On The Bus: The Airplane Edition

"In a car or a plane or a choo choo train"

Ahh, one of our favorite songs from English Camp, lots of fun in Italy last summer. We could work in 5 or 6 rounds of this song before the kids got bored. It was golden.

But I digress: Air Travel. I have flown quite a bit this past year. With coming home from Jerusalem, moving to DC and visiting Utah a few times, and the free ticket bonanza of Christmas 2010,  I've had my share of Bloody Mary Mix.  (Max is a ginger-ale guy, but nothing says fancy to me like spicy tomato juice with a lime.)  I was able to visit my sister in Wisconsin this past week and never before had I felt like airplane travel had so much in common with public transportation.  Of course there's always the underlying smell of body oder and the loudness of either engines or babies - or a combination of both - but this particular flight was really....well, ghetto.

When I got to my seat there were cracker crumbs from here 'till Sunday on the cushion.  No big deal, I wiped them off.  But then I noticed that the little pouch on the back of the chair in front of me was full of someone else's garbage already.  Half eaten lunchable anyone?  But the best was when I noticed the cushion on the chair next to me had been pulled about half way off revealing the metal hinges and gizmos below it.  I tried to pull the cushion back to its original position for my future neighbor, but it wouldn't budge.  She ended up just putting her jacket over the bare metal which was probably a  good thing because there were several empty water bottles in the pouch in front of her where she would have put it otherwise.

But don't think I'm complaining.  I actually love public transportation.  A few weeks ago I was talking to my sister on the phone about something sad and I burst into tears right on the bus.  No one around me even batted an eye.  There is no such thing as "normal" behavior on public transportation or public spaces for that matter and thus you get to be surrounded by people and potential conversations while still enjoying a high level of reclusiveness if you choose.  That's part of what I like about being in a foreign country, but that's a post for another day.

More than loving public transportation, flying amazes me.  I'm always glued to the window when we take off and I can't believe the modern marvel it is.  Not only how fast air travel is, but the sheer mechanics of moving a hundred people and their tiny pretzel bags from one place to another through the air.  So, I'll take my smelly cabin-mates and crumbed upped seats any day.   

PS - here is a picture of me with my adorable little niece.  And one of her with an angry face. It's my favorite face of hers.    


Handcrafted in Morocco

Morocco has a rich history of handcrafted art.  Think painstakingly painted, fired, and set tile work called Zellij, hand carved stone and wood in intricately detailed geometrical patterns, handmade leather work and a host of other handcrafted goods.  Morocco is very proud of its tradition of highly skilled artists and it has really made the effort to promote the making and selling of local handcrafted goods in light of cheap tourist goods flooding the market.

I just finished reading "A House in Fez: Building a Life in the Ancient Heart of Morocco" by Suzanna Clarke who, in preparation for remodeling a Dar (house) in Fez (and in preparation for the book too I'd imagine) learned about all things Moroccan art and architecture.  The two often go hand in hand.  She worked with local craftsman to try and restore a centuries old house as faithful to the neighborhood and artistic blueprint as possible.  Throughout the book she explores dealing with locals, red tape to high heaven, and the many aspects of Moroccan Architecture and hand-craftmenship (a word I may have made up).  Tahir Shah's "A Year in Casablanca" provided similar insight into the art and architecture found in the region.  

The point is, it's amazing.  I don't think I'll do a very good job at explaining how amazing, so check out these slides about a new Moroccan architecture exhibit at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.  You can also read the New York Times Article about it here.  


Ready, Set, Get Jazzed!

And that's what we are are.  After we initially got our post to Morocco I read a bunch of stuff and got excited, but then I calmed down and kind of avoided it for a few months so I wouldn't 1) romanticize it too much or 2) get overloaded before we got there.  BUT this past week I have delved back into all things Moroccan and it has been fabulous.

After I taught a lesson in church last Sunday a woman came up from the back of the class and said in a rush of excitement

"Oh, we just got back from two weeks in Morocco.  The strawberries! We bought them right off the street and they were so warm and good.  Oh!  The oranges with cinnamon! You are going to have the best time."

I have heard that the fruit is fine indeed, along with everything else.  In order to get my Moroccan groove on I did what I always do: I went to the library and checked out a grundle of books.   ...and then got some on my kindle...and put the rest on my amazon wish list.  

Here is a list of books having to do with Morocco.  If you want to have a little book vacation, take a look.

The * are ones I've finished so far and the ** are ones I'm in the middle of - all worth your time.  I can't vouch for the others necessarily but they all have good reviews.  

The Caliph's House: A Year in Casablanca    Tahir Shah *
In Arabian Nights: A Caravan of Moroccan Dreams   Tahir Shah **
A House in Fez: Building a Life in the Ancient Heart of Morocco   Suzanna Clarke*
Islam: A Short History   Karen Armstrong **
Folk Tales From Morocco Raja Sharma *
In Morocco Edith Wharton
Skeletons on the Zahara  Dean King**
Glory in a Camel's Eye: Trekking Through the Moroccan Sahara  Jeffrey Taylor
Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits  Laila Lalami
Return to Childhood: The Memoir of a Modern Moroccan Woman  Leila Abouzeid
Year of the Elephant  Leila Abouzied
A Palace in the Old Village Tahar Ben Jalloun
Leaving Tangier  Tahar Ben Jalloun
Spider's House  Paul Bowles
Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girl  Fatima Mernissi
Fez: The City of Islam  Islamic Texts Society
Lord's of the Atlas: The Rise and Fall of the House of Glaoua 1893-1956  Gavin Maxwell
Morocco: The Islamist Awakening and Other Challenges

Oh my heck.  I'm such a librarian!


La Maison Blanche

or rather, The White House.

Max and I, feeling our days in DC slip quietly away, are trying to hit up things we haven't seen before departing in April.  Max's brother and his wife are in town and we have had a blast with them.  It's also given us an excuse to get out of our house after a long winter's nap and see the town.  Yesterday we woke up uber early and took a tour of The White House.

I think my favorite room was the Red Room where first ladies often entertain.  Not because of the room's function necessarily, but because it was pointed out that the rooms are still in use and some of the furniture in that room had even been stained from previous guests.   I just loved the idea of Spain's first lady getting a little tipsy and spilling red wine on the 100 year old sofa.  Or maybe Michelle Obama dealing a deck of cards on the beautiful inlaid table for a game of gin with the Queen and perhaps one of Burlesconi's girlfriends.

We also saw the President's Dog.  Talk about degrees of separation!  We are pretty much famous.