Wednesday, February 25, 2009

primavera in barcelona by k

the air is starting to feel different...spring is coming! i jogged home after taking arel and dorian to school and visible signs were on the mountain...trees blossoming, wild irises all over the place and other little flowers. but i was also reminded of the severe wind storms a month ago. lots of trees are chopped up and on the side of the trail waiting to be hauled away. i also noticed a hillside that was covered in fallen trees.

the henna on my hand is mostly faded now. a few faint swirls are left, but the hairs on my hand/arm where the henna was are still quite black...lovely.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

maroc... actually a vacation - by b

i had a really good time in morocco (vs the stress of israel a few weeks ago). it definitely spoke to me. i loved the bustle of the people, the beautiful old architecture and the kind of beatupness of it. in fact, last night here in barcelona, i was missing it and craving the energy. arel was at a sleepover and i was having no luck convincing dorian and kristin to leave The House on the Hill of Inertia.. so I headed to town with my book and read and read in a couple of bars in our extended neighborhood.

i love small airports and the one in marrackech certainly is small. very mellow. i had a feeling as soon as we walked off the back of the plane and onto the tarmac that this was going to be a good vacation

after a severely dour passport official processed us we entered the main hall of the airport. here is the ceiling. a modern take on the patterns that are everywhere.. the tiles, the window shutters...

the walls

kristin had arranged a taxi online from spain. the driver's name was fatah. of course this made me think of the fatah party in the west bank and i couldn't remember if fatah meant victory or struggle. now that i'm writing i looked up fatah in wikipedia ("The name Fatah (Arabic: فتحFatḥ, meaning "opening" or "victory") is a reverse acronym of the Arabic حركة التحرير الوطني الفلسطينيth Ḥarakat al-Taḥrīr al-Waṭanī al-Filasṭīnī, meaning "Palestinian National Liberation Movement". Ḥataf (حتف) means "sudden death", so the word was reversed to yield Fataḥ (فتح) meaning "opening". [1] The word Fatah is prominently used for the Islamic expansion in the first centuries of Islamic history, and so has a positive connotations for Muslims.")

Anyway.. here are Fatah and Kristin in his large old mercedes.

back of the taxi

Todd the Brit met us at the taxi stand in Essaouira, took us to his house and then gave us his tour of the town. Here he is walking kristin and the kids (i'm sure dorian was sighing!) along the ramparts about a minute from the house...

we found a fez in the house

i went out for a run early the next morning. i was on the beach and it was really misty. i couldn't see very far ahead. every once in a while i'd hear these grunts and yells.. and then i'd come across an early saturday morning football game on the beach.

roof terrace.. it wasn't really warm enough to hang out up there.. but it was beautiful to sit for a while and hear and smell the sea

out for a coffee and a hot choco with arel at place moulay hassan --- the main square in town

ocean vagabond at the beach.. dorian about to bite into his "oceanique"

going for a ride on the dunes

my feelings twoards garbanzo beans have changed this year. i'm a fan now. these salted ones, a bit al dente, were supertasty

satellite tv from all over the arab world. i don't know if this was a game show or some kind of judge judy thing.. but i had to watch for a while.

morning coffee

more doing not much of anything at all at ocean vagabond

dorian's slippers

oh... the real world out there... but for these few days....

kristin and a seagull

shrimp and henna

another ride.. here is arel with a guide on another horse

he was an acrobat we found out when we got to an old castle with a wall for jumping

arel wasn't up for flipping, but he did some jumping. here he is with yusuf.. a berber from the village right next to essaouira called diabet (where jimi hendrix hung out for a couple of weeks)

my horse was, in fact, called jimi hendrix. arel's was che guevarra. the dog that came along was named scooby doo. on the way back we galloped. i was alone. but arel got adult supervision for the fast run back.

leaving essaouria on our secnod-last day.. heading to grab some breakfast at place moullay hassan and then to the bus stop. the house we stayed in was gorgeous. the street... kinda skank in the mornings after a night of wind

in marrackech we stayed in a really nice riad... a house with an interior garden. it was a mid-end place by price... and really nice.

