Are we back in Belize or Kenya? What's going on?


In between some of the souks, there are outdoor areas where many locals may be offering their wares.  We've seen boxes of products arriving from Bangladesh and China.  Shopping tourists often assume that all of the offered products are made locally. Some are, but not all.
When we arrived in Belize over a year ago, our first week spent in the little cottage on the beach, (until we moved out a week later), I suffered with over 100 bites from what is referred to as "no-see-ums" commonly known as sand flies. 

Once we moved to the fabulous LaruBeya we'd only have to go indoors at dusk to avoid being bit and wear repellent when outside at night.  Later, in Italy, with no screens on the windows or AC, the flies dined on me day and night, eventually requiring me to wear the BugsAway clothing, leaving me hot as I was overly dressed in the heat of summer.
Shop owners and workers often play with their smart phones as they await the next customer.
In Kenya, it was mosquitoes, making it necessary for me to wear insect repellent 24 hours a day.  In South Africa, it was mosquitoes, referred to as "mozzies," again requiring me to wear repellent at all times that buzzed around my head but not nearly as badly as they had in Kenya.

When we arrived in Morocco two months ago, it was cool, mostly in the 60's during the day, cooler at night.  Without a bug in sight, I thought that for awhile I was home free with no biting insects.  I was kidding myself.

As spring arrived this past month, almost on queue with the weather warming more and more each day, I awoke 10 days ago with no less than 25 bites on my right arm and hand.
This appears to be an abandoned construction site.
I sleep on my left side with my right arm draped over an extra pillow placed perpendicular to my body. This pillow provides relief for my bad right shoulder. As a result my right arm is outside the covers most of the night.  I didn't see a single insect fly by the screen of my phone as I'd read a book each night.  What was biting me?

Itching like crazy with neither repellent or itch relief on hand from when we'd lightened our load, I searched online for the source of my dismay...the lowly sand fly, aka "no-see-ums" commonly called the phlebotomine sand flies.  Nasty little invisible buggers!

These are no simple bites.  These are viscous bites leaving raised hot, red, swollen nodules that itch beyond belief, eventually to ooze if rubbed or scratched even in the slightest.  Oh, good grief.  Here we go again as I wondered, why me and not Tom? 


Hundreds of years of wear and tear is evident in certain areas.

In finding this article from the Smithsonian Institute, the answer is clear.  I am a Type 0 blood type, twice as likely as Tom's Type A.  Plus, I must have a genetic factor.  My two sisters suffer with the same tendency to be bitten.

After reading through the above article I feel confident the answer to the dilemma lies therein explaining my propensity to being bit in general, let alone attracting biters away from Tom.  He often explains that when I leave the room, they flock around him in my absence until I return.

Unable to find repellent at the pharmacy we tried in the Medina, I've resorted to being totally covered in clothing around the clock.  Sand flies, invisible to the eye are too small to bite through clothing or blankets.  As a result, I've been wearing one of Tom's white long sleeved BugsAway shirts to bed at night with my arms well covered and during the day wearing my own BugsAway shirt, jeans and socks.
This shop sells attractive tiles sinks and basins.

Now, completely covered they've resorted to biting my hands during the day and again during the night.  A few days ago Adil brought a plug in device for the bedroom that continually emits a repellent.  We keep the drapes covering the doorway to the bedroom closed at all times, as I've instructed Madame and Oumaima to do the same each day after cleaning our bedroom. 

These combined measures appear to have improved the situation.  But, I'm still getting bites on my hands and fingers.  Nothing is more itchy and annoying than bites on one's knuckles or between the fingers.  As I sit here in the salon at this moment, I can't see them but they surely hover around me avoiding my bug repellent shirt instead feasting on my hands.  I no longer scratch after reading that scratching exacerbates the length of time the bites remain "active."  I knew this.  I needed to be reminded.

After 10 days, the original bites continue to itch and the newer ones are revving up for days to come.  In reading information about these nasty critters, the itching may last for weeks or months. 
Off the beaten path, second hand items are offered for sale on the ground as the local seller hunches on the ground, hoping for a sale.

Today, if necessary we'll stop at every pharmacy in the Medina to find repellent and anti itch cream.  If we find the repellent I'll wear it around the clock, reloading it on my hands each time I wash.  Perhaps, if the repellent works well I'll be able to stop wearing hot, bulky clothing as the weather is now into the scorching 90F degrees (32.3C) almost every day.

In the realm of things...no big deal!  But, for those prone to being bit, one must be prepared when traveling.  How did we end up unprepared?  When packing to leave South Africa, my tube of Cortisone cream was almost empty and expired so I tossed it, thinking I could easily buy another.  When I used the last drop of repellent on the last day, again, I thought replacing it would be no issue.

