Tuesday, March 27, 2012

For Camels Only

Scheduled in the middle of our 10 day Moroccan tour was a trip to the sand dunes. We rented 4x4s and drove 30 km out into the dessert right up to the base of some serious dunes. Waiting there, a dozen camels sat. The option was ours, should we walk or would we like to ride the camels. I could barely hold in my excitement, in my mind there was only ONE option – CAMELS!

We were each assigned a guide and a camel, I was hoisted up on the camels back and held on for dear life as the camel stood up, they are not super graceful those guys. My feet dangled and my voice giggled as we rode the camels around the dunes, higher and higher. I was certain someone had to be filming me for the Mummy 4 as I rode across the Sahara dessert in search of some hidden artifact. My camel shadow bobbed along side me as I attempted to photograph every inch we traveled.

We arrived at the base of a large sand dune and the camel sat down on his knees to let me off. Camels are really tall and if you’re not careful getting down you’ll still land on your face in the sand...so I've heard. My guide reached out for my hand and directed me up towards the top of the dune. It was just a short 5 meters up, no big deal, I mean the 80 yr old in our group was already half way up. I took my first step and gasped as I found myself waist high in sand. My guide was pulling my arm straight out of its socket asking if I was ‘ok, good’. Yeah, yeah I’m real good, just got off on the wrong foot, no biggy.

New tactic, I’d just move my legs faster. Surely if I picked up my feet at twice the speed there wouldn’t be any time to sink into the sand. Like that Incredibles kids running on water. Wrong. I ended up digging myself a little pit in the sand and was now prepared to die there. My guide starred at me and smiled, “ok, good, go”. I pulled my sand filled shoes up only to go 3 feet backward. Now all my breath was gone, there was only sandair in my lungs. It was like doggy paddling in the middle of the ocean, only instead it was sand and camels were smirking at me. I yelled at my quads and demand they step up. It was the work out of their life. It was sheer determination now as I huffed and screamed my way up that sand pit of despair…and by that I mean, I whined as my guide dragged me all the way up with his raw Moroccan sandman strength.

Finally, I was there, the top of the world! I crumbled down on the blanket desperate to catch my breath and watched the sun dip below the dunes. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever experienced and I quickly forgot about the near sand death experience.

Just as I was plotting throwing my body over the dune to make it to the bottom, my guide turned me around on the blanket, grabbed the corner and dragged me all the way down. Weee! A true Saharan roller coaster! We hopped back on our camels and rode off into the sunset…where he then guided my camel and I off alone to sell me fossils he claimed he carved out of the earth just yesterday. I walked away when he wasn’t looking, but I felt bad. After all, he did drag my limp body up a sliding mount Everest. Eh, what can I say, I’m a spoiled American and I totally got to ride a real camel.

Who's watching the redhead?

I’m used to getting a decent amount of attention for my hair. I get it. I’m part of a 2% endangered population, curiosity and jealousy is expected. I was not, however, prepared for the level of Moroccan attention my hair would incite.

It took me two days to realize the constant kissing sounds I kept hearing were directed at me. Loitering Moroccan teenagers have made cat calling an art form and that is something I’m certainly not used to. By day three, I’d collected a variety of potential suitors who would follow us around like groupies. It had became essential for me to pull up my hood and hide in the middle of group like I was some kind of magical trinket capable of bringing endless power and eternal life (I still this think this is highly possible). Everyone had to keep an eye out for the redhead. I could never stop moving and I could never be at the end of the line just hanging out in the open begging to be kidnapped! I've seen Taken. It was pure harassment. I'm not going to lie though, I basically loved it.

We spent quite a bit of time in a fancy rug shop and I found it curious how many rugs I was presented with even though it was clear I was not in the market for one. It was only later that my coworker told me they were setting up a dowry. Who knew it was this easy?! Obviously it became the standing joke among the group that I was to be used to get special deals and extra camels. I must have collected at least 50 proposals for marriage. That’s more than a month’s worth here in America!

As it goes, it went to my head and I began to misuse my power. A smile would knock the price of any good to half and a wink, forget it, I was walking out of there with two of whatever it was. “For you, good price,” they’d say, “you lucky charm.”

It might have taken me some time, but I figured it out. They all thought I made the colorful marshmallow cereal. Whatever, I’ll take it, in Morocco, I’m a legend!

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Mission

Don't worry, I have plenty of posts about Morocco on the way, but I wanted to let everyone know about a new blog I am leaving in the loving hands of a friend while I'll be serving an 18 month mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in San Jose, California.

This blog will keep you up to date on all my adventures. Feel free to follow along on my new journey!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Year Half Full

New Year’s Eve dinner was all you can eat carbs with friends. It was also never ending question time from me. The year of 2011 was a world-class roller coaster for me and I was curious to see how everyone else fared.

