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La Vita Grassa

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Location: Aarhus, Denmark

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Landis in 3rd! Go USA

Floyd Landis, from Lancaster, PA just won the 17th stage of the Tour de France 2006, bumping him from 11th place to 3rd. Our hero Lance Armstrong is gone, but we have hope in a new champion...

The Race Live

If you have Google Earth, you can actually see their whole route here ...


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Real Morocco..

Sometimes I find myself in an environment so totally foreign to American life that I truly feel I'm part of another world now. Sadly, it is usually these very moments that I cannot capture on film because Moroccans are most senstive about them.

Namely, an Ahawash. I went to one evening of a week-long ahawash here in Agdz, with my friend Nawal. It started at 10pm and ended at 1:30am. I estimate 300+ people in attendance, most all of them Tashelheight (Berber, not Arab). In the center, was a large circle of men, sitting crosslegged on the ground, with drums, tamborines and microphones... their voices and hands chanting away mysterious erie rhythms.

A group of young men (20's) circled them, rapidly shrugging shoulders, stomping feet, waving their arms, rotating around the epicenter like an orbiting planet. A Berber grandma, with lace and ornately gaudy layers froucing her shoulders and hips, beads and tatoos adorning her chin and forhead, strutted along behind the men, her own rhythm. People walked up to her and the young men and stuffed Dirhams (money) in their turbans and clothes.

Circling the young men, were dozens and dozens of young girls (see the one photo I have) ... dressed in Takshita's, beaded headdresses, charcoaled eyes and pink lips ... clapping and holding hands in little cliques, with an amazing grasp of the hip-movements and tripping dance steps of their elders.

Behind this row, sat all of us... younger and older women, six-deep, in a wide oval circumference, watching the whole affair atop our little stools or squatting on the ground.

Encircling us were teenage girls, also decked out in Takshitas, gold belts, and henna in their hair and twining down their hands and arms. They rocked back and forth, moving their hands up and down, clapping at odd intervalls, in unison.

To the right and left of the whole affair, ropes separated the rest of the male population as outside spectators. (They were not allowed to sit among the inner circles where the women sat.) Many of them lazed atop nearby roofs, to get a better view of their young female counterparts and the chanting, drum-beating old men.

By 1:30 the exotic nuance was overtaken by waves of exhaustion. Nawal, her girlfriends and I pushed our way through the crowds, arm-in-arm, back to her parents home, stripped our party garments and collapsed into blankets on the concrete-floored roof. I stared at the moon, partially hidden behind wispy clouds. A gust of wind wound through the palm trees surrounding the house and threw dust and sand in our eyes. I blinked my eyes, smiled at the wind, (my friend, nevertheless, in this parched climate) and that was about the last I remembered.

Shipping center meetings

Just braved the heat to travel to Ouarzazate yesterday, to meet with my delege about the shipping center idea. He had lots of insights, and practical information about how shipping items works currently, and what would or wouldn't work from his understanding. We had to break up the meeting into two parts, (we were meeting, and he took me in his car while we continued chatting, to find a certain couple of gentleman who had arrived to meet with him). They turned out to be on their way to his office, just as we went out to meet them at another location. We returned to find them waiting in his office ... he brought us all in, shut the door and they promptly began chatting away about a completely unrelated subject. I sat there, wondering if the meeting was supposed to be short, hence the reason he left me sitting through it, biding my time away. One of the gentlemen turned to me and inquired: "Are you okay just waiting on us?" "Well.. I do have errands to run. How about I let you have your meeting and we will resume ours this afternoon?" I inquired of the delege. He pouted. "Aren't you coming to my house for lunch?" "Umm.. no, sorry, I already have a lunch appointment." I guess he was just going to let me sit there for another two hours until lunchtime and then tag along with him. Glad I said something early on...

In the afternoon we resumed, me with a whole new list of questions. He thinks the shipping service should be located in Ouarzazate, as DHL nor any other major carrier currently operates here. It makes sense to establish something in a much larger city to provide service to the whole region, but in my mind is inherently different than a rural holding/shipping center. Plus, if I spend all my time working towards establishing such a thing in Oz, and DHL decides that Oz has grown enough to accomodate another DHL center, moves in... all my work is wiped away. DHL, UPS, etc. would never establish anything in a location like Agdz: 8,000 people, regional center for the area.. but still very rural. That is where I want to focus my efforts. We will see what the next steps will be. Still making strides to prepare my tourist/artisan/bizarre surveys. If I was fluent in Spanish, French, Arabic and German that might help.. translating them all myself, but alas, I'm only conversational in two or three of them.

On the drive home, I was, as usual, squished in a car with six other Moroccan men, hugging the door, trying not to think about being sick on the windy roads, in the 100+ temperatures. Miserable feeling. I stumbled home and tripped into bed, awoke an hour later and walked into the shower... all my clothes on. Ahhh...refreshing.

I'm really not lying...

At approximately 9:30 AM ...

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Yep.. 120 Degrees

I put the thermometer in the sun this morning cause I doubted that it really gets that hot.