Also, after reading about insects in Marrakech nothing was mentioned about these pesky critters.  Once we arrived, not seeing a fly or bee anyway in the riad with the center courtyard open to the sky, I thought there would be no issue.  Little did I know.

A few nights ago, my entire right arm was hot and swollen from all the bites.  Using antibiotic ointment, I dabbed at each of the bites before putting on Tom's shirt for bed.  In the morning it was better.  These types of bites may become infected making it important stay mindful as to their condition.  Initially scratching them, even gently over my clothing, proved to result in further damage.

Caught up in the discomfort of itching results in losing valuable time better spent enjoying our surroundings and time together. I've learned my lesson to always have anti-itch cream and repellent on hand wherever we may be.

Is it any wonder that there would be sand flies in the desert...duh...the sand.  Good thing I didn't ride a camel on the desert sands as originally planned!  Our change of plans turned out better than we'd expected!

_____________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, April 30, 2013. With no photos taken that particular day, following is a photo from the prior day:

A tourist boat made to look like an old pirate ship passed by our ship, the Norwegian Epic as we watched from our balcony.  For details of the story posted on April 30, 2013, please click here.

 

Hard realities of a vagabond lifestyle during sorrowful times...

   
 As we walked outside between two souks, we spotted these newly dyed bunches of yarn hanging on this fence to dry.
In a perfect world, we could always be there for people we love when life happens. In the past 24 hours, a daughter-in-law's father passed away and a beloved friend has gone into hospice care in Minnesota. 

Unable to be at their side, our hearts are heavy for their sorrow.  We're so far away. 

Tassels are a commonly sold item in Morocco often used in decorating the heavy drapery found in many of the homes.
We knew that when we decided to travel the world that we wouldn't be there for our family and friends during some of life's painful challenges, special celebrations and milestone birthdays as much as we'd like to be able to do so.

We purchased insurance that provides for the cost of traveling for up to $5000 in the event of the loss of an immediate family member.  Tom has seven remaining siblings all older than he and I have two sisters, one older, one younger. 
Mondays are less busy in the Medina as many of the shops received boxes of merchandise in order to restock after the busy weekend. 
The insurance doesn't cover the cost of the spouse traveling along. Nor does it cover the cost in the event of a loss of an in-law.This is never an easy topic to discuss with loved ones.  Tom and I realize that we have to face the eventually of sorrowful situations occurring and how we will handle them with us so far away. 

On occasion, we review the possibility of these potential scenarios to ensure we both agree and understand on how we'll handle these dreaded circumstances to avoid stress. Also, should one of us have to leave due these scenarios, the other will be left behind alone in a foreign land.
Often products such as these offered for sale are placed on the ground in the Big Square.
An added element of angst in a family is when a plan is not in place for last minute decisions often resulting in unmitigated stress and disharmony among family members.  We've all seen this happen, time and again.


As we continue on, we are faced with the loss of family and friends for which we have no insurance enabling us to be at their side during sorrowful times.  With the high cost of last minute flights and the additional costs this could result in expenses easily into the $5000 to $8000 range or more. 


Yesterday, it was pleasant to walking through the uncrowded Big Square to a pharmacy to buy shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste and contact lens solution for US $11.20, MAD 91.
Wherever one may live, those we love may be living across the country or in our case across the world, leaving us unable to be at their side during difficult times.  Few pensioners have the means and many don't possess the good health to be able travel during these times.

In our hearts and minds, we feel and share in their sadness and sorrow wherever we may be, as they strive ease their way through the grief laden times, hoping in time they'll come out on the other side filled with wonderful memories and peace.
_____________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, April 29, 2013, was not available.  We'd posted at night in the dark as we traveled through the Straits of Gibraltar.  This photo was taken the prior day:
This boat delivered what is referred to as a "pilot" to navigate the ship to the pier in Madeira
Portugal, where we docked for the day.  For details of the story without photos on April 29, 2013, please click here.

Drinking alcohol in Morocco...Not readily available in Islamic countries...


Baskets of spices outside a spice shop in the souk.
Tom is not a big drinker.  On occasion, if readily available, he may enjoy a couple of bottles of beer or a few of his favorite cocktails. When planning to live in Morocco, he had little concern when we discovered that buying a bottle of his favorite Courvoisier, which he mixes with Sprite Zero over ice, was not an easy purchase in this non-drinking Muslim country.

