Archive for October, 2006

Fez Medina

Posted by len on 31st October 2006

Medina SellerOn Sunday we went on our first guided tour of the old medieval part of Fez, Morocco, arranged through Sue’s school, ALIF. The amount of stuff to catch the eye is crazy and the potential for claustrophobia is out of hand. People live their entire lives solely in the medina (old city) which strikes me as almost unfathomable. Our first trip by ourselves we got hassled by some youngsters who just wouldn’t quit. This time was more peaceful.
Here’s a little photo gallery from our adventure:

Posted in Fez | 6 Comments »

In Da Hood

Posted by len on 30th October 2006

Last Friday we achieved our latest milestone and moved into our very own apartment! It’s in the southern part of Fez, which involves a 30-minute walk to Sue’s classroom (and free wireless internet) every morning. It’s a fairly spacious place (by what we’ve seen of Moroccan standards) with an extra bedroom off the “salon” on the ground floor, mostly furnished, decent closet space, and a reasonable-sized kitchen. The small dorm-sized refrigerator is still non-functional but the landlord is working on it. It’s costing us 3000 Dirham/month which works out to about $344. Plenty of room for foreign visitors! Hint, hint. Photos to follow soon!

Posted in Fez | 4 Comments »

Eight Days Sober

Posted by sue on 27th October 2006

Hello, all our faithful readers, waiting for us to get with it and write something already!
We’re hampered a bit in our blogging ambitions by the fact that we left our digital camera’s power charger in Iowa, and thus haven’t been able to take any ripe-and-ready-to-post pictures. Plus we’re still in the process of getting settled into a routine that includes regular internet access.

We have stayed for the past week in a 188 dirhams ($21) per night hotel, called Hotel Amor. It’s not terrible, though certainly not the Ritz. At least its rooms all have private showers (not all the cheaper places in Fes offer that), with hot water available 7-10 a.m. and 8-11 p.m. The room was spacious enough to handle us and all our piles of luggage, and the bed was good sized but FIRM. (We soft Americans, liking our beds and pillows to give a little when we lie on them!)

Hotel Amor is in the heart of the Ville Nouvelle, the newer part of Fes that the French built in the 19th century during colonial days, so it has a bit of a European feel. It’s not as atmospheric as the old city, but the water is safer and more reliable. Also ALIF, the place where I’m taking Arabic classes, is in the Ville Nouvelle, so I want to stay close by, because I have classes every day, Monday-Friday, at 8 a.m.

Today, I’m happy to report, we’re moving to an apartment! It’s an apartment attached to a house in an area where there are mostly houses rather than apartment buildings. I’ve seen the neighborhood but only Len has seen the inside of the apartment– I’ll let you know how he did once we get in there this evening!

And, regarding the title of this post, yes, we’ve had to kick our alcohol habit due to utter lack of availability. We now get bottles of mineral water (about $1 for 1 liter) with dinner instead of wine or beer. Also, the coffee and the fresh orange juice here are top-notch (and cheap!). Our waistlines, livers, and wallets are thanking us for moving to Morocco.

Posted in Fez | 3 Comments »

First Look – Video!

Posted by len on 27th October 2006

Click on the image to see some video shot on the train trip from Casablanca to Fez, Morocco. These were the first things we saw in our new home. Note the Atlantic coast in the distance! Way cool!

Posted in Morocco, video | 5 Comments »

We Made It

Posted by len on 22nd October 2006

We have video and photos on the way but we wanted to say that we are now living in Fes, Morocco! We are sitting in a “cyber cafe”, the roof of which is only about 5 feet, 10 inches. Luckily I can connect my laptop (their keyboards are all wrong!) and internet only cost about $1 per hour.
Check back soon for photos of donkeys carrying coke and more craziness.

Posted in Morocco | 13 Comments »

Footwork Impecc-able

Posted by len on 19th October 2006

Last night we drank deeply of the goblet of Broadway and experienced Spamalot, the fitting swan song (and swan dancing) of our departure from the U.S. The show suffers a single fatal flaw: it’s musical theatre. Here’s a remedy: take the production, transplant it into something other than musical theatre, and then…Oh wait, then you’d have a movie called Monty Python and the Holy Grail that was made about 30 years ago. Sue and I are pretty skeptical of musical theatre (could you tell?) and thankfully Spamalot ranks among the best we’ve ever seen. We were happily entertained for most of the quickly paced two acts.
Among the few snags was a recreation of the famous stay-here-and-make-sure-he-doesn’t-leave-guard-scene. Following the movie script pretty much verbatim, the scene felt just too long for the funny it had to offer. The cast was good, so much so that we didn’t bemoan the absence of the original Python members too acutely (with the exception of the Cleese-as-French-taunter; the performance just couldn’t compare). Only two songs from the movie made their way into the musical: Camelot and Brave Sir Robin, the latter of which was a high-point especially given the clarity of the vocals compared to the more backgrounded version in the movie. The song ended on “..penis is split” as the bard imagines all the horrendous tortures Robin would bravely endure. You can’t not like that! In the first act the musical follows the movie plot fairly closely. For the second act all bets are off with the Lady in the Lake playing a significant, and funny, diva role and other bizarre and mostly funny meanderings.
Like a lot of musicals seem to do these days Spamalot gets a little too entrenched in a self-reflexive oh-look-we’re-on-broadway kind of thing towards the end. It’s hard to begrudge the writer Eric Idle too much in that regard, however. Remembering the ending of the seminal film, police cars disrupt the shenanigans in a twist of absurd anti-resolution. Most people aren’t expecting traditional dramatic arcs from a production named Spamalot but it is Broadway and Broadway shows can bend only so many rules.

