Sunday, January 29, 2012

Moving to Casablanca…

This is a sorrowful moment for me. As I eluded in an earlier post, I feel as though certain of my life’s wishes are about to be fulfilled. Yet I am sorrowful. All of our dreams come at a cost. That has been clear to me since the days of sorrowful packing and kitchen floor sleeping curled up with Shaka in an empty apartment in Piedmont park in the weeks before I got on my flight to Paris and then to here. I said goodbye to a faithful (furry) companion of ten years and it was one of the most heart wrenching things I have ever done. I now have two gorgeous daughters standing in her place, but I still miss her, cry for her, feel guilty about leaving her and wish her the best. I imagine it will be like that for the rest of my life. 

And now it is time for another change. You see, Youssef and I moved here because it worked for us. Because I hated Casablanca, because I was stuck in traffic for hours every day, because there was nowhere to take the girls outside for a walk, because there was a balcony and a little girl that lived across the street from us that fell to her death at 7 years old. So we left, we decided that raising our young daughters by the beach was the best for them and we left. We found this place and never looked back. Our girls learned to walk here and yell “abdellah” across the field to the farmer. 

They learned all the names and sounds of the farm animals and grew deep love for the other little girls that they play with everyday. 

They made best friends and deep loving connections with nannies that live nearby and they became used to seeing the beach on the horizon every day. 

Then the day came when we started looking back. The day came that we started thinking about school for our girls and couldn’t figure out a way to get them back and forth. Many many days came and went that I turmoiled over the distance between me and them while I was at work (figuratively and literally). So we found a place in the city, in the right neighborhood, in the right residence with the right kind of doorman and elevator. Then we couldn’t do it. We couldn’t leave. It wasn’t right yet, so we made people angry at us and we chose what was best for us and we decided to stay further. 

Then something happened. I stopped caring about the right this and that and started thinking of what made the most sense. I started imagining a scenario in which I could drop my girls off at their school and pick them up, exchange words with their teachers about their progress and their issues and their work and their lives at school. 

There is a neighborhood next to my job that I drive through everyday and everyday I started to think about how clean and close and good it could be if we lived in that neighborhood. Then…I remembered.
Once, a long time ago, many many many years ago. When I thought I was stuck in Atlanta forever but was kind of ok because I thought I was living with the guy I was going to marry and I had a beautiful apartment on the park and a great job and a dog that I adored and couldn’t imagine leaving…I used to pray. Now I am not really a religious woman, but I have always believed in ghosts and energies and more…so on the darkest nights, the nights where my heart longed for something more, knew there was a part of my life not yet lived, knew that my soul would inhabit a place very far away again I used to pray and I asked for three things, specifically:
  1.  To have children (this was always something I thought was weird because most people start by wanting one, but I always knew I would be a mother of more than one child)
  2.  To speak to those children in French
  3.  To walk them to school and to walk to work
Now…when I connected all of these dots last month and I realized that the only thing I had to do to actually have all of my dreams come true was just not try so freaking hard and fight so freaking hard for the best and most special and most different, when I accepted that, I realized that actually, I am about to have the life I prayed for, like opened up my heart and begged for. And I feel so lucky, so so lucky. I feel like my grandmother has worked a little magic on my behalf also and that I am not sure what I am supposed to do with my time in this situation. I know that it will not last forever, my work will move, my husband will not want to pay this amount of rent for too long, things will change. But in the time that I have, whether that be one or two years, I have the sense that I meant to create. Whether that be art or life, or both or whatever, I feel that I am destined to do this move. And that, my friends, is the only thing that keeps me from a constant stream of tears. The tears are here, that is certain, but I have this understanding to draw on, to lean on, to turn to and seek comfort in. 
How could one NOT be sad to leave this:

And this 

Sad is a part of the process, real hurt, not the kind of hurt that I can reason away, the kind that you just have to carry with you, digest, keep in your pocket and hope it makes you a better person hurt, is the hurt I feel to leave this home we have. But I go forward strongly and with the conviction that we are making the right decision. The girls start at their school in a couple of weeks, they will be learning French, I will wake up in the mornings and dress them and feed them and walk them to school before I continue on to my work on foot. 

For are some of our favorite memories, the ones we caught on camera anyways:

Oh How lucky we have been.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Moroccan Road Trips

I miss travelling. I miss the feeling of hitting the open road in Morocco.

I miss the way the sun feels in summer time. I miss the red walls of Marrakesh and the frenzy of the medina coupled with the calm of the hotel. I miss swimming in gorgeous pools with exotic looking palm trees sprouting out from them. Travelling through Morocco is always such a wonderful experience. I ask myself why. I answer myself with "because it's beautiful - of course it has dug way down deep in your heart and periodically spits up images at you".

