NYC-saw

The very last day.

The point spreads are such that nothing that happens today will change the position of the top five teams. That said, the top three teams have to participate today because a team cannot place without handing in a scavenge sheet for every leg.

Vi is on it. Cream cheese bagel and coffee for fuel and a walk to the UN. There we count the flags flying at the UN (only the UN flag flies on weekends, who knew). Then we catch a taxi to the Brooklyn Bridge to walk across it. Our taxi driver rounds up a 17$ fare to 20$ even though I can see the meter and I realize we’ve traveled around the world to discover some things are the same everywhere.

I do my best Spider-Man along the cables of the bridge. Tourists are snapping photos at my leaping, swinging, web-spinning mastery. Although the booklet doesn’t have it, this city is the perfect setting for a Superhero Challenge…Batman and Superman also frequent here. And look at this gothic church across from our hotel – this is Ghostbusters material.

After our mandatory scavenges we spend the next few hours visiting friends. Sitting in a restaurant eating a calzone without planning our next eight steps feels like a vacation but it also feels like we are slacking. Despite just eating a calzone, Vi can’t resist the opportunity to try to squeeze in a trip to a Five Napkins Burger before getting back to the team rendezvous point. I send our Ringmaster a text, “Does the admission price of the trip include therapy sessions to help reintegration into society now that the scavenging is over?”

He says “no” so I’ve come up with an alternative. I’ll make weekly scavenge booklets. Walk dogs (25 points). Clean dog doo (75 points).

She won’t be able to resist that one.

Back at the hotel we have a rewards ceremony. It’s Star Wars Day (May the Fourth be with you) so I was hoping for a Princess Leia lookalike to put the bronze medals on us while the theme song blared. No such luck. However one of the other teammates went to a baseball game and brought back a Star Wars themed Bobblehead for me.

I can’t figure out how she knew I was a closet Star Wars fan. The Sith Lord really does work in mysterious ways.

We have a goodbye dinner and Vi and I take some time to talk to the Ringmaster and his wife (a classic case of the woman behind the man who makes it all happen – she deserves an ovation for managing the nuts and bolts). We realize they know the game isn’t perfect and don’t really want it to be. The game is what the players want it to be, not what they force it upon you to be.

I can’t help but make a comparison to WestWorld. The architect creates the game, but what you do within it is entirely of your choosing. Does he wish more teams would compete the whole way through? Yes. Does he expect it? No. He stresses that the game makes you look in the mirror to see you for what type of traveler you are, what type of competitor you are, and most importantly, what you think you know about the world.

I wouldn’t say that Vi and I learned much new about each other. If anything, I can get away with being even more of a goofball. I find her giggling at random times when she reminisces about me being the annoying-mime-juggler-street-performer. 10 minutes for 75 points! And I find myself wondering how any of her patients survive if she hasn’t had her coffee. I can just imagine her traipsing in to work at 7am without her coffee and the nurse calling down to the morgue to ensure they have plenty of space ready.

But Vi and I did learn that the world is changing. People are optimistic and kind even in places recently ravaged by genocide (Myanmar). As my friend Sean says, “materially poor but rich in spirit.” The New Yorker who took a minute to set us toward the Clark Street station without us even asking was a positive experience to offset the evening before. Go Brooklyn!

We confirmed Vi has no circadian rhythm and mine could be broken! Sweet. And 9am is the ideal time for karaoke.

Vi noticed the world is becoming more homogeneous. There is a Western influence everywhere. There’s an increasing acceptance of other cultures that manifests in women in the Middle East not always needing to cover their heads. Their were so many English speakers who admitted they learned the language from movies. We learned the US isn’t that special – there are plenty of places that are just as nice, if not nicer in both cleanliness and modernness. The World Wide Web really is World Wide. We are all linked. The opportunities to learn and connect are abundant – a chance to see people as people rather than countries (we’ve been trained to think of huge areas of land as having an identity, such as “North Korea, Vietnam, Middle East, etc.”). Traveling makes you meet individuals and none of them seem much different than us.

Shove me in the shallow water before I get too deep.

The emails and texts have already been coming in. “Would you guys go again?”

Does Darth Vader wear a funny helmet?

For those of you who want to hear this same voice in a medical setting, I wrote a book:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B009IS06YU/ref=dbs_a_w_dp_b009is06yu

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Portu-gone

Our last day of this monster scavenge. When the alarm goes off I scowl at Vi and curse her for setting the alarm for 5am. What the hell!

Moments later I apologize. It is 7:30am, our planned time to awake.

