When my husband and I traveled to Morocco with friends, we visited some of the usual places. We toured Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, navigated the medina in Fes, and rode the Marrakesh Express from Fes to Marrakesh. We also visited the neighborhood where my great-aunt lived before she married my mom's uncle and moved to the States.
Toward the end of our trip, a guide picked us up at our hotel in Marrakesh and drove us over the Atlas mountains, through the moving making- town of Ouarzazate (Movies such as The Mummy were filmed there) to the village of M'Hamid. We ate a late dinner, then loaded up a land rover and drove to our campsite in the Sahara Desert. After sleeping on blankets on the sand, we packed our bags and set out on a camel trek. Exciting stuff, right? Sure enough. The stuff of great stories (Can you say runaway camel?) But here's the thing. The stories I most like to tell folks who want to hear the more intimate stories of Morocco involve moments of connection with the locals or my friends and husband, not stories of high adventure.
We made a point to get to know our guides. One guide was deaf, so we watched the signs they had developed to communicate (no ASL there) and did our best to communicate with him. One night after dinner, our guides gathered around a campfire a distance from us. One man had improvised an instrument- he was drumming on our water jug while the others sang along quietly in Arabic. We asked if we could join them. After a while, we shared that our friend used to be a drummer so he played some of his American rhythms on that same water jug. We also bonded with our friends while suffering from “Traveler’s D.” I know that sounds weird, but it’s true. Working through some level of adversity together can bring people together. I also reconnected with an exchange student who had lived here in Massachusetts 6 years before. My husband and I visited his home and met his wife and daughter.
One of my favorite moments, however, happened on our drive back to Ouarzazate. Our guide, Mokhtar, and I opted to sit in the way back seat of the land rover. Working with a mix of English, Arabic, and French words, we began telling each other our cultural stories. I wish I could remember all we shared that day. What I do remember is that it went something like this…
Mokhtar told a story. I said, “Oh! We have one like that!” and I told him a fairy tale from my childhood. Which lead him to a story from his childhood and so on. We went on like that for at least half an hour. It felt like time simultaneously raced ahead and slowed down to a crawl- what experts call “flow.” The storyteller in me was reinvigorated that day, for sure.
Mokhtar still has a special connection to our family. The night of the drumming, Mohktar gave us and our two friends Arabic names. The name he gave to me is the name we gave to our daughter. (People who know me personally, please note that I do not share my children’s names on this blog for safety/privacy reasons. Please don’t put it in the comments. Thanks.)
Mokhtar started as our guide but became a friend. For years, we communicated via snail mail and email. Now we message or IM on Facebook.
So here’s my point. Sightseeing is nice, but don’t get sucked into the trap of racing from one attraction to another. We saw lots of tourists in Morocco. They’d arrive on giant tour buses clutching their purses, fearful of pickpockets, only to be herded from one site to another. I’d venture to say they left Morocco knowing no more about the country than when they arrived.
Slow down. Stop and meet the locals. Ask about what’s important to them. You’ll likely find their desires are the same as yours.
How about you? What stories do you have to share about meeting the locals in your home town or from across the globe?
This weekend, my husband and I went to see Beautiful (the Carol King story) at The Boston Opera House.
It was a cold night, and we planned to walk to dinner and then back to the theater, so I opted to wear this gorgeous cape made by my mom. I don’t wear it often, but it seemed like the perfect opportunity.
Mom made this cape for me at my request many years ago. The inspiration: the cape Tim Curry wore when he played Cardinal Richelieu in The Three Musketeers. Sure, he was a bad guy, but his cape was fabulous. I mean, no-one could make an exit like the Cardinal when he whipped that cape around.
We had a wonderful night—delicious dinner, gorgeous theater, and inspiring show. My mom used to play Carol King when I was growing up, but I didn’t know her story.
I was in nearby New Bedford, MA with my kids yesterday for their music lessons. Normally, I go upstairs with them in this wonderful old factory that has been converted to studio spaces, but yesterday was sunny and nearly 60 F (15.5 C) so I opted to stay outside in the sun. Eventually I decided to lie down and this is what I saw. It immediately made me think of Dublin.
I realized that I don’t look at the sky here as much as I did in Dublin. I always watched the rushing clouds and the changing color of the sky. If you’ve been following me long enough, you probably remember the many sky photos I posted.
Why don’t I do that here? I think it’s because the sky is a piece of nature I could always see, no matter where I was in Dublin. I could be surrounded by buildings and look up. Here in Southeast Massachusetts, I’m surrounded by nature. Somehow that has translated to me not looking up as much. I should change that.
When is told my family about this over dinner they all knew what I was talking about before I had even explained it. My daughter commented that we were always looking at the sky between the buildings at Clancy Quay (where we lived). It’s funny how this all became clear to me because I looked up yesterday.
Also, I miss Dublin.
#nature #rurallife #citylife
The weather was spectacular today. After school, my daughter and I took a hike in the woods and had fun taking photos with the setting sun. That’s me in the first photo. I balance-beamed out to the end of that fallen tree. (The ice was not safe). #nofilter #playoutside #nature
From Thursday to Sunday, I was at a writing retreat in Vermont. I find being among other book creators so inspiring that I often lose track of time and forget to go outside. Either I’m engaged in meaningful conversations about books or off on my own writing.
Today, between appointments and other commitments, I claimed a much-needed hour outside to hike, write, and reflect on my weekend.
#amwriting #nofilter #latergram
Just finished Finding Langston by @lclineransome Started bf bed last night. Had to finish this morning. Don’t be fooled by it’s slimness. It packs a whole lot of love and pain and beauty into 104 pages. Passing it to my daughter to read. #KidLit
Bog views from my walk today. #RochesterLife #nature
Went to see @katwrightkatwright @narrowscenter last night. Great show and excellent venue. Added bonus: I got to see @painternik9 show again. It’s a bit surreal to attend a concert and see illustrations from our book hanging in the gallery just outside the concert room. #FlyingDeep #livemusic
It was 20 degrees below zero F with the wind chill in New Hampshire yesterday. That didn’t stop my friend and I from taking a walk or our kids from going sledding and cross country skiing. One friend even snowshoed most of the way up Tenney Mountain. We were all fine once we bundled up. The sleds didn’t fare as well, though.
I’d like to say it’s much warmer back here in southeastern Massachusetts, but it isn’t. Brrrr. (That’s me in the purple coat, by the way).
Want to learn an instrument in the New Year? My son @dantecusolito is accepting students for guitar, ukulele, and bass. He teaches ages 5 through adult. All lessons happen at 88 Hatch St. (Hatch Street Studios) in New Bedford, MA. Please share this with anyone you know who might be interested.
Email email@example.com for more information. @southcoastlessons
It’s not all airplanes all the time over here. Sometimes @dantecusolito takes a break from building planes to build a ski bike.
Now if we would only get some snow...