Unabridged Me

JUST ANOTHER WRITER

I listen as her breathing deepens, sleep taking its hold despite her 5 year-old arguments against being tired. Propping myself up on my elbow, my eyes trace her black eyelashes against her round expressionless cheeks. I push a strand of hair off her eyebrow as I look down at my daughter, using the barest of touches so my callouses do not wake her.

At peace in her sleep, I can see the infant who curled against my chest and huddled in my arms. Her lips purse in the beginnings of a dream, reminding me of the stubborn two year-old. I can see all that she has been up to this point, just as I see inklings of who she will be as she gets older.

The radio on the desk behind me beeps to life.

I ease away from the small sleeping form, closing the bedroom door as I step into the hall. Crossing to my mom’s bedroom, I look in as she struggles to sit up in bed.

“Mom, you okay?” I ask, moving across the room to stand close enough to offer an arm, facing her huddled form.

“Can’t get comfortable,” she mumbles.

“How about we sit you up a little more with pillows, or maybe lay on your side?” I suggest, starting my steps in the nightly dance.

“Um hm.”

We stand her up so I can arrange the pillows for her head and back, then edge her into a half sitting position. Grimacing, she fidgets until she finds the perfect spot, her face easing into relief.

I pull the blanket up to her chest, check the water level in her bottle, and turn to exit the bedroom assuming the dance is complete for two more hours.

“Come cuddle in bed?” a whisper floats over my shoulder.

I glance back as I take two more steps away from my mom. Tired, I am focused on laying down and closing my eyes. I turn away, then I stop. I look back at her small body in the large room, then I walk back across the carpet and crawl onto the other side of the queen size adjustable bed.

With the delicacy of handling a newborn infant, I take her bony hand into mine. My fingertip traces the multiple bruises, evidence of heavy blood thinners and multiple IV sticks. Settling down a little more into the hole created by the bed with both the back and knees elevated, I look out the window towards the mountains.

“I regret not hugging you more while growing up,” my mom whispers a breeze of words while I watch clouds blow across the horizon, “I was just so busy.”

Before they gain weight, I force down the habitual retorts built of sadness that show themselves as anger and resentment. I replace the words with thoughts of my own daughter in the next room; all the times she’s plied and I’ve replied in a minute, I’m busy, not right now.

I take a deep breath, settling my head closer to Mom’s shoulder, my cheek barely touching the bones underneath her cotton shirt.

My eyes wander the room, looking at the dressers with missing knobs and off angle mirrors. Furniture that has existed in my mom’s various bedrooms as long as i can remember, changing in appearance but not structure as I grew in height and awareness.

I listen as her breathing deepens, sleep taking its hold.

I push a strand of hair back from her eyebrow.

As her mind falls farther into sleep, I see the faintest signs of the mother I knew growing up and even as recent as a few months ago. Mostly I see my grandmother a few weeks before she died, her sleeping mouth open and cheeks gaunt as her lungs struggled to pull in ragged breaths with cells damaged from decades of smoking.

I ease away from my mom’s still form, resting her hand on her restructured and healing stomach. I kiss her brow, whisper I love you, and crawl off the bed. I stop at the door, looking back at her as she moans in her dreams.

I take a deep breath, holding my lungs at capacity as I cross to the room containing my innocent daughter. Without waking her, I edge back onto the bed and place my arm around her. Kissing her forehead, I hold her, squeezing my eyes against hot tears.

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Just Wrap It Up

April 30, 2019

“These are not silver,” he says, looking at me.

“We know. They were gifts. We want silver necklaces so we can wear them,” I respond, smiling at his earnest expression.

The young vendor polishes my mom’s charm with a soft cloth until it shines, stringing it on a chain we selected, and hands it to her to try on.

“How much per necklace?” I ask as my mom looks in the mirror.

“120,” he says as he pulls two more from his inventory. An older woman walks into the tiny corner shop and sits behind us, waiting for her turn.

“Dirhams?” I ask while Vivian tries to crawl up my body and into my arms.

As he nods, I convert to dollars in my head while I look closely at the chains. We would pay more than his asking price at a box store in the States for this style and quality of chain. From my newly formed habit, I counter.

“250 for three.”

He glances at his inventory in contemplation. I imagine he is adding the amount per chain and the profit left to him depending on the price he makes from us. He lifts his chocolate eyes, and for a few seconds that stretch to the edge of discomfort we hold eye contact.

“Okay,” he replies.

My right eyebrow twitches upward as I smile in disbelief, “really?”

He laughs and replies, “yes, for you,” before turning back to his task.

I watch the light catch a silver skull on his left ring finger as his lean fingers begin stringing the other two charms and packaging them in jeweler’s bags. What just happened?

*

I’ve been back from Morocco for just over a week, and I’m struggling to write the final articles about my trip.

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Looking at goldfish

I could write about the last two days in Marrakech, full of sights and sounds that made me fall in love with the desert city, despite being pro-mountain-anti-desert my whole life. I could go into detail about Jardin Majorelle, a lush garden that includes a memorial for Yves St. Laurent, or maybe talk about the black and blue purse I almost bought at a price you could not find in the U.S.

Although I do not use purses, my creative side wanders into fashion from time to time. Purses, shoes, and dresses will find their way into my world as my eyes focus on aesthetics for a short time. Only for my eyes to wander away again, leaving my closet full of items that I have no purpose for.

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I felt no need for a purse, despite it’s beauty in pattern and construction, so the purse remains in the St. Laurent store next to the Berber museum in the middle of Majorelle.

I could talk about how I grabbed bartering with both hands, gaining confidence in my skills using price estimation that I learned from watching Price is Right.

Our travel companion had a couple spots in her house where she wanted to hang an art item, but she hates bartering. We came up with a plan where she would decide what she wanted, tell me the most she wanted to spend, and I would barter for her. The system worked well, and I gained confidence in my ability to navigate shopping in the souks.

In fact, I started enjoying the game of bartering. Despite reading on other blogs about the aggressive nature of bartering in Marrakech, I never faced any aggression. Of course, my nature is not aggressive, and if I didn’t know how much I was willing to pay for something, I left it in the shop. My objective of the game was not to get basement prices but to reach a comfortable compromise.

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Say “St. Laurent”

Our travel companion now has an antique leather writer’s bag to hang on her wall, a door knocker that she will re-purpose as a nail for the purse, and a few other odds and ends at less than she was willing to spend. I have a new skill and confidence in my adaptability.

