Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Finn Family is not unaccustomed to vacations.

(again, this post is an account of things long past.  Despite the laps of time, I hope you, my dear readers, enjoy this utterly true account, of the Finn Family International Vacation, as it is quite entertaining.  Or at least it was, while it was happening. I can only hope that you find it as enjoyable.  If not, well, better luck next time.  I say, lets just celebrate the fact that I updated at all.)

The Finn Family is not unaccustomed to vacations.  However, what we are less familiar with, are those vacations of the international variety.  In fact, they were new to us. 

Usually, when the Finn Family embarks on a vacation (to our ever favorite bi-annual holiday vacation spot, at the lovely detroit home, of my grandparents), we pack up an ever trusty Honda Civic and get on our way.  In Morocco, things were a little less trusty. as there wasn’t a Civic to be had.   Then you remember the baby cow sized luggage, brought by several members of the Finntourage.  Add in carry-ons and 110 degree heat, and you’ve got yourself a party.  Or at least, the beginning of our vacation.  

After arriving in Casablanca, we took a couple of days to recover, catch up on sleep, and take a leisurely stroll through what turned out to be a local ghetto.  After changing direction (and picking up our pace), we were El Jay bound.  But not before getting intimately familiar with a local treat:  the taxi.  

El Jadida, or as we affectionately called it in our Travel Journal: El Jay, is a coastal town, with beautiful beaches, or so we were told.  But before we could explore those beaches, we had to get there.  And our luggage had to come too.  Which lead us to the local taxi stand.  It was in the middle of a gas station parking lot.  It was on the busiest street in the city. There was a group of mechanics waiting, for what I’ll guess was a broken down car.  And then, there was us.  We really fit in.  

Unfortunately, we didn’t seem to fit in the taxi.  At least, not with our luggage.  No matter how we organized, shimmied, shoved or yelled at the bags, they never actually fit in the trunk.  Our taxi driver was confused as to why we had packed a fresh outfit for every fresh hour, of every fresh day.  Him and I bonded over this mutual confusion.  Finally, that good man, moved us out of the way, and organized the luggage himself.  The trunk didn’t close.  No worries, he just tied the trunk closed with some twine he pulled off a box of motor oil.  

Then, and only then, did it get awkward.  Because that is when we noticed another man standing nearby.  

Now, it should be known that taxis are Mercedes Benz cars.  Automatically, you are picturing shiny black cars, cruising along, carting the occupants in the lap of luxury.  Don’t.  Instead, picture your grandmothers first car.  Now, forget the need for keys because unlike grandma, lots of taxi drivers don’t need them, since they have their wires conveniently crossed.   To top it off, ignore how many seat belts are available.  Then fit seven grown adults (and as many small children as are necessary) inside.  This makes for a profound experience of luxury.  Its just like sitting in the lap of luxury. Except, instead of luxury, you are generally sitting in another persons lap.  

One the truck was (somewhat) securely closed, the taxi driver kindly pulled me aside.  He explained that this man had been waiting for a taxi to El Jay, for an hour and a half.  Since we had five people, he didn’t think we would mind allowing this man, to purchase the sixth seat.  As someone who has waited many an hour for a taxi, I couldn’t tell that man no.  So in we all got.

It took a while to situate ourselves.  The four ladies sat in the back, along with everyones carry-ons and purses.  Upfront, my BIL (brother-in-law) was getting very familiar and comfortable with our other passenger.  Our other passenger got very comfortable preaching to us.  Our taxi driver got comfortable rolling his eyes and swerving through traffic at a breakneck speed.   Things were off to a good start. 

It continued as we got caught in a traffic jam.   Instantly, we began to sweat, not out of nerves, but because of the sweltering heat.  It was hot.  And the windows didn’t roll down.  Add in the undistinguishable sermon coming from new found friend, in the front seat, and things were looking good. 

Eventually we got out of traffic, but the heat didn’t seem to be going anywhere, except with us.  So we kept sweating.  Poor BIL in the front seat...we were barely out of traffic, when the preaching passenger fell asleep.  On Crew’s shoulder.  He was too nice to push him away, so instead he sat with the man to his right, and the gear shift to his left.  Clearly, he had the best seat in the house.  

After a very long hour and a half, we made it to El Jay a good, five pounds lighter.  With our luggage in tow, we made it to the hotel, check in, and found out that yes, the beaches in El Jay are beautiful, indeed.  

We enjoyed several days of beaching, wining, dining, and ancient Portuguese cistern touring.  All was delightful and incredibly relaxing, so much so, that I was sad to leave.  But we had a busy schedule to adhere to, and next on our list was the medieval city of Fez.  

But for details on our Fez-ian adventure, you must wait, as I haven’t written that post yet.  Perhaps, if you are lucky, I will write it soon.  Until then, love to you all, my dear readers of late. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The time has officially changed

(my dear and loyal readers,  the post you about to read is a log of past events.  While I am sure, my lengthy sabbatical has perhaps, slackened your resolve in reading this blog, I do appreciate your patience.  I certainly seem to have an aversion to blogging, merely because despite my geographic location, my daily life is far less exotic than you might imagine.  

However, I do know some of you (thanks, pete), look to this subscription as a means of waisting five minutes of work time.  Therefore, I will try not to disappoint, and will not keep you waiting much longer!  At least, I say that now, as my next post is already written.  I promise to post it soon.  But haste I shall not make, as I cannot condemn getting my readers comfortable with regular correspondence, at least not from this blog.  Rather, distance makes the heart grow fonder, or so I’m told.  

