Wednesday, September 12, 2012

First week reflections

I thought it would be like running. Marathon long days that start with me dragging myself out of bed totally underprepared, rushing to make the lunches and herd the kids into the car and fight traffic to drop them off late to school and me ending up late to work…

It’s not been like that at all. I know that it WILL be like that some days, but it hasn’t been like so far. The thing that has surprised me the most about the girls starting school is what a joy it is to facilitate it. Everything associated with this whole enterprise of sending my kids to school…is a joy. I love it. I don’t resent it, in fact it’s a  really special feeling. It feels like one of the most special times of my life. This is also a time in my life that is very difficult. But I am keeping my head above water because I can’t afford not to. I am full on at work, full on Master’s degree and full on school mom. And I know this is just petite section, it will turn into so much more but I am really enjoying this part, sadly enjoying this part. I am watching my daughters grow into more independent girls that spend the day outside of the house, not in. 

Now…if I recorded the drop-off / pick-up situation outside of the school and that video were to make it into the right hands, it would be a nation wide, prime time, news story by which many Americans would justify their belief that they are in fact living in the best country in the world.

Dropping my children off at school and picking them up is a daily nod to some ingrained cultural chauvinistic patriotism that I didn’t realize existed within me until I moved here…and had to drop my kids off at school. I mean Mae actually whimpers and comments on the amount of cars that are there and the fact “oh no mama, there’s tars here too” (she says t for c). 

Picture taken from:

The above photo is a regular traffic jam in the city...go ahead and up the anty by adding the pressure of having to get your kid to school on time and then having to get to work on time.

Yesterday as we navigated the two city blocks of dead stopped traffic and marched through the unpaved, dusty lots of land waiting to be developed, dirtying our sandaled feet in the dust, Mae was clutching my hand and crying that there were cars driving around us in every possible direction! When I say driving, I mean blowing their horns non-stop, being blocked in traffic and then intensely accelerating when they get unblocked. When we finally made it to the car and I was strapping her into her seat, a car that had been in a traffic jam that finally made it through the other cars  sped by me so quick that I actually yelped out loud thinking that I was about to have my body impaled onto the car seat. I screamed and Mae jumped and then she was convinced for the next thirty minutes that that car had run over my feet!!!!! She literally made me show her my feet! Poor thing! Poor me! 

So…everyday, after I make it back to the car, I sit for a few seconds to inhale the calm and I imagine the orderly lines of slow moving traffic and the reduced speed limits and the sidewalks and the crossing guards and even the school bus stop signs that protrude out from the side of the bus in America. Then I start my car and move on with my life.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Petite Section

So here we go…1 2 3 lift off…stop crying you silly silly woman!!!!!!! The girls start petite section tomorrow, which in the American system would be pre, pre-K. I have instinctually gone crazy preparing for it, new shoes, tons and tons of obsessing over healthy snacks, labeling book bags, picking out clothes, teaching  them to introduce themselves in French.

It’s no surprise really that I've 'lost the plot' a bit, with the amount of time I spent obsessing about which school they would go to. In the end we have kind of fallen into a school that works for us. It is very convenient location wise, way over-priced, in my opinion, but has a solid reputation for their age group. They follow the Moroccan privĂ©e school system. In that system explicit Arabic instruction doesn’t start until later, so if we need to switch systems we still have time for that.

The girls will finally be immersed in French all day and I am very excited to see how this year continues to develop linguistically.

Besides my tears at the beginning of this post, I actually don’t feel so torn up about this transition. I feel the opposite, really excited for them. After the summer they’ve had of their only activity being after I get home from work and on the weekends…I am super excited for them to go to school and I think they are too.

I am sure this will be a subject I continually write about, think about, and obsess about! I kind of had a flash yesterday of time moving forward. I started at a gym and the gym has a daycare facility and I dropped them off and they were soooo excited, they just thought it was the coolest place ever. I know that in a few months of them being in school every day that place will no longer excite them…at all. I got sad for their innocence and it reminded me of a quote I read last week on nostalgia about the very few moments where everything is perfect and even then we are already nostalgic for that moment. 

