Subject: Dad’s second letter, again
Date: 4th October 1999
lovely to hear from you and the excitement of being on the move. The Gaz is back from Noosa and rang to find out about your departure. He and I had a long talk about your bravery and he asked (as delicately as he could, which is not subtle) ‘how much money did she take?’ I told him, as briefed, that I didn’t know but it was substantial (ho!) he’s a nosey bugger.
East Timor is looking like it’s been brought under control, but the Indonesian Government are starting to blame Australia for pressuring them into holding the referendum which sparked the genocide! Malaysia are joining in too saying they don’t want white people in Asia. It seems that racism is alive and well in parts of Asia. Unfortunately it looks as if Australia will be isolated by the fors and the against. The Americans have weighed in to support Australia and threatened Indonesia with economic sanctions. The British and the Thai’s have too. Needless to say the politics of Australia has heated up and it looks as though we are going to have a dramatic increase in Defence spending.
Meantime to add a further note of seriousness to national debate The Sydney push have breathlessly informed us that the Olympic medals will have the OPERA HOUSE on one side. We’re all thrilled. Enough from me, look after yourself my love. Dad.
And more lunacy from the old man…
Subject: Daisy Stewart speaks
Date: 4th October 1999
A short scratch to assure you I’m allright. You know those two people who look after me have been quite diligent with my care. Plenty of stoking, although I have to give The Bulb a bit of bite from time to time to remind the corpulent fellow who’s in charge. Mind you he’s been good. Water changed every day, poo box cleaned out without demur. Miow! The weather has been pleasant and would you believe I have taken to sleeping in the house in the yard. I guess I’m becoming a funny furry old thing. Well, enough from me look after yourself old friend and stay away from Egyptian cats, I here they’re real bitches, Oops sorry that’s a dog isn’t it? Miaow! Miaow! Miaew! Love Daisy.
Subject: MARRAKECH SWEETIES!!!
Date: 9th October 1999
Hello everyone from Marrakech, city of the spitting snake!!! I am staying in the romantically named ‘hotel CTM’ (kinda like the hotel public transport commission), sharing a room with three lovely boys from Balwyn, of all places. It is right on the main ‘Place Djemma El-Fna’, and has a rooftop terrace overlooking the whole spectacle that is Marrakech and the Atlas mountains. We ate pain au chocolat, fresh bread, orange juice and coffee this morning – the shower was hot, the room quiet and cheap, and the toilet western-style – it goes without saying that I am most content. And I have even found people to drink beer with!!! After Fès I caught a train to Meknès, like a smaller version of Fès, but built by the same madman, Moulay Ismail. He was like a Genghis Khan of Morocco, and most old buildings are missing big chunks where he pulled off marble to build his palaces.
I got up early the next morning to ‘see some rooins’ as Dad would say, the Roman ruins of Volubilis. As usual the journey there was just as entertaining as the site. I thought I’d catch a ‘grand taxi’ there, something halfway between a taxi and a bus. They are usually old Mercedes that squeeze in six passengers, and only leave when full. So I am squished in beside a most devout Muslim man who is appalled at the thought of touching a woman who may be ‘unclean’, and spends most of the journey valiantly trying to get away from me. On the other side is a young man and his elderly mother, who throws up quietly and continually in her handbag. As most bodily functions are public in Morocco, this doesn’t even raise an eyebrow.
So we arrive at the bottom of this enormous hill in the town of Moulay Ismail – the Mulsim man springs out while the car is still moving, obviously to go and bathe in disinfectant. When I consult my uninformative guidebook, I realise I have another half-hours’ walk uphill! Unable to flag down a donkey, I get going. Luckily the views are good! Apart from the truck-loads of American tourists, Volubilis was fantastic. The main points of interest were the excellently preserved mosaics of Bacchus, Diana and the like, although in the typical Moroccan style, they were left open to the elements. And the American couple I met (Sandy and Barbie!) assured me that these were modest ruins in comparison to Turkey and Egypt.
On the way back I was lucky to flag down another taxi back to the centre of town. The next day in Meknès was a bit of a downer – bizarre, rainy weather, and it took me three hours to find some historic stables from some movie that I didn’t recognise. I was also accosted by some shady character in mirrored aviator sunnies and the obligatory porno moustache, who wanted to take me home to eat cous-cous. Alas my husband was desperately ill in the hotel!!!
The good thing about Meknès was the market. I got a good look at some of the meat for sale, and it made even me a bit queasy! Rows and rows of grey sheep and ox heads with tongues hanging out and teeth bared, tables of fly – blown innards in all the rainbows of grey, hoofs and trotters of all description, and the most pungent fug of ill-health. I don’t think it was ever hosed out. When I staggered away from the meat section, my hand was grabbed by a medicine man, whose stall was decorated with a dusty cheetah skin. He placed on my finger a tiny green chameleon, whose belly blushed the same colour as my finger! I was so taken by this, I bought a whole bag of ‘natural hair shampoo’ chips, although I reasoned later they could easily be the leavings from a building site.
The next day I spent seven hours on the train to Marrakech, where I met Michael, Ben and Steve from Balwyn, who are very Aussie. They were very impressed by my pidgin French, and ask me to translate for them. Me!!!
Last night we went for a wander in the mad place Djemma El-Fna to buy some dinner. You can buy anything you like for v. cheap – snails, cous cous, salads, fish, OJ, dates and of course the grey sheeps heads. Snake charmers try to throw frothing snakes at you, and some even put their monkeys on your back. For a fee of course!!! There are storytellers, fire breathers, women painting henna (I got one with a girly floral design, as I couldn’t convey that I wanted a scorpion, damn, it won’t wash off for weeks), and this weird game with fishing lines and soft drink. I think it’s like that funfair game where you throw the hoops over the numbers for a prize, however as far as I can gather, the prize is a full bottle of soft drink. We eventually found a hotel that sold beer, and arranged ourselves on some sumptuous velvet couches, amongst other equally desperate Western tourists. We agreed that a beer stand would go down very well at the Place, with all the great food, but I’m sure there’s a law against it.
Thank you for all the news bulletins too. The only paper I can find is the crappy English ‘Daily Tribune’ for 5 bucks! And I hardly think that ‘woman falls down drain and drowns in puddle’ constitutes current affairs. For Mum’s North Africa toilet update, I haven’t encountered anything too bad yet. They are mostly the squat variety, which is preferable to the normal, as Moroccans don’t like cleaning their toilets.
The boys I am staying with are hiring a car on the coast, so I will drop a few hints in their direction. X