the pool wasn't exactly warm.. but those are our bedrooms thru the door. the boys had the idea of filling the bathtub with warm water and going back and forth. hottub.

as kristin wrote, we left the boys at the riad (not in the pool) and walked the couple of minutes to Djemaa el Fna. we walked in the covered markets for a while and then out onto the square where the nighttime food stands were just getting setup. we stopped for some very sweet tea and a ginger cake with sesame. this is the place we walked later again, after supper. i don't have photos of the stands then.. in fact i don't have photos of the most incredible things i saw in morocco. i don't really have either the skill or the camera to take the pictures i really want to.. this square of Djemaa el Fna is really incredible.

last day... a mellow day...morning run

goofing off in the room

we walked out of the medina the way we came in... we found a "grand taxi" vs the "petit" that only takes three people .. and headed to airport
To Airport

evolution gogo - by b

dorian found these cool little plastic characters in spain called Evolution GoGo Crazybones. and, it turns out, they have many uses. in essaouira we hid them and searched for them. it was fun, with the added bonus that the seeker got a good 10 or 15 minutes of quiet time while the hiders hid. during one of these quiet times i was in one of our many!! bedrooms. (it is a real drag Kim, Jim, Emma and Myles (KJEM?) couldn't make it to use some of the rooms ... we woulda had fun). Here are some... the kids just call them Evolution GoGos.


i was lying on my back on the bed and i noticed a shape above the light hanging from the ceiling.


was it an echo, a memory, a shadow of a jewish star? here in this very muslim place? some of the lines were removed but i could easily complete the shape in my mind.

not that long ago essaouira had many jews living in it. some people say a majority of the town were jewish, others say it was 40%. either way, it's a lot of jews per capita. one morning i walked out of town to the jewish cemetery (there are actually two). this is what is left of jews here --- cemeteries (if your french is better than mine you can read about them here) and a synagogue that doesn't get much use. i called the synagogue and a caretaker let me in. it was really beautiful inside. with the most amazing tiles and designs.. very humble and very beautiful. A hint of a rich culture lived by a poor people

what's left of jews in essaouira are hints... like the imagined or real sign on the ceiling

as i lay there on the bed and thought about this it didn't make me sad. the story here was different to the story in europe where what's left of jews (and really so many other people too) are ghosts.

these jews left here in the 1950s for israel. and they are there now. for better or for worse. they are apparently even officially welcome to return to essaouira.

lying there kind of reminded me of walking around the lower east side of manhattan, in alphabet city, and seeing the remains of synagogues.

neighborhoods change, people move on. evolution. gogo

lawyer salad by k

i forgot to write about the "lawyer" salad, with "but," that we almost ordered in marrakech. funny translation from french to english..."avocat" (avocado) to lawyer and maïs (corn) to "but." i'm not sure what lawyer or but taste like, but i decided to stick with the couscous!

Friday, February 20, 2009

morocco by k

i’m sitting here in our very tall bed looking out at the atlantic ocean. it is quite a view. over the ramparts of the old medina in essaouira, onto an outcropping of rocks with tide pools. we hear the sound of the sea all day and’s nice. the sound reminds me of staying in the first apartment my dad rented after my parents was right by the beach in la jolla and i could hear the waves there always too.

we’re staying in an apartment in the medina (old walled city) here...down a narrow street with all kinds of goodies on the ground, from fish guts, to cut up snake (according to barak) and other pungent items. we also have a resident crazy guy who hangs at the end of the passageway, talking to himself all day, wearing pink converse sneakers.

it’s a very nicely redone place...three stories of house with a terrace on the roof. it’s all very simple and well-cared for by the woman who comes daily, rashida. there is a long, deep bathtub which takes at least a half hour to fill because water pressure is very low, but it’s worth it. i can lie down completely flat head to feet in the bottom, so we’ve had several multi-person baths over the days. especially nice after a windy day at the beach!

we were supposed to spend the week with our friends, kim and jim, and their kids emma and myles. unfortunately, emma and then myles got the flu days before they were scheduled to leave, so they had to cancel. very disappointing...we were all really looking forward to hanging out with some friends from home and sharing this experience. alas, it was not meant to be.

