Saturday, July 23, 2011


In two days we leave for a three week vacation in the states. And I don't blog on vacation. And I don't cleverly do posts ahead of time and schedule them to post while I'm gone. And I don't have guest bloggers fill in for me in my absence. Because you see, all these things would require organization. And if you're a regular reader you already know I'm NOT organized. And if you're new here, I am formally declaring that I'm not that I've-got-it-so-together-inspirational-kinda-blogger because that would be a big fat lie.

So this is my jumbled housekeeping post where I try to tie up loose ends before we leave.

If you are new around here, let me recap briefly. My husband works for the Peace Corps. We've lived here in Morocco for a year and a half. We have 4 crazy kids who love America a whole bunch and who grudgingly tolerate this Morocco experience stuff. We've not been home or had any visitors from home since we've been here. And now in two days we're going to Florida where my husband's brother is getting married. Is there any better reason to go to Florida in July? I think not! Will I be able to get the kids on the plane to come back to Morocco without crying, kicking and protests? I think not!

Coincidentally, the timing of our trip could not be better. You see August 1st starts Ramadan, well the exact day it starts depends on the moon. If you're not familiar with Ramadan, it's 30 days of not eating, drinking (not even water), smoking or having sex during day light hours. It is intended to teach humility, patience and spirituality. It has personally taught me that I don't want to be here for another Ramadan. Cause do you know how freakin' cranky people who haven't eaten, drank, smoked or had sex are? Now I don't blame them. I couldn't forgo all these things for one day, let alone 30 in a row, especially not drinking water in Africa in August. As non-muslim foreigners who don't celebrate (and I use the word celebrate loosely) Ramadan we don't do any of these things in public. You don't want to be in public during Ramadan anyway because not much is open and you don't want to endure traffic with other drivers who aren't eating, drinking, smoking or having sex.

So since I will be busy celebrating that I'm not celebrating Ramadan in Morocco, visiting with family and friends and enjoying all the fabulous food selections and consumerism that America has to offer, I'm leaving you with a list of links some of my favorite past posts. I'll be back with plenty to write about in about a month. So enjoy your summer and stay tuned for our return.

Coffee, Donuts and Camels

Attack of the Twisted Zombie Mannequins


Road Trippin'

The Infamous

Cairo (Uh Oh)

The Color of My Soul

The Other Man

Tony Bennett

Things Aren't What They Appear

Oh and to follow up on my post The Competitor the voting ends tomorrow and I moved from 415th place to 400th with 602 votes doing absolutely nothing and, absolutely nothing.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Arrivals & Departures

Last week we welcomed a new family who moved to Rabat from the states. It's a shock when you move here. Life is totally different. It's slower and more methodical. Tedious even compared with the states. A lot of the way things work here just don't make sense to the Western brain. And now I'm remembering just what an adjustment it was for us to adapt to life here through the eyes of this new family. Because you see, the weirdest thing about our live in Morocco is just how normal the weird moroccanisms have become after a year and a half here. And that my friends is weird!

"Does driving scare you here?" the mother of the new family asked. "No. I f&*(^%$g LOVE it!" Ok, I didn't actually say the f-word out loud, but I totally said it in my head. You see, once you get used to driving without rules at high speeds it's totally liberating. Dangerous, but liberating. The cross cultural experience was just beginning when I walked our new family across the street to the playground. This may not sound like a big deal to you unless you've tried to cross a Moroccan street with 6 kids who have only been exposed to the naive American pedestrian-centric kinda crossing the street. Fear the traffic kids, cars WILL NOT stop for you here. So play frogger well or it will be GAME OVER for you. And it didn't end there, once we got to the playground some of the kids ventured off the sand area onto the grass. Then the playground guard blew his whistle because you can't walk and/or sit on the grass at the park. Can you say counter intuitive? Then of course having just arrived at the park one of the 8 kids we have in tow has to go to the bathroom. No problem, he can pee on the grass. Mr. Grass Police confirms this with his hand gesture that clearly says "yes, go ahead and piss here, pick a spot, any spot". With a cautionary look of "just don't walk on the grass to get to that spot". Luckily our pee-er was a boy so this was possible. Welcome to Morocco!

