Tom is better…Sandfly bites are improving…Gluten free fiasco…Warning!…New photos….

Fresh strawberries are a common offering in the souk.

What a week. Tom was sick for days. I was miserable with the remnants of too many sandfly bites, itching relentlessly for days. 

The scorching heat with no AC was remedied in part by Madame Zahra hauling a standing floor fan into the salon which helps. (Oddly, today, it’s cooler). Samir shopped for us outside the Medina, finding a spray bottle of insect repellent that US $25 later proved to be well spent. It seems to work, although I still have a few new bites, itching like crazy for a week or more.

Sadly, our friend Lane passed away, which we shared in a tribute to him that we posted two days ago. It was a tough week.

These oranges were huge as shown by the comparison to the water bottle in the upper right.  The smell permeated the air as we walked by.
As for the better parts; We booked three more tickets for our kids for Hawaii with only one more to go as we wait for Richard‘s preferred dates. Soon, we hope. Prices continue to climb. It’s a fallacy that prices are better on Tuesdays. We’ve been watching prices daily for the past two months and Tuesdays are no different at any time of day than any other day of the week.

Actually, we managed to go out to dinner on Sunday evening, having an experience that we’re surprised hadn’t occurred here in Morocco up until now. I was served food laden with wheat but was told it was gluten-free.

We’ve been dining at a favorite restaurant in the souk once a week over the past few months. Over the past month I’ve been ordering a dish I was assured was gluten-free, grain-free, starch, and sugar-free. 

Many shops in the souks offer cheaply priced leather and cloth bags.

Kefta Tagine is a dish made with small meatballs (without bread crumbs) placed into a nonsweetened tomato sauce similar to an Italian red sauce supposedly made without sugar and seasoned with Moroccan spices. 

On the side, I’d always order a plate of sautéed vegetables with julienne carrots, zucchini, and peppers, never thinking there was any risk in ordering the sautéed vegetables.

As we sat in the cozy restaurant at a corner table, our regular waiter served the usual complimentary nuts for me, breadsticks, and olives for Tom. These “appetizer” items added to the appeal of this restaurant as Tom and I repeatedly ordered the same dishes over and over, with few other appealing options on the menu. (Repetition is not a factor for us which we’ve learned may be necessary when dining out frequently with few choices available that are suitable for me and acceptable to Tom’s picky taste buds).

This appeared to be a display of decorator items, perhaps, locally made.

The Kefta Tagine tasted especially good to me as opposed to other dishes I’d ordered in various restaurants. After multiple reassurances from both the chef and the waiter, I accepted their comments as fact that this dish was free of any of my restricted items. Speaking good English they both seemed to understand. But, the extra good flavor nagged at me. 

One might ask if I eat gluten, starch, or sugar, would I immediately notice a difference? Not immediately. carb-laden foods including sugar, grains, and starches cause inflammation in the body. If I eat enough of these forbidden foods, it could take days for the effects to become apparent. I don’t have Celiac disease but am obviously sensitive to gluten. A person with Celiac could have an immediate reaction, impacting their health for days or weeks as their symptoms exacerbate.

Well, wouldn’t you know, I was misled as to the safety of the food at this particular restaurant when I found the following in my plate as shown in this photo:

I found what at first I thought was a worm in my plate when I’d been assured my dish was 100% gluten and starch free. No wonder I liked this dish so much when in fact on Sunday after finding these noodles, I surmised that they had a huge pot of the red sauce in the kitchen filled with noodles. When I placed an order for gluten-free, starch-free Kefta, most likely they scooped out the sauce and meatballs picking out any stray noodles. I should have paid more attention to my instincts. The taste was “starchy.”

When I called the waiter to our table, he was flustered and embarrassed, stumbling over his words, going on to explain that my side order of sautéed vegetable, was precooked in the same water used to cook pasta. Double whammy! My main dish and veggies were laden with gluten.

Not one to complain loudly (neither of us tends to make a fuss) I asked the waiter why the chef thought this was acceptable. He answered that the chef thought was would be OK. Assume nothing. Asked and answer. Answer is wrong.  

