Friday, September 30, 2011


The air is hot and thick. The sconces and candles fill the room with a chimerical glow. She disrobes languidly and lays each item on the chaise lounge with a casual carelessness. I divulge the details of my life since our last meeting. She listens intently as I talk. My heart is racing. And before I know it, both of us are naked.

You can make up the rest of the story. But it will probably be wrong. That is unless you guessed that my friend Sara and I are at the hammam. And no, it's not a brothel. It's a public bath. For centuries hammams have been a staple in Moroccan culture because many homes didn't (and still don't) have a shower or bath. Now, the real down and dirty hammams are real well, down and dirty. And no, not in an erotic kinda way, but in a do-it-yourself kinda way. You bring your own towel, soap, shampoo and scrubbie. And you take your bath. You just do it publicly with other women. And if you need to scrub one of those hard to reach places? Then you'll need to recruit one of your many fellow bathers to do it. Odds are you'll find one who will scratch your back if you scratch theirs.

But that's not the kind of hammam we're in. We're in the spa-ish kind. The one where the hammam lady does everything for you. And again, if you're thinking that sounds kind of erotic you're either A) a man or B) you've never been to a hammam. Because even though the lighting is all sultry and forgiving, the hammam lady is not.

Don't get me wrong, the hammam lady is very gracious. You see, she calls me mademoiselle. Mademoiselle, I tell you! (See, I told you the hammam lighting is fabulous.) In everyday, unforgiving florescent lighting I'm always referred to as madam. And that makes me feel like I'm either an 80 year old woman or that I run a brothel. And both of those make me feel enormously uncomfortable. But while hammam lady is gentle on your ego, she is not gentle on your body.

You honestly have no idea how much extra skin you have on your body until you're lying naked on a marble slab and a very capable Moroccan woman takes a kitchen scour pad and scrubs it off of you. Vigorously. Yes, EVERY inch of you. I mean there is no modesty in the hammam. But don't worry, the lighting is fabulous. So when I'm on my side raising my top leg so she can reach that tender inner thigh area, I'm pretty sure I look Angelina Jolie-esque. Ok, no I didn't. But, I'm glad I tend my bikini area regularly. Not that she cares. She's seen it all. Then the rolls of dead skin plop onto the marble slab next to me. Gross. And what's even grosser was I was just wearing all that dead skin a couple of seconds ago.

Let me back track a little here. You're probably wondering why you would bring a friend to essentially, go get a bath together. That's easy. It's a social event. And we're women. Don't we always go to the bathroom in groups? So Sara and I are sitting in the steam room chattering on about our kids. We're having a conversation just like we're in the supermarket check out line or something. Except, that mid conversation hammam lady comes in and covers us head to toe in goo for us to marinate in while we steam. And while you think that might be weird, the weird thing is, it's totally no big deal. Especially to hammam lady. And of course this doesn't int erupt the flow of the conversation one bit.

The thing that is weird? I don't know what my hammam lady looks like. There are about 5 hammam ladies working and they all have a comparable silhouette, dark hair, sturdy hands and they are all wearing a black swimsuit romper number and a do rag, which must be the hammam uniform. I can't make out any other distinguishing features because it's so steamy, so dimly lit and half the time I either have my eyes closed or I have soap, shampoo or honey in my eye. So while hammam lady has a really great idea what I look like, I really have no idea what she looks like. And that would be weird if I ever say her at the grocery store or something. But then again, I wouldn't know if I did, right?

And really that's a good thing. Because you see. After it's all over and we're lounging in our thick comfy robes sipping the fresh squeezed orange juice brought to us by some other hammam ladies. Followed shortly by our clothes and purses. Then the panic sets in. How am I going to find my hammam lady to tip her? After all, I told you I have no idea what she looks like. So we get dressed and head back in to find our respective hammam ladies and tip them. I find mine at the brightly lit doorway and give her a nice smile and her tip which she gladly accepts.

Sara and I leave the hammam, say our goodbyes and pull away in our cars. Then I start to think. Wait a minute. The lady I tipped wasn't wearing a black romper suit with a do rag. I think I tipped the orange juice lady. Wait, no an older lady brought us orange juice. This was a younger lady. Who in the world did I tip? And in typical Marie fashion I realize, I have no idea! Oh my god! I hope I don't see my hammam lady at the grocery store. Oh yeah right, I won't see her, she'll just see me. The chick who inadvertently didn't tip her...

If you want to know about the hammam. Here's a post of my first hammam experience, which is much more step by step, called Spaghetti.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Day and Night

My kids are getting older. I know this because I just had to buy them deodorant this week. We may need to venture into pimple cream soon. And I think it's pretty imminent that there are maxi pads in our near future. In a few months, I'm going to have a teenager. How exactly did this happen?