I am tired…so tired.

We catch a taxi to the beach. The beach is an empty, rocky wasteland frequented only by rare joggers at this hour. It is 8am and sixty degrees. Sane people are not here but to get any points one must either go to an opera or jump in the Ocean. I jump into the frigid Atlantic because I’d take the ice water challenge over the stuffy theater crowd every day of the week. Besides, there really is nothing like a frozen scrotum. I last about five seconds and run back out of the water and Vi says “I didn’t get the photo, jump back in, you were too fast.”

I almost apologize that my sense of self preservation is faster than her ability to achieve the artistic composition she thinks this photo requires. It takes me a second to recognize what’s going on, this is retribution for accusing her of sabotaging the alarm clock. I jump back in hollering like a kid being dragged to the dentist.

We scoot back to the hotel and shower and head to pastry joints and a local market. Vi says “maybe they have wine or port tasting at the market.”

“Yes, at 10am for the budding alcoholics,” I say.

Open mouth, insert foot. Repeat as needed.

They had it! Vi tested three ports which to me was like trying three different flavors of NyQuil. (35 points). There was something very derelict teenager about drinking the stuff. Ahh, how I miss the good ole days and the brain cells that went with them.

It’s a joke, Mom, relax! I never had those brain cells to begin with.

Then we ended our scavenging to go to the Escher exhibit. The odds that we ended up in a city showing my favorite artist were incredibly small but if I learned anything from Han Solo it is “Never tell me the odds.”

Vi and I did a forced perspective photo shoot and here Vi is crouching from my menacing crane kick. Zero points but lots of fun.

We returned to the hotel to hand in our scavenge sheets for the 11:30am deadline. A sad quiet blanketed the gathering. Next stop: boring old NYC. Our wild adventure was about over, my only hope is that one of the scavenges “forces” us to see the Titanosaur at the Museum of Natural History. Its a colossal 120 foot long brontosaurus (not technically but if I compared it to an apatosaurus no one would know what that looks like).

America, your nerd withdrawal is over, I’m on my way!

We are lucky, the last few rows of the plane are empty so we get the chance to spread out and chat, something we didn’t have much time to do when we were scavenging 25 hours a day. Our Ringmaster passes out sheets to us to review his game.

Inevitably our conversation turns to how we would change the game if we had made it. We all agree it would be nice to have more moments to meet up or pair up as our Ringmaster put together a group of like minded individuals – a narrow slice of society that was excited to go on a fast-paced around the world adventure. I’m used to being in narrow slices, such as that proud fraction of a percent that owned all of the original Star Wars figures MIB (Mint in Box).

“Nothing to be proud of, Rusty” to quote the original Vacation movie.

I think it is great that our Ringmaster asks us how we would change the game, but he and his wife have been doing it for 20 years. It is unlikely any fresh suggestions will come from our group. The more important question on the sheet was, “How did it change you?”

I can tell you that we are much more likely to plan “layover scavenges” on long trips just to take a moment to taste test cities. What we accomplished in 8 hours in Bangkok was inspiring.

We get a slap in the face, the dream is over, you’re in NYC and we’ve got a whole bag of brusqueness for you. As previously mentioned, rapid travel teaches you how to assess a country quickly, and the US does not put on a good first impression. It is more than the customs agents. It is the hotel receptionist who treats us like we ran over her dog, and our server at the restaurant who never brings us water so that I have to go up to the bar and get them from the bartender (at least he was aghast). It’s not first, but serial impressions.

The welcome back pizza did not disappoint! Some people say it is the water that makes NYC pizza what it is, Vi asserts the cheese is different too. I’m not much into analyzing things, I just enjoy it for what it is. (Insert image of tongue in cheek).

We are exhausted. It has been a 29 hour day. Good night.

From Sangria to Port

We left Seville on a morning bus for Faro, Portugal. Mysteriously, this little town is worth over 500 points. There is a chapel made entirely of human bones and one thing this trip has been missing is human femurs. For reasons I can’t explain I’ve always considered our skeletons to be the real us, like take off all the window dressings and this is what you are left with. Perhaps because it is the most permanent element of us. Plus there is something satisfying about knowing that under all the mushy stuff we are tidy, white pieces with smooth curves like marble sculptures. Skulls are art!

One of the rules of this game is that every scavenge must be completed as a team. That means for every moment of the day for the last three weeks, Vi has been at my side (and vice versa). One of the unsaid benefits of the Global Scavenger Hunt is that you get to learn what it is like to have a Siamese twin. Our Ringmaster prepared us for this by supplying us with a box of (warning: product placement) Altoids. They were real lifesavers. Vi shoved wads of them into her ears when she was sick of listening to me say things like “we’d totally be winning if we could teleport.”

