An unreal story we never told from our time in South Africa....Newspaper story we posted one year ago today...



Still wanting to post photos after our "staying in" weekend, we walked the steep steps to the rooftop for the following shots.  That's our laundry on the clothesline which Madame washes every few days.
A year ago today, we posted a copy and a link of a newspaper story written by the local paper in our home town.  If you'd like to see the story, please click the link posted below:
http://www.chanvillager.com/news/world-travelers-living-the-dream/article_8dbde70d-1b61-5488-b13f-7077dc4251b6.html#user-comment-area

We hope all of our Easter observing readers had a wonderful day.  Staying in due to the crowds, we enjoyed another excellent Madame Zahra made Moroccan dinner minus the spices.  After dinner we watched another good movie, "The Railway Man," well worth viewing.

Hopefully today, the spring break and Easter weekend crowds will thin out and we'll head out to the souks and Big Square for a hearty much needed walk and dinner at one of our few favorite restaurants.  We've exhausted all our dining options in the Medina serving non-spicy foods that Tom will eat, although I continue to order an occasional spicy tagine.

The newer model washer is located in a closet on the rooftop which we hadn't 
noticed until yesterday.
As for the story we never told of a situation that occurred in South Africa, its not an uncommon story in certain parts of the world.  Why didn't we tell the story at that time?  I suppose, we didn't feel comfortable sharing anything negative about a country we love in so many ways while we were living there.

As time has passed, we've come to realize that its important to share this story for other travelers should they encounter similar circumstances along the way. Please understand, the telling of this story in no way diminishes our views of the wonders of South Africa or its people. 

Of the dozens of countries we've visited thus far, South Africa will remain in our hearts forever which we long to visit again someday in our travels.  This story is not a reflection of the people of South Africa in general, only a faction of it's society that angers and frustrates it's countrymen as it did us.  Here we go!

It was a beautiful day yesterday, although so windy that the plants inside the courtyard two floor below were moving in the wind.
It was January 18, 2014.  We were driving a rental car, returning from our delightful three day stay at the Blyde River Canyon Lodge in the Blyde River area of Limpopo, South Africa.  We'd had a glorious three days but were equally excited to return to Marloth Park to see the animals and our friends. 
What a fabulous feeling...leaving one amazing place to return to an even more amazing place.  We were on Cloud 9 to say the least. 

First, we were on our way to the airport in Nelspruit to return the rental car after one month's use when the rental car company refused to extend our contract for the same rate they had charged for the first month. 

Look at that blue sky!

As a result, we decided, rather than sign up for a similar deal at another rental car company, we'd to have Okee Dokee drive us around for our remaining time in Marloth Park.  She'd captured our hearts and we decided that we'd rather put money in her pocket than a rental car company with its outrageous fees. 

We'd coordinated the trip to Blyde River to coincide with the date we were required to return the rental car. We began the drive down the mountain to make our way to the airport where Okee Dokee would meet us for the 90 minute drive back to Marloth Park. 

The household staff regularly water to plants on the rooftop as well as in the courtyard.

About an hour out of Bldye River Canyon, Tom moving along the well paved roads at a good clip, when suddenly a policeman stepped out onto the road signaling us to stop.

What could possibly be wrong?  The first thought that entered my mind was the possibility of a customary passport check.  Tom thought otherwise, suspicious that we were being stopped at the foot of a long hill where many lowering speed limit signs were posted in rapid succession.

Tom was hanging out with me on the rooftop as I shot these photos.

Tom immediately handed him our passports, waiting to see what he wanted.  The cop kept asking, "When is your flight?"  The reason for this question, Tom surmised, was to determine how desperate we were, the shorter the time to our flight, the more it was going to "cost us."

Tom explained we didn't have to fly anywhere that day and we were staying in South Africa until February 28th. Again, the cop asked, "What time is your flight?" 

Holding the camera over the high wall of the rooftop (over my head) I shot this photo of the sheltered roof of a riad next door.

When again, Tom explained that we had no flight to catch, he cop said we were being "ticketed" for speeding without providing any specifics.  He had no ticket book in hand.

