Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Goin' to the Zoo

In 1969, Morroco built it's first zoo here in Rabat. When we first moved here we heard all kinds of stories about it. That it was unsafe. For both animals and for anyone visiting it. We were told visitors mistreated the animals and their cages were littered with garbage, that there wasn't enough staff and sometimes as many as 5 lions to a cage, that animals were being stolen, and that in one year alone (2004), 100 animals died there.  So, back in 2010, we checked it out for ourselves.  Turns out the stories were all true.

You can read about that first trip here. And, bonus, you can also see how significantly my blogging skills have progressed since then.

Earlier this year they opened a new zoo here in Rabat.  We couldn't wait to see it. Except we did because we heard the crowds were enormous. And I hate crowds.  But finally, this past Monday, we went. And you know what?  It actually looked like a real zoo.  

Like look, there is a map of the whole park and it's even got a roof to shield you from the sun while you look at it. The funny thing is, there isn't a map of Rabat that is anywhere near as good as that zoo map.

Not only that, there's little reassuring markers that let you know if you're headed in the right direction. AND garbage cans.  I can not express to you how utterly unmoroccan both of these things are.

But, wait there's more!  The bathrooms?  They have seats like real western toilets AND they're clean AND have toilet paper. I've never been more happy to tip a bathroom attendant in my whole life!

Then, in front of every habitat there is a sign telling you what the animal is. I know that sounds pretty basic, unless you've been to the original Rabat zoo where you had to just guess which animal it was.  If it was in fact there was an animal there at all.

They have a pretty wide selection of animals compared to the old zoo which was like a retirement home for old cat species.  Now the zoo has Asian elephants, which is a bit weird. Wouldn't they have spent less on shipping for an African elephant?   Unless Thailand was having a sale of course.

The lions actually had a wide trench to keep them in and a barrier to keep humans out. Novel. The old zoo was always plagued by rumors that some kids fell into the lion pit.  And if you saw it, you know rumor just means they couldn't find any evidence of this because the lions ate it.

Check out how much room this ostrich has.  Or did he just fart?

But then when we got to the crocodiles, they were crammed into the smallest ditch of water. And they look a bit dehydrated. Not that I'm a zookeeper or anything. Wait are there zoo keepers at this zoo?

But, the scariest thing at the zoo is the leopard. It has a very narrow trench to keep it from escaping and it doesn't have a lot of room.  And I'm pretty sure he could get out any time he wanted to.

Later that night I changed my mind about the whole leopard thing.   Not about him being able to get out. Cause I'm still totally convinced he can. No, the scariest thing at the zoo? The food poisoning we got from eating at the cafe there. So if you've wondered how I've managed to knock out 3 posts in 3 days? It's because I'm not leaving the house to do anything else or I'd shit myself.   And I'd rather shit myself at home. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to run to the bathroom...

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Picture Perfect

We thought we had taken our last road trip in Morocco. We were wrong. So we packed up the van with our traveling companions, the Greens, for one last adventure. This time to the cascades in Ouzoud.

Where we saw this beautiful waterfall.

And we hiked all the way down to the bottom of it and along the ravine until we  crossed this rickety bridge.

To get to our Rastafarian hideaway.

I'm not kidding it was very Rastafarian.  And very dirty.  Just ask Bob.

We had a choice to make.  We could either sleep on the open patio that is also open to the wild monkeys who inhabit the ravine.  Or stay in a yurt (which sounds like a method of birth control similar to an IUD), that is really a hut.  

These are the falls  next to our hut which made  a tranquil, cascading drone that wetting our yurts was a real possibility.  (But we wouldn't realize that until later.)

We walked past the reeds and into the cool refreshing water.  Or rather the frigid mountain water that froze the boys packages into the size of a pea.  (I'm just guessing.)

You can see here, Jade has already learned the super secret rastafarian hand gesture.  

Is Sky simply kicking back on a rock or warming his nipples and balls simultaneously?  I guess we'll never know.