The trip also teaches you the subtleties of communication and efficiency. When Vi asks, “Do these clothes smell?” It means, “These clothes reek but if you say they don’t we can leave now instead of me figuring out something else.”

When we went to the top of a hotel for Vi to enjoy a coffee, Vi snapped a photo of a stork on a pole. But what was in the background of the photo? Lawyers Without Borders traipsing through town completing missions. No doubt following us, but from 20 steps ahead somehow.

We managed to get in a quick kayak before hopping on a train to Porto. It pained us to sit on a train for six hours but we have to get in some scavenges by tomorrow morning. No time to slack, we can do that back home at work.

Vi wants to pick up Porto points the moment the train rolls to a stop. I make my case to drop our bags at a hotel, but proof that this trip changes you, she says we are going restaurant hopping with backpacks and a roller bag.

We catch a lot of stink eyes and side glances but we hit up gelato! And a restaurant for a stack of sausage, ham, steak, bologna, fried egg, a sauce made of Crisco and beer all atop a pile of French fries. They call this Francesinha.

Suffer a coronary (50 points)

We see some graffiti and head to bed at midnight.

Spain in the neck

We woke up in the Blue City at dawn and headed up to Tangier. Tilda Swinton was in a vampire movie filmed there last year. Unfortunately we didn’t see any vampires, or Tilda’s. We had to split from Lawyers Without Borders. It was a sad moment because no one else will call me idiot with the frequency of Rainey…I loved it.

We got a tea by the seaside for points before hopping onto a ferry for Spain. Our Ringmaster made Gibraltar a mandatory stop so we head to the rock. It is an impressive stony protrusion and I can understand how wanderlust travelers could come upon it and feel a compulsion to climb it. I have no such desire, so a six minute cable car ride to the top is fine for Vi and me. We have a quite tasty fish and chips at the diner on the top and I realize that only America takes pride in serving the lousiest food at tourist destinations.

Oh, did I mention that The Rock is inhabited by rhesus monkeys? Vi could watch them all day long, she says it helps her understand me. That upset me so I refused to pick the nits out of her hair.

The monkey pressed his face against the window of the restaurant like a starving homeless man. But rather than pretend he didn’t exist, the tourist snapped photos like crazy. This disturbed me. I realized I should do more to help the poor. I’m going to donate ape suits to the homeless so they’ll get the attention they deserve.

If my spot in Hell wasn’t secured, it is now.

We get down from the top of Gibraltar and it strikes me this tax shelter pseudo-country is a gimmick. No matter, we only have another half hour before the bus leaves to Seville. We walk to a taxi stand and there are no taxis. We start walking to the entrance of the island 1.5 miles away. And no taxis! How can this tourist trap suddenly dry up of taxis? Did I mention we have all of our luggage? I am now jogging with 25 pounds on my back and Vi is dragging her roller bag over brick paved sidewalks. The clacking of the wheels sounds like a machine gun.

This is a three week trip that continually comes down to minutes. Missing a museum because it closed a few minutes earlier, or running like mad across Gibraltar because your bus is about to leave. If we miss it we are screwed. This is our ride to Seville, no taxis allowed on this leg, and Vi won’t hitchhike because no one will stop to pick her up if she’s with a mutant like me.

Shove old lady out of the way at border crossing (15 points).

Sweat is pouring off me. Vi even glistens. We race up to the bus and get on. The driver closes the door on my butt and away we go. About a half hour into the trip I realize that we are back in the Western world. The radio is playing classic rock. This is the first time we’ve heard American music since Canada. It must be the bus driver’s mix because no one besides me would follow Stevie Wonder with Muse.

In Seville we grab our first gelato of the trip. About time! I put some in my pocket for later and then we attend a flamenco show put on for suckers…err, tourists.

Flamenco is a lot more fun if you imagine that when the man is dancing alone he is showing off fight moves before a brawl. We are all used to the beefy meathead who cracks his knuckles or flexes his biceps but how about the guy who struts back and forth like a rooster while slamming his heels into the ground? He stops to pose like Daniel-san’s crane kick and then transitions to Michael Jackson with his invisible butterfly knife in”Beat it.” The only problem is that the guy goes on a little too long. He’s giving away his best moves. Like don’t get entranced by that spastic finger-snapping-over-the-head move because next thing you know he’ll be tap dancing on your nose.