And that is just the tip of the cultural iceberg. Here are some other weird Moroccan things that help round out our new normal:

Driving aggressive and fast and NOT stopping for pedestrians because driving any other way you would never arrive at your destination or you would actually CAUSE an accident.

Bringing wads of cash everywhere because your credit card isn't going to work, EVER.

Hoarding coins for the 3+ people (parking attendant, gas attendant, bathroom attendant, etc.) that you will need to tip everyday.

Seeing a man's junk in public when he pees unapologetically anywhere he wants to with no humility.

Conversely, I am careful not to bare my shoulders (knees, cleavage and anything else "erotic") in public, never mind any junk. Because doing so would induce cat calls, kissy noises, rude comments and staring.

Being stared at anyway, even if I'm dressed conservatively because I'm shrouded in an exotic white foreignness. And there is 3-second rule here that would make longer eye contact inappropriate or rude.

Deciding I in fact can live without whatever I was shopping for because: 1. The store doesn't have it. 2. I don't have enough cash on me to buy it(and my credit card won't work, remember). 3. I can't be bothered going through the bargaining process to get it.

Not saying "bless you" because I'd have to explain why I would say that when someone sneezes and I'm honestly not sure.

Oh there is more. Lots more, trust me. But I don't want to bore you with what could be my Moroccanisms 101 dissertation.

So I've covered arrivals. What's the departures part of the post you ask? Well, when we moved here we didn't plan on going back to the states at all. But as you know, plans are made to be broken or broken things don't make plans or something really profound like that. So what could possibly change our plans? A wedding. My husband's brother is getting married in Florida in July. And we are so excited to see our family and friends in less than a week now!

But I have a confession to make...

I'm kinda scared. And I'm not usually scared about such things. I'm not scared about the friends and family part. That's a lie, I am a bit scared about that because I have been the worst stay-in-toucher ever and I fear the backlash of that. But maybe they'll be kind enough to recap us on the memorial service they had for us because they assumed we were dead.

No. I'm worried that:

I'm going to commit a major traffic violation, get a speeding ticket (or 5) and what makes me most nervous about driving in the states, running a pedestrian over.

I will spend hours in the grocery store fondling, smelling, marvelling and being completely overwhelmed trying to decide what to buy.

Which leads me my worry of eating my way through America. At least there's lots of conveniently located big and tall shops to choose from when I need to size up.

That I'm going to be overwhelmed with consumerism and that I won't be able to bring all my purchases back on the plane with me. Oh who am I kidding? I'll be in America and I can buy a suitcase (or a crate) to fit it all in. Duh!

I will be shunned by other Americans because I have grown accustomed to not wearing deodorant in the last year and a half. I'm especially worried about this because I'm packing lots of tank tops.

That I won't be writing for like month and I might self-combust with all my ideas of things I can't wait to write about when I return.

And finally, my biggest fear (although running over a pedestrian is a close second) is how hard it is going to be for all of us (especially the kids) to get on the plane to come back home to Morocco.

And they don't even know that we still have one more surprise in store for them...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Oh Crackers!

It's Sunday. Thursday and Friday we entertained. Saturday we went to the beach. Now it's Sunday. What are we going to do? We went to the medina last Sunday. Both the boys bikes have flat tires so we can't bike ride. We've been to the pool lots. It's too rushed to travel to Tangier for the day. Then I read a blog about making crackers. Not just any crackers, pseudo Cheez-It crackers. And do you think we can get Cheez-It crackers here? Let me answer that. Hell no! So guess what we're doing?

