Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Rain Days! School closed for 2 Days

Grand Taxi stalled in a lake of water, our former lane.
In Africa, one hardly expects snow days, and rightly so. But, rain days? Being from Seattle, "rain days" are just silly, tired teacher thoughts. However, life is full of interesting surprises in Morocco. Today, Jill, Wayne and I, our AWESOME carpool, tried to swim-drive our way to school. Jill was tenaciously amazing in her pursuit of another hard-working teacher day, even changing lanes when our lane was totally flooded out. That means, she was driving into oncoming traffic. Kuddos to Jill! I'd give her a bonus if I was Head of School. Fortunately, no traffic was oncoming.

Heading into oncoming traffic.
Within minutes, cars in our illegal(relative term use here) lane were turning around and heading for home. We followed suit, and had hot coffee and candy(great care pack from one of their friend's) at Wayne's house with his delightfully sleepy family just getting up for their morning's activities. Calls were made. News began trickling in from closer to school. Some of the school is under a bit of water. ("HR is knee deep in water", was the official word from a friend.) We reveled in our latest vacation as the news slowly unfolded that we actually had two "rain days" due to flooding at school.

Moroccan flood plan.
I sit contentedly sipping fresh coffee and wonder about the phone tree we were given a short while ago. I guess it is still in its trial/ non-funtioning "because we are in Morocco" stage. Wayne mentions he is not on the phone tree. I mention my phone isn't working because my secret number code was stolen along with my passport and credit cards in Paris, so I can't unlock my phone to receive calls anyway. (I had just bought the phone and was just learning the code when I left for Paris.) No matter. I'll have a second cup and relax in front of a crackling fire that Wayne has just got going. We talk about getting together for dinner. Terry, Wayne's wife, warmly invites us over for leg of lamb.

View out my living room window.
The Moroccan adventure is slowing a bit. God has given us a sipping Moroccan tea and reading Jane Austin kind of day. Now where is my Mansfield Park?

Post Script
While not today's flood, here is a YouTube of similar flooding from the spring:


Monday, November 29, 2010

I'm Sketching on a Jet Plane....

I just love making art and helping others make art.  Art is my first language in a way. I just don't have enough time to speak it, live it, slosh around in it. Cut the tape. All you non-art people are yawning, wondering when I'll move onto math problems or tricky riddles or maybe a map of something. So sorry:-)

When I was on the plane flying to Paris, I must have been back in my grove, relaxed and feeling right brained, in a happy, dreamy sort of way. I decided to practice drawing eyes, nose, mouths and so forth because, as a teacher, I have to do it on the run so to speak. Kids ask me to draw all sorts of things, hippopotamuses, for instance, on the board, just like that. So, I like trying to be prepared. So, I am posting my quick sketch I did while leaving on a jet plane.

My demo.
Today in art world at school, I had a really fine day. It was incredibly blustery, rainy with sideways rain and all kinds of chaos outside my art room door. But inside, it was really good. The students are starting projects relating to the season; many families here do have a Christmas tree and Christmas decorations. So, we are making wreaths and trees and ornaments just for a couple of weeks before the Christmas break. I'll post some of those pictures as the students complete the projects next week. 

student work
Tonight, I'd like to post some work done by my middle school students. Bear in mind they have had little or no art experience. One had art last year.
It was fun to help "save" one girl's drawing and help here and there on the rest.

student work
student work

Yes, it was a fine, sunny day in art class in Morocco, even though it was crazy rainy outside!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Tale of Two Cities

Paris with the Seine River.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times....on my little Thanksgiving trip to Paris with three friends. I was able to practice lots of French, see beauty in the people, books, art, the Seine, museums and architecture. Our "bike about Paris" tour was invigorating and informative fun, even though I felt a bit elderly on the uphills. The night boat ride along the Seine with the Eiffel Tower all lit up in the distance was one of my highlights.

Notre Dame in Paris, France.
I saw Monet's Waterlillies, Leonardo's Mona Lisa and a ton of lively Van Gogh's, Renoirs and many impressionists. I saw Venus de Milo and a host of other fantastic sculptures. It was an art major's dream come true. I walked by some paintings in the Museo D'Orsay and said, "Hello old friend" because I'd had that particular painting on many an art history test. I wanted to stay and sketch with the students who were sketching the sculptures.