Back in the day, my kids used to wake me up before the sun.
Now, I can't sleep past sun up and I have to pry my kids out of bed.

The kids used to follow me everywhere and I wanted just an hour or two by myself.
Today, I might get an hour or two with them between school, sports and friends.

Dinner time used to be about sharing things about our day while eating a healthy meal.
Nowadays, they share in excruciating detail what they don't like about their healthy meal.

When they were little, I taught them how to read and helped them tie their shoes.
Now that they're big, they teach me how to use the computer and help me thread a needle.

I used to have good taste in music.
Recently, my kids have informed me otherwise.

Our house rules used to seem to logical and straight forward.
Now my kids use that logic to twist random things I've said and use it in their defense.

Going out used to mean a night out for my husband and I.
These days, it's chauffeuring the kids to and from their social events.

Can things really be that day and night? The question is, where the hell was dusk? How did I miss it? Maybe it happened when I was in the bathroom trying to hold the door closed with one hand in the hopes of getting some privacy. Or was that the shower?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Good Stuff

Today I'm doing something I've never done before. Oops. No. I'm actually doing TWO things I've never done before.

First, I wrote something for Refelctions of a Red Head's series on the Beauty of Difference. What did I write about? Probably not what you think I would. But then again, I'm not sure what you would even think that I would write about. Now I really want to know what you thought I would write about. And how what you thought about actually compares to what I actually did write about. And no. This post I didn't use a whole slew of ands, nows, thens, sos or reallys. Really, I didn't!

To check it out, click HERE. (Ok, that here is a bit obnoxiously large.)

Second, I gave my first ever interview to BlogExpat. Now what the hell would I say during an interview? No, really what the hell did I say?

To read it, click the BlogExpat icon under "Our First Interview" on the top right hand side of the screen.

Oh and Rock The Kasbah now has over 25,000 views! Thanks for your support!

Sunday, September 25, 2011


It's hard to get things done here in Morocco. Absolutely everything requires an insane amount of effort. What would be daily trivialities back in the states take an inordinate amount of time here. Things like getting cheddar cheese, mailing a package, getting propane for your oven and buying a birthday gift. And that is just the short list. What it comes down to is, life here demands a whole hell of a lot of intention. And that requires a lot of planning. Which in turn necessitates a whole lot of work and patience to fulfill those intentions.

I am neither a particularly good planner, nor a particularly patient person. Although I have do have really good intentions. But isn't the path to hell paved with them? I intended to learn French, to keep in touch with family and friends back home, to volunteer at an orphanage. The list goes on and on. But the mundane daily errands that need to get done here require my intention attention and unintentionally, deplete some of my intention reserves for other things.

The first challenge? We are a one car family, with 4 kids. When we arrived in Rabat, we were car-less. We looked for months to find a car that would accommodate our family of six. But, Moroccans do not have big cars, so therefore, they do not sell big cars. So, this means you must buy your big American car from an actual American who is leaving their big American car in Morocco when they move. So first, you must wait for them to move. Of course the whole buying (and subsequently, selling) a car over here is a pain in the ass. It's complicated. It involves license plate issues, ridiculous laws and taxes. So, we choose to just buy one car for our family and make it work. In order to do this, Craig bikes to work so I can do the errands that make the household run. So this in theory is a seamless, efficient and fuel economical system right? Wrong. We have 4 kids who often times need (and many times more just want) to be in different places at the same time. This is where it gets complicated. It involves planning. And more than that, it requires a complex mathematical equation to calculate both the flight plan and seat availability for their friends. The unintended result? Not everyone gets to go where they want to go at the time they would like go. Even if we did all the math right and they are on the flight plan.

The next challenge is food. Food is extremely intentional here. Fruits and vegetables are seasonal. When it's strawberry (or whatever produce) season you better buy some strawberries (or whatever produce) cause you won't see them for the whole rest of the year. And while that totally makes sense, other things don't. Like the availability of packaged foods. There are certain items that come and go from the shelves and you never quite know if you will ever see them again. Things like oatmeal, peanut butter, packaged yeast, ostrich meat, cheddar cheese and tortilla chips. Yes, tortilla chips arrived on the shelf about 2 months ago. So what's a girl to do? What any tortilla chip deprived person would do. HOARD. Then there all the ingredients you can never ever find. Like baking powder, brown sugar, molasses, black beans, whole wheat crackers and soft tortillas. And yes, I've made my own tortillas, well, once. You might be thinking, why the hell would you do that? Why not just eat out? Well, because restaurants don't open for dinner until 8pm here. Unfortunately, my kids resort to cannibalism and start voting on which sibling to eat around about 7pm. Which I guess just means we'd have one less mouth to feed by 8pm.

