Jun 30

So yes, I know it’s been nearly four months since our return from our vacation but I promised you guys the rest of the re-cap.

After packing what summer clothes we could find or buy in the middle of our winter, we packed two suitcases and brought a large empty one to hold all of our souvenirs, my sister dropped us off at the airport, and in no time, we were on our way to Marrakech. We experienced no flight delays which was nothing short of a damn miracle, especially flying out of JFK.

We arrived on HOT “winter” day and by that I mean instead of being 120 degrees, it’s only around 75 or 80. Of course, standing around in the loooong line at customs in that kind of weather makes it feel like 120 degrees. Especially when you’re wearing sweats like we were(we always fly in comfortable clothes on long trips). Finally, our passports were stamped and we went to the baggage claim and waited and waited and waited. We found one piece of our luggage and when all of the turnstyles stopped and we were the only ones left standing around, we went to the baggage claim office and turned in a claim. The man was very nice and shook our hands and welcomed us to Morroco. We were thankful he spoke such good English.

We then took a cab to our hotel and checked in. We had a really good view of the pool and of the medina in the distance. Upon our arrival, they had 5 pink roses and a large fruit basket. We pigged out on the fruit, took showers, and went to bed. We always sleep immediately upon arrival on our international trips, just to get the jetlag out of the way. We awoke and it was evening time and called down to the concierge who promised he would “take care of all the arrangments regarding our luggage”, and found that as of that time, our luggage was nowhere to be found. We were a little bummed but hey, we were in Morocco! And having already been burned twice on the whole luggage fiasco, we brought along a change of clothes in our carry-ons. We went and had a late dinner at the hotel restaurant, had a bottle of Moroccan wine, and toasted at having checked off another continent on our list.

Very early the next morning, I heard a strange sound outside our hotel room. I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out what it was. I got up out of bed and it was still dark outside, I opened our patio door and realized that it was the clerics doing their morning prayers which are broadcast all over the city from the great Katoubia Mosque. It was hauntingly beautiful and Howard and I were mesmorized. In the Muslim culture, prayers are said 5 times per day, at the same time, every day. It also reminded us of how very far away from home we really were.

Pictures from our hotel:

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It wasn’t until two days later, that our luggage finally arrived and the concierge went to fetch it and we were happy campers. We arranged to have a registered tour guide show us around the city, especially since we knew absolutely no Arabic and I was very rusty on my French. (the two languages spoken in Marrakech) Mahjoub, our guide, arrived and we were on our way. I suggested we walk everywhere which was fine with him. I began firing questions at him, wanting to know everything about him, and about Morocco. He was gracious and candid with me. Howard hung back and took some photos. Walking down the main road on our way to the great medina, I still couldn’t believe we were in such an exotic place.

Pictures from the street leading to the medina:

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We made our way in to the medina and it was stepping in to another world. The medina is basically the heart of Marrakech, and surrounded by a great wall. Thousands of years ago, it was built to keep people out. (there is a whole history lesson with this but I’ll save that for another time) The women were still in traditional Arabic and Berber dress and so were the men. There were horse-drawn carriages, donkeys pulling carts, but also motor scooters, and cars too. It was an eclectic overlapping of time periods. Of course there were also tourists, which made me feel better about being in my western world attire.

After visiting the Katobia Mosque and got over being so awestruck, we made our way to the famous DJEEMA EL FNA (I cannot phonetically spell it here, so don’t even ask) which means “square of the dead.” People were executed there as little as 100 years ago, for crimes they had committed. After public executions were banned, the square became a grand exhibition area. We saw everything from snake charmers, belly dancers, story-tellers, tattoo artists, and also many people selling food, clothing, souvenirs, etc. We paid a few dirham and had pictures taken with snakes around our necks and Howard got up close and personal with a cobra, which scared the shit out of me? but also fascinated me at the same time.

Pictures of the Katoubia Mosque and DJEEMA-EL-FNA:

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We eventually made our way to the souks which is like a big flea market of shops selling everything you would need from clothing, food, medicine, and small livestock. Thank God, we had a guide with us because one could get lost in this long narrow alleyways. People harassed us to buy things, but the guide kept them at bay, if we saw something we liked, we stopped to look.

Pictures of the entrance to the souks and the alleyways:

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Now I have to tell you right now, there is a way to shop in the souks: Buying something isn’t just picking out an item and giving the person your money.