one of the owner’s of the apartment, a british guy, gave us a tour of the medina on our first day here. he told us where all the good places to eat lunch are, but added each time (at least 10, no kidding) that he “doesn’t take lunch.” needless to say, this became a standing joke that has lasted the whole trip, even more so after he dropped by the next day after having “taken lunch with friends.” i bit my tongue and didn’t say, but i thought you don’t take lunch! he and his wife were here to try to make the internet work, to no avail. that’s the only annoying thing about this place...we specifically chose it because it has internet. instead of getting really worked up, i ended up canceling all my appointments for the week and moving on, moroccan-style. in some ways, it has been nice to be unplugged, but it has also been frustrating. we went once to an internet cafe, but the keyboards were so different from what we’re used to that i kept my messages very short!

as sven told us, essaouira is a mellow place. there are lots of places to buy things, but you are not constantly harangued. a few “i’m still waiting for you to come in” or “you’re coming back tomorrow...promise” but it’s not oppressive at all. that is a relief. of course, if you show any interest, they are there ready to serve, so we have mostly skipped shopping of any kind.

i did get a bit swindled today...i guess it had to happen at some point! we were on the beach and i was playing hopscotch with arel and dorian. a woman came up to us offering to henna. i said no, merci. she said tomorrow? i said, sure, maybe tomorrow. should have walked away at that point. then she grabs my hand and says, a flower for good luck. now, i thought, okay, she’s just trying to hook me. a little flower is okay. well, that turned into a big flower and then a scorpion for arel and dorian. barak was to the side working on a sand castle...fortunately he escaped. i said how much, thinking it would be a few dollars, but she wanted 40 euros! considering that the average moroccan earns (according to lonely planet) only about 4 euros a day, i knew this was outrageous, but what is a girl to do when the goods are already transferred?! well, i got it down to about 30 euros, but i’m still mad at myself for not stopping and setting a price first. i’m trying to look at it as my essaouira community donation, so i don’t feel like an idiot. it’s not so much the money as the way it happened. i guess, one swindle for the trip is not too bad.

arel, dorian and barak went camel riding on the beach one day. it was too cold and windy for me. both kids said it was “awesome!” barak and arel went horseback riding today...dorian and i decided to pass on that adventure. they had a great time, riding with the berber horsemen. hopefully one of them will write about it.

our favorite place to hangout is called the ocean’s at the end of the long beach that begins next to town. there is a big outdoor patio, near the area where one can rent camels and horses, and close to some dunes. comfy chairs and mattresses invited us to stay for hours. us, and the very french population of visitors. arel and dorian had fun rolling on the sand dunes, and even found a few desert tortoises...funny to see them slowly make there way across the sand. little footprints that slowly disappear in the wind. i did not want sand in every orifice of my body, so i waited for them at the bottom of the dunes. i positioned myself to keep sand exposure to a minimum, but then had the wonderful idea of putting lip ointment on. within one millisecond, my lips were coated in fine sand...yuck! i got up and crossed to the beach where i waited for them to finish their dunes exploration. yesterday we hung out at a hotel closer to town owned by the same people. kids played in the pool and we had lunch there.

we went to a traditional moroccan dinner one night. it took so long for the food to come that dorian fell asleep with his head on my lap after the first course. i had couscous, which was really yummy...better than couscous at home. barak had a tagine and arel had some fish. fortunately, dorian was just going to sample from our second courses, so he didn’t have more food coming. he swears he didn’t fall asleep in the restaurant, but we know the truth!

one night we had a picnic in the “winter room” at home. no windows and heated. we ate roast chicken, some couscous leftovers, bread and mint tea. breakfast has mostly been a round bread that is traditional here, with butter and jam, and tea and coffee. i also invented moroccan pockets...round bread stuffed with scrambled eggs. arel and dorian really like those.

today we decided to have fresh fish by the port. there is a series of shacks that bbq whatever fish or seafood you choose. sven had told me about it and i thought we should try it before leaving. dorian did not want to go...the floors are wet, the fish looks gross, it stinks! the boy has a point, but we went anyway. dorian ate a tiny bit, but found his peace by feeding a kitten under the table. at one point, dorian asked barak to give him some crab, which barak dutifully pulled apart for his precious son, only to learn that it was really for the kitten.

