Living above my means


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I live above my means. Way above.

I eat and throw away more food than I need each day. I spend more money than I need to each day. I think of myself more than I need to each day. I worry about my future (and other things) more than I want to each day.  It’s all too much.

Friends in Morocco tell me that as long as they have enough to get by each day, that’s all they need.  These friends also take care of others, helping and giving as they can. And that ends up being a lot and often. It inspires me.

I spin and toil each day worrying about what to do next, how to live my dream, how to make more money, how to work harder to accomplish the goals set for me by others. It drains me.

I already have more than the majority of the rest of the world. How much more do I really need?

I want to live below my means. I want to live a life with less, with fewer, with smaller. A life focusing on today, on others, and a life of enough.


The broken palm tree and a hug


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Graffiti in my neighborhood.


One time at my guesthouse in Marrakech, there were some kids outside misbehaving. Concerned they’d do some harm to each other or to others, I opened the door and reprimanded them in English, a language they don’t speak, but with a tone they recognized and understood. They stopped in their tracks and stared, probably horrified by my demeanor. All, except one little boy who boldly, from around the corner, swore at me. “Hey,” I shouted. And he swore at me again. I couldn’t see him but I knew who he was: the boy who lived next door with his grandparents because his parents had virtually abandoned him, for whatever reason. I let it slide. What could I really do about it?

Next story:

There once was an opening to a building (no door) at the end of my little street. When I, or my guests, walked out the door of Dar Basyma, they were met with this ugly site. Worried that it would start to become a problem area for kids, vagabonds, or whomever, we complained, or I should say, my business partner Mokhtar, complained on my behalf, to the mayor of our neighborhood. Mokhtar explained my concerns time and time again. “The owner of that building needs to put a door on it,” I kept complaining. “It’s not safe for any of us.” After 9 months of complaining, I received a text from Mokhtar one afternoon. It was a beautiful photo of red metal doors typical to Morocco. “These are your doors,” the text read! After enough complaining, the mayor got the owners to put doors on the opening! A sense of acceptance into the neighborhood and a feeling of accomplishment!

Next story:

One night the entire Dar Basyma team was huddled around the computer looking at security footage. Wondering what they were looking for, I joined them. “Someone broke our palm tree out front,” Abd Rahim said. “We pinpointed that it happened between 3 and 4 this morning.”

So we went through the security files second-by-second until we saw the culprit and the act itself! Who was it? The little boy who swore at me when I yelled at the kids on the street in the first story. “Why does he hate us,” I asked aloud. We were all livid and pacing inside the house. What to do, what to do. “I want to go yell at him,” Mokhtar, said. “Do it!” I replied, “and I’ll go, too.”

Blood pressure bursting through our veins, out the door all of us went: Ghizlane, the housekeeper, Abd Rahim, the house man, Mokhtar, and me. Around the corner at the barber shop was the kid scrunched in a ball on the floor amongst 4 or 5 adult men. Mokhtar was already yelling at him, I joined in. The apparent grandfather was there (he was the one who wouldn’t make eye contact with me) watching while we both yelled. Finally, realizing we were making no impact whatsoever (and were only stirring ourselves up more!), we turned to leave. It was then that I noticed a small burning hash cigarette between the fingers of the little boy. This little 10-12 year old boy was smoking hash.

Returning to the house, I slumped down on the sofa and declared that this boy has bigger problems than we do with our broken palm tree. And it hit my like a hammer over my head that this boy needs more than us yelling at him. Out loud I said, “This boy needs a hug, that’s what he needs.” It was then that Mokhtar slumped down on the chair and admitted I was right and said, “Now I have to go talk to him again and tell him I’m sorry.” We kind of laughed, but we knew it was true. After looking at this situation differently, we had a change of heart – – like within 1 minute, we took on an entirely different attitude!

What harm can one little boy do? He can continue to break our palms outside, we’ll replace them. He can spray paint our wall (he hasn’t, but he or anyone could), we’ll repaint. There’s virtually no harm he can do to us, so who cares except that we show love to him!?