The souk owners want to visit with you, they want you to feel comfortable, and they also want you to haggle with them. People have done this for hundreds of years. We learned this because when I went to buy a pair of Camel leather slippers, I just gave the money to the owner who named his price. He thanked me but seemed a bit disappointed. Mahjoub then told me, when we were out of earshot that, the souk owners love to haggle over the price, it’s just how it is done, if you don’t haggle, it offends them.

So, the next little souk we came to, we were prepared, because let me tell you, my husband loves to haggle. The man (all souk owners are men in their culture) will invite you to come in, serve you some mint tea (which is the tea of Morocco and is very good!), then he will whip out his little note pad, and write down a price.

You will then counter his offer. He will say something in Arabic or French like: “oh man, that’s too low, I have a business to run!” all in good humor of course, then he’ll make conversation like where you’re from, you’ll ask him about himself too, then he’ll write down another price which you’ll counter again. Sipping your mint tea, it will go on like this for a good half hour especially if it’s something expensive. Finally, you’ll write down the absolute most you’ll pay for an item and tell him that’s your final offer.

Most of the time, after a little more ribbing, and you thanking him and walking away, he’ll agree to your price, tell you what a good businessman you are, then shake your hand and thank you.

(It’s very difficult to get photos of the souks because it is considered disrespectful to take photos without asking first and then usually you will get suckered in to buying something)

It’s amazing and hilarious to watch. The men do the haggling, the women can offer advice on how much they want to spend, but it must be the men doing the haggling. I know that sounds a bit chauvinistic but this has been their culture for many years. They are never disrespectful to women, and in fact, will always offer tea to her first, or offer their chair and be very chivalrous but they are very old world. If you’re a feminist and go to Morocco, don’t be offended, you’re a guest in their country, respect their culture. I promise you’ll still have a great time.

We bought lots of beautiful things, our biggest purchase being a Berber rug. It was around 100 years old and the pattern was that of a traditional prayer rug with the design pointing towards Mecca. We got it for around 500 US dollars which was a steal considering we talked them down from 5000 US dollars. The haggling took over two hours, and I drank so much tea, my pee was green all week. The gentleman told Howard to “shock” him and so Howard did. Miraculously, the gentleman agreed on the price, but Howard and I really wanted to discuss this further and wanted to sleep on it. Mahjoub gave us his home phone number and told us we were in no way obligated to buy the rug but if we wanted it, to call him and he would have it delivered to us at our hotel. We had our minds made up before we got back to our room that night. When would we ever have the opportunity to buy something like this ever again? Chances are, we wouldn’t. The next morning we called Mahjoub and we had our beautiful rug that afternoon.

Pictures of the rug shop, though we never took a picture of our rug, I have no idea why. Also, that’s the back of my head as I’m listening to Mahjoub describe how the rugs are made:

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You know, the more I write this post, the more I realize that with all of my wonderful stories of Morocco, I could use up all of my bandwidth easily, so I’m going to end this here and get back to you with a part 3, possibly a part 4. And I promise it will be within the coming week.

Suffice it to say though, that this really was our favorite destination of all of our travels.

Jun 30

The boss’s visit went very well. Almost too well. He didn’t even do a walk-through of the store with us, just said “you guys know what you need to do, everything looks fine, no worries here.”

Hmmm. I guess that was that.

I did however, put him on the plane the next morning very VERY hungover, but hey, it was HIS idea to go and “have a few beers”. I, on the other hand, was hangover free. And after 7 Heinken Light’s, that’s a miracle unto itself, especially considering how loopy I was. Anywho.

Now, I’m fighting some Hellacious head cold, my head feels like it weighs 5000 pounds, and the snot just keep pouring out of my nose. (TMI?) My voice is all scratchy and my ears are stopped up which means I can’t hear anything and keep having to ask…”I’m sorry, can you say that again?”

I hate being sick, I make a very bad sick person. I’m cranky and lethargic and just want to crawl into my nice sheets and down comforter and sleep for days. Of course, I’m sick when tomorrow, we’ll likely have our boat ready to put in the water. Did I mention we had to buy a new boat motor? Well the old saying “A boat is a whole in the water that you keep pouring money into?” has proven to be true in this household. But what’s done is done and if we take care of the motor, we won’t have to replace it for another 10 or 15 years. (the old one was 14 years old)

Also, it’s been in the 80’s which feels like 120 and we’re all just dying from the heat.

Now, I know what all of you southerners are thinking “YOU DON’T KNOW HOT!”

Trust me, I know you’re all dying down there. Remember I grew up in the south, I know a hot, humid day at 100 degrees.