It's not yet 8AM and it reads: 120 F. :)

I wet my linen pants and hung them in the window for 10 minutes while I got ready... and yes, they're almost dry.

Well here I go, off to the taxi stand for a meeting!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

America Part 3: Home

Party on the decks! (The fam minus me)

View from the decks...

Little Priss with her little Jasmine...

A typical dinner at the Beach house (seriously)...

I'm home!

The Play Mart Heiresses at the factory ...
On Wednesday we held a board meeting. Kinda nice to be there for it, even though I'm not involved in any of the day-to-day operations right now.

My adorable niece, Gracia ... playing in the "wilderness" out front.

Beaches on the rocks .. (minus Nathan, Laura and little GG)

We love to hike. Berea. Beautiful flowers and sunshine. I miss the hikes.

Joint birthdays/anniversary party for Mom & Dad, Laura and I.

I was so excited to take a break back in the States, but once I boarded the plane bound for America all these strange emotions welled up. All of a sudden I had a fear of leaving Morocco, a fear of returning to the other world I used to live in, of remembering what it was like to have the freedom of hopping in a car and driving to Wal-Mart, of throwing on a little dress and not worrying if it covered the appropriate amount of skin, of not being called to in French, of actually understanding everything everyone said to me, air conditioning, and mostly... being close to family and loved ones ... and realizing how much I missed them. Maybe I wasn't wise to remind myself in the middle of my service.

Once I stepped off the plane and met my friend Meliss, all was forgotten in the happiness of seeing her. The weeks were filled and busy, and each moment with a sister, parent or girlfriend cherished. And America? People say you go through a lot of culture shock. I didn't notice it a bit... and then I did. America was a America. Just like I remembered. It didn't feel to fast-past, clean, chaotic, like people say... it felt normal. Morocco is Morocco and America is America. It was a relief to be able to separate the two.

After a little while I began noticing that I would find it rude if someone didn't have time to take off work or drop everything else for me (which lots of people really did) ... in Morocco family and friends are priority and anything else is just busyness that can wait hours or days. I think that mentality had somehow worked its way into my subconscious. And greeting friends. It was so good to see them ... but I'm used to lunches here where someone you haven't seen in a day treats it like a year, demands where you disappeared to and asks you a million questions. Lots of people did ask me lots of questions, but when they didn't... it felt odd.

On the other hand, I felt like most people I had kept in touch with quite well and knew exactly what was going on in their lives, thanks to blogs and cell phones, Skype and email. Technology really makes the U.S. feel very close in a way.

I bid my parents and siblings goodbye, I tried to make it casual. I'm a rather emotional person, but I felt myself somewhat trying to suppress the reality of leaving all of them again for another 18 months. Twice what the last period was... I know I can do it (with God's grace), but thinking about it didn't help. I think I subconsciously decided it will be easier to live a life of coming and going across seas and country borders if every departure isn't agonizing. I just hope I don't start hiding true feelings in the process.

I feel very blessed to have had a chance to see everyone for a happy two weeks.

America Part 2: Cincy friends

The first week home I rushed back and forth between Cincinnati, Somerset, Cincinnati, Akron, Cincinnati, Somerset... lots of driving, lots of shopping, lots of visiting friends. Church, lunches of 25+ people, family friends that poured over my pictures and stories for hours... and best of all, lots of time with my dear friend, Meliss. She's the best.

We drove straight to Teak Thai in Mt. Adams (Cincy) from the airport and talked and drank Pinot Grigio until the restaurant kicked us out.

Another night we went to Blind Lemon, my favorite outdoor coffee bar where they play live music until 2AM every night. So wonderful and strange to be back in all the old places again. For a couple days. When I saw people, it was like I had just seen them a month ago.. which was wonderful. I was worried it would be too emotional and strange. I phones and email are miracles. When my dad was in Peace Corps thirty years ago his means of communication were letters... three weeks coming, three weeks going... little bit different nowadays.

America Part1: The wedding

I just got back from a two-week visit to the U.S.A.!! Felt great to land on American soil, wear clothes I wanted, drive a car, eat yummy foods.

The main reason for returning was my friend Allison's (from Cedarville) wedding ... reunion with college friends. Great to see all of them.. weird, like hardly any time had passed.. and last time I saw them was a year ago, at Erica's wedding. (Wedding's make nice excuses for reunions. We're all debating how we're going to get together when everyone finally gets married and there are no more weddings.)

Here's the crew.

Cutting the cake.. (one of many)

The happy bride and groom: Mr. and Mrs. Marc L~

My Cedarville girlies... now I'm the only one not married.
I told the boys I would give them a decade to catch up.

The rehearsal dinner was at a beautiful old mansion ...
Angela with baby Maya, 8 weeks old.. I babysat her during the rehearsal ... she cried for quite a while, despite my bouncing, patting, strolling and anything else I could think of. Another beautiful reminder why I don't wanna be a mom any time soon. I'll just play with my friends' and sisters' babies for now.

I told Al I was bringing her the best bachelorette gift ever ...
a belly dancing outfit, straight from Marrakesh. It was. I had old ladies coming up to me at the wedding the next day: "I heard what you gave Allison... hee hee.."