He dismissed the concept of drinking for the two and a half months without giving it a thought.  Out of curiosity, we checked prices of his brand at the grocery store at a cost of US $60, MAD 486 for the VS, not VSOP, for a smaller bottle than he usually purchases. He said, "Nah, it's just not worth it." 
Leather sandal are a common offering in the souks.
Yes, he's quite frugal when it comes to himself but never when it comes to me.  Then again, my wants and needs are minimal these days so I have followed suit in frugality for myself as well.  (Over the past few weeks, I've been using a Q-tip in order to get the last remnants out of a favorite tube of lipstick. Perhaps, the difficulty in replacing it is more the intent than the frugality).

Instead of buying a bottle, I suggested he have a few drinks when we dine out.  The restaurants we frequent offer beer, wine and his favorite cocktail.  But, the other problem in ordering cocktails in restaurants is the ice.  All of them use tap water when making ice.  With the risk of intestinal distress the only ice we use is that which we make in our riad using bottled water to fill the tiny trays in the household's tiny freezer. 

Tourists are often attracted to the varied choices of leather handbags.
The average cost of his cocktail in the restaurants with the Sprite Zero is US $14.17, MAD 115.  If he were to have only two cocktails without ice, which he doesn't care for, the cost at almost US $30, MAD 243 is ridiculous, costing as much as our food, which in itself in not a bargain in Marrakech. 

Beer, a good second choice, is an average of US $7.00, MAD 57, again in a smaller bottle.  He decided to forgo beer as well.  Why bother?  He feels it's just not worth it.  For me, it's not an issue.  I don't drink alcohol, although at times I do wish I could, especially red wine. But my health supersedes my desire to drink, a decision I made many years ago.
Carry on leather bags also appeal to the tourist trade.
All said and done, Tom has ordered one cocktail without ice and one beer on two separate occasions when we've dined out in Marrakech, never to order again.

Another situation where we find cocktail prices outrageous is while cruising.  The cost of drinks and beer are comparable to Morocco prices and then again, Tom cringes.  Cruises offer drink packages usually around US $59, MAD 478 per person per day plus 15% gratuity. 
This clump fell onto the floor of the riad overnight.  With spring in the air and all the birds flying in the house, we assumed it may be the makings of a bird's nest.
When we did the math for these cruise packages, there was no way buying one made sense for Tom.  He only has a few cocktails at dinner when we're gathered around a sharing table or dining on our own.  He never drinks alcohol during the day so he'd have to drink six cocktails at dinner to break even, seven to be ahead.  Forcing oneself to drink to justify the "package" hardly makes sense to us.  There are non-alcoholic beverage packages that make no sense for me.  I don't drink sugary beverages, juice or soda.

In a mere 17 days we'll be in Madeira, grocery shopping the next day with our late arrival.  With enthusiasm, we anticipate purchasing all the foods, snack and beverages that we desire.  Perhaps, at "happy hour," we'll lounge on the veranda overlooking the ocean and once again, feel like we're "home," wherever that may be. 
______________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, April 28, 2013:
The view of the island of Madeira where we'll arrive in only 17 days, flying from Marrakech.  Our ship docked in Madeira for one day a year ago today, enabling us to visit with Gina, the owner of the house and to see our future home in person.  We couldn't have been more pleased.  The house is away from this busy port town of Funchal.  For details of that date with more photos, please click here.

Observations of gender roles in Marrakech...


Not our photo.  Many elaborate beaded dresses such as this are worn during special occasion by Moroccan women.
Often we westerners have the perception that women in male dominated countries are unhappy, making every effort to change their status. 

Always curious as to the culture in foreign lands, we've taken special care in observing gender roles in the past two months we've spent in Marrakech, Morocco.  Please keep in mind that our comments here today are observational, not so much opinions on how or why it could or should be different.

Nor are our comments intended as a "soap box" to vent personal feelings or frustrations over the lack of equality in our home country; equal pay for men and women in the workplace, equal job opportunities in government and the corporate world...la la la...It could go on and on.  But, I won't.  That's not the intent of our daily conversations.

Not our photo.  These typical Moroccan  dresses are actually caftan style, very loose and unfitted.  The vendors pin them in the back to make them appear to be fitted to the body.
Instead, we prefer to share the observations we've made in our extended stay in Marrakech, in a highly traditional lifestyle, of a highly traditional culture, embedded in Islamic customs, as alive today as it may have been hundreds of years ago.

We neither criticize nor extol the virtues of an Islamic life and the gender roles clearly defined as one wanders through the souks and the Big Square of the Medina.  The differential of roles is clearly illustrated in a single foray through the Medina, let alone our almost daily outings.

