Reflections in Stillness

There is a lot to learn by reflecting in stillness. Unfortunately in our busy lives, we don’t often take time to be still and reflect. This time of forced stillness gives us all an opportunity to do that. Sometimes it’s painful, sometimes joyful, but in the end, we come away with a better understanding of ourselves. Hopefully, we take that information and do something constructive with it.

I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting. In the past few days, I’ve reflected on my last writing, My Anticipation Addiction. As I reread it, I noticed what a great place of privilege I write from. The things that I miss and even the things that I’m learning to appreciate are all gifts that come from a privileged life.

During this pandemic, the differences in race and class are being further pronounced. While we are all in this together, the differences in how we are having to maneuver through it and cope are stark. While I didn’t write about it in my last post, that doesn’t mean I’m not aware of it. I’m retired with retirement savings, so the financial impact has not bothered me. I am in the house with my husband and our house is large enough for us to have private time when we need it. We are healthy and do not know anyone as of yet who has been ill with the virus. While our families are not with us and we can’t travel to them during this time, we can talk with them regularly or see them through technology.

Many people live alone so the isolation can become unbearable. They don’t have access to technology. Here in Morocco, people live with extended families in modest homes. The lack of privacy is probably maddening at times. They can’t find the stillness. Many have lost their jobs, or worse, a loved one to the pandemic. Finding money to feed their families or time and a place to grieve for a loved one isn’t easy. Some don’t even have homes to shelter in. Health care professionals and employees of groceries, pharmacies, and other essential businesses go into work to keep our lives comfortable, at very high personal risk.

Every day, I wake up with gratitude knowing that I am safe inside my home, I have money to buy food and pay rent, my loved ones are safe and secure and I am with my husband, my best friend. In this stillness, take some time to reflect on your position in life. What are you grateful for?

My Anticipation Addiction

Anticipation is my favorite emotion. Since I can remember, I’ve enjoyed and created things to look forward to. As a child, some of those things came organically, like my birthday, Christmas, Easter, and weekend trips to my grandmother’s house.

When I became an adult, the childhood celebrations and excitement surrounding them became chores as I had responsibilities around those for my own family. So, I had to look outside of those and began creating them myself. There are small things like lunch with a friend, date night with my husband, a spa day, or a concert or a movie. My addiction grew and these things weaved themselves into a normal pattern of my life no longer giving me the spark and high that I craved.

Travel was the thing that gave me the most euphoric feeling and kept me going through the mundane tasks of life and daily work grind. I dreamed, researched, planned, scheduled, booked, and enjoyed these trips with an obsessive intensity.

Since the pandemic hit, I have missed a trip to Italy, a birthday/anniversary trip to a beach resort, and I had planned to spend the holy month of Ramadan in the United States visiting a multitude of friends and family. In June, we were booked for two weeks on a safari in Tanzania with a side trip to Zanzibar. Anticipation had built for months before the realization came that these things weren’t going to happen. To say I was disappointed doesn’t begin to describe my crash.

My anticipation addiction was further aggravated by the realization that these things would not be available for the foreseeable future. This forced me to a reckoning, an intervention of sorts. And, as with most interventions of this type, it hasn’t been an entirely bad thing. Being deprived of the resources to feed my addiction as I have before, I’ve found new, simpler things to anticipate and on a shorter time frame.

I now anticipate with great pleasure my leisurely mornings and the first cup of freshly brewed coffee. I dream, research, and plan meals culled from the many recipe books that I’ve collected from past travels. Each meal takes me to a different place in Italy, Greece, Russia, Germany, and Morocco. Sitting in my living room with the morning sun pouring through my window touching geraniums and orchids in full bloom is something I look forward to when I get out of bed. Long walks on the rooftop of my building where the breezes are refreshing and the views stunning are in my daily ritual, as is the afternoon with a cup of tea and a good book. Later there are phone conversations with family and friends. An evening cocktail with my husband is our new date night.

Morning Cuppa
Orchids and geraniums
View from the Rooftop
Evening Cocktail
Negroni, now named Coronegroni

Anticipation is dependent upon the future. The future seems uncertain these days. There are a million self-help books out there about living in the now. I haven’t read them, but I know the gist and have learned the value during this strange and pensive time. I will consider this one of the positive outcomes of a disastrous, frightening, and ongoing period of change and adjustment. Oh yes, I will be traveling again as soon as it’s available and I feel it’s safe. But, in the meantime, I will take every opportunity to feed my anticipation addiction with the small things that life offers.

