Riad common area fountain from the second floor.

Time To Celebrate With A Day Trip To Fes

April 15 — I woke up from nightmares again last night. There is something so uncomfortable and not right for me here. I’ve written a lot about tears and crying in this blog, but make no mistake, when the rubber meets the road I take care of things. Whatever is triggering my nightmares here is troubling for me.

It’s time to celebrate though. The summit is over. I did it! All the imperfections, all the things I did wrong, everything I’ll need to change going forward doesn’t matter right now. I set out to do something and I did. I reached what is probably my hardest goal this year. Through all the bad days, unknowns, and things I couldn’t control I never quit. Not only that, but I received amazing feedback! Everything was absolutely worth it.

Several of us are going to Fes for the day. It’s a quick train ride, only an hour and it’s supposed to be a nice place to visit. One of the Roamers is meeting me at the train station and I make sure to buy us first class tickets. They are only $8 US and make a huge difference. Of course, the train ride didn’t take an hour. It took almost two.

Unlike the trip to Marrakech, the countryside on the way to Fes was beautiful. It had beautiful meadows and flowers. I saw tons of animals, including camels walking around. It was a beautiful site and I didn’t at all mind the train was delayed in arriving.

My favorite site was a stream. There are times when I see things I absolutely identify with. This time it was the stream. Set in what would be a ditch the sides were grassy and covered with violet flowers. The kind of scene where you walk through with your palms out and allow your hands to brush over the petals. Water was flowing at a steady pace and the rocks created a path.

In the moment I felt like the stream. Juxtaposed. Hard and soft. I’m sure there were weeds in the grass. I have things similar to weeds in my life. The rocks represented my foundation, stubbornness and those things I refuse to budge on. Over time the steady flow of water softens my edges. Violet flowers represented the fruit of my labor and what grows from within me. Water is life. Steady flowing meant constant movement and growth. Too slow and parts of the stream would dry up. Too fast, it ruins the terrain and is no longer serene but overpowering. I took it in as long as I could.

Arriving in Fes we met up with our tour guide. There aren’t many places you want to explore on your own in Morocco. Without addresses, being able to speak the same language, and not being able to trust anyone you can really set yourself up for disaster. Here we are visiting the oldest medina in Morocco. There is no way we’d be able to navigate it on your own. Well, I mean you could try but you wouldn’t have the same experience.

Our guide speaks English very well. Immediately I notice his shoes and ask him if they are from the medina. They aren’t. I still haven’t been able to find shoes and was really hoping he would say yes.

I’m excited to be able to ask questions and he seems to like providing the history. My first question is about the light fixtures that look like Christmas trees. One was lit when we arrived in Casablanca the first night and I’ve seen them everywhere, including here, but not always lit.

I love learning how ingrained our thoughts are. At least mine. To me it was a Christmas tree. Plain and simple. To them it was a fixture representing their flag which is red and green with a star. Somehow I didn’t see the connection. When the king is in town they light up to let everyone know. Makes sense. Even a little obvious. Isn’t it fascinating how the mind works though? What we think we see isn’t always so. Basically, this would be the theme of the day.

The medina is separated by a main road. What you can’t see is the river underneath. Years ago it was also used to escape from people. Crossing the river was a big deal. I wonder why they chose to pave it instead of create bridges. Unfortunately, I didn’t think of this until the train ride home.

We start going down side alley streets and into dark little walkways. I wonder how larger people would make it through. He had asked if anyone was claustrophobic. He wasn’t kidding. This would do it. Then he begins to reveal what has been obvious behind the facades.

Moroccans are private people and don’t like showing their wealth or possessions. The outside of buildings could never let you know what’s on the inside. When someone opens the door and lets you in it’s as if you are entering a new world. This has been the case several times now — at the workspace, in Marrakech, at the gardens, but until he said it it hadn’t really sunk in. The hard, cold exteriors of buildings reveals nothing of the inside.

A little girl is walking by with dough ready to be baked and then takes some loaves away. We learn how big a deal it is here to bake bread. Make sense. It’s everywhere and basically what I’ve been living on. What I didn’t know is that this is where women went to find the gossip, marry their daughters off, and meet with friends. Again, it makes sense. There are so few places women can go and since this is a daily occurrence it’s the perfect place and scenario.

Once we leave the small corridors of the residents area we emerge in an open park area. There are kids playing soccer, men gambling, teens hanging out, and tons of people walking through. I see this young boy who is crying because he can’t get his snack open. I tried to help but I don’t think he noticed me. An older boy, maybe his brother, eventually got it open for him and the tears stopped. In some ways I can relate. I’ve felt like shedding tears over the food here too.

Now we’re headed into the market and our guide prepares us. It’s so large everything is in sections. Very large sections. We begin walking through a fruit and vegetable section, then the butcher section where a huge camel’s head is hanging, and into the dye area. Here they use a different kind of silk for clothing. Not from silkworms. I forgot what he said, but silk is being dyed. We are told to be careful walking through.