The women in the front row of the crowd are swooning. The only way I could make a woman drool like that is if I paralyzed her lower lip with Botox. A woman whistles at him when he pauses during his high-stepping toe-tapping solo. At the end women are throwing bras and panties on stage. I take note, some of the lingerie looks cleaner than the granny panties Vi’s been sporting the last few days.

I get where she’s coming from, we are at that point of the trip where we are so close to home that no one wants to do laundry. Sticking a dryer sheet in a bag of dirty clothes makes them fresh enough. After all, the last hotel we did laundry at charged us more than the items are worth. Wash a T-shirt for $7? I could buy two on the street for that. Needless to say, we exited late to score a bunch of slightly used undergarments. Vi gave me the ones too big for her. Reuse Renew Recycle.

Vi has a better ear than I and thought the guitarist had sloppy technique. All those years of flamenco guitar lessons worked (no joke). Maybe this adventure will get the six string back into her hands.

We had a wonderful dinner of grilled fish and eggplant “fries” along the river running through the city. They charged us 2 Euro for “cutlery” on the bill. Had I known I would have eaten with my hands. We managed to make it to bed by midnight.

Tomorrow morning we leave Seville for Portugal. Too bad, I was hoping to visit the barber.

Moroccan Run Day 2

This multi day scavenge has some land mines. There is a boatload of scavenges in Morocco and in Portugal. We can’t do everything but we must hit Fes, Gibraltar, Seville, and Porto in the next 72 hours. When we return to work it is going to seem so slow paced that we will likely die of ennui.

At the same time, we want to see Morocco minus the minarets. I think our Ringmaster puts in these easy scavenges just to see when we will break. I’d rather look at a decapitated camel head in a narrow alley than see another minaret. (For the budding author, that is some heavy handed foreshadowing).

We are in the car by 6am (if you get more than 6 hours of sleep a night you are just being selfish) and leave Rabat for Meknès, just over halfway to Fes. There we see a mausoleum and a meat market way grosser than Athens. Hunchbacked men buckle under dinosaur sized slabs of meat bringing in the day’s catch. The air is thick with flies and odors. Cats creep in and out of shadows. I am talking about the meat market and not the mausoleum. Better cats than rats…right?

We leave Meknès for Volubilis but realize it is a trap. It will add and hour and a half we don’t have to an already hectic day. Had the city taken my recommendation and changed its name from Volubilis to Voluptuous I’m sure they would be overrun with tourists despite their off the beaten path location.

We get to Fes by 11:30 am and meet a city guide. Without Abdul Malek we would still be wandering the city center. By now you are sick of hearing about labyrinthine old souks, so just imagine how we feel traipsing through them. I do appreciate that many of the goods there are for locals; silk thread shops, honey alley (sampled a bunch from giant vats, given to us in a way that tests the antibacterial properties of honey), stone chiselers, wood workers, embroiderers, etc. The leather worker district gave us a glimpse into the process of creating leather from a hide. Men sloshed skins in vats of liquid. Fun fact: Pigeon poop is used for making white leather. Remember Myanmar? Pigeon blood was used to make rubies…I’m sure of it.

A less crowded alley in the Fes Medina
Hide and Souk
Vats of different kinds of honey
All natural chemical-free dye vats

I was assured that nothing but the most natural products were being used in the safest of ways. Assuredly, the men standing in pools of chemicals were fine, yes those chemicals can strip the hair off a cowhide in minutes, and yes, those men standing in it are totally healthy…they all just choose to not have kids and they glow in the dark from the thighs down by choice.

We see some other goods and then…wait for it…a butcher selling camel meat with a freshly decapitated camel head to advertise his shop hanging from a hook in the alley. The modern advertising world must look at this sort of thing to justify their existence and stoke their egos.

We “head” to a nice restaurant for a cooking class. This is how the Chaos half of the team works: Vi was supposed to book a reservation at a fancy restaurant but somehow accidentally booked a cooking class despite not even knowing they offer classes. This scores us a wad of points. To add to it, the class wasn’t supposed to be offered but someone messed up removing the option from the website. Blind squirrels finding nuts.

Sal’s skull looks like The Alien

Vi subjects herself to a Hammam scrub down despite my cries of warning. Apparently she will sell the outer six layers of her skin for next to nothing (just points).