Posted in Preparation | 37 Comments »

Health Insurance…DENIED!

Posted by len on 16th October 2006

WBP Register Zombie
Today we suffered a bitter defeat to the forces of stasis (that is, the forces that attempt to keep us in the U.S. and not adventuring). Several days ago we applied for health insurance through IMGlobal, partially at the recommendation of my seasoned ‘adventure pal’ Lee Sullivan who has been living in Paris for several years now. I know what you’re thinking: you’re only applying for health insurance NOW?! 5 days before my COBRA option under Sony expires? Well, we tried a month ago, I swears it! But the funky international health insurance system doesn’t allow you to even apply until you’re within 30 days of departure, and then, well, things got busy.
It was rather infuriating to be rejected (apparently because of my modest high cholesterol issue) but as Sue pointed out, the American health care system is really a competition to acquire completely healthy individuals, letting even the slightly unhealthy fend for themselves. This becomes all too apparent when you don’t get health insurance through your job as we are doing for the first time in our lives.
Happily, a few hours later we found another, less comprehensive but still adequate plan, and it appears that we are now covered. Total cost for 3 months: around $400 for both of us.

Posted in Preparation | 41 Comments »

Phase III

Posted by sue on 16th October 2006

Hanging out in Manassas, Virginia, a couple of days to see Len’s mom Marianne and brother Matt and family, before heading up to New York tomorrow for the official departure. Mostly things are in order now, I think, except that no mail has been forwarded by the post office to our forwarding address as of yet and we’re wondering what might have become of it.

Our moving company did come through and deliver the remainder of our worldly possessions to my parents’ farm today– everything present and accounted for, all for the agreed-upon price. The only hitch was that they had initially promised to deliver everything a week ago! It was a problem not because we really needed the stuff, but because my parents were subsequently saddled with the task of dealing with all our junk without our help.

We don’t know if we’ll have convenient internet access in NYC, so the next post may well be from Fes.

Posted in Preparation | 33 Comments »

More About That Picture

Posted by len on 13th October 2006

In the last post, Sue included a picture of some idiot on a ladder that was itself supported by a raised tractor. I felt I should discuss that photo a bit. That is indeed me. On the farm in Iowa a few days ago, Sue’s father Lawrence needed some help getting a chain around one of the thick branches so he could control the direction the tree would fall when he cuts it down in a few weeks. Before he dreamed up the tractor idea he had the ladder fully extended to reach the 24 foot high branch base. I gotta say that ladder was wobbly like me at the R&H Christmas party. I climbed up it 5 feet and got a really sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Right after seeing me turn white is when Lawrence suggested the tractor concept which, at first, seemed like a less death-defying prospect. Can’t imagine now why I had that thought given the experience of holding a 15 foot ladder while being raised in the loader of his tractor about 10 feet and THEN needing to climb the ladder. In the end the job was done and I survived. Now I feel stronger and more assured that after nuclear winter rains down upon us and some crazy tractor+ladder contraption is the only means for survival in the Mad-Max-post-apocalyptic wasteland, I shall reign as king!!

Posted in Preparation | 25 Comments »

Phase Two of Exit Strategy

Posted by sue on 12th October 2006

We left the Hecht farm yesterday for the hilly, wooded suburbs of Denver. We had a less productive week in Iowa that I hoped. We did help the parents a little with work on their house, and with getting started on their new computer, an iMac that we helped them buy in Des Moines over the weekend. And we did manage to sort through some of the stuff that we shipped in boxes to the house, but didn’t really finish. Luckily, my mom said she’d put away everything that we didn’t get to.
If only we were more organized people by nature. I like to have things just well enough in line that we can usually find things, and keep our bills paid on time, but I just don’t spent enough concerted time getting things in place and keeping things that way, and Len doesn’t either.
But maybe it’s not the super-organized, everything-in-its-place type of person who would dump everything and move to Morocco.
Elven Len

Posted in Preparation | 21 Comments »