Thursday, January 02, 2014

Happy New Year 2014...From Fez Morocco

Happy New Year!

New Year's in Fez is a closed are a few thoughts from yesterday as I left Fez.

I just returned from the bathroom here on the train from Fez to Tangier, where I discovered that the mechanics of the facilities are simplified to the level of a straight pipe leading down from the stool and emptying onto the tracks below.  It took me a moment to process such a choice, but the fact is that the countryside, here and in the States, is covered with animals, domesticated and otherwise, who are pretty much doing the same thing all the time.  The little bit of human waste being added to that total along the train tracks is pretty minimal.  Odd what we consider to be important.

I have made it through my three nights in Fez with a host of thoughts, feelings and insights and a cacophony of emotions.  Unlike my trip last summer, this trip is so filled with odd and unknown experiences that it is not really desirable or even possible to try and journal them in a direct way as I did when driving through the Rockies.  Every moment brings another moment that seems worth noting or exploring so that eventually it is impossible to really note anything.  Also, the sheer exhaustion of it all makes immediate processing more challenging...important, perhaps, but also slightly out of reach.

The last thirty-six hours have also been somewhat complicated by the fact that I have been not feeling well. I assume it’s just a reaction to new parasites, and it hasn’t been terribly bad, but it has lowered my energy and increased the need to know where the bathrooms are located.  As I write I can tell that the tone of these journal postings have that lower energy.  It's hard to communicate the extraordinary beauty and richness of this place when I am so spent. 

Between feeling off and also being really engaged with how I am much I am drawn to swimming in the cultural pool of the Medina, I did not do the larger tourist activities I had considered for Fez.  Instead I stayed in the Medina, biting off little chunks of what I could manage.  So, Monday was spent on long walks about the narrow paths of this ancient medieval city while being overwhelmed by it all, and then Tuesday was spent doing little one to two hour outings into the Medina, followed by an hour or two of rest.  It was a strategy that was suited to both the realities of my mental and physical state, as well as the underlying strategy of this trip – ie, knowing that somehow the universe will decide what happens here.

As a part of my stay at the Riad I had booked the New Year’s Eve Feast at Riad Idrissy.  I wasn’t sure if it would really be what I wanted, and while quite affordable, it was on the high end of what even a large meal costs here…650dh (about $75).  On the other hand, it was New Year’s Eve and what the hell else was I going to do?  Amine, who was on the train to Fez with me, had suggested I call him and celebrate with he and his friends; however that seemed like more adventure than I was prepared to initiate...and also would have been out in the new city which was of less interest.  Since I was feeling pretty shaky anyway, I decided to stay with what I had booked and went down to the garden at nine prepared to be slightly bored, possibly lonely, but well fed. 

Waiting outside was a friendly fire pit and a few guests had begun to gather.  A glass of champagne in hand I began a conversation with a couple from London, Alan and Susan.  I did not have to worry about making conversation, as Alan was pretty much unstoppable as a one-sided conversationalist.  Susan would routinely disengage from the conversation and gaze about the garden as Alan prattled on.  They were clearly a couple, but it was hard to see what she might see in this guy.  I was happy to listen to him, but I would think it would get a bit old after a short time.  So it goes.  At least I didn’t have to worry about standing around looking isolated and alone.  

After some time we were invited into the salon to begin the meal.  I was seated at a table with five others, and if I had been concerned that I would not be entertained I was happily mistaken.  Somehow the conversation moved rather quickly to the politics of homosexuality, and the benefits for a straight man of learning how to make love at the hands of a lesbian lover.  Honestly.  It didn't stop there and took wonderfully obscure turns.  Conversation ebbed and flowed through everyone’s interests and experiences during the course of the night and time disappeared. 

The accents around the table were really lovely.  All five of the tablemates seem to be in their early forties.  All of them had traveled more than I could even imagine. Here’s who we were (as best I facility with names is highly limited). 

Tara – A charming and beautiful girl from Wales who, after spending some time in the Netherlands had lived the past decade or so in Barcelona and Fez (simultaneously).  An international food and travel journalist, she was a delightful conversationalist and completely disarming.

Richard – The owner of a Riad near Riad Idrissy, he was the quintessential gay man with the tiniest hint of a speech muffle.  A lot of stereotypes going on here, and also very genuine and kind. 

David – He and Richard are brothers.  David is straight, but my introduction to him was the middle of a conversation about a handbag and scarf and how wonderfully they went together and how he hoped that the gentleman who was looking to distribute them deserved to have great success as he had a lovely aesthetic sense.  He is from Scotland but is currently living in LA where he works as a promoter of some kind.  Is it possible to be both genuine and slick?  If so, he pulls this off.  Charming, completely open and engaged, and in the middle of a string of romantic conquests that beggared belief.  Maybe it’s a Scottish thing. 

Susan and Rebeccah – Rebeccah is a patent attorney and they seemed to fit together very nicely.  They live in Sydney and had clearly done a lot of traveling in Africa.  I don’t know if it was mentioned, but it seemed like they had been a couple for a long time.

I rounded it out as a bit of a novelty act.  First time overseas from the American heartland and I go to Fez.  Really?  They were dumbfounded.  Oddly impressed, though, so that was nice.

The band in the garden.
Everything about the evening was sumptuous and overflowing.  Conversation, food, atmosphere…all mingled together and functioned as a kind of healing balm to the outlandish challenge of the preceding five days.  For four and a half lovely hours I ate and talked and laughed in this warm cocoon of international good will.  The food included offerings such as a buttery Atlas trout pate, duck soup, sea bass, roasted lamb, vegetable dishes of all kinds, wine and champagne.  Richard had an inside track on a flowing sequence of vodka tonics with a variety of lemon that I’ve forgotten the name of but was very tasty.  At midnight a band stopped by and drummed and trumpeted in the New Year.  Definitely one of my favorite New Year’s celebration ever.  A true gift.

No comments: