Saturday, June 17, 2017

Snapshots





The loveliest room I’ve ever stayed in, Riad Albarta in Fez. Friendly staff, a parrot who whistles that song from “The Bridge Over the River Kwai,” air-conditioning to stave off the 107 degree heat outside. A beautiful park where young university students sat together and studied. Men greeting each other with kisses on both cheeks. The Medina market place living up to its twisting alleys and signature Moroccan foods alongside shampoo and sneakers and a few hundred scraggly cats—or kittens. Minus the manic barking, cats in Morocco are like the dogs of Bali. A fabulous Berkeley-feeling restaurant called The Clock with fruit smoothies and a storyteller. The remarkable fact of just about everyone honoring the Ramadan fast and keeping a pretty good temperament amidst the difficulties—especially no water in daylit hours during 100 plus degree heat.

The days in Fez were long and languid and oddly, never felt like lunch, tuning into the Ramadan rhythm somehow. Sunset was a blessing and occasional cool breezes stirred a bit and the streets were teeming with life and folks eating and children playing and continuing past midnight. Not so different from Spain in the summer, minus the enforced fast. And many connections with Spain and no accident, given the Moorish presence there until those foolish monarchs cut their diversity by 2/3rds by kicking out the Moors and the Jews. There’s a lesson we should learn as King Trump aims to narrow the Rainbow Nation to his horrible shade of grey. It was a bad idea then and it’s a bad idea now.

From Fez, took the train to Rabat and here on the ocean’s edge, more feeling like Miami Beach than Madrid. Passed a McDonald’s behind a Mosque, the kind of cognitive dissonance that is the new harmony of the day. Driving the palm-lined highways with a bracing ocean breeze. While our hosts finished their last day of school at Rabat American School, we walked on the beach a bit in company with the fisher-people, wandered the streets in search of mid-day coffee not to be had during Ramadan, ended the day with a “school’s out!” party at our host’s house, with convivial conversation and the stories of teachers who came from and have lived and taught in so many places—Indonesia, India, Cameroon, Qatar, China, Germany and more. Travel alone doesn’t good people make, but you can mostly rest assured that they are prepared to refuse portrayals of other cultures foisted on the ignorant public by people who have never lived in those cultures.

So now it’s Saturday and we’re off on a bus to the fabled city of Chefchaouen, driving around a bustling Rabat trying to find tickets and Robitussin cough syrup and a bendir hand-drum (got the first two, not the last) and now at the bus station ready to begin the 5-hour journey. I am by no means better health-wise, but I’m sick of thinking about it and talking about it and am just going to keep on living through it without complaining, minus this sentence. See you soon.

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