My mom’s purchases while she travels are usually limited to magnets and tree ornaments. Though most were at low prices anyway, I still bartered for her. Bartering gave shopping a purpose for me. Normally, I find very little purpose in window shopping or buying knick knacks. In fact, I am not a shopper, unless I know what I want. In which case, I go in (to the store or online), find exactly what I envision, and get out.

I could talk about how my mom, Vivian, and I got a map from the hotel and walked through the streets of Casablanca to the souk in search of necklaces for some khamsa charms we were given in Marrakech. My mom felt they were perfect for us to wear as we face her health issues; instead of waiting to look when we were State side, we decided to see what the vendors of Casablanca had to offer.

I could even talk about how the last few days of our vacation finally satisfied my wandering spirit as we moved freely through Marrakech and Casablanca.

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Welcome home

Instead, I’m left wordless at all that I experienced as coming home became a journey back into the cave. Two hours in the customs line at Dulles, surrounded by concrete and glass, made me doubt I was supposed to come home, and this past week my psyche has struggled against the flood of routine stress that awaited me.

Of course, vacations done well are as we intend them to be: an escape from our every day lives. Though, I wish I could say Morocco was a complete escape. The largest source of anxiety right now, my mom’s health, came with us to Morocco. As did my overthinking tendencies.

Despite being on vacation, Morocco changed me. Not in any fundamental way. I did not “find” religion in Morocco. No country or life experience will change my belief system. Nor did Morocco make me not American, less inclined towards overthinking, or ease my generalized anxiety.

What I found in Morocco was a country where people have a general respect for different cultures and backgrounds. The people I came in contact with were genuinely caring, even the “usual suspects” that other blogs warn to stay away from. Also, I found something I’ve searched for my entire life: a rich tableau of the human experience. Eons of history and humanity laid down together in a multi-dimensional sculpture of flavors, colors, sounds, and textures. I found a place where I grew comfortable in my skin, despite being different in almost every way possible.

I’m having a hard time returning home.

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Last view of Morocco

Marrakech Opens It’s Doors

April 24, 2019

“Is this our home for a few days?” she asks while looking at me with exhausted eyes.

“Yes, sweetheart,” I reply as I dump clothes full of desert sand in a large copper bathtub, readying for my back for the strain of doing laundry over a rim set three feet high.

“Do they have a playground?”

“No,” I stop what I am doing and look at my daughter. Her eyes are tired and lost, eyes that have stared at knees while overwhelmed by sights, sounds, and cultural differences.

I pick her up, holding her tight against me. “You know what comes next?” I whisper into her ear.

She shakes her head.

“We stay here for three nights, then we go back to the room that had the really big bathtub that you played in, and then we take a plane,” I pull my head back to look into her eyes.

“You mean we are going home?” a small smile pulls at the corners of her mouth.

“Yes, after this city. Now, do you want to help me do laundry?” I ask her.

“Yes!” she squeals, kicking to be released from my arms.

I am not ready to leave this country or end the experience, but my daughter has said goodbye to two things in two days that she has enjoyed. She is ready for her routine. Playing washer woman with mom is a good second place situation now that she knows what to expect.

*

Today was the assigned day with our guide in Marrakech. We started with what has become a typical breakfast spread, complete with coffee, bread and pastries, and an egg if we want one.

For the first time the entire trip, my mom ate a full meal. She seemed ready to take on the heat of the day, though neither of us were really prepared for standing in queue after queue in the desert sun. Our travel companion chose to stay behind at the riad, as long as I could guarantee we would get into the markets.

I am ready to take on the souks and wander freely, so that guarantee was easily given.

Marrakech has similarities to Los Angeles, in that the city itself was chosen for location but had a complete lack of water. The solution for Marrakech is underground aqueducts running water from the High Atlas Mountains.

Named the Pearl of Morocco, Marrakech has code regulations regarding appearance and height of buildings. All buildings must be painted pink, and there cannot be a building taller than the spire of the Koutaubia Mosque. So unlike Casablanca, there are no high rise apartments.

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Original foundation of the mosque next to the current building

Our first stop was the Koutaubia Mosque, where we stood with reams of people pouring from tour buses to sit in the baking sun. We walked around to the front of the mosque, looking at the vendor art before deciding to move onward.

There was one vendor that caught my attention, which then brought about my mom’s attention. The man had painted on a small animal hide, then stretched the hide in a frame, creating an open frame concept around amazing artistry. I chose to move on, though my mom contemplated a purchase.

She passed it up, though I have a feeling we will be back.

The next stop was the Saadian Tombs. Another example of beautiful handcrafted Moroccan artisan work with plaster and wood, the tombs were buried for 400 years in the middle of Marrakech. It wasn’t until the early 20th Century when a pilot saw the tombs from the air that the city realized an amazing historical artifact was sitting right in front of them under a pile of sand.

Apparently, a king didn’t like his people traveling to Marrakech to pay homage. It wasn’t about who was in the tombs; it was about his people should stay home and pay homage to him only. So the tombs were buried, and now people stand for hours in queue to lean in at the edge and see the beautiful interior.

Of course, Vivian was more interested in the turtle who was minding its own business, trying to avoid the sun.

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Main chamber of the Saadian Tombs

After the tombs, we walked through the souks (markets) on our way back to our riad. Unlike the medina in Fez, Marrakech’s medina and souks have slightly wider avenues, providing better landmarks for us to find our way. As we walked back to our riad, my mom and I were taking note of the landmarks that will help us navigate the next two days.

The largest difference in Marrakech compared to where we’ve been so far is the number of tourists. Chefchaouen was crowded with tourists, but tour buses couldn’t reach the small medina and the riads were incapable of handling the traffic. So tourism was limited to smaller parties.

While we stayed in a hotel with larger tour groups in Fez, we were not as exposed to the huge tour groups as we moved around the medina, due to size and access. In fact, Arfoud was the first time I really felt completely surrounded by tourists, but it was only one resort and we stayed very little time.

As we made our way over the mountains, the number of tour buses on the road increased exponentially. All to arrive in Marrakech, apparently.

The souks were filled with tourists, donned in their summer attire of shorts and tank tops and naked midriffs, exposing their fleshy white skin. At one point, I randomly stated “I would not be comfortable,” to which our travel companion just stared at my burst of words.

I shook off her curiosity, explaining I have a tendency to blurt words mid-thought without any connection. Which is true, I admit.