Some of the questions I forced people to voluntarily answer:

What was your most memorable moment of 2011?

What is a 2011 moment you’d most like to forget?

What is a wish you have for 2012?

The first proved pretty easy and the responses involved some kind of move or vacation for almost everyone. For me it was the dreamy trip to Europe that I still brag about to anyone that will listen. (Don’t worry I still have a pending blog about England to be posted soon). The second question was a little more challenging. It seems most of my friends are refreshingly optimistic, so much so that it was only slightly awkward when I pulled out my lengthy list of events I would love to never happen again. Finally, the wishes were surprisingly large, life changing things like new jobs and babies (again don’t worry, that’s not me).

Over the next 24 hours I watched people, tweet, text, blog and instagram their way into 2012. Perhaps it’s standard to feel exhausted at the end of a year and eagerly welcome the many possibilities a new year presents, but I noticed more cries of relief at the close of 2011 than any year before. Or perhaps I noticed it because that is how I felt. I couldn’t wait to kiss 2011 goodbye. It was simply terrible. I wanted 2011 to be torn into little pieces, locked in a box, burned, buried far in the ground and burned again.

Then I remembered how difficult it was for my friends to come up with the moments they’d like to forget. At the time I thought they just might be hesitant to share potentially embarrassing things or worse, nothing went wrong!!! Later I realized it’s not that their year was perfect, but that they chose to only remember the good and the bad just sort of faded away from memory. Then it slapped me, like perspective often does, a year can only be remembered the way you want it to be.

Thanks to my optimistic friends, a year of horror started to turn upside down. Instead it was a year of survival, self-awareness, escaping death, superior strength, adventure, learning, supporting friends, not going broke, and finally a year that ended with great friends just enjoying all that is good in life.

So there it went - 2011 was quite the roller coaster. But now instead of wanting to jump off and run to the nearest trash can to vomit, I am ready to ride another! After all, I took a ride on that monster and even with all the screaming, I sure rode the heck out of it. Take that 2011!

Monday, November 7, 2011

C'est magnifique!

Ah Paris. What a dream. I still can't believe I actually made it to Paris, and boy was it a whirlwind! For those of you wishing to live vicariously through my adventures, here is my version of Paris in four days.

Day 1: After a 10 hour flight and 2 hour train ride, arrive at the crowded, smoke filled train station. Drag your luggage half a mile down the creepy, sexy streets (this became the nickname of all the streets we passed of an adult nature) and find yourself standing in front of a huge wooden door in a Parisian alley way. Enter the secret code and step into a beautiful hidden courtyard. Enter the second secret code and enter the building. Drag your luggage up five flights of a super skinny, spiral stair case. Five flights. The blue carpet and the fact it is Paris made it worth while. Now enter the tiniest apartment a la IKEA you've ever seen in your life. It was adorable. A pit stop is necessary, you've been traveling all day. Head back out into the Paris air and on to the Louvre - it's four miles away, you say? I would never walk that far in the states, but when are you going to be this close again, plus you have your Dr Scholls on - what's stopping you? Wander/get lost in the streets along the way, taking in the sights, smells and luxury you've always dreamt about. Rest your weary feet while starring at the Parisian sky and watching the illegal selling of flashing, flying helicopters. If they weren't 7, I would have illegally bought one because they were awesome. Stop for a fresh crepe on the way back. I swear, you've never tasted anything so brilliant in your life. Head back to the rented Parisian hideaway, falling asleep before you head hits the pillow.

Day 2: Awake with the Parisian birds...and trash man. Find another pastry to surprise your taste buds and tackle the Paris metro. As it turns out, even Dr Scholls can't handle 8 more miles of straight walking. There you are standing outside of Notre Dame. It is as daunting and beautiful as it looks in the history books. I've never seen more intricate handiwork in stone, wood and glass in all my life. Check. On to the long line for the famous St Chapelle just in time for the skies to open up and dump out more rain that Texas has seen in 2 years combined. Huddle under the chapel entrance with all the other Asian tourists. Check. Stop at a quaint street side cafe to enjoy a bucket of mussels for lunch where the adorable French waiter takes pity on pretty American tourists and teaches them how to properly eat mussels. You use them as forks - of course! Forget trying to avoid second hand smoke induced cancer, Parisians love their tobacco as much as their mineral water. Both are unavoidable in this town. After sipping down the 7 Dt Coke head to Museum d'Orsay. I was surprised to find out how much I enjoyed museums, considering I always felt morally opposed to them. However, after 45 min of starring at darkly lit galleries on a full stomach of Parisian mussels you are going to fall asleep staring at a sculpture...while still standing. The best part of the Orsay, the French bodyguard stopping to tell me how beautiful my smile was. But oh no, the day is not over yet, you still have the sparkling Eiffel tower to visit. About face and head to the south bank to join a South African high school trip on a boat cruise down the Seine. Paris is even more beautiful at night and on the top of every hour, even the Eiffel tower sparkles just to prove it's unattainable glory. Oh and there are the flying buttresses...oops - how did we forget to see those up close and personal when we were there just there hours ago? Silly goose. After the lovely, but extremely chilly cruise, stop by another cafe for your first French macaroon. And again, nothing compares. Asleep with a smile.