I was able to eat wonderful foods such as real French onion soup, real coissants and delicious hot crepes day or night. I was warmed by hot wine (vin chaud) while walking down the streets in the evening. I saw pretty Christmas twinkle lights scattered throughout the city and on the big Christmas tree in front of Notre Dame Cathedral. Amazing stuff.

I was also robbed by three pickpockets in the metro. It was on line number four; we found out later this line is notorious for thieves. The metro car was packed, I was clutching onto my purse tightly, but three men surrounded me and accomplished the dirty deed seemingly effortlessly. Two kind girlfriends accompanied me to the police station and the US Embassy and helped me secure a temporary passport. 

Credit cards were cancelled, and I hope all is well in my financial world. It's probably a little sticky. Fortunately, all but one card did not work for them. They had bought more tickets to ride the metro and rob more people with the one card.

Venus de Milo in the Louvre.
My difficult day occurred with one day yet to go, and I must say, the last day was an answer to prayer. I had wanted to quit being a tourist, just hunker down in my little hotel room and read or feel sorry for myself. Yeah, probably just feel sorry for myself and not read. 

I felt violated.....like poor Venus with her arms missing and all staring at her. Maybe I am exaggerating slightly.

Am I the only one who wants someone big and kind, someone larger than my life or your life, to come and comfort me, pin the thieves against the subway wall a month or two, and hand me my money belt back with nothing missing? If only my grandsons could truly be super heros and get the bad guys.

My Friends and me in front of Notre Dame.
My friends prayed with me, and I joined life again. God's grace. It's in a prayer or a kind word of encouragement said with a friend who stops their life for yours. Maybe you think it's your grace or your being kind, but I think it's a direct reflection of the one who gave us the capacity for such things, made us capable of kindness and the stopping part. Let's not just stop with the person; let's continue to see the creator of that person who cared for us.

On the last day in Paris, I did enjoy L'Arc de Triumphe, Napoleon's self-absorbed pomp, and the walk along the Christmas market booths. We all worked through the money situation, and were able to enjoy ourselves on our last day in the city that really never seems to sleep! Yes, it was the best of times and the worst of times in Paris, filled with beauty, ugliness and grace. Grace triumphed in the end.

Book and art vendor in Paris.

Evening service inside Notre Dame, Paris.
And now...back to teaching art in Morocco.  A friend kindly reminded me that I am a Christmas light in Morocco.

Now that's something to think upon.

and from Judy:

"I thank Thee first because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse they did not take my life; third, although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed and not I who robbed."– Matthew Henry (wrote this after the night he was robbed)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving Break

Early Fresco in Florence.
In honor of Thanksgiving to God and my 100th blog post today, I am taking a little holiday from technology for this vacation. I will resume blogging my Moroccan adventure this coming Sunday, Lord willing.

I am thankful for God and His provision in my life. I am most thankful Jesus died for my sins, mistakes and a huge load of awful thoughts, words and deeds. Sure, I have had moments of being good and right, but that was God's grace. My salvation is a free gift from my lovingkind, abounding in mercy God. The Christian faith is the only faith where the work was done for us. 

I am also so thankful for my family and friends. What gifts they each are to me. We each are God's amazing artwork designed for Him and each other!

"Never has there been and never again will there be another you. Fashioned by God's hand and perfectly planned to be just who you are. And what He's been creating since the first beat of your heart is a living, breathing PRICELESS work of art. And I can see the fingerprints of God, when I look at you."-Fingerprints of God by Steven Curtis Chapman

Money Miracles in Morocco

See that person by the railing? Moi aussi!
Sitting here in my cold bedroom, no central heat, I am smiling under two quilts with a tiny room heater on full blast. Why am I smiling? I am marveling at the recent money miracle in Morocco.

It has been a mere three months and 13 days since I first arrived in Morocco and tried to set up a bank account with debit card. FYI - Moroccan time is completely different than any other time. I was hoping to get direct deposit for my paycheck. Right before I went to Florence and the Duomo, my friend, Julie in HR, graciously came into the art room and dropped off my very own brand new pin number from the bank. 

