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After a week or two of blustery, wet and wild weather, we’ve been having some hot sunny days so I’ve been doing mundane things like airing out the house and actually managing to get towels dry. Houses here are so damp! Other than that, we’ve been enjoying the vacation; sleeping in and staying up late, eating way too much, having friends over, playing with trains and new presents.

We had a lovely, quiet Christmas. On Christmas Eve, we went to a service at the local protestant church. The pastor invited everyone who wanted to up to sing in an impromptu choir. Abel was first out of his seat. I had to follow because they handed him a mike, which he held right next to his mouth as he croaked along. In our family, the females can sing and the males can’t, and Donn and I, dissolving into giggles, agreed that something must be done to spare the ears of the congregation.

Afterwards, everyone was tremendously hyper and stayed chatting, and running and wrestling, for a very long time. (You can decide who was doing what) Then we came home to make tartiflette with Spanish bacon and real reblochon cheese, which they had at a store here. It was sooo good. It’s years since we’ve had it.

We stayed up far too late, and as a result started Christmas morning quite late. We had to actually get Elliot out of bed about 9:30. I jumped on him and heard a loud, ominous crack. Sure enough—the long piece of wood down the side of his bed was broken, and inspection showed that it had been made of two pieces glued together. I have to say this is typical of stuff here. It looks good and you pay European prices, but more often than not it is shoddily made and doesn’t hold up.

Elliot got a sword. The twins got roller blades. This is actually what we were looking for in Ceuta, but apparently kids there who want them come to Morocco to get them. I got some lovely pottery things and a new scarf and a tin of Quality Street, which reminds me so much of my childhood that I’m having a hard time sharing. Donn got a photo book of Morocco, and a lot of chocolate from the children.  A couple of days earlier, we got a parcel from friends with Starbucks’ Winter Blend. I love good coffee.

Ferocious young warrior

The twins modeling the new cap and scarf we got them in Chefchouen.

Since Ismail and his mother are always sending up food, we sent them down a plate of Christmas cookies and pies and a large platter of our Christmas dinner, roasted herbed leg of lamb, roast potatoes with garlic and rosemary, mint sauce, glazed carrots, fresh peas. I suspect they didn’t like it but it was a nice thing to do. On Saturday they sent my platter up with couscous, cinnamon, powdered sugar and crushed almonds. Mmm.

A friend gave us two boxes of Lindor truffle balls. I put them out in a decorative blue bowl. Ismail dropped by to bring us our mail, and I offered him one and watched in bemusement as he took the entire bowl, obviously thinking I was sending them to his family! Sigh.

So what about you? How was your Christmas? Hope you were this happy…

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I know you’ve all been eagerly anticipating this year’s version of the lego creche. And it is much improved from last year’s, although I’ll always have a soft spot for the original Mary. Abel got his ginormous lego tub out of storage last June, and has benefitted from having a much wider variety to work from.

For example, Mary now has a girl’s face. She’s still rocking the brunette ponytail, and this year is modeling a sleek black futuristic look. The Virgin Mother also has a staff, just because you never know. It’s best to be prepared, even after giving birth in a stable.

Baby Jesus is without the claws this year, or indeed arms.

Joseph has a much more traditional look.

This year, there’s an entire auberge plus stable in the back, shaded by palm trees, complete with horses.

The reason there was no room at the inn is because this soldier was there, commandeering the whole place!

Here’s a closer view of the stable, with the wise men gathered outside.

And inside, where Jesus has his face turned against the wall because Abel wasn’t happy that the only face he could find had a scowl.

In addition to the auberge/stable, there is also Herod, with a troll’s sword, talking to some guards, about to send them off on a cruel mission. He deserves the troll sword!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

“My toe hurts,” Ilsa complained one day several weeks ago. Sure enough, she was starting an ingrown toenail—on both sides, like her nail was confused and growing out instead of up. It looked nasty but not terrible. We had her soak it in hot water, and managed to get the nail out to the surface. No biggie.