overall, i feel very comfortable and safe here. i did notice a big difference in the way i’m looked at when i’m walking with kids or alone. i much prefer the shelter that being with kids gives. as a mother, it seems i am due some respect.

both barak and i have had sort of surprising (to us) experiences in cafes or bakeries when we didn’t have the right change...instead of making a big deal, waiters simply said, you bring money next time. only 25 or 30 cents, but that is not insignificant here. they didn’t seem to have any doubt that we would return...which of course we did!

there seems to have been a big influx of tourists in the past few days. the first days, it really felt like we were some of the few tourists around. most tourists here are french, after that i’d say british and then a smattering from other places. i imagine it is overrun by tourists in the summer...i don’t think i’d like it then.

i have realized that i still have some knowledge of french, but that it sucks! it’s very frustrating because there are some things i can say, but many many holes. at this point, those holes are often filled by catalan, which doesn’t get me anywhere here. i really wish i could speak at least french, but preferably arabic...i feel that i get a lot more out of a place if i can communicate with locals in their own language. my other problem is that the little i can say in french i can do with a passable french accent, so people think i really speak. but then they answer and i have no idea what they’re saying, or hear wrong. just an exercise in frustration!

tomorrow we leave for one afternoon/evening in marrakech before heading back to barcelona. dorian is sick of old, stinky, dirty places, so i’m pretty sure he’s going to dislike it there too. arel is mostly okay with it all.

what have i noticed about myself? i am fundamentally uncomfortable on a certain level in poor countries. i don’t like the constant selling, the constant need, or any of the bargaining. when i can speak the language, i feel somewhat better because it is easier to show respect for others. but it reminds me how unfair the world is. i know the money we spend there helps the locals, but still, it just feels weird to me. in some ways, i’m jealous of people who are happy being served and catered to. for me, it makes me so uneasy that i can’t enjoy things in the same way. i felt guilty whenever rashida, our housekeeper, was there, and we told her to only stay for a couple hours each day, which she was more than happy to oblige.

traveling with kids. i’m always reminded how different it is than traveling as an adult. things need to go right. of course, we want them to go right as adults too, but we can handle glitches better. kids like predictability (at least mine), and i am finally willing to spend more money now to have it. we took a taxi from the airport in marrakech to essaouira (2 ½ hours) because i didn’t want to risk the bus being full. you can’t buy or reserve bus tickets outside of morocco, and i could literally see and feel us arriving at the bus station after the aiport and having there be no room. arel would sigh loudly, dorian would start crying, and barak would be annoyed that we were taking the bus to save a little money. not worth it anymore! we did get to take the bus back to marrakech, saving nearly 50 euros, which in my twisted logic paid for the henna debacle on the beach! dorian actually wanted to take the bus, and since we could reserve tickets ahead of time, it was a perfect solution.

i’m now on another bed...this time looking out over barcelona from our bedroom as it gets dark. we got home a few hours ago and are all happy to be home.

our trip ended in marrakech, which is a really wild place. i was kind of entranced by it in a way, but also repelled. dorian was plain old repelled. arel was kind of into, but was not happy after he and barak went out this morning and saw two men having a fight...apparently a knife was involved. scary. i also noticed a few fights between boys in essaouira that’s hard to describe exactly, but they were hard and violent. when i looked in their eyes, there was very real anger in the aggressor and very real fear in the victim. reminded me that they probably have very difficult lives.

merchants are definitely more intense in marrakech than in essaouira. they grab your arm, put the hat on your head that they want you to buy, put the monkey on your shoulder. you literally have to push them away. if you keep your eyes dead ahead and don’t slow at all, you’re okay, but it’s hard to relax that way. and i couldn’t really get close to the snake charmers after i read that they sew the snakes mouths shut, leaving just enough room for the tongue to flick through. apparently, many snakes die of mouth infections...just kind of depressing.