If you recall, the last pin number sent to me did not go with my card, and the bank machine ate my card, etc. It was a less than wonderful day that day. I decided to put off trying my card and pin until after Florence just in case it did not work; I did not want to start on my happy Italian adventure on the wrong Moroccan foot, so to speak.

You don't decide your pin number in this country; they give it to you in the mail months after you get your debit card. See how easy the system is? It's a snap, I say. Well, anyway, I finally decided to go downstairs (we live over a bank and ATM machine) and try my shiny new debit card that had recently been eaten along with my very new pin number. 

Having just returned from scaling the dome in Florence, I felt a renewed vigor and joie de vie! Yes, I can get money out of an ATM in Morocco. 

And yes, drum roll, it actually worked! You folks who want debit cards the first day you open up a bank account are way out of line. What's your hurry in America? I just think back to how silly I was if I didn't get something done quickly or in a timely fashion back home. Here they'd say go get some mint tea and wait a few months for your debit card. Chill. What's your hurry? Gosh.

Anyway, a money miracle happened to me tonight in Morocco. I have a debit card that works!

The adventure continues......

Sunday, November 21, 2010

"Get A Grip, People!", "Le chat est mort."

Fresco from dome of Florence Duomo.
I've returned to the land of jellabas, mopeds, trash, ocean, sunshine, moaning cats, howling dogs, averting my eyes, that moaning eerie call to worship, I mean that interesting call to worship,  and covering my bum. After having seen the current fashions in Florence, where women barely cover their bum with a short sweater, it is quite a contrast to see women covered, scarved and slipping home before it's the men's time of day to be out alone. I imagine the women are heading to the kitchen to make the evening meal. It would be fun to be a part of their time in the kitchen and hear what they are laughing about or sad about.

Graffiti on a Florence side street.
The EasyJet flight was uneventful, except for the jockeying for position on the part of rude travelers and one wandering little girl on the plane. The flight attendants had to basically say over the intercom, "We cannot land until the little girl is in her seat." The hapless parents were smiling all the while, thinking the little one was so, so cute.

My highlight on the plane was when the nice gentleman, Italian maybe, but Crystal says Moroccan, helped me hoist my book-laden carry-on into the overhead compartment, and then the golden bracelet clad pregnant Moroccan woman helped hoist my suitcase out of the overhead bin. I said, "You shouldn't be lifting anything!" as she helped me. You never know where help will come from. 

With all my acquired books from my trips, I'm thinking of starting a lending library in my neighborhood. Wait. I need more books in Arabic. 

So the wash is spinning in the seemingly toy washing machine, and I am thinking of new art projects for my students in the weeks before Christmas. I'd like to introduce 2 or 3 new terms with projects to flesh out those terms. We'll have to make Christmas trees as well, just for creative fun. Moroccans celebrate some aspects of Christmas, so it's a good time to have some conversations.

The local accordion player by the B and B in Florence
Oh, and why the title for today's blog, you might ask? Well, in all honesty, I did not transition well back into my crazy neighborhood. The cats were moaning so I yelled out my window for the cats to hush, and then a bunch of loud, yelling neighbors raced through the street as babies were crying alongside the moaning, sounding like dying, cats, so I yelled out the window quietly, "Get a grip, people." and "Le chat est mort." Right after that, the guy at the mosque sang out that it was time to pray. He got that one right.

Morocco is noisy, fascinating and culturally amazing in a different way from Italy. Both have very special people I enjoy so much! (But, I left my heart in Italia.)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

463 Steps To The Top!

From a window on the climb up.
Lynn and Jill were wide-eyed and excited to climb those 463 steps this morning. At 8:08, I knew I had to make a final decision on the 8:30 AM adventure to the top of the dome. I have been having trouble with the 63 steps to the entrance of our B and B, so I was a wee bit hesitant to lay my elderly, delicate body on the line. Now, maybe I'll never be back to Florence, shudder the thought, so, I threw on my jeans, boots and a sweater.

We three found the entrance eventually, and began the assent. About a fourth of the way up, Lynn and Jill bounded way ahead of me laughing and gliding effortlessly up the 463. (OK, maybe I exaggerate.) I, however, had to sit down after every 30 steps or so, huffing and puffing, heart racing. What's happened to me? I used to be so.......young!