Lesson learned, once again. Don’t order anything from a pot of any type or any mixed dish with many ingredients. I should have known better. The vegetable?  Who’d think that sautéed vegetables would be precooked in a pot containing pasta cooking water?

Another walk through the souk late in the day as we made our way to the restaurant on Sunday. Most weekend tourists have left by this time making it easier to walk through the souk.

This situation serves as a lesson for me and hopefully for any of our readers out there who possess a gluten allergy, sensitivity to gluten, or Celiac disease. Also, this impacts those of us who also strive to maintain a low carbohydrate, anti-inflammation way of eating.

Luckily none-the-worse-for-the-wear, we’ve decided to forgo dining at this restaurant, although the waiter did “comp” our bottle of water for the mistake. Oh. Generous. 

Now our dining options are narrowed down to one restaurant, Le Jardin. Preferring, at this point, no longer wanting to spend US $25 on taxis or take the long walk to the petite taxi stand in the scorching heat, we’ve narrowed our options down to one restaurant since Tom will not eat a single tagine or Moroccan spiced food. 

A cat outside our door when we returned to the house after dinner.

Le Jardin is the only restaurant in the souk that has offers a few non-Moroccan dishes that is open all day.  Other restaurants don’t open until 8:00 pm, too late for us to dine when we only eat one meal a day. With nine days remaining until departure, I imagine we’ll dine at Le Jardin three or four more times until we depart, dining in with Madame Zahra’s cooking on the remaining days.

Besides, they have the two turtles on “crumb patrol” at Le Jardin and, the two parakeets, greatly adding to the experience. 

Photo from one year ago today, May 6, 2013:
With no photos taken that day (soon these photo free days will get to the end of the point whereby we began posting photos every day, as we do now). 

Instead, we’ve included this photo of Tom and me while sightseeing in Marseilles on May 4, 2013. For the link for May 6, 2013, when we stayed overnight in a hotel in Barcelona, please click here.

Tom and I on a cool day outside this archway in Marseilles, France.  Gee…I wish I still had that sweater!

Household hazards…Treading carefully in vacation homes…Mindfulness is the key,,,

Standing at the low railing outside the master bedroom illustrates how one could fall over this railing to the brick floor or fountain below. Frightening!

Over the past year, we’ll have spent five and a half months living in houses 100 years old or more as here in
Marrakech and last summer in Italy, a 300-year-old property.
In each of these cases, we’ve experienced a similar situation, dangerous steps, and uneven stairways. What frequently causes steps to be dangerous, in their unexpected placement and unevenness in both height and depth in a stairway.

While living in Boveglio, Italy last summer, we’d posted photos of uneven stairways, but also of unexpected steps along a long hallway, a dangerous tripping hazard. Add the fact that if one fell they could easily bang their head on the stone or brick walls or floor adding to the risk of serious or fatal injuries. For photos and details of the tripping hazards in the old house in Italy, please click here.
When booking Dar Aicha, the riad in Marrakech, we anticipated that there would be many steps throughout the
riad, some uneven, others unexpected. We were right. They are everywhere.

The extra-long draperies kept closed to keep the sandflies out also creates a potential tripping hazard if one isn’t mindful when exiting.

From our perspective, unexpected steps are more hazardous than uneven stairways. Why? When going up and down stairways, aware of the risks, we tend to be more careful in general, holding onto a railing or wall if no railing is available while stepping gingerly.

Simply leaving one room to walk into another is often done without thought, resulting in tripping. The ultimate key to avoid tripping lies in a single word: mindfulness.

This has been a learning experience for me, the proverbial “bull in a China shop.” For Tom, having walked on uneven areas while working on the railroad for over 42 years, he has ingrained mindfulness. 

This is the stairwell from the main floor to the second floor. Although not easy to detect in this photo, the stone steps are high and shallow not fully fitting one’s shoe as each step is taken.

Luckily, I’ve had Tom at my side to “educate” me since the onset of our travels. When we walk, he always says, “step,” “two steps,” etc. ensuring I’m noticing what’s upcoming. With my camera in hand when we’re out, I’m often oblivious to uneven walkways, steps, and stairways.

In the process, I’ve become more mindful, able to easily maneuver throughout the riad, constantly aware of the possibility of tripping. Of course, this is not to say a fall is impossible or unlikely. 