Then, suddenly, she was complaining again and it was terrible. Infected, oozing, angry red—you name it. We tried the home care again, and it seemed to get better and then came back. When we took her in to the doctor, she took one look at it then looked at me and said, “Madame, you have waited too long.”

Yeah, that made me feel good.

She referred us to a surgeon and didn’t charge us for her office visit, since she said she hadn’t done anything, which I don’t think happens very often in America. “Go right away,” she told us, obviously having pegged us as neglectful parents. So, feeling two inches tall, we trudged off to the surgeon, who told us he would like to take the nail off entirely.

He made an appointment for Friday morning. “Isn’t that a holiday?” I asked. It was—Muslim New Year. The surgeon shrugged. “Not a holiday for medical people,” he said.

So on the first day of Christmas vacation, Donn and I took Ilsa  to a clinic just across the river in Salé, Rabat’s sister city. Ilsa was mopey, not because she was worried about the surgery, but because she’d wanted to sleep as late as she could that first day.

The clinic was fine but basic. We sat in the waiting room for about 15 minutes before a nurse came and whisked Ilsa away. She told Donn and I that we needed to stay in the waiting room. I wasn’t thrilled about that—I’d pictured being with her. It was only a local anesthetic, but they didn’t want us back there. Why? I sat in the waiting room, prey to doubts and strange imaginings.

When we’d been sitting there about 15 minutes, a group of talkative men, about 5 of them, entered and walked straight back down the hall. They looked religious—bearded, wearing robes and caps. We sort of wondered about them, but I thought maybe they were visiting a friend.

About 10 minutes later they came back, one of them pushing a bassinet with a cover over it. I looked at it and got a very bad feeling. They congregated at the far end of the waiting room, where they proceeded to take out of the bassinet two very tiny bodies, which they lay on the seats and wrapped in white cloths for burial, tying them at each end. They weren’t ungentle, but they were very matter-of-fact. At one point a cell phone rang, an Islamic chant for the ring tone, and one of them answered it and chatted briefly.

I glanced around at the waiting room. There were 3 other women and 1 man. He kept reading his paper, but we women (and Donn) were mesmerized. We were all pretty traumatized, staring bleakly at the tableau at the far end of room. One woman groped blindly in her handbag for a kleenex. Although the thought of the tiny twins disturbed me, I myself did not start crying until a woman walked out, her face tight, leaning on an older man, and was swallowed up by the swinging doors at the entrance.

The men finished. Two bore the heartbreakingly-small bodies off, and the others took pillows and cloths and dusted down the seats, as if death was contagious, as if the white burial cloths that swaddled the bodies might have left some invisible but tangible residue, a brush of mortality on the plastic green cushions.

A stillness descended on the waiting room with their absence. It’s not that we were talkative before but now, we didn’t move or speak. It was another 10 minutes before Ilsa was wheeled out, a shoe and her book in her lap and an enormous white bandage on her toe.

A nurse stayed with her while Donn and I were shooed off to pay. One of the doctors told Donn that our daughter was “trés courageuse.” “She read the entire time,” he said in amazement. I laughed. This is Ilsa.

We were sent off with no after care, clutching a prescription for painkillers which turned out to be for the local version of Tylenol. Um, shouldn’t you get something a bit stronger in return for having your entire toenail removed? On top of it, this particular kind of paracetamol is dissolved in water and drunk, and it made Ilsa sick. I had to give her advil instead.

We bore Ilsa home, established her in a sort of nest on the couch, and let her run the show the rest of the day. She was very good and did not abuse her privilege in any way, and although she had a few bad moments, was incredibly calm about the whole thing. I whined more about being forced to sit through another showing of “Lord of the Rings” than she did about the pain!

I watched my tough, spirited daughter nursing her toe on the couch, gritting her teeth and proclaiming it didn’t hurt so that we’d let her go ice-skating on Sunday with the Youth Group Christmas party. Her twin sprawled on the floor next to her in front of the TV. But my mind kept drifting back to those silent twins already laid in the ground, to their mother walking out into the crisp bright air, going silently home to a quiet house.