Abd Rahim and Mokhtar were out the door and around the corner before I even realized. I waited until Ghizlane motioned for me to come. She and I made it to the end of the little street and were met by the boy and two men. “I’m sorry, Madame,” the boy said, looking me in the eye and extending a hand to me. “I’m sorry, Madame,” he said over and over.

I took his hand and instinctively dropped down and engulfed him in my arms, holding him with both hands. I felt him relax and smelled his hash-breath on my face as I held him. I told him quietly, in English (that he doesn’t understand), that no matter what he’s going through, no matter what he’s done, that we will be there for him and we will care for him and love him however we can. I don’t even know what all else I said to him, I just know I spoke from the heart and felt love overflowing. (And the thing is, none of them understood what I was saying as no one in that little group speaks English!) I finally let go, stood up, straightened myself out, shook his hand, and turned to leave, all while the two men stood, mouths open, staring. Not knowing what I said, but sensing kindness, they just repeated “Thank you, Madame,” over and over. Arms around each other, Ghizlane and I walked back to Dar Basyma and collapsed onto the sofa. Wow. What just happened. With my audio Arabic app on my phone, I explained to Ghizlane what I had said, the best I could.

Later that night, we heard a commotion in the neighborhood. We heard rumblings of a neighborhood meeting amongst the families on the street, but we at Dar Basyma were not invited. From our security cameras, we could see people, including the boy, walking in front of the house.

The next day was my last day in Marrakech. Walking through the neighborhood, the shop men were more talkative than usual, with one coming out into the street and shaking my hand, all the while with his hand over his heart, he repeated, “Hamdoullah, hamdoullah.” Thanks be to Allah, Thanks be to Allah. “Hamdoullah, hamdoullah,” I repeated and smiled, also with my hand over my heart. Wow, he’s friendly today, I thought, but it is a beautiful day!

After returning home to the states, Mokhtar filled me in on the rest of the story.

The night of the “incident”, the neighbors did indeed get together, all of the families met with the boy. Turns out the boy said that he had never been hugged before. No one had ever hugged him. And the families said that if he can do harm to our property and we still show him kindness and love, that they can do the same. They told him they would help him as they could and that the neighborhood will work together to take care of him. The men in the neighborhood on my last day were offering their thanks to me for the incident the night before!

The next day, I’m told, the boy went to hammam, a public bath, where the workers there gave him new clothes so that he would feel clean enough to go to mosque* and he went to mosque for the first time either ever, or in a long time.

He went to mosque! Because of a broken palm tree and a hug.



*In Islam, the way I understand it, it is important to be clean before presenting yourself to Allah. Before each time of prayer (5 times each day), there is a certain protocol for bathing. There are sinks in the middle of every restaurant and public place, fountains in every neighborhood, so people can cleanse themselves appropriately before eating or prayer.

The little old man of Bab Doukkala


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Bab Doukkala is my neighborhood in Marrakech, Morocco. It’s where my guesthouse / riad, Dar Basyma, is located. A gritty place with few to no tourists, it’s an authentic neighborhood with authentic people living authentic lives. Natural. Unassuming. Vibrant.

Soon after opening Dar Basyma, we met a gentle man we called L’Abadee, which means ‘old man’ in one of the African languages, or at least that’s what we surmised. Nonetheless, this man was dubbed that by us, even though he was probably only in his 50’s or 60’s. He owned a cardboard-lined, wire cart which he used to haul things for hire. Taking an immediate liking to him, he became our “luggage man,” toting luggage for the guests at Dar Basyma, which he did happily and with a toothless smile!

Over the next year and a half, we became as close as we could, considering we don’t speak the same language. He was the first person who greeted me when I arrived to the neighborhood and the last to bid me farewell. I looked forward to seeing him. When he was sick, I took him to the pharmacy and bought whatever medication I thought would help him, with the help of a diagnosis by the pharmacist. The team at the house did what we could for him, offering a little extra cash for the work he did for us, just to help him. He was kind and sweet and we all wanted to do whatever we could for him.