One area of major concern while living in Dar Aicha has been when stepping outside of the master bedroom onto the second level balcony. The heavy drapes covering the doorway, necessary to be closed at all times to keep sandflies out, have two feet of excess material at the bottom, in itself a tripping hazard. 

There are two shallow steps to maneuver into and out of the master bedroom. 

With the two steps to navigate with a wide landing in between, required to get from the bedroom to the hallway, it’s an accident waiting to happen. From the photos we’ve posted here today, it may be difficult to determine how easily one could trip while coming out of the bedroom, either on the drapes or on either of the two steps resulting in being flung over the railing to the brick floor below in the open courtyard. Yikes! This possibility has scared us. 

Falls are the leading cause of household deaths worldwide. When adding the injuries incurred inside and outdoors one’s home from tripping and falling, it proves that even in one’s familiar surroundings the hazards are rampant. We’ve all seen the possible debilitation of a senior citizen’s health when breaking a hip from a fall, a common occurrence. 

As we’ve mentioned in the past, “Fear is a powerful motivator.” Maintaining the fear may be responsible for maintaining mindfulness.  Each time either of us steps outsides the bedroom door, we do so with the utmost of care. 

In this photo, the short distance from the two steps necessary to exit the master bedroom is evident which has prompted us both to be extremely careful.

With ten days remaining until we leave Marrakesh, we remind ourselves not to become careless by taking our newfound familiarity with the layout of the riad for granted. 

Another area of concern is when walking in the souks and in restaurants. There are dangerous steps and uneven stairways in almost every restaurant we’ve visited. Here again, we both tend to mention “step” to one another everywhere we may go, continuing to do so as we continue in our worldwide travels.

The final step is in the lower portion of this photo a short distance from the doorway, too close to the short railing.

Having the experience of being injured when the steps collapsed under our feet in Belize on the night of our anniversary on March 7, 2013, no fault of our own, we’ve upped our mindfulness. Please click here for the link to the story and photos from that date.

Please share this post with your family members and friends as a reminder to be mindful wherever they may walk and perhaps together we may prevent an injury or worse. 

Photo from one year ago today, May 5, 2013:
No photos were posted on this particular date.  In this short period as we progress further into our travels, we won’t have many dates without photos taken, as we’ve become more and more diligent in taking new photos for our daily postings. 

Yesterday, we didn’t include a photo from one year ago which we’ve included below when we’d instead posted a tribute to a dear friend that we sadly lost.

Photo from one year ago today, May 5, 2013:

The Palais Longchamp in Marseilles, France which we visited on May 4, 2013.

For the link of the story and more photos when we visited Marseilles, France on May 4, 2013, please click here.

For the link of the story from May 5, 2013, please click here.

We lost a dear friend…Saying goodbye from afar…

Lane and Peggy and their beloved dog.

Yesterday morning, we lost a friend, Lane Barton, a prince of a man. 

How easily we extol the virtues of those who pass from this world with our well-intentioned popular phrase of the past 20 years, “We’re sorry for your loss,” words that I’ve come to find redundant and monotone for a lack of the use of a more meaningful expression. 

How easily, “they,” say the person who has passed was good and kind and loving. Often, whether he or she was or was not, out of some form of reverence for those who have passed. 

But, Lane Barton, was good and kind and loving.  When he walked into a room, all eyes averted to him, waiting to hear what morsel of wisdom, humor, or hearty welcome he easily had on the tip of his tongue ready to spew to the audience on hand, eliciting a bout of laughter, or a rush of warmth, flooding through the heart. He was a prince of a man.

His family? His greatest treasure. With Peggy, his wife at his side for 50 years (they recently celebrated their 50th), they personified a couple to be reckoned with, a couple to aspire to, in their love and adoration of one another; relentless, strong, never wavering.  It was easy to be with them as a couple, independent and individual, yet united and unstoppable. 

To their two daughters, Tricia and Lisa, he was a prince of a man. Attentive, in tuned, and in touch he was loved and loved back, cherished and revered by them, for them, along with his grandchildren and other family members and friends. He will be missed. He will be remembered.

