Monday, April 5, 2010


Travel precipitates so much good thought. Paul and I talked, at the very end of the trip, in the nighttime train while Hazel slept, about the irony of such a lovely vacation made so late in our year. The three days in Fez and the three in Chefchaouen reified for me why the time spent in Marrakech has been so fraught. It’s a city (so much concrete, so little green grass for romping) and Hazel and I don’t have nearly the support network we left behind in Berkeley.

And then, overwhelmingly, it was fantastic to see Morocco—or parts of it. Morocco right now is gloriously green—it’s spring. Life is bursting—the wheat is already knee-high, lambs and goat-kids gamboled across green hillsides, fig leaves reached newly green to the blue bowl of the cloud-scattered sky. Spanish is the second language (or competes with French) in the far north where we were in Chefchaouen (“Hola,” they say instead of “Bonjour”)—we were an hour from the Mediterranean and 14 kilometers across the water to Spain after that. We talked with interesting seatmates on the train (the bus was a little less memorable and a lot more hot)—an intrepid 50-something French couple full of ideas about the post-protectorate Morocco, a Moroccan man who’s lived in Paris now for 25 years. “When I’m in Morocco I miss Paris, and when I’m in Paris I miss Morocco,” he said smiling. The Frenchwoman sitting across from him had talked about this very thing in the hour or so before the Moroccan man boarded. She talked about the immigrant in France who has “one butt-cheek on one seat, the other butt-cheek on another”—the French expression is about that crass. On the way home, Fez to Marrakech, all that long way, I talked with a young woman whose father is the highest-ranking judge in Morocco. He walked 5 kilometers to and from school when he was growing up, she said. She cooed over Hazel and nuzzled her cheek.

In the morning we head off toward Merzouga—on the Algerian border and the edge of the Sahara. We spend the night near the Dadès Gorge, then on to the desert after that. It’s been exhilarating to travel this last week—odd in its way to join those who come to Morocco for the playground.

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