I've never given cracker making a lot of thought. Why would I? America has almost as many crackers per capita as it does well...crackers, if you know what I mean. And doesn't cracker making sound complicated? I don't know why, maybe just because it's so mysterious. In the states you can go into any grocery store and have a plethora of tasty crackers to choose from. The cracker aisle being 2nd only to the monstrous cereal aisle. So, why would I spend my precious time making a cracker that I could simply buy? Because now I live in Morocco which has the world's crappiest cracker selection. Which is second only to Morocco's crappy cereal collection in a weird America/Morocco grocery store contrary-correlation. And I have 4 kids and a Sunday to fill people! So we're making crackers. Did you hear me?

All four of my kids love to cook which is awesome, unless you're the person who gets to cook with 8 eager helping hands. And by eager I mean they will push the other kid out of the way to get to the flour if that's what it takes. Which means there's going to be a big flour fight with kids rolling on the floor with 8 floured hand prints everywhere. I must admit, the hand prints are helpful in reconstructing the crime scene though and who actually did touch who. So I'm more than a little fearful as I announce I'm making crackers. Then squinting with reluctance when I continue on to inquire, anyone want to help?

Shockingly, River and Jade aren't interested. My kids are never not interested. And after I have a moment of guilt that maybe I've not given them enough opportunities to cook and I've ruined them forever. Thin I think, wait a minute. I only have two helpers. I ONLY HAVE TWO HELPERS! This is so exciting. Do the math, I have reduced my "helping" hands by half. Imagine the manageability of it all!

Now consider the possibilities. Now that I don't feel stressed I have enough energy to get creative. We could make two different kinds even! We could even make them more healthy by using whole wheat flour. At the mere mention of this Ember claims whole wheat. Sky wants regular. What? No fighting? That was way too easy. Now, I don't have the Pepperman All-Purpose Seasoning Blend that is listed in the ingredients. Because you can't get exotic things like that here. Can I substitute ostrich meat? (Seriously, I bought ostrich meat yesterday much to Jade's horror.) So we search through the spice cabinet for substitutes. Sky and Ember taste tested and chose the seasoning for their crackers. Ah, choice, such a luxury to a kid in a big family. I'm so excited about these crackers. I know that's totally cheesy, but then again, I'm totally cheesy.

Ember and Sky mix their batches in the food processor. Ember is making whole wheat rosemary parmesan crackers and Sky is making tomato parmesan. So guess what kind of cheese we can get here that's ridiculously expensive? Yes, parmesan. Actually all cheeses are expensive here, but other kinds you can't get consistently like cheddar. But it's worth every penny on the rare occassion when you do. And here's your weird factoid for the day, white cheese has less fat than yellow cheese. So bonus, we're making whole wheat low fat pseudo cheez-its!

After making the dough and rolling it into balls it needs to refrigerate before the rolling, cutting and baking begins. The kids are so gung ho that they are pained by waiting for hour long refrigerating process, which I later reread and discover was supposed to be a freezing process. Ooops.

Ember lost her gung ho-ness bouncing on the trampoline and the rolling was a bit too tedious for her. So Sky and I rolled, cut and baked. And you know what? Making crackers it totally easy! Why did I wait so long to make crackers? I have cracker guilt. Don't we all?

Then it was time to taste.

We did a blind taste test, cause we're cheesy like that too. Of course eveyone wants in on this part. Sky's totally taste like cheez-its. They really do! And Ember's taste like some fancy really expensive crackers you'd get at Whole Foods that you would eat with a fig chutney, if such a thing exists. Do you know how much packaging/oil/preservatives was saved by making these crackers ourselves? Ok hardly any for a mere 6 cups of crackers, but it still made me feel good.

So what did we learn here today? Don't discriminate against the crackers. I know that they seem all snobby and aloof. But no. Crackers are easy. In fact, I think they are so easy they might be the sluts of the snack world. I think we've also learned 4 hands are better than 8 unless you're a forensic scientist. And making your own crackers means you can single handedly (or octo-handedly...whatever) save the earth. Ok maybe not but you will help save some packaging, oil and a little slice of the rain forest. Like maybe a leaf. But doesn't that leaf deserve to live? And if nothing else you'll know what is in your food and you can save some money in the process.

Now I wonder if you really can make fig chutney?