Lane and Peggy spent considerable time in Duluth, lovingly caring for Peggy’s Mom. Lane was the epitome of a fine son-in-law. never wavering in his commitment to family and friends.

Almost twenty-three years ago, I met Lane and Peggy, shortly after I’d met Tom. They were “friends of a friend.” You know the drill, with “friends of a friend,” tread lightly, be inclusive of the first friend. But, selfishly, we couldn’t share. We wanted them to ourselves.

As our friendship blossomed, I couldn’t wait for them to meet Tom and vice versa to share in this mutual connection. Tom was working “on the road” for the railroad, often gone for days, back for short stints, only to be gone again. We’d set up several dates for the four of us to get together only to be disappointed when Tom was suddenly called away shortly before our scheduled time.

I’d get together with Lane and Peggy anyway, never feeling like a third wheel when Lane had this magical way of making everyone feel inclusive. After several attempts to meet Tom, they finally met at a prearranged dinner party I had hosted. Lane vigorously pumped Tom’s hand saying, “You are real! I was beginning to think you were a figment of Jess’s imagination!” We all laughed as we often did in times to come.

And the magic continued with the four of us chatting endlessly time after time, no subject taboo, no words left unsaid, often all of us speaking simultaneously and yet, all of us somehow engaged in an animated four-way conversation. 

As the years rolled by, we often socialized at our home, on occasions at theirs, sharing deep thoughts, dreams, hopes, fears, and frustrations. Oddly, we talked little about our hobbies, our recent trips, or our favorite movies. Instead, immediately in each other’s presence, we delved into the “meat” of our lives, the funny stories, the sorrows, and the joys.

No matter the topic, Lane always had a twinkle in his eye. He loved not only the people in his life but savoring and cooking good food, having good friends, playing with his old cars, his home, photography and so much more.  

Lane loved his dogs. There’s something to be said about us, animal lovers. We seem to find one another, relishing in the ability to seek the joy one receives from a beloved pet; unconditional, unfettered with needs other than love and nourishment. 

And, that was Lane, love, and nourishment. His love fed our hearts as he freely nourished our minds and our souls, always to remain and never to be forgotten. And, now we must say goodbye. He was a prince of a man. 


Photos from one year ago today, May 4, 2013, won’t be shown today.  Please click on this link to see the story and photos from our day in Marseilles, France.

Tom remains under the weather…We were egged!….Photos follow…96F, 36C and sunny today…

A broken egg that I found yesterday outside the door to our bedroom, most likely one that fell from the top of a door or a decorative appendage on the wall.

What can I say? Tom’s still not ready to go out. Although his symptoms have abated somewhat, he remains sluggish and out of sorts, lounging across the room most of the day. 

Over the past four days, I’ve taken over his daily “job” of making ice tea, cracking the ice cube trays, and filling the water pot for morning coffee, a seemingly easy job which proves to be cumbersome for me. 

Pouring water from 4-liter bottles into the tiny ice cube trays and then into the narrow nozzle bottles we use for the ice tea is nearly impossible with my bad shoulder. Doing his job may have been helpful in preventing his germs from infecting these items and making me sick. So far, so good. No symptoms.

Roses on display when we last dined out on Wednesday, when Tom was in the throes of the first day of his illness.

For three nights we’ve slept in separate bedrooms which hopefully ends tonight. We often hear of couples who no longer sleep in the same bed and it always saddens me. Yes, I know, snoring and all that. For us, the distance adds nothing to the quality of our sleep, only the temporary freedom from him sneezing and coughing into my face these past nights.

I don’t sleep well without him, even in the tiny beds we’ve shared over the miles. He doesn’t sleep well either from that which I can surmise. What guy says, “Oh, my love, I can’t sleep without you!” 

Yesterday afternoon on one of my many daily forays upstairs to go to the bathroom or to get something from the bedroom, I noticed a broken egg, contents oozing, on the steps outside of the heavy drapery to the doorway to the master bedroom. 

It’s hard to resist stopping to peer at these cookies in a bakery window.

Usually, a broken egg inside a house occurs in the kitchen. How odd. Getting up close and personal, I studied its contents searching for what perhaps might have been a bird embryo. Nothing was evident. Most likely it was a pigeon egg.