The reality is I dress modestly in my every day life because genetics have gifted me with pale ginger tendencies that do not respond to sun other than to burn, and I don’t feel that anyone should be subjected to the blindness inducing organ that is my skin. However, before coming to Morocco I researched the country’s standards of dress so I wouldn’t be too offensive, despite my lack of head covering, shorter sleeves, and American accent.

After nearly two full weeks in more conservative areas, I was overwhelmed by how the tourists were dressed.

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Vivian’s friend

Dinner involved a restaurant across from the Koutaubia Mosque, where I was assigned responsibility for handling the language barrier between our server and the rest of our travel party. The server had a horrible evening as I watched all his tables fill in the space of five minutes, after which he was subjected to an American and Australian yelling for not understanding their drink order. A drink that was not on the menu, no less.

I am a firm believer that a smile and a thank you goes a long way in this life in helping overcome barriers. This vacation has affirmed that belief.

Despite the confusion and chaos, I felt comfortable and in my element. So much so we navigated through the night performers in the square and into the medina despite most of our landmarks disappearing with the setting sun.

Tomorrow we will visit the Majorelle Gardens where there is a berber and Yves St. Laurent museum (odd combination, if you ask me) and will spend our afternoon on our own in the market. I’m finally wandering and absorbing, though I feel Vivian might be holding on by a thread.

Navigation Gets Solid Footing

April 17, 2019

I turn the collection of memories in my mind, a large tile with color and nuance, texture and depth. My brain decides it’s too large to fit the mosaic that has tiles added every day.

So it starts chipping away, like the workers in Fez, shaping the tile into a smaller piece that will have it’s place in the overall experience. Wait, no! I want that memory!

My brain doesn’t listen, chipping and shaping in a predesignated pattern only it understands as I struggle to hold onto pieces turning to dust.

No, please don’t take that part, I loved that part.

I’m on my knees, tile shards slipping through my fingers as I try holding onto the full picture of smiles and laughs, comments and impressions. With tears in my eyes, I look up at the mosaic in front of me and see only bits and pieces left.

A quirk of a smile and lift of an eyebrow. A giggle of enjoyment at a loose tooth. A patient wrist stirring chocolate into milk. Sunlight warming my face. The burn of tears as I face my mom’s health. Deep eyes sad with goodbye. Regret and loss.

Fez has a small place in the overall mosaic in my mind, pushed aside by the overwhelming amount of information that has been added since then.

My heart hurts. This is not fair.

I mourn the tiny pieces I am allowed, especially since my heart has left a large chunk of it in the old city filled with tradition and history.

*

Today we left the oasis in the middle of Skoura, heading towards Marrakech. The last few days have been the hardest on all of us, as we have moved every night, journeyed through the desert – on a camel with no nameand found a small respite within an oasis of familiarity and comfort.

The changes every night have been particularly trying for Vivian, and this morning she had a hard time leaving the one place she felt was designed for her. Bad enough I made her leave the desert yesterday, but today she had to leave a playhouse and playground as well.

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Lost tooth

Even the excitement of a loose tooth is gone, as the tooth came out with an apple bite yesterday as we journeyed from Todgha Gorges to Skoura.

Today we started our tour in Ouarzazate, the cinema capital of Morocco. Movies such as Lawrence of Arabia and The Gladiator were filmed there, and we spent a few minutes walking through the movie sets.

Though movie sets in general don’t interest me, since they are fake, Vivian had a breakdown and needed some focused time. So she and I played hide and seek, tag, and a few other games that wouldn’t interfere with the environment.

Mom and our travel companion cared very little for spending much time at the movie sets, so we were leaving about the time the larger tour buses full of people started showing up.

Then we began our ascent up into the High Atlas Mountains. The road was narrow with switch backs and questionable drivers. Our driver navigated the stress of a lot of drivers with very little road as we moved towards the tallest point in Morocco.

We stopped for lunch at the summit, where Vivian had cheese pizza once again. Our driver communicated my mom’s eating situation, so we were able to get a smaller tailored lunch for her, as well. Unlike my travel companions, I have developed a particular taste for some traditional Moroccan cuisine, such as Couscous aux legumes (vegetable couscous) and the variety of ways they cook eggplant.

Unfortunately, the tangine cooked meal was only available if you called ahead, so I ate cheese pizza with Vivian.

Then we began our descent towards Marrakech with road construction added to the mass amounts of traffic and a tiny road. In an attempt to straighten and widen the road, they are digging out parts of the mountains. Unlike the States where mountain roadwork tends to occur in five mile increments, Morocco is working on the entire northern side of the mountains at one time.

According to our driver, they’ve been working on it for 6 years and there is only one stretch of about half a mile that is finished.

Once we reached the foothills, it was an uninteresting and flat drive into the Marrakech. We knew we had reached the city when we started seeing golf courses and pink hotels. Our driver informed us that the city itself has over 50 golf courses with each resort having their own, plus the royal golf course that is a public course.

The reason it is named the Royal Golf Course is because the previous king was an adamant golfer, not as I assumed that it was reserved for those who are of the royal entourage.

Since I’m more comfortable with our driver by this point, I started asking more questions about the monarchy. Finally, he said “Michelle, I cannot answer these questions.” This is not the first time he’s ignored or sidestepped a question I’ve asked, which doesn’t offend me.

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Laundry time

After all, I’m pretty sure I’m still violating norms and certain ways things are handled here without realizing it. However, I have gained more grasp of saying hello and thank you in Arabic, as well as how to navigate without too many overt issues.

As we moved further into the city, I could sense how Marrakech is unlike anywhere else we’ve been so far. First, there are far more tourists and tour buses here, and the tourists do very little to adapt how they dress or act. Second, the entire vibe is an urban, bustling modern city vibe.

While my sentimentality seems to be solidly in Fez, I can see Marrakech will be where I can come into my own as far as comfort and self direction.

In fact, other than our guided tour tomorrow, our plan is to forgo the additional six hours of driving to the seaport of Essaouira and focus on meandering the souks (markets). Our travel companion has wanted to wander and shop for almost the entire trip, and it appears in Marrakech we will be allowed the freedom to move at will.

And if we aren’t allowed, I will take it. Tonight I googled a map of the old city and where we are located, and I’ve been marking landmarks since our walk into the medina. At this point, I will pop any bubble so I can get some wandering in.

Washing Off Peace in an Oasis

April 12, 2019

“I want to quit my job,” he says through the crackling of shaky wifi.

I pause for a beat, then ask, “and do what?”

“I don’t know. Not work. Not have stress,” he replies.

