Friday, April 27, 2012

Mom's the Word


All of us moms have them. Words that we repeat so often until one day we wake up and realize it's our catch phrase. Unlike the words I keep safely tucked away in my head because I can't utter them in front of my children, which are called expletives.  I only use them to pepper my inner dialogue. Ok, and the diatribes I have with adults in my children's absence. Shhhhhh. Please don't tell them that though. Cause then they'll want to do as I say, not as I do. Or don't do. Whatever. You know what I'm trying to say.

My mother of course had her own catch phrases. She had this weird George Bryson reference she used, which I still don't understand. Or know how to spell. Maybe he was a Canadian super hero or something. But, her other one was up the yin yang. Let me give you an example. "Turn off that light our electric bill is going to be up the yin yang." At the time I didn't know the yin yang was a river in China. I thought yin yang referred to the place where the sun don't shine. If you know what I mean. But the fact that it's Chinese in origin might explain my brief stint with Chinese medicine in acupuncture school. And then my early departure where I told the administrators what a painfully disorganized school they ran, that I was leaving and that they could take it up the yin yang. If you know what I mean.

But I'm sure there's no correlation between my mom's saying and that school. Or that I really enjoyed sticking needles in people. I mean really, it was awesome. And no, I don't use yin yang with my kids. Nor do I stick them with needles if you must know.  Not often anyway.

No.  My buzzword is ridiculous. Used as a noun and not an adjective here. I say it a ridiculous amount of times a day. In completely ridiculous ways. Until I'm overcome with how utterly ridiculous I sound. It's just ridiculous. It's not just on the menu a La carte. No. I also serve it up in a combo platter. I tag team it. Are you kidding me you ask? No. No, I'm not. Cause that's it. That's my idiom. Are YOU kidding me? Notice the stress on the you. That's very important. Let me give you an example. "You forgot your brand new swim suit I just bought you in the locker room at school? Are YOU kidding me? That's ridiculous." And yes, that was a real life example from yesterday. In case you wondered. Not that I'm still bitter it was lost the first time it was worn or anything.

The beautiful thing is, this expression is so generic it covers anything you need to convey: disgust, disbelief, horror, surprise, excitement. Seriously, YOU can stick anything else in there. It WILL work. Try it. Try it now.

And then I wonder how screwed up my kids are going to be from me saying it repeatedly. No one else on the planet said things my mom said. But my words, they're so utilitarian people say them all the time. So what are my kids going to think when their college professor calls the Stages of Freud's Psychosexual Development Theory ridiculous?  Will they be traumatized and simultaneously feel disgust, disbelief, horror, surprise and excitement?  And is that Freud's fault? The professor's? Or mine?

Are YOU kidding me? As if I needed to ask. How ridiculous!

Freud.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Lists

We love lists. They prioritize. They simplify. They require no justification. Or supporting evidence. But somehow they bring order to the randomness and that gives us a sense of comfort. That and we're American and we don't have time to read, we just want to hit the highlights and move on so we can skim through the rest of our fast paced day.

So to save you time and undo extraneous words I have broken this post down into lists.

PLACES WE'VE BEEN TO IN MOROCCO:

1. Oualidia
2. Casablanca
3. Fez
4. Marrakech
5. Imichil
6. Tangier
7. Tetuan
8. Meknes
9. Chefchaouen
10. The Sahara Desert
11. Essaouira (Knock on wood.)

PLACES WE'VE TRAVELLED TO FROM MOROCCO:

1. Italy
2. Spain
3. France
4. Egypt
5. Portugal
6. South Africa
7. Botswana
8. Zambia
9. Zimbabwe
10. England
11. Turkey

REGRETS:

1. Not learning Arabic.
2. Or French.
3. Not getting to know more Moroccans.
4. Not volunteering at an orphanage.
5. Not starting my own domestic violence non-profit.
6. Or surfing more.
7. Not being more social here.
8. Or staying in touch with friends and family back home either.
9. That I haven't pursued a publisher. Yet.
10. Then the regret of all the places we DIDN'T travel from here.

ACHIEVEMENTS:

1. My kids for enduring 2 and a half years of culture shock.   
2.  And doing it with integrity.  I'm so proud of them! 
3. Not getting into a traffic accident. (Knock on wood.)
4. Not getting kicked out of the country. (Knock on wood.)
5. Reducing the Moroccan cockroach population by at least 200.
6. Reducing the itching and scratching individuals in country by at least 200 (or somewhere around there.)
7. Supporting the Moroccan economy.
8. And the African, European and Asian economies too.
9. For the first time in my life saying what I think.
10. And for the first time in my life not giving a rats ass what you think about what I think.