But, consider the fact that my winters here average around 25 below zero on any given day and the fact that my body gets adjusted to these extremely cold temps, then warm it up 100 degrees and you tell me I’m not sweltering over here. Go ahead.

Mama Jean swears she’s having a good time. She’s reading all of the books we bought and have yet to read, which is good, because someone needs to be reading around here. Of course, we come home to a spotless house and beg her not to feel obligated but she just ignores us and then acts like secret housecleaning gnomes must have come in and cleaned because honestly, she’s on vacation. Until we get our boat back in the water, she’ll be lounging on the couch, and talking to the “housecleaning gnomes”, all the while swearing she’s loving her time here.

If it isn’t true, she’s a damn good liar.

The cold medicine is kicking in and I think I’m seeing some sort of gnome now, so I’m going to head to bed. Goodnight ya’ll.

Jun 26

Busy busy busy.

And also busy.

Which is good.  Summer is here!  And I’m probably drinking more beer than I should be.

Hey, at least it’s light beer.  (no comments about how a real woman drinks real beer)

The boss is visiting here and wants to take us out for a beer and I say “hey, who am I to say no to beer that is charged to the company and then expensed to my store?”

Huh.

Anywho.

(why am I typing a sentence at a time?)

(I don’t know.  Perhaps I’ve already started drinking.)

There I go again.

*hiccup

Jun 23

Dear daddy, whoever, and wherever you are:

I am your daughter.  This is unknown to you because of the circumstances that got me here.

Many years ago, I discovered that the man who called himself “my father” wasn’t of blood relation after all.  It wasn’t a huge surprise really.  I’d heard the jokes that I was “the milkman’s baby”.  How I didn’t look like anyone in my family except for my mom and my great grandmother on her side.

I knew deep down that the vast difference in resemblance to my only sister wasn’t just a biological anomaly.

Then it was confirmed that I was fathered by you and not “him”.

Another part of me was relieved because “my father” really wasn’t a father at all.  He was a selfish, poor excuse for a father, if I ever saw one.  He was never really around and left our upbringing up to my mom and grandparents.  When he was around, he was even worse (and it could get worse).  Finding out I had no real blood ties to him, helped me begin to feel better about all the ways he’d failed miserably as a parent.

Ever since then, I’ve wondered about you.  Wondered what you looked like, wished my mother had a picture of you somewhere.

The day I was told you were my father, I was told you were also dead, and had no knowledge of me.

This broke my heart because I wanted you to know you had a daughter.  Being a young adult, I didn’t expect us to ever form a traditional “father-daughter” bond at that point, but I thought we deserved to know each other.

I am told that you were a “mean person with a hard look”.  I am certain deep down in my soul, that you weren’t as bad as I’ve been told you were.  Otherwise, my mother would have never given you the time of day.  Even the man who calls himself “my father” had his good points.  I know that I’m told these things because for some reason, your identity is being kept from me.

Every question I ask, is countered with a bulletproof answer, conveniently. As if knowing you were a bad person would discourage me from wanting to know you, possibly love you.

Please.  My intelligence is insulted at the mere idea.

I wonder if I’m your only kid.  If perhaps you really were like they say you were, and then found that you had a child, would it have made your heart a little softer?

I’ve seen fatherhood change some people for the better.  I’m sorry you were never given that chance with me.

I had so many questions I wanted to ask you:  Did I get my blue-green eyes from you?  My dimples?  My ginormous forehead?  Did I get my love of music from you?  What was your favorite color?  Did you always feel like you were a “freak” too?  Do you love to read?  Because I am the only bookworm in my family.

Do you know that I feel half-empty most of the time because I don’t know anything about you?  Do you know that I feel lost because a part of me is unknown to myself?

Had you been given the opportunity to know me; would you have been a good father?  Would you have come to visit, taken me to the park, kissed my “boo-boo’s”, held me when I cried, been protective of me, worried about how the world would disappoint me?

Who knows?  You may have been just as much a deadbeat as the man who call himself “my father”.  But we’ll never know will we?

I hope you believe in an afterlife, because I do, and it looks like I’ll have to wait for that to finally see you.  To look into the eyes that I think probably mirror mine, and feel happiness because I’m finally standing in front of the man who helped get me here.