The bottom of my heart has been sliced open, and blood is draining into my stomach. “Do you want me to find a full-time job and you can quit?” I ask around the olive pit that just formed in my throat.

“I don’t know,” he replies.

“We’ll talk when I get home,” I say before saying goodbye as Vivian pulls on my arm.

Later at night my thoughts begin to circle in my head, and anxiety builds on itself. I think of the time spent earning the equivalent of minimum wage ghost writing for the few hours Vivian is in school or late at night. The time spent struggling to get her moved from school to dance while cleaning and shopping and cooking. The stress about paying bills and being pulled apart from every direction on few hours of sleep.

From the noise in my head, my commitment to my mom about going to every doctor’s appointment emerges.

I shut my eyes against hot tears of frustration and hopelessness.

*

Today started with me walking through the stillness, my feet moving as much backwards as forward in the deep sand. In silence, Vivian and I sat on a chair facing the East. The wind wound her hair in ribbons past my face as my scarf billowed towards the North. Mists of sand crested the dune next to us, settling in rivulets as it fell on the leeward side.

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Vivian tries to leave her mark, but it disappears quickly

At first I tried to keep the chair from sinking into the sand dune, but with both me and Vivian sitting on a small metal chair, the effort was wasted.

In silence we watched the sky turn pale blue in preparation, mixing small amounts of white until an orange line broke across the sky.

The sun cleared the horizon, bathing the sand for another day. For one moment I am breathless, and Vivian is still. The world stopped moving, and nothing and everything existed in one moment of time.

Unfortunately, the night was long and filled with the wind howling against the side of our tent. Vivian woke talking about dreams of monsters shaking the tent, and I explained about the wind. After watching the sunrise, we moved towards the dining tent for our breakfast.

Breakfast for me consisted mostly of coffee. My eyes felt as if the entire Sahara’s worth of sand was behind my eyelids. And it looked as if my mom and our travel companion weren’t moving any time soon.

Which proved to be accurate. Our 4×4 driver came to pick us up around breakfast time, and the three of us waited for over an hour as the other two gathered themselves together. Apparently the 4×4 plus camel ride caused our travel companion to have an injury to her leg. My mom is not sleeping, nor is she eating, so she is not doing well in the mornings in general.

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My little camel

While I walked around the camp, trying to absorb the last amounts of peace I could before we faced another long drive, Vivian pretended to be a camel on top of a sand dune. Our driver occupied himself by filling a water bottle full of desert sand for Vivian.

One by one, the other parties of the camp climbed into their Land Rovers, heading onward in their vacations. Finally, the two emerged from their tent ready to face another day.

Vivian didn’t want to leave the desert. In fact, she would have been content playing on the sand dune for another few days. Several times she was asked if she wanted to stay by the various people around us, and her reply was she didn’t have the right clothes. She said she would need their robe and turbans in order to live in the desert with them.

Though she told that to only me after they smiled and turned away. Vivian still barely responds to the people who engage with her.

Since we were last to leave, our driver was given a pair of glasses forgotten by another party within the camp. We took off across the dunes, following no set road other than our driver’s sense of where he was. We crossed another camp where initially we were to drop off the glasses. Instead, we picked up a pair of earrings as our vehicle slowly drove a circle around a man who was standing and talking to him.

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Since we were the last group from the furthest camp, we had the honor of sweeping up. I watched in fascination at the efficiency in which we relayed the two items to another truck in the middle of the desert, neither vehicle stopping to prevent sinking in the sand. Each vehicle slowed to a crawl as items were handed across open windows. The other truck turned, heading off in another direction as our driver turned us towards our rendezvous point with our regular driver at his hotel.

Once settled in our regular van, we turned toward Skoura in a long drive that would take us past ksars and a gorge where we could see their irrigation in play. Also, we stopped by a site to see the old irrigation system of Morocco.

Since above ground aqueducts would cause too much water loss from evaporation, they dug channels under ground from the mountains into the desert. In order to create a natural pump, they dug holes 30 feet deep in the ground which would create air pressure to move the water.

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A very deep and old hole

Morocco has long since used generators and modern technology, but it was fascinating to see the miles of holes in a straight line from the mountains. So many man hours and innovation to irrigate agriculture in areas without water.

After a few stops at the Togha Gorges and for lunch, we reached our destination in Skoura. Our travel companion thought we were heading directly to Marrakech, which was too far from our desert stay for a one day drive. She kept asking our driver where he was taking us, to which he responded “an oasis.”

Driving down tight roads with corners our van could barely navigate, we reached our riad for the night. The land was purchased by a Dutch tour guide and her French husband 20 years ago and originally contained a grove of 6 date trees.

Since then they have literally created an oasis. Once we walked through the gates, we were welcomed by lush turf grass, tall trees, and pathways that meandered through various sitting areas. Our hostess gave us a tour, asked if we had any interest in swimming in the pool, and then showed me and Vivian where they had a play area with a slide and trampoline.

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Perfect place for Vivian

As excited as Vivian was about the slide, she was more interested in the free standing tree house that was near the horse pen. She played in the tree house until dinner. allowing me and my mom to take turns with a very hot shower to wash away the desert dust that had settled into every crevice.

The meal was well done with a crackling fire next to us and french music mixed with Frank Sinatra overhead. I felt very far from the desert, even as I walked along the lantern lit pathways to our room.

I am struggling with the paradox my mind has seen over the last few nights. Having gone from a family resort to the desert to this enclave oasis in the middle of nowhere, I am moving on autopilot and Vivian is struggling to maintain stability. We are on the downhill side of our trip, and I sense reality will be rushing towards us faster than I want.

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Atomic Level Stillness

April 11, 2019

“You don’t want to go to one of those places without a guide,” our driver says when I ask why we need a guide for the market.

“Why not?” I challenge, not impertinent but impatient to immerse a little more than we have.

“For one, don’t you want to know the history of the kasbah that is there, and maybe about what you see?” he asks as he looks at each one of us while we thoughtfully chew our lunch.

We each nod.

“Plus, you will be hassled,” he adds, taking a bite.

“Hassling does not bother me,” I say like a child pushing curfew.

“You will not like this hassling, Michelle,” he looks at me with the smile of a tolerant parent.

I give in for now. But I will have my time of wandering outside the bubble.

*

Today we left our resort of one night in Arfoud to journey to the Ksar Rissani to see an old trader’s kasbah, a shrine to the first king of the current dynasty, and stop at a small market that is held on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays.

