The World That We Live In

I’m pretty good at writing about silly things like omelets and trips to the market, but when it come to things that matter I feel a wee bit paralyzed.  Bare with me.   

It’s been a little over a week since the tragedy in Libya took place and violent protests at US Embassy started spreading around the Middle East and North Africa. 

I was swimming alone in the Consul General’s pool when I read that the consulate in Benghazi had been attacked and one person was suspected dead.  Between every three or four laps I pulled myself from the pool to check my blackberry.  It seemed the news was worse each time I checked.   About half way through my swim I got a text message from Max, no details, that simply said “I’ll be home around 2:30”.

When we were in Jerusalem trouble was much easier to spot than it was last week.  We experienced several “Days of Rage”, tenuous check-point crossings and bus rides through Mea Sherim lined with burning garbage cans.  We received frequent warning texts from the University and the city was tense on a regular basis.  Everybody felt it on busses and in the streets – no one was exempt.  In Casablanca last week, the sun was shining, the streets were calm and the pool was the perfect temperature.  It’s unnerving to be singled out.

The protests in Casablanca were not very large in scale or violence compared to other countries in the region.  We were incredibly supported by our local police and since Friday things have remained fairly calm around here.  All the same I spent the better part of last week reviewing emergency procedures and updating our go bags.   And thinking about and checking in with friends.  We NEA-ers are a small bunch and my heart is with everyone who has been a victim in these attacks.  Not just those who have lost loved ones, for which I can’t express enough sympathy and support, but for all those who have lost their sense of peace and safety as well.  Hang in there.    

The first afternoon Max spent at home, the day after the attacks when people started to realize how big this thing was getting, I began a distance Arabic course I had signed up for in June.  You know, so we can go to more Arabic speaking countries.  I have all sorts of statements of noble commitment to the Middle East running around my head, mixed with a little bit of fear, confusion, sadness and anger at the lives that were lost.  I’m not sure what to do with it all, but I imagine a good chunk of  the Foreign Service career is spent trying to work through stuff like this – on a global scale as well as on a personal.


Lazy Days

 I’ll admit it.

We are pooped.  Burned out.  Kaput. 

We had a rip roarin’ summer and are paying the price.   

All we want to do after work and on the weekends now is pull the shades down and catch up on whatever show we are obsessing over that week.  Downton Abbey, you are in my sights.  But I wonder  if this isn’t just a post summer breather and if this kind of thing happens when you find out your next assignment in the Foreign Service.  We hit Morocco pretty hard our first year and a half and now it feels like our exit is just around the corner.  I’m hesitant to grow more roots as they are soon to be torn out.  But to be completely honest, we’ve also blown most of our travel budget for the year.  We’ve taken to calling our self imposed hermitage “_______ Family Austerity” (names changed to protect the innocent) and we mean it.  Birthday trips to Thailand don’t grow on trees. 

BUT this down time has reminded me of all the lovely, simple things that add up to daily living.  I’ve been making ice cream and prepping the last of the summer vegetables for winter soups.  I’ve remembered that I like to read and even started writing again.  We’ve revived the family band and started working on new songs.  Max and I finally tackled the sorting and organizing of our massive book collection – this being the first time they’ve all lived together – and it was as satisfying as we’d hoped.    

And we’ve been rediscovering Casa .  Over the labor day weekend Max and I took the Pupperoni out to the beach by Dar Boaza.  A dread locked French hippie runs a little store that sells stinky cheeses, gluten free products, cured meats and imported goodness like curry paste and fish sauce.  It also offers a menu-less cafĂ©.  After ordering crepes, salmon and ham n’egg respectively, we were led to the cafe's back yard where a rustic picnic table with hemp place settings greeted us.  So did two older French men smoking and drinking coffee, as the French are want to do.  The French man closest to us was so delighted to see Buckley that when he jumped up on the picnic table bench the French man grabbed him by the cheeks and kissed him square on the mouth.  Ahhh, kisses from strangers.  Wait, that's not a thing...                  

I went to the Marif market on labor day to search out some herbs that have been evading me for weeks.  (And when I found that mountain of basil, I bought it.  All of it.  I’ll not dwindle away in a basil-less winter).  As I picked out shrimp for our green curry (thank you dread locked French man) I started asking about the other fish on display.  The fish monger was very helpful, even explaining how to prep and cook different fish.  I was just starting to feel warm and fuzzy about my trip to the market and my ability to engage with locals when he asked “Are you married?”  We went from “This is Red Snapper, cook it with lemon” to “Are you married?” in seconds.    

Bien Sur!  I said.  Even though of course! is a bit of a strange answer to that question.  Plenty of people aren’t married.  My husband is at home with the dog.  I said in French.  He laughed and put my shrimp into a purple plastic sack. 

And that’s a nice thing.  A husband at home with the dog.  Dinner to cook, books to read and nowhere to go.              


Seville, Spain

Seville is a terrific city.  Even in August, 110 degrees, it's a terrific city.  While it's true we had to bolt in the night from a hotel with no AC to the blessed icebox that was Hotel Madrid, we had a fantastic time in Seville.  We woke up early, stayed out late, and participated in the siesta tradition...to excess.  I don't think 7 hour naps are what the Spaniards had in mind.  I didn't get any picturse of the flamenco show we saw, but believe you me, it was the most beautiful, captivating thing I've ever seen.  One woman, in a sweltering lamp-lit room dancing to beat back the devil.  Or, probably more accurate, considering the latin reputation for romance and sensuality, to seduce him. 

Inside The Alcazar
That looks very familiar...Those Moors were everywhere!
The Alcazar
Basillica Macarena - this church has a life sized "statue"
of the virgin mary with human hair and who, I have on good
authority, wears undergarments beneath her robes.
But really, don't you?  
Feeders at the Bullring
This tower is sister to the mineret in Rabat and Marrakesh.
The Moors built this before they were booted out and the Spanish
simply turned it into the Seville Cathedral's bell tower.  
Columbus' Remains.  Supposedly.  
What's a Cathedral without a lot of statues of saints?