He proceed to explain that we'd have to go back to the nearest town to the police station to pay the fine.  Still, no ticket was presented. The drive back to that town was 45 minutes each way and there was no way in the world we were going back there. 
A man in his gazebo on the roof of an adjoining house.
Okee Dokee was already on her way from Marloth Park to pick us up at the airport.  Even if she hadn't been, there was still no way were going to drive an extra 90 minutes, spending what may have proved to been several hours in order to pay an arbitrary fine.

But, we also knew there was no way were we taking the risk of getting into a verbal altercation with the cop which could potentially get us arrested.
The little grill Madame uses when she cooks the grilled chicken on the roof.  We seldom request it since we don't want her to have to go up there to cook.
Diplomatically, I interjected, "What would it take to avoid us going back to the police station in Hedspruit?"

The cop paused for only a second, making a feeble attempt to make it appear as if he had no plan in mind, "Four hundred Rand," he blurts out.

I nudged Tom whispering, "Give him the 400 Rand and let's get out of here!"

Tom pulled out the bills while I asked facetiously, "Can we have a receipt to prove we've paid?"
We also discovered the water storage tanks which are hooked up to the city water supply. 
We use bottled water for drinking and brushing our teeth.
The cop grumbled, "No receipt!" 

Tom was furious.  It wasn't the amount of money at US $38.09 that frosted him.  It was the fact that it was a bribe. Plain and simple. 

Slowly, he pulled out back onto the road as I watched the cop put the money in his pocket his eye on us  as we drive away, perhaps looking for another "supposed" infraction.
The hot water heater is also located in a closet on the rooftop level.
When we retold this story to our Marloth Park friends, they said we should have negotiated the 400 rand down to 200 rand.  But, under the circumstances, being our first "bribery" experience, we'd decided to not push our luck and be done with it. 

With this experience behind us, would we act any differently if this happened again?  I don't think so. The possibility of being arrested in a foreign county is frightening enough. 

We wished we could see over the tall wall.
Was Tom speeding?  Possibly, a small amount over the speed limit as a result of coming down the steep road.  Is that an excuse?  Not at all.  Were we handed a paper ticket to pay on the spot, we'd have put our tail between our legs and paid, lesson learned. 

None of us know what situations we'll encounter when traveling outside our home country or at times, in our home country.  There are many risks that we both take seriously every time we walk out the door. 
This decorator item is on the wall in the landing of the third floor.
I no longer carry a purse or wallet, keeping only a lipstick in my pocket.  Tom secures his wallet with little cash in zipped and hard to reach pockets.   We each have our own credit cards should one of us be ripped off, we'd still have credit cards we can use while others were being replaced.

Each time we venture out, we're on alert for potential situations such as this.  We realize and suspect that had Tom not been speeding, we could easily have been stopped anyway when no evidence of speeding was presented or even visible to us.
The steps on this brick stairway from the third to the second floor, are uneven with many of them very deep.  It surprises us how Madame Zahra easily navigates them several times each day when I gingerly make my way down.
From that point on we observed similar police "set ups" at the foot of every hill, wondering who'd be their next target.  Not us.  We crawled the rest of the way.

So, there's our first bribery story.  It may not be our last.  We carry on with the hope that we can avoid these types of situations in the future. Although, we accept the fact that nothing we can ever do or plan will make us exempt from experiencing situations such as this.

Happy Monday to all.  Good day!



Photo from one year ago today, April 21, 2013:
All these prior photos were taken with the inexpensive Samsung camera resulting in less than ideal photos.  This was the view overlooking one of the dining areas on the Norwegian Epic a few days before the storm.  For details of the story from that date, please click here.



http://www.chanvillager.com/news/world-travelers-living-the-dream/article_8dbde70d-1b61-5488-b13f-7077dc4251b6.html#user-comment-area

Happy Easter to those who observe...Plus, the beginning of a memorable saga...


We spotted five stray cats hanging around this motor bike.  The lanterns were for sale.
Our last Easter in Minnesota was in 2012.  In a way if feels as if it was many more than two years ago and in other ways, only yesterday. 

