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Ah-Free-Kah!

Ok, so last night was so much fun. Let me give you a little background first.


2 weeks ago, I was with Cindy in Taghazout. We were waiting for our lunch and sitting at a table chilling and talking. There were like 4 other people in the place and all of a sudden this girl and her boyfriend walk in. They sit down next to us and introduce themselves. Turns out... it was Hindi Zahra. Who is Hindi Zahra you ask? She's this Moroccan chick who's a very popular singer here and she's the closest thing to a hipster I've seen in a while. I saw her for the first time on tv about a month ago and she was singing at a huge live concert in Rabat. 


After that, I started hearing her songs every day. You know how that goes-- you don't know of somehting or someone and they all of a sudden they start popping up everywere. Well that's what happened with her. So she came up to me and introduced herself and was like, "Nice to meet you, I'm Zahra." In my head I was all, "Wait, aren't you that one singer?..." So long story short we ended up talking and turns out she's a painter, too. She showed me some of her artwork from her iPhone and she's a really talented! At the end of her lunch, she invited Cindy and I to come see her perform in Agadir for the Timitar Festival. That was last night. If you know me at all, you know I have amazing luck at concerts. Most of the time I'm either ON stage, backstage, or at least in the front row. Last night was no different. Thanks to some handy little white bracelets, we had an outstanding view.



This is Hindi Zara. She's a soulful songstress with a sweet voice. 

We got to see her and she is really good live. She sings in Berber, French, and English so we understood some but not all of it. Either way, we were happy to be there. :)

Before Hindi Zahra came on, the production crew was getting things ready on stage and doing sound check. Sitting next to us was this little 2 or 3 year old Moroccan girl who was absolutely adorable. She wandered over to me and sat down next to me. With her big brown eyes she just stared at me and giggled, her tiny pigtails bouncing with every move. Her parents let her kind of mosey around since the concert hadn't begun yet. Next thing I know...she made her way towards the stage. I don't know how she managed to escape, but she actually got ON stage! There she stood all alone with her little red dress and the stage all to herself. She started twirling her dress and it was as if she had no idea anyone could see her. 

It's hard to see her but she's in the center, about 2 ft tall

The crowd went crazy! There was this huge uproar and it was the best part of the show! Here's this little ham twirling and dazzling the crowd and she was so cute nobody stopped her! Every time she twirled the crowd encouraged her and it was so stinkin' cute. Here's a tiny video of it. It's kind of hard to see but you get the idea: 

video

So let's review: Awesome seats, cute little girl on stage, live show from Hindi Zahra...check, check, and check. What else could make the night better? Oh yeah. One more thing.

There's this duo that is really popular here and I've become a fan of their music and more so of their story. There's a man from Mali (if you don't know, Mali is a country in Africa) and he's a very talented singer and guitar player. There's just one small detail: he's blind. The twist in this story is that he found a woman to sing with him and they are the perfect team. Now it gets interesting--they're married. And she's blind, too. It's the sweetest love story and it makes listening to them that much better. 

Their group (and real) names are Amadou & Mariam.  The music they sing vibrates into your heart. I was sooo happy to hear them live and in fact it was a surprise. I had no idea they'd be coming on stage after Hindi Zahra. BONUS!  

So here I am in Africa, listening to this soul-gripping music from Mali. Djembe drummer banging his heart out, blind couple singing their life songs, Moroccans dancing completely sober and high on life. No drugs, no alcohol, just the heartbeat of Africa binding the crowd together. It didn't matter who was who or what country you were born in-- every person in that ampitheater could feel this rhythm. In a way, it felt surreal. I was surrounded by people so proud of their heritage, so happy to be alive, and so lost in the beat. I felt so happy to be exactly there at exactly that moment.

I wish you could feel the pulse of this live...


Whatever you're doing right this second, stop.

 Listen to this and watch this video:

Here's another one:

 We had a wonderful time and I am very thankful that I got to experience such incredible energy. The people of this country is what makes it come alive...





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California in the Hay-ows!



Note: If you want to see the pictures bigger, just click on them and they open in a new window.

So I’ve been in Morocco for 6 months now and I had my first visitor! My friend Mark Patterson was in Europe traveling around and figured as long as he was in the area, why not stop by Morocco? We met 14 years ago in Wisconsin when we were in high school and we both ended up moving to Los Angeles. He’s a graphic designer there and surfs a lot so he came to visit and try out the surf spot, Taghazout. Unfortunately the swell wasn’t so good while he was here but he got to see Morocco from a local’s perspective.  One of my friends named Mustapha met Mark as soon as he came from the airport and they were like instant boy-buddies. I swear it was a total bromance right from the start. 
Friends for Life

 

The first day we went to the market near my village. Every Wednesday it’s like a weekly farmer’s market and everyone brings the best of the best produce.

Wednesday Market



 It’s SO much more fun than the grocery store. You get to bargain with all of the “veggie guys” and they still use the old fashioned scales. Everything is sold by the kilo and they weigh it out with weights so you know it’s fair and accurate. No cash registers, no lines, no “Clean-up on Aisle 4” just a spectacular display of macrobiotic fruits and vegetables.
Juicy...

What's he doing? BEETS me!
Picking out some fresh garlic

One of the perks is that they love to give samples—and of course I don’t object! 