THINGS WE LOVE ABOUT MOROCCO:

1. The people.
2. The simplicity.
3. The slow pace.
4. The fact that nothing is wasted cause someone will pick it out of your trash.
5. The beach.
6. The mountains.
7. The Sahara Desert.
8. The lack of capitalism.
9. The call to prayer 5 times a day reminding us there is a bigger purpose. (Although I admit I don't love the one before 6am.)
10. The people. (Yes, I intended to list that twice.)

THINGS WE HATE ABOUT MOROCCO:

1. Plastic bags blowing down the street like tumbleweeds.
2. The huge gap between the rich and poor.
3. That fact that many educated Moroccans need to leave Morocco in order to get meaningful work.
4. That there will be 10 traffic fatalities in Morocco today.
5. Moroccan literacy rates are 70% for men and 40% for women.
6. That homosexuality is illegal.
7. But a man is only considered gay if he's the "receiver".
8. The new increased tax on alcohol that profits the Islamist led government.
9. Clause 475 that drops criminal charges against a rapist if he marries his victim.
10. AND the uncertainty of the future of Morocco.

And my number one realization? That I have never truly appreciated the fact that I'm an American before. Especially, an American woman. That I can say what I think and do what I want. And right about now, I think I'm about ready to go home.

(Knock on wood.)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Saturday

It was just another Saturday morning. It started at baseball. It was the meeting point where I would pick up one of my kids who was at a sleepover the night before. Of course two of my kids were playing baseball. So we were committed to a morning of sun and sport.

Actually, the story begins on Thursday when my son got the invitation to a sleepover planned for the following night. Birthday parties here in Morocco have the advance notice of anywhere from 3 days to 24 hours. Compared to the American standard of 3 weeks to 168 hours. The international approach is stressful. How the crap am I going to find this kid (who has everything) a gift here in Morocco last minute? I was reluctant to let Sky go for so many reasons. One of those being that the host was neither Moroccan nor American and the parents didn’t speak much English. In the end I decided what the hell? Surely they won’t be shooting heroin. What could possibly happen?

Baseball is filled with the prideful boredom that comes with watching your child hit a home run at the world's most sluggish sport. Don't misunderstand, I don't mean to demean my baseball playing children here, only the sport itself. I'm chatting to other moms about very important things like education, travel and child rearing. You know, the usual. When one of my sons sits down beside me and starts rummaging through my purse for some gum. But my gum is located in the "secret" zipper portion of my purse that also contains my tampons. You know where this is going don't you? Then mid conversation, he interrupts me waving the tampon, "What's this mom?" So I quietly reply, "We can talk about that at home." Which does not quell his curiosity. It only exacerbates it.

Meanwhile, my other son has been returned from his sleepover. And after the dad who dropped him off leaves, my son starts to divulge the details. First, he reports he got no sleep. Not a wink. Which is why I refer to sleepovers as sleepunders. This is also why I hate them, because the next day is the outer ring of hell. It is the inner ring of hell if the sleepover was at your house. Oh, and breakfast? It was candy. No flippin' joke. So now he hasn't had any sleep and is all drugged up on sugar. He assures me he feels great. Never better in fact. Who needs sleep? Life is great. Isn't this what all druggies say when they're high? Oh and then he tells me one of the boys called his driver to come pick him up in the middle of the night and ditched them. And the dad didn't even know that until the next day.

After baseball we rush home so I can feed them lunch. While I’m furiously making sandwiches I’m also explaining what a tampon is. Of course they were completely grossed out, and for a brief moment they were feeling sympathetic to what the future had in store for their sisters. Especially when I did a size comparison between a tampon and a baby's head. Suffice it to say I don't think the boys will rummage through my purse for gum anytime soon.

This is when the sugar crash began. Right before I headed out to my appointment at the spa. Now, very rarely do I leave all four kids home alone in a foreign country where there is no 911 to call in case of emergency. Normally this would make me feel extremely guilty, but, honestly, I was so freakin’ happy to leave. I did remind them that I expected everyone to be alive when I got back. And that any blood shed should be cleaned up prior to my return.

I meet Jenny and Faith at the spa where we’re getting together for Faith’s birthday. I get a call right before I have to turn off my phone for my Thai massage. It's from a crying kid. Who is fine, except for the crying that stems from having locked himself out of his cracked ipod touch. That and pure exhaustion. So I tell him what any kind nurturing mother would do. Go to bed. And I turn my phone off. Free from any frivolous calls about things like whether aluminum foil can go in the microwave or not.

