Sunday, October 31, 2010

Series of Losses......and Gains.

I had a good friend once who told me, "Life is a series of losses, Marcia. That's just the way it is." She firmly, confidently mentioned this when I had recently been told my, then-husband, had been cheating on me, again. I was seeking help and healing of heart, and this friend gave me her personal adage for the situation, I guess.  I didn't really appreciate what she said at the time, but I can agree that there are losses throughout life. It seemed to ring true as I sat there in my rejected stupor.

However, that's not the whole story, now is it? 

I was thinking about her statement today because I lost my cell phone. So, I took a pity party walk. (This is risky and not all that much fun in a "male only" walk on the street situation.) I decided to list all my losses in Morocco so far. OK, OK humor me all you further along in the thankful continuum. I have lost my umbrella at a holy site (see how holy it was?), I've lost my cleaning gals because they were having company over to take showers with our hot water (busted by our landlord while we were at work), 

I've lost one ear piece of my glasses, so I always wear my sunglasses to see distance (No, I don't think I'm a movie star.), I've lost at least some of my sense of humor, I've lost my art-making everyday habit, I've lost a tube of make-up (the wayward cleaning gals?), I've lost my power chord for my camera, my Excedrin from my desk at school, my favorite earrings in Fez, and most of the life in my clothes. 

Come to think of it, they are still up on the roof on the line and it is dark out now. Oh, I've lost the use of a dryer.

As I was having my pity party walk with seventy-five Muslim men scattered about staring at me (trust me, it's not as much fun as it sounds), a car stopped right in front of me.

It was an older single woman, Carol, who works at my school. She wondered if I was OK wandering around alone on the streets. (No, I'm fine, I just lost my phone and I love having seventy-five burly Moroccan men staring at me while I am trying to get some exercise. Can't a person take a walk in this town?) She suggested she show me some local hot spots in the neighborhood that I knew nothing about. 

Let's just say, she got me in the car, and she showed me the dry cleaners that does wash. She also showed me the Pizza place with brick oven baked take-out, the French restaurant she and a bunch of teachers go to on Friday nights, and then she showed me her camera. It's just like mine with the fantastic lens. 

She even stopped the tour so we could take pictures of the sunset. Beautiful waves leftover from a storm at sea were crashing below us while the sky was lit like a carnival and cotton candy on a summer evening. It was glorious.

Yes, life has its losses. It really does, and they are really tough, painful, overwhelming at times and quite sobering. But, life also has gains. That's the rest of the truth I need to hear, and you need to hear when we are suffering. There will be gains. Just like seeing a new friend who took the time to hang out with me or watching God's glorious artwork in the sunset tonight. He's still painting exquisitely every single day.

Yes, there will be gains. 

I say to myself quietly tonight, "Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not get weary." Goodnight from Morocco.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

My Beggar Women

OK, they aren't my personal beggars like a personal assistant; they aren't women who beg for me so I can continue my amazing journeys to far flung places on the weekends, so don't worry that something odd has happened to me here. (By the way, I'd love to have a personal assistant; I think everyone should have one. That's another story.) My beggar women are the four ladies who sit across from my apartment and right next to My patisserie. 

Like the red hibiscus and pink flowering bushes that continually bloom in the courtyard below, along with the mangey dogs, soccer-playing boys, donkey carts filled with cactus fruit and our faithful parking lot guardian, my beggar women are sure to hunker down on the curb many a morning, especially Saturdays. Today is Saturday, so here we go. 

Good morning ladies. I like your baseball caps. Do they help with the sun and wind? Why so bundled up? Did you plan out your outfit? I'd love to hear your story. Tell me about yourself. Where in the world do you go after begging? No, I only know five Arabic phrases, so we aren't going to have a conversation. 

Then, I wake from my small musings and think about how I only enter their world when I hand them a couple of dirhams. They put their hands to their hearts and thank me in Arabic. I put my hand to my heart; I long for greater connection with them. We blow kisses at each other if I give them five dirhams. I feel this tangible wall of separation from them as I enter my apartment.

I have been struggling to know where to start drawing or painting in this wild world, this cacophony of color, loud speaker sounds, minarets, hooded robes tiles and archways. A blank piece of paper or a blank canvas is a wall for me, too. Another wall of separation, but this wall is keeping me from a creative place of color, shapes and expression of beauty, of truth. 

Put something down Marcia, anything. OK. What matters to me? Let me draw my beggar women; I care about them. So, today, my beggar women are helping me lay a few lines down on that frightful white paper and climb over that wall into a creative space. We can go there together. 

