Sunday, December 26, 2010

Vintage Retro "Back to Basics" Christmas

I didn't expect to go to the Sahara Desert the week before Christmas. The original plan was to go to Paris the week before Christmas. Snow, cold, Christmas markets, pork. You know the whole "Christmas" feeling. But of course then Egypt didn't work out and Paris got plugged in early. So where do we go the week before Christmas? On Thanksgiving we got invited to go along with friends (who also have 4 children all corresponding to my kids ages) on their desert trip. PERFECT! So I was telling Craig that this was really cool, but didn't seem "Christmasy" to go to the desert right before Christmas. That was until he reminded me that this is how the original Christmas was. Oh yeah. Right. So this is like vintage, retro "back to basics" Christmas? Cool.

Let me warn you first that I'm sketchy on the details of this trip. We were using some pretty hard psychedelic drugs. I mean the GOOD stuff. Benadryl, NyQuil and Dramamine. Not only were we in a drug induced fog, but the trip was jam packed and I can't possibly cover it all. So I'm not even gonna try.

What should one pack when going to the desert in December? Shorts, flip flops, winter coats, sneakers. In other words everything. I'm pretty sure the wise men didn't have any luggage. But then again they didn't travel with 8 kids or I'm pretty sure they would have packed all that freakin' stuff and a dvd player too. Maybe that's what made them so wise....they left the kids at home.

So day one we take the train to Marrakesh where our journey officially begins. We walk through the medina and have a beautiful and delicious dinner over looking the square with the snake charmers, monkeys, teeth pullers, pick pockets. It's great everyone is so excited. Dinner starts off with olives and Moroccan bread. Then some couscous, maybe a tagine (like a Moroccan stew of beef or chicken with veggies) and ends with oranges. So day one it was fun, but this is EVERY meal lunch and dinner on the trip. Now I love Moroccan food. Really I do. But there are only so many olives one can eat. (Unless you're Julianna.) And it's totally weird when you're so accustomed to this formula that you don't feel like you're done with dinner until they bring the oranges. And you are strangely ravenous for oranges.

It takes a LONG, twisty, turny nauseous time in the car to get to the desert. Wisemen didn't need Dramamine because camels are slow tedious creatures. But thankfully with the advent of the car some wiseman invented it. Without it there would have been puke involved. Actually, there was puke involved, but it was in the middle of dinner, not in the car. Any parent knows puke doesn't ruin dinner, but the smell of puked baked into the seat of the car when you're driving through the mountains for hours upon hours with the insidious noxious fumes would ruin the entire trip. We'll leave that for other rancid odors.

After nights spent in hotels and the kids having sleepovers every night we've finally made it to the desert and the Berber tents where we will be spending two nights. It will be three days with no showers (and I forgot to pack my deodorant in about stench) and sand 24/7. You know how you get home from the beach and you can't wait to shower it all off? Well imagine if you have a nice base of sticky sunscreen and have gone dune diving and then had a wind storm pelt sand at you from all directions. Then of course your bed has not only the sand that you've brought in with you, but the sand that has leaked through the holes in your tent. Who needs a hammam when you can get scrubbed and buffed by the elements for free?

Then there's the camels. They are adorable in some weird gawkish Lyle Lovett kinda way. And they belt out their camel songs with no inhibitions. But three things you may not know. First they have slobbery frothy mouths. I don't know why, but they look a bit rabid. Not in a crazed way, more in a sleepy Dramamine induced camel coma kinda way. Second there is a reason why they were banished to the desert and it's because of their putrid camel farts! And last that stupid hump is conducive to a condition known as camel crotch. You could try to treat it with hydrocortisone cream, but that's just going to make the sand stick to the infected area and increase the frictiony sandpaper effect next time you cruise on your camel. Better to just ride it out...

Just when you get to have a sense of peace and accept your camel crotch as being part of your vintage Christmas experience, the commercialism comes to greet you on the dunes. In enter the dune kids. They appear from no where while you are minding your own business frolicking in the barren dunes. Or what you thought were barren dunes. They come with a bag filled with camels that they have made out of string to sell to you. Necessity breeds invention. Now the kids are about ages 4 and 2 from what I can ascertain roaming the desert by themselves. They are extremely persistent. They don't say anything. The older brother merely takes the camels out one by one and places them in a line like a caravan and sit staring at you. There is no more effective sales tactic than being stared at by a dirty, sandy 4 year old salesman who is squinting a hole through your soul. Thank god we have child labor laws in the US, otherwise do you know how many Tupperware containers we would own?

Back to home base for lunch. But today is special. It's Sky's 12th birthday. There ain't no cake in the desert and even if there was the sand would stick to the icing. So what is there to stick a candle into? Olives? Tagine? Oranges? Thank god for Moroccan bread. I wonder what his wish was. I'm positive it had nothing to do with couscous. More likely pizza and a shower. Really, you know you're kids are funky when they are practically begging to shower. I'm positive he's never going to forget where he was when he turned 12. The question is what in the world do we have to do to top this when he turns 13? Is there a trip that can make him beg to do his homework?