See the shadow?  It looks like a monkey toting a brick right? River is obviously terrified. 

Conor testing the water.  And it failed.  To get up past his chest anyway.

Three of these things belong together
Three of these things are kind of the same
Can you guess which one of these doesn't belong here?
Now it's time to play our game (time to play our game).

Why does Craig look so warm in the water? Hmmm.

Wait.  Where are they going?

I wish that you would step back from that ledge, my friend.
And we have a Jumper!

First Third Eye Blind and then Toad the Wet Sprocket...

Then a teenage mutant ninja turtle.

Add some Lord of the Flies, complete with home made spears.

Combined with a lack of running water and hygiene.

And that was our picture perfect weekend.

Monday, May 28, 2012


It started that morning. I was completely unfocused. I knew he was in town already. And I was going to go see him that night. But, earlier in the day, Sara and I had plans. We were meeting at the park to walk and talk. Surely that would take my mind off the anticipation. It didn't. Because next to the walking path is the most upscale hotel in Rabat. I was sure he was there. So all hot and sweaty, dressed in our workout gear and smelling ripe, we decided to go over to the hotel and stalk him. Lenny Kravitz.

The plan was to dress "rocker cool" that night for the concert. Which of course is a totally uncool thing to do. Sara was running late and not completely ready when she and her husband, Christopher, arrived at my house. She is a professional dancer and is unfazed by quick changes and chaos. She put on her make-up in Rabat traffic on the way there, without impaling her eye with the make up wand. And that kind of focus is rocker cool. As is casually strolling in late and standing in the free zone in the back where you don't need a ticket . Unless that’s just called lame.

Late himself, Lenny finally strutted out on stage;I could kinda see him from the little window next to people's heads crooking my head to the left and standing on tip toes. It became clear my best chance to see him was to watch the big screen instead. And take pictures of it. And while they started out of of focus...

...they remained completely out of focus.

So I have a myriad of out of focus pictures. It was extremely frustrating. Why can't he just stand still for a second? Okay, five seconds.

I went in to try to capture one more close up shot of Lenny. Before I decided to just take a few pictures of us at the concert. Maybe that would work better.

But I forgot to zoom back out. So I got this lovely photo of Sara and I. But you can clearly see what a fantastic job she did on her eye makeup in the car on the way there in this myopic shot.

Then I took this group shot with our husbands. But, and even though you can barely see Craig's face you can see he looks like he's about to cry. (Are You Gonna Go My Way does do that to him sometimes.) So, I thought I'd try again.

And missed getting the guys in the shot entirely.

Then, 2/3 of the way through the concert, people started to leave. Honestly, I think a lot of Moroccans didn't even know who Lenny Kravitz was in the first place. They probably thought it was the night Mariah Carey performed. She does have a son named Moroccan after all. So, Sara and I pounced on two openings right up on the fence that separates the people who paid for tickets up front from those cheap bastards who didn't. This left a gap between us and our husbands that was instantaneously absorbed by two Moroccan men who swooped in and stood directly behind us. So closely behind that I could feel the guys heartbeat on my back. And I pushed back into him before his other bits were on other parts. When that didn't work, he placed both his hands firmly on my thighs and I turned around and firmly told him to get his hands off of me. I didn't know Craig was watching and pulling him off of me until later. Or that Sara and I had been targeted like so many other women have been at the Mawazine festival. It’s an issue that just isn't focused on.

They left us alone, until the encore. When Lenny played a 20 minute rendition of Let Love Rule, left the stage and started walking through the crowd. Everyone went crazy and pushed in to try to get a glimpse and a picture of Lenny. He looked like he was headed right for us and the guys behind us were pressing and thrusting their bodies on us again. Now they knew they were being watched and said pardon, excusing themselves of what they knew all along to be improper behavior. To American women anyway. Lenny headed back to the stage and the two men disappeared into the crowd as it dispersed.