And how do I pay for that seasonally intentional food or anything else I want to buy? With cash. Because my credit card very rarely works here. And my source of cash? The ATM. Now if you live in America, that sounds all convenient. But if you live here in Morocco, you know nothing, nothing in Morocco is convenient. Ever. You see, one of my bank cards (the one to my primary bank account) only works at one particular ATM in town and of course it's one that is exceptionally inconvenient to me. I opened another bank account just so I have an ATM card that works in other ATMs. And that one usually does work. Well, if the ATM machine itself works. That's a whole other big sketchy "if". Then I need to transfer money from my primary account to the other. This involves at least one phone call, but usually a few more. Now, in the event that I need a particularly large amount of cash, for something like summer school for the kids. Then, I will need to pre-plan well in advance exactly how many trips I need to make to the ATM until I have enough. And hopefully this gets done by the due date of whatever and the ATM does not eat my card like it has before. Do you know how long it takes to get a replacement ATM card overseas? A long freakin' time!

Then there's planning for holidays and birthdays. And that just plain sucks. First of all, toys are super expensive here AND they are total crap. So forget shopping here. This kind of special occassion stuff requires on-line shopping. And how festive is it to shop on-line? Not at all. It doesn't fill me with the spirit of giving. No. It fills me the the spirit of total frustration. I hate on-line shopping for so many reasons. First of all, it is super time consuming. Especially if you don't know exactly what you want to get. Then after you have spent an exorbitant amount of time navigating the website to find what you want, then you have to try to place the order. Emphasis on try, because living overseas complicates the process immensely. After you have placed items in your cart and go to check out you will inevitability get the message, "sorry, but that item can not be shipped to that address" for most of the things in your order. For the remaining items that do ship it doesn't mean they'll actually arrive. Because the post office can and does deny delivery of items because of safety concerns. This happened with an mp3 player I ordered for my son for Christmas and with the hello kitty chapstick I ordered for my daughter's birthday and with other items so random I can't even remember what they were. And yes, obviously mp3 players and chap stick are dangerous. Whatever does actually arrive, hope that it isn't the wrong size and you have to send it back. Cause you don't even want to know what that involves.

And at the end of the day of intentional living, you might just want to watch some mindless brain numbing tv. But, there's no channel surfing for us, we don't have tv. We do have a television, but no tv service. Sure you can buy illegal bootleg medina movies. But if you go that route, you're best off considering your purchase like a lottery ticket. Maybe you'll get lucky and it will actually play. And if it plays and it's in English? Well, you hit the jackpot! We order movies through netflix, but the movies take 2-3 weeks to arrive. And then we usually rememember once we start watching it that we've actually seen it before. Oops. But, what we do most often, is download things to watch on the computer. This of course means you actively seek out what you want to watch. This requires, you got it, planning and researching because I don't even know what shows or movies are out in the states. So usually I watch news magazines like 60 minutes and Frontline cause I'm totally addicted to them. A lot of times the stuff is like 5 years old. I think that there is a 5 year rule on news kinda like the 5 second rule for dropping food on the floor. It's still good, right?

So all this intentional living? It's a time consuming pain in the freakin' ass.

Paradoxically? I love it. Well, the result of it anyway. I'm mindful of most every decision I make here. You have to be. And if I'm not willing to jump through the hoops necessary to make things happen. Then I guess, it just really wasn't all that important in the first place. So, I just don't do them, buy them, eat them, whatever. And if it is that important? Then we just have to get creative. And you know what? That's pretty freakin' cool. And my kids? They are unlearning instant gratification, they are learning that money doesn't just come out of ATMs, or grow on trees. Whatever. Something like that. They are also learning how to do essential minivan math to determine whether they can have that playdate or not. And me? I just learned that happiness is 50 percent our genes, 40 percent our attitude and 10percent where we live, what we do for a living, what we have or don't, etc. And yeah, that was at least 3 year old news I downloaded from 20/20, but I'm pretty sure it's still true.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

3 Days

It's like what, the second month of school and yet we're pulling the kids out of school again. This time we're making a three day weekend to travel to Imichil for it's annual wedding festival. Now you would think my kids would be excited about that. Or the prospect of not going to school, right? No. Friday is Ember's first day of swim team after school. And the girl LOVES to swim. Sky was invited to a party on Saturday. In other words, we've reached that point where our kids falsely believe their social lives takes priority. But it's totally not true. And it won't be until they can pay for their own social life. And after all, I'm just asking for 3 days people.

So I finally find the hook that entices my kids. Did I mention that there will be Peace Corps Volunteers there? My kid love Peace Corps Volunteers, as they are usually young, out-going, earth loving tree huggers who are totally starved to hear and speak English. And my kids are young, out-going, earth loving tree huggers who are totally starved to talk (and ask questions) incessantly. It's a perfect match. The thing is, when my kids interrogate the volunteers, they don't even realize they're learning stuff. Really important stuff about the world that they can't learn in books. BONUS!