I did eventually make it to the top, and the view was well worth all the laborious efforts on my part. We were all impressed by the engineering feat of the early renaissance and Brunnelecchi, the dome designer,  in particular. As I descended the stairs rather quickly, I marveled that I was walking in the same places as Vasari, the many mason workers, Brunnelecchi and all the many others who helped to build the dome. Amazing!

At the top!
What also struck me was that God gets honor when his creatures make something beautiful and unique, when they use their wisdom and talents, even if we don't realize it or acknowledge Him. 

It's time to get back out there for a final day of fun in Florence before we head back to Africa.

We had fun just relaxing over breakfast after the big climb, and then we each went our separate ways to catch last minute looks around town. My daughter, Annie, wondered about the Italian fashions. Well, they are showing the belted sweaters and short coats the gals in Morocco might wear, but  in Italy, the sweaters are with leggings and smart, long leather boots. 

In Morocco, the gals would need a lower half to their outfit, a longer skirt or pants, no leggings.
And, traditional Moroccan women would wear a jellaba over anything they'd wear in public.

The steps going down between the inner dome and the outer dome. 
Well, we are safely tucked into a little hotel near the airport.. Buononotte!

Friday, November 19, 2010

"Your Face Looks Arabic"

The dome Frescos in the enormous Duomo in Florence.

Well, Firenze is an amazing place from start to finish. I started with coffee joined by a new friend I hope to get to know better. We scooted around the corner from my B and B and sipped warm coffee and shared life a bit. She is an amazing woman who works for Harvard's graduate program in Florence.

Then, Jill, Lynn and I headed for L'Acadamia and touched base with dear ole David. I was covertly taking a photo, sort of, of David with camera sans flash in my purse, because I remember when the plexiglass was not at the base and anyone could take a picture, or draw there, many years ago. Well, a fellow tourist came right up to me and said, "It's because of people like you that this museum will probably be closed soon. "

Wow. I want to publicly apologize to everyone on the planet for taking a photo of David. It was his backside by the way:-) I don't plan on selling my photos or reproducing them, so, forget about emailing me for anything. I give up on being a covert photographer of nude statues in Florence. I'm being serious. :-)

After the David Fracas, I soberly, dejectedly slumped into a chair that turned out to be a museum guide's chair. OK, so I got going, saw a ton of plaster sculptures in one room, and then lingered over the unfinished Michelangelo sculptures that stand in sharp rows leading up to David. Those were my favorites. I want to understand him; I want to know why he thought those creatures were waiting to be freed from the marble. It's a profound thought to think they were just there to be found.

I ended up at the museum shop and acted like an idiot and bought a David mug. Every morning, I will drink my Moroccan coffee and think of Michelangelo. At least, I did not buy the miniature David statue, although, I think Morocco needs it. Maybe.

How did this Fra Angelica get on my camera?
We then sloshed through the rain and made it to San Marco Museo. It is just wonderful because it houses simple, pastel-colored frescos created by Fra Angelico during the Middle Ages. Each monk's cell has a different fresco from the life of Jesus. The annunciation is my favorite. Jill secretly took many photos of the frescos, Lynn took one in the museum and I took zero pictures. :-) I am a recovered criminal photographer.

We were fairly heavy-laden with bookshop odds and ends, so we headed for the B and B to unload and massage our feet. 

Sanata Croce Church in Florence.
Back out on the cobblestones, we went through the main Duomo, decided to climb the 363 steps or whatever tomorrow morning before breakfast, and then we peeked into the Baptistry afterwards...at least I did... so I wouldn't have to pay the 4 Euro for the baptistry. I repent again.

Then Lynn and I headed for Santa Croce Church because I heard from a friend, Mary, that I had to sing Amazing Grace in the Medici Chapel, so I decided to give it a try. After wandering a bit, we made it to the facade of Santa Croce. Again, we paid and enjoyed a visual feast. 

After finally finding the chapel I was supposed to sing in, I lost my nerve and just enjoyed the beauty. There were several other tourists, and a guide explaining about Galileo's burial spot in the Medici Chapel. The church would not let him be buried in a cemetery, you know, the earth is round, no it's not, you're booted from church, so the Medici family stepped in and gave him a room off the Chapel for his spot.