It was like that. I love them so much.

Sometimes you just have to close your eyes and jump and for better or for worse this feels like one of those moments. I am closing my eyes and jumping, stepping forward into a current of wind that I will ride right into the future. Here’s to tomorrow going well. I’ll post a photo once I have one. Until then this is a pictures of them last March on their first day of nursery.

PS: Now I understand why people have always asked me if I cut their hair!! They still don't have much hair and people still think that BUT when I look back at older pictures where they had even less hair, It does look like I totally scalped them!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

What I did on my summer vacation

A vacation from blogging apparently! Wow, it has been almost two months exactly since I've even considered writing a blogpost!!! Here are somepicture highlights. As far as my words...I am not so ready yet but I feel them festering their way to the surface. Let's put it this way: It's been a very difficult summer. Not one particular thing has made it that way, more the culmination of various strands of unhappy and angst. Yuck. Right...back to the brilliant.


I LOVE fall and we are September minus 2 here people. The kids start school next week, I am starting a gym memebership and life will return to a normal routine that I can honestly say I missed this summer.

Ok so here's what I did on my summer vacation:

In May I went here

And did this (look up)

In July I went here (Look up)
And did this, with her

and she was there too

Then when I came back it was time for this
And we did this for a month...a very long month...
But we also went here on the weekends that month, so that part was nice
This happened at some point as well
And then last week I went here!!!!!!!!

With them

And her!!!!!!!!!

And that about sums it basically, anytime I was not busy taking pictures you can imagine me crying. BUT, it does appear that I had some fun in between.

See you soon...promise!

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Starbucks Casablanca

This feels familiar:

I am sitting in a Starbucks working on a paper for a class that is due now. I like what I’m wearing and  I really appreciate the intellectual engagement with the paper. I miss my “H”.  I miss her so bad. What I wouldn’t give to see her gliding through the doors with a bag, way bigger than her, hanging off of her shoulder. Slenderly sitting herself across from me and arranging her hair on one side of her head. She would probably then exhale, ask me how I am, listen, look at what I ordered, look at the counter, kind of half limp over to it very casual and careful all at the same time.  Geese…I miss you lady. Everytime…everytime I come to Starbucks I miss you so bad.

And “K”…one would think it would remind me of you too but it doesn’t as much. It was so far beneath your full capability. But it was always the only place I could have you captive, behind a counter and unable to slip off into your world without me. Although…truth be told you are so f’ing thorough and artistic with anything that you do that you more often that not always slipped off into that world too...leaving me standing there and waiting on you to come back until I got the point that you were busy and I knew you wanted to talk but always knew it was never the time or place.

There is a dead dog outside on the side walk and a tapas bar behind me. I have been apartment hunting in this neighborhood and want back here regardless of the dead dog on the sidewalk. I want back so that I can come here more, walk my kids here (MY KIDS – that girl that I was when I was here all the time now has KIDS) so that they can know and love it too.

I know some people would accuse me of killing the indigenous culture but honest to god a simple silver or aluminum teapot of black tea and mint leaves will never be dead in the Maghreb, NEVER. It runs way thicker than what Starbucks can do. 

The people that work here are Moroccans but they work at Starbucks and they seem genuinely interested in understanding, communicating with and pleasing the hoards of American pilgrims and Moroccan converts. I love them. They are a sweet team always smiling and genuinely trying to do it right. 

This is a safe place for me now in a time when I don’t have many. This is a safe space for me. 

From here I can write again. From here I can feel again. I want to finish my masters sitting at this table and then always remember what my life was and who was in it when I was here doing this. Yeah…that’s a good plan. 

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Life in Casablanca...Update

Thank goodness that freaking series is over. It turned into my reason not to blog. Anyways, I am glad I have the Moroccan living room. I sit in it every day. Here is a more general update of my life lately.

I have decided that I hate Casablanca…kind of…not really…ok I am still just as back and forth wishy washy as ever about casa and Morocco and all things really. 


Summer is nearing and I have a heavy heart from a lack of outside space. 