All the dyes are natural. What was shocking is how they make yellow — it’s from pomegranates. Everything is very old world. I’m sure it’s helps for tourists. I think a lot is legitimately how things are done. You can only make so much stuff up.

We weave in and out of sections of the market and I’m clutching my purse the entire time. Then we make it to a tannery. On the way in we’re given mint stems. At first I thought it was a nice gesture. Then I learn it was to put in our noses. The smell is absolutely dreadful.

The tannery dates back centuries and the methods are still being used now. It was amazing to learn how they do things and naturally. Pigeon poop is mixed with something (I forget) and it makes a natural ammonia. So strong they have to wear gloves and boots when working in it because it will burn you like acid.

Where the leather is dyed is right next to it and from the top looking down it’s like a paint kit, only on a much larger scale. For a moment I forget the smell and take the mint away from my nose. It only lasts a moment because they smell is so strong you can’t take it for long.

While the methods of the tannery are old school the pitch is first world. They have the catchy phrases and sayings to try and get you to buy and don’t worry about having enough cash. They take credit card and can ship to your country as well. Good things to know as I begin to shop around.

I’m looking for a new bag. I didn’t bring my computer bag from home and have been using a backpack. It doesn’t fit me any longer and I know exactly what I’m looking for. In the sea of bags I find it. I also found a few other things. I’ve touched them which means they aren’t going to want to let me leave without buying something. The negotiations begin and it’s game on.

Here is when I like negotiating. I like to see what I can really get and how good I am. I know immediately I’m better than he is because he can’t read me at all. Somehow he thinks telling me he’s going to give me a good price because I’m beautiful will work in his favor. It does just the opposite and he doesn’t notice.

As expected he totals the cost of the bags, then drops the price. I decline and begin to walk away. He’s asking me to make him an offer. Now it’s time to play his game. I tell him I don’t want to insult him with an offer. What he wants is more than I was willing to pay and I hadn’t planned on buying anything. He assures me that I’m too beautiful to offend and I can offer him anything. I resisted the urge to insert my finger in my mouth and vomit on his shoes and instead offered 75 percent off the discounted price he gave me.

I can see his face is shocked. He begins to tell me about the quality, the time, it’s real leather, etc. Politely I tell him I know all those things and understood if he couldn’t sell them to me for such a price. Then I walked away and sat as others looked at shoes. Right before we left he came up to me and said he would take me offer. I won.

Tannery in Fes, Morocco

The guide asks if we want to go to more places or eat lunch. I’m really hoping the group opts for lunch. They do. He says he’s taking us to the best place in Morocco. Good! I want to eat something good for a change.

Again walking in it doesn’t seem like anything from the outside. Once you go inside it’s amazing. We went up to the rooftop and it was beautiful. The presentation was nice too. I loved seeing the plates and tea glass already on the table. Their menu didn’t seem special. It was the same as all the others. I went with the Moroccan salad. It’ll be interesting to see what theirs looks like.

Since several of us ordered the salad it came out on larger plates. Beets are popular here and I’ve been eating a lot. There were some spicy dishes too. The guide was right, it was good. However, if this is the best Morocco has to offer then I’m sorry for them.

After lunch we start back through the medina and head to a beautiful carpet shop. I’m not a huge fan of carpets, but they did have some beautiful ones. I found the building more interesting than what they were selling. The walls had all sorts of interesting carvings and were extremely detailed. I tried to capture all I could.

This was probably the hardest selling place yet. We laughed because we’re all basically homeless for the year so their pitch was useless. They wouldn’t give up. Finally we just have to start walking out the door to get them to stop.

We’re all pretty much done now with the tour and I’ve seen enough medinas to last a lifetime. Plus, since the guide is only going to take us more places that want to sell us things it’s not appealing. We thank the guide, pay him, and then set off on our own. One of the Roamers is staying at a nice riad where we can relax and have a glass of wine. There is no relaxing in this place. It’s far too crowded.

The owner of the riad is a really nice man and a former diplomat. He brings us wine and allows us to look around. There is an indoor pool which is functional and has automatic shades which can be lowered for privacy. A dining room that could seat at least 20 people. Plenty of room all around with enough couch space for an entire football team. My favorite was the common area with fountain. I could have sat there for days. It was nice to unwind before heading home. Some of the Roamers decided to stay. Me and another were done and felt like one day in Fes was good.

This was my first weekend in a long time where I wasn’t thinking about the summit. It’s over. Not until the train ride home did I think about it. Normally at this point I would have started thinking about things I needed to do or prepare for. Not anymore. What I did realize is tomorrow is Easter. I’m missing my children.

My end of day gratitude:

  1. A nice day in Fes.
  2. Getting the bags I wanted at the price I wanted.
  3. Nice talks on the train.

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