Here is what we've observed:
  1. Men work the shops in the souks.  On only a few occasions, have we seen women sitting on the little stool awaiting customers.  Our perception was that they were filling in for an otherwise preoccupied male owner or manager, due to illness or other reasons.
  2. Men are the servers in restaurants while women are the hostess or cashier. 
  3. Men are the cooks/chefs in restaurants.  With my way of eating we've met many cooks, all male.
  4. Women predominate in the pharmacies and grocery stores.
  5. Men predominate in the clothing and shoe shops, both in the souks, the Medina and outside the Medina, including in women's fashion shops.
  6. Women are housekeepers and household cooks while the men handle money and side tasks, such as is the case with Samir and Adil.  Oumaima and Madame Zahra perform housekeeping tasks, cleaning, laundry, food.  If a light bulb needs to be replaced, it is Adil who attends to this task.
  7. Modern young women wear traditional western attire while others maintain modesty keeping arms, legs and heads covered. The age of the women underneath the traditional abaya may vary.  But many women wear the djellaba, a long loose hooded caftan with sleeves, often colorful with patterns.  Unable to determine the age, one expects that the fully covered women are married, about to be married and more mature.
  8. Modern young men dress in stylish dress pants and pressed shirts, seldom wearing jeans when working.  Older or more traditional young men wear the traditional garb, the djellaba.  In either case, they appear well dressed with attention to detail.
  9. The roles for women are firmly entrenched in history and tradition.  Young women stay with the family until marriage which is often arranged.  Women are brought up to hold marriage and family as their life's goal.  Although education and working outside the home is becoming more common.
  10. Although we've seen many men in groups commiserating over tea in cafes, we have never seen traditionally dressed Muslim women gathering in restaurants or cafes.  Typically, women are not allowed to go out alone at night, although men do.  (Muslims do not drink alcohol which we'll be writing about tomorrow and how it may affect a tourist while in Morocco).
Of course, there are many more details of gender roles in Morocco.  But, in our time here, we've had little opportunity to interview or discuss these sensitive matters with local women.  This well written article and more offer additional details of life for men and women in Morocco.

Not our photo.  Similar male attire
if often seen in Morocco.
An important factor we've observed is when a question or issue manifests, the response is directed to me, not Tom.  For example, when we do visit a shop, even if looking at a male orientated product, all the conversation is with me.  Our perception is that, although many of these traditions are well established, women are held in high regard as decision makers when it comes to shopping.

Not our photo.  This is another commonly seen style of djellaba.
Moroccan women do not exude a sense of discontentment with their status, although most certainly, women in every country may feel suppressed and undermined. There is a general demeanor in Marrakech of acceptance and contentment of the defined roles for both men and women.
Not our photo.  It is fairly common to see women fully covered with only slits for the eyes.
Oddly, after reviewing the above ten points, we realized that many of these prevail in other countries including our own.  The world is a long way from equality.  It is often culture and tradition that play vital roles in preventing the stance and opportunity to prevail in most societies. 

Male and female roles are often driven by our DNA.  Observing animals in the wild for a full three months, the definition of these roles were clearly evident in their behavior in everyday life.  
________________________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, April 27, 2013:
It wasn't until later in 2013 that we posted photos almost everyday as we do now with a few rare exceptions.  As a result, this photo from an earlier date while we were aboard the Norwegian Epic.
On most long cruises, the ship's captain and other officers conduct a meeting for the passengers explaining the operations and management of the ship.  After having been on several cruises, we'd lost interest in attending these meeting, taking this photo as we leaned over the railing on an upper floor.  For the story for April 27, 2013, please click here.
 

Time is ticking away...19 days and counting until departure...

 
Orange trees are often seen growing in the center courtyards of restaurant including where
we dined last night, Arabe.
As we rapidly approach departure time, now only 19 days away, we marvel at how quickly the time begins to fly as usual, regardless of our level of enjoyment and activity.

Reducing our load over the past year, packing is no longer a dreaded task, requiring only three hours or less in order to place everything into the Space Bags from which we'll suck the air using our little handheld vacuum. 

Once we're down to one week, I'll begin sorting and folding, With all of our clothing inside cupboards as opposed to drawers.  In a cupboard the clothing seem to get messy.
A quiet area in a souk while on our way to dinner.  Although there were no crowds in this
area last night, we have to be careful where we walk with many grates, manhole covers and tripping hazards.
Fortunately, TAP (Portugal) doesn't have strict baggage requirements making this flight and the next when we leave on August 1st to fly to Paris, less of a concern than ever in the past. 

Yesterday, I placed a shipping order with our mailing service located in our home state of Nevada, Maillinkplus.com, to ship all the supplies we've ordered for a shipment to be sent to Madeira.  When we need items, we take advantage of free shipping when available by various websites having it all shipped to the mailing service. 