Friday, October 29, 2010

Sin Gluten in Morocco

We ended our work week with a salad, omelette and Moroccan tea at the gas station cafe. After paying for our simple supper eaten amongst chandeliers and marble, we noticed the gas station also has a awfully sharp grocery store. So, we wandered in. Memories of breakfast with my children hit me as I spied a box of Golden Grahams. I had to buy it. Then, I found crackers, thanks Jill, that almost seem like Ritz crackers. It makes me want to buy some cheddar cheese. Almost. Cheese tastes different here, but I am hopeful I'll find good cheddar eventually.

Then I spied something my friend back in Seattle, Jamie, might like. There they were - sin gluten chips. I thought the translation was fairly humorous, and decided to try a bag. I imagine they are saying the chips are without gluten, but nowadays, who knows? At the gas station grocery store, "gluten is a sin" is how I read it.  I've tried one, and I think the salt could kill you, but certainly not the gluten.....since it's not there anyway. I think. Maybe sin means with? I thought that was avec? Help.

As I was checking out with all my prizes, I noticed all the impulse buying products. Dark chocolate Kit-Kats? Do they have those in America? Where have I been? I decided to give it a try, and knew I could wash any odd flavors away with my fresh clementine juice. Eat your hearts out clementine lovers in America! I just hope it doesn't make me sick.

I did make it to school today; it was fairly quiet as I had no seventh graders today. It was good to ease back into the school pace. I had promised little leaf people for K3 (three year olds) so I madly cut and prepared first thing this morning. I was so tired when I actually got to the class, but explained the children could use yellow, red, orange and green on their leaf people. I told them the colors mixed together would make brown in some places on their leaves. I think they really like these happy projects.

As I was cleaning up for the day, I was struck by how I liked how the leaves landed in a scattered pile...the leftovers from the day...and how pretty they looked on their own just resting.

The sun is setting, the motorcycles are whizzing by, maybe many are heading for home, warm food and hugs from family. Or maybe they are just headed to a cafe and hanging with fellow men.  The bakery across from us is closing up, the last of the baguettes seem to be scooped up by our landlord. I think the tired, covered beggars below our place also get the end of a day's loaves.

The sky is that pale gray blue that hangs and lingers after sunset. It's a calm, be at peace blue. It would be nice to share it with someone special. But, God has other plans for me.

Goodnight from Morocco.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Hobnobbing in Morocco

It's not quite what you might be thinking. Marcia's lying in bed and hobnobbing in Morocco? Yes, it's true. I am munching on my most favorite cracker, from England, while trying to recover from a parasite or the flu. At this point, I don't know what it is since it continues to linger. I think my body is just saying, "Stay at home and make your own art while sipping tea and munching on hobnobs."

What a lovely thought and life that would be. Maybe this afternoon. Now, I am resting, listening to the lively sounds of many stirring for the day's activities in the patisserie square below my apartment. Muslim men are belly laughing, delivery trucks are picking up pastries for shops throughout the city, men on mo-peds are speeding by, some with their families barely staying on their bikes, no helmets, and other men are setting up for the day in the cafe connected with the patisserie. The local venders of cactus fruit and bananas are passing through with their donkey carts.

Right below my apartment.

Here, men, typically, work outside, women work inside. If a man does not have an office, which most don't, they set up shop with their cell phones at the men-only cafes, order endless cups of tea, light up their cigarettes and wait for calls for employment. These are the electricians, carpenters, plumbers and such. Some never get a call during the day, but they have been outside, so no shame has come on them. 

One might see women on the porches of apartments, but that's really venturing out for them. If a woman goes out, she is covered, often in a black jellaba and head covering. A man she is walking with may be in shorts and a T-shirt, but never the woman. He may actually be walking with two women and some children. Then we know he has two wives. A man can have up to four wives.

Men making mosaic tiles.
In contrast to this scene, I remember seeing men working inside the pottery/tile studio in Fes, so some do work inside. The men making the tiles actually sat on the dusty gray ground to hammer out those tiles. It was amazing to see them chisel by banging, in just the right places, all those tiny tiles that would some day be beautiful mosaics in grand buildings. 

This reminds me of how God uses the pieces or "tiles" of our lives to design a beautiful mosaic that is for his glory and our good. Let me tell you, when the banging part is going on, I'm not really happy. I have to trust he is banging in just the right places to produce the beautiful mosaic that is each of our lives. I can't second guess what He is doing in your life or mine. Trusting Him is my hard work...I want to be the clay telling Him, the potter, what to do, and certainly NOT to bang. 

Covering an object with tiles.

However, I have trusted Jesus as my good, perfect, loving savior, so I trust I am in His good, loving, trustworthy hands. And, while we are at it, let's encourage each other as His creating goes on in each of us, knowing He is creating beauty, truth and goodness. That part is probably hard sometimes, because we may not trust what God may be doing in someone else. Especially if it is slow going.

During my days of lying in bed, I have time to reflect and enjoy the goodness of God in my life. He and I have been working on the soil of my heart. I've looked over many photos just to remind myself of all God is creating right here in Morocco. So, you might say, I have just been hobnobbing with Him! No one better to be with.