Day 3: Hop on the train to Versailles...the ultimate residence of decadence. It certainly does not disappoint. Just walking through the gilded halls, with all the marble, the gold, the mirrors, the statues, oh such extravagance. It's truly remarkable and rather easy to imagine how ticked the French were to find the monarchy dancing and eating their cares away while the people starved in the countryside. Get lost in the acres and acres of pristine manicured gardens. How many statues and fountains does a mansion need? The answer is none, but a dozen certainly makes for a wondrous site to behold for a bright-eyed American. Versailles has so much to take in, a half day barely does it justice, nevertheless, more of Paris awaits! Returning to the Louvre, there is another long list of must sees. Be careful of lines in which you are not 100% sure what you are waiting for. You may think it's the Venus, but really it's a terribly boring Asian empire exhibit, that just ate 45 min of your precious time. Ay, yi yi. No worries, on to the real Venus, the Picasso's and of course the Mona Lisa. If you're not careful, the Louvre will eat you alive, I managed to escape just in time to enjoy a midnight dinner in the open French air, following up with the most delicious chocolate cakey thing I've ever had in my life. Dreaming in French at this point.

Day 4: Last chance to take in all of Paris. Head to one of the most famous flea markets and find the perfect tea set for your traveling buddy. A must have, so on to the hunt for an ATM - like a mirage you can only find when you don't need one - to get the Euros necessary. Watch out for the hundreds of 'one in a lifetime deals' along the north end of the street. They can smell the Euros burning in you purse, hold on tight. Head back to the fancy part of town to explore the high end shopping in the malls built in castles. Grab a few Parisian scarfs, perfume samples, macaroons and head back to the Eiffel tower. Pick one of three ridiculously long lines. Forget trying to decode them, it's a trick and you'll just end up in the stair line. You've just walked 50 miles across Paris, what's a few thousand more steps, straight up? Besides, the view is totally worth it! Climbing down, you realize it's time to leave the city of magic. Pick up the last souvenirs on the way back to the apartment. Drag your bags back down 5 flights of the old windy staircase and back down to the train station, this time avoiding all sexy streets. Haul your bags back on the chunnell on through the 20 mile tunnel under the English Chanel. Deep breath, did all of that really happen? Yes, and on to the next string of adventures in England!

Au revoir, Paris! You sure stole my heart.

Monday, October 24, 2011


(Two Weeks Abroad in Brief)

  • Paris is as memorizing as they say it is.
  • European men wear purses and somehow it works.
  • The metro is always hot and stinky. Perfume is a big seller.
  • If you walk 50 miles, the back of your knees hurt.
  • We have no idea how bread or chocolate is supposed to taste.
  • Museums are designed to put you asleep, especially the famous ones. It’s the weird ones that are fun.
  • I only looked at the Mona Lisa through my camera lens.
  • A man only has to compliment my smile to win my heart; a French accent helps.
  • Street food in Paris is better than half our fancy restaurants.
  • There are 4 liters to a gallon, bringing us to $8 a gallon. Ouch.
  • Don’t order pork belly in London. It’s a mean trick.
  • Roomy roads are an under appreciated luxury.
  • French women wear stilettos everywhere.
  • English women are normal sizes. They really are my people.
  • Versailles is a tall and spacious building…and it is glorious.
  • Past royalty are generally all very unattractive.
  • Mineral water is body drano.
  • The Lourve looks exactly like it does in the Da Vinci Code.
  • American tourists are loud and obnoxious…not me though.
  • If you don’t order a full Cornish breakfast, the locals will give you dirty looks.
  • Buying jewelry abroad just feels fancier.
  • It is possible to eat your weight in pastries and still lose 5 pounds…if you walk everywhere. (Cars have ruined us)
  • Stone circles are super cool in the day, but uber creepy at night. I scream loud and run suprisngly fast.
  • British grass is so green it looks like 70s carpet, but they make it look good.
  • They have as many castles in every town as we have Walgreens.
  • I still think it’s weird there are actual dead people inside churches, but the caskets are very impressive.
  • Taking two weeks off to wander around Paris and the English countryside really is a fairytale, and I rocked it.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Yeah, you're looking at this.

So...I shake my groove thing at the grocery store. In my yoga pants.

I got really excited and bought mini Triscuits, because they are MINI!

I singtalk to the mangoes. And the bananas...and the cereal.

People don't think I'm crazy, right?

Nah. They love it.