Imichil is in the High Atlas mountains. And like way up in the twisty turny unguardrailed vomit inducing mountains. There live the Berbers, who are the indigenous people of Northern Africa. They aren't Arabs, so they don't speak Arabic. Berbers speak Berber. Several dialects of Berber. And I wish I could tell you about that, but I don't know crap about Berber. Not even one word. Luckily, Charlie does. Yes, he's an ultra cool Peace Corps Volunteer.

He hooked us up with a Moroccan family that had a room in their home for us to stay. Our host is Arkia. You can tell right away she's Berber from the trademark blue tattoo on her chin. Different tribes have different styles of tattoos. Some are for tribal identification, some mark whether a woman is married or divorced, and if she has any children. Strange that a mother would need a prominent tattoo to say how many children she has. In America you just count the number of kids following a woman whining and then you know how many she has. Maybe Moroccan kids don't whine.

Arkia makes us Moroccan tea. You know you're drinking real Moroccan tea when the sugar has reached it's saturation point and you're on the verge of going into a diabetic coma. Yeah, it's THAT sweet. Needless to say, my kids have found reason number 2 for coming on the trip. And endless supply of sugar that it would be too impolite to decline.

Now Arkia wants to talk to us and we want to talk to her. But, we don't have a common language. So she just talks to us louder in Berber until she's yelling. I feel kinda at home, cause that is so freakin' American. All I know is the woman makes some mean couscous! Now normally you would eat couscous with your hands. Actually only one hand, you're right hand. Cause you're left hand well, it's Berber toilet paper. But she brought out spoons for us foreigners. And lord knows, I do not want to eat whatever is on my kids hands. Now normally I would think eating with hands is cool. But Arkia's house doesn't have a sink to wash your hands or a shower.

But it does have a squat potty. So you simply squat over the hole in the floor and do your business in it. Trust me this is harder than it sounds especially if you're a girl. Oh, I can aim my stream in the hole. I can do that. But there's this whole deflection off the floor factor that makes it a lot more strategic like a game of pool. And inevitably, there will be a pool of urine on your pant leg. Oh and see the bucket of water? That's how you flush your business down.

Berbers have been travelling to Imichil for years and years to sell or stock up on goods before the cold winter months. You know donkeys, camels, the necessities. But what's the biggest most universal necessity for the cold winter months? Someone to share it with. This is the High Atlas Mountain version of, cause there aint no internet up in these parts.

So we're ready to check out the market. Look how local and untouristy we look.

As we walked around we saw lots of Moroccan man love. Right before I snapped this picture, all three of these guys had their arms around each other. This just means "hey, I love you man, but totally not in an illegal gay way, dude". I'm pretty sure there is a Berber word for dude.

Then we see the man in the hot pink ski suit. Did I mention it was really hot outside? He must be a foreigner. Not because of the ski suit, but because Moroccans don't use kleenex to blow their nose. No, a Moroccan would do one of two things: A) snort it up loudly and unapologetically or B) snot rocket it out right in front of you, unapologetically.

There were lots of women looking for men. It was easy to tell because single available women wear white sequined blankets. This is one of the few times that it's socially acceptable for women to approach a man. But did you see the selection? Did you? They probably would rather start their own all woman tribe or something.

When the day is over and you have bought or oogled at whatever you desired, you pack it up in the back of your truck with your asses and your friends. Hopefully, they are not one in the same.

The next morning we have a flat. Please tell me we can repair this because I don't want to ride in the back of the truck with the asses. Although I'm so freakin skanky at this point, I think I smell like ass. So it probably wouldn't even matter. What they lack in toilet paper they make up for in mechanics who will pump up your tire with their air compressor.

When we do arrive home after six or so hours and some vomit later, it becomes apparent that I've come home with something I didn't leave with. I'm pretty sure it's a parasite. Was it the water I drank? Was it the goat meat I ate? Does it really matter? I'm just glad to be home in a house with toilet seats at this point. Because the only thing worse than peeing on yourself in a squat potty is shitting and puking on yourself in a squat potty.

But do you know what's worse than that? It's trying to get a sample in a specimen cup to send to the lab. To see if they really are parasites. And the lab confirms that yes, I do have parasites, but don't worry they're friendly. I know this because I haven't shat myself publicly. Um, yet. And if this was an unfriendly parasite, it wouldn't give a shit if I shat myself publically or not.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Week of Style

Recently I was reading someone else's blog. Mom's The Word, to be exact. Never before I have I stole an idea from another blogger, until now. You see, she did this post on the what she wore all week long. It was a cute post, mostly because she looked well, really cute. I'm always envious of people that dress well because, I don't. I don't wear things that need to be ironed. I don't do my hair. I don't wear uncomfortable shoes. I don't accessorize and I rarely deodorize.

