within the old fortified walls. It is a labyrinthine maze of narrow roads, big enough for donkeys and a few humans.

 Even people who live there get lost. We did twice, with guides who could not even agree between themselves. A guidepost for us was a pile of donkey dung. 

 Mary and Hanna Siemering on one of the "streets".

 Shops and entryways to homes are everywhere.
Last of the master textile weavers.
This 79 year old man has been recognized for keeping alive
a 12th century skill.
An ancient textile computer which used strings to determine the weave of the fabric
(The Arabs were amazing!) 

 Girl weaving a rug.
 It takes 500,000 pieces of wool string, tied as a double knot,
 hammered into place, then trimmed to make one square yard of rug. 
Afterward watching the rug making, there is a glass of "Moroccan Whiskey" (mint tea)
and then the "soft sale".

Sleeping in Fez

June 27-28, 2012

On the advice of a Peace Corps Volunteer we stayed at the Riad R'Cief in Fez.

Riad's are something like a Bed and Breakfast. They are houses converted for overnight guests, serving a breakfast. Some can be like palaces. We lucked out and got a palace.

It is hard to describe what this riad is like, except it is like living in a museum. It has been completely restored. Everywhere you look are elaborate tiles and detailed woodwork. The center courtyard extends three floors as an atrium. It is even air-conditioned and situated in the middle of the medina, old city of Fez.
 Entrance to our room.
The Sultan and his wife.
 Looking out a window to the interior courtyard.
The wood-carved ceiling.

A Fez dinner

June 26, 2012

After calling Mohammed to see if he really wanted to have dinner with us and hanging up with the feeling that he was unsure about who I was. We agreed to at McDonalds.

Joined by another Gambian Peace Corps Volunteer, Trisha, we sat awaiting our ride, not sure what would happen. Alas, he arrived with his friends. We all crammed into a small car. Off we went into the night. Down several dark alleys. Up flights of stairs to be seated in a large room with mysterious strangers moving in and out. There arose the possibility of this could be it.

Joined by others, each of whom had grander or more spectacular stories to tell, we went up more flights of stairs to the roof top to enjoy a meal of turkey legs with Kiko and a "millionaire young savant", Amin. The lighted city of Fez spread out before us.

Don't trust anyone

June 26, 2012

There is a certain theme running through our conversations with Moroccans, "Don't look at, speak to, or trust anyone else". This creates a problem when the people with whom you have just spoken to are held suspect by the next people you talk to. Whom do you trust?

We are confused with trying to separate what seems to be genuine Moroccan hospitality from genuine Moroccan hustling. There is no quiver in their voice. We think the people we meet want to spend time with us and like us, but we also realize they have families to feed. We are their food.

The Straw Fedora

June 26, 2012

My straw fedora may have a mystical power of which I may not be able to control.

On the four hour train from Casablanca to Fez in sauna substituting for a car while outside temperature is over 115 degrees, a man passed us in the aisle, stopping to remark about my hat. Within a few minutes, he was seated with us and his saga began, all the while eyeing the straw fedora. We quickly became members of his family and the best of friends. He, Mohammed, inviting himself to be our personal guide,  exchanging phone numbers, and arranging for us to meet him for dinner that night with his Japanese wife, Kiko. We kind of agreed to everything.

Is this guy for real? After speaking to his wife on the phone, we at least could verify that part of his story. But the hat? his fixation could not be ignored.


June 25, 2012

Casablanca, just the name stirs romance. Names don't make up for reality.

The city is a port of about 5 million. Maybe it is not fair to judge a place just after a long flight and one night, but I don't think we were alone as other travelers agreed, Casablanca is now dirty hole in the wall.

Still, the film was made in a studio. Humphrey Bogart never got close to the place. I don't want to ruin the image of the movie airplane flying into the foggy Casablanca night, separating the lovers forever. Casablanca skies can get foggy.

Now joined by Hanna Siemering whom was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Samoa and now also doing a second spot in the African country of The Gambia, we head by train to the Morocan city of Fez.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Charles D'Gaulle

June 24, 2012

International travel slams you into different cultures weather you want to or not. It is not so much the flight. They are pretty much the same regardless of the airline. It is when you step into the terminal that is when you notice the different.

Now Charles D'Gaulle airport in Paris is suppose to be a modern airport. It is huge with several different terminals dispersed around a large oval. The terminals are interconnected by buses which run every eight minutes. So far, it seems fine, except when several late flights arrive at the same time filled with passengers trying to transfer to another terminal. Here the system breaks down. Chaos ensues.
Getting on a bus is the easy part, for the "Security" awaits you on your next leg.

Since we were among those late for our next flight, we persuaded the "Guard of the Serpentine" to let us into the "faster" Business Class line. The flood gates opened and in flowed like passengers. Our line began to move backwards as people whose flights were already scheduled to have left, wheelchairs, women with children, and crew members were placed in front of us. In true French fashion, common sense took over. We streamed through the metal detectors as security personnel relaxed at being overwhelmed. In true French fashion, they let life continue.

I often wondered if passengers had the choice of flights where they had to go through security and those without, which would be more popular? As for me, I'd take my chances.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Little Prince's First Birthday

June 23
 Dol (doljanchi, or tol) is probably one of the best-known of the Korean birthday celebrations. Dol is celebrated for the first birthday of a child. When Korea had little medicinal knowledge, many newborns would die from childhood diseases or because of Korea’s seasonal temperature differences. When a child lived to be a year old during that period, it was a very joyous occasion.

Well our grandson's, Rainn, first birthday is today and in proper Korean tradition had various objects placed before him. The one he selects from money, stethoscope,  calculator, string, etc is a prediction about his future. With pleading from those attending to chose those items which may indicate a prosperous career, Rainn's choices are rice (won't be hungry, but won't have much money), and a pencil (genius).

                                                        Our daughter, Kim, and Rainn
                                  Matt, Kim, and Rainn with homemade lion birthday cake
                                                  Not so princely, Little Prince

                                    Kim with Mr. Burns, her pet boa, and brother, Nicholas

Friday, June 22, 2012

Catching Up

June 21, 1912

It has been a while since I last had the desire to post what is happening. It is not as if nothing has been happening, but what has been happening just doesn't seem exotic. Sometimes one confuses the exotic with the significant.

Who can say my that my 33 year old son's proposal of marriage to his long-time friend, Heidi, on the Gran Place in Brussels, or the high school graduation of my grandson in State College, Pa, or the first birthday festival of my other grandson in a few days, or the trials and tribulations of my oldest daughter now living with us in the midst of looking for a job while going through a divorce, or trying to pass on my two businesses while letting a long-time excellent employee go are not significant? This they are, but not exotic.

As for the exotic, this Sunday Mary and I head for Morocco to meet up with Hanna Siemering, Peace Corps (Samoa 2007-2009, The Gambia 2010-2012) whom we travelled with in the Gambia and Senegal. Then I am off to Nairobi the first of October for ten weeks as a "Marketing Expert" with the International Fertilizer Development Center.

This blog is really meant for me. Sure it is nice that others may enjoy reading it, but it really is a journal to myself. As such, I am like many others who tend to overlook how important what we consider the mundane activities and those with whom you associate in everyday life really are.

What gives me great blogging pleasure is to realize the longevity of a blog. It is when a Samoan retrieves a picture of his recently deceased grandmother, or a cook book author wants permission to use pictures of native Samoan food, or another person laughs at eating bats, or yet an ex-pat Samoan reminisces about his boyhood, one realizes why it is important to continue.