For the blog that inspired this post and the recipe click here

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Competitor

It came in the mail, my Women's Fitness magazine. This may not seem like a big deal to you, but since we can't get magazines in English here, it's like Christmas when they do arrive, albeit a month late. So after dinner when I should have been doing the dishes, I was much too distracted by the shiny cover. 1-2-3 Abs!, it taunted me. I'll just read a couple pages I convinced myself. Because I'm good at self-deception like that. It was a tiny box on the bottom corner. Fittest Friends contest it declared. I'm fit I thought.

Why didn't I just read it and turn the page? But of course, that's not what I did. It's one thing to be fit and another thing to enter yourself into a fitness contest. But all I need to do is send a picture of myself and 500 words or less. Why not? Reading just a bit further, the deadline to submit the entry was just a few hours away.

One thing you may not know about me, once I get a thought in my head I can get so determined that I become a tad bit irrational. Why does this contest intrigue me so?I don't know yet. I go on-line and read the rules. Although I live in Morocco, I am indeed a tax paying resident of Colorado and I clear the over 18 years of age requirement (uh-hum) by just a few years. So with the legalities out of the way, I go check out the competition. Oh my god, what the HELL am I thinking? They're in their 20s! Most of them are part-time models, personal trainers and triathletes and they have the gorgeous pictures of their sexy athleticism to prove it. And I have 4 kids and 2 hours to come up with something that's going to try to compete with this youthful perfection.

GULP. I could just not enter.

But, my friend irrationality says I'm gonna anyway...

Ok, I don't have time to schedule a photo shoot of myself in a bikini top, tutu and tube socks. I'd be jumping on the trampoline and flexing my bicep casually with my roller skates on. Don't forget the spray tan and duck lips. You get the picture. Cause really, I think that's the direction I would have gone. If I had time of course. But I don't. So I will have to look through vacation pictures to find something that screams sexy. Oh who am I kidding? Something that whispers sporty. The only screaming will come from my kids.

I find a picture of me in a bikini in Egypt a couple of months ago. It looks more like a body mugshot with my pale over sun screened self standing unsexily at attention in front of the Nile River. No one else in the competition has a photo quite like it. I am showcasing my infamous awkward self-conscious pose with a side of my snarky trademark "I'm-not-going-to-show-my-teeth" grin. Now that the picture choice is out of the way, I'm ready to complete the application and write. Ah, writing. My comfort zone. This is gonna be the easy part. Except.... the application is nowhere to be found on the website. I go in cyber circles searching for it for an extraordinarily long time, the length of which I am too embarrassed to divulge. Defeated, I go and catch a couple of minutes of the Daily Show before falling asleep on the couch. Nothing ventured, nothing lost. Or so I thought.

Right before I head up to bed I decide to check just one more time. Bingo, I find the application! Damn it! Now there's even LESS time and I haven't even thought about what to write. I would have had all this great stuff to say if I had time to think it over. It would have been insightful and funny. Life changing even. But I wrote it in 5 minutes. And who am I kidding? Who's gonna read what I wrote without a corresponding sexy photo? No one. So really, it doesn't even matter. I clicked send and immediately wondered why I did. Then a prompt asked if I wanted it posted to my facebook. Now why the hell would I want to post this to my facebook? I don't want people to see this! Oh crap, people are going to see this! Why am I doing this again?

The funny thing is, I'm not a competitive person. I don't compete against others. I am a determined person though. Translation, I compete against myself and I'm a hard ass bitch. (Don't tell me I said that.) So while I know I'm not going to win or be in the top 10, I'm totally ok with that. And as a general rule I think contests tend to be popularity contests. And I'm way too lazy to put the work in that's necessary to be popular. Because it is work. I know because I tried to have a popular blog for a while and that's when I discovered that I love writing but I hate marketing and grew to accept my own lethargy. I like to conserve my energy for substance with the naive notion that substance prevails in the end. I like to believe this is true, but I'm not sure that it is. And this is probably most true in a fitness competition. It's really not for lazy people. (I think this should be their motto by the way.)