Each morning as I’ve mentioned many times, the pigeons fly inside the riad, cooing loudly while flapping wings against the railings and walls, while the rooster next door crows every minute. Add the call-to-prayer every few hours and it quite the noise fest. None of that bothers us. It’s simply unusual. But then, it was unusual when a warthog showed up at our door with four babies in tow day after day.

It was only last week that we posted a photo of the contents of a nest that had fallen from the top of a doorway to the floor in the courtyard. It is these types of infinitesimal experiences that add a special element to our travels, not the towering historical buildings surrounded by hoards of tourists. It’s a broken egg. 

These neatly stacked bags of dyed yarn make a colorful display.

It was the dinner Madame made for us last night, always delicious, when she made a favorite of mine that requires more work and time to make; egg dipped sautéed aubergine (eggplant), a huge plate that I always devour in its entirety added to the perfectly roasted chicken parts, dark for me, white for Tom and the green beans, carrots, cooked cabbage and chips (fries) and bread for Tom, who only picked at his food. 
I was famished eating enough for two minus the bread and chips. Then she adds another favorite of mine, omelets with no cheese, no butter, no salsa, and no veggies that somehow tastes divine in its simplicity. That special touch. More broken eggs, prepared with care and love. This is what we’ll recall in years to come.

These two basic shoe styles are popular in the souks; slips on with pointy toes and slip-on with rounded toes. This style of our little interest to me, finding backless shoes unsuitable for the amount of walking required in our travels.

As both Oumaima and Madame entered this morning they immediately inquired as to Tom’s well-being, worry, and concern on their faces. Soon Adil will stop by for his daily visit to inquire as to our choices for dinner based on another day and night indoors. 

Well, we’re not really indoors living in a riad, as I notice another little tibbit (bird) walking on the flying carpet under my feet within inches (millimeters) of me. I longed to take a photo as I have more times than I can count. But, the slightest movement will send it flying away.

All of this…is what we’ll recall of our time in Morocco.

Photo from one year ago today, May 3, 2013:

There was no photo from one year ago today. It was the day that we donated three full large suitcases filled with mostly new clothing to a charity in Barcelona in order to lighten our load. Later, I regretted not taking photos. We were distracted and had time constraints in order to get everything ready for the port agent in Barcelona. For the full story, please click here.

Nurturing…It’s an art form…A year ago…Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain…

These new photos posted yesterday, today, and tomorrow are from Wednesday’s unsuccessful search for insect repellent. When posting repeated photos, we always mention that they’re repeated. It isn’t often we are able to take a photo of a horse and buggy when many of the owners request money for photos.  We never pay for photos, other than for entrance into specific sightseeing venues.

Nurturing. It’s what we do for those we love. If they’ll accept it. When they’re sick or upset. Lost or unsure. We attempt it. If they refuse, we try again, hoping the end result will be different after the same behavior. Which isn’t usually how life works.

In the case of nurturing, a persistent caregiver will eventually win as will the recipient of the care who eventually sighs in grateful resignation allowing us to offer that loving helping hand. And suddenly, we get to work in an almost enthusiastic frenzy to be of assistance, dashing to and fro in endless tasks to reap the fruits of our good intentions: That the recipient is feeling better.

The Big Square was less busy with tourists than usual.

Without question, I am a nurturer. Can’t help it. As many of you read this, you see yourself. It’s sad when a loved one is ill. We’re anxious to help them get better.

The secret to being a good nurturer is not to hover. After the imminent tasks are completed it is imperative to sit back quietly busying oneself in other tasks evident to the recipient. Thus, the recipient becomes open to asking for more assistance as needed or as gently offered on obvious occasions.

It was odd to see less activities and vendors in the Big Square.

This is Tom and I when he is sick. More worried about my well being than his own. I’m not sick. Yet, anyway.  How many days does it take for the nurturer to catch the illness? Not sure. I tried to look it up online but the answers were vague.

Tom must be quite ill in order to allow me to nurture. He has his own nurturing tendencies but often lacks the skills to exercise them with ease, not unusual in the male populations.

A hotel in the Big Square.