My verse for today: Ephesians 2:10 says,"For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago." 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Advil from Morocco and Cipro from Jill.
Oh, the fresh green beans, tomatoes and basil were so delicious from "The King's Market" on Monday night. The King's Market is a store near my school, and it is supposedly where the servants shop for the king when he is in town. Then, Monday night, I became very ill, pounding headache, chills, sweats and other conditions I will leave unmentioned, from all those yummy veggies. 

I took Tuesday off from work, and I was making no progress in healing. Then, my roommate came home and gave me Cipro and tonic water. I highly recommend it. It is 2:30 AM, and I feel like living again. I am taking today off from school, and I may take tomorrow off because I am still incredibly weak with fever. How do people even make it without Cipro? Thank you, Lord, for modern medicines.

It is a wonder that something so good as fresh green beans, basil and tomatoes could cause such havoc. However, the soil  they are grown in and the parasites associated with them are not in my body's repertoire in my defense system. It reminds me that everything that may be good, may not be good for me. 

I just read on the Cipro bottle that it may cause dizziness. No wonder I've felt like falling down when alighting the bed. 

Favorite quote for today that I received via email - "Good morning, Marcia!

Yesterday my 5th graders were using colored pencils, and one of them said, "I'm going to use all cool colors."  Another one said, "I'm going to use warm colors."  I asked what they were learning about in art class, and they had fun telling me about the different colors :-).  Just thought I'd pass it on - it's nice to know when our students are actually retaining what we're teaching!

Anne Marie Peterson
Elementary ESL Specialist"

Favorite quote I read on an artist friend's blog: As the disciples responded to Jesus when so many deserted him, and He asked if they were going to quit too, so we respond: “Where else can we go, Lord? You have the words of eternal life.” Thank you, Jesus, for life and eternal life today.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Growing in Art

I gave my students assessments in art today, I asked them to draw a picture of themselves, their family, their favorite animal, their house, a beautiful tree and to trace around their hand on the back of the assessment paper. I told them we'd try the assessment each quarter and watch to see how their art skills grow. I told them I had come to help them grow in their ability to express themselves using art.

They worked very diligently, well most of them, and it was fun to see how they are currently drawing. Some thought it was a test, so they stressed about it. Oh, to be 10 and know to enjoy art!

Seventh grade continues to be difficult. I seem to have to re-establish my authority every time I have them. It is sad that they are most happy with worksheets. I spent hours designing a worksheet on Islamic art for them. What was actually really cool was they did know the Arabic to use in their drawings. In the end, I asked them to design a simple mosaic with some Arabic to decorate their own homes. Some did their name in Arabic, some did a saying.

I ended the day in 7th grade with some contour line drawing. Several children sat 5 minutes while the other students tried it. They struggled a bit, but they are  trying! I give them much credit for that.

I wanted to end tonight by sharing just a couple of other pictures from Fes. The Riad we stayed in was so lovely; I wanted you to see their welcoming door. The small door inside the larger door is for family, and the bigger door is for company and celebrations.

Note the bar across the bottom that one has to step over in order to enter. Maybe that keeps some pests and animals out? Maybe it keeps the cold air out as well. Don't you just love the door within the door? I also like the mosaic floor at the entry and the nice roof to stand under. You can also see in ceramic the sign, "Dar Fes Medina" set in the wall.

 I'm heading to bed with hopes of an excellent day tomorrow. I truly want to count my blessings, and there are many. It's still sunny and beautiful beach weather here. Some of my friends in Cambodia are very deep in water from flooding. Theirs is a hard life. I have so much to be thankful for! Night to all from North Africa!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Back Home in Morocco

Pottery and embroidery from Fez.
I have returned to my life in the big city at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, and I have lovely, held close to my heart memories of Fes and Riad Fes Medina. I have my ruby slippers in case I need to go home:-), I have wonderful memories of colors, hand-painted pottery by people I have actually met, Andalusian music, Pastillia, and new friends that treat me like a sister. I hope to return for a weekend in December. "En Sha Allah" (if God wills) as they say in this neck of the woods! It was a great weekend of prayer, praise and encouragement with each other in our traveling group. I drifted off to sleep thankful to the Lord for many, many blessings. Now, I return to my teaching in the corner of the world where God has placed me. May He be honored in my classroom this week.
(My teaching thought for today: "Once children learn how to learn, nothing is going to narrow their mind. The essence of teaching is to make learning contagious, to have one idea spark another." -- Marva Collins)
Dyed ruby red leather slippers from Fes.
PS Today, I am highlighting a need of an organization that helps women and girls leave the sex-trafficking industry, from another part of the world, which I am a part of. CHO - Cambodia Hope Organization needs our help. Please read here and help a fantastic project in one of the poorest areas of the world. Thank you for reading. Let's all be God's hands and bring beauty and goodness to these sisters.