My kids are full on talking, totally bi-lingual in English and Arabic and really crack me up on a regular basis.

Spring time always inspires me to want to do more than I actually have the energy to do. For example, I want to plant and craft and paint and dance and work out and be outside in nature all the time. I want to take the girls to visit their grandma once a week and walk in parks and cook amazing dishes at home…but really I just go back and forth to work mostly. 

There is some magic still…maybe it will help if I list it:
  • I taught the girls to race each other and they love that
  • I went scuba diving
  • I swam in the gorgeous clear Mediterranean sea and I was in heaven
  • I still walk back and forth to work even though sometimes lately the car has been slipping in the picture
  • We went to the beach on Sunday and had an absolute blast. We bought the girls a small blow up pool on the side of the road and then laughed so hard at how stupid we were for thinking that we could fill that thing and then easily pull it back up the sand to where the towels were. It took us like 10 minutes to get it back to the towels, laughing and grunting and incurring many a looks from other beach goers
  • I am hosting a cous cous party for the teachers that work for me this Friday
  • I went to visit a very sick woman that was in a coma and she WOKE UP while I was there, she continues to slowly recover
  • Planning on demanding a date out of my husband very soon, he doesn’t know it yet

Thanks…I feel better now!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Fabric: Part 3

Finally this is the last installment in this series…this procession of posts that I never finished and therefore totally avoided blogging because of:

The fabric… the most emotional, white knuckling, hand wringing, intense part of what is the Moroccan living room. There was only one person that would suffice as a partner in crime for the fabric (it’s called tissue in French). That person??? You know who:

We open scene on she and I standing, me stunned, her pensive, on the second story of a fabric shop. When I say shop, I of course mean a decrepit building that looks like a shack from the outside but is impeccably clean, well lit and fabulous smelling on the inside. A place you find down a cramped side street that you feel uncomfortable even browsing on at first for the shop keepers calls to the magical fabrics they have hidden tucked in between and stored above in hidden compartments only accessed by ladders and stools. 

We have just stumbled upon some of the most gorgeous, patterned, modern, traditional fabric that I have ever seen. These are fabrics that I will never be able to afford either (except I wasn’t ready to admit that to myself). I kept being drawn to the whites…she kept reminding me of my small children and I kept wanting to forget that part!

Sometimes you see something, and it strikes you as so beautiful that you never forget it, but then you do. You don’t purchase it and you go on about your day, weekend, life, never even remembering it exists, sometimes though…you never forget it.

There was a pair of light blue linen pants that I saw on the Italian island of Procida when I was 22 years old and skinny enough to have worn them but too broke to have purchased them…I still remember them and exactly where how they were displayed in the shop.

Certain patterns that she and I saw that day are still as fresh in my mind as if I saw them yesterday…I imagine these images will stay with me for a while.  We did manage to tear ourselves away from the shop eventually and pick out a more reasonably priced option which I still really like…I guess…kind of…it’s not the same but damnit man we couldn’t have shopped any longer than we did. This process needed to end already just as this blog series needs to end so that I can write about things other than my freaking living room! 
So without further ado…



and there you have it!

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Wood - Part 2

GRUELING…Emotional…Full of highs and lows…Fraught with bargaining, nail biting, indecision, endless possibilities, dirhams that keep on adding up and up and up...absolutely exhilarating. All of this for  less than 15 meters long of wood. Yes…maybe my taste is a little on the “beldi” side. Ok, A LOT on the beldi side, but I moved to Morocco to fill my home with Moroccan stuff!!! Not the Moroccan interpretation of western and modern orientalism! I moved here to pick the beldi wood, hang the wedding blankets on the walls and go to the Atlas mountain carpet souks for our rugs! Why you ask? Well, simply put, it is the journey that counts for me. 