I like to think I’ve done pretty well for myself; that you’d be proud of me.  I’ve been through a lot in my life, but overall; was raised to be a respectful, kind, and decent human being.  I love to sing, I love to read, I love the fine arts, I’m extremely quirky, I love animals, and I think I have a remarkable ability to see the humor in almost anything.  Oh my God, do I love to laugh.  Did I get my sense of humor from you too?

As I get older, I know that I’ll eventually feel full-up.  At least I hope so.  I have to believe that you’re out there somewhere feeling an “emptiness” too.  Or perhaps watching over me, having all the feelings you should have been able to express to me here on earth.

Either way, know that no matter who you are, what kind of person you were, I’m your daughter for better or worse.  And I will think about you every day of my life and wish we’d been given the opportunity to know each other.

Love,
Your kid.

Jun 22

Oh my dog. Thank GOD, today is Friday. Steak and beer? I heart you. Will you marry me?

I had a run in with PMF again, after almost a year of near niceness from him. Should’ve known that wouldn’t last. Damn me for being optimistic. This time Howard was around, thank God, and he backed off rather quickly. Things like that make me want to move into my new house, like NOW! Dusty would not allow it though. He’s trying to get his mind around the fact that, much as we’d like to, we won’t be living here in this village forever. He’s working through it though, but not without reminding me numerous times a day:

“I don’t like it, I don’t understand it, but I respect your decision…..bitch.”

I read this over at Doxie’s site and laughed my ass off. I mean ya’ll know how much I love a good vignette. And also, it reminds me of the time I took Lucky to the emergency vet after he had a seizure and by the time we got there, he was just fine, but took a big dump under their Christmas Tree in the lobby anyway. I still feel bad about slinking out of there without telling anyone. I’m waiting for Karma to bring me a pile of dog poop under my Christmas tree.

And last but not least, remember when I was trying to remember the name of the shoe my LMT told me about? Well, turns out they were called Dansko’s. And it also turns out that they are quite possibly the most comfortable shoes on earth. They don’t look comfortable but oh my God, they are. My friend Julie (the PA) mentioned them to me as well and said that anyone who works on their feet all day should buy a pair. Two good testimonies couldn’t be wrong. So, I went to Nordstrom’s in Anchorage last month and was fitted with a pair. These shoes are handmade and do not come in set pairs. They just take your shoe size and then bring lots of lefts and rights in whatever color you choose and they mismatch until each shoe feels good on each foot.

These shoes are relatively pricey (They start at around 100 dollars a pair) but I’m telling you, it’s the best money I’ve ever spent on a shoe. Plus they make me look taller and that’s always a good thing.

Well, now that I’ve bored you all to tears with my ramblings, I’m going to go have a Heineken Light or 12 2 and a Ribeye with all the fixin’s. Go have yourselves a Margarita on me!

Jun 21

14 years ago today I became an 18 year old bride.

My groom and I lived in a one bedroom apartment with a small galley kitchen in a questionable neighborhood.  But we loved the place.

Hardwood floors.  Tile in the bathroom.  Big windows.  Our first “love shack”.

14 years later, I would have never dreamed we’d be where we are today.  In fact, I thought we’d have four kids by now and would be living somewhere in North Carolina.

The kids part still hasn’t happened and we’ve been gone from NC for almost five years now.

Five years.  Fourteen years! Holy shit!

Looking back, I realize that 18 was waaaaaay too young to get married.  But I was in love and no one could have convinced me otherwise.

I don’t regret marrying Howard, but I do regret marrying that young.  If I had it to do over, we’d have had a long engagement, just to get through our “growing pains.”

We’ve been through a lot, me and Howard.  We’ve been to hell and back. That fact that we got through them is a testament to how strong our bond is.  (or either how stubborn we are!)

Many times we almost gave up on our marriage completely.

But I’m glad we never gave up.  That we still wake up everyday next to each other.

Happy Anniversary Howard.  I love you.  Thank you for putting up with me.

Jun 20

As of tomorrow afternoon, we are officially Alaskan homeowners.

That’s right folks, we’re buying a house! That was the big surprise I was waiting to reveal.

It’s something we’ve been looking at doing for a while now but have been aggressively searching for the past three months. When we we flew in last month, we met with a realtor who spent all of our and her spare time zipping us around showing us different properties.

We found one we loved, we put in an offer two days later, and got a verbal acceptance the very same day. It’s in a town called Wasilla which is about 35 miles outside of Anchorage. (MUCH LOWER PROPERTY TAXES) We’ve yet to decide whether we want to rent it out while we’re living here in the village or keep it as a place to go when we fly in to town. We’re leaning toward the latter because we want to take our time loading it with nice things and getting it just the way we want it.