A tiny Asian woman instructs me to take off my clothes. Though we don't share a common language, she still makes it abundantly clear I should remove my underwear. Then I lay on the mattress on the floor waiting to relax. Except my mind is spinning with frivolous things. Like aluminium foil and whether the kids are trying to call me to inform me they burned down the house. Or that River pushed Ember off the trampoline and her back is broken and she needs an ambulance. That was until the part of the massage where she massaged my boobs. Yes, boobs. Since I had never had my boobs massaged before, I had no idea this made me laugh uncontrollably. Which startled her. And she promptly stopped and looked at me in horror. As I ineloquently tried to explain it’s not you, it’s me. I’m just not used to my massage therapist getting to second base with me. But, I’m totally cool with it. Really.

When my boobs and the rest of me were free of pent up tension, it was time to have my feet scoured and beautified with Jenny and Faith. As we talked, we let Faith choose the color and we all went the same shade of red for her party later on that night. We basked in relaxation and our friendship with our perfectly coiffed nails, until we had to leave to collect our kids and head to the party.

Somehow my kids managed to survive each other for 3 hours without a broken a leg, setting a fire in the microwave or drawing blood. Huh. I should leave them more often. I know you'd like to know about the party. Suffice it to say. No one ditched the party early. No one ate just candy. And I'm pretty sure everyone slept well that night. Cause that's the way we Americans party.

Yup, just another Saturday.
Which is why we did this on Sunday.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Let's Get It On



No one does sensual quite like Marvin Gaye. With hits like I Want You, Sexual Healing and the most romantically sexually manipulative song ever, Let's Get It On. Seriously, if you haven't heard it in a while, reaquaint yourself with the lyrics. I mean, his intentions are pretty clear. And he was writing songs back in a time when lyrics weren't overt. Think Afternoon Delight. Which is one of the most subtly unromantic sexually repulsive songs ever. If you haven't heard it in a while, reaquaint yourself with the lyrics.

Do you wonder where I'm going with this? So do I.

I guess what I'm saying is, Morocco takes a more Afternoon Delight approach to anything sexual. You will not find a sex shop here. However, you can score a prostitute, it is the world's oldest profession you know. But you do have to know where to find them. Unlike Turkey, which is the equivalent of Let's Get It On. With their sex shops boldly displayed with big flashing lights. And prostitutes? I bet they actually find you.

Not that I am in the market for these things. It's just that I'm curious.

Which brings me to my belly dance class, which is attended by some very proper and properly rigid, I might add, older Moroccan women. Women who just like to shake their groove thing in the company of other women on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. So the other week the teacher put on a song. A song I had never learned before. I hadn't even heard it before. So I copy and pasted they instuctors movements. Until we got to a part where I almost spit out my gum in absolute shock at what we were doing. It was an undulation that I always thought was the international gesture for *ahem* gettin' in on. If you know what I mean. So I'm looking around and no one else is laughing, accept for me of course. Conversely, no one is offended. So, I'm guessing this particular genuflection has a different socio-cultural context than it does for me. Or something.

So of course I made a video of me doing the dance. I think you'll recognize the part I'm talking about when you see it...

(And imagine if you will, 7 or so Moroccan women over 50 doing this dance. You might want to spit out your gum now.)



Scandalously daring wouldn't you say?

But maybe in Morocco this pelvic thrust means, "Hey can you pick up that heavy laundry basket for me and bring it downstairs honey? Which really when you think about it, is way sexy.

Oh, and I forgot to mention I wearing my $15 Marjane jeans I bought earlier this week without trying them on. Because when I went to the women's dressing room I discovered that there's no lock on the door. No lock. And there were two stock boys lingering in front of it. I kid you not.

Maybe Morocco isn't as conservative as I thought. Who needs sex shops when you have laundry baskets and dressing rooms without locks? People do have a way of getting their needs met one way or another. I think it was Plato who called necessity the mother of invention. I just didn't know he had lived in Morocco...

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Goodbye Season



And so it's started. The goodbye season. The out flux of friends headed to distant lands. Scattering like marbles dropped on the floor. And I'm not gonna lie, some of those marbles you're glad rolled all the way to Timbuktu never to be seen or heard from again. But, then there's the others. The ones who roll away as fevered tears roll down your cheeks.

It sucks. And it's all too familiar.