I am a creature of comfort. I think most Americans are. But I would guess that they are in a sweat pants kinda way. Not me. Sure, I've got a couple of pairs of yoga pants, but I only wear them to yoga. My go to comfort item is jeans. I wear them everyday. And yes, sometimes I wear the same pair several days in a row. And I mean several, as in more than a couple and a few. Somehow I believe that other people don't actually notice that. But, now that I just confessed, I'm sure they will. Or they'll confess that they noticed a long time ago, but just didn't say anything. Out of pity or whatever.

I actually love clothes. I do.I buy cute stuff and I buy trendy stuff too. And when I buy these things I usually have the best intentions to throw out the old stuff that really, really needs to be replaced. And I'll go to throw out my old threadbare stuff and I'll get so close to throwing them out. Then, I panic and I just can't go through with it. I'll just wear them when I paint, I think. (Just so you know, I don't paint.) And then of course I'll continue to wear them until they are absolutely obscene. I'll know it's obscene when the fabic is so thin and/or ripped you can see my underwear. And then I'll wear them one more day until I, reluctantly, retire them.

Ok, so you wanna see what I mean?

Here's last week's week of style, my style. Or non-style, as the case may be...


American Eagle jeans $30 bought several years ago. (These jeans are SO soft they are my absolute favorite pair.)
Thrift Store shirt $4. (I LOVE black shirts. I've got so many, I've lost count.)
Old Navy flip flops, around $3 (These are grey, my second favorite color.)
Wet hair clipped up, free (Although I guess the clip cost something at one point. Time, energy and frustration saved by not blow drying my hair? Priceless.)
Sunglasses $5 (Yeah, they're big, dark and snobby looking but they were $5 AND they double as a headband when I'm not actually in the sun. Can you say multipurpose?)


The same American Eagle jeans (Yes, I picked them up from the floor for day 2.)
Black thrift store t-shirt $4 (This is a vintage Beetles t-shirt. While I don't really like the Beetles, this is totally my favorite t-shirt. Go figure.)
Old Navy flip flops (I'm sure you noticed these are black and not grey ones, right?)
And yes, the bad attitude and snide sarcastic look that I also wear everyday? Totally FREE!


American Eagle jeans (Yes, this is day 3. Do you know how much water/energy I'm saving by NOT washing these jeans? DO YOU? Yeah, cause I'm all environmentally friendly like that.)
Grey thrift store shirt, $4 (Yeah, it's NOT black. I wanted it to have the number 69 on it so bad cause that's my birth year and my roller derby number, but it says 68. I pondered for a long while if I actually wanted to fork out 4 bucks for it. I finally splurged.)
Old Navy flip flops (Why is it that wearing airy/breezy flip flops makes your feet stink so bad? Or is that just me?)
And am I holding my ass? Why the hell am I doing that? AWKWARD!


Levi's jeans $30 from Sears (While these jeans are hole-less, they do have a permanently faded chap stick spot on my right pocket, cause I never leave home without lip balm and I'm right-handed, duh.)
NEW Doors t-shirt from Pimkie about $15 (Yes, I actually bought a NEW t-shirt not from a thrift store because that's how much I like The Doors. Then I had to explain to my youngest that this is a boy not a girl, so it isn't in fact gross that you can see his nipples.)
Black Flip flops (They contrast so well with the grey shirt don't you think?)
Jim Morrison pose (I had to explain to my 12 year old who took this picture why I was posing like this cause he didn't get the cultural reference. Who is his generation's cultural reference? Lady Gaga?)


It's funny that even though you look in the mirror everyday, that you can go without really knowing what you look like. Then, when you see an actual photo, it's like whhhaaaattt? That's what I look like? I really didn't realize I look EXACTLY the same everyday. Why didn't someone tell me? I need to change it up. After all, I do have all this really cute stuff in my closet.

So maybe you shouldn't wear all your trendy pieces together. 'Cause that's just ridiculous. Even though I freakin' love those orange shoes, ok and that vest, and the hat. They will probably continue to just sit in my closet. Because I'm pretty sure a 41 year old dressing like a 15 year old is not trendy, it's just really stupid looking. And, I've come to realize that there's a reason why I dress like I do. Because it makes me feel like the granola crunching slacker that I am. And finally, I'm kinda comfortable with that. Sort of.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Mystery Meat

I'm in a rut. Every day I have the same conundrum. What are we going to have for dinner? Now I am a person who loves, L-O-V-E-S, food. But with less choices available here than in America, menu options leave me feeling pretty ambivalent. There are so many layers to my culinary depression, so let's start small. Moroccan meat. No, this is not a euphemism for something else although I'm sure that this term is to be the next search words on my blog stats for the ever growing number of people who have stumbled upon my blog while looking for porn. At least I know where my market is. The meat market.