Jill making marble paper.
After the Medici Chapel, we headed back for home(the B and B) to massage our feet and regroup. Jill and I then went out to make marble paper at a wonderful paper shop called Il Paprio. I just absolutely love that shop (business) because it is a throwback to the renaissance. The owner and I chatted, I told him I made marble paper with students in Seattle, and he gave me good tips.

Finally, the owner said, "If the paints are not working, just put them away and have a cappuccino," That makes a lot of sense to me:-)

I could go on, but, let me end for tonight by telling you of two small incidents. One, we told our waiter tonight that we taught in Morocco. The waiter weakly said to Lynn, "Your face looks Arabic." (She's from Carlyle, PA) He kind of ignored us and treated us poorly. It was the same place we had gone to the first night we arrived. We had such a good experience the first night. I calmly said to my compatriots, "What's happened to this place?"(I had my arms raised with long fingers holding a wine glass high into the air.) We laughed. How funny we were judging the place in just 3 days.

Two, we ended up at a bookstore that had books in English, and we stocked up for the winter in Morocco. I got Mansfield Park by Austin and a history of Italians called, The Italians. I also got," You can't Get Blood From A Turnip" because I had mentioned that to my boss. (Hopefully, she doesn't read my blog.)

The Duomo
We are now relaxing back at the B and B thinking about those steps up the Dome  - we climb at 8:30 AM. 

I have added some pictures of the dome frescos and a panel from the bronze doors from Girabaldi's doors of the baptistry. Such amazing art everywhere you turn here!

The frescos in the dome by Vasari and another artist.

A bronze panel by Girrabaldi as seen on the doors of the baptistry in Florence.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Florence by Daylight

What can I say; Florence is just an amazing, beautiful, artful place to visit. I am feeling recharged and renewed by all the beauty, slower pace, gelato, cappuccino, beautiful language and people. Jill wants to take an Italian man home to Steamboat. I'm sure it will all work out for her. Lynn and I laugh and take pictures for her and enjoy planning where we will eat next. Below are some of my photos from the day.

We are off to cena! (dinner:-)
Oh, by the way, we have decided Italian women can wear those spike heals on the cobblestones because they weigh 80 pounds each and their bones are hollow like birds. Could this be their secret???

The Uffizi was just as fantastic as ever. I spent a bit of time in a new Charrivaggio (sp) exhibit. I stumbled upon it twice. Wow, was that artist impressive with lights and darks. Tomorrow should be another day of fun, food and laughter mixed with lots of art!

For my 3 grandsons!

Is that bird building a nest on my head?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


View from our window!

We made it to Florence, and we had a lovely, molto bene! dinner just off the piazza. That was to die for sauce. We are staying on the duomo piazza at a B and B with a room with a view of the Duomo. Please enjoy pictures below. I just love the beauty of the Italian language and the beauty of Florence.  I am so happy to be in the heart of the renaissance! 

I am off to bed on my amazing adventure! 

I wish all my loved ones could be here with me. We miss you, Judy in Atlanta and Judy in San Diego.


at our first stop...with Christmas lights!

From the country of love - "Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant.....bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."-1 Corinthians 13:4 & 7

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Viva Italia!

I am packing for my next little adventure during one of our long weekends. I am finally going to my favorite country, Italia, outside the USA. All the long weekends seem to be this fall and in November in particular; one has been reserved for Florence. Now, it has come!

I've been running around all day saying Buon Journo and Grazie Mille! I just love the Italian language. The staff in the cafeteria and the security staff seem to be fine with me greeting them in Italian once in a while. They smile and get it. How can you not like the sound of the Italian language? It's opera, you know!

I did tons of art with the students all day long; I will post at least one photo of work before I head for bed. I hope to look back and think I did something good while I was here, so I like to post the art.

I did have a conversation this morning with a second grader. He asked if I killed a sheep. I said I liked the taste of lamb, but I don't kill a sheep for Aid - the holiday here. He said, "Oh, you celebrate Thanksgiving?" I said, "Yes", and I went on a little about my faith in Jesus. I appreciate that there is an openness here in the school to share beliefs without anger or defensiveness. 

I am posting a picture given to Jill for El-Aid Kaber....sheep all happy before the kill. The Arabic teacher did it with his students. What a world we live in!

Ciao for now! Florence, here I come!