It was just a little over two years ago, an ocean and clean lettuce away from here, in Colorado that I cried these same tears. I'd never in my adult life lived anywhere five years before. It was hard at first. My feet got itchy and secretly, or not so secretly, dreamt of moving somewhere exotic. But, we loved Colorado, so we stayed. And I settled for the seemingly quiet and mundane life. After a few years I realized something had crept up on me. Roots. And, it wasn't from the house we bought or even Colorado itself. It was the friends that we'd made there.

A couple years later that exotic adventure I'd longed for came our way. We packed up everything and moved to Morocco.

No matter how old you are, moving is never easy. Especially with kids. Who I worried about adjusting and making friends in our new home away from home. So, I didn't give much thought to me and making friends. Anyway, after years of moving you can develop a very guarded exterior that is hard to penetrate. You learn to be both friendly but aloof at the same time. Shielding your heart from investing too much in any one person that you will eventually need to say goodbye too. Anyway, I already had friends.

I thought that old armored perimeter would safeguard me. Thank god I was wrong.

Now the good byes start.

The goodbyes to friends I won't share the day to day trivialities with.

Ones I've shared in their joys and successes with.

And been devastated to the core by their tragedies.

Then there's the people I've just gotten to know, but want to know better.

And the confidants who listen to me, support me, encourage me and believe in me.

Did I mention I totally suck at goodbyes? Which is why I'm writing this because I will completely incapable of spitting out coherent sentences through the tears and inevitable boogery blubberness that will ensue.

But let me just say this, what I didn't mention about those scattering marbles in the beginning?

Well, my friends, we are not the old fashioned glass marbles. No. No, we're the new modern magnetic marbles. So where ever you are in the world. You will feel me pulling for you.

And you know I'll be pulling for you to move to Colorado...

Monday, April 16, 2012

Paranoid



I've thought about writing this post for a long time. I shelved the idea after a higher authority asked me to take down my post The King and I. (Which I didn't and you can read here.) At the time, I thought that it might be misconstrued that a post about being paranoid would be a retort to that. Which it's not. Then, I thought only people living in Morocco would truly get it. And then, I worried about how many things I could say, I really, really want to say, but for many reasons can't. And once I edit that out, whether there would be anything left to write about. But, most importantly, I think it’s gonna make me sound more than a little crazy.

But I just don't care anymore.

First, let me tell you how visible foreigners are here. Extremely visible. And I am even easier to spot driving around town in my American minivan. Which I confess is actually Japanese, but the minivan mom mentality is totally American. This immediately sets me apart from all small cars, mopeds and donkey carts on the road. Then, I have a yellow license plate, that all foreign government employees have which, in a sea of while non-diplomatic. The number 17 on them confirms I'm American. This means anywhere I go in my car, I'm extremely visible. No big deal right? Well, it is a big deal when you live overseas. I don't know if you know this or not, but not everyone likes Americans. Which is why my dad sent me off on my first foreign adventure at 18 with the words, "If anyone asks, tell them you're Canadian." And he was right because everyone likes a Canadian. It's just that no one respects them.

Then there's home security. Not homeland security, but the actual security level of my house, though there may be some relation. My street has Moroccan security guards around the clock. They know when I leave my house, when I come home, when we go on vacation, when my husband is out of town and when I yell at my kids. Sounds great right? But, it's common knowledge that this information is common knowledge and guards can earn even more money selling it. Yup. Especially, information on foreigners. There's free agents too. Like the young male probably in his late 20's or early 30's who frequents my street with his notepad and pen and takes notes. While loitering is frequent here, shorthand is not. Not only that, but I also live next to a house under construction. And the 12 or so construction workers that live there (yes, they live in the house they're building) also know exactly when I come, when I go, when we're on vacation, when my husband's out of town and when I'm yelling at my kids. I wonder what I'm doing next Tuesday. I should ask one of the guys next door.

Then there's the further security of the 9 foot wall around my house. But, do I feel more safe because of it? Absolutely not. Just two weeks ago an American family in our area was robbed at night while they were sleeping with their 3 children upstairs. They too had a 9 foot wall around their house and neighborhood security guards 24/7. What did they steal? Their American passports. The guard probably got paid enough that he clasped his hands together holding them out like a step to boost the thieves over the gate. Criminal justice. Moroccan style.

I know that if you don't live here you're going to say all these things happen in the states too. I understand that they do. But, it's different here.