So, my goal in this contest? No, it's not to win. It's to be the ultimate underdog. Yes, this I have realized is why I'm in this contest. I submitted my entry and I've done nothing else but write this blog post about it. You will not find a link to my submission. Because what I'm asking you to do is....absolutely nothing! I'm asking that you DON'T vote for me! I will not post it to my facebook or do anything else to promote my place in the contest.

I want to see how far your average not 20 something woman can get in this contest without glitzy photos and constant facebook requests for votes. Of course this is what this contest is based on. Can I move up in ranking at all doing absolutely nothing? Or is ranking solely determined by a mathematical sexy photo/social networking ratio? I entered on Monday night and currently I stand at 92 votes and I'm ranked 415th. Honestly, I was shocked I had any votes because you see, I didn't even vote for myself.

So now, will I get more votes? But more importantly, will I stay ranked at 415th? Will my ranking go down or is 415th last? But, my biggest question? What will the top ten look like? Will they all be tanned personal trainers and part-time models? Please tell me there will be at least one woman who is a mom. At least one woman who has struggled with her weight. At least one woman who has overcome an obstacle so great she's an inspiration to other women. And please, at least one woman who uses sunscreen regularly. I ask this for all of the underdogs of the world everywhere! Amen.

I guess we'll see on July 25th...

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Hypothetically Speaking

There are certain phrases that preclude an aftermath so great, you wish they weren't spoken. In my house these words are "hypothetically speaking". I know this sounds innocent, but trust me, it's not. I can't recall when the kids first learned this phrase because I can't imagine my life before it. I wait for it all day long because I know it's coming. And I prepare myself. Breathe. Remember to breathe.

Why would someone try to escape such dreamy imagining you ask? In a house where I have 4 kids who fight about real things all day long, they have also created this alternate reality where they can fight about things that aren't real too. I mean are you kidding me?

Here's just a handful of the hypothetical crap that my kids fight over.

Hypothetical Scenario 1

Kid 1: Hypothetically speaking, would you rather be a yellow lizard that was able to fly OR a purple lizard that could read people's minds?
Kid 2: (Shouting) YELLOW!
Kid 3: (Shouting louder) Wrong! Purple!
Kid 4: (Shouting even louder to be heard) I'd be an orange tyrannosaurus rex!
Kid 1: (Screaming) That's not even a choice!
Kid 4: (Screaming in kid number 1's face) I can be whatever I want!
Kid 1,2 and 3: No you can't you HAVE to CHOOSE! Yellow lizard or purple lizard?
Kid 4: Mooooooooom he's sticking his tongue out at me!
Kid 2: (Hitting kid 4) DUMMY!

And that's merely the beginning of the frustration with hypothetical things.

Hypothetical Scenario 2

Kid 1: Mom, hypothetically speaking, if you won a lottery on the top of a yogurt lid what would you do with it? (Seriously, this happened the other day.)
Me: You know I hate hypothetical questions.
Kid 1: Come on.
Me: I wouldn't notice I'd won and throw out the lid.
Kid 1: Mooooooommmm. But if you did see it what would you do with the money?
Me: (Long pause to consider the sincerity of the question.) Ok, (determining it's innocent enough) I'd give most of it away and I'd probably use the rest to travel with.
Kid 1: You know what I'd do with it? First I'd get an i-pod touch with tons of apps, then I'd get a mac. Yeah mom when can I get a phone. EVERYONE in 6th grade has a phone except for me. I never get anything!

Damn it I was duped. And no, it doesn't end there. This one actually happened just yesterday....