This could take a few years but that’s okay. We bought this house because right now, we’re in a really good financial position to do so and also, we want a tax deduction! Being a married couple with no children and no real property save for a few acres in Virginia and our two vehicles back home, well the IRS doesn’t cut us any slack.
We’re hoping by the time we move in to it permanently, we should have it at least 50% paid off. The neighborhood is really nice and we can’t wait to get started on “making it our own”.

We would have closed on Friday but the appraiser was on vacation until Friday and couldn’t get the documents over to the title company in time. BUT! Since everything else is good to go and we have a notary here in town, we will do everything through the mail.  We signed the closing documents this morning and I mailed them out immediately after.   So, we should be holding the keys within a week.

We’re happy. We’re excited. And now we’re arguing over granite countertops or laminate, bamboo floors or oak floors, should we buy a Dyson even though we plan on ripping up all the carpet eventually?

All that while saying “Holy shit, a house!”

Pictures to follow as soon as I can figure out how to copy them from my Adobe format. (I know, we’re dorks.)  We even drove out to the house to look around and make sure all the of the offer contigencies were met (and they were!), but did we take one damn photo?  No.  We stood outside on our HUGE deck that CONNECTS TO THE TWO CAR GARAGE AND THE APARTMENT OVER THE GARAGE, and listened to the birds chirp, and looked at the huge mountains that the house backs up to.

We were going to take photos but were too excited running around like giddy children at Christmas time.

Also.  GREEN HOUSE! and PORCH SWING!  And oh my god.  A DISHWASHER!

The best part? 30,000 BELOW APPRAISAL!  Thank God, it’s a buyer’s market right now.  We’re happy, we’re excited, and also in debt.  Yikes.  But this house is ours.  We OWN a piece of my beloved Alaska.  I couldn’t feel better about buying anything in my whole life.

So, who wants to come visit?

Jun 19

Tempting, but I’m Not Gonna Risk It

Old, disgruntled customer: I wish I was young again.

Cashier: Do you believe in reincarnation? You could just kill yourself.

–Deli, Lex Ave, between 38th & 39th

Overheard by: Becki

Overheard in New York

Jun 17

We made it back safely with Mama Jean and her dog in tow.  We had a nice relaxing time in town.  We didn’t buy half the things we said we would our credit cards are thanking us, we did do one very important thing that I’ll tell you all about in a couple of days, I promise.

While I busy myself with unpacking and getting Jean re-acquainted with the village, I just wanted to take this time out to wish all of you dads out there a very Happy Father’s Day!

Growing up without mine used to leave me bitter and sad on such a day, especially after the only man who was a father to me (my grandpa) passed away.  But now, I’m grateful for the children who are lucky enough to have a dad.  I’m proud of my friends who are loving and dependable fathers to their kids.

Get out there and enjoy it fellas!  I wish all of you a happy day.

Jun 13

We’re flying to Anchorage tomorrow for a couple of days to do a few things we didn’t get to do when we were in town last month like, go to the doctor’s office, spend even more money, and of course meet Mama Jean and show her a bit of “town” before bringing her back here with us on Sunday morning.

We’re not even packed and it’s now 11:24pm.

We’ve been rushing around doing things at work and at home.  I still feel like I’m way behind on most of the things I’ve been wanting to do at work but the house had to be cleaned too.

My mother-in-law is a neat freak.  If she had walked in to our house just two days ago, she’d have fainted and died.  But not before trying to clean it all up herself.

This is not a bad thing though.  Mama Jean isn’t a preacher of cleanliness and doesn’t look down anyone who can’t eat off of their own floors.

But.

If you find yourself out on your boat after she shoo’ed you out of the house and insisted you go out and “have a good time!”, wondering how the hell you ended up there?  It’s probably because by the time you get back, you will be able to eat off your own floors.

Mama Jean will then act as if she’s done nothing.  Like she’s lounged all day on the couch reading a book because she is on vacation.  She won’t criticize you for having a messy house and will not look for or accept a “thank you” after she’s cleaned it up either.
Mama Jean rocks.  I love that about her.

Ya’ll be good little girls and boys and maybe I’ll let you all in on the little secret I’ve been keeping from you.

(Read:  the secret that has nothing to do with being pregnant or becoming parents in any shape or form for that matter and also has nothing to do with us quitting our jobs.) Have a safe and fun weekend and I’ll see ya’ll on the flip-side!

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