I'm holding this cute prickly pear
Anybody want some peas?
Spices!
Cindy, Mark, and Mustapha sampling some flavored olives










A slice of watermelon would BEE nice

At the market I bought this really cool short wooden table. I’m currently painting it Moroccan-style to match my house and when I’m done with it, I’ll post a picture.

After stocking up on produce for the week, we came back to my house to cook.  Mustapha showed Mark how to make tajine and we had a really good dinner. Cindy (the super rad American chick who’s staying with me for the moment), Mark and I were all repping Cali and there was only 1 Moroccan in the house. We totes took over! Hahaha!

Mark taking Cooking 101 from Mustapha


The next day we brought Mark to the HUGE souk in Agadir and we met up with Omar, too. Mark wandered around, got lost, and we had to split up and go in teams to find him—nearly impossible but we managed to track him down. Cindy and I were “looking for him” and we accidentally fell into a cafĂ© and had a cup of cappuccino. Whoops! Looks like he’s not in here! 
Mission: Interrupted.

After the souk, we went outside and Mustapha and Mark found Djembe drums at a flea market. Since there were no drumsticks, Mustapha grabbed a stick and an ear of corn and started rang-bang-boomin’ away!
"Iiiiiiiiiiii don't wanna work, I just wanna bang on the drum all day..."  (with an ear of corn)


We wandered over to the street food vendors and had some delicious kefta sandwiches…and Mark had is 100th Coke ZERO of the trip.

Taghazout village, right near my house. As relaxed as you can get.
We also spent some time on the beach in Taghazout and just chilled out after a busy day. We packed about 2 weeks into a 3-day span but still felt relaxed and easy-breezy.
JUMP!
 So now Mark's back in La La Land and Cindy is in Morocco till she feels like leaving. Mustapha is probably banging on a drum somewhere and I'm just taking each day at a time. I'm so happy and I'm still chasing the light. Couldn't ask for anything more. Thanks, God. :)

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If you want to subscribe to my blog, just click the RSS feed button near the camel. I know it's a little hard to see, so I'm posting a picture of where it is :)

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The Heartbeat of Morocco




Hands down, the best part of Morocco is the pace of life. Until you come here, there is no way to fully understand the way things work. Everything in the city is set to a slow speed and everyone in it seems to follow suit. There is no such thing as "hustle and bustle" and the sense of urgency simply does not exist. For example, the city bus does not run on a strict (or even loose) timetable. On the contrary, when I was living in LA I would walk to the clearly-marked bus stop at the corner of Fairfax and 3rd, and wait for the 718 to show up--exactly at 5:12 pm. You could say it was literally like clockwork. Every day, same time, same place, no variations. Here on the other hand-- it is the exact opposite. Yesterday morning I waited for the bus for about 40 minutes. Why? Because it just comes when it comes. The "bus stop" is actually just a cluster of short palm trees in front of so-and-so's house. No definitive bus stop, no bench, no sign, no posted schedule, nada. You just sit and wait. And if the bus doesn't come... wait longer. You never know what the holdup could be. Sometimes if the driver sees someone walking on the side of a dusty road, he may just pull over and ask if he needs a lift. I've even seen a bus driver delay the start of his route-- he got out of the driver's seat, locked the bus doors and took a 5 minute break to buy himself some ice cream. And this is totally normal and acceptable. So yesterday I was about a half hour late to work and my boss couldn't have cared less. Apparently, he's familiar with the public transportation here.

Another aspect of Moroccan life is the acceptability of naps. I mean really, who doesn't love a good nap, right? Well here they're easily integrated into daily life. (see my post, "Thanks, Chief"). As you walk through the streets you will most definitely find men in their vegetable carts just dozing off in the mid-afternoon.





The women are generally at home taking a snooze as well--and wake up to have tea and cookies with their girlfriends and neighbors. Even the kids in all levels of school get to take it easy--they have a break at noon and return to school around 3ish to finish the day. They come home, have a little lunch, take a nap, kick the football around for a while, and then back to the books.

The animals here are no exception, either. A few weeks ago I was at my friend Fatima's house and we found a random cat in the house. The cat wandered in, climbed up 2 flights of stairs, waltzed into the sitting room and made her little self comfy on the couch. We walked in and laughed because she was lounging in the sun like she owned the place. Fatima tried to wake her up to shoo her out, but to no avail. The cat remained on her side, did the famous kitty stretch, raised her head up to look at Fatima and I, then nonchalantly went back to her nap. She had this sort of look that said, "I'm here, I'm comfy, I'm not bothering anyone, what's the problem?" So Fatima let her continue her {ahem}...cat nap.


The general attitude around here seems to be, "Why rush?" and the longer I live here, the more I ask the same question. I take time to smell the proverbial roses. I wander to the beach just to watch the waves crash. I watch the orange glow of the beautiful African sunsets. I get up when I feel like it and I'm not bound to the daily grind. Although I've never had a "9-5", I used to work like a madwoman in Los Angeles. Gone are the days of 6-lane rush hour traffic on the 405 freeway, slamming down double-shot espressos to start my day, panicking about being 5 minutes late to work, and running around like a chicken with my head cut off. Instead, I take every day at a relaxed pace and melt away any traces of stress with a cup of that unbeatable Moroccan mint tea. And if that doesn't slow me down...there's always time for a nap.

---

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