Hypothetical Scenario 3

Me: Get your shoes on and get in the car we're going to the medina. (The kids hate the medina.)
Kid 1: We're going to the medina?
Kid 2: Whhhhhhhhhheeerrrrrreeeee are we going? (Please denote whiny tone. And why does no one listen in my house?)
Kid 3: I'm NOT going.
Kid 4: Can we bring our money?
Me: Sure.
Kid 4: (Light bulb moment) Oh, I'm going to buy an ipod touch!
Me: How much money do you have?
Kid 4: 100 Dirham (The equivalent of about 8 Dollars.)
Me: Um, you're not going to have enough money for that.
Kid 4: I'm gonna get a broken one.
Me: Why would you want a broken one?
Kid 4: Because I'll have enough money for a broken one.
Kid 3: (Excitedly) I have 20 Dirhams. We could share it.
Kid 2: I have 20 Dirham too! I want to share too!
Kid 4: No way, you'll break it. You break everything!
Me: (Thinking and trying so hard not to say isn't it broken already dumbass?)
Kid 3: So I get the ipod everyday after school and on Saturdays.
Me: You don't even have an itouch. Can you wait to fight about it if and when you actually have one?
Kid 4: So hypothetically, you get the ipod on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. And since I spent more money on i,t anytime I ask you for it, you have to give it to me.

Apparently, they can't wait. Of course it didn't end there. And of course they did NOT buy a broken ipod touch at the medina for the equivalent of 11 dollars because no one would sell them a broken one for that ridiculously low price even BROKEN. It doesn't even work. Not even hypothetically.

So I try to use the powers of hypothetically for good and turn the tables....

Hypothetical Scenario 4

Kid 1: (In the car on the way to the beach) Ok, I'm Darth Vader who are you gonna be?
Kid 2: You can't be Darth Vader. I'm gonna be Darth Vader.
Kid 1: No! You're yoda.
Kid 2: I'm not yoda! I'm vader!
Me: Hypothetically speaking, can't you both be Vader in some alternate Star Wars universe?
Kid 1 and Kid 2: (Look of disgust) No, that's stupid!
Kid 1: Wait, I'll be yoda.
Kid 2: No, I waaaannnnnnaaa be yoda!
Me: If you don't stop we're gonna turn around and go home. (Oh crap, my kids didn't even want to come to the beach and I'm making them. Then they're gonna get exactly what they wanted in the first place...)

So if you can't beat them (hypothetically of course), join them...

Ok, so hypothetically speaking, I'd like to be an orange tyrannosaurus rex because whiny children wouldn't fight or whine with an orange t-rex. Then I'd peel off the top of my yogurt (because hypothetical t-rexes eat a lot of hypothetical yogurt) and I'd discover I'd won the lottery! I'd use the money to move to Fiji where I'd be on the beach with a sangria margarita and chips with an amazing mango salsa. I wouldn't get that weird rash I normally get from mango (which I have right now and is totally freakin' itchy and driving me crazy) because this is all hypothetical. Then, I'd have the powers of yoda and I'd use the force to disable the kids voice boxes anytime they whined or argued. Wait, if this is all hypothetical they wouldn't even be on the beach. No, they'd be at our beach house in Fiji doing their homework, cleaning the house and making dinner. I could get used to this. Hypothetically speaking of course...

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Inshallah. It's the most overused word in Arabic. It is said at least once a conversation, but usually more. Once you know it, you can't help but use it too. It's just so versatile. It can convey so much in a single word. What does it mean you ask? God willing. (That's the answer, not a snarky comeback by the way.)

So I thought I'd pair the most common Moroccan word with the most common Moroccan visual. Yes, two guys on a moped with a ladder or in this case two, yes two ladders. I don't know what they need the ladders for or where they are taking them, but after watching these guys remount the moped with the ladders I do know that it does indeed take a minimum of two guys to hold two ladders on a moped. And even though this is the most common sight here, it's hard to get a picture of it while driving. I attempted to a picture of this for over two months with my kids shouting "MOM....two guys on a moped!" every two minutes from the backseat. So these aren't the best quality pictures, I'm happy I finally got it AND that no one was harmed to get it.

So, back to inshallah. Just imagine all the possibilities...

I'm sorry to hear about the death of your cat. She is in a better place now, inshallah.

Inshallah, there is no rain so we can go to the beach.

Me: When will my dress be ready?
Tailor: Tuesday, inshallah.

The Glutton
Do we have leftovers of that chocolate cake inshallah?