I could go into this whole thing about explaining what halal meat is and that eating beef with the blood drained out makes beef a whole lot less tender, tasty and beef-y. Maybe I'd describe the strong pungent (gross) taste (and smell) that is lamb, just in case you didn't know. My discovery that pork is NOT the other white meat in Morocco. And I haven't even covered seafood and how salmon is ridiculously expensive, that the readily available inexpensive Panga fish comes from some of the most polluted waters in Vietnam and how mealy and freezer burnt the shrimp is. Or that I considered going back to vegetarianism. But I'm not gonna do that. Instead I'm just gonna say, we eat a lot of chicken. AND I CAN'T EAT ANY MORE CHICKEN!

I had almost taken a solemn vow to the broccoli, that I can almost never find, when I saw it at the Marjane, a new meat. A meat my kids have never eaten before.

So you know I'm gonna try it, right?

I'm going to throw it into a tagine that I usually make with beef and figs.

By the way, authentic Moroccan tagines would be cooked in a proper tagine pot like this one, not a cuisinart pan with the non-stick coating that probably causes cancer.

But this doesn't work for me for two reasons. First, I'm a stupid American who didn't grow up cooking on a clay tagine pot so I can never get it to cook just right. Second, the Moroccan urban legend is that some tagine pots contain lead. And while I don't think it's true, I don't want to find out it actually was later. I mean, have you read the book Beethoven's Hair?

My other unauthentic Moroccan tagine faux pas? I cook it with wine, which is haraam (forbidden).

I whip up an unauthentic Moroccan salad because I added cracked wheat which makes it more half tabbouleh-half Moroccan salad. Whatever.

I serve up my wine soaked fig mystery meat tagine with Moroccan sweet potatoes, which if you're used to American sweet potatoes I would go with the term semi-sweet potatoes.

So what is it?

And no, thank god, ostrich does NOT taste like chicken. And no, my kids had no idea what they ate. And no, they didn't like it. But in all fairness they don't like anything. But guess who did? And guess what I bought again at the Marjane today?

Ostrich, it's what's for dinner.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Writer Unblocked

Before I was an unemployed stay at home mother of four kids, I had a job. That was another me. Sure I worked with kids, but I did my job well, I dressed professionally and at the end of a long day I didn't take the kids home with me. My how things have changed; how I've changed. Now, I I dress like a slob, I constantly question whether I do my job well and these kids? I can't send them home, because they live here.

For a few years now, I've wondered (ok, worried, stressed and anguished) about the direction my professional life would take. You know, once all my kids were in school and I actually did have a professional life again. So now at 41, I'm back to the age old question, what will I be when I grow up? Which begs the preliminary question, when the hell will I grow up? My mind swirled with possibilities.

During all this contemplation (and swirling), we moved to Africa and I started this blog. It was my way of sharing our Moroccan experience and travels with family and friends. Then, to my surprise, friends recommended other friends and then total strangers started reading. The more I wrote, the more my world started to change. When I wasn't writing, I was thinking about writing. I came to realize I was entranced by words. I fell in love with the thesaurus. (Today's word of the day on thesaurus is bellwether by the way. Bellwether. Isn't that an awesome word?) My geeky-word-research-loving self felt curiously, exhilaratingly at home.

A couple of weeks ago I was at a friend's house and we all took the Myers-Briggs personality test. I had taken it several times before, but forgot what my exact type is, besides geeky freak girl of course. But now, I can declare with absolute certainly (well, maybe one standard deviation of certainty or so), I'm an INFJ. What does this mean? The research says INFJs are gentle, caring, complex and highly intuitive individuals. Artistic and creative, they live in a world of hidden meanings and possibilities. Only one percent of the population has an INFJ Personality Type, making it the most rare of all the types. It goes on to say they're tortured perfectionists. Holy crap, that's totally me. They had me at tortured...

Now here's the kicker, what careers are a good for the INFJ? Counseling. Guess what I did pre-kids? Yup, I worked in the social work field. Checked that box. And dot-da-da-da...writing.

Freaky/Cool Factoid: Did you know that Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers created this assessment for women entering the work force during World War II to help women decipher their workplace assets? And here I am a stay-at-home mom in the middle of World War III, otherwise known as my house, trying to do the same exact thing. Can you say koinky dink?

You know when you're little and someone asks you what you want to be and out of your mouth comes one of the top five most ridiculously unattainable jobs your deluded mind can muster.

Jobs like:

1. Professional Athlete. I mean come on, what are the chances?
2. Astronaut. You want to go into space? Who doesn't? (Besides me.)
3. Singer. As evidenced by American Idol, many people think they can sing, but most can't.
4. Actor. Can anyone explain Jennifer Tilly to me? ANYONE???
5. Writer. Who doesn't want to write the next great American novel? Not me.
(Ok, that was a confusing double negative.)