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Ksar that is still residence for spice traders from the desert

I have learned the use of kasbah is often incorrect, as a kasbah refers to a single dwelling within a medina or city. What most people refer to as kasbahs are called ksars, or a village fortress. I can barely remember how to pronounce thank you in Arabic, so I am sure I will forget this, also.

While the facts and dates from our guide swirled around my head, I focused on the difference in dress and people here compared to Fez and Chefchaouen. While most people in the village are Berber, there are a scattering of Arabic as well as a few from deeper within the desert and Africa. The clothing was more representative of the desert, though the traditional djellaba is found everywhere.

The market consisted of the same items we found in Fez, though of different quantities. According to our guide, the fresh fruit is brought from other regions as this region only grows root vegetables and dates. At the butcher we saw camel legs for sale, along with fish. The guide reminded us how far away we are from the ocean, so the fish is not the freshest compared to Chefchaouen or Casablanca.

Today I learned how to tie a turban, and I almost walked out with a purchase. Vivian had a head scarf tied, though when she saw herself in the mirror and couldn’t see her face, she cried. Our travel companion thinks Vivian scared herself when she looked in the mirror.

I think Vivian is still struggling with culture shock. The constant touching and attention is wearing on her, especially considering she likes to observe before choosing how she engages.

Our travel companion came alive in the market, while my mom seemed to wilt and lack her normal attention and interest. Although all three of us paid attention when the guide talked about the healing properties of camel’s milk.

Apparently camel’s milk is good for cancers of the digestive system.

After the market, Vivian had her first pizza in Morocco, which was also one of the first full meals she’s eaten here. While not a picky eater, Vivian is becoming resistant to eating when we sit down for food. Today she ate everything. Including some candied pastry our travel companion picked up in the market.

I had a moment of concern regarding her getting sick, but I will deal with that if it comes. After all, I let her take a piece of candy from a vendor in the Fez medina, and her system handled it. Apparently, it’s the three adults who are falling apart.

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A rocky non-road to the sand dunes of Merzouga

We returned to Arfoud to wait for our 4×4 driver who would take us to our camel transports and Merzouga. Expecting only a 30 minute ride, we were informed the camel ride would take about 90 – 120 minutes. No going back; we all agreed.

The camel ride was a unique experience, especially since I’m used to having stirrups when riding an animal. I’ve decided they are much better left in romantic imagination, as our backsides began to feel every hard bump in our grass saddles. As our travel companion blithely stated, “someone put a pea in my saddle.”

I did not think of fairy tales, but I did have a familiar song running through my head non-stop after about 45 minutes of seeing sand blow towards me. … been through the desert on a horse, wait no, camel with no name… I almost regretted not buying cloth for a turban.

Our camel did have a name, and it was clear the affection the animals had for our handler.

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Been through the desert – with a 4 year-old

While our travel companion moaned and started asking about our ETA, I absorbed the absolute soul deep peacefulness of the desert. There is no other way for me to describe it. Silence away from electronics is nothing new, and I have experienced silence on different levels in various places. But what I felt in the desert was a stillness that I haven’t felt elsewhere. Stillness at the atomic level.

So still I didn’t even mind the grumbling as our journey neared it’s end. Once we reached the camp, our companion was hobbling toward the host and her tent as fast as her legs could carry her.

While my travel sickness resolved itself in Fez, it appears her constant companion this trip is digestive issues.

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Hot chocolate in a Berber camp

What I did find interesting is our camel wrangler had a cell phone, even out towards our Berber replica campsite. Apparently, cell phones have really connected the entire world. There wasn’t any wifi, though that didn’t stop me from initially sitting down to write. Until I thought, wait I’m in the Sahara desert, why am I on my computer?

However, the campsite was hardly the camping in the wilderness I experienced as a child. We had electricity, showers, and flushing toilets.

Part one of two things Vivian was excited for is finished, and more than half our trip is complete. Despite not leaving supper until 10 p.m. and being exhausted this entire trip, I will set the alarm to watch the sunrise. I just hope the Berber camp has strong coffee.

The First Pangs of Goodbye

April 10, 2019

“Are the chefs coming with us?” Vivian asks while I pack up the remaining items in our hotel room.

“You mean like Mohamed? No, sweetie, they work here and will stay here in Fez,” I answer abstractly, knowing she’s referring to the staff who are here day and night regardless the time. I don’t want to forget anything.

“Oh. I don’t want to leave,” Vivian looks at the floor, struggling to process leaving the faces she’s grown familiar with and has started to trust.

I look at my daughter for a minute before sitting on the bed and pulling her on my lap. I talk about traveling and taking trips and how even though we enjoy a certain area and how we are sad when we leave, we keep moving forward to see and learn more. Talking too much, she’s not hearing you.

“Do you know why we are leaving?” I ask her.

She shakes her head, still struggling with her sadness.

“We are going to ride a camel in a day. Tonight, we stay in a new place, then the next day is the desert and camel,” I lay out our timeline, highlighting the part she’s been looking forward to.

Her eyes light up and she starts helping me pack up the room. I take a breath, trying to prepare myself for our goodbyes.

*

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A rooftop goodbye to Fez

We begin our long drive from Fez to Arfoud, a town bordering on the Saraha desert. I don’t feel I have seen the full amount of Fez that I could or should have seen, but it’s time to move onward as we try to see the full variety of the country before heading back to the States.

At breakfast we learned why we saw the same staff regardless of the time of day: They work 15 – 16 hours days. Though I have no confirmation we were assigned a staff member, we saw and managed to talk a little with the same person for every breakfast.

Also, this means they start work at 7 a.m. when breakfast service begins and do not end their day until 10 p.m. or later, after the last dinner is served and cleaned up.

From the standpoint of a tourist, or Vivian, this creates a sense of comfort and familiarity as we see the same face day in and day out. By day 3 in Fez, Vivian trusted who she saw and that they would make sure she was taken care of. For the staff, this makes for a very long day.

New boundaries have been drawn, as our travel companion asserted her displeasure with our driver before getting into the van. At the same time, I was running around with the staff member who seemed always there for us, making sure to get the items both my mom and our travel companion forgot in their room.

Once all items were in the van and we said our goodbyes, I did as I was asked the previous evening and informed our driver we needed to make two stops on our way out of Fez. After this, I am extricating myself as point person in this trip.

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Vivian’s mall treat

The first stop was the bank, as intended the day before. The second was the mall so our travel companion could pick up some wine. Wine has not been easily found in Morocco to date, and she decided it was time for her to take things into her own hands. While the morning did not start as early as our driver intended, for the first time we enjoyed walking around modern Morocco as we wandered the mall.