The Diss
Woman: The cashier told me I looked like Maria Sharapova.
Man: Inshallah

The Procrastinator
I'm going to start my taxes tomorrow, inshallah.

The Blow-Off
I have your number. I'll call you, inshallah

I'll wake-up if I have to tomorrow inshallah

The Deadbeat
Can I borrow some cash? I'll pay you back, inshallah.

The Sarcastic Kid
Me: Clean your room.
Sky: Inshallah

There you have it. The good, the bad and the ugly of inshallah. Essentially you can tack inshallah onto any sentence like a big exclamation point to convey anything you want. The question is, how will you abuse inshallah today? But please remember safety first and do not use inshallah on a moped with a guy and a ladder or two.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Wedding Crashers

Our weekend was planned. We were staying here at home in Rabat to welcome a new family moving here from the states. And we were going to have a 4th of July party to celebrate their arrival. That was until the family's plans changed. And then so did ours. Now we have a free 3 day weekend. Ok, quick. Where are we going?

The answer. Ceuta. Because nothing says 4th of July weekend more than going to a Spanish city on the Northern most coast of Morocco and eating salami and drinking cheap wine. It is all about the food and drinks on the 4th anyway right? I can even eat salami and drink cheap wine in a tank top. Or with no top at all. More about that later. It doesn't get anymore independent for a woman living in an Islamic country on Independence Day.

It's about a 3 hour drive from Rabat to Ceuta. And when we arrive it is 18 clean and tidy square kilometers of church bells, scantily clad Spanish women, Spanish men cruising the strip blaring loud music looking for the scantily clad Spanish women, salami, tapas and Rioja. It's Europe right here on the continent of Africa. And right now it's heaven.

First stop, the grocery store. My kids hate the grocery store. Except in Spain. In their salami deprived state they were salivating all the way to the store. They couldn't wait to see the store and how clean it was and to pick out food that wasn't Moroccan food. I've never seen the kids more polite or grateful for food or anything else for that matter. Proving a little deprevation goes a long way.

What else does the grocery store have here? Ridiculously cheap bottles of wine. I mean check the price....2 Euro. That's less than 3 USD with the exchange rate on any given day. Cha-ching! Even if it's crap wine I can make lemonade from these lemons. Or sangria from this wine. Even better!

The belt at the checkout seemed almost as long as Ceuta itself and was crammed with our stuff. Yes, we're hoarding.

The rest of the afternoon was spent at the pool in the warm Spanish sun. Wait, where am I? I guess it really was the warm Moroccan sun because we're still on the continent of Africa. Then it was time for dinner. Well, it was time for dinner for us Americans, but not for the Spanish who eat at around 9pm or so. The only open restaurant we can find that's open (besides Mc Donalds) is Chinese and it's open all day. After we eat I know why. Their lure unsuspecting tourists in with their convenient hours and then overcharge them for the massive amounts of sodium drenched dishes. I didn't even think it was possible to make bad Chinese food. Well, I was wrong.

When we got back to the hotel there was a wedding at the adjacent church. We had a birdseye view from the balcony of the room. Jade was enthralled. So we watched and waited hoping to get a glimpse of the bride.

And since we didn't exactly see the bride, we ran down the stairs of the hotel to stalk her. I mean see her. The reception was in the hotel courtyard. We could have been totally inconspicuous if I wasn't so over dressed for the occassion. But seeing as I was in my ripped jeans, t-shirt and flip flops, you know, the American uniform. Wait, that would probably be sweatpants actually. Anyway, we would have been near invisible if I were half naked in stilettos. You can take the American out of America, but please god don't make me wear a stiletto. God bless America where comfort reigns!