Oh I think I forgot to mention that near the end of the evening Lenny actually took off his sunglasses. And maybe you don't know that Lenny seems to wear sunglasses all the time. And even though he was blurry, we decided there's good reason for that. Have you seen Lenny without glasses on before? Let's just say his eyes are not his best feature. Cause sometimes when you see things in focus, you discover the fantasy is actually better than the reality.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Head To Toe

I thought I'd give you a glimpse as to how Morocco has changed me. Now I could write a really introspective post on how it's changed me from the inside. But that's not what I'm gonna do. See, the other day when I was cooking I caught a glimpse of the permanent reminders on my arm on my time here in Morocco. And that's when I decided to write this post about how Morocco had change my outsides from head to toe.

Let's start at the top and go down.

My hair. I haven't colored it in about a year now because I completely fried it with permanent color. Because Morocco doesn't have the gentler semi-permanent color  I would use in the states here. Which is why my hair is a few different colors right now. highlighted by about  5 gray hairs right up front.  Which somehow don't show up in this photo. Then, I haven't had my hair cut in probably at least 6 months for a number of reasons. One of which is the inability to clearly communicate what I want with the person cutting my hair. Really, that's hard enough to get across when we're both native English speakers. So the result?  My hair looks like this.  Also, I would just like to explain that my hair is still partially wet in this photo, not greasy. Even though I don't style it, I do wash it.

Moving down to my shoulders. I admit it, I've never had good posture. But since we've moved here it's gotten even worse. Because now I do everything on the computer so I'm constantly hunched over it. When I'm not writing, I'm doing my banking, shopping on-line, making travel arrangements, reading the news there or watching old episodes of 60 minutes there. Quite simply, I've become a hunchback.  

Now to those two permanent reminders of Morocco, the scars on my arms. The one closest to my hand is from burning myself getting enchiladas out of my super tiny Moroccan oven. Thank god I never tried to cook a turkey in there.  Oh wait, I did try to fit a boar leg to no avail.  The one further up is from splattering duck grease when I pan fried some breasts and then made a super simple orange sauce from orange marmalade, a little chopped onion, chicken broth and some minced ginger. It's seriously delicious. Probably more so if you aren't nursing an injury from the incoming mortars of scalding, liquefied duck fat.

I went to a Moroccan dermatologist once who scolded me about not using enough sunscreen. (She obviously doesn't know me well.) And then she proceeded to tell me to wear gloves while driving to protect my hands from the sun. Which is why at this time of the year you see a lot of Moroccan women driving whilst wearing white gloves. It's not a homage to Mad Men. I, however, did not heed her advice. Which is why I'm starting to get age spots on my hands from the intense Moroccan sun. Maybe I should really rock that 1960's style with some white gloves after all.

There was a time in high school when my belly was so flat it was actually concave and my ribs stuck out. It was completely gross. But, with a good diet, working out and a metabolism that has gone from a sprint to a Sunday afternoon stroll, I filled out. But while it looks healthy on the outside, it's a different story inside.  I'm eating for two, maybe even more.  I don't know how to count how many parasites you have.  I thought I had rid myself of them.  Unless what I have now are amoebas, which I don't know how to count either.  But, I bet my intestines look like a pristine unlitered highway. I know this because I spend more than my fair share of time here...

And let me assure you I use a lot of paper, the toilet brush and that pressurized hose which is the greatest Moroccan invention of all time.  Which probably isn't Moroccan at all, it was probably invented by a French guy who brought it over here after he experienced his first unsanitary squat potty.  So then the greatest Moroccan invention remains couscous.  

We're down to my knees already, which are constantly bruised.   Mostly that's from the push ups Sara makes me do. Which I would complain about, but if I do then she'll make me do boy push ups. So I don't.  At least from this angle you can't see the hair on my legs, another byproduct of Morocco.  And I think we all know, a covered leg is an unshaven leg.