The other night I was at a friends house and someone came to her door to tell her to tell the Loerzel's our car was unlocked. The thing is, I didn't know the person. And this isn't the first time it's happened. One time I was at a park and someone came right up to me, "Marie, you need to lock your car." Of course, that's when I still went to the park with the kids, before they didn't want to go anymore. Because the kids were blonde American celebrities there and the local kids would crowd around them just to touch and kiss them. Adults did too. In Morocc, it's just called making friends. But, in America, our criminal justice system has a different name for it.

Making friends is another issue I'm extremely cautious about. Because we live among the transient, fast paced but often abbreviated friend making circuit of the embassy. Because of that, it makes me wonder if you want to be friends with me or with my Americanism and what that can bring you. And if you are American, I'm wondering if you're friends with me merely because I speak English and breathe. Then over time, I've learned to become suspicious about what you say you do for a living. And what your job really is. And whether you're actually friending me for some work related reason. Which would be really stupid, because I'm unemployed and can't get anywhere in my own career, let alone yours.

Which transitions into the next part. This blog. I don't know who reads it. Unless you tell me you do, I have no way of knowing. So, there's a whole bunch of people out there who know stuff about us, but we don't know who you are. Now, most people in Rabat don't know or care that I have a blog. Which is fine by me. But, it's that other small percentage that sometimes freaks me out a bit. Because I really am more private and shy than I may seem in print. So if you see me in the grocery store and you're looking at me a little too long, I assume you're staring at the huge zit on my chin or that I have I protruding booger. Not that you're wondering where you might know me from. Or that I look like your slow cousin from Albuquerque. (I get that one a lot actually.)

Now I know you think I'm crazy, self important and that I'm over exagerating things. And now I know that you don't live in Morocco.

Because everyone here is a bit paranoid.

Yeah, even the king. A couple of months ago some of his former employees wrote a tell all book about him. Guess who doesn't want you to read it? Because for some reason I can't find the book here. Hell, I can't even find out the name of the book here. But I hear you can buy a bootleg copy of it in French in the medina.

Just make sure you're wearing your hand of fatima necklace for protection. And that no one's following you...

Friday, April 13, 2012

Bathing Suit Season



It's that time of year. The time of year when our thoughts drift into the dog days of summer. Leisurely mornings unencumbered by prodding the kids for school, late nights spent camping with dancing fireflies, your favorite brew quenching your afternoon thrist by the barbecue. Yes, it's getting to be the time of year many women dread. Bathing suit season.

Here in Morocco a woman has a lot of swim wear options. But, not quite as many as European women do. So, toplessness is a no-no. As is thong. However, you can blare The Thong Song at the children's Zara at Morocco Mall with absolutely no consequence. But getting back to the topic at hand, basically, almost anything goes. So, bikini, tankini, burkini. Whatever.

Wait, you don't know what a burkini is?

A burkini is the aquatic friendly equivalent to the burka. Not that some women don't go swimming with their every day unaquatic friendly djellabas and head scarves on. Cause they do. But if you've ever swam with your clothes on, you may know that they really weigh you down and aren't conducisive to real, actual swimming. And you know that from that time you were at that party and someone pushed you into the pool. Yeah, I heard about that.

So what do you do if you really want to swim and yet be fully and completely covered at the same time? You wear a burkini.

My friend Claire saw them at the Marjane (the Moroccan equivalent of Walmart, but crappier). Sara added that there are fitting rooms at the Marjane too. I know it sounds normal for a store to have dressing rooms, especially if you live in the states. But if you live here and shop at Marjane I bet you didn't know they had them either. Afterall, the olive bar is bigger and more prominently located than the dressing rooms. I was intrigued. And so I went to check it out for myself.



Sure enough, there it hung with it's sassy peplum skirt that probably creates just enough drag in the water to really work your biceps while you stroke. I'm pretty sure that's why it's there. Oh, by the way, did you know that veiled women can compete in beauty pagents in Morocco? How's that for an oxymoron?

I found my size. But, I just couldn't get myself to use the sketchy fitting room made of plywood, guarded by an equally sketchy male security guard standing directly in front of it. Oddly, his presence made me feel less secure about taking off my clothes obscured only by a flimsy door right between the bread and the luggage. And the security guard.

But, I will not let the flimsy door, the security guard or the oxymorons win.

So, since it was reasonably priced. You know, in all my burkini comparision shopping. I bought it. And I'm pretty sure I'm totally going to get my money's worth out of it. Think about it. It solves a lot of problems. I don't need to shave. Or wear sunscreen. I don't have to shed those extra pounds I gained in Turkey. And I don't have to worry about tucking that damn dangling tampon string in. Oh yeah, I said it.

Problem solved!