Our trip ends in Fes. Having been to Fes before we know this great cafe that has some Americanized/Moroccan food. So after a day of shopping in the medina we head there for lunch. The grand finale of the trip. No tagine, no couscous and no olives. Today we will have milk shakes, fries and camel burgers. Yes, camel burgers. I know it seems so cruel. But I gotta tell ya....they taste a hell of a lot better than they smell! Now where are the oranges?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Opposites Attract: A Chemistry Lesson

They always say opposites attract. It couldn't be more true in the case of Kim and I. She's a working professional, I'm gainfully unemployed, she likes baking, I like cooking, she likes sweets, I prefer salt, she's logical and analytical and I'm...well....NOT.

The expat world is very bizarre in so many ways and maybe the strangest of those is how you meet people and become fast friends. So Kim and I met at a garage sale. Ok, no we didn't because I wasn't actually at the garage sale. But Craig (who wasn't at the garage sale either) works with Andrea who WAS at the garage sale and so was Kim. Andrea and Kim got to talking the way expats do when they encounter another native English speaker. Then Andrea said she knew of a family with a whole mess of kids and promptly called Craig midconversation and handed the phone to Kim. An ice cream date was set. Not only do we hit it off, but turns out our kids get along famously too. That's a whole other story that involves lots of animals and sharp pointy weapons (and no the weapons were never used to harm an animal, only Barbie and we all know she had it coming anyway.) Voila we're friends.

The funny thing is in the states Kim and family live in Boulder and we live in Colorado Springs so in "real life" we actually are neighbors on a 1 1/2 hour drive around the block kinda way. So Kim and I have all these interesting differences, but then we have these similarities like neither one of us is a triathlete, we didn't gradate from the Air Force Academy, we didn't train at the Olympic Training Center and we're technology-tards. I know that only makes us sound normal. Normal anywhere OTHER than Colorado. But, in Colorado these freakish deficiencies qualify us as Colorado White Trash. Even wikipedia has us pegged with their definition. The term suggests outcasts from respectable society living on the fringes of the social order who are seen as dangerous because they may be criminal, unpredictable, and without respect for authority whether it be political, legal, or moral.

About 3 weeks after I met Kim things got really hot and steamy. She asked me to hammam. No, not prom. HAMMAM. Where you don't dress up, you dress down. Way down to naked. Then steam and get assaulted by some random acts of hammamness performed by a very strong Moroccan woman with a kitchen scour pad for all to see. I think that's the moment that I knew (like really knew) that Kim and I were friends for life. And that moment was solidified by the next moment when we got in trouble for taking pictures in the hammam and got busted. This prepared us for getting busted for taking forbidden pictures of other things like my chest in the store...

(Wow...just look how big my chest is! Thankfully it fits perfectly in my hallway.)

There have been so many adventures of Kim and Marie since. On any given day we can be found medinaing, eating (we do ALOT of eating), beaching, yogaing, getting our shoes shinned, pilatesing, laughing (which we also do ALOT of), hammaming, getting mistaken for prostitutes, getting kicked out of malls, getting lost and other just general debauchery.

Back to chemistry class. There are two types of chemical reactions. The first is endothermic which is a process or reaction in which the system absorbs energy from the surroundings in the form of heat. Although we steamed ourselves to a nice raisinlike consistency in the hammam, I don't think that this defines our relationship. Now, an exothermic reaction gives off heat. And, as the rate of reaction increases, it causes heat to be evolved even more quickly until..... it explodes. Yup, that sounds about right. That's totally Kim and I. Unfortunately, with all reactions there is a beginning, a middle and an end. Tomorrow Kim and her family head on a flight back to the states. Now I'm positive that this isn't the end. Mostly because we would have gone out with a MUCH BIGGER BANG! And there would have been desert involved .....and there would have been dancing.....and more steamy nakedness.....and wine....

So, I guess instead of saying goodbye (which I'm utterly horrible at) I'll just say wait for the Misadventures of Kim and Marie Part Deux in Colorado. It will be Explosive. Bring your safety goggles and or 3D glasses and you'll get a free shoe shine at the door.

To be continued....

Monday, December 6, 2010

Decolletage and Lipstick

I'm finally legal ( this is actually the 20th anniversary of my 21st birthday)! So when a friend suggests that we go out for a girls night out to celebrate well of course I'm up for it. Um, do they have a Sizzler early bird special here? We'll be home by 9 right? Oh, can someone else drive because I can no longer determine which lane cars are in at night. And I packed my reading glasses in my purse right?