Finally, with wine in hand, we started a very long drive to the southeast. Conversation waxed and waned in comfortable tides of getting to know each other as we settled into a more comfortable rhythm of talk. My mom and her travel companion have been on several trips together, so this was more a chance for her and me to get to know one another.

Apparently, our travel companion is feeling better. I can say my travel sickness resolved itself in Fez, so I will not have that burden while meandering through the desert on a camel.

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Race to the top

We stopped for a quick coffee in Ifrane, the Switzerland of Morocco. The stop gave us a better sense of what we wanted from the trip, and things mellowed into a rhythm of enjoyment.

As we wandered back to the van, I saw old steps set into a hill. The steps lead up but it appeared there were a set of steps that came down near the van. On impulse, I told my mom we would meet her at the van then said to Vivian, “Race you to the top.”

She and I played a quiet game of walking tag at the top, staying away from families taking pictures, and then ran back down to the van to continue on our way.

As we moved southward, the cultural demographic changed. We saw less European and Arabic influence and more Berber culture.

A quick stop for lunch in Midelt found us in a small, out of the way restaurant ran by a widow. Once again too much food was presented, even though the driver had told me it was not normal for them to eat like this every meal. I felt so wasteful, seeing all the food we didn’t eat. The driver said to not worry, her children would eat the leftovers.

After a small conversation with our driver this morning regarding the amount of food my mom is capable of eating, I don’t feel that we are offending the widow as we would have with previous hosts. We are relying more on our driver to communicate for us, and so far it’s helping. At least, for this one day.

Finally, we reached our destination in Arfoud, where our hotel appeared to be a sprawling resort of Sahara fun. The supper was buffet style, mostly designed around European and American food sensibilities, with ornate Berber decorations and uniformed staff. The sprawling resort had rental dune buggies and motorcycles, as well as a pool with swim up snack and alcohol bar.

While comfortable, I was glad we were staying only one night and set to leave the next day for a camp in the desert. Although I have very few expectations for this trip, there was something very Disney or Las Vegas to the hotel that I struggled to reconcile in my mind.

While the riad in Fez hosted larger tour groups, we were immersed in Fez and only saw the groups in passing in the lobby. Here we were immersed in home, though I hear a lot more French and Spanish than English. The staff are speaking Spanish to Vivian, which she understands and responds to more than French or Arabic, but it is making her withdrawal a little since she has not heard Spanish here except when we practice her vocabulary.

Tomorrow we will take a tour of a small village market before returning to the hotel to head out to the desert. We have finally reached Vivian’s focal point. I hope she is not disappointed. Also, I am starting to wonder how the rest of the trip will go once her focus has passed.

And I realized I left my washcloth in Fez. Like the clothes hangers, my washcloth is not a necessity but a convenience I will definitely miss. I have not bought a single souvenir, but I have left them everywhere I’ve been.

Lady Bugs and Attempts at Breaking Free

April 9, 2019

“Let’s follow the clues, ok?” Vivian is looking at a cement bench that was covered in graffiti. While I recognized the English curse words, she cannot read and does not.

“Okay,” I agree. The park our driver brought us to is not exactly a let a kid run out and play park. Instead, we are in the royal gardens across from the palace.

However, I love the smell of the air and being around lush vegetation, and if I play Vivian’s game, she won’t know the difference.

“What’s it tell us to do?” I ask her.

“We go this way to find lady bugs,” she states, walking to her right.

I straighten my head scarf and hat, and respond, “ok, let’s go.”

No matter where we look or follow the clues, we cannot find any lady bugs. We did find a nice Australian couple. Thy recognize us as American and start a conversation. They are here with a group of eight friends. He shows Vivian a picture of a lady bug, the only lady bug we will see today.

We go our separate ways, and finally I convince Vivian we should sit down for a moment to enjoy the trees.

“But Mom, you are sitting on the clues!” she exclaims, expressing her frustration at not having the free time she was expecting.

I grab her onto my lap and begin tickling her. “Tickle monsters don’t care about clues,” I say over her shrieks.

For once I’m not worried about the looks, my daughter deserves a moment for herself.

*

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Looking for lady bugs

Although the four of us intended to meet for breakfast before Vivian and I went to the park, my mom and our travel companion chose to take a long morning. Vivian and I found ourselves sitting at breakfast alone before meeting our driver, giving me plenty of time to just look around at our surroundings.

A large riad, our hotel has 40 rooms total, set around 4 plazas. The main tile motif is blue and white that I later learn are Fez colors, with various water features in each plaza. Only one plaza remains open to the roof, while the other three have been covered.

Until the day we left, I struggled with orientation in the hotel, which was a weird sense for me. Usually my sense of direction is amazing, but the historical building confused my internal compass.

It was easy to go unnoticed in the riad. Due to the large size and location within the outer walls of the medina, the location appeared ideal for larger touring groups. This means there were often groups of 16 people being shuffled in through breakfast and dinner or tunneled through the lobby to their various rooms.

I didn’t mind being a small group, and I could see our assigned staff member was overworked since most of the larger groups were English speaking. I didn’t confirm, but it appeared staff was assigned based on strength in a certain language. Despite requiring less attention, and thus receiving less attention, Vivian was often noticed and fawned over. After all, the average age of the groups is 60 years old, so seeing someone of Vivian’s age was a novelty.

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After our breakfast, Vivian and I walked up the short alleyway to meet our driver, and we were on our way. The royal gardens had a variety of different areas, all designed to provide a varied aesthetic. What I found more interesting was the edge of Fez against the garden furthest from the palace. The difference between the buildings and the lushness of the garden was striking, especially since most of the buildings needed repair compared to the gardens or the palace on the opposite side.

I carried an uncomfortable message from our driver to my mom and travel companion, informing them he would not be back though they planned on going to the bank. They had not informed me of their other plans, such as driving around Fez for shopping, and he took the opportunity to spend some time at home.

I inquired about local lunch places, which reception said they felt uncomfortable referring us to anything to prevent sickness. Irritation ensued while we stayed in the hotel to eat lunch. The general feeling from the other two was they were being held hostage in the riad. After all, we were told the medina is too confusing to walk but they have no driver.

After I put in some effort at small talk, which is not my forte, moods lightened, and a plan was agreed upon.