As we post here each day, we purposely don't discuss intimate details of our lives with our children and grandchildren in an effort to respect their privacy. Not doing so, in no way diminishes the love we feel for each and every one of our four adult children, their significant others and our six grandchildren.


Many have asked, "How could you leave your family?"  It wasn't easy.  
Stray cats seem to be comfortable around all the crowds and activities in the souks.
It was a decision wrought with a modicum of guilt, apprehension and fear. How could it not be?  Guilt for leaving them and apprehension and fear that they'd be angry at us for going away, so far away, unreachable at times.  We understood that as we took this risk.

Tom and I, a blended family, both had children as teenagers.  Our lives were not unlike the lives of other parents with grown children and grandchildren, filled with dreams and expectations on all sides, some fulfilled, some perhaps unrealistic.

I retired from my business in December of 2011.  All of my life I'd dreamed of writing when I retired.  With little fodder for writing, I allowed imaginary characters to run through my mind in hopes of someday writing a work of fiction. 

This cat was black and grown, an interesting combination for a non-calico.
My life of retirement allowed little noteworthy action for a story with our lives so like the comfortable lives of many retirees worldwide.  Who'd want to read about our medical appointments, dinners for family and friends and occasional trips to Costco?

In January 2012, as the New Year began, one morning, Tom broached a topic we'd avoided with his retirement date looming on October 31, 2012, "What do you want to do when I retire?"

I looked at him, as we both sat in our comfy chairs in the family room asking, "What do you want to do?" our typical response to such a question, asking the other the same question.  How familiar, eh?

He thought for a moment turning to me and said, "Why don't we travel the world?"  I was shocked.  I never imagined this from him. 

My response was simple and expected, "Let me do some research, do a spreadsheet and see if it is possible.  I'll have it ready in one week."

And, I did. And we decided one week later.  And, on October 31, 2012, ten months later, we left our loved one with heavy hearts, after selling and disposing of everything we owned, we left Minnesota.  Leaving our head scratching family behind, wondering how long it would be before we gave up and settle down, we left with a sense of excitement and adventure.

Sure, leaving them was hard and angst ridden.  And today, always a special holiday for all of us, we are reminded of how much we're missing them and will continue to miss daily well into the future.
This black and white cat reminded me of a cat we had when my kids were young that had an extra toes on all four feet, an anomaly seen in cats from time to time.
But, somehow, the missing them is a part of our lives that we embrace and accept.  My oldest son lived away as a adult and has always been missed.  This is not uncommon in today's world.  Many of our retired friends moved to warmer climates away from frosty Minnesota, leaving family in their wake, to call, to Skype, to write.

Here we are, 18 months later and feeling we have so much world left to see.  The excitement coupled with the knowledge we've acquired through experience as we learn more each day has only spurred us on, to continue on.

The fodder?  Ah, it is grand!  Although at times, our days are quiet and mundane as over this busy holiday weekend, too crowded in the souks to even venture out, we stay in our comfy riad with our delightful staff eager to make us one more appreciated meal which we'll savor with gusto. 

No, there won't be a baked spiral sliced ham, green bean casserole, cheesy potatoes, fruit whippy, fluffy biscuits and bunny rabbit cake for dessert.  Instead we'll have plates and plates of vegetables, beef tagine (minus hot spices) with chips (fries) and local bread for Tom. 

We'll sit at the well set dining room table served by three of the finest household staff in the land, grateful to our family for their acceptance of us living our dream, grateful for each other, grateful for our continuing health and grateful that we had the courage to step outside the box to experience the "fodder" that makes writing here each day a rare gift indeed.


Photo from one year ago today, April 20, 2013:
Here is the inside of our cabin on the Norwegian Epic one year ago. This cruise was the beginning of one of the most harrowing and exciting experience in our lives when this mammoth top heavy ship was caught in an outrageous storm at sea with 50 foot, 15.3 meter swells lasting non-stop for a full three days and nights.  We almost had the ship to ourselves when neither of us was sick while many passengers and crew stayed in their cabins.  We wrote here, we dined, we walked around the ship, although not allowed outdoors.  More will follow on this storm in the next few days, perhaps with a video depicting the adventure.  For details of the day we boarded the Epic which was several days before the storm, please click here. 