One day my business partner, Mokhtar, announced that L’Abadee had died. He died. I couldn’t grasp it. I knew he had been sick the last time I saw him, but I never suspected the sickness would kill him. When? I asked. No one knew, Mokhtar said. But apparently it was true since no one had seen him for at least 4 months. I was due to visit within days and I couldn’t imagine the neighborhood – – or even my visits to Morocco – – without him. The news was devastating.

On a quiet evening in autumn, soon after I arrived in Marrakech, the doorbell rang. we glanced at the computer image of the security camera aimed at the front door. No one was there; just the palms on either side of the front door. Then Mokhtar announced, “It’s L’Abadee!” I leapt up and flung open the door, helping the frail old man inside. He was alive! I couldn’t believe it. Instinctively I hugged him and felt his bones poking at me through his thin clothing. He must’ve weighed only 30 kg (65-70 pounds)! But he was alive. We couldn’t believe it.

While Mokhtar and L’Abadee spoke, I could see inside his gandora, (traditional dress for a man in Morocco), and saw tubing and a bag. Putting 2+2 together, between this and his very yellow skin, I determined he had liver cancer. Mokhtar confirmed it. We both hunched that he had probably just left the hospital as he had little strength and was out of breath from the walk to the house.

Desperate to tell him what he meant to me – – and thankful for this second chance! – – I spoke fast English to him even knowing that he didn’t understand. I needed to express my feelings for him. Luckily Mokhtar jumped in and translated as L’Abadee listened, with a slight smile, as we (they) spoke. We hugged, gave him the equivalent of 20USD and he was on his way. As quickly as he had arrived. In and out. Leaving behind a whirlwind of emotion.

After closing the door we went to the computer image of the security camera and watched as he leaned against the wall to adjust his tubing, his gandora, himself. And then he was gone. I knew that would be the last time I saw him.

In stunned silence we sat there. What had just happened!? After 4 months, this man came to see  us! Unbelievable.

We had to go to the parking lot so we could share with the workers there our excitement that our friend was still alive. Zachariah, my favorite attendant, greeted us. We excitedly told our news about L’Abadee. His face fell and he stepped backwards and told us to stop! Stop talking about this, it can’t be true! He treated us like we were liars and refused to believe us. So we left. It was clear that L’Abadee had only visited us.

A few weeks later we got news from the parking attendants that L’Abadee had officially died. A man in the neighborhood, who remains anonymous, paid for his hospital stay and a group of the parking attendants collected enough money to pay for a proper burial.

L’Abadee left this earth knowing he was loved. ❤

The kindness of a stranger


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In Marrakech, Morocco, I walked to the car wearing a back pack and realized I needed to pay the parking attendant, so unzipped the pack to remove the wallet. Unzipping the wallet, I grabbed some change, handed it to my business partner so he could pay the attendant, and tossed the wallet back into the backpack. As I continued walking to the car, a man stopped me. He is a man I have seen many times; a vagabond, a man addicted to drugs, someone I considered unseemly, dirty, even shifty and untrustworthy.

I backed away, giving the signal that I wasn’t interested in anything he had to say. Stop. No. Not interested. He pointed at me and made a zipping motion over and over. Thinking he wanted money from my zippered wallet, I shook my head vigorously back and forth. He persisted. I became more emphatic and said, ‘La!’, the Arabic word for no. This went on for a bit as I made my way toward the car.

My business partner, Mokhtar, arrived, talked with the man for a few moments, and said to me, “Your back back is unzipped.” My back pack is unzipped? Oh! My back pack is unzipped!

This man was simply telling me with his zipping motion that my back pack was unzipped. I was stunned. Embarrassed. Ashamed. I had thought the worst.

With body language and broken Arabic I did my best to thank him. “Shukran besef! Shukran besef!” I repeated. Thank you, very much. Thank you, very much. He responded with a huge smile and a hand over his heart, a common sign in Morocco to symbolize thanks and appreciation. He walked me to the car, opened the door while I got in, then gently closed it behind me, waving and smiling as we drove away, hand over his heart.

Stunned, Mokhtar and I stared at each other, shocked at what had just happened. Shocked. And also thankful for the kindness of a stranger, someone from whom we least expected it.

Walk gently on this earth


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Traveling has changed me. Traveling to Morocco has especially changed me. I am gentler and kinder, humble and thankful.