Well I've been scared of sounding like that deluded little kid inside me for a long time. So I'm just gonna say it. Right now. Ok, give me a second. Maybe two. Now I'm gonna take a deep breath. And a slow exhale. I want to be a writer. There, I've said it.

Finally, my 2011 Writer's Market (Deluxe Edition, mind you) has arrived from Amazon. I ordered it at the beginning of summer and it was lost in transit. The plane must have taken the infamous Bermuda triangle route so much of our mail takes. So now, now that I've put my intention out there. Now it's time to do research on how to make this happen. How to become a Freelance Writer. Did I mention I love research? Does anyone else think the "free" in Freelance Writer is a bit of an ironic title when you want to get paid to write?

So maybe you or someone you know have a business that needs prostituting? I mean promoting. Need of a writer to make your eharmony profile jump off the screen to find that special someone? Or just tonight's someone special? Whatever, I won't judge you. Do you want a ghost writer to chronical your fabulous celebrity life or not so fabulous non-celebrity life in your very own biography? Want snarkier facebook statuses? Do you need an A on that term paper? If so, I'm your girl. Ok, I was totally joking on the term paper. I have my principles. (I would so get you an A though, I'm just sayin'...)

Just in case you can't read the small fringy pull off tabs on the bottom, contact Marie: loerzelgang at yahoo dot com.

Don't have any writing needs? That's ok, every writer needs readers. Thanks for being mine!

Oh, and likes on my Rock The Kasbah page on facebook are totally FREE!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Gettin' Skoold

Today is September 11th. Sunday would normally be a leisurely morning in our house. But today, it was chaos. The kids whined just like a weekday morning. We instructed them to get dressed, but not in nice clothes. We were headed to school, but they weren't to bring their homework or back packs. We loaded up the car. Today, went to a Moroccan school.

We followed the caravan of other Americans driving through an unfamiliar part of the city. When we arrived they were waiting for us. The school children are all dressed up. We were dressed down. The truck from the US Embassy, filled with new furniture, tools, paint, supplies and books, had arrived. But we couldn't begin. We had to wait. The US Ambassador was coming.

When he and his wife arrived things started.

And by things I mean speeches.
Then we had cookies and Moroccan tea.
And hoped we'd start soon.

Finally, the formalities ended and we saw the room we would be painting.
It was small. So small, not all of us were going to fit. All the brushes and rollers had been claimed anyway. The furniture donated by the US Embassy was strewn in the hallway and needed assembling. But, all the tools were already in anxious hands.

The builders built.

The painters painted.

(Some of the paint actually did get on the wall...)

One of the other Americans had a soccer ball in her car and arranged an impromptu soccer game for the kids.

I tried to help, I did. But I personally did
I felt useless.

Then, a group of young Moroccan girls approached me. They had a simple request. All they wanted were kisses. And then I realized, embracing the moment with the people around you is doing something.

I'll never forget where I was September 11, 2011, those girls in the Moroccan school and the lesson they taught me. 'Cause today I went to school and got skoold.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


We wanted to see a bullfight in Seville, but as luck would have it, the bull's schedule didn't match ours. Instead, we found cheap tickets to Portugal. Actually when you buy cheap tickets times 6, they ain't so freakin' cheap anymore. Lisbon was on our list of places we wanted to go and now, we are. We borrowed guide books from friends and then a funny thing happened. I actually started reading them. You see, I rarely read about our destinations before we go on the trip. I like to build the anticipation a bit longer either that or I'm just extremely lazy. Ok, both. But you know what? When you investigate pre-trip you find out paramount information. Such as, Portugal has bullfights too and they're on Thursday nights!

And then you can do things like get to the venue two hours early to make sure that they actually ARE having a bullfight because the information on-line is all in Portuguese and we don't read Portuguese. No one does, except maybe in Brazil. And no, I didn't mistype braille. The ticket lady asks which seats we want. Duh, there are 6 of us. We want the cheap seats of course. And by cheap I mean up next to the young drunk group of guys who also can't afford the ring side seats either.

With tickets in hand at 8pm and the fights starting at 10pm, we had time to drink in the sights and excitement. Speaking of which, one would think that there would be drinks served up outside the venue like a tailgating party. Wouldn't you? I mean this is Europe. What says bull fight quite like a nice big glass of sangria? Bullfighting is called a blood sport after all.

With nothing much to do, we skulk around and take pictures of the bull trucks. And ponder who gets the bull into the trucks and how? All I gotta say is stay in school kids or you could find out one day.

Finally we can go in and claim our seats in the nosebleed section. And my nose didn't bleed so much as drip. Then I start sneezing and coughing. I'm allergic to something in the air.

The medical team is on high alert. Or they are playing fantasy bullfighting, you know like fantasy football.

It's almost ready to begin.