Many US websites don't ship outside the US.  Nor, do we want packages arriving piecemeal when the risk of loss many be high when shipping oversees. As a result, with our large mailbox at the mailing service each year, we can accumulate all of our orders waiting for an upcoming shipping to wherever we may be at the time.  The staff at Maillinkplus.com removes all the boxes and shipping materials, placing the individual items in one large box to be shipped to us.
The view from our table at Arabe Restaurant, where we dine each week. The waiters have come to know us always offering excellent service. 
Once they inform us of the cost, we place the amount we owe into our account with Maillinkplus.com which they use to pay the shipping costs.  They research the best pricing for us.  In this particular case, using UPS Express is less expensive than DHL or FedEx and safer and more reliable than USPS.

Madeira is an island 604 miles from the coast of Portugal.  As is the case with any island, the cost of shipping is higher than one might expect.  For us, its a cost we've budgeted.  When our order arrives, we'll post photos of its contents.

Gina, the lovely property owner of the house in Ribeira Brava lives across the street from the house we're renting.  The package will be sent to her house to hold until our arrival.
Another view from our table.  Deep colors are commonly seen on walls
in various establishments.
Need I say that we're excited to arrive in Madeira?  The upcoming beautiful contemporary house overlooking the ocean will be a dramatic change from the crowded, busy lifestyle of living in a souk for the past two and a half months. 

Although enriched by the experience of the cultural differences in Morocco, we anticipate the slower pace of Madeira with enthusiasm.  With a rental car for the entire period we'll have the freedom to explore its many treasures on our own time.  With summer approaching, Madeira has much to offer as well as a quiet respite we'll surely relish in our new surroundings.

Last night we headed out for dinner, once again making our way through the busy souks.  By late Friday afternoons the weekend tourists fill the souks anxious to shop, negotiate and buy what they may perceive as the "deals of the century." 
My dinner, referred to a Kefta, includes meatballs, tomato sauce and eggs dropped into the hot mixture, all befitting my way of eating.  I always order a side of grilled vegetables.
No offense is intended regarding this common tourist activity.  At one point in my life, I too, loved the shopping in foreign lands, falling prey to the purported "bargains." The shop owners are on alert harking their wares to those shoppers whose eyes happen to steal a peek at their products, all of which are neatly displayed ad ready for sale minus any marked prices. 

Last night, after dinner we stopped in a shop to see if we could find a leather computer backpack.  With this Tom could carry both of our laptops leaving his hands free.  In the past we were opposed to backpacks due to the risk of someone putting something illegal into them or taking something out.  But, as time marched on, we've come to realize that a lock would be ideal solution if in fact we found the correct style.

Luckily, the shop owner spoke some English seeming to understand what we were looking for.  When he didn't have what we wanted, he asked us to wait while he left the shop, returning five minutes later with a leather laptop bag to which he'd attached backpack straps. 
Tom's pasta dinner, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese includes a side of bread with no vegetables. He doesn't care for vegetables except green beans and carrots which he'll eat when Madame Zahra cooks.
As a courtesy, Tom tried it on although I could tell that no way would this setup work as a backpack.  The shop owner explained that he'd work on it overnight making it a suitable backpack with the proper positioning of the straps, even adding padding.

Out of curiosity, I asked him the price of the backpack considering the adjustments he'd make overnight.  He quickly quoted 700 dirhams, US $86.18.  Without giving it a thought, not interested in the bag, Tom said, "Too much," as he grabbed my hand and walked away.
Colorful flip flops and shoes taken while on the move.  Most vendors won't
allow photos of their wares.
Immediately, the shop owner yelled after us, "100 dirhams ( US $12.31), monsieur!"  Wow!  That's quite a price reduction!  In any case, the bag wouldn't work for us and we left. 

In a way, I felt sorry for him.  For him to willingly drop the price to what would surely give him little to no profit was evidence of a desperate need to make a sale.  With many of the shops frequently empty with numerous "lookie loo's" drifting by, we can see how difficult it would be for a vendor to make a living.

Most of the vendors spent 12 hour days sitting on little stools outside their shops hoping to make a sale.  The vendors are  usually men.  Women are rarely seen selling in the shops although they may be found in the Big Square offering baked goods or non-permanent tattoos while they sit on little stools under  umbrellas. 

Tomorrow, we'll be discuss our observations on the obvious distinct roles of men and women in Morocco, a real eye opener for us.
______________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, April 26, 2013:

Due to the storm, taking photos was not a priority on this particular date.  As an alternative, here is a photo taken the prior day. For detail of the post on April 26, 2013, please click here.
Every night, while we were at dinner, the cabin steward would place an animal made of towels on the bed.  This was a monkey. Also, there would be chocolates on our pillows and an agenda for the next day's activities. 