After making sure Vivian took a nap, we would walk on our own. I figured a bank had to be near, and why not try to recover the day. Vivian woke from a very long nap, but our travel companion was sleeping again so my mom, Vivian, and I ventured out on our own. I felt a slight difference between having a guide and when we were on our own.

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It was the first time we had gone outside without some form of guide or our driver. While Vivian and I had walked on our own in Chefchaouen, the environment was much more contained. Plus, I had a clear sense people were making sure we got where we were expected. Finally, we wandered beyond the protective bubble.

We received more attention, especially since we were walking beyond where most tourists move, and we were such a small group. But I noticed very little difference other than once or twice when my attention was sought aggressively.

I was more focused on making sure Vivian did not get hit by a car and that my mom had enough energy to make it back to the hotel to meet the individual who was to walk us to our dinner that evening.

While we could have found the restaurant on our own, as Mom and I walked past it twice while wandering, our watchful friends are careful to not require that we find our own way for meals or sightseeing. Unlike individual travel, this is what comes from having a tour company responsible for our safety.

The restaurant was a small riad, run by a man who used to be a tour driver. Once his daughters reached a certain age, he knew he wanted to be home for them. He spent some time talking about how he designed his house, more specifically his specific design of blue and white tile in respect of the Jewish community.

Our host came from a Berber tribe. His father, struggling to find work, came to Fez and started working for an Army captain. After a while, he sent for his family. Our host was given the opportunity to receive education in Fez, unlike all his cousins who remained with the tribe, and one of the distinctive aspects of his education was his exposure to all the cultures.

While his father was a hard worker and did as well as he could, our host felt he owed his education at the hands of all Moroccan culture for giving him a path unlike his cousins. For that reason, he made sure all Morocco was represented.

The food was delicious, though too much for any of us to eat, and the dessert was beyond anything to date. Most of our desserts have been fresh fruit that is delicious and perfect for me after a large meal. However, the riad served a formed chocolate pudding covered in chocolate gonache and topped with an almond praline.

The dessert was a sweet reminding of a bitter ending, as we are set to leave Fez in the morning for a long drive southward towards the desert. We have come to know the people who are around us daily in the riad, and the next stretch will be a different room every night as we venture into the sand dunes of the Sahara.

I know I am just a tourist, being shuffled through a business where people meet new tourists daily, but some of the connections we are making are real regardless. Also, Vivian takes time to warm up to people. We will see how she handles moving every night.

Rooftop view from the riad

“What are you doing?” Vivian watches me from the bed while I try to find places to put wet clothes.

“I’m doing our laundry,” I reply, deciding I was definitely going to miss the hangers.

“Why?” she asks.

“Because we packed only a few clothes for each of us. Each time we stay somewhere longer than a night, I will do laundry,” I reply with half my mind on the laundry and half my mind aware she will need food soon or risk a breakdown.

“Oh. Will we stay here awhile?”

“Yes, sweetheart. We will live in this room for three nights.”

“Okay, good. I like it here,” she returns to her tablet while I lean over and kiss her forehead.

“Good, me too.”

*

Today we approached the maze of Fez’s medina, ready to take on whatever history chose to show us. Unfortunately, our travel companion was not feeling well, which would explain her bout of grumpiness yesterday.

I have come down with a moderate case of traveler’s illness, but I’m stubborn and will not miss the tour of the medina for all the stomach cramps in the world. Mind over matter.

We began our day with a driving tour to overlook both Fes el Bali (the original city of Fez, referred to by the locals as the medina) and the new city. From there we drove down along the palace walls and saw the original Jewish quarter along with the gate to the traditional Muslim quarter.

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The new and old city of Fez

After 1950, a lot of the Jewish community emigrated out of Morocco. The remaining Jewish community has long since moved to another section of the city, though this area is still heavily regarded in city history.

Following our walk around the Jewish quarter, we stopped by the Zallige Factory. Sponsored by the state and heavily pushed as an occupation, the factory teaches apprentices how to make Morocco’s beautiful and world renown handmade ceramic tiles and mosaic art pieces.

It was fascinating the steps taken in each touching of the clay, from original gray soil to finished pieces. What blew my mind was each mosaic piece is placed on a mold upside down with the pattern residing only in the master’s head. Twenty-five years of experience before one can be considered a master.

From there we drove to one of the several gates of the medina where we walked in for our lunch. Our travel companion intended to return to the hotel since she was not feeling well. I will admit I wasn’t sure what I would find as we followed our guide through the narrow sand and stucco hallways of the medina. I did not expect to walk through a giant door into a two-story plaza surrounded by colorful mosaics and carved plaster, beautiful in artistry and ornateness.

So far, the restaurant had the best food with an amazing vegetable couscous.

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Wood Museum: Fez Medina

After lunch, three of us continued deeper into the medina while our travel companion went back to the hotel to rest. The tour consisted of narrow hallways that opened into larger courtyards, surrounded by houses, shops, and conservation sites like museums, shrines, and mosques. Deemed a UNISECO site in 1981, the medina is home to over 300,000 residents.

 

Dating back to 798 A.D., the medina is the oldest city in Morocco and still maintains most of the original boundaries, walls, and historical markings. The medina itself has not changed size since the 14th Century, due to the exterior walls.

In 2009, UNISECO considered the site at risk and began funneling funds to maintain its historical nature.

As we learned from our driver, this has caused some needed changes by also stress. Many people live and work in the medina as it is a location that is inexpensive for them to live, unlike the outside “new city.” Yet the requirements for house maintenance have become expensive and time consuming with UNISECO deciding what material can be used. The State provides 10 – 20 percent, but for many families the choice becomes one of selling or living in houses that are becoming safety hazards.

For the families that have chosen to sell, the buyers are often foreigners who are refurnishing the buildings and opening businesses, but the money is not necessarily supporting the locals within the medina.

From a tourist standpoint, the medina is breathtaking. Some sites that were long

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Looking down a stairway at an old theology university

abandoned have been restored and are now public places. An old marketplace for caravan traders is now a wood museum, and an old theology university is slowly being restored to its original grandeur.

What struck me the most was how narrow the streets were for each house to open into wide open plazas with beautiful wood and plaster work, the sun shining down from open (though now covered with plastic) skylights. Each house is its own fortress, surrounded by other fortresses and the exterior wall.

Getting lost would be easy, just as getting overwhelmed by the donkeys and crowds could become too much, but I was just enjoying each moment. However, I was very aware of when I saw someone more than once, especially if they walked past us several times in quick succession or if money changed hands with our guide when he least expected eyes on him.

