Good Thing I Like Puzzles

The direct Delta flight from Paris to Salt Lake City has an in-cabin-pet weight limit of 22 pounds but the Casablanca to Paris Air France flight only allows 13.2 pounds.  The Royal Air Maroc flight only 10.  Our dog alone, on a skinny day, weighs about 9.  

Those limits are Including his pet carrier of which there are a variety of choices, colors and weights to choose from. 

The SleepyPod has a great "expandble" feature but is clumsy and weighs over 5 pounds
The Bergen Comfort Carrier weighs only 2.7 pounds but is almost too narrow for the Buckly B to turn around.
The Bergen Deluxe Comfort Carrier weighs a little more and has one extra inch of height, but it's still pretty narrow
The Sherpa Original Deluxe Pet Carrier weighs 4.6 pounds but is by far the roomiest and most well constructed.

You know how I know?  I bought them all and I've been seeing which ones will work best for Mr. Big-End-of-the-Small-Dog-Scale.  He's too small for underneath the plane, but he's almost too big for tiny chiuaua mcEurope airplanes.  And Middle Eastern airlines?  Forget about it.  Did you know that dogs are not allowed in-cabin on several-here-to-remain-un-named Middle Eastern airlines, but Falcons are?  Falcons, people.  

Actually, for religiuos reasons dogs are not very popular in the Middle East and so I can understand that.  But falcons! In the cabin!?  

Or we could take Lufthansa through Germany which allows 16 pounds and then an American carrier which allows 20 pounds from Germany to Chicago to Salt Lake City, but that's a lot of airports and transfers for a puppy and his parents.

Or we could....  

You get the idea.

I'm not comlpaining, I'm just saying, it's a good thing I like puzzles.  This was actually the biggest reason I didn't want to get a dog.  But I have to say, and this is coming from a former non dog liker, I don't regret it for one second.  It's like something chemical happened in my brain and instead of saying "holy cow this is so complicated and I can't believe I'm putting myself through it" I'm saying "OK, how can we put all these pieces together so my fuzzy wuzzy tiny bestest dog can come to America on home leave and meet my family?"  If my year ago self could see me now!

We did fit tests, we did carrying tests, we put him on the scale with each bag.  We measured and thought about the foot room on each aircraft, we evaluated the potty situation on such a long flight and which carrier would cause the least in flight stress.  And still all four of them sat on our dining room floor, choice unmade.  

And then, in an act of supreme puppy wisdom, our little guy walked over to the biggest carrier, plopped down inside of it, and threw up.

And voila.  Our choice was made. 

Humans make things so complicated sometimes.     

Telouet, The Glaoui Kasbah

And to end things we took what turned out to be a three hour detour to Telouet, the former head quarters of the Glaoui brothers during the first half of the 20th century.  It's really a shame to gloss over these fascinating brothers and their mountain castle, but lo, I am going to.  You need to know that they made a trechorous deal with the French that let them control the south of Morocco however they wanted if the French could control the imperial cities and the north.  You also need to know that they were ruthless and extravagant.  The Kasbah was decorated with fabrics and techniques and materials from all over the world.  

Despite it's crumbling facade, the Kasbah is amazing inside.  It was rad.  We gave three Berber women, who left our car reeking of camp fire, a ride back up the hill to the next town and then booked it home up and across the Atlas again.  This time with slightly more road sickness, but a lot more Moth podcasts - so everything was cool.


Back to the Desert...well, the Oasis at least

After leaving Kasbah Mchaunted Max and I headed for the city of Ouarzazate (pronounced War-Zah-Zat).   I wanted to go Ouarzazate not only to get a better feel for the south and Berber culture…but also to find (and buy) one of the giant fuzzy rugs I’d heard come from the region. But culture first!

We started with a tour of the Taorirt Kasbah - former home of the infamous Glaoui brothers. The Glaoui brothers ruled the south of Morocco with an iron fist during the first half of the 20th century.  Their collusion with the French is a bit of a sore spot in Moroccan history. The brothers were ruthless, decadent, and essentially let the French do whatever they wanted in the North if they could do whatever they wanted In the south..and they did. But more on the brothers later.  You know the ultra open floor plan that everyone fell in love with a few years back? The kitchen led into the dining room into the tv room into the all purpose study area without any walls or much to separate the family's activity? Well, Kasbah’s are pretty much the exact opposite of that. I read somewhere that Kasbah house staff often devised trails of string or pebbles so that they could navigate the windy web of  corridors and staircases.