Before I moved to Morocco, I had barely even heard of Ceuta, and I certainly couldn’t pronounce it. (Variations exist. Apparently it’s “Soota” not my clever Spanish-sounding-to-me “Swe-etta.” The Arabs call it Sebta) Ceuta is a city in Spain, but not on mainland Spain. It is a tiny toehold that Spain maintains from colonial times, situated on the edge of the continent of Africa and surrounded by Morocco on 3 sides.

Ceuta is about a 4 hour drive from Rabat, or 2 ½ if you believe our friend Russ. (Aside: don’t.) People go there for a day’s shopping trip. Why not us?

We decided to go before the kids got out of school for vacation, since we wanted to shop mostly for them. We set the alarm for 4:30 a.m. On Mondays, the twins stay at school for lunch, and I’d already made their sandwiches. Elliot had been charged with getting all 3 kids up, dressed, fed and off to school by 8. I kissed him goodbye when we left about 5:30.

We set off through in the dark, rainy night, catching glimpses of the moon through the ragged clouds. We were halfway there when I called the house, to be assured that everyone was up and fed and dressed at least.

We drove through a watery pale dawn, alongside crashing waves and through some dramatic hills, eventually arriving at the border. The border has quite a reputation, and we weren’t really sure quite what to expect.
We joined a long, scraggly line, one of 3. We gradually inched forward. The car in front of us wasn’t even trying—every time there was space to move forward, the driver and a passenger would get out and push. I don’t know if they were saving gas or putting off dealing with a harder problem, but I did wonder if Spain was going to be happy to get a car like that.

Around us, all seemed chaotic. People were streaming along one side, obviously foot passengers, but throughout the 3 lines of cars, people were walking back and forth. There were no signs anywhere.

Donn had talked to friends, so he sort of knew what to do. He got out of the car with our passports. I was in charge of moving the car forwards, which mostly consisted of me reading a book and keeping a corner of my eye on the car in front. At one point, the 3 lines merged into 2, but by smiling my special smile at the guy trying to cut me, I managed to not lose too much space.

I was really stressed the entire time that I would get to the front of the line and have to try to enter Spain without my passport or my husband, but I needn’t have worried. By the time the 2 lines merged into one, Donn was back.

Meanwhile, Donn was having his own fun. There were four windows let into a building that ran parallel to the traffic—in other words, there wasn’t really space for lines to form. Each window was numbered, but there was no other signage to indicate which window might be for which type of person, so Donn joined a group of women at the first window. They let him stand there about 10 minutes before telling him it was the women’s line. So he went on to Window 2, where they told him after about 5 minutes that it was just for Moroccans. On to Window 3, where there was no line but the official told him he needed Window 4, for foreigners. You could not tell by looking who should be in any line. We saw other men in the women’s line. But, should you ever decide to cross from Morocco to Spain at Ceuta, it’s Window 4. Remember that.

The Spanish side was simple. We moved in an orderly line, and a man briefly examined and stamped our passports and waved us forward. And we were in Ceuta, a small city built out on an isthmus, surrounded on 3 sides by the deep blue sparkling waters of the Mediterranean. It was a gorgeous day if you could be out of the wind. Whenever I see the Med, I think of how Homer called it “the wine-dark sea.” Seriously, what makes it that deep, deep blue?

We had no idea where to go in Ceuta so we just drove around. It’s not very big, but it is dense. We found a cute downtown area that had lots of boutiques and no parking, and drove around fruitlessly for about 40 minutes before finding a parking garage with, and this is brilliant, little lights above each parking spot, so that you merely had to glance around for a green light to know where a free spot was.

Out into the wind! We wandered round the shopping area. It was fun to be once again in a place decorated for Christmas. Rabat has decorated streets year round, since this is where the king’s main residence is, and it is a very pretty city. But it was still nice to go again to a place with public spaces decorated with angels and shepherds and wise men on camels, with large white stars and trees strung with lights in the plazas and bells ringing.

It wasn’t an unqualified success. We were looking for specific things and we either didn’t find them at all or did find them and couldn’t afford them. (Elliot wants a drum set more than anything else on earth right now, but the one we found was twice the price it would be in America. If only we could buy it there and somehow get it here. Who wants to come visit?) We did find a large grocery store, where we got some treats for Christmas. We stopped for a late lunch and shared a variety of tapas. We love Spain.