Also, I often heard “American” after seeing someone walk past once or twice to hear us talk to each other.

The layers of what I see are continuing to develop into a fabric of the tourist trade in Morocco. I am not as bothered by what I see, as I settle into how I observe things at home. No judgement or personal feelings, just acceptance of seeing the small details in human existence.

In fact, I played carrier pigeon after dinner, carrying the small sealed envelope from our supper location to our driver. Though I didn’t open the envelope, I knew the contents were a kickback for bringing business that would be paid for by the tour company. It was one of several stacked envelopes, after we were sat in a room with only tourists in what we were told “is our family home.”

Walking deeper into the medina brought us to the tannery, and National Geographic became multidimensional for me. As tourists, we were provided sprigs of mint for our noses in case we were too sensitive to the smell of lye stripping hides and prepping them for dye.

After watching the proceedings, Vivian decided she wanted to work in the tannery. I think she was fascinated as she watched animal skin take on a bright pink color. She didn’t use her mint once, saying she liked the smell of the tannery.

Slowly we worked our way back out of the medina and to our driver, who took us back to the riad. The plan for tomorrow is Vivian and I will go to a park to give her some free run while my mom and our traveling companion will decide what to do in the afternoon.

The day would not be as we expected, bringing about drama that will make me decide to extricate myself from what appears to be an unofficial tour guide and communicator role that has been forced upon me.

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View from the second floor of the wood artistry museum. Every hotel and riad we’ve stayed in has this same wood detail in the plaza.

Possible Potion for Failure

April 7, 2019

Most of us are not aware of our cultural indoctrination until we force ourselves into isolation away from our comfort zone. This also applies to our patterns of living and existing.

As far as travel companions go, my mom is probably the least inclined to create conflict since she has traveled on her own in  large groups, often making long term friendships with people she chats up along the way.

Unfortunately, she has not been super chatty this trip due to not feeling 100 percent.

Since I have Vivian and am the person who found the tour company and took initiative on this trip, I am the one who carries the most guilt. Entirely on my own shoulders, created by my own nature.

The other two travel companions are both the youngest and oldest, with 70 years separating their life experiences. Today our long drive from Chefchaouen through Volubilis to Fez exhibited some of our inherent personality traits as well as our awareness to our environment.

Although each of us was emailed the itinerary in both detailed and broad strokes, not all of us read it in the same detail. I did not memorize our path, but I’m carrying it in my laptop bag for reference just in case. Also, I have a general sense that most of our road travels are not direct routes but have stops along the way.

So, did I know we planned on stopping at Volubilis to tour the Roman ruins? No, but I enjoyed and went along with it.

Our travel companion did read the itinerary in great detail, but she seemed to forget we were touring the ruins. Unfortunately, she grumbled a lot during the tour, often asking the tour guide if he intended to walk the whole way around. As she said, she’s seen a lot of Roman ruins in her lifetime. Plus,  tours are difficult for her as she struggles with the accents of our native guides.

At one point she sat down on a wall and we continued walking, picking her up about ten minutes later as we walked by again.

My mom was not feeling well due to driving out of the mountains, so she was struggling to be engaged in her usual manner, which involves notebooks and notes writing down main key points from the tour.

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Vivian’s crown in front of mosaic tile

Which left me and Vivian. The guide made Vivian a crown of flowers, which she took off immediately after he put it on her head. Of course, as soon as she became used to the idea and comfortable with him, she started pointing out every blooming weed as a hint for inclusion in her princess crown.

The Romans knew how to pick a site, as Volubilis is situated at the top of a hill overlooking a fertile valley where they could plant and harvest olives for Rome. After all, Rome was interested in harvesting the resources from Northern Morocco and cared very little for anything else about the countryside.

LRM_EXPORT_79954583244393_20190409_153705638-1.jpegAs we walked, we looked at the various mosaic tiles and what they tell archaeologists about the house’s owner and the society in Volubilis. Currently, 58 percent of the ruins are unexcavated. Also, there was a large earthquake that disturbed the ruins, offsetting Caligula’s gate.

The tour guide had some interesting words to share with our driver when we returned to the van. Of course, I caught the exchange out of the corner of my eye. Just as I am catching many things out of the corner of my eyes and ears.

One thing I have become sensitive to is the word American. In our traveling to date, we have met and had casual conversations with a lot of different tourists. However, almost all are either European or Australian. We have not met another group of Americans.

So my awareness to the word is heightened, knowing the conversation refers to us.

I’m not so unrealistic to assume I can travel the world and immerse myself, blending seamlessly into whatever culture I’m in. The reasons I was so interested in coming to Morocco is because I would be exposed to so many different environments that are unlike anything I’ve experienced or would have opportunity to experience again.

Yet intellectual intents rarely align with initial reality. Part of the pressure on my psyche is I see and am aware of multiple layers of things occurring around us. Our travel companion does not care how other cultures perceive her, partly due to generation and partly due to her age.

Also, she has done a far amount of traveling, setting up dental clinics in Africa and South America with her husband.

My mother has always traveled in large groups, and I doubt her health allows her much awareness right now. Plus, my mother has always been more extroverted and engages with her environment on her terms in her perception, which is strongly rooted in conservative America.

While I do not understand the words between our driver and the guide, I understand the comments he made that I was not supposed to see. Just as I know our driver receives kick backs as he moves us through the country, calling his friends and maneuvering us for his benefit. This doesn’t bother me, as it is no different than any other culture in the world, including America.

I won’t even say I have much culture shock at this point, though I feel like I am violating norms without realizing it.

The part I struggle with the most is having a spotlight on me. I live my life in the background, watching and observing others while going unnoticed myself. I interact on a one on one basis with few individuals at a time, and for the most part am content to observe humanity from the audience. Easily done when I blend into the surrounding culture.

Now I am “American,” traveling with a 4 year-old and two elderly women. Unwanted attention was inevitable.

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Additions to Vivian’s crown.

After our short and what felt like failed “touring” of the ruins, we were on the road to Fez where we will be for three nights. I was sad to leave Chefchaouen, and I’m a bit doubtful this journey will be as seamless and effortless as I once thought, but I’m hopeful about what the rest of the trip will present.

With time and exposure, I will find my own comfort zone within this country and within this travel group of four very different people and a driver, who adds his own complexities to the potion.

For now, I will allow myself to absorb what I see and hear, playing audience despite being on display.

 

Updated: 04.13.2019 to correct the name of the Roman ruin.