Gentler and kinder in that I see all humans as equals, none of us being better than the next. Each of us moments from either the greatest success or from the deepest despair. Humble and thankful because I’ve been accepted into a Marrakech neighborhood fairly easily over the two years I’ve owned a guesthouse, Dar Basyma. I see the same people every morning and night, and walk easily and naturally among them.

It’s probably not because of Morocco per se, rather it’s by placing myself outside of a comfort zone that has helped me see life and humanity differently; helped me see myself differently.

As a kid I imagined other countries in black and white, not in color (usually war-torn ones I saw on television where life looked awful). I thought their lives must be filled with despair and deep sadness. It must have been awful during certain times for the ones I saw, but their lives must have also been filled with love of family and friends, joy, and laughter. They must have lived in color, like I did. ‘We’re probably all the same,’ I remember thinking. And now I know we are all the same. Traveling has taught me that. People have taught me that.

“Through life, I want to walk gently. I want to treat all of life – the earth and its people – with reverence… As much as possible, I want to walk in peace. I want to walk lightly, even joyfully, through whatever days I am given. I want to laugh easily. I want to step carefully in and out of people’s lives and relationships. I don’t want to tread any heavier than necessary.

And throughout life, I think I would like to walk with more humility and less anger, more love and less fear. I want to walk confidently, but without arrogance. I want to walk in deep appreciation. I want to be genuinely thankful for life’s extravagant, yet simple, gifts – a star-splattered night sky or a hot drink on an ice-cold day.

If life is a journey, then how I make that journey is important. How I walk through life.”
Steve Goodier



Love everlasting


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Rachel Eunice Ostrom Lindahl took her last breath on 5 March, 2014. Not unexpected, yet still a jolt – – and continues to be. A sweet part of my life is missing. I’m re-posting this in honor of her.

199901_1006926894756_3886_nThis is Rachel and me. Rachel is the mother of my best friend, Laurel, and I’ve known her my entire life, since I was about one year old. She’s my other mother and is as important to me as any of my own family members. She’s my friend. Rachel is quiet and shy. She’s sensitive, loving, sweet. And she loves to laugh! Especially with (at) Laurel and me!

Laurel and I have been friends forever and have our own quirky humor and, after so many years together, a unique energy flows between us. In fact, Laurel’s family mostly rolls their eyes at us when we get going with our little tricks that make us (and Rachel) laugh. We’re like sister twins that have developed our own language and that language always includes quick-witted comments and hilarity. But my relationship with Laurel is another story. This is about Rachel.

About one year ago Rachel began feeling unsteady on her feet and developed a slight shake. After lots of doctoring and medications, she’s got a diagnosis and is learning to adapt to the fact that she requires 24-hour care. But I’m not writing this to discuss her symptoms or her diagnosis. I’m writing about Rachel and what she means to me and what it’s like to see someone you love struggle with pain and lack of mobility.

Rachel is tall and statuesque. She has a beautiful smile and sparkling blue eyes. You notice her in a room and you’re drawn to her sweet countenance. She’s beautiful. She’s naive in a way, believing in the best parts of people always; accepting us how we are. She loves unconditionally. She’s sentimental. She feels pain deeply and carries it with her: The loss of her dear twin sister, Joan. The eventual dissolution of her marriage. The loss first of her father, then her mother. And now the sudden failing of her body.

“It’s hard,” she sometimes says. And we know it’s true. We know how hard it is for this active and graceful woman to be confined to her uncooperative body. And we all suffer in our own way for her, for her loss, for her sadness. For our loss, our sadness.

But here’s the thing that buoys me: Rachel is still tall and statuesque. She still exudes sweetness and shyness and beauty and joy. She laughs. She’s still herself. There’s still time for me to let her know how deep my love is for her; what she’s done for me in life.

She represents to me love and acceptance and joy. Unfailing. She’s always curious about my life. She enjoys hearing what’s going on with me. She loves listening to me talk and laugh. She wants me around. She loves me. She loves me now and she has always loved me. She knows me!

And the best part of it all is that I still have time to let her know how important she is to me. I can still put puzzles together with her, I can still talk with her, and I can still laugh with her.