Wasted Words

Well, dear readers and friends, it’s been a long time since I wrote on this blog. My last entry is the joyous occasion of receiving my 10 year Carte de Sejour, which allows me to stay in Morocco legally. I’ve had so many remarkable experiences in this country and in others since then, but why didn’t I write, you ask. Well, I have been writing. I’ve been writing letter after letter to my United States Congressmen.

This is not a political blog and I don’t intend for it to become one. This is a political post, and if you know me, you know my views, so make your decision now to continue reading or not.

I don’t know about you, but every day I am shocked and appalled about what is going on in the United States. From children in cages, people held in crowded and unsanitary facilities, being denied asylum requests at the border, rampant shootings from angry white racist men, and the buffoon in the White House who is an embarrassment to the human race and a large stain on the integrity of the country, I can’t believe what it’s come to.

I’m also amazed at how little it seems to bother my compatriots. Are you all immune, don’t see what’s happening, like it, don’t think you can do anything, are still more concerned about “those emails”, or what? This is a rhetorical question.

Every day, I go onto Face book Messenger and type in Resist. The site responds with a question of whom you want to contact. When you start out, you can put in a phone number or address so that it can identify the correct representatives for your State. The site is easy to use and self-explanatory once you enter it.

Here are some of the letters that I’ve written. The site adds the salutation and address as well as the closing, so this is just the body.

Please do something to eliminate guns in the hands of white racist terrorists and lunatics. Stop the killing and stand up against the racist rhetoric fueling these acts from the White House.

I’ve never been so ashamed of my country. First, it was separating families at the border and now it’s ICE raids leaving children abandoned at school. Please stop this ridiculous pursuit of immigrants in the country and focus on real issues like domestic terrorism.

As our elected officials, you have a responsibility to the nation and to your constituents. Do not go down in history allowing this president to continue to disgrace the country and its people day after day. He has alienated our allies, aligned with murderous dictators, fed the fire of racism and hate and belittled the status of the office with his pettiness. Please join your colleagues in starting the impeachment process. It’s long overdue. We’re waiting for some leadership in the government.

Is money really the only important thing to you people? Clearly, that’s true for the horror in the White House, but I’m still holding out hope for my elected officials that someone has a heart, a soul, and a conscience. What about the animals? Do they deserve no respect for their part in our ecosystem? Please do something to reverse the potential danger of the reckless abandonment of the endangered animal act. Everyone is watching.

Immediately after the recess, I would like to see broad steps taken around gun control. Please see that regulations include broad background checks, prohibiting assault weapons, and no sales to the mentally ill or those who have committed domestic violence.

Where are all the children? Are they being well cared for? Are they back with their parents? Are the parents being treated with dignity and respect? Do they have soap, water, toothbrushes, and food? I haven’t heard that these human rights violations have been corrected and I wait in shame for someone to do something about this. Will you help or will you be a part of the problem?

What do you think about the bully in the White House using politics against USA citizens and your colleagues? Does it not cause any alarm? Please join others to get this man impeached before irreparable harm has been done to our democracy. The whole world is watching in horror and you all are doing nothing. Stop the madness now!

What’s being done to see that our future elections are fair, all citizens can vote, and other countries are not tempering with them? It’s clear from our own internal agencies that outside meddling has occurred and is being planned. What are you doing to see that it doesn’t happen again?

These are only a few. There is never a loss for something to write about unfortunately, the hardest decision is which one to tackle today. Since all of the Tennessee congressional representatives are republican, I feel like I’m swimming upstream, but I won’t stand by and just watch. I send something every single day. What are you doing?

So excuse me if I’m absent here. Maybe my words are wasted but it sure makes me feel just a little bit better to know I’m voicing my opinion and trying to do something.

I’m feeling better about getting some of this off my chest both to the actual people who could directly do something about it and to you my faithful readers. I hope I sparked something in you to join me in this letter-writing campaign. I hope to see you back here with something more positive and apolitical before too long.

Darija Language Update

When Darija is by far the hardest language I’ve learned. Spanish, Italian, and French are all considered romance languages. They are the modern version of languages that were originally composed of “vulgar Latin”. That means they have some commonalities.

English is a Germanic Language with some Latin influences, so there are some words that are similar to words in the romance languages.  Fortunately, knowing these languages all support each other and there are common themes, some similar vocabulary and common grammar structure.

However, that is not so in Darija. First of all, it is not considered a language, but a dialect of the Arabic language. Therefore, it is not written. Classical Arabic and French make up written documents, informational signs, product information, etc in Morocco. However, the spoken language is Darija.  Additionally, Darija varies somewhat in the various regions and cities in Morocco. In Tangier, Darija is a combination of local words, Spanish and French words and even some classical Arabic words.