When I first came to Morocco, before I (knew I) was pregnant with the twins, we took a trip to Marrakesh on a train. When my mother saw the pictures of me looking out the window at the countryside, she said "I can't tell if you are crying or just really happy".

I told her I was crying because I was so happy. It was in that stairway of a beat up old train, with a door open, speeding by rolling green hills of country side that I realized that I felt really safe with my husband. I was not afraid to sit by the open door because I knew that if I fell, if I slipped and my body flung towards the open air, that he would catch me, he would do what it takes to make me safe.

What a glorious trip that was. When our pride was about our newly re-found love. Our pictures were about us being so proud and feeling so strong and confident to be back together again. it was pure magic. The snails in djemaa el fna, the dinner at chez ali, all of it.

Whenever I start yearning for Marrakesh, it's actually that, that I have in mind.

Of course we have been back sense then with the girls. We had a gorgeous poolside room

and as soon as we got into the hotel the girls fell busy pulling themselves up on the furniture and we set up the cribs and then we found Mae had crawled inside of the cabinet. this past summer I found a picture of myself at that age doing exactly that.

We took a carriage ride at sunset around the medina.

We walked past the koutoubia, we had dinner in the square and took pictures by the pool and the girls pigged out at the breakfast buffet. 

We visited a gorgeous guesthouse in the valley, we ate a posh lunch overlooking a beautiful lake.

We drove through Berber villages and decided that if we ever did have a wedding, we would do it there. Then we abandoned the girls in djemaa el fna!

I miss vacation in Morocco. I want to hit the road but it's not going to happen anytime soon. We have other priorities right now so the goal is on making it through this winter for a spring retreat.

Monday, January 16, 2012


I have all of a sudden become very "moroccanized". This was a term that used to be thrown around alot in my first year. People (especially my husband) pointing out little details of altered behavior and endearingly calling me "moroccanized". Except when that used to happen, I used to smile and laugh and think "not in a million f'ing years babe"...but now...all of a sudden...I feel totally enraptured by this culture. It is like a freaking switch flipped and I am back to the 19 year old girl that was so obsessively in love with her husband that she would have actually converted to 'moroccan man' if it were a religion that were open to outsiders. It is kind of like I have just awoken and am seeing this country for the first time. Maybe like the culture shock finally wore off and I am reveling in every moment of it. On the other hand, this could all just possibly be the manic of a manic depression rearing its ugly head? Who knows...who cares...I am all about it.

Yesterday, Sunday, I convinced my husband to visit a huge souk outside of Mohammedia...with the girls...As we pushed our way through people, over dirt and mud and trash and various collections of garbage on sell, I whispered in Sophia's ear "this is your country, this is where you are from...but not me". We twisted along in the flow of people under the Midday sun and I realized that we had decided to come to one of the largest souks in the region, at the busiest time of day to souk shop on the busiest day of the week to souk shop. We passed blaring loudspeakers playing the Koran, a multitude of trucks and vans with the back doors flung open spilling out various goods such as shoes, clothing, baby toys, electrical appliances, dilapidated office furniture, broken down chandeliers, used rugs, new Chinese house skippers and various other miscellany. We finally spotted a juice stand through the crowd of people and managed to shuffle our way towards it, squeezing out of the crowd, and there for about 50 cents, we had the most divine fresh squeezed orange and grapefruit juice that we split with the girls. A shady oasis of calm in a frenzied public. We then continued on, carrying the girls on our shoulders so that they could see above the crowds. We spotted these babies right here, bargained, did the walk off and I sure you gather from the picture how that story ended.

All was perfect in the world. We then managed to trek back to the car and seriously contemplated paying one of these guys to carry the girls back in the cart.

Considered as in: discussed the price contemplated and then decided...well...ehhh...ok he's already gone - but next time!

After that we got lost in an open field that led us to a small little village/traditional housing settlement not unlike the peaceful haven where we currently live. The locals spotted us from the rooftop of the structure over looking the cemetery and by the time we  had driven back to them to ask them for directions, one of them was already on his bike for us to follow him out ( love with Morocco). We then made our way to a small three story fish restaurant and ate divine fried calamari, paella and an assortment of other fish, salad and fresh tomato salsa. The restaurant was simple: wooden tables, paper draped over each table with which the remains of the previous customers fish bones is cleared in one fell swoop.