The other day we were all joking about how I didn’t want to get up from puzzling to go to the bathroom. I asked Rachel if she would “go” for me so that I wouldn’t have to get up. A silly conversation, but we all laughed. But then she looked straight at me with her beautiful blue eyes and said I could sit on her lap in her wheelchair and she would wheel me in there if I needed her to. I laughed. But she was serious and she said, “Because I would do that for you Janie. I would do anything for you.” I stopped laughing and looked back at her and said, “I know you would do that for me, Rachel. I know you would.” And it felt so good to know that she would; to know that this woman loves me and would do anything for me. And I would do the same for her.

And suddenly it hits you…


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…this is your life. Your one life to live. The marathon, not the sprint. Right now, right here, this is it. You’re in the middle of it. Is it what you want it to be?  How do you want the rest of it to go? If not now, when? These questions prod and poke at me constantly and have for months. For years.

This prodding and poking has been a part of me since a young age. It is evidenced from perusing the (exceedingly) detailed diaries of my youth. Documented are precise and lengthy details about days lived: books read, lunches eaten, dances attended, boys liked, troubles had, and dreams dreamed – – all written by hand in pen (I meant what I wrote and proved it by writing in pen!) on double-sided pages in the stacks of 3-ring binders of journals kept since I was 12 or 13. My documented youth.

It’s often embarrassing to read and sometimes it’s sad, but it all rings true and it is me, raw and uncensored. Every thought, every idea, every problem is documented.

There is a common thread throughout my years as a kid (that continues on through adulthood): there’s more to the life I’m living and it all revolves around writing, travel, and living in another place. Year after year, day after day, this is what I dreamed, wanted, and declared in these writings. It’s amazing, really, that a kid so young has dreams that continue throughout an entire lifetime!

So at this time in life, being middle-aged, I’m evaluating how I want to live the rest of my days. Evaluating how I can be my full self. How I can attain this life’s goals. It’s both exciting and scary! And I’m working in earnest to figure it all out.IMG_4013

It’s not what you’re given, it’s what you do with it


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I am amused by Hugh Jackman’s name. All the time I transpose his name to ‘Huge Ackman’ and it makes me laugh to myself. 

This morning he appeared on CBS Sunday Morning to talk about his fair trade coffee company, Laughing Man. The story touched me. 

The back story is that he was doing a documentary on coffee growers in Ethiopia and met a man who influenced his life in surprising ways. This man was happy and made him laugh, for one. Hugh found himself pulled in and before long, he was opening a coffee store he  named Laughing Man, after this happy Ethiopian. He since has opened additional stores and gives all proceeds to charity, like Paul Newman did with his salad dressing. His business is successful and lives have been affected. 

I’m skipping a bunch of the story because I want to get to the good part. The part where Hugh talks in a way that I completely relate to. The part where he talks about watching people’s lives change. His experience resonates deeply with me.

He says:

“It’s not what you’ve been given, it’s what you do with it.”

He also says:

“Sometimes it’s tempting for my ego to go ‘Oh wow! Look what I’ve created!’ But I know I haven’t. Things have conspired and sometimes it just takes saying yes and ‘having a go’ for these things to sort of play out. …a cup of coffee changes the lives of these [coffee] growers. I’ve seen a massive difference with just one cup of coffee. It’s changing a life.”

This resonates with me because often, when describing the events of my own life this past 3-4 years since falling in love with Morocco, I say “It’s not me! I’m just saying yes to what’s presented me!”

But I never can quite describe it. Like I’m in a jet stream flying where the air takes me. Like I’m a marionette being controlled by something that wants me to go in a certain direction. But now today, thanks to Huge Ackman, I can say it’s like things have conspired and I’m saying yes and giving it a go. 

That’s exactly what it is!

Hugh Jackman – Laughing Man coffee


A house in Marrakech


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I’m reading ‘A House in Fes: Building a Life in the Ancient Heart of Morocco’ by Suzanna Clarke. It’s not the first time I’ve read this book and it won’t be the last. Since I read most books on an iPad / Kindle, I can see which passages impressed me the first time by the highlights placed in yellow.  This time around I’ve added even more since I can relate more fully to Suzanna’s experiences. In fact, it may serve better to highlight the parts to which I don’t relate!