We exit the city via streets along the edge of the souk. They are so narrow that shop owners have to guide us through so we don’t knock over their wares. Our drive through northern Morocco to the Blue City shows us a lush farming land that makes us wonder why anyone lives in the rocky desert. It’s like the Sahara Desert was slapped down next to Napa Valley and the majority of people said “I hate cutting grass, but I love building sand castles.” And then stuck with it.

The Blue City comes off sounding like one of those drive by Midwest attractions like Wall Drug or The Corn Palace. All they did was take an old city center and paint everything different colors of blue. But they pulled it off. I’ll let the pics speak for themselves. That said, they could have just handed out blue tinted glasses on the way into town and saved on a fortune in paint.

We crash into bed at 11:30pm with the alarm set for 5:15am.

Morocco go, go, go

Rise and shine! No shine, the sun won’t be up for over an hour.

We started the day with a drive north of Marrakech to do a hot air balloon ride. Vi and I had never done one so it was exciting just to watch them inflate the balloons with giant fans and a flamethrower only otherwise used in first-person-shooter video games. Being novices, we didn’t know if it was normal for a balloon to inflate 3/4 of the way and then drag the basket and all the men holding it across the stony field while we all stood by and watched. Men raced around, pulling on cables, and gave us a quick primer on Moroccan expletives to add to our experience but not our confidence.

The four of us hopped into the basket of the first ready balloon and took off. The ascent is as smooth as an elevator even as the wind sweeps us southbound at a good clip. I’m impressed by our pilot – this is the first time I’ve seen a young woman with a job other than selling goods or food or henna in the marketplace. For the most part, women are markedly absent. I’m used to them hiding from me, but a whole country?

We watch the other two balloons below inflate and deflate like they are taking giant breaths. Neither manage to fill. Our pilot tells us that the winds are complex today so she will be the only pilot. She will take the next group up in this one.

Two sad sacks…

When it comes time to land the wind has really picked up. She spins the balloon into position and throws a large rope over the edge. It is attached to the metal cage above our basket. At the other end is a large ring. It drags across the ground 30 feet below. A Jeep comes bouncing across the rocky fields kicking up dirt and its passenger is ready with a rope of his own attached to a tow ring on the front bumper.

Our pilot has us get into the crash, err, landing position with knees bent into a squat, facing windward, and holding rope rings attached to our basket wall. She blasts the burners and jets of flame blast out of them with the ferocity of an angry dragon. The heat feels good on my skull but barely slows our descent.

The Jeep’s passenger, a tiny spry man with a reasonable vertical jump, leaps off the moving vehicle and grabs the dangling rope. He clips his end on and we are now attached to the Jeep. Our basket skids into the ground and the strong wind wants to keep carrying the balloon somewhere far away. Our basket starts to tip over. The Jeep’s tether is our only hope. Its brakes are locked yet our momentum drags it across the field with ease, the balloon is moving the Jeep like it is a plastic toy and our basket is still leaning! Tipping. We are now all leaning towards the Jeep and the best moment of the day (so far) happens.

The catcher of ropes, a little man about 90 pounds soaking wet, races up to the side of our basket to tip the scale in our favor. Never mind that the Jeep is still dragging, this powerhouse of a twig, digs in his heels to stop us like Superman stopping a speeding train with the same jaw-clenching, eye-wincing determination. It was one of those glimpses into the human spirit that would inspire most people, but I just found it hilarious.

We actually stop and the basket settles into the ground and off we go to the next scavenge.

We drive up to Casablanca for a wholly different experience. Casablanca is an ugly old woman who used to be something in her heyday and now just bears the pretty name as a reminder. Paint peels, balconies sag, feet drag, and the colors faded. The buildings are sad, the bartenders dilapidated, but the mosque reaches the sky.

The second largest mosque in the world! It really is proof that their God is bigger than your God. You will be intimidated if you ever visit.

Then we ran around through its central market only to return to our car to find a yellow metal boot on it. I thought that thing was only for college kids.

We shared that sinking feeling, a sick mix of hours lost, serpentine, maddening bureaucracy, and outlandish bribes. The locals on the street laughed at our expense. A man came out of the neighboring shop with a grin like he just sat on his little brother and ripped one.

He told us to call the number on the yellow sticker on our car. Before Vi could dial the number (and her phone was surgically implanted onto her hand months ago) the guy turns up the street and gives a whistle. I started to get that There’s A Hustle Coming On feeling.

A lanky young man with his face lit up like there was never a better day in his life strolled up to us. He wore a loose T-shirt and jeans, not really the Meter Police uniform I expected.

We asked, “How much?” A dreaded question.

“30 dirham,” he said.