Flight and car booked for Madeira...Spend! Spend! Spend!...Ouch!


Our view from the salon (living room) looking into the center open air courtyard
while writing each day.  It's cloudy today.
We're at a point that the money will be flying out the window between now and end of August. 

Yesterday, we spent US $795 for one way airline tickets for two from Marrakech, Morocco to Funchal, Madeira which much to our delight,  is only a six hour flight including a layover.  We'd budgeted US $800 for this flight when we booked the house almost two years ago and yesterday paid US $795.

Thu May/15/2014 - Departure 1 stop Total travel time: 5 h 55 m
custom air icon Marrakech Lisbon 1 h 35 m
RAK  4:30pm
Terminal 1
LIS  6:05pm  
Terminal 1
 
TAP Portugal  243 Operated by PORTUGALIA
Economy / Coach (V) | Seat                                            
Layover: 2 h 35 m
custom air icon Lisbon Funchal 1 h 45 m
LIS  8:40pm
Terminal 1
FNC  10:25pm    
TAP Portugal  1639
Economy / Coach (V) | Seat                             

Most likely we won't arrive at the house until well after midnight with the necessity of driving up the steep unfamiliar roads.  This particular flight with TAP Airlines was our only option from Marrakech. 

As for the car rental, we've learned our lessons in our past travels.  In order to avoid paying the entire two and a half month rental in advance plus the "excess" they charge to hold on the car, over $5000, as in the past, we book one month at a time. 

If the car rental company won't renew the rental for this same monthly amount, we'll order another car close to the end of the first car's rental period for the next month, dropping off the first car and picking up the second car.  It will be necessary to do this for one more for the last two weeks of our two and a half month stay.  The Funchal, Madeira airport is no more than 30 minutes from the rental house, making this back and forth no big deal.

Here are the details for the first rental car:

Car: Alamo Rent A Car, Funchal, Portugal (FNC)
Driver: Thomas Lyman
Base price: €439.92
Taxes & Fees: €182.18

Car total: €622.10
Car Economy
Pick up: Thu 05/15/14
10:30 PM

0
Funchal, Portugal (FNC)
Drop off: Sat 06/14/14
10:30 PM


Funchal, Portugal (FNC)

The car rental is shown in Euros, not US dollars which results in US $859.49 for one month.   By the end of our two and a half month stay, we'll have spent $2149 for the car rental for which we'd budgeted $2900 which includes fuel, leaving us on target in this area as well. 

The next item we'll pay, is the balance of our rent for Madeira which is in the US $2000 range.  In June, we'll pay for one of two upcoming cruises, US $3497 (cruise begins on August 31, 2014) and the second on US $3216 on July 1 (cruise begins on September 23, 2014).  Many more outlays follow in August and there on which we'll share later.

A part of the reality of traveling these days, is the necessity of paying well in advance of receiving the product or service when attempting to get the "best deals." 

My dinner last night, a mixed grill with an extra side of veggies. 
Although most hotels don't require advance payment unless booked through online services. (We book most of our flight, hotels and cars via Expedia.com on our website.  Feel free to do the same at any time.  We make a small token when any of our readers click our links, which help offset the cost of maintaining our website.  No pressure. But, it doesn't cost you an extra penny to use them).

Based on some great rates we received on a few of our future hotel bookings, we chose to pay a few in advance, such as the hotel stays upcoming in the next five months for Vancouver, BC; Boston, MA and Paris, France.  Booking these hotels are required as stopping points while we await the cruises. 

The only hotel we haven't paid in advance is in London on August 16, 2014 for the above mentioned total of US $3216 (for a period of two weeks).  London is pricey.  Also, in the beginning of May, we'll have another outlay of US $4500 for more tickets for our kids to Hawaii with only one more to go down the road.