But. Cause you know there is a but. The one glaring problem with the burkini? This modest swim attire does not come with a modesty lining. They do say that bare skin is a big turn on in these parts. Perhaps Moroccan men don't find the nipplage of a woman who has just swam in some cold water erotic. But, I would bet they do. And I bet it's far more of a turn-on than an uncovered shoulder. Or an exposed leg.



So modest? I don't think so. And do you know how ridculous the tan line around my face is going to look?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Easter Aftermath



When the Easter egg hunts are over.



And the bunny has left the kids sweet treats.



And you've even blown out an egg and made an egg diorama, so it can live on forever. (In theory of course.)

Then you ask yourself who is the hell came up with delivering loads of candy to children on Easter?

Because now you're in the Easter aftermath.

And it sucks.

Oh, at first everyone is happy. But it's only a matter of minutes before it they're not.

It starts with the counting of jelly beans. (She got more than me!)

It progresses to the strategic hiding candy from siblings under the grass. (But since everyone does this, everyone knows exactly where to look.)

Then comes candy theft. (Unfortunately, with every Easter my kids further develop their lying skills. So, I can't tell the perpetrator from the victim in the elaborate stories they tell. Although I do know who isn't involved. One of my kids doesn't really care for candy. Weird, I know. But, if the Easter bunny brought chips and salsa and some went missing, I would know immediately. Which is handy on Cinco de Mayo when the big sombrero comes and delivers treats. I think he only fills my basket though. I mean my sombrero.)

What's the up side to this? This year my kids have learned to cover their tracks by removing all the evidence that would incriminate them. Trust me. I've looked in pants pockets, under mattresses, in closets, back packs and dresser drawers. Not a wrapper to be found. Anywhere.

Which means my kids really are capable of picking up after themselves without me nagging them!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Turkish Delights

There is one huge part of our trip to Turkey that I've completely neglected. The food. I've been dying to talk about it, but it was simply too massive. It had to have it's own post. Speaking of massive and food, everywhere we went the Turkish people were completely shocked we were American. And in the most ass-backward, backhanded compliment ever they informed us, but you are not fat. Which is especially hypocritical coming from Turkish people, who aren't exactly petite.

Here's why...



This is Turkish delight. Which is a jelly-like bite sized cube of fruits and nuts doused in powdered sugar. I thought it was kind of cool, albeit messy. But, Craig and the kids did not find it in any way delightful.



Bread dunked in oil. Leavened bread, not the flat bread I had imaged Turkey to have. Sometimes it had chopped olives, sometimes spices. Sometimes both.



I got a roasted vegetable platter with tomato dip on our first night in Istanbul. Sounds pretty boring right? Wrong. I don’t know what kind of magic oven they cooked this in, but they were simply the best veggies I have ever eaten. EVER.



Turks also love roasted jalapenos. And now, so do I.



Unlike Moroccan cuisine, the Turks use dairy. This was breakfast in our hotel in Cappadocia with a sumptuously salty feta. Thank god I'm not lactose intolerant because I scarfed down more than my fair share of it.



Also in Cappadocia was the world's best lentil soup. Yes, seriously, in the whole world.



Here's the funky cafe where it was served by the server's mom who is the cook.



Oh, the regional specialty in Cappadocia is cooking in little clay pots. Little pots that must be broken open to reveal it's contents. (And apparently a chopped pot does boil.)



I picked up these random cookies at the store. They were sorta shortbread-ish with apricot jam and totally yummy. Unfortunately, the kids also liked them.



This was a gourmet doner kebab. Check it out it's got beef, chicken, lamb AND red cabbage in it. The kids didn't like it. And I'm not one to waste food, so I helped myself to their leftovers.



Then we ate at Ficcin.




Where I had these ficcin' awesome stuffed peppers.



And the kids had these beef and potato filled raviolli things swimming in sour cream. See I told you Turks love dairy. However, my kids did not love this, so again, I had to help finish them off. My jeans were starting to feel tight.



The fish was so fresh, it didn't even smell fishy. But it was so good it would make you cry. Unless that was the onion.



Turkey has a lot of Greek dishes. Like these stuffed grape leaves. Which again, the kids didn't like so much. And neither did Craig really. So I'll take this one for the team.



There's baklava everywhere, another Greek influence. They have any kind of nut you can imagine and even have chocolate and diabetic. Because after you become addicted to the savory sweetness of the baklava, you'll have diabetes. How American is that?



Then there's hummus which every country claims its own. But, we were ready to disown the child who loved hummus so much that the next day we couldn't stand the smell of said child and began hummus restrictions.