Final Day in Fes

Inlaid wooden chairs in our raid.
I just don't know what today will bring, but we are arising slowly, even though we had the 5 AM service blasted outside our window. Things have quieted down a bit; the birds are singing, and I hear the sounds of breakfast making from the courtyard down below. Someone is playing Arabic music softly. I have decied to post a few more pictures from the medina in Fes. Can't be bacon I smell, pork isn't a part of the cuisine in Morocco; Judy says it is the fried bread I'm smelling.

My verse for today, in honor of my new friends here as well as our hosts is:
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! —Psalm 133:1 A blessed Lord's day to all. I'm off to find some African java.

An enormous rug shop in the medina.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Fascinating Fes!

Production potters in Fes

The mosque Fatima built.
A hard sell at the embroidery shop.
I just don't know where to begin with my amazing adventure to Fes. We have seen so many sights, colors, people, foods, animals and smelled so many smells...from rose water smells in our room to donkey dung on the cobblestoned streets. I was able to see how they make the pottery, get one bag of clay, jump on the wheel, buy a bit of pottery for tea time and exchange information with the pottery place. Fes seems so very Moroccan!

We began our day by hopping into a van with our guide and going to the king's palace. He wasn't there; he has many palaces throughout Morocco. However, we were able to see moorish influences in the architecture and decorative walls. We then went on to see the old Jewish quarter begun in 500 BC during one of the persecutions of the Jews. Walkers have free reign in the areas were went , so it was a relief to not have to dodge traffic.

Panoramic view of Fes.

We then went to a military fortress, and we were able to see the panoramic view of Fes. Its winding twists of miles and miles of alleyways were below, along with thousands of little satellite dishes. Our guide gave us detailed history of Fes, a city originally started by the Berbers who may have been Norwegian! Those Norsemen went everywhere:-) The Berbers were conquered by Carthiginians, Romans, Christians and Muslims. The Arabs won in the end. They are there today alongside the berbers.

From the panoramic view, we went to the pottery place. We saw two production potters, three production glazers and two ceramic tile artisans with chisels to make small tiles by hand. One potter let me hop on his wheel, which was really nice of him. The guide also got me some clay from the huge mound of Fes clay as I slipped him some dirhams. The pottery was exquisite. I could have just settled there for the morning.

However, we had an enormous medina to see! And, boy did we see it. We saw the embroiderers, the tanners, the wool sellers, the leather goods makers, the nugget candy makers, the dyers of fabric, the weavers of rugs (female) and the weavers of fabric (men). We walked and walked for hours. Finally, our guide dropped us off at a Moroccan restaurant, and we tried Fes pastillia. It was fantastic! It is a pastry dusted with powdered sugar and filled with chicken and veggies and Fes spices.

Lunch ended before I could really nap, although we ate it on long couches and short tables. We began the circuitous walking once again, and we saw more artisans than one can possibly imagine in one place. Every once in a while, we dropped into a holy spot or a courtyard of a mosque for more history and discussion of the symbols in the art  and architecture that represent various aspects of the Islamic faith. Some are symbols of Solomon as well as the 5 pillars of Islam. We also were shown the Islamic cross which has nothing to do with Jesus. It has more to do with man and God and man and his fellow man

A woman adding glaze.
Our tour ended on a rooftop looking down over the enormous dye vats that the Fes artisans use to dye the leather to make brightly colored purses, shoes, wallets, notebooks and jackets. They are just beautiful colors of leather. I bartered for a pair of ruby colored leather shoes - I want ruby slippers in case I need to go home:-) I'll try to take a picture to show you. They just brighten my day every time I look at them, and they remind me of those enormous dye vats!

Tonight, we are headed to a Moroccan home to have a traditional dinner. I can't even imagine adding another sight or sound to an already full mind and heart of vivid memories of Fes!

One of the mosaic tile makers handing me a heart tile.
Fresh pottery at the studio.

At the palace.

Fesian Ladies making rugs.

Tajine cookers.

One of the entry ways to the medina.
Dye Vats just for Marge.
Dye Vats

Lovely colors at the pottery studio.

The Riad in Fes

I have landed in another world. Fes is unique and incredible. As I wake up this morning, I am thinking the palette here is so different than in Seattle. My color wheel here is earth tones, ochres, deep wood colors, greens and reds with some black mixed in them as well as pale white. The hand-carved doors and chairs are magnificent.

We begin our tour at 10, and we are invited to a special tour of the place where the small mosaic tiles are made later this afternoon. Pottery as well. We have an invite to dinner at a nearby home for authentic Moroccan cuisine. I am excited as the Moroccan adventure continues!