We visited Ouarzazate on a national holiday and except for a few tourist sites - including an uninspiring movie museum - almost everything else was closed. One construction worker looking man convinced us that he worked for the co-op of women with disabilities where they made rugs and when he let us into the show room with a key, we decided he seemed pretty legit. However, when it looked like we weren’t going to buy a rug afterall he moved onto other products like the “handmade” scarves sewn by blind Moroccan women. Who knew that blind Moroccan women made the Pashmina scarves you see in every Middle Eastern market all over the world? I’m no sucker.

Did I tell you that I picked our Ouarzazate hotel by going to the first listing on the “expensive” page of the guide book whilst in the haunted Kasbah? That’s not usually our style, but people make crazy decisions when they are freezing.   As luck would have it - it turned out not to be a crazy decision at all.  The dar was reasonably priced (off season) and one of the most unique places I’ve ever stayed. The guide book refers to its “Labyrinthine hallways” and “1001 nights d├ęcor”.  After winding around corners and up narrow staircases you step into a curtained shoe closet where you remove your own shoes and put on Moroccan slippers to tread the rest of the way across stacks of orange and red carpets. But the place wasn’t antiseptic-hotel-fancy but crazy-old-desert-fancying-Frenchman-fancy. Every room is tucked behind rugs and heavy blue velvet curtains with a very eclectic mix of Berber handicrafts and photos.

After dropping off our bags and having a nap in a WARM room we took a little day trip out to the Skoura Oasis - an hour or so away from Ouarzazate.   The very nice desert-fancying-Frenchman drew us a map of where to go in order to see a few Kasbahs...but we ended up very lost.  All the same, we made our way through the thick trees and saw dozens of Kasbahs peaking out from the branches - most of them still inhabited.  It was really surreal actually.  ....and we are lucky our car didn't fall into any ditches as the road was often times barely wide enough for all four tires!


When it Rains it Pours!

Not real rain though - Morocco is still seriously lacking in real rain this season.  But in busy-ness!  I hate to interrupt a travel story mid trip, especially one where we have just emerged from a freezing haunted Moroccan castle, but there have been some goings on around these parts.

We had an "S" visit to Morocco this past week.  For those of you who haven't been indoctrinated into the State Department Acronym and Initials Secret Code yet, "S" means Secretary of State.  As in THE secretary of State.  Of America.  The consulate wasn't directly involved in the visit, but Max and I were able to meet Madame Secretary and shake her hand.

I don't meet a lot of famous people but in general I don't get very hyped about it.  People are people, right?  But just before driving over from church to where the meet and great was held I had been chopping up Basil for a salad.  In the car I realized my hands still very much smelled of Basil and oh my gosh I'm going to shake the Secretary of State's hand with my basil-smelling hand and then she'll board air-force-secretary-one or whatever it is and put her hand up to her face and say "Basil, how curious."  But when I realized that was probably the worst possible outcome I got over it.

It's really refreshing to have these kinds of "Big Picture" meetings from time to time.  I'll spare you the sentimental paragraph I just wrote and erased about serving your country and being engaged in meaningful work, and just say that this is a neat job and North Africa is a neat place to be right now.

On other fronts...

I am still wearing a pony tail in light of mullet-gate 2012, but my hair is growing pretty fast.

Our dog is still very adorable and better not grow out of his on-board carrier before we attempt a trans-Atlantic flight this May...

I figured out how to make Taquitos from local stuffs and can't believe it took me so stinkin' long

I have been moved from teaching the 11 year olds at church to teaching the 8 & 9 year olds and so far so good.  We had a lesson today about a man who stood on a tower to teach his people and we played Jenga - it was a big hit.

We took a wee trip to the seaside with our dog and I'll be posting more about that later.  It was the first trip where we planned nothing and did nothing and I loved it.  That Max, he's such a calming influence on me :)

Max is having a graphic novel he has written illustrated and the project is at the half way point.  Very exciting.  He's applied for a grant that would pay for production, printing, and advertising - we'll know more in June, but keep your collective fingers crossed!

We are busy planning our home leave and can't wait to see many of you.  We are hoping to fit in at least one camping weekend and other fun activities whilst home-leaving.  ...including buying a heavy duty new camera lens?  Yes, even that.