Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Old is New

Back when we lived on Fort Morgan Road I remember looking forward to when family would visit because it meant we would get to act like tourists. Even though we lived right across from the beach we never enjoyed it as much as when cousins would come down from Birmingham or some other grim and beachless place. It is a similar situation here in Morocco. Even though I am in such an amazing place with tons of great stuff to see and do it is hard to appreciate it until you have a visitor to show around. Last week I had that opportunity when Elizabeth flew over from France where she has been teaching English. I didn't go anywhere new with her but I got to see a lot of my favorite places all over again through her eyes.

Here are a few highlights of our trip.

Here is Elizabeth holding a monkey in Marrakesh which was actually something of a lifetime dream for her. Uniquely, because of the snake charmers in the square, she was able to achieve a lifelong goal while facing a lifelong fear.


Some of the food offerings at one of the outdoor food stalls in Marrakesh.


View of the main square in Marrakesh from above.


Strange, mustachioed man tries pastilla,a sweet on the outside, chicken on the inside Moroccan delicacy.

The beach in Rabat.

Skins from the tannery laid out to dry in front of the Merenid Tombs in Fez.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Travels


I know I have been bad about posting lately. I have been traveling. I want to get off a quick one here since I am kinda backed up. These are pictures from a bicycle trip I took a couple of weeks ago. Me and some friends met in Midelt, a city about 150km south of here. We then rode our bikes out to this abandoned French mining city called Gaouli (the G is silent) which is located in a picturesque valley. We had a great time exploring some of the abandoned buildings and venturing (not too far) into a few of the mines.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Fruits of Spring


Spring has finally come to the Atlas Mountains and it has brought a whole new variety of tasty fruits to the souk. These fruits are all delicious but can be put to other fun uses like this jack'o melon I created. Happy Spring.

Friday, April 24, 2009

My House

Not too much has been going on lately except that a took a great bicycle trip with some friends. I didn't bring my camera on the trip and I am waiting to post on it until I receive the few pictures that a friend took.

In the meantime I have been rearranging things here in my house and I think I have them looking pretty good. Mostly I have been moving everything out of my darker/smaller backroom and into the brighter and nicer front room. I have also slowly acquired more and more furnishings. So I thought that it would be a good time to give you a look at where I live.

Here is the "living room" side of my main room. I bought those cushions yesteday at souk so they are the newest addition. (Also notice the fancy paper lantern over the light, thanks to Natalie)

Here is a look at the "bedroom" side of my room. You can see my desk and "duct tape chic" chair.

Finally a closer look at my couch and the handpainted table that I bought at souk here a couple of weeks ago. In all I am really happy with the way that I have my house now and hope to add little things as I go along.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Taxi Trouble


Taxis just like this one are the life blood of the Moroccan transportation system. To get cheaply from place to place seven people (driver + 6 passengers) pack like sardines into one of these intrepid, old beaters. Here is how it works:
I want to go from my site to the nearby city of Azrou so I go down to the taxi stand. There will be a driver there yelling for passengers to Azrou. I tell him I want a spot and usually go ahead and sit down in the taxi. Then we wait for the taxi to fill up with the normal allotment of six passengers. Once full the taxi boss comes by and collects the money which is a set fare of 12 dh (about $1.50) per person. Once everyone has paid they cram in, (four people in the back seat and two people in the front passenger seat) and off we go. While it can be chaotic, dangerous, and smelly the taxi system works pretty well.

Unless this happens.
For the last four days there has been a nationwide transport strike. It started with taxis and has spread to most buses. The only thing running now is the national bus line which only connects big cities. I am not sure what the drivers are striking about, but I would guess they probably want higher fares instead of say, Easter Sunday off of work. Taxis are vital to my life here as well as to the lives of most Moroccans. I hope the drivers get what they want so I can enjoy a ride crammed into a backseat once again.

Edit: Apparently the strike is about stricter traffic laws. Not so sure I want the drivers to win this one anymore.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Viva Volubilis



Not bad eh?


This is Volubilis which was once the furthest outpost of the Roman Empire. The city had twenty thousand residents and exported olive oil, grain, and ferocious beasts back to Rome by the shipload. Yes, I said ferocious beasts. Morocco was the source for many of the elephants, lions, and bears that fought and died in the Colosseum. Thanks to Roman efficiency all these awesome animals are now extinct in Morocco. Thanks a lot Ceaser.
(Notice the black and white cranes which I wrote about before.)



Even if they did kill all of Morocco's coolest animals the Romans did leave some pretty incredible ruins behind.


In my opinion this is one of the most beautiful areas of Morocco. The green hills and rolling plains are remind me of the scenery in Italian movies. Maybe this is why the Romans chose this place.


Volubilis was yet another entirely unique Moroccan experience. Standing under an arch a two thousand year old arch while gazing out onto such a beautiful landscape was one of those "Wow" moments that we all live for.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Camp Azrou

The past two weeks I have been very busy with spring camp and then a weekend trip. I will cover both here in back to back entries.

First spring camp:




For Moroccan Spring break the Ministry of Youth and Sport (the ministry that oversees all the youth centers in Morocco) runs about a dozen English camps all over Morocco. I was all set to coordinate a small camp in Mischlefin, a nearby ski station (that's right there is a ski station nearby it's that cold here), but because of snow covered road and a lack of funds the camp was relocated to Azrou and combined with the camp already scheduled there. Despite the change, which caused some over crowding, camp ended up going really. Most of the kids did not speak much English, but everyone learned something and everyone had a lot of fun.

I know for sure that the kids had a terrific week, because on the last night of camp after the talent show, almost all the campers, boys and girls, burst into tears. I knew the kids had a good time and would be sad to leave but I was not expecting the out pouring of emotion that ensued. A few girls were even passing out from their emotions, though I don't know how authentic this was since they were all fully recovered within a few minutes.

Camp was a busy and fun week. I got to hang out with a lot of Moroccan kids and work with several other great Peace Corps volunteers.