Monday, November 13, 2017

anchovy tajines and strawberry trees

One bright blue morning we drove off in search of the green of an Algerian Oak forest. The winding hilly roads twisted my stomach as I sat in the backseat attempting to entertain Baby with an owl puppet and renditions of Bowie songs. After passing through so many dry agricultural fields, we finally reached the forest— and my guts began to spin.

Pedro pulled over to the side of the road (which by now had become rather patchy), and took the opportunity to search for birds while I gathered my head and fed Baby. We were nearly surrounded by strawberry trees— their bright red fruit beautifully popping out from the green, so deliciously enticing. In fact, this was precisely what I needed: to get my legs moving and to eat something. I foraged a handful of ripe fruit that had been missed by the birds and Barbary macaques, and slowly crushed their thin spiky flesh between my tongue and the roof of my mouth, delighting in the sensation. Soon, the sugar did its magic, and I felt a little less green myself.

The oak forest was lush and expansive; a reminder of how there are so many Moroccos. We didn't stay too long though, as it was getting late and we had skipped lunch. On they way back to Chefchaouen we spied a troupe of macaques lurking in the trees off the side of the road, who vanished the second I pulled out my camera. We headed to the Uta el Hammam plaza, where we were certain to find food being served at such an odd hour.

I had heard that the goat cheese in the Rif is not to be missed, and I've had it on my mind ever since I saw the rounds of creamy goodness beautifully wrapped in palm fronds in Tangier. Though I'm not sure this is the same cheese, I enjoyed it on a fresh salad that came with olives and zaalouk, a cooked eggplant and tomato salad. This was followed by a tasty anchovy tajine, with a lemony tomato sauce.

Mid-meal, Baby scored us both a glass of tea from the neighbouring table. This sort of thing has been happening lately— the most unusual of which has been a gift of sole from the fishmonger on two separate occasions. In Morocco, men, women, and children run up to kiss a cheek or forehead— something that would horrify most Americans— a stranger kissing my baby?! I find it endearing (and cross my fingers that the kisser doesn't have a cold).

Sunday, November 5, 2017

a closer look

Have you ever seen anything so blue that wasn't the sky or the sea? Apart from an Yves Klein work of art or the Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech, I haven't experienced blues so blue— and it is an experience, rather than a sight. These are colours that swallow you.

The Rif town of Chefchaouen began to turn blue somewhere around the 1930s, and it is said that a Jewish population fleeing Nazi Europe began to paint the old medina blue for spiritual reasons. The various shades of blue, pigments mixed with lime, became a tradition that soon attracted tourists from all over the globe.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

the many blues of chefchaouen

a little moment

While finishing my coffee after breakfast this morning, I was given a moment to do a 7-minute-or-so sketch while my little bunting was entertained by the visiting buntings outside the window.

Friday, November 3, 2017

after the sky lifted

Ophelia had sucked the breath out of the Sahara and cast our skies a yellow-grey, coating everything in a fine dust. Just as I surrendered to the beads of sweat running down my skin, the clothing sticking to my body, the heavy nights, the trees began to softly move in a different direction. The sky lifted, and I could breathe again.

The sleep deprivation that comes with parenthood seems to have dulled the edges of my mind of late— I find my tongue stumbling over words, my thoughts dissipating in little bubbles. I feel like I am constantly running, but never getting anywhere. Still, Baby grows strong and proudly learns new tricks, and I am a mother completely enchanted— all the exhaustion and frustration is blown away with the tiniest of smiles or a giggle.

Throughout my pregnancy I was told that my life would soon be over, that Pedro and I would have to kiss our adventures goodbye— apparently having children is like having your wings clipped, or something less poetic. We were of the opinion back then that everything is a choice, and felt that becoming parents would be a beginning rather than an end. Despite the sleepless nights and occasional tantrums, we still maintain those beliefs, and so we took our teething five month old on a six-and-a-half hour roadtrip to Chefchaouen this weekend. After all, wouldn't our baby want parents who are still curious about the world?

So it took a few extra stops along the road and some gymnastic maneuvering while changing a diaper on the lid of a toilet in a dodgy restaurant bathroom— and I had to master the art of clandestine breastfeeding in public places. All fascinating learning experiences and adventures in their own right! I finally got to see the blue I had been waiting for, and though Baby won't remember it, we all had a wonderful time.