More new Marrkech photos...The saga at sea story continues....One year ago today...Recalling an adventure....



A small black cat was cuddled into this massive collection of yarn.
It was a year ago that we were traversing the Atlantic Ocean aboard the top heavy newer ship, the Norwegian Epic.  This particular ship proved to be our least favorite of all the ships we experienced after eight cruises in 2013.

However, the Epic served us well in the manner whereby the captain handled her during an intense storm at sea which he later explained was one of the worst he'd seen.

During the storm, the captain mentioned 30 foot, 9.14 meters swells, a fabrication in an effort to keep the passengers calm, later apologizing for not being upfront.  When in fact, the waves were actuality 50 feet, 15.24 meters.

The wear and tear in the hundreds of year's old souks is evident as we walk from
souk to souk.
In the prior four months, we'd been in four cruises and had our "sea legs" never having suffered any motion sickness.  Much to our surprise, we had no motion sickness during this storm or anytime after on the remaining cruises with many more yet to come.  

In only four months from now we'll be boarding another transatlantic crossing.  Less than a month later, we'll make a partial crossing of the Pacific Ocean on our way to Hawaii.

After witnessing many ill passengers and crew retreating to their cabins over the three days of the storm, we felt fortunate not to be ill.  A smaller group of us diehards continue to enjoy day to day life aboard ship during the storm, as we raucously swayed from side to side, using our hands to support ourselves as necessary while hanging on to walls, furnishings or crew in our path.
These clothing items were offered for sale on clotheslines.
Dining twice a day aboard ship, was another experience.  Extra staff was available to assist us in maneuvering our breakfast trays and beverages from the buffet line and beverage carts to our tables. 

At one point, my extra hot coffee spilled on my hand resulting in a scalding, although not serious enough to seek medical care.  I was so wrapped up in the excitement, I hardly noticed the discomfort that only lasted a few hours.

We had a favorite booth in the buffet dining area which magically was available for most of the 15 days aboard the Epic.  Well padded and comfortable, we ended up spending most of our mornings during the three days of the storm in that booth, as we wrote here each day which provided us and our laptops with much needed stabilization.
Occasionally, we'll see signs pointing to popular destinations in the souk.
We continued to dine in the main dining room each night, sharing tables with other passengers as we commiserated over our personal experiences during the days of the storm.  Many of us had braved attending a few seminars during this period, in awe of how well the speakers and  video equipment managed while bouncing about.

Were we ever scared?  I was, during the first night of the storm when the creaking in our cabin was outrageously loud and the sliding shower doors rolled back and forth all night long.  Add the fact that our belongings were falling off the shelves, I ended up staying awake most of the night. 
Many vendors combine item types to attract more tourists.
When I did finally fall asleep for a short period, I had a dream that water was running down the hallway outside our door which was not the case.  It had only been a few days earlier that we'd watched the news story about a Carnival cruise that had lost power and supposedly had sewage and water running through the halls. 

The next morning morning, I called guest services asking about the noise in the cabin's ceiling.  Was something broken or wrong?  No, they assured me, it was a result of the storm causing the creaking throughout the ship. (Of course, Tom was able to sleep through the entire experience).   From that point on my fear dissipated as we embraced the excitement, actually enjoying the adventure of it all.



It was a back-to-back cruise with 11 days at sea and then another four days in the western Mediterranean Sea.  We stayed in the same cabin when the second four days began, having to exit for a few hours to later re-board the ship, a requirement when linking two cruises together.  Our luggage stayed in our cabin during this period.

This area in the souk is particularly vulnerable during bad weather.

Three full days of the storm ensued.  It was easier to maneuver the hallways and entertainment areas of the ship as opposed to spending time in the cabin.  As a result, we spent our days and evening talking with other passengers in the dining and lounge areas who, like us, suffered no ill effects.  As we all bounced about in our chairs, the conversation was certainly lively and animated. 

It was during this cruise that we had the opportunity to meet several wonderful couples, some of whom we remain in touch via our website, Facebook and email.  We imagine that they too, will always recall the excitement of this cruise.

After the storm ended the captain finally admitted to the 50 foot, 15.24 meter swells none of which was surprising.  All in all, it was an experience that most certainly prepared us for future storms at sea.  We heard many cruisers admit that they aren't willing to go on a transatlantic cruise due the risks of such storms. 


The view from the spot where we dined on Wednesday at one of our favorite restaurants, Le Jardin, located in the souk a 20 minute walk from our location.
For us, the adventure was worth it all adding confidence for both of us with our newfound ability to adapt to less than perfect experiences, some of which we anticipate are awaiting us in the future.  As long as we are healthy and safe on the other side, we proceed with enthusiasm leaving concern regarding storms at sea in the wake of the Norwegian Epic's storm at sea in April, 2013.