Olivia, Kim and I head out. Olivia's driving (she is the youngest and apparently has not reached the ripe old age of "what the hell lane is that car in" yet). Now I've haven't been out for a girls night out here in Morocco. I imagine there to be lots of "girls nights in" having wild and crazy henna parties. I bet they get pretty out of hand. (Gratuitous bad pun intended.) I really don't know what to expect while out. We have decided to go for Thai at MegaMall. And no, not at the food court even. So we arrive at the mall at around 8:00pm. Apparently this is where it's at on a Saturday night. They are having a rave party down at the kids jumpy houses complete with disco lights. Wow it's 8 at night and these 4 year old kids are parting harder than I have in years. Wait...isn't that what old people say? I think one of those kids just popped a Flintstone vitamin!

We head up the stairs to the dimly lit restaurant and after a discussion with the host on the fact that we don't have reservations on a Saturday night at 8pm (which is equivalent to about 5pm in the states). It's empty. So obvioulsy even though he thinks it's a big deal, it's no problem and we're seated. When we get the menus I remember that I forgot my reading glasses. And suddenly my arms are alot shorter than I thought they were. Why do they make these menus in such small print anyway? And would the glasses help me read French? Olivia orders us a nice bottle of wine and some appetizers. And we talk and talk like women who have alot to talk about do. Then we realize that we're talking like women who've had some win too. But what does it matter if we're loud? No one else is here. Our food comes at almost 9. Eating spicy food is not on the list of things I would normally being doing at this time of night. But it's so delicious! So we eat and laugh. Maybe not the best two things to do simultaneously.

When we finish eating and calm ourselves down from laughing so hard we settle the bill and decide to walk around the mall. Wait? Don't old people "walk around the mall"? Doooohhhh. We admire the Christmas tree that's in the middle of the mall on display. It's shocking to see a Christmas tree in a Muslim country. But then when you think about it is A MALL. And what does a Christmas tree represent? Christmas shopping of course! Just wait until they figure out that dumb Americans will pay to have their kids taken with a stranger dressed in a red suit. You know, I think they have figured this Capitalist move out in Marrakesh. Maybe next year we'll experience the trickle down effect here in Rabat and there will be a monkey dressed up as Santa Claus for 20d a picture? So we're loudly admiring the tree and taking pictures with it when the security guard approaches and kicks us out. On second thought, maybe we just needed to pay him for the photo and sit on his lap? We're so hip we got kicked out of the mall. Ok...NOT. At least none of us broke a hip on the stairs back down to the car....

So where does one go after getting banned from the mall? Lets hit a club and do some dancing. Luckily there is one right down the street. Now I'm wondering how this whole bar scene is gonna be being an Islamic country and Muslims don't consume alcohol and all. I started getting the vibe that there are strict Muslims and not so strict Muslims when we went to the winery in Meknes. The tour guy told us that the winery produces 8 million bottles a year and only 20% is exported. Hmmmmmmm. Ok, so this is like Catholicism where you can't have premarital sex. Yeah, right. We all know how strict Catholics are on abstaining from sex before marriage. I'm sure that the rate of Catholics having premarital sex is WAY worse (or better, depending on your view) than the number of Muslims drinking alcohol. I can say this with authority because I was raised Catholic and I'd even bet my birth control on it. (Oh yeah...another thing Catholics aren't good at....)

So we arrive and enter the very busy club and look for an open table. Which I don't see, but then again I don't see. This of course would have nothing to do with my eyesight. We ask a server and he escorts us to a table in the very far corner of the club. As we look around we're in a section full of women dressed to go clubing in cute dresses and skirts. They are young, beautiful and no man anywhere is making any moves on them. Why is that? Oh my god, we're in prostitute corner! We could add some diversity and work the exotically pasty white over 30 (by just a few years) who've had a little too much wine and got kicked out of the mall after their early bird special dinner angle. Right?

We're dressed a bit too conservatively for hooking. We're not showing knee, shoulders or elbows, which might be all you need here in Morocco. All we got is a little decolletage. That is until Kim revs it up a notch with Oliva's lipstick. Ok now we're talking. So we finally get someone to take our order. Working women do not get fast service. Although he's not really happy about it. He returns with a beer for me (which is not what I ordered). We thought he wasn't happy before, but now our server is very, very unhappy and gave me the look of death. It's times like these that I wish I was wearing my Moroccan wonder woman Hand of Fatima cuff bracelets to deflect the evil eye back at him. Just when I'm feeling old and disrespected it happens. A guy is brushing past and grabs my ass. Yeah, I'm still old and disrespected, but I still got "it". And by it of course I mean indigestion. Damn spicy Thai food.

Although there is a deejay strangely there is no dancing in the club like it's some weird Moroccan version of Footloose. So there's no dancing, we can't get served more drinks and it's almost midnight (and I'm pretty sure prostitute corner gets alot more business after midnight). Anyway, I should get home and find my glasses so I can read how many Tums to prescribe myself before I jump into bed. After all it is way past my bedtime. On second thought I probably shouldn't jump into bed with my poor night vision. I'd probably land on my hip. girls night out we should crash the kids jumpy house rave and pop some vitamins. Oh, that would be fun! But I'm pretty sure we'd get kicked out of the mall for that though....


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