Writing this blog has been quite an adventure.
Not only is it helping me do my job more efficiently (goals 2 & 3!) and allows me to catalogue, remember, and share the bizarre-o happenings of my life here in Morocco, but this blog has connected me with people I would have never otherwise met. The majority of these lovely cyberspace beings are prospective Peace Corps volunteers who are wanting to know how many pairs of underwear to pack. I’ve been there, my friends. Allow me to bestow upon you my wisdom…which has been slowly and painfully gathered over the course of many ridiculous mishaps! There are other people, too, who have connected with me for various other reasons– people apart from the cyberbots who seem to be really attracted to any entry where “henna” is tagged. People like writer Vivian Swift, a returned Peace Corps volunteer from Niger.
Vivian contacted me last spring about her upcoming trip to Morocco. She was in the process of writing a book about gardens and, as a side trip during her excursion to France, wanted to see the fabulous Majorelle Gardens in Marrakech. Now, there’s always a slight danger in agreeing to meet people who found you on the internet. They could be serial killers, or, worse– really weird and socially incompetent. You just never know. However, during our cordial email exchanges, Vivian sent me a very humble description of herself (“I’m a writer”), and after some quick googling, I found out that she isn’t just a writer– she’s a writer who has been featured on NPR— three times! For those of you who know me and my struggles, NPR is somewhat of an obsession of mine. Therefore, being featured on NPR trumps Nobel Peace Prizes and Pulitzers. If that wasn’t enough (and it was plenty enough, trust me), this is an example of Vivian’s writing style:
I’m highly qualified as a travel writer.
This is me, in my passport photo, 1975, before my first trip “abroad”. I stayed on the road for 20 years. In between my many years of foreign wanderings I worked as a receptionist, gift shop sales lady, luxury hotel concierge, clothing store manager, book shop clerk, office temp, retail jeweler, horologist, auction house executive, and Faberge expert. I’ve also worked as an au pair, a chamber maid, a jewelry historian, and in a factory making plastic bottles for bleach.Obviously, with all this job experience, I am very well-qualifed to be the boss of everybody. This meshes perfectly with my ability to be very judgemental. But I digress.
Done. Fellow travelers? Fellow lovers of sarcasm? Friends. So Vivian came, saw, and conquered; Majorelle didn’t fail to impress (it really never does), Tameslouht proved underwhelming (“Do you parents know what this place looks like?”), an afternoon with the artisans and two random German tourists was entertaining and lovely, lunch at the Amal Center was huge/ delicious/ enjoyed by all, and Marrakech’s touristy magic didn’t pull a fast one on her. Did I mention she brought me a jar of peanut butter after reading me rave about the amenities found in Casablanca? Sometimes I forget people actually read my blog and are able to know what I’m thinking, no matter how embarrassing. Anyways, it was a lovely visit, and I really enjoyed hearing about her endlessly fascinating life, narrated in a wit that made me miss the English language.
We exchange emails every now and then, like when I met two other PCVs here who know Vivian, or when I found out that there is now one degree of separation between myself and Elizabeth Gilbert. Then, this past fall, when I posted the spectacle of Mustapha and my engagement party photos for the world’s enjoyment, I received the following email from Vivian:
I loved your post about the engagement fete.
I would like to send you and Mustapha an engagement gift for you to enjoy in Morocco, a gift that will take you two out for a nice dinner in a romantic restaurant in Marrakech. If you and Mustapha have a place in mind, please send me the name and email and I will confirm your reservations and instruct them to bill me.
I remember my own foreign engagement in Israel in 1986. We were given a diner for the two of us at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem and after 27 years I still remember the tomatoes Provencal. Best I ever had.
I don’t even have words for this kind of generosity. I suppose, as a returned Peace Corps volunteer, Vivian has a unique understanding of the sheer magic that something like a “nice dinner” or a “hot shower” (outside of a public hammam) can provide. Even with that being said, I’m still wrapping my mind around the sheer kindness of this gesture. Especially from someone who claims to like cats more than people. I guess seeing me covered in 2 lbs of glitter and 5 ornate dresses brought out the softy in her!
So, in honor of Vivian and her loving kindness, I wanted to post pictures from the delicious and lovely meal Mustapha and I enjoyed last night at La Trattoria. Neither Mustapha or myself had an idea of a place where we wanted to eat, so I took to the internet, searching “best restaurants in Marrakech”. We opted for something that wasn’t Moroccan at a place where we hadn’t been before– La Trattoria had all of that, plus lots of cheese and a poolside proximity.
Mustapha and I enjoyed a full 2 hours at the “Art Deco Bar” (I know, I know), sipping on cocktails and eating delicious salted almonds and mini-pizzas (hey, it’s an Italian restaurant!) while marveling at the decor and discussing everything from Buddhism to the merits of the jelleba. Only such a lovely interior would inspire such academic discussion. Later, we ate semi-poolside (in a heated room next to the pool), dining on spaghetti, ravioli, and a slightly disappointing salad with a lovely name– “insalata romantica”. We regrouped at the Art Deco bar post-meal for some fireside digestion, and then headed back on home to Tameslouht.
Did I mention that the 30th of January is also Mustapha’s 26th birthday? We decided to celebrate several wonderful things on the same evening. So thank you, Vivian, for making this possible. Mustapha and I have already agreed that this kindness will be passed on when we’re older and meet a young couple who is engaged far away from home. Merci, chokran jezilan, and thank you :)