This was the sample platter at a place called Altin Balik. It looks good, but it wasn't. And that's also how I describe the whole restaurant. You see, when they brought the bill, they over charged us for everything. And the people next to us too. And later, when we read the on-line reviews, we discovered that they have a long history of over charging tourists.



So, although you can eat the world's largest teenage mutant ninja shrimp there, don't do it.



The night before we left, we ate at the Istanbul Culinary Institute. And that's where I devoured this steak and onion tart.



It was looking like the bitter end of our trip. Until the server brought us some free desserts. Then it was just the bittersweet end.



Well almost, then we had a 9 hour layover in Madrid where I had this sangria. And then I forgot all about how tight my jeans had become with those few extra pounds I gained in Turkey. Huh, I wonder if now I'll get mistaken for a Turk...

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Talking Turkey



If I've made all this travel sound adventurous and maybe even a little exotic, it is. But if I've given you the impression that traveling with kids is anything less than a whole bunch of whining strung together in some very cool and very public places not condusive to giving your kids the fated time out in their room. Well, then I haven't done justice to what it's truly like. I'm gonna tell you a little secret. Come close.....closer. It's not always as charmed or fun as it may appear from the smiling photos.



Like the time we went to Miniaturk. Which is exactly what it sounds like, a compilation of the great buildings of Turkey, all in miniature. It's like a lego-less lego land and it's outside. Plus the kids can run from building to building and swipe the bar code on their ticket to hear about the building in English even. Sounds super kid friendly right? And it was, except for the fact that our four kids were completely obsessed by who got to the scanner first to swipe their ticket. And they would do anything. I repeat ANYTHING, to be first. The result? We ended up using the divide and conquer approach. Which is why I don't have any photos of the kids at Miniaturk. And see how clenched and forced my smile is? Now you know why.



A smiley boat ride on the mighty Bosphorus. Look how happy they are right? Well, the picture is of the the two kids who scored the front of the boat. And they were happy. The other two who did not score the prized seating in the front of the boat? They were not happy. Now this is easy to remedy by switching the kids half way through the boat ride right? No. Because we were on the tippiest (and loudest) little boat ever. So to do so would have put them at risk for swimming in the mighty Bosphorus. On second thought, maybe we should have tried that. They do say natural consequences are the best form of discipline.



Since we are talking Turkey. Let's get back to that. Didn't Turkish toilets (AKA: squat potties) originate in Turkey? We've been practicing our skills here in Morocco and I don't want to brag or anything, but we're pretty damn proficient at squatting over a hole and doing our business in it. So, it was a bit disappointing that the the Turks are boasting they have modern toilets everywhere. Seriously, we did not encounter one freakin' Turkish toilet in Turkey. How unauthentic is that? Really. Isn't anyone committed to anything anymore? And that's why I will never use the term Turkish toilet ever again. And I'm committed to that.



We checked out the Basilica Cistern, were they stored water for the Great Palace in the 2nd century. The kids asked a billion questions, as they always do. In theory their curiosity is great and should be encouraged. Right? Except that after you go through a lengthy explanation with one kid, the next kid (who was standing there the whole dang time) asks the same exact freakin' question. Then so does the next kid. And the next kid. And they do this every place we go. And it's completely exhausting. My reserves of patience for such questions were diminished on day two of the trip. In fact, accumulated a patience deficit and just started pretending I couldn't hear them while quietly humming Somewhere Over the Rainbow in my head (The Bruddah Iz version, if you must know) so I wouldn't explode.



But then they kept asking how Medusa's head got in the Basilica. And why it's upside down. And then I exploded. "I DON'T KNOW, OK! YOU'RE A READER. HERE'S THE BOOK."



And there in the cold dark drippy cistern is where we got this cheesy family photo taken. Oh and don't mention to my kids that I posted this on the blog because they will be mortified. As they are by this blog, so don't mention that either.



So we took the kids to the Rahmi M Koc Museum which exhibits artifacts from Istanbul's industrial past. And it's hand's on, so they can touch stuff. Besides each other that is. Because we're well into the trip at this point and yet somehow the kids though annoyed by each other, are stuck together by some unknown magnetic force. I think it's called abhorrence. Unless it's animosity. Anyway, the day we're at the museum there are large groups of kids on school field trips. Who cares right? Except my kids are annoyed that the school kids are misbehaving, noisy and touching each other! Whhhhhaaaaaatttttt? Note to pot calling kettle black.