Darija is the first language of about 70% of the Moroccan population and the rest speak a Berber language called Tamazight. Needless to say, language is one of the greatest complexities of living in Morocco. On a regular day, I speak French, Spanish, Darija, Italian, and sometimes a little English. Sometimes I speak words of each in the same sentence! It is so interesting to see how people communicate and to confirm that 90% of communication is non-verbal.

All that being said, I am making a little progress on my Darija. Through learning the language, I find that I am better able to distinguish words and phrases that I hear on the street. In order to learn, my teacher has developed a written format of Darija, which younger folks often use for texting. This has been the most helpful element for me since I am a visual learner. When I write things down, or see them written, I am better able to remember them than if I am just repeating things.

So, here are some things I’ve learned so far.

Ana smyti Karen
Ana man amerikiya.
Ana oustada.
Ana mzawja man maghribi.
Kanaskoun f Tanja
Namchi dars Darija jouj youm l simana , tnin ou joum3a hadi tleta sa3a.
Bghit bazaf.

My name is Karen
I am American.
I am a teacher
I am married to a Moroccan man.
I live in Tangier.
I go to my Darija course two days a week on Tuesday and Friday for three hours.
I like it a lot!

I’m only 9 hours into my 20-hour course and some days I feel encouraged and some days discouraged. Both are a natural part of learning a new language.

Christmas Time in a Muslim Country

Christmas time in a Muslim country is quite different, as you might expect. Of course, it’s not that there are no signs of it, there are. In the malls, there are reindeer and decorated trees. People (usually Muslims) gather around them to take photos.

Many stores have holiday sale signs in their windows; live trees are sold around town, as well as decorations for homes and trees in a variety of international stores. There are a few Christmas concerts at the churches and two or three holiday markets.

Some Muslims do have Christmas trees in their homes. A couple of my Muslim friends do and by the delighted reaction of my husband every year when we put it up, I don’t doubt it.

We have a tree in our house and visited a Christmas market that was held at the American Legation. We’ve had some get-togethers with friends (not necessarily related to the holiday). Other than that, there is not much evidence of Christmas.

I don’t mind it. Really, I don’t need all of the commercialism to remind me of the season of goodwill. I also don’t mind not having all the pressures of gift buying and giving, lots of parties and concerts, and family obligations. Of course, I send a few gifts and words of good cheer to family and close friends, but other than that, I am free of the stress of Christmas.

Usually, we have some visitors for the holidays, but unfortunately, that isn’t happening this year. I will miss old friends and family, but relish my new experiences and all the enrichment that they bring. I never travel to the United States at Christmas. Traveling is too expensive, the weather can be bad, and it adds to stress.

On Christmas Day, things will be as usual here in Morocco. We will probably celebrate quietly at home, as we ready to depart to Marrakech the next day, our present to each other. I wish everyone a stress-free holiday season celebrated in the way that you most desire.

You’re Not Forgotten

No, I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth, nor have I forgotten you. I’m still here, but oh so busy. Just after our one year anniversary in Tangier, we started apartment hunting. We took a trip to Casablanca to renew my passport, we found an apartment which is unfurnished, and I started teaching and have six students. Whew!

When you get an unfurnished apartment here in Morocco, there is no water heater, appliances, or light fixtures. Additionally, no furniture, cooking utensils, pots and pans, dishes, and other creature comforts. We have always rented furnished apartments. So we’ve had to shop and shop and buy and install and wait for deliviries, etc. Our official move date will be the end of October.

My teaching started up with a bang and I’m loving it! I have one adult student who is a television journalist for the most important Moroccan station in the country. She is a high-level speaker with aspirations to return to school in London. I have another class of five people with a division of a Spanish International Bank. They also are high-level speakers who want to refine their skills to write documents and deal with international customers over the phone and in person.

Teaching has turned out to be just what I wanted it to be, a way to meet wonderful diverse people, learn more about different cultures and feel a real part of the Tangier community.

In the midst of all that, I’m off to Italy. I’m taking a trip back to Florence to visit friends, finish some business there, and take a little side trip to Bergamo, a city I’ve not visited before.

So, I will be away for a while, but when I return, I will have lots to tell you. You’re not forgotten. I still haven’t told you about the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca which is fantastic! Stay tuned!

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.

Fireflies, Where Have They Gone?

The other day, my husband and I were reminiscing about our childhoods. He grew up just outside of Meknes, Morocco, and I grew up in Nashville, Tennessee. The differences between our childhoods are enormous, but we both spent a good deal of time playing outside with our friends.

We rode bikes, played hide and seek, tag, a variety of games with balls and ran a lot. I don’t think kids do that much these days. We were drinking cocktails on our sun porch at sunset while we talked. The stars begin to shine through the changing sky and it reminded me of the first twinkling of fireflies.

Lightning bugs, we called them, were a huge part of my childhood and a true mark of summer. The long days, setting sun, dusk and then the fireflies came out, twinkling in all their glory. I hadn’t thought of them in years and described to him how we would capture them in jars to make a lantern, or cruelly squish their lamps out and place on our fingertips to make wild light shows.

As I described them to him, (he had heard of them but never seen them in real life) I thought about my recent trip to Nashville. My parents live on a lake. It seems an ideal place for fireflies. It’s not too far from where I grew up, so I know it is an area where they live. I hadn’t seen any fireflies! Well, my father feeds the geese that gather around the lake, so that must be why they stay away, right?

The next day, I thought about the fireflies again and began a little research. Where fireflies live, Mr. Google, I asked. He says they live in Asia and parts of the Americas. There are no known fireflies west of Kansas in the United States. Then I stumbled on several reports starting in 2016 about the extinction of fireflies. There are three major causes, light pollution, loss of habitat, and chemical pesticides. Fireflies live underground during the winter months, so when lawns are treated with chemicals, it kills them.

This makes me sad. My childhood world is or has become extinct. Kids don’t play outside so much. They don’t play hide and seek or ride their bikes in gangs around the neighborhood. Plus, they don’t catch fireflies and maybe there aren’t any.

Have you seen any lightning bugs lately? Please tell me yes!

The Grand Ole Opry Backstage Tours-Nashville, TN

It’s a long way from Morocco, but recently I visited Nashville and went on the Grand Ole Opry Backstage Tour.

I grew up in Nashville and as a teenager, I worked at Opryland, which is no longer in existence. I am not really a country music fan, although I have listened to my fair share of it in my lifetime. Knowledge of country music stars is inherent in growing up there.

I have never been to the Grand Ole Opry, but enjoy the TV series Nashville. It is filmed in Studio A in the building. The tour is about 45 minutes long and is mostly conducted through videos of country music stars. The cost for adults is $27.00 and the tours start at 9:45 a.m.

The tour starts with some background information about the Grand Ole Opry and then you make your way through the Opry house to the entrance of the Stars, Studio A, the post office of the stars, members’ plaques, and then the dressing rooms.

It’s interesting and fun and people rehearse while you are touring, so entertainment is included. The Grand Ole Opry and Country Music is such a part of Nashville, it’s almost a “must do” when visiting…even if you grew up there.

Nearby is the Opryland Hotel, ten acres under roof featuring lots of beautiful atriums, restaurants, clubs, and entertainment, as well as the Opryland Mall. Visiting this complex could take an entire day and don’t forget to check out The General Jackson which cruises the Cumberland River and departs from this site. Lunch and Dinner cruises are available.

Cultural Center Ibn Khaldoun

The Cultural Center of Ibn Khaldoun is located just down the street from Gran Café de Paris on Rue de Liberte.

It is a small exhibition space that specializes in contemporary art from artists in Tangier and throughout the world. It is a non-profit organization and the exhibits are usually free.

The current exhibit, which started on April 6th, is called The Colors of Nature, and features two artists, Dherzu Uzala and Blanca Solis.

Dherzu Uzala is a muralist and street artist from Cancun, Mexico. His work deals with the Mayan and Aztec culture and folklore. He is well known for his murals in Cancun and Tulum.

Blanca Solis, also Mexican, deals with nature themes as well as color.

The exhibit is small and very colorful, inspiring and fun to see. You can easily take your time and visit the space in less than 45 minutes.

The exhibition center is opened daily from 10-1 and 4-8.

Exhibits seem to change relatively frequently so I like to drop by often to see what’s new. Always contemporary artists and always interesting, it’s a nice cultural break between tea at Gran Café de Paris and the Medina!

The Cultural Center is named after Ibn Khaldoun, the great Arab historian and historiographer. He is claimed as a forerunner of the modern disciplines of historiography, sociology, economics, and demography.

He is best known for his book, the Muqaddimah or Prolegomena (“Introduction”). The book influenced 17th-century Ottoman historians. He is considered to be one of the great philosophers of the Middle Ages.

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