The recommended carpenter that sits at the table we just bought from a friend’s brother is telling  me that he doesn’t care how sweet the Moroccan tea and cookies I’m serving him are,  he’s not falling for it. He is going to keep the prices at what he stated. It was a romancing of sorts on our part. Youssef and I fell automatically into our good-cop / bad-cop routine and my infallible eye towards the most expensive artisanal work that exists is still alive and strong. Trust.
Before I knew it I had thrown on my djellaba and we were racing through the outskirts of Casablanca trying to keep up with his kango. We arrived at his work shop and that is when we became convinced. It was a large, two level work space in which half-worked, raw, and finished pieces of wood lay side by side.
The bargaining continued: constant bargaining, constant dialogue about the price. This was getting exhausting. In the meantime we were falling somewhat in love with one of the nearly finished jobs he was working on. 

This one:

The model we had agreed on at the house was quickly becoming not even near good enough. The dirhams were quickly adding on to the bill. He is brilliant in fact. I guess he damn well meant it when he said that my sweet tea and cookies were not going to make him soft on us. He meant it alright. In the end it is us that went soft. We decided on a somewhat medieval / berberesque looking simple hand sculpted notch pattern for the wood. This is far from the Romi patterns that we had dreamed of at 900dhs the meter. 

 The thing about the wood is this: You can find cheaper, but you just don’t know about the quality. You can find more expensive, which means more beautiful and good quality. In the end we went with simple and good quality. I imagine we will have this living room for quite some time. 

My suggestions, if you are considering assembling you own Moroccan living room, are as follows:
  • Start with the wood, order that first.
  • Do your research, know what styles you do and don’t like.
  • Don’t decide at the last minute to change the whole thing, then not sleep and change the whole thing back to what you had originally decided (makes for an unpleasant work day).
  • Get a recommendation for a carpenter.
  • Visit their shop, see where and how they work, you can even ask to see your raw wood before they start putting it together.
And finally…this is the wood we chose:

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Salon Marocain 2012 / Moroccan Living Room

Am I trying to up web traffic with that title? Maybe...Am I trying to up web traffic because I truly want to share this experience…definitely? 

In 2000 I lived in a small house in the West End neighborhood of Atlanta. We acquired a vintage blue green couch from a thrift store that lasted us about 5 months before I got rid of it and decided to go with a, what I thought at the time to be,  traditional Moroccan living room. Basically we outfitted the living room with red carpets and blue leather poufs. We had carpets on the floors and on the walls. I loved it. (sidenote: Why in the hell my husband, a middle class, Casablancan would allow his wife to create a poor Berber living room for them is yet to be known, all I know is that I am glad I finally moved here and can now save him from himself)

I found myself, 12 years later, thinking back to that living room as I stood with Youssef’s mother (the woman's whose picture hung on my refrigerator for years before I ever met her) on the second floor of a small shop that looks no bigger than a patio from the outside, but contains some of the most beautiful fabric I have ever seen on the inside. Imported from India, over 80 dollars per meter…I need 31 meter…you do the math.

In the spirit of presenting this journey in the most organized way possible I will present the wild ride of Moroccan living Room Acquisition to you in the following sections and they each deserve their own post:
The Wood, The Material, and The Mattresses and the Sewing.
First up: The Wood…

Before we get to that though, I will share with you a few images collected from around the interweb, just so we are all on the same page as to exactly what a Moroccan Living room is (all pictures hyperlinked to source and from a google image search):

This is one of the more traditional ones I found:

This one is a bit more of a classy one from Richbond which is a large matress company here (we will get to that). 
 This is a normal one that could be in anyone's apartment (note the size of the room is similar to ours):

A large traditional room, just imagine how many people this can sit!

The current trend to cover mediocre wood in cloth, much cheaper, can be quite stylish and a nice option for the smaller Moroccan dining room:

One of the modern ones with a little more...let's say...pizazz...(I am being sarcastic here people):

And finally...a much more realistic view of what our 2000 living room in the west end looked like (or at least what I was going for at the time except way less orderly and clean than this photo):

As far as the big unveil to our current living will have to wait for it just as I myself am waiting for it. In the meantime we can have some hellova buildup here!

OH MY GOODNESS I ALMOST FORGOT!!!! Here are before pictures (as-in before we moved in) of the current room: