Changing Seasons, Changing Times

The seasons are changing, the times are changing and so am I. I had an unexpected trip to the States to help attend to my Mother’s health,
I’m remembering the anniversary of my dear friend Linda’s death a year ago. We’re looking for a new apartment and planning a trip to Casablanca to renew my passport. I’m beginning a new teaching position. Our one-year anniversary of arriving in Tangier is almost here. I’m reliving our last month in Florence which was full of stress and anticipation.

Sometimes it seems like yesterday, and sometimes it seems I’ve always been a part of this city. Every day it surprises me. Everything is changing here and it is evident everywhere. Construction cranes rise in the city. Boats come and go from the new port. Restaurants and shops open, and Tangier is modernizing. In the midst of the modernization, ancient customs are carried out and celebrated.

With the influx of industry and innovation, the city still struggles to keep up with services of trash disposal, sidewalk maintenance, and caring for the mentally ill and poor. The more things change, the more things stay the same. My thoughts today are as random and confused and spinning like the traffic in one of the many traffic circles in Tangier. I’m just waiting for sanity and clarity to return and help me make sense of it all.

La Table du Marche’-Tanja Marina Bay

The restaurant La Table du Marche’ is a fabulous new restaurant located on Tanja Marina Bay. It is pricier than most places in Tangier, but the food, service, location, and atmosphere make it worth it. They have one menu whether lunch or dinner that serves something for everyone.

The restaurant opened in May with the opening of the Tanja Marina Bay facility.

The cuisine is international but there is a section for Moroccan cuisine as well. They serve fresh fish, grilled meats, pasta, and risotto. Our selections today were a tomato and mozzarella salad. It had fresh and sundried tomatoes with a pesto sauce. It was delicious.

I ordered a pasta dish with mushrooms and smoked turkey pancetta. It was a generous, rich, sultry dish that reminded me of autumn.
My husband ordered the fish of the day, which turned out to be grilled swordfish with tomato chutney and a side of mixed vegetables. We shared a bottle of white wine from Morocco, which was excellent.

This restaurant is also affiliated with the less pricey one next door, La Boutique. It makes the fresh bread that they serve in La Table with roasted garlic butter and a black olive tapenade. It is incredible.

The restaurant is located at the end of the end of the pier, which gives a nice view of the municipal beach and the Gulf of Tangier. There is one located in Marrakesh and in St. Tropez.

The décor inside is very modern with all glass windows to take in the incredible views. We went for lunch but I can’t wait to go some evening after dark to take in the beautiful Tangier skyline with all the lights flickering on the sea.

The Life I Imagined by Karen Mills

Morocco is not my first experience living abroad. I lived in Italy for seven years permanently after taking a one-year sabbatical in Florence. At that point in my life, I had a very successful career, two grown children, and had divorced a few years earlier. At this point, I was saying, “Is this all there is?”

I made a New Year’s Resolution to make some changes. Specifically, I decided to “live somewhere else and do something different”. After looking around for other opportunities in other cities for my job, I decided to step out of the box. If I could live anywhere I wanted, where would that be and what would I do. The result was a year in Florence, Italy learning the Italian language and so much more.

I wrote a book about that first year called, The Life I Imagined


You can find it on Amazon in hardcopy or as an eBook. Read it and change your life!

An excerpt to whet your appetite.

The Life I Imagined

When the plane touched down in Venice, the departure point of the cruise, I felt strong, independent, and excited. The ride from the airport to the pier was a blur, and a water taxi took me to my hotel. I looked at the rippling water in the amazing red and gold sunrise glowing on the antique, ornate palaces and felt the stirrings of something inside. A bubbling up of who I might be, where I might go; the life I might lead in the future dawned like the new day over Venice. I laughed aloud and then cried with joy. Other passengers turned and looked at me with puzzled faces. We were all tired after the long overnight flight, and I laughed again and chalked it up to my emotions.

The rest of that day spurred on by some well of energy that had surfaced with this new feeling, I walked the city. I could feel the smile on my face as I took photos of everything and everybody. I noticed things that I probably wouldn’t normally notice; the curve of the wrought iron on a terrace, people kissing by the ocean, an old man eating gelato alone on a park bench, and the smell of the sea.

I got lost in the alleyways and narrow streets and crisscrossed the many bridges over the canals, gasping when I came upon the rialto Bridge, St. Mark’s Square and the Bridge of Sighs. I booked dinner for one in a fabulously expensive restaurant and drank prosecco, Italy’s bubbly, elegant answer to champagne and people-watched others at nearby tables.

Five Challenges of Living Abroad

For me, living abroad has been the right choice. I’ve seen other people come and go from both Italy and here in Morocco. Living somewhere is not like being on vacation. While it has been the right choice for me, it hasn’t always been easy. Here are the things that I have struggled with most.

1. Missing family and friends-This one is obvious. With modern technology, the world is much smaller and it is easier to stay in touch with people. Still, there are times when you want to be with a loved one and it just isn’t feasible. Making adjustments around holidays birthdays, and times, when those you hold dear are ill or in need, is difficult from afar.

2. Language-Learning the language is a necessity if you are going to live in a place. You might be able to get by in the market or around town, but when it comes to reading contracts, opening bank accounts, filing taxes, going to the doctor, you are going to need to speak the language. In addition, it makes acclimating into your new home more pleasant in that you can speak with neighbors and locals that you meet. It isn’t easy though!

3. Finding social outlets-usually you will start with the other immigrants from your home country. That is fine, but in order to enter the society in which you chose to live, you have to learn the language and get involved. That might mean volunteer work, taking classes, or finding a job. You will be happier and feel less isolated if you integrate yourself into your local community. You can usually start with a social network online that might have regular meetups. Again this might only integrate you will other immigrants, but that network will start to grow and expand into the local community.

4. Culture Shock-You likely chose your new home because of some of the cultural differences. You will not like all of the cultural differences that you find. Adapting to the culture is difficult, but you can choose which things you take to heart and which ones you do not. Things such as opening and closing times of businesses, bureaucracy, food rules and customs, religious activities, tipping practices, social interactions, and how you dress are all things to be considered. It is best to be observant and learn what the locals do so as not to stand out like a sore thumb.

5. Food-This might not be something that you think of when you think of living in another country. My primary advice is to plan to eat like a local. In countries outside of the United States, it is common to shop daily for fresh food. Refrigerators may be smaller and freezers non- existent. Produce is available in season and not all year round, but the outstanding flavor when it arrives makes it worth it. Fast food and ethnic food might not exist and may be expensive when you find it. Learning about the recipes and foods of the country where you live can be very rewarding.

Avocado Shake

Smoothies made with milk and avocado are absolutely delicious. I have to admit, I never thought I would say that. I like milk and I like avocados, but the combination of the two did not sound inviting to me. It took me a long time to try it.

When I did, I immediately loved it! It is smooth and creamy and a touch sweet. It is filling and oh so good for you. Avocados are abundant and inexpensive here in Morocco and you can buy this drink almost everywhere.

According to this Heart Healthy article, avocados have health benefits such as:

1. They are nutritious
2. They contain more potassium than bananas
3. Avocado is Loaded With Heart-Healthy Monounsaturated Fatty Acids
4. They Are Loaded With Fiber
5. Eating Avocados Can Lower Cholesterol and Triglyceride Levels
6. People Who Eat Avocados Tend to be Healthier
7. The Fat in Them Can Help You Absorb Nutrients From Plant Foods
8. Avocados Are Loaded With Powerful Antioxidants That Can Protect The Eyes
9. They May Help Prevent Cancer
10. Avocado Extract May Help Relieve Symptoms of Arthritis
11. Eating Avocado May Help You Lose Weight
12. They are Delicious and Easy to Incorporate in The Diet

They are easy to make at home and there are all kinds of recipes on line like this one from MarocMama, another Moroccan blogger.

Try it! I bet you will love it too.

A Tourist at Home

When was the last time you were a tourist in your own city? Since I moved to Tangier, I’ve been a tourist here a lot. When you move to a new place, it’s always exciting to see what all it has to offer. However, after you have lived in a place a while, things might become stagnant or you might just be busy with work, family, household chores, etc.

Whenever I visit a city, I often use the hop on, hop off buses that many companies offer to tour the city. The prices are usually relatively reasonable and you can see many things and get a lot of information in a relatively short amount of time. Then you can choose places, sites, monuments, or museums that you want to revisit.

We noticed that there is a new bus in Tangier, City Tours. It is the hop on hop off style and has two routes. One is two hours and one is one hour. They offer they tour in an audio guide in four languages: Arabic, French, Spanish, and English. It costs about $16 for both legs of the tour and the ticket is good for 48 hours.

Because we are residents, they offered us a 50% discount, so for $8, we were able to take the tour. We have been to all of the places on these tours, but there was some interesting information and it was fun to see the city and the sites from a different perspective.

I grew up in Nashville, TN and my parents still live there. Whenever I go back to visit, I go on some type of tour like Nashville Trash, Backstage at the Grand Ole Opry, or visit one of the sites such as Andrew Jackson’s home, The Hermitage.

So my advice to you is to consider being a tourist in your own city. See your city as the tourists do. You might learn something new or develop a new appreciation for where you live.

Discovering Wine in Morocco

Wine in Morocco? That might surprise you given that it is 98% Muslim. They do not use wine in their religious practices. Wine has always been an important dimension in my life. That only increased while living in Italy. We’ve enjoyed and been very pleasantly surprised by the availability and quality of this luscious beverage in Morocco.

Most restaurants do not sell alcohol. You will find the more expensive, or foreign cuisine restaurants do have it. It is also available in hotel bars and sold in stores around town.

Wine has been in Morocco since the Phoenician settlers. By the time the ancient Romans were in Morocco, it was well established. The French occupation and expertise gave a boost to the industry. When Morocco gained independence, it began to die out. The high Atlas Mountains and the cooling influence of the Atlantic make is a desirable climate for the vineyards.

In the 1990’s foreign investors and know-how entered the market. At the time there was a program by the state where they rented acres of land for vineyards. Several large Bordeaux based companies entered the Moroccan market. Today, Morocco is the second largest wine producer of the Arab countries behind Algeria.

Red wine accounts for 75% of the production and rose’ and gris about 20%. There is only about 5% produced here that is white. The traditional red grapes planted in Morocco are Carignan, Alicante, Grenache, and Cinsaut. Those makeup about 40% of the crop. Plantations of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah have increased rapidly, and together makeup around 15 percent.

Morocco has five distinct wine regions. Within these five regions, there are fourteen with Appellations de Garantie (AOG) status. We drink mostly wines that are made in Meknes and Fez. We’ve had some really nice ones that go great with the Moroccan cuisine. We look forward to visiting some of the vineyards and continuing our education.

Sushi Box and Other Ethnic Restaurants

There are quite a number of ethnic restaurants in Tangier, although many of them are not very good. It is interesting to eat Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and Indian food in countries outside of their origin. I’ve eaten them in the United States and in Italy, but not in the original origin, so who’s to say whether they are authentic or not. I only know if I like them or if they are similar to what I have eaten in other places.

I’ve read that it is common for ethnic restaurants to adapt their food and menus to the locals. I’ve seen this happen in Italy when I ordered what should have been a spicy Chinese dish only to find it not so spicy at all. (Italians do not eat very spicy food). I also saw menus for McDonald’s (please excuse this example) change to fit Italian taste with pancetta instead of bacon and here in Morocco where they do not have bacon on the menu at all.

When you are vacationing, it is rarely important to check out ethnic restaurants because you are eager to eat food from the place that you are visiting. When you live in a place, it’s different. Sometimes you just want a taste of home or a different taste entirely.
I sorely miss Mexican food and have not found it here in Tangier. They have Chinese, Japanese, Thai, French, Spanish, Indian, and Lebanese. Still, there is a good selection. One of the best places that I’ve found so far is Sushi Box.

Sushi Box is located on rue Ibn Alhaytem Tangier, Morocco. This is a chain, so they also have locations in Casablanca and Rabat. They use the freshest fish and have a very extended menu. There are tiny jars of pickled ginger on the table along with wasabi, so you can eat all that you want.

The prices are in line with other sushi places I have eaten, although that is on the expensive side for Morocco. I think it’s worth it though. The only thing lacking is the sake, which I sorely missed. You can check out their menu at the Casablanca website by clicking here.

They also do home delivery. Yay!

Teaching English

Me, teaching English?  Okay!  In 2011, I received my TEFL certification from a school in Florence, Italy.  It was my first year living abroad, and although retired, I thought I could make some extra money teaching English.  The course was a grueling month long, but in the end, I passed with flying colors.

I taught English in Italy for about six months.  I had six private students.  Two were 5 years old, two were ten years old, and two were 20 years old.  The pay was not great and the prep work for teaching was much more than I had bargained for.  After six months, I had decided to live without the extra income.

I haven’t taught since then, and I haven’t really thought much about it.  Until recently, when a woman contacted me.  She had found my name and profile on Facebook on an expat forum.  She inquired about whether I was interested or not, and after some consideration, I decided to pursue the opportunity.

This all started in May.  There was an interview; there were forms to complete and an English proficiency test to complete.  Now I am ready to face a weeklong training session on the Berlitz method of teaching.  This prospect has me terrified and filled with dread.

It’s not the training I fear; it’s the 9:30 to 5:30 schedule for five days straight.  Yes, spoiled as I am, I no longer wake up by an alarm clock with someplace to be early in the morning.  My days are free to do as I please and full of traveling, marketing, trying out new recipes, sightseeing, lunch with friends, volunteer work, walks on the beach, trips to the pool, watching movies and reading.  Hardly anything is scheduled and definitely not at 9:30 in the morning!

Okay, I know you don’t feel sorry for me, nor should you.  I still am not doing this for the money, but for the sole purpose of meeting like-minded people in my new country.  I had one meeting with five other teachers and felt that I could easily accomplish this goal.  They were all women and were from France, Spain, Australia, New Zealand and Germany!

So, this is what will inspire me to get up at this uncivilized hour and go to this course to learn how they prefer I teach English.  Wonderful, like-minded women who are far away from home for a variety of reasons and motives all together in one room for the purpose of teaching their language to others.

When that alarm clock goes off, I will definitely need to think hard about this wonderful motivation.  I think I’m actually getting excited now.  Wish me luck!

The Asilah Mural and Art Festival 2018

Since 1978, the medina walls of Asilah turn into an art gallery with colorful murals painted on the walls during July and August. It was the idea of two artist friends who wanted to transform the decaying and deteriorating alleyways. Now it has turned into a month-long arts festival.

The Centre de Hassan II Recontres is where lectures are held for artists, writers, and musicians during the festival. Throughout the medina, you will find artists working or evidence of their finished products. There are street musicians as well playing throughout and wanting to get you involved with playing an instrument or dancing.

The usually peaceful medina is alive with activity. There are always many stores here with unusual gift items of handmade shoes, jewelry, candles, baskets, and more.

This year Asilah will celebrate its 40th year of the festival, which turns its wall into the backdrop for an art gallery. Events take place throughout July and August. We visited recently and found some lovely new murals. In June, we saw them painting the walls white to provide a nice new canvas for the artists.

This sleepy little town becomes fully awake in these summer months. As you approach the Portuguese walled medina, the beaches are full. Restaurant on the beach serve fresh seafood and horse and buggies carry visitors through the streets.

Vendors sell peanuts harvested from around the local area and the sea breezes give relief to the hot Moroccan sun.

There are restaurants available at any price point. On the lower end we like Yali, and on the pricier side (and you can buy alcohol) Casa Pepe.

To hear the music and see the wonderful new contemporary frescoes on the walls of the medina visit Asilah during July and August. Shopping is great here with goods and prices that you won’t find in many other places in Morocco.

WP Facebook Auto Publish Powered By :