_________________________________

Photo from one year ago, April 25, 2013:

We shot this photo while sitting on a window sill on the guest services level of the ship as the
waves pounded against the window on the first day of the storm at sea on the Norwegian Epic.  For more details from this date, please click here.

Why? Mind or body? Home and heart...


Yesterday as we walked the souks deciding where to dine, these varying rooflines of a courtyard caught my eye.
I've been awake since 5:00 am after Mr. Rooster began his crowing for the day which continues until sundown.  Without the option of puttering around the kitchen, I stay in bed, reading my mindless but entertaining activities on my phone.

At 7:00 am, Tom started laughing in his sleep.  Who laughs aloud in their sleep?  Only Tom, my personal Good Humor Man.  Quietly, I whisper, "What's so funny?"

Through more fits of laughter, he mutters in a groggy voice "I was sleeping and laughing?"  We both laughed.  He proceeds to tell me about his funny dream, about his former job of 42 years on the railroad and the laughing that was a part of his everyday. 

We're curious what lies behind the many doors in the Medina.  Are tourists occupying this riad or locals?
As we lay there, in idle chatter, the call to prayer and the rooster's crow wafts through the air simultaneously and we laugh some more. 

As the high from the laughter runs through me, rampant thoughts run through my mind as I finally get up ready to start my day, Tom following behind.  I ask myself, "What am we doing in Morocco?  Why are we so comfortable being nomads traveling from country to country?  Why does it not bother either of us that we haven't seen a doctor or a dentist in almost over 16 months with nary a concern or worry?"

The answer is not simple.  It doesn't necessarily go back to the days when we decided to embark on this year's long journey as we acquired a newly discovered adventuresome streak perhaps meant to defray our fears of aging and becoming complacent.

There are endless styles of roof lines throughout the Medina.
Our reasons have evolved from a desire to "step outside the box" to those more meaningful in our minds; a profound desire to challenge ourselves, to experience life on our terms, and to feel "free." 

In reality, don't we all spend the better part of our lives performing tasks and conforming to a strict code of expectation with the ultimate intent of providing ourselves with comfort, security and a sense of well being?  Our lives are no different.

This kitten was tiny, no more than 60 days old, on its own to search for food and shelter.
The thought of avoiding the responsibility of placing the green trash can in the correct spot in the driveway each week to comply with yet another "rule" motivated us. Avoiding the necessity of blowing the snow to clear the driveway late at night after a long workday motivated us.  The avoidance of weekends and vacation days spent at Home Depot with yet another project in mind, motivated us.  For us, there was no joy in these tasks.

But, there was joy in the laughter, the companionship, the sense of exploration, the discoveries in new surroundings, the meeting new people, the learning and the stimulating our brains in a way that we'd dismissed long ago as mainly for the young. 

After hundreds of years of wear and tear, the stones crumble in certain areas, leaving an open spot for trash,  Overall, the souks are very clean.
Our bodies continue to age as an inevitable aspect to life itself as we occasionally grumble to one another about a newly discovered wrinkle or dark spot that magically appeared overnight.  But, our brains bespeak the delights of the young, full of wonder, excitement and adventure, none of which we foolishly embarked upon placing our aging bodies at risk, ensuring that we may be able to continue on.

It's ironic that both of us were in the same state of mind to be primed for this life we live and yet, we'd never once discussed "traveling the world" in our old lives.  It only became a mutual "dream" the day we decided to do it. 
The consistent shades of pink and orange are seen throughout the Medina and souks.
At times its not easy but then again, we never expected easy. In an odd way we feel that we've only just begun, as we dream and plan into the future with the excitement and enthusiasm of a child on their way to Disneyland. 

"Home is where the heart is."  Corny?  Sure.  But its true.  For now and for three more weeks from today, our home is in Morocco and our hearts...are firmly in place.

______________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, April 24, 2013:
Little did we know as we stood on our veranda, the degree of the impending storm we were
about to enter as we crossed the Atlantic Ocean.  For details of the story on this date, please click here.

Personal discovery...Impacts our future travels...More on the storm at sea...From one year ago at the end of today's post...


Oh, please...would that I could partake of this scrumptious colorful confection?  Alas, a quick peek is all that's in the cards for me. Tom said, "Red dye # whatever!  No loss!"  Food safety regulations so familiar to many of us from our home countries, may be non-existent in some countries.
With 22 days left until we depart Morocco for the exquisite island of Madeira, Portugal, our activity level in Morocco has leveled off.  We've settled into a comfortable routine with the acceptance that overly exciting experiences are not necessarily on the horizon over these remaining days.