Yesterday, the challenge was clear. His frequent rounds of snorting, wheezing, coughing as well as persistent sniffing pushed my irritation buttons. At times, I thought, ‘If that was me, I’d go hide away in the bedroom rather than subject him to such obvious suffering.” But then again, I’m kind of shy about gross bodily sounds.

Rather than comment about the constant noises, gently I provided fluids, aspirin, antihistamines and tender loving care, remaining across the room of course, at his beacon call. Careful to avoid touching him or his stuff, he held out his open mug for me to pour in the beverages and ice. I dropped the pills into his open hand. Again, I slept alone, finally getting a good night’s sleep with no new no-see-um bites. A miracle, indeed.

Vendors of discounted clothing often place their stock on a blanket on the ground, hoping takers will stop by for further negotiations.

However, nurturing wasn’t reserved exclusively for me. Midday, Madame Zahra, after a little concerned hovering of her own, grabbed a fluffy down comforter, a sheet, and pillows and made up a bed for him on the sofa in the far end of the salon.  He was far enough from me to avoid the spray of his fits of coughing and sneezing, close enough to know when I was needed.

When Madame and Oumaima arrived in the morning the language barrier presented an issue when I tried to describe that Tom was sick and slept in the yellow room. With flying hand signals coupled with my choppy French, I was able to explain that they shouldn’t clean the yellow room for several days to avoid getting sick themselves. Somehow they understood appreciating my efforts to explain. We appreciate them. More than we can say.

Tee shirts and women’s tops hanging in a shop in a souk.

Madame made us a perfect dinner, as always. We chose to eat at 5:30 instead of 6:30. We both needed to eat, after 24 hours without a morsel, not an uncommon occurrence without access to cooking our own meals.

Oh, I know protests are rampant at this mention about not eating more often. We only eat when we’re hungry. Period. It’s called, “Intermittent Fasting” which we’ve been doing since the beginning of our travels, except when cruising when we eat breakfast and dinner. Eating this way is not appropriate for everyone. It works for us. 

Stickers and signs for sale.

Email me if you’d like the names of reputable books quoting numerous studies of the benefits of eating less often, eating only when the body signals. If we’re hungry, we eat more often. The cavewoman/caveman didn’t have a fully stocked refrigerator of goodies. The human race was perpetuated. See, it all worked out. 

In any case, Tom appears to be feeling a little better today. He changed his shirt. He’s sitting up listening to his radio show from Minnesota, Garage Logic.

Perhaps, in one more day we’ll be able to go out again. I’m getting “riad” fever.

Photo from one year ago today, May 2, 2013:

A year ago today, we spent the day in Barcelona. Our first sight to see was the Sagrada Familia, the church that remains unfinished although the construction continues after over 100 years for which Antonio Gaudi is credited.

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

In between parts of the souk, 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 from over 100 bites from what is referred to as “no-see-ums” commonly known as sandflies. 

Once we moved to the fabulous LaruBeya we’d only have to go indoors at dusk to avoid being bitten 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 smartphones 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 bad as they had in Kenya.

When we arrived in Morocco two months ago, it was cool, mostly in the 60Fs during the day, cooler at night.  Without a bug in sight, I thought that for a while 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 nor itch relief on hand from when we’d lightened our load, I searched online for the source of my dismay…the lowly sandfly, aka “no-see-ums” commonly called the phlebotomine sandflies. Nasty little invisible buggers!

These are no simple bites. These are vicious 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 from 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. Sandflies, 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 to 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 go.

Is it any wonder that there would be sandflies 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, below 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 souk, we spotted these newly dyed bunches of yarn hanging on this fence to dry.

In a perfect world, we could always be there for the 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 how we’ll handle these dreaded circumstances to avoid stress. Also, should one of us have to leave due to 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 good health to be able to 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 to 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 sandals 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 is 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, snacks, 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 the special occasions 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 as opinions, on how or why it could or should be different.

Nor are our comments intended as a “soapbox” 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 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 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 in 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 are 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 is 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 every day 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 meetings, 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 restaurants including where we dined last night, Arabe.

As we rapidly approach, our 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 seems 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 had 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,, 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 losing a few may 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 the upcoming shipment to wherever we may be at the time. The staff at 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 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, it’s 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 an 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 for 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.

A photo of the 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 discussing 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.