Next up was venezia ice for the  ice cream the girls were screaming for in the car without even knowing what the hell it was, just knowing that I had promised it to them during lunch. "ice keam ice keam ice keam"

After this epic family Sunday full of dust, fish, ice cream and tons of little girl kisses we made our way home to show our beloved home to a potential renter to replace us. The guy is french and I felt on the edge of grabbing him by the collar and yelling in his face "IF YOU GET THIS PLACE YOU ARE SO LUCKY DO YOU KNOW THAT? DO YOU? ARE YOU GOING TO APPRECIATE IT AND TREAT THESE PEOPLE RIGHT HERE? THEY ARE LIKE FAMILY NOW! YOU ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH!!! NO ONE IS". But of course that would have been a little over the top, so I didn't. I just ran and hid in a different room of the house every time I felt myself swelling with tears. Then the girls woke up frm their nap and thought they had a visitor and the landlord who has just returned after 25 years in Italy said to me "CIAO" and I started crying in front of everyone. And then it was really sad and awkward and the guy was ushered out and the landlord was hugging me and telling Youssef we shouldn't go and asking me to stay. Drama. Moroccan drama at it's best.

We are not staying, this is a part of the process, that's all.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue

Youssef and I are a couple that married, like officially, somewhere in the region of 4 times. Once when I was 18 years old in the Decatur courthouse. An event to which I wore tan, heeled boots and a light brown knee length dress. We ate at a Jamaican restaurant off of Lavista road afterwards with friends. The second time is when I took this photo:

The third time was this photo:

and I am sure we went to the Habouss at least one other time when I didn't even bother to dress for the occasion. I had no wedding shower, no wedding, no baby shower, otherwise known as the henna party, then we had no baptism for the girls and have really only thrown one Moroccan party as a couple (if you don't count the numerous dazed nights of youthful entertaining we did regularly in the West End many years ago). 

I guess you could call us, non-celebratory in traditional terms.

We are moving...finally. I am at peace with moving...finally.  I feel as though my destiny is being fulfilled but that's for a different blog post.

Back to the theme of the weddings and the moving...I have an idea. I want our new home to emulate love, our love, our partnership, a wedding that we never had, the official announcement to the community that we are a proper couple. So I am going with a theme for the new pad of something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue.

Current hodgepodge of ideas:

1.) Thanks to Tahir Shah I am now totally into the idea of salvaging for tables and dressers and an entryway piece.
2.) Speaking of the entry way, to set the tone for the love house, I am going to (enchallah) put a Moroccan wedding blanket on the wall in the entry way. 

3.) Something new...well that's going to be a full on Moroccan salon. I. am. so. excited. see example HERE:

4.) Something borrowed - I am just going to consider the apartment as borrowed because it's not ours
5.) For the blue, I am thinking tiles...not really sure yet, but it will present itself to me of that I am sure
5.) We arer planning a carpet buying trip...I told Youssef last night, "Hell to the yes, a carpet buying trip to the mountains, that is like why I freaking moved to Morocco!", he was all "Good...I'm glad you've found your purpose".
6.) I want a piano for the girls, so that will be old as well most probably.
7.) I want a proper dining room table and I have something like this in mind:

but I am actually considering this as well:

8.) As far as my destiny being fulfilled...well...I will explain that bit later, but I mean it.
9.) I want to create an environment to create in. Life is too short. I am in the process of getting my Master's degree and that is for career path purposes but honest to god  I am sick of being afraid to create. Being afraid to go for it. Being afraid to write. POETRY and STORIES!!!! AHHHHHHHH
10.) I am reading the artist's way, can you tell?
11.) Plus there is just something about the ancient culture here mixed with the laid back "ma'caine moushkil" attitude thrown together with the crazy stress of the traffic jams from the donkeys in the streets and the black Mercedes zooming around juxtaposed with the beggars and the carts and the free roaming sheep in the middle of the city. All of that plus the changing economy and country lends itself to a lot of inspiration if you can manage to escape the stress. I am working on escaping that stress and allowing the inspiration to flourish. One thing is for sure, February will mark the end of my 3rd year here and the beginning of my 4th year, and I feel luckier than ever to be here. Yes... I desperately miss my family and still entertain ideas of up and moving back but I am not actively fighting to get out, my philosophy is to enjoy where I am at while I am there. I miss my father's land. I miss how it feels to be there. I miss him. I talk to my mother all the time so I don't freak out as bad about her and somewhere in the back of my head, I know that if I stay eventually one day, I convince her to come and live at least part of the year here with me. But the father piece is a bit different. That won't change, I imagine it will only worsen. The only solution I can see out of it is if I have this amazing free life as a writer and we have the financial means to send me over to the US often enough for me to get sick of it and want to be back in Morocco. You know...not asking too much! As far as my point above about the culture and the change...anything feels possible in Morocco. I feel closer than ever to being able to actually do something like that. But it takes work, hard work and vigilance and that is just not where I have been putting the work. This is what I am working on for 2012. Trying to set the wheels of that work in motion. And I sure this will move at the pace of the traffic on the route de j'dida at 6pm on a Friday...but I am prepared to inch along to get there. A great quote from the artist's way is when people tell her 'do you have any idea how old I will be by the time I master that new skill' and she says "yes...the same age you will be if you don't".'

I'll do a proper post about the move update later.