Lastly, my toes. Before I moved to Morocco I had never had a pedicure. I don't like painted nails as a general rule.  But, I have been known to get them done a few times while I'm here and I do it for one reason.  The company.  I got this particular pedi when I was with my friends Faith and Jenny and we all got the same color on our toes.  Now weeks afterward it's chipped and looks like crap which is one of the reasons I don't like painted nails in the first place.  But I've decided to keep it on all summer, no matter how bad it looks.  Because it will remind of Morocco, that day at the spa and the friends I shared it with.  You see today Jenny gets on a plane and moves far away and our trifecta spreads far and wide.  But, long after that polish has worn away, the permanent mark on my heart will remain on the inside.  

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Pretty Boy

As a parent there are some battles I just won't fight. And hair is about at the top of that list. I've always been extremely lax about the kids' hair. But, I've always made a firm policy that while one does not have to brush his or her hair, teeth brushing is indeed mandatory. So, when Sky wanted a mohawk in 2nd grade, I let him. And when he decided to grow an afro, I was equally permissive. I feel like it's their hair and if that's how they want to express themselves or rebel.  Well, cool.  (Although I've heard just recently the term cool is totally uncool, which makes me want to use it even more.)

Just because I allow them to experiment with their hair does not mean I like all of their coifs. But why do I have to like it?  I don't have to wear it all day.  And so what if it looks horrible?  I know I did more of my fair share of bad hair.  After all, I grew up in the 80's and I not only had a mullet, but I had  huge New Jersey mall hair at my wedding!   But, before I had either of those I had the pixie haircut. Which is just a cute name for a traditional boys hair cut worn by a girl. The problem was, I was so convincing in this haircut, I was often mistaken for a boy. Well, that and my collection of worms, jeans with the knees blown out, the baseball shirt that I wore constantly, combined with the fact that I had absolutely no chest when all my friends had already sprouted theirs.  My hair and I?  We've never been friends.


I don't remember when River decided to grow his hair out. At first when he developed a little shag, it looked edgy.  Very hangin'-at-the-skateparkesque.  Then it got longer and his hand was constantly pushing his stands away from his eyes.  As it grew even longer, he had to hold his bangs back when he ate dinner because it grazed his food otherwise.  We hassled him to put it into a pony tail before we ate to resolve this issue, but it became just one more thing to nag him about.  Not only that then I had to nag him to wash it and condition it and brush it.  Which doesn't sound like much until you remember he's a 12 year old boy and I still have to nag him to flush the toilet after he pees. 

So I reminded him repeatedly that he must take care of his hair or we'd shave it off.  I threatened that several times.  I know I should have followed through, but I never did. I was convinced he needed to make the choice of when he was ready to part with his dry, stringy, split end ridden locks and stop being mistaken for a girl. But as the months progressed. he didn't budge, I grew more wary that he may never decide it was time and he would just continue to grow it. Then my fears escalated.  Maybe he'd convert and become a Sikh and start wearing it in a turban. And the turban was starting to look like a good alternative to me.

Until this past Monday when I reminded him for the 100th time to actually use shampoo on his hair next time he showered.  And out of nowhere he told me he was ready to cut it. Sweet Jesus! Finally! YES! His sisters and brothers stopped chattering in shock, but the whole family was staunchly supportive of his decision. Without hesitation or giving River time to retract his statement, Craig got out the clippers and started to work.  The kids gathered around and carefully studied his face for signs of Post Traumatic Tress Disorder (PTTD). Which is absolutely ridiculous, because it's just way too soon for that.   We should at least give it a week or two.

We thought we'd have some fun with it though and give him a chance to choose another hairstyle other than shaving it all off.  Like the mullet.  Thank god River didn't decide to keep it, because I was having a little PTTD of my own just looking at him.    

And when it was done...

...we had a Maltese!  Jade was so happy cause she's always wanted a dog.   And I don't even need to feed, water or walk it.  Now I guess we don't need to get that real dog I promised them when we move home.  Damn it, I am aren't I?    

Now all I'm left with is my pretty boy. Although, I should probably stop calling him pretty.  It just sounds so girly.  


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