southern hospitality

March 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

It feels like the soul-squeezing in Eddie Veddar’s voice, putting on socks straight out of the dryer, or maybe it’s what dogs feel after a good belly-rub. It’s what inspired some happy guest to write “let it snow, let it snow, let it snow” because the fire was delightful, the company agreeable, and who knows maybe there was spiced cider involved too.  It’s open and natural hospitality.  I’ve often felt it at home with my friends from New Orleans. There’s nothing quite like being cordially welcomed to someone’s home. This past weekend, Lisa, Celine, and myself were treated like queens on a royal tour everywhere we went. The people I met there were some of the most genuine people I’ve met in my life.

 

Here’s some exerts from my travel journal, mostly a rushed account with many a sentence fragment, but it’ll do:

  • Wednesday night: run/walk from the Kasbah to the grand taxi station because we were running late. The driver laughed at our urgency. I had always heard that buses leave early if they’re full, but I didn’t believe it until we dashed across the street, through the bus depot, and into the last two seats of the night bus southern bound. We took a pit stop somewhere around 3am. Celine tried a cow head meat sandwich; I stuck to an orange and bread.
  • Thursday morning: We arrived in Tiznit, stopped at a bakery to buy pastries for breakfast. Ahmed’s friend gave us the key to his family’s apartment in the city. We walked to his house, neatly furnished with a lime green interior. After eating we met another friend who we called Bob. Drove to a suq, bought fruits and veggies and olives. Drove to a second market to buy fish and pain au chocolat. Started the drive towards the water.
  • Thursday afternoon: Stopped on the side of the road to look at the countryside/flowers/trees. Lisa and Ahmed pretend to drive away. Arrive at a small beach community, Sidi Ifni. Made a fish tajine. Went to climb up/down/around “the bridge”. Back into the car, drive to Legzira beach. Walked along the beach and through it’s gateways until past sunset. Started the drive back along the coast, a highway similar to Hwy 1. Celine vomits in the car, we pull to the side of the road and admire the stars. Bob drops us off at the house, and went to clean the car and get blankets. We took showers and get ready to make dinner. Lisa and I haul a straw mat up to the terrace. We grill fish under the stars. A construction worker joins us.
  • Friday morning (afternoon, rather): slept in until almost noon. Bread and argon oil for breakfast (lunch). Packed, cleaned, left. Car trouble for a few hours so the hike to the village is cancelled. Instead, we drove to a smaller town at the base of the mountains and hitch a ride with a truck. For the mountain inhabitants, it’s the weekly trip into town for groceries, so we pile ourselves among a dozen men, sacks of flour, tires, and propane tanks. For a little over an hour, we drove. Ahmed taught me a few words in Tamazigh, the language of most people in that region. Arrived at the house where Ahmed was born. We go inside and greet his 108-yr old grandmother. I don’t think she has enough teeth to eat the cookies we brought from Rabat. An aunt showed us around the house. I struggled to remember my new tamazigh vocabulary. I finally remember “beautiful house” and blurted it out. The aunt laughed because we were standing in the stable.  Gather for tea/bread/oil. Greeting by some more women with the best bear hugs I’ve had in ages. Walked outside. Met a group of 7 young girls. Approached and greeted them shyly. Lisa, Celine, and I walked with them around the fields, meet their new school teacher. Got back to second house, have more tea. Found out that the US entered Libya.
  • Friday night: Hiked up the hillside over marble stones to a lookout overseeing Tiznit and Agadir. Moon was full and bright enough to read by. Told stories to each other. Reluctatantly left the view, but eagerly headed back downhill for a huge dinner. More tea. The girls set out enormous blankets. 7 of us sleep together.
  • Saturday morning: We woke up around 7, ate “harira” but it is more like cream of wheat. And dates. It was windy enough to make you chilly. We walk into the firld with the rest of the girls and 5 huge sacks. We help picked funny plants for the cows to eat. After, Ahmed and Mohamed joined us in the field and we hike up another hillside. Along the way, they hand us random leaves to eat. We sampled a lot, brought many herbs (including thyme!) to be used later. At the top we saw the Middle Atlas, the Atlantic Ocean, and the beginning of the High Atlas. Came back down, gathered the bags from the field and carry them on our heads. Had tea and bread and oil again. Rode on donkeys just for fun. Visited the grandmother again. Ate a huge lunch and drank tea. Went to the second house. Ate a second huge lunch. Drank more tea. Looked at the beehives and the well with rain water. Gathered our belongings, said our goodbyes. It was as artfully gradual a process as trying to leave a Umayam get-together. They tied the fresh thyme and rosemary and fire-baked bread and oil to our bags. Began the hike downhill, since there was no truck going into town that day
  • Saturday afternoon: Hike took a little less than 2 hours, dust crunching under our feet. Dusty and hot. Arrived in Tiznit again, rested at a café. Waited for a bus.
  • Saturday night: Watched the sunset from the bus as we drove through the mountains to Ahmed’s parents house. I didn’t think I would ever eat again after having 2 lunches, but we ate a huge dinner. More tea. Said our goodbyes because we were nervous about buses back being delayed by the protests. Really, we wanted to make it to Marrakech in time to march with the students. Waited in the city for a bus to Tiznit. Met with organizers, talked about the police checks, politics of the south. Gave up on the bus, took a grand taxi to Tiznit. Gathered our stuff from the first apartment, but one member of our group was too tired to go on. So we stayed in Tiznit the night.
  • Sunday afternoon/night: Trip back took terribly long. left Tiznit around noon in a grand taxi. Very hot. Arrive in a random town, drink juice. Sit on a bus to Marrakech, waiting for it to fill up. Talked with a young boy selling gum and tissue. Spitting image of why the country needs jobs/a better education system/etc. Arrive in Marrakech after sunset. Took a city bus to meet some of Ahmed’s friends for dinner. Lisa got a bike. We walk to where we thought the tour buses would pass. Waited and waited. Finally took some taxis to the train station after an hour of waiting. Hop on the bus for Rabat. The bulk of the passengers de-bused at Casablanca. So we switched buses again and waited. Didn’t leave Casablanca until 4:30am. Got to Rabat, taxi to the train station. Train to Kenitra. Walk through my door at 7:30am. I realized with exhausted clarity rising from the quagmire of sleepless thoughts, this is living.

 

Later two cups of coffee later, I went back to Rabat to check out an apartment. I said yes. It’s a pretty large room in an apartment with 3 students from Cameroon in a neighborhood called “l’ocean”. Now, the battle for a move-out date.

 

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