The next day we went to the Mediterranean Maritime Park. It boasts 3 intertwined salt water pools. Now we're not in Morocco anymore where women go swimming in all their clothes. No, we're in Europe now. So you know what's coming next right? Of course. Toplessness. And who in our family had overactive boob-dar? Jade. Yes, Jade. Not that they boys didn't notice mind you. Cause believe me they did. They've just gotten a tad bit more subtle than last year where they would stare, point, shout and laugh. I imagine there will be a day when they stop laughing. But do boys ever stop staring, pointing and shouting about boobs? No,maybe they just learn to use their peripheral vision. And maybe not. But Jade? Well she's worried. She's 10 and soon she'll get her own twin set. She doesn't want them, but if she has to she's requested small ones. I mean now that she's seen so many old large breasted topless women and she knows what gravity has in store for her. And it's not pretty.

After the pool it's time for dinner. I'm dreading finding a place and we're not going back for Chinese. Oh the luck, there's a pizza place open. The kids play with their new water gun swords to pass the time. And that will be the best thing about dinner. Because Ceuta is home to both the worst Chinese food AND the worst pizza in the whole world.

I mean what are the odds right?

The next morning after a bit of shopping at Zara to get the kids some much needed clothes, we pile into the minivan for the ride home. We stop at the beach right after we cross the border and back into Morocco. We eat our salami sandwiches with a view. See the peninsula right next to Craig in the photo, that's Ceuta. All of it.

The night we get home it seems like it's time to tell them. We're going to crash another wedding this summer...

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Patriotic Post

I'm not a flag waving patriot. I don't even own a flag. I do own prayer flags, but not an American flag. This does not mean that I'm not patriotic though. I'm a quiet, unflag-waving, slacker, ex-patriot kinda patriot. Maybe because my parents are both Canadian. And no, I don't have a Canadian flag and I don't know the words to O'Canada either. But then again, does anyone?

I have to say living in the states I took freedom for granted. It didn't require my appreciation, it was there regardless of my slacker attitude toward it. But, when you live in a country run by a monarch who is also the religious leader, where it's illegal to be gay and women don't have as many rights as men, that's when you truly appreciate being an American. Don't get me wrong, Morocco is making great strides and creating a parliamentary government. In 2004 Moroccan women got the right to divorce their husband and to be able to own property from that marriage. Unfortunately, it's still illegal to be gay.

So essentially, Morocco ain't America. Nowhere in the world is. Not even Canada. Not that America is a paradise of perfection by any means. But we have the right to be perfectly flawed. And we exercise that right regularly. Watch any American reality tv show. You can be an absolute idiot in America whether you're gay or not, a woman or a man, no matter your race or creed. Then you can go on a reality show and prove you're an idiot. Then we export this stupidity all over the world and someone makes a pretty penny doing it, which might actually propel the arguement that your flaws can make you rich. Welcome to America.

A couple weeks ago our friend Doug invited us to his retirement ceremony from the Air Force held at the US Embassy here. He was celebrating 26 years of service. Just think of all that's happened globally in the last 26 years. The Soviet Union is dismantled and no longer a threat. And threats don't come from countries as much any more, they come more from terrorists and the environment. I mean we live a time where a former steroid user, actor and general meathead was elected Governor of California. And we also live in a time where people were shocked he turned out to be a scum bag. Really, this is scary world stuff.

Doug has been overseas most of his career. He's married to Bobbie and has four amazing kids. (Americans LOVE the word amazing.) What's scarier than putting your life on the line in service of your country? Retiring and moving back to the states with no job, no car, no house, 4 kids and a wife and the scariest of all, shopping at Walmart. You know what else is going to be even more shocking for a family who has lived abroad? Everyone or most everyone anyway, speaking English everywhere. Or Spanglish, whatever. Then wishing you didn't know English because you now know the whole life story of that rude lady with her cell phone in line behind you in Walmart.

So today, I say thank you Doug for wearing the blue suit with the non-regulation shoes. Oh you can TELL me they are regulation shoes, but I do not believe you. Thank you for spending your life serving so that we may have white eggs, bad reality tv shows, a hundred choices or more in the cereal aisle, obnoxious cell phone talkers and Walmart. Oh yeah, and all that other really important stuff too.

To all our service men and women whether you wear a blue suit, a green suit, a camo suit or your birthday suit, thank you for making everyday Independence Day in America! Now go wave a flag. Or not.


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