All in all, we'll be paying out $1000's over the next four months, all of which we've budgeted.  Undoubtedly, we must carefully watch our spending over the next several months. 
Tom's dinner, a grilled filet mignon with a side of mushroom gravy and three circles of mashed potatoes.  Notice the lack of vegetables.  That's my guy!
I'd hope to purchase a new camera now to be included in our box of supplies being sent to Madeira next week.  Based on these bigger expenses at this time, I've decided to wait until after some of these expenses are paid and behind us.  Tom encouraged me to buy it now.  But, my practical nature prohibits me from doing so. 

Most likely, when we arrive in Boston on September 21, 2014 we'll head out to purchase a new camera and two new laptops.  Tom's screen is cracked and continues to crack as a result of a hinge problem.  Mine?  Well, we know the problems there!  A cheap HP with a bad keyboard and other issues.

Yes, we cringe over this big expenses that seem to come all at once. Living as   carefully as possible, when all is said and done, we stay on track with our budget.  

Today, we'll stay in for another evening of Madame Zahra's fine food, minus spices, continuing our comprehensive planning and budgeting.  And of course, a little bit of Gin playing is definitely in order, especially with me in the lead, a rare occurrence.  Perhaps, I'll be the winner in Morocco, logging my first "country win" with only 26 days to go.

Photo from one year ago today, April 19, 2013:
The excursion offered that day was a visit to this cruise line owned beach in Turks and Caicos.  There was no way we were interested in baking in the sun for three or four hours, paying for lawn chairs and umbrellas when we had the ship's pools almost to ourselves.  For details from this date, please click here.


Much to do...Retirement isn't a free lunch....Photos from out and about...

A complimentary bowl of spicy olives is served when dining at Arabe restaurant.
 
There's never a day that passes that doesn't require tasks related to our travels.
In reality, it's comparable to a full time job.  Fortunately, we don't mind doing most of the tasks.  Although, it's easy to lie in bed early in the morning thinking about everything that must be handled, we try not to make ourselves crazy or worried with the responsibility of accomplishing them.
The overlook to the shops below from Terrasse des Espices Restaurant.
Let's face it.  There's no free lunch.  We all have many tasks in our daily lives continuing well into retirement, if not until the end of our lives should we be so fortunate to be able to continue to do our own tasks. 

For most of our readers, daily household tasks and maintenance preoccupy a good portion of each day.  Add the responsibility of handling medical insurance, medications, health appointments, paying bills, grocery and other shopping, visiting family and friends who are ill or in nursing homes, entertaining family and friends and it is exhausting.

Complimentary bread sticks are provided at Arabe restaurant.  The price of cocktails is high in Morocco, as much as US $10 per cocktail.  As a result, Tom doesn't bother to drink any alcohol.  With us dining out three or four times per week, his not drinking could easily be saving us over US $100 per week.
Although we have eliminated some of the above items from our "to do" list, since we no longer have a home, we have other tasks to perform that replace them, mostly wrapped around our continuing travels.

In other words, being retired is not being "retired' from anything other than going to an outside job each day. The perception that many younger still working people may have is that life is free and easy.  Ha!  It's hardly the case.

A pigeon we spotted while dining on the rooftop.  Their cooing sounds permeate the air in the riad each day, along with the crowing rooster who crows every 5 or 10 minutes.

Although, at times I place myself into the retired category, I am far from retired.  I work half or more of each day with our website, writing, editing, taking photos, and generally being continually aware of the creation of the inspiration for the next story.  That's hardly retired.  The fact that I enjoy doing so is incidental.
Add the financial management, record keeping and the daily task of handling of the budget, logging each penny spent, my days are full, leaving a little time for playing Gin with Tom, watching a few shows and of course, getting out to explore.

This is the usual crowd we must maneuver each time we go out in order to make our way to the restaurants, the ATM, the Big Square or the exit to the Medina in order to get a taxi. 
This morning I spent an hour placing our few pills into our pill cases.  Tom's case holds two weeks of pills.  Mine hold four weeks.  End result is that I have to do pills every two weeks.  Now, this should be an easy task.  I take a few prescriptions and Tom takes one.  Adding the few vitamins and probiotics we have left and it seems that it shouldn't take so long.