All the players file out simultaneously defile the perfectly coiffed dirt. Wait, horses? What the crap are the horses for?

So back in 1799, after the particularly gory death of a Toreador (bullfighter dude), Portugal changed it's bullfighting rules. Since then. the bulls horns are capped in leather (ironic, no?). And they do not kill the bull by slaying it with a sword, well not in public anyway. This of course makes bullfighting much more humane and family friendly.

The air is filled with testosterone and the matador who's about to fight pick a woman out of the crowd to dedicate his talents too. I know, how romantic right? So the bullfight begins with the guy on horseback with his lance-y thing-a-ma-bob (bandarilha) which he uses to stab the bull 4 times in his back.

This is his first attempt.

Between lancings, horseback-dude gets rearmed from one of his team mates while the bull gets recharged with cape guy. And cape guy has a hot pink cape. Interesting. Especially since bulls are colorblind. Hmmmm.

So after horseback dude gets all four spears in the bull, it's time for the ground crew to take over. The leader of team wears a green hat, so let's just call him papa elf. Papa elf slowly approaches the bull and does the gayest little taunting dance that causes the bull to charge him and papa elf and his 7 elf friends jump on the bulls head. Check out tail puller guy.

Watch for yourself.

Now that meant that the toreadors won. Then they escort the bull out of the ring and get a fresh one (I'm pretty sure this is where the term "fresh meat" comes from) and a new team and the next fight begins.

But what if the team doesn't all pile on the bull? Then what? Ok, this was the last fight of the night and my personal favorite.

Check it out.

Yes, bull get 'em! Are we the only ones rooting for the bull? It took four attempts for them to take this bull down. And by take down I mean, eight guys dressed like elves jumped on the bull who had capped horns and was stabbed four times by a guy on a horse.

When it's all over, the toreadors walk around the edges of the ring and fans throw flowers. They throw other stuff too. I'm surprised there were no panties, as I would think that would be real appropriate here. I wish I had some big white granny panties to throw.

I just figured out what I'm allergic to here. It's bullshit!

Think about it. There's a medical team for the matadors, but there's no vet for the bull? Come on. He's already at a disadvantage with his horns being covered by a relative's hyde for god's sake. Now he's being chased by a guy on horseback who's stabbing him. Does that sound like a fair fight to you? And testosterone? The guy's got a hot pink cape and the other elf looking guys are dancing taunting the bull and then they end up on top of each other in a homoerotic pile. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) And not killing the bull in the ring does not mean they don't kill the bull. They just do it privately with a butcher and conveniently close to a meat locker. The animal rights groups are right. This is so inhumane. That's it. I'm never going to a bullfight again. Unless it's in Spain, where the bull actually has a fighting chance. Hey, I bet they serve sangria there.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Where in the World...?

Where do you go when the kids have two days off school for the Moroccan holiday celebrating the end of Ramadan (then you unapologetically pull the kids out of school for two additional days and attach it to a weekend)? Where indeed.

Let me give you some clues:

It boasts a suspension bridge...

and streetcars...

and funiculars, which may be one of the goofiest words ever, but still doesn't top the word exacerbate.

And no, it's not San Francisco.

Women didn't have full voting rights in this country until 1975. Just for comparison's sake, women in Afghanistan got the right to vote in 1963.

85% of the population is Roman Catholic, but the country has a declining birthrate. Hmmmmmm, how is this even possible I ask you?

This country probably has the biggest collection of jesus action figures. Ok, that's not a fact, it's just based on the fact that I saw Jesus everywhere we went and I wasn't even hallucinating!

(I would totally have displayed Jesus karate chopping a block of wood in the window myself. He'd have a black belt of course...)

It's known for it's pastries. This delicious looking chocolate covered rat turned out to be filled with marzipan. River was less than happy with it's surprise center. It might as well have been rat poison.

A lot of historic houses have mosaic tile on the outside. And that just looks really stupid like the house is inside out or something. And that's not my personal opinion, that's a fact.

It has Europe's second largest aquarium. I found it ironic that they served tuna in the cafeteria and even more ironic that Jade ate it after claiming tuna was her favorite fish at the aquarium. I guess she really does love tuna.

It's known for it's fresh seafood. But beware, when travelling to a fishing village and stopping at a cafe overlooking the beach and ordering the fresh fish of the day, you may find out that all the fish on their menu is actually frozen.

It's also known for it's port. (The wine not the harbor, but it actually has both.) If you don't already know this, port is totally gross. Who would ever mix a perfectly good red wine with brandy? But, we did find the local vinho verde complements frozen seafood quite nicely.

It has beautiful beaches. And oddly, no women were topless on it. I think the boys were disappointed.

Oh and bullfights, don't forget about the bullfights! Did you guess Spain?

Cause you'd be wrong...

It's Portugal.


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