While vacationing in Morocco, Suzanna and her husband were inspired to purchase a home in Fes, one of the medieval walled cities that is one of Morocco’s famed ‘Imperial Cities.’ But the Clarke’s didn’t just buy any old house. They bought a dilapidated, centuries-old house with no plumbing, no electricity, and myriad other issues with which to contend! Their goal was to restore it using only traditional craftsmen and handmade materials. It’s a great story chronicling the restoration of the house, but it also offers an insight into Moroccan customs and lore, as well as a window into the lives of its people and the relationships Suzanna forges. In the end, the house, Riad Zany in Fes, is restored to probably even more than its former glory and the writer (and most likely Sandy, her husband) have ended up restoring themselves to the very core of their beings! I enjoyed the book the first time around but I’m enjoying it even more now that I have my own perspective on Morocco and home-ownership there.

The writer Paul Bowles called Morocco a place where travelers ‘expect mystery, and they find it.’ He also said, ‘Africa is a big place and will offer its own suggestions.’ There’s no better way to find these truths out than to own a house or to renovate one, like Suzanna Clarke did.

A few of the highlighted passages that strike a chord with me:

“Maybe it was a fit of madness, but on just our second visit to the old Moroccan capital of Fes, my husband and I decided to buy a house there – – as one does in a foreign country where you can’t speak the language and have virtually nothing in common with the locals.” (I strongly disagree with the last phrase. Although I barely speak the language, I find I have a lot more in common with the locals than not!)

“Nevertheless, [we] responded to Morocco in a way we had to no other country. We found it as multi-layered and intriguing as the patterns in the tile work adorning the buildings, each of which has its own hidden meaning. Morocco has the mystique of a land from the Old Testament yet appears to be coping comfortably with modernization… Outside mosques, running shoes are lined up next to pointy-toed babouches. In the souks, women wearing long robes and headscarves escort daughters with beautifully cut hair and high heels. You can eat at a street stall, in a Parisian-style cafe, or next to a tinkling fountain in an ornate courtyard. You can find yourself in the midst of a crazy, honking traffic jam, or dodging donkeys in cobbled alleyways, or riding a camel in the solitude of the Sahara.”

“There were obvious drawbacks, like the nuttiness of buying a house on the other side of the planet, a leg-cramping, blood clot-inducing, [12-hour journey] away. And just when would we actually get to spend time there? Our jobs consumed our lives… When exactly would we fit in a commitment to a property in another country?”

The writer Paul Bowles also said this: “Because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well.  Yet everything happens only a certain number times, and a very small number really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that is so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more, perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty… And yet it all seems limitless.”

It’s because of this sentiment, because of the fact that I don’t know when I will die, and because now Morocco is so deeply a part of my being, that I decided to do the nutty thing of buying a house on another continent in a country where I barely speak the language! And it’s because I cannot conceive of my life without this beautiful, vibrant, and mysterious place!



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Freedom. It’s a word I’ve always known, grown up with, understood. For me it just is. I never really think about the word and its meaning, but naturally just live it. Live with it. But that isn’t the case with people from certain other parts of the world.

Recently when discussing a possible trip to the States, a Moroccan friend commented, “I just want to know what it feels like to be free!” It got me thinking. Really, for the first time, I evaluated just what it feels like to be free; to feel free. I had never really thought about that before. What does it feel like to be free? And I tried to describe the feeling to him. But it wasn’t easy. It wasn’t easy because it’s so engrained in me. It’s a way of my life.

When I said that one of our freedoms in the States is the right to criticize the government, he said he wouldn’t want to criticize his government because he loves the King. When I told him another freedom is the right to criticize, select or deselect religion, he said he would never want to do that; he wouldn’t think of not being Muslim. Those are two big freedoms right off the bat that he would not be able to comprehend on just a short visit.

So that’s what got me wondering if someone visiting the USA can understand or grasp even the concept of our kind of freedom in just a short visit. Is it possible? Freedom is more a state of mind I think; a knowledge that you have choices.


