Last days of Morocco

Letter to A, a chum
Date: 19th October 1999

Dearest A,
As I am resting up in Essaourira for a few days I thought I’d take the opportunity to settle my affairs – got to four different banks to change travellers cheques, spend three hours on the Internet before realising Hotmail is rooted, oh, and not find a post office. Just your average day in Morocco! Why I wasted so much time fluffing around with postcards, banks and so on is still beyond me. Once you stay in a small place long enough, the hassle lessens and people start to be genuinely friendly. Last night I walked down the main drag and it was v. reminiscent of the opening scene of ‘Saturday Night Fever’ – I was nodding left and right, bonjour-ing and ca-va-ing to all the handsome shop keepers, high-fiveing to the little kids – it was very funny. Except for flapping lapels, I had a bright orange scarf on my head.

I also keep having chats to this hippie Mohammed, who sells jewellery. He reckons he knows Neil Young and Mick Jagger, and assures me that Nick Cave visits every year with his family. However Mohammed wants my husband and I to come back to his house for cous cous “with a few Fatimas”, whatever that means. He also hopes this will not make me jealous.

Last night I met some men in a v non-touristy little leather goods shop. I wanted a tiny pouch to hang around my neck under my clothes, and expected to be quoted the usual outrageous price. I reeled back when they said 25 dirhams (about $4)! However, I had to come back tomorrow. The next morning I came back to watch him work. He cut out two bits of leather with amazing accuracy, just by using shears, threaded them through the bag and adjusted them around my neck. He made a little fringed tassel for the ends and glued it in place with some gum from an old jar, using his finger. He then sewed everything in place, having a bit of trouble threading the needle as he was nearly blind.

Chuffed with the excellent little bag I gave him 30 dirhams and he tried to give me change! I told him to keep it for tea, and he was so chuffed with me that he shook my hand, murmuring Arabic endearments. This from a bloke who was not exactly doing a roaring trade, and who had obviously sat in the same seat for the last 50 years!

You may have found it yourself overseas, but it’s sometime hard to find ‘kindred spirits’, or people with a similar sense of humour. Everyone I’ve met have been great, but sometimes they just nod patiently and go ‘yeah’ (hey, people do this at home too!). x

And an ode from Q…

Ode to a soft cotton-ball

Soft silk
Purring in her arms
In my arms

Soft cashmere
Breathing in warm breaths
In fresh milk

come on..
you can do it.
Just drink a little more
You can do it

She smiles
I smile

Cotton-ball please Don’t
Do not roll away from us.

Hear me…
Stop it from rolling away.
cotton-ball please breath’

sail thy soul along with the gentle Niger’s stream
shut those little black pearls in the abysmal sleep
on those green grass of the Niger’s shore

rise thy voice
among all of nature songs

Hey, I have an invitation for you if you happen to be in Mali at this time. During the time of Thank-giving (American’s holiday) I am going out to Manantali (Kayes region) to hang out and celebrate with friends. We have a large home to stay in and it is very beautiful out there. So, let me know when you are able to arrive to Mali! Ok Take care, Q

Subject: Dad’s 3rd letter
Date: Monday 18th October 1999

Dearest Boo,
I tried to send this on Saturday after your alarming letter about the flood and I failed. So here goes. I received your next one this morning from Essaouria and I must say I’m a little relieved. The storm and its attendant dramas was something you read about in bad novels. (not my kind. Ho!) It sounds as though the boys from Balwyn were very useful. Talking of boys the Morroccan lads are used to coming on to the front foot. And while I remember don’t try to take any weed across borders, no matter what you hear. I must say you sound as though you’re having the time of your life. Write and tell me about how your money is holding out and whether the expectations of your trip are being lived up to. It’s good to hear to you speak about the people who show you hospitality and the friends you meet. I believe that travel shows you the best and the worst at that people are basically good – even the ones with the 2000 year old teeth. But you must be careful nevertheless.

As your Ma has probably told you the Frankston by-election was won by Labor. The independants have thrown their lot in with Steve Bracks and he will be called to form a minority government. It will be unstable but they’ll make. Jeff conceded defeat this morning but was non-committal about what he’ll do. Some (the media) are expecting he’ll resign , but I don’t think so. He’s sounding like a man who’ll force another election through the upper house. The Age is delirious with spite and are using headlines like ‘A sucker punch that downed the premier.’ and the like. Ah well. By the time you get home I think Bracks will be Premier.

More politics. The Olympic committee have been accused of scalping tickets! And there’s to be an enquiry. Apparently they quietly set aside 40,000 tickets (the best) at 5 times the price, for their rich mates in the gentlemen’s clubs of Sydney. Got found out. Not happy, they may have to come clean. I must go. Look after yourself and do be careful. All my love Dad.

Journal entry, 20th October 1999 – Casablanca

1. Catch a nice CTM bus
2. Eat pastilla
3. Go to a hammam

Back in the big smoke again in a dust storm. Got room in the Hotel Colbert – hassled in the middle of my shower for 10 dirham – went later and yelled at guy in lobby. This is it – one month is my limit with Moroccan men, they are well & truly pissing me off. Am feeling v. shitty as I rang M&D – got cut off as usual and they didn’t sound too pleased to hear from me. I also feel apprehensive about Mauritania. Is weird to be going to another country – I have to get used to everything again, but am looking forward to Senegal. Casablanca is filthy and grimy – after the rain the streets are v slippery and hard to walk on – YUK.

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