But, as time has moved on, we've used all of our US prescriptions and are now into the one year's supply of the those we've purchased from ProgressiveRX, a reputable online pharmacy company. (They don't take insurance).   Each pill they dispense is individually wrapped in foil requiring a huge amount of time to get each pill out of the right wrapping.
As we dined at Le Jardin, Mr. Turtle stopped by, hanging out for "crumb patrol." Of course, we complied with his request for vegetable tidbits from our plates as he stared up at us, which he savored with delight, quickly snapping them up.  He rested between bites at my feet.
Today, I unwrapped over 100 pills for the six weeks total of pills I placed collectively in the little cases.  As I aged, good grief, I've noticed my fingers are not as adept as they may have been 40 years ago.  Small handiwork is not my forte. 

Also, several years ago I had surgery on my right thumb and it's basically useless.  Try unwrapping those tight little tin foil packs when right handed and the right thumb doesn't work.  What a time consuming ordeal.

Mr. Turtle and his companion, another male, scour the floor of the restaurant all day, as customers come and go.  The staff feeds them their usual diet of fresh greens but they particularly seem to like the cooked vegetables from our plates.

After performing this task this morning, I thought, "Why don't I unwrap them all and put them in the plastic bottles I saved from the old pills?"  Simple reason. As we are stopped by airport or cruise security, we'll fare better with them in the labeled foil packs than in the white plastic bottles I saved that I plan to toss before we leave Morocco.

This morning, I performed the pill task earlier than usual after being awakened at 5:00 am by the crowing rooster next door. He's obviously going nuts now that its spring continuing to crow throughout the day, until dark. 

Fresh produce is offered for sale at Le Jardin including these pretty oranges.

Looming in our minds has been the car and flight we still need to book for leaving here in 27 days which invariably proves to be a lengthy process when making every effort to get a good deal.  We postponed doing booking these two items as we considered the possibility of leaving a few days earlier.  Now, that we've re-framed our thinking, we're content to stay until our departure date of the 15th of May.

In addition, we still have four more family members to book for Hawaii as we continue to watch rates on a daily basis.  We plan to have their bookings completed by the first week in May.

Notice the two buds growing behind the flower.  Photo taken from a tree in Le Jardin a restaurant we've found that stays open at all hours.
Yesterday, we created a detailed spreadsheet listing all the places we'd like to visit in the next year including prices and details of possible cruises and the flights to travel to those locations, the cost of rent, rental cars and other expenses.  As a result, we created a budget for the next year.  It feels great to have accomplished this task.

When realizing that the cost of our "wish list" was more than we're comfortable spending, we knew that the next step in the process was to whittle it down to an acceptable level. That it itself is a time consuming process.  However, that business related part of me still enjoys creating and updating spreadsheets. Good thing. It's definitely not within Tom's skill set or desire to learn.

A hand carved head on display at Le Jardin.
Assigning tasks to each of us helps to avoid redundancy.  At the moment, Tom is researching future travels while I document his research.  This works well for us.  I'm researching the remaining flights for our family, while Tom keeps checking our booked cruises for rate changes.  (If prices drop, we get the benefit of the lowered price, if done so prior to 90 day before sailing).

As a result of the division of tasks, neither of us, ever feels there is an imbalance in responsibility, very important in keeping peace when together around the clock.  Resentment over the balance of responsibility is often a source of disharmony in relationships which has never been an issue for us.
As I shot this photo while this parakeet in a cage at Le Jardin shook her tail feathers.
Without a doubt, I spend more time "working" each day as I write and post photos.  But, the fact that it is a pleasant task, doesn't make it feel as if it's work.