30 dirham! Three dollars. Just like Dr Evil asking for only 1 million dollars when he held the world for ransom, this was a joke. This was the best parking fine ever. We high-fived each other in celebration, paid the man, and hightailed it out of there for Rabat.

Get boot off your car in less than ten minutes (25 points).

Rabat is the young beautiful woman with a name that makes her sound like a toad. But she’s going places and she’s got the brain to get her there. You have to wonder how two cities, right next to each other, could be so different. It might help that the King lives there. The streets are clean, the buildings crisp and proud. The art museum has an Impressionism show, whereas Casablanca had an impressive display of cobwebs.

I felt underdressed in Rabat, a chronic condition those around me are forced to suffer through. Now you know why Vi makes me walk ten feet away from her.

We visited a necropolis. I was disappointed that there wasn’t a single zombie there. But maybe that was my fault, we were there before the sun went down. The place was overrun by giant white storks. Then we went to the old city, a charming little maze of sidewalks (no mopeds even), and enjoyed a mint tea (a glass of mint leaves with some tea filling the spaces between) while overlooking the coast.

Final review: 4 thumbs up.

Morocco Mania

Bam!

After being allowed to sleep in and eat breakfast we were hit with the biggest scavenge our Ringmaster has ever created. It started Sunday 11am in Marrakech and doesn’t end until Friday 11am in Porto, Portugal. We must visit Gibraltar and Spain on the way, no flights, and can only rent and use a car in one country (no borders crossed). The booklet has 150 scavenges going all different directions. We were tempted to drive an hour west to see some goats that live/climb/eat in trees because seeing bad-ass tree-climbing goats would be a fantasy come true for me.

This looks photoshopped but I got it off the internet so it must be real.

We were allowed to team up for one country so we chose (a synonym for begged) to join Lawyers Without Borders in an attempt to drag down the current leaders. The second place team is to deliver a suitcase of unmarked bills to us in NYC if the plan works. Vi and I are usually as successful as Boris and Natasha when it comes to nefarious plots. Stay tuned.

Morocco has always been on our Go-To list and it did not disappoint. I’m not a shopper but I love winding through the narrow maze-like souk with all the strange wares. The ancient Moroccans clearly planned for the influx of future tourists and labored tirelessly to create items to be sold as antiques.

Vi couldn’t resist photographing colorful displays of spices. And I couldn’t resist buying a trilobite. Morocco is known for their fossils, both from the Cambrian period (ended 250 million years ago) and dinosaurs from the Cretaceous (died 65mya). Okay, I’ll stop nerding out now.

I love a country that only serves fresh squeezed orange juice. Orange trees sagged with fruit were wedged between buildings as if it were the city’s solution to feed the homeless. A Moroccan urban planning fact: to save time designing the street layout a plate of spaghetti and sauce was flung onto a wall and whatever stuck became the city map. The cellphone map feature is mostly worthless as you magically teleport from one street to another in the app. But don’t worry, for a few dollars any local will show you where you want to go, and what luck, his brother’s shop is along the way! What divine coincidence, you were just checking eBay for a pair of fuzzy slippers that make your feet look like Chewbacca’s and here they are.

Our Ringmaster jinxed us that morning when he mentioned it hadn’t rained our whole time overseas. Dark clouds blotted out the sky and tried their best. The strong sun evaporated all the little drops before they hit the ground so only the plumpest managed to splat onto us at infrequent random times. The first one that hit me scared me because I thought a bird had bullseyed me.

We ducked into a scavenge restaurant and ate four things off our list. Vis food of the day was a roasted chicken in a jus seasoned with garlic, turmeric, and some secret green stuff. My favorite was a mellow yellow curry and a grilled naan. General rule: Chances are it isn’t good food if you can’t eat it with your hands.

That evening we attended a belly dancer show. Strange to see a half naked woman gyrating like she is suffering a seizure in a religious world that otherwise keeps women wrapped up like mummies. I’m suspecting ageism and sexism when it comes to hiring belly dancers.

We walked out through the market and it struck me that Marrakech is a roller coaster of odors. Cumin, grilled meat, fresh mint bring you higher and higher until you plunge into raw fish, body sweat, and cat urine. Sandalwood, roasted vegetables, and the sharp smoke of a fresh weld fill their niches in the souk and every few feet offers a surprise.

Vi had a slight cold so she took in the colors more than the smells. The souk had a dyers district for cloth makers, a vegetable market, and trinkets galore. Plenty of photo fodder for the budding photographer.

Overall, we were charmed by old Marrakech. So glad we came!