Personal discovery becomes the adventure of the day as opposed to that of sightseeing.  An important discovery we've made these past almost eight weeks while living in Morocco, one that we suspected we each possessed, is that we are not "big city" people with crowds, honking horns, noise and traffic.
These beautiful fresh roses were on a side table as we exited the restaurant.
In our old lives, we lived in a sleepy lake town definitely befitting our way of life.
A trip to the grocery store resulted in friendly conversation with familiar faces, animated and pleased to engage.

We had the blissful experience of this same type of familiarity while recently living in South Africa.  Our expectations are high after those three months, a situation we may seldom encounter to that degree as we continue on.

There are newer areas in the souks that have been built or renovated as tourism in Marrakech increased in the past decades.
With several big cities looming in a our near future with short stints in each location, we expect those visits to revolve around sightseeing which we anticipate with enthusiasm.  After all, Paris and London for two weeks each?  What's not to love?

However, through personal discovery, we come to realize that we embrace culture when we have an opportunity to interact with the local people and their customs, which hasn't been easy to do in this hustle and bustle tourist destination of Marrakech, Morocco. 
The momentum of the crowds in the souks leaves little opportunity for stopping for photos.
Most of the locals, hard working people, are entrenched in providing products and services to the tourist trade which constitutes their livelihood, leaving no interest or time to interact with short term residents such as ourselves.

As we continue our search for the ongoing years of travel beyond May 15, 2015, we've learned a simple fact; that living in an area where we have an opportunity to meet locals and expats, is an integral part of the experience. 
Ceramic hand jeweled containers.  We don't ask for prices or we'd never get away
with the shop owners determined to make a sale.
When one thinks of it, "sightseeing," although pleasant during the process itself, is short lived.  Meeting people and making friends is a lifetime experience, we stay in close contact via email and Facebook with wonderful people we've met in our travels, a rich and fulfilling experience.

Of course we'll see the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower in Paris and, Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London in London during our upcoming visits.  However, most likely, we won't have an opportunity to make new friends while spending a mere two weeks in each location.  We've found that most tourists, other than on a cruise, have little time in cultivating friendships while spending a week or two "packing it all in."
The ancient exterior of buildings in the Medina provide architecturally interesting appeal.
Don't get me wrong...Tom and I fully entertained ourselves and each other in the remote Boveglio, Italy where not a single English speaking person was to be found within an hours long drive.  And, we were fine in Kenya, where we had little opportunity to meet people when our neighborhood consisted mostly of unoccupied houses, their owners living elsewhere during the heat of summer.  When dining out, we only encountered other tourists, busy with their own pursuits.

A reality of both of our personalities is that we are both social butterflies, easily entertained by a lively conversation whether in a large group or small.  Both Belize and South Africa provided this beyond our wildest expectations, leaving lifelong friends in their wake.  How fortunate we were!
Some shops in the souk offer second hand merchandise.
Cruising, above all, is the easiest way to meet people when we're all a captive audience dining at "shared" tables for eight or ten each night of the cruise.  One would have to be comatose not to make friends in that environment.  This fact, in itself inspires us to book cruises well into the future, cost providing.  (The prices have gone up, up, up).

At this point, we'll continue to explore the souks and narrow alleys of the Medina with an occasional trip outside by taxi both of which we both thoroughly enjoy. 
This colorful ceramic store had several tourists taking photos so we joined in.
This morning when I came downstairs to the salon where Tom was listening to this favorite radio show, my hot water for tea awaiting me in my insulated mug, I said, "It's good to see you!"  This was an expression I used every time he walked in the door after work in our old lives or when I  greeted our dogs upon returning home.

We grabbed each other's hand, as we often do when we laugh out loud, which is many times each day, realizing that my expression is a moot point in our 24/7 lifestyle these days. 
Steps leading to a furniture shop in the souk.  Of course, we'd love to enter to take photos.  But, most shop owners don't appreciate photos being taken of their wares.
Our greatest personal discovery throughout all of our travels is that we'll never tire of each other's smiling face, even when the location in which we temporarily live offers little in the way of social interaction. 
_______________________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, April 23, 2013:
This was the very beginning of the massive storm our ship encountered for three full days after dropping off an ill passenger in Bermuda taking us on a different course, taking us right into the eye of the storm.  At first we were told the waves were 30 feet, 9.14 meters, later to be described by the captain as 50 foot, 15.24 meters swells, an experience we'll never forget. For details of the beginning of this story, please click here.  This story will continue over the next three days at the end of each day's post.