As much as life for us "retired" folks may seem like a walk in the park, most of yours and our days are filled with tasks and responsibilities, none of which we can easily ignore or postpone.
This guy refused to awaken from his nap while I took these photos.
Maybe next time our yes, hard working, still working, family members or friends comment about the "easy" lives of retirement, they can ask us how we spend our days.  Then, perhaps, they may realize it is not as simple or easy as it appears.  Sadly, they eventually find out how difficult it is when we get so old that we can no longer perform our own tasks, and they have to take over.

It's for all of the reasons we must grab at every moment we can, finding joy, pleasure and meaning in our lives.  And, it's for this very reason, that we find ourselves in Morocco in spring of 2014, living life to the fullest, the best way that we can.


Photo from one year ago today, April 18, 2013:
Photo Tom took from our balcony at sunrise, as our ship made it's way to Sam Juan, Puerto Rico where it spent the day.  For details of this date, please click here.

Tom's haircut...A razor...A ritual...A rip off, so says Tom...Our own fault...

Tom, before his haircut.
On Tuesday late afternoon, we headed out with two missions in mind; one find a barbershop so Tom could get a haircut and two; find a restaurant where we could have suitable dinner.  Madame Zahra was ill making dining in the riad not an option.

As we nudged our way through the crowds in the souks, we worked our way to a less busy area where we'd previously seen a string of tiny barbershops. 
Tom, getting his haircut in the barbershop in the souk.
Each shop had one guy sitting on a stool outside trying to lure takers inside while the actual barber hung onto the doorway, hoping to see a passersby show interest in purchasing their wares, neatly stacked on an outdoor table. Neither of them hesitate to bark at prospective customers. 

In their minds, everyone is a possible customer whether walking by quickly to avoid drawing attention to themselves, or those taking a leisurely stroll eyes flying from shop to shop, perpetually seeking the next great "deal."  Then there is everyone in between, like us, looking for something but trying desperately to appear not to be.
The barbershop was clean and well equipped.
The first barbershop we encountered, appearing clean and well kept, we entered as Tom immediately asked the price. "100 dirhams!" shouted the barber as we entered the small space.

Tom looked at me for a reaction.  This was his deal.  I was staying out of it.  US $12.31 for a haircut?  Is that so bad?  Tom didn't flinch, based on similar prices he'd paid in other countries.  Tom said, "Yes, but are photos OK?" as he pointed to my camera.  The barber agreed.

Tom accepted the offered cup of sweet tea, an apparent tradition in barbershops in Morocco.
I wondered why he didn't bothered to negotiate.  But, knowing that if Tom was agreeable to a price, he wouldn't try to negotiate.

Mohamed, the barber, spoke little English.  The friendly little guy outside the door spoke some English.  And the process began.
Clumps of Tom's hair fell to the floor.
The first thing I noticed was that there was no sink in the shop, similar to what Tom experienced as a kid.  At that point, I also realized that none of the equipment would be sanitary.  I remembering the haircut Tom had in Belize a year ago while he sat outdoors on a plastic chair under a tree, raised up to the proper height with cement blocks and I kept my mouth shut. 

As soon as Tom was seated in the barber chair, Mohamed carefully draped him, ensuring no hair would fall into the neck of his shirt or on his clothing.  I sat mesmerized at his care in the draping.  With boys of my own and attending haircuts with Tom since our travels began, I'd yet to see such attention to detail
I was mesmerized by the speed of the haircut and forgot to take a photo during the process. By the time the shave began, I was back at it.

After Tom was draped, Mohamed moved to the back of the narrow room, pulling out what appeared to be sanitary wipes as he wiped his own face, neck, arms and hands.  I wondered if he'd wiped off the equipment after the last customer but, again, I kept my mouth shut.  Mohamed motioned to me to be seated in the few chairs that lined the wall.

Tom sat patiently as Mohamed busied himself with his back to us.  We looked at each other wondering what was next.  Moments later, he turned around, handing us each a small glass of tea. In Morocco, tea is typically consumed in small glasses, not cups. 
Tom seemed to enjoy the shave.  In any case, it was worth it.
As he handed a glass of tea to me, I asked in French to the best of my limited ability, "Est ce que le thé sucré?" asking if there was sugar in the tea.  When he responded "Oui," I responded, "Non merci," gracefully declining his offer.  I can't have sugar.  He seemed to understand by the apologetic look on my face. 

