Fridays are for couscous. And it seems every Moroccan follows this tradition. Mokhtar’s sister and her family were kind enough to invite me over to enjoy it with them! It was the best couscous I’ve ever had. Amazing! It had kind of a spice to it and she served fresh hot peppers with it besides. She will give me the recipe and allow me to make it with her next week when I return to their home.
It was great spending time with these family members! Four children aged 16, 12, 7, and 2. Lots of energy and joy in that home! And such love. It was really a great time. The home is beautiful, which is always fun to see, but it was comfortable and they are wonderful hosts.
I slept on the Moroccan sofas in the living room with the 12 year old daughter and it was an excellent nights’ sleep with donkey hooves sounding down the street in the night, cats fighting, birds singing, and all kinds of other Moroccan city sounds! And then the call to prayer which always first wakes me, then lulls me back to a deep sleep. Ah, Morocco!
After sales training in Boston, I left for Morocco. But it was during severe storms and our plane was hit by lightening before reaching us. So that led to many hours of uncertainty whilst I waited in the Air France lounge. Thank goodness for that lounge because it kept me from having to deal with the thousands of people milling about who were also temporarily stranded at Logan Airport. And it made for an interesting time watching people! Always interesting to watch people, especially from other cultures. More Americans there than I usually see traveling, but then we were in Boston, after all.
So we were crammed in to the Air France lounge and a phone goes off inside someone’s hand luggage. Everyone was looking around waiting for the person to answer it because the ring was super loud. Finally, after a lot of scrambling, a 6-year old girl grabbed the iPhone out of her pink princess backpack and talked to her mom. It was cute and fun to watch her.
After many false starts, the plane finally took off, about 3 hours late. It made for a long day. And the flight was jam-packed so I was miserable and going crazy from sitting for so long, what with the sales meeting just prior. I was miserable. I managed to sleep for about 3 hours of the the 6 hour flight, which was better than nothing. It was a fairly tight connection in Paris but I made it with about 20 minutes to spare.
Having left my eyeglasses at home and having had taken out my contacts, I navigated Charles DeGaulle basically by luck. But not before seeing my own self in a mirror and trying to ask my own self a direction question, not recognizing it was me! I was embarrassed and rushed away afraid someone might have seen me make this crazy mistake!
We arrived in Casablanca on time. It all seemed smooth until we got to customs and there was no real direction about what to do. Two lines were long and slow-moving, so a few of us moved over to another line, yet it was unclear over there, too. A Moroccan man in front of me spoke English and I was able to communicate with him and understand him when he said, “They have couscous in their heads” and I laughed, knowing this is a common saying when someone doesn’t understand you or when someone is difficult. I reminded him that it was Friday and we both laughed. (Couscous is made and eaten on Friday all over the country). It was a nice connection and he was a nice man.
The customs agent asked me a zillion questions about my stay: with whom was I traveling, where was I staying, what’s the address of where I’ll be, what hotels and in which cities will I be staying. None of these questions I know the answer to, except with whom I’m traveling. “Is this your first visit to Morocco?” he asked. When I told him my third he relaxed a little and finally stamped my passport with a big smile on his face and sent me on my way, wishing me bon voyage.
Waiting for the luggage, my main piece came quickly around but I waited until the carousel stopped to no avail for the backpack. Luckily, the man who spoke English came to my rescue. He started when we were both waiting for our non-existent luggage by asking me where I’m from. I told him ‘Minnesota, USA’, my standard answer. He said, “Really? Wow! Minnesota. You betcha!” and I laughed a little but then realized how common (and tired) this joke is in the USA, but then remembered I’m in Morocco and how does he know this? He said, “I’m from Minnesota!” Knowing that men everywhere I travel are always trying to find commonality, I reacted coolly. So he went on.
Man: Where do you live in Minnesota?
Man: Where specifically? Uptown?
Me: (surprised he was so specific) Northeast
Man: Oh! By Surdyk’s? (the best liquor store in the state)
Me: YES! YOU KNOW SURDYK’S?
Man: Yes! I live on Minnehaha Parkway. I’m your neighbor! You betcha!
Turns out he’s lived there for 18 years, he’s a surgical assistant at Fairview Hospital, and he’s back here to visit his mother. And he’s just a really nice guy! It was delightful to have him to talk to.
But the best part, he had a man helping him with his luggage so when ours were among the missing, he whisked me and my passport away to take care of the situation. The whole while with a smile and a laugh that we are neighbors! It was delightful. And instead of struggling through the situation, we were in and out within an hour and a half (others had to wait much, much longer!). I didn’t have a business card to give him, nor did he. He showed me his Fairview entry card with his name as if to confirm he was telling me the truth. After being together for so long and feeling connected, and after he told everyone huddled together in that small room ‘our story’, the whole thing was over and I was leaving to meet Mokhtar. I was sad to say goodbye to that guy because he was a respite of happiness for me. Cheerful and kind!
So I left with my bags out of that crammed little room and headed confidently in the wrong direction! To which some of the other men in the room hollered, “Madame! Madame! Please!” and pointed in the other direction with their hands over their hearts. God I love Morocco. The kindness and helpfulness oozes from this place.
Mokhtar met me at the assigned spot after he had been waiting about 3 hours for me. With no cell reception and a waning battery, we were unable to keep in touch. It was great to see him anyway and we departed the airport into the crisp, cool Casablanca air. I was so happy to be back!