Now, oriental carpets have never really done it for me. But, Turkey has these wool tribal rugs called kilims. They're so cool, funky and fun. And I love them. ANd I want one. Ok, I want several, but would settle for one. Of course, the kids couldn't care less about carpets. So when we finally stop at a carpet store for a measly 15 minutes, it suddenly becomes wrestlemania time. And the boys are giggling tearing into each other, you know the way they do right before something gets broken or someone gets hurt. Though I have to say, at that point I was far more concerned for the well being of the carpets than I was the boys. So we kicked them out of the store to let them settle it out on the hard concrete sidewalk. Like men. And no, no carpets were hurt.



The day after a rainy afternoon that kept us couped up in the apartment without television or an ipod, that can only be described as hellacious, we went to this fort. And we let them run wherever they wanted without guard rails and with very little supervision. Because we were exhausted.



So exhausted that we deemed the kids won the battle of petting stray Turkish cats. (Which in our defense appear much less mangy than Moroccan stray cats.) The kids probably won’t get rabies, but if they do how would we know? They already act crazy and foam at the mouth.



And on the day before we left we went to Topkapi Palace which is like the Louvre of Istanbul. Sky had begged us to go earlier in the week because he heard that they had the hair of the Prophet Muhammad on display. Not to mention paintings, gems and other antiquities too of course. Finally, on the last day in Istanbul, we decided to go. I was so excited I had butterflies in my stomach. I rushed through lunch and couldn't wait to get there.

Because...


Two of my friends from Colorado and their families were there!



Unfortunately, we only got to see each other for about 10 minutes! But it was 10 minutes my kids didn't fight, touch each other, complain, whine or ask any questions. None. In fact they barely even talked. The moral of the story? Travel is much more fun with friends. Don't leave home without them.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Cappadocia

At 1:00am we finally arrived at the apartment in Istanbul. The chill of the unheated rooms were strung together by the stairway that connected the 5 rooms on 5 different floors. We foraged through the shelves for extra blankets skimming past the owner's clothes and personal possessions he left behind. We were welcomed intruders.



Two days later we headed back to the airport. This time for an hour long flight to Cappadocia in the center of Turkey. Off to explore the centuries old haven for Christians and ancient relics of the cave dwellers.

In order to get around to all the things we wanted to see, we rented a car. And since there are 6 of us, the only option that could seat us all was a van.

This van.



Since the kids had just locked up the ipod touch, they saw this as their new toy. This 5 star van being driven by this 2 star family.



We would have to stay in a cave to make up the 3 star difference. And we did. The Legend Cave Hotel.

We spent two days outside hiking and traversing the caves and canyons. And since it isn't tourist season yet, we had it all to ourselves.

We climbed the hills.



Poked our heads through holes.



Marvelled at the unadulterated emptiness of the archaic dens.



Crawled up to the second, third, fourth and fifth levels of the adobes. (Which was much more fun than the stairs of the 5 floor walk up in Istanbul.)



Some of us clawed more than crawled. My huge purse loaded with the passports, guidebook, camera, water and everything else slowed me down a little.



And some of us even bouldered.



But we all got up here to take this picture. Except for Craig, cause someone actually had to take the picture.



On the second day we headed even further off the beaten path. To the tiny town of Mazi to find a man named Ihsan who is a guide for the underground city there. The van was a magnet for all the locals who came to gawk at the tourists in their huge gas guzzling vehicle. Within 2 minutes we were introduced to Ihsan and we were headed to the underground city that is still being unearthed by the locals.



The stark blackness of the cavern was cut by 3 flashlights, a camera flash and Ihsan's voice urging us to be cautious. There was still ice from the last frost covering the floor of the entrance like a welcome mat. We moved from room to room as Ihsan explained what they were used for. Or what they thought they were used for. When the tour was over, he invited us to tea. We politely declined in favor of finding lunch we explained. That's when he told us Mazi has no restaurants, but did we like barbecue he asked. Yes. Of course.

So he started a fire out of a cardboard box. And singed his tools right there in the parking lot in front of the cave.



He went to the market next door and bought some vegetables, chicken and bread. And began to cook. First the vegetables.



Then the chicken.



He took the chairs and desk from a nearby office that he topped with a carpet and urged us to eat.



And it most definitely was the best meal I've ever eaten in a parking lot cooked in a cardboard box.



We paid Ihsan for the tour, the meal and a day full of memories right before we took this picture. Then we packed ourselves in the van and headed back to the airport. And reluctantly started the sojourn back to Istanbul.

To be continued...

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