A word on literacy


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I take for granted that people know how to read and write. But in Morocco that’s not always the case.

One day I was home alone with our housekeeper / cook at Dar Basyma. I was without the aid of my constant interpreter / business partner and was excited about this chance to get to know her better. I pulled up the Google Translate iPhone app, typed my message and showed it to her in French. She shook her head no. Misunderstanding, I typed it in Arabic instead. Again, she shook her head. The look on her face jarred me to the realization that she cannot read. Not at all. Eventually I spoke into the app and it voice-translated, but not in Darija (Moroccan Arabic) so it was cumbersome and hard to understand. So we sat awkwardly in silence and smiled until Mokhtar came back and was able to help us “chat.”

Since then I’ve learned that guests have left her notes that she cannot read. And we’ve had some mishaps with household cleaning products being used for the wrong things, lotions put in the conditioner containers (because they’re both white), and using the wrong settings on the washing machine. And she has no ability to read texts or to proofread her own spoken texts to others.

I know this is more frustrating for her than it is for the rest of us. Our house man works well with her. They’re close friends and spend much of their time laughing and huddling together over their phones as he has become a sort of Cyrano de Bergerac, penning her texts to family members, suitors, and friends; like Steve Martin in ‘Roxanne.’ It’s sweet and it’s funny, but the bottom line is that it’s mostly sad that she can’t do this work herself.

As she tells it she was a girl who liked only to have fun (I believe it, as she’s always laughing and joking). She consistently ran away from school and finally just quit. School isn’t required and for sure not required for girls so there was no motivation for her to stay at the time. Now she regrets it. And as she’s in her mid- to late-30’s, so feels it’s too late for her now.

Since she teaches the cooking classes at Dar Basyma, I’m working to put together her recipes since she obviously has nothing written down! She’s an excellent cook and she communicates well without speaking fluent English or writing, but we have no record yet of any of her myriad dishes she prepares at Dar Basyma. It’s a big job that I will pursue on my next visit.

Her solution for our inability to speak to one another is for me to learn Arabic. As though that’s an easy (or quick) task! Since she speaks French and Arabic, to her that seems an easy solution. I’m trying…

A Tattletale Among Us


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There are rules in Morocco. Or at least ways of life. And I’m just learning them. Some of them.

One day, I excitedly walked out of Dar Basyma and around the corner a few feet to see if my friends were arriving yet. I was excited because these were my first friends to visit whilst I was also there.

Apparently I did a bad thing. I noticed a  neighborhood girl watching me not with smiling eyes, but with a judgy look. I knew I had done something wrong but didn’t yet know what.

When we left the house later that day, the girl (whom I now know is Fatima) grabbed my Moroccan male companion and whispered something in his ear. To me he said, “You wore your house shoes outside earlier. She’s telling me you’re supposed to wear your house shoes inside only and wear your outside shoes outside only.”

That’s when I knew I was being watched. Scrutinized and judged. I turned and gave her the stink eye, and then I laughed. She laughed back and that was that!

Happy first anniversary, Dar Basyma


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I’ve owned my riad (guesthouse, home) in Marrakech, Morocco for one year. And what a year it has been! What a process of paperwork and meetings. After months and months of research, I knew I needed to start a corporation. So that came first. Naming it was the first step in that process. In the middle of one restless night I came up with the word ‘myriad’ for part of the name. I liked the word mostly because it’s ‘my riad’ when separated. Briliant, I thought. It also means countless or many, so it’s not limiting ownership to just this one riad. The final name of the corporation is Myriad Property and I love it. First step finished.

Next came the arduous task of finding an attorney (or notary as they are called in Morocco), and an accountant. Immediately I found the notary: a woman in her 40’s who is considered the best notary in Morocco. After meeting her I knew instantly she knew what she was doing and she was ‘neeshun’ or straight. Says it like it is. Follows the rules. That’s what I needed. Done.

Finding the accountant was not as easy. Especially since it was made clear from the beginning that I had no interest in doing any funny business. No corruption. I only wanted neeshun / by the rules. Finally, after about 6 interviews with various candidates, I found my man. He knows my requirement for following the rules and he’s good at that. He even calls me Madame Neeshun. Done.