Of course, I prefer  “patience is a virtue”, which my father never grew tired of quoting, but I grew quite exhausted of hearing.  But who am I to dispute the wisdom of my elders?  Therefore, I will pass that lesson along, through this blog, along with, of course, scattered notes about the actual adventure that has crept into my life.  Cheers!) 


three times, in the past five months.  Of course, something being labeled as “official” seems to be synonymous with “unnecessary”.  Therefore, I have spent much of the past five months asking two questions:  “Is this new time?”  or “Is that old time?”  Unfortunately for me, the most common response I get is “they are the same thing!”  So really, I have no ideas if the “time” is really the time, or if it is just some philosophical idea of organization.  The mere allusiveness of it all gets my head spinning.  Pretty freaky stuff. 

In rural areas, many people do not acknowledge the time changes.   They recognize that officially, the “time” has “changed”, but this has not encouraged them to change their own clocks.  I have solved the problem by changing my watch to “new” time, while keeping my cell phone on “old” time.  As the months go on, one would imagine that I am more familiar with the timing of events.  But really, I’m just as lost as I have ever been.  The result is two fold:  I either show up for events two hours early, or two hours late.  

In corporate America, this might be an issue.  In rural Morocco, we like to celebrate that you showed up at all!  The only place this is an issue, is in regards, to transportation.  On any given day, I have about two chances to leave my town.  The first, is early in the morning, which I would tell you is at 7:00am, but at this point, I couldn’t tell you what that actually means.  The second is around noon, but again, that could mean anytime  after breakfast and before nightfall.  

All too often, I sit on the side of the road and wait, for two hours.  Or even more commonly, I sit on the side of the road and wait, for two hours, before a kind soul asks me what I’m doing, as the last transportation departed three hours prior.  

While it makes no conventional sense, I am really unfazed, on the whole.  If I spend two hours waiting, for transportation that has already passed, I return home comfortable with the idea of peanuts for dinner.  However, five months ago, when the time changed for the first time, I was quite fazed.  Flustered, even, as I had places to go, and more importantly, people to see.  

In early May, I was sitting on the side of the road waiting for transportation, as is normal.  Only, none was forthcoming.  After many frantic phone calls, dreaming up several emergency plans of the not-well-thought-out variety, I was able to catch a ride with my neighbors cousin (or some relation or another.  I was a little foggy on the connection, but universally, we are all family.  right?).  With my book bag on my lap, the journey began.  

After constantly checking my watch, I made it to the airport ten minutes late.  I ran inside and thanked the building engineers for only building one terminal.  Arriving out of breath, I anxiously looked around, but saw not a soul.  As it turns out, on tickets, arrival times are given in the “current” time when purchased, not the “current” time, for the day of your arrival.  After checking several arrival boards, I settled on being the first person in the waiting area, and found a chair. 

It was not long before I became just one, in a quickly growing crowd.  Families began to arrive, just as flustered as I had been.  Women sat in chairs, but spent most of their time checking watches.  Men paced behind those chairs.  Children, unfamiliar with this new found freedom of preoccupied parents, ran around and screamed quite often.  Most groups were quite large.  Elderly matriarchs wore beautiful jellabas (traditional robes) and were clearly, the ones in charge.  For all of us, that day was a special day.  And we were waiting for all that special to arrive, from America.  

Finally, the doors opened and the first travelers entered.   In unison, we all began to crane our necks and peer through the crowd, hoping that person, was our person.     There, in the middle of the airport, parents and children were reunited.  Grandparents meet grand babies for the first time.   Grown siblings welcomed back their brothers and sisters, to their homeland.   Piles of hugs, cries of joy and plenty of laughter erupted as, one by one, each traveler found the crowd they belonged to.

A great many of these reunions was tearful, and incredibly sweet.  As an American living abroad, I am constantly thinking about those back stateside.  Sometimes, I get so wrapped up in my own feelings, I forget how common it is, for Moroccan families, to have several children living and working abroad.  Additionally, as a US Citizen, I forget how easy it is for me to get a travel visa.  Its not that easy for everyone, therefore, travel and reunions are far from commonplace.  This added a large measure of gratefulness and a level of shared joy amongst those, of us waiting.  

I was so absorbed, in the many endearing reunions happening around me, that I almost missed my own.  However long its been, I can still pick my mother out of a crowd.  The door opened, and there she was, followed closely by my sister.  They had arrived!!  Our own reunion had hugs, laughter and plenty of joy.  With their luggage in tow, we ventured out of the airport, ready for the real adventure to begin.  

Luckily for Molly, the real adventure required a second trip, to the airport.  After getting settled, at the hotel, I was due to return, to the airport, in order to retrieve my other sister Caitlin and brother-in-law.  I had planned it well, and we arrived with about ten minutes left to spare.  Until I remembered the time change.  

For the second time that day, I settled down to wait.  Sitting in the same chair as earlier, my sister and I waited.  Having Molly there was much better than being alone. Although, after the many time changes she experienced that day, I’m sure she wanted nothing, but her bed.  After many yawns, the wait was over!  The second reunion of the day was quite similar to the first:  many hugs and a great deal of joy!   

Then I saw their luggage.  But I decided having luggage, each the size of a baby cow, was a problem for the next day.  With a very happy heart, I welcomed my siblings to Morocco, excited for the adventures that were certain to ensue.  

In true Finn Family Fashion, more gems will be shared soon.  Stay tuned!