Tom, who never drinks hot tea graciously accepted the glass, taking a few sips, desperately trying to avoid a look of disdain on his face.  I chuckled to myself.
Mohamed was also quick while shaving handling the straight razor with expertise.
So far, we'd been in the barbershop for ten minutes without a single hair from Tom's head falling to the floor.  However, respectful of customs everywhere we travel and the fact that we weren't in a hurry, we patiently waited as he performed his customary rituals, making no comments to one another.

Finally, Mohamed pulled out an electric hair clipper, plugging it in, approaching Tom and began buzzing away.  I wondered if Tom was going to end up with a buzz cut but again kept my mouth shut. 
Haircut done. Almost done with the shave as Tom relaxed.
I'd never seen anyone so fast and so adept with an hair clipper.  I wondered if scissors would ever come into play.  A short time later, he grabbed a pair of scissors out of a wooden box and here, again, snipping with an expertise I'd never seen in any stylist or barber.

When done with the expertly done haircut which was not a buzz cut, much to my pleasure, he asked Tom if he wanted a shave to which Tom shook his head to a yes, never asking the price.  Honestly, not familiar with the cost of a shave, we figured it would either be reflected in our generous tip or a reasonable add on to the 100 dirhams, perhaps in the 50 dirham range.  How long could it take to shave him?

None the less, it was a good haircut. 
Tom later informed me he'd never had a shave in a barbershop, much to my surprise.  After the meticulous shave and clean up, Mohamed unwrapped Tom, asking him if he was happy in broken English.  Tom and I both nodded yes enthusiastically.

"What!" Tom said, thinking he meant 30 dirham additional for the shave which would have been a total bill of 130 dirhams, US $16.00, plus a tip for a total of US $20, a fair price based on local prices of products and services.
A short time later, we entered the restaurant for dinner.
Mohamed insisted on the 300 dirhams, showing us the amount on his cell phone at which point the little guy outside sitting on the stool came inside. We felt the total of US $36.89 was way too much.  The look on Tom's face was more one of disappointment than anger.  What had been a pleasant experience turned into a manipulative rip off.  How could the 8 minute shave cost twice as much as the 25 minute haircut?

Then, Tom's ire kicked in and he said, "200 dirhams! No more."  Mohamed looked at me, then Tom and then accepted the 200 dirham as we walked out in somewhat of a huff.

The views from the restaurant rooftop.
It was our own fault.  One of us should have chimed in when he suggested the shave, negotiating it at the time thus avoiding the feeling of being taken advantage of.  Plain and simple.

All in all, the haircut and shave, well done for sure, came to US $24.63, not bad by US standards although high based on Moroccan pricing.  With all of our travels, you'd think we'd have figured this out by now! 
More views from restaurant rooftop.
Good grief!  It's not a lot of money in the realm of things but it was the principal more than anything.  Tom was frustrated with himself less over the money and more over the fact that he failed to negotiate.

Later in the restaurant, his mood was one I'd seen before, one of self recrimination. "Let is go," I assured him.  "It's no big deal.  You got a great haircut and a shave, well deserved with how little you ever spend on yourself."
"Besides," I continued, "now we're even."
Palm trees are occasionally seen in the Medina.
"Even for what?" he asked.

"I paid too much for the belt I purchased a few weeks ago when you grumbled that I didn't negotiate."

"Yep." he said, "We are even, aren't we?"

We grabbed our menus contemplating what we'd order for dinner, smiles on our faces.


By the way, this morning we asked Adil how much is should have been for a haircut and shave.  He told us the total should have been 70 dirhams, US $8.62. Oh.


Photo from one year ago today, April 17, 2013:

We were waiting to clear immigrations in order to get off the ship in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands where I was meeting up with an old friend, a former Minnesotan, who'd lived there for many years.  Once cleared, Tom walked with me to our meeting point leaving me to visit with my friend.  A few hours later, he met up with me for the long walk back to the ship.  For details of this story, please click here.