at one point, barak and i left the kids in the riad where we were staying and he and i wandered into the souks (markets). it is crazy how much stuff there is. some of it very beautiful, some it of total crap. i was too overwhelmed to want to engage with anyone and i didn’t really want anything. i’m still in my anti-acquiring mode. i imagine there are some real treasures to have there, if you have the patience, but on this trip, i didn’t. as we came out of the souk, the day was winding down and the main “place” in town was gearing up for the evening. very charming metal stands were being set up all over the place with makeshift stalls selling grilled food, soups, snails and sheep heads. apparently this ritual happens every night. (barak saw the sheep heads...i didn’t.) that i really liked. very festive, smoke rising into the dusk, lots of energy. we were pretty sure we wouldn’t be able to convince dorian to eat out there, but when it started to pour, our fate was sealed. if i ever go back to marrakech, i want to eat at one of those stands!

oh yeah, the other thing i loved was the atlas mountains covered in snow as the backdrop to marrakech. it was crystal clear the day we arrived from barcelona and really quite spectacular. i was looking forward to seeing it again, but yesterday it was all hazy and if you didn’t know there were mountains, you would have had no idea. today, after the rain, they were visible, but didn’t leave the impression of the first day.

one more random thing i was struck by. that was the call to prayer every day. or rather, my reaction to it. the first time i heard the muslim call to prayer was in jakarta with my dad many years ago. i remember at that point that it was just interesting...a different culture. again, i felt no weirdness about it, which surprises me a bit because of my negative reaction to most things religious. especially when they announce themselves...although, come to think of it, church bells don’t annoy me either. anyway, i remarked this to barak and he said maybe it didn’t bug me because we didn’t see anyone actually praying. or maybe because i couldn’t understand what is being said. anyway, i have to admit that i like hearing it.

okay, that’s it for now. i imagine soon barak will start putting up some of the great pictures he took, and some of his thoughts about morocco.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by A!

Last night i went with my friends family to see the curious case of benjamin button. It got nominated for like 13 oscars...but i didnt really like it. It was sooo long: 2 hours and 45 minutes. It really just dragged on and on and on. Brad Pitt was so good in it though. The stroy is basically about a guy who is born old, and instead of going from young to old, he goes from old to young. I felt really bad for my friends little brother benji because he is like 8 and had to sit through almost 3 hours of pure boredom.anywway if ur a grown up reading this, then i highly reccommend this movie, but if ur a kid, prepare to be bored out of your mind.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

staying or going by k

there was a time a few weeks ago when i was itching to bring my thoughts about staying or going to this blog. there was so much swirling in my head. but barak and i both wanted to first talk about it with our families. after doing that i think some of my need/desire to share waned. the discussion was started.

for me, for better or worse, this is a an emotional decision and not one based on facts and figures and logic. the more "logical" decision is probably to go back, but i think we could also make a logical decision to stay if we tried.

whether we stay or not, i have to own that in some deep and inexplicable way, i feel at home in europe. something in me is quenched when i am here. i'm not even sure what that is, but it is there. and so, if we head back, part of me will be sad.

21 years ago, i faced a similar decision. my year abroad was ending, but i didn't feel ready to leave. i stayed six more months before making the logical decision to return to berkeley and finish my undergraduate degree. i don't regret that decision, but i wonder at it. is logic always the best road to follow?

of course, all these years later i'm in a very different place. there is a lot more to go back to this, friends, a house, a community, yummy food, my little yellow mini. and yet, if i'm honest, something in me longs to stay.

barak has asked me what i think a second year would bring. i have no concrete answer to that. some people say "stay!" and some say "come back!" and everyone has said they will support us either way. stay tuned...

Friday, February 6, 2009

dreaming of a decision - by b

here are some pictures i've taken lately... together they seem to make up a weird dream, barely remembered in the morning. a dream of trying to make a decision. a strange blog post. but this is the land of dali, no?

estrella d.
Questioning the role of desire

we need to talk
We need to talk

man, smoking, slither of sun
A man...

slither of sun engulfs man
...engulfed by the light when i turn back to look

what's inside?

eye check machine
not all vision can be checked scientifically

a reminder
not always easy to do

listening for a sign from the gut

Morning meeting
just visiting? the planet?

too much thinking?

imagining a future of sweet memories
how many years?

the doubt

thinking of returning?
thinking of returning


deliberate spanglishing
not either or or, but AND

dreams can come true