Next step was to find the house. I had looked obsessively online and worked with multiple real estate agents and knew the market inside and out. Since there’s no MLS system or the like in Morocco, I saw the same house listed in various places and at various prices, all listed in Euro. Very interesting. One agent showed me a home that I fell in love with immediately! My business partner and I spent many hours at the house with the owners and it began to feel like mine, except the price was too high and I had to admit there was just no way I could afford it – – even with the falling value of the Euro (and thus, the rising value of the USD). I am still in touch with the owners and I still have hopes that the place will be mine someday. Riad #2, hopefully.

Once realizing I couldn’t afford the one I really wanted, I considered a small one that I had seen online. It really was the only other one I had any connection to, so after cancelling all other appointments with other agents, we kept the appointment with the agents who could show me this one.

We drove through the gates of Bab Doukkala and down the narrow and busy street to another more narrow street and I knew. This was my new neighborhood. I loved the vibrancy and the energy – – and the fact that there were no tourists. The agent opened the door and we walked in and I gasped! This house was mine. My partner and I both knew it.


The process was underway. There was so much paperwork that I couldn’t believe it. We made so many trips to various government agencies where we stood in long lines and saw a zillion government workers who required signatures in their multiple ledger books for cross-referencing. Everything is in French so it takes double-time to have everything interpreted. What an experience! And I loved every minute.

The most fun of all was naming the house. I wanted something pretty and also simple. So I googled a list of female Arabic names. I also knew I’d use the word ‘riad’ or ‘dar’ in front of it; both words mean guesthouse / house. I always like names that end in ‘a’ so narrowed the list down quickly. Basima was the name I first found, which means ‘smile.’ I have a friend who is named Basyma, with a ‘y’ so I pretty much knew that’s the name I wanted. She told me that spelled with a ‘y’, Basyma means ‘a big smile, almost a laugh.’ Boom. That’s it. Dar Basyma was born. And to this day I just love it.

In May 2015 we had our first guests. And a week later, two more came. And then a group of four. And then the tax man knocked on the door. “We know you’re renting out your house,” he said. “You owe us taxes.” We realized we had done almost everything except that part so after a trip to the proper agency, that was taken care of and we’ve been sailing smoothly since!

Of course there are many, many stories to be told. Business cards and a website was created, guests with strange requests came calling, unending neighborhood hijinks and gossip, etc. Look for additional posts with those details!






I say Morocco, You say Monaco


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So many people don’t really know where Morocco even is. And many confuse it with Monaco. But there was a time I didn’t know where it is either so I am patient explaining it. When I say it’s in North Africa, roughly 8 miles south of Spain, most people are shocked since Morocco conjures up images of remoteness and roughness and it just seems farther away than Spain!

Here are a couple of maps to help you gain perspective if you fall into the category of people who don’t really know where Morocco is!

The old medina of Marrakech


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Lying in bed listening to the sounds of the medina in Marrakech is one of my favorite things to do.

At night there’s a ruckus of activity of kids playing in the streets until super late, people laughing, singing, arguing; lots of moving about. But the night is completely silent only broken by the call to prayer at around 4:00 or so. It’s peaceful and it’s reassuring when the call comes; a way to know the time without having to rouse myself to look.

The birds start early and their song is glorious! The rooster crows. The donkey clip-clops with a cart bouncing behind. Motor scooters buzz by, and the garbage men’s babble makes me wish I understood what they are talking about. They sit on my front step each morning and yawn and stretch, waking up slowly it appears – – I can see their reflection in my open window, so I know they’re there with their bright blue and yellow outfits. Then the man selling things walks by. His call is what sounds like “zgite” and then sometimes “gyou” and he wants us to give him things to sell or to buy from what he has. One day I think I will give him something and see what happens.

This neighborhood is special. A mishmash of people. I see the same ones everyday but we all stick to ourselves and no one bothers me much. I might get the occasional “Hello Madame, are you fine?” but that’s all. It’s nice. I’m easing into it calmly and slowly. I enjoy trying to blend in, even though I know I don’t.