The kids, meanwhile, had come home from school and deposited their backpacks, then walked over to a friend’s house. She fed them supper and brought them home, where they did their homework and put themselves to bed. I know! Before you fall over in amazement at how good and mature my children are, remember that they were very proud of being trusted to look after themselves.

Coming home, we experienced the border in reverse—easy through the Spanish side, a bit more complicated on the Moroccan, mostly because at one point there were suddenly 5 lanes of traffic battling it out (literally) to enter a roundabout. Sigh. Welcome home.

We stopped for a late supper in an outdoor roadstand in the mountains. It was freezing, with an icy rain pelting down. We huddled under the roof and ate harira soup and olives and dates and kefta brochettes and fries, until we were warm and full. It was 11 when we got home, to carry in groceries and fall into bed, exhausted.

Sorry, I know the photos didn’ t really come out and certainly don’t do it justice, but I’m posting them anyways to give you an idea. Here’s a last one of dragons on a building.


…sorry…Ilsa just had a toenail removed and is wallowing in stoic pain on the couch. She’ll get her own post later. Given the choice of ANY movie in the house, she opted for “The Fellowship of the Ring.” So I’m having to sit through it again.

On to pics of the tree!

As it came from the trunk of the taxi.

Standing in its lovely pot, full of good dirt bought for a good price.

“The Snowman: Walking in the Air”  One of my favorite Christmas  specials. I  even have a Snowman mug, and it’s my favorite for tea.

When the twins were 18 months and Elliot was 3, we set off one cold December morning to a paint-your-own-china place. The plan was to create gifts from all 3 for Grandma and for Donn. Elliot got enthusistic with the mug for Daddy and painted the whole thing himself before I could stop him, so I let the twins each choose an ornament to paint. Abel chose a bell and painted it black.

Ilsa chose an angel and blended two shades of blue and pink to produce a very pretty violet.

This pic also shows an ornament we bought in France.

And of course there’s a train round the bottom.

Today is a happy day. Why? Because I got my computer back. I’ve been having to let Donn borrow it because his died, and it hasn’t been pretty. We learned a few years ago that we really can’t share a computer without lots of good opportunities to practice maturity and unselfishness in front of the children, and you know how stressful that gets.

I feel all relaxed and happy now, and like I’ve got things to tell you. To begin, the story of How We Got Our Christmas Tree, or sapin de noel as we like to call it.

It started last year, when I went to choir practice at Connie’s house and there were Christmas trees in a small truck outside. She has lived here something like 20 years, and she told me the tale of Ahmed the Tree Guy, who lives somewhere out in the country and every year just shows up at their house with a tree or two. Last year, Ahmed left them 4 trees to choose from and never came back, so they just gave us one. This year, she gave me his phone number.

In an exciting twist, it turned out not to be Ahmed’s phone number, but his brother Sayid. Sayid’s French was minimal. I explained who I was, that I was a friend of Connie’s, but that I was a different American woman. He said he was at work and asked me to call back that evening. I did, but Ahmed was not in. Could I try back later? I did, but he was still not there.

This went on for 3 nights.

On Saturday, I talked to Sayid again. He was at work, but he noted down my address and promised that Ahmed would come to my house on Sunday afternoon.

Two minutes later, Connie’s husband called me. Ahmed the Tree Guy was at their house with a tree for me! He offered to bring him over, so we rushed outside. Soon Ahmed arrived with a six-foot tree stuffed into the back of a petit taxi, a tiny blue Fiat. He pulled it out and the bargaining started, but I was already sold on it. A tree!

We brought it up and laid it on the floor. We were immediately confronted with our lack of a tree stand. Elliot was baking chocolate chip cookies. We also had the Christmas concert in a few hours. I was singing in the choir, the twins were doing readings in French, and Elliot was playing drums for “Calypso Carol.” Donn and Abel took the car and went out to the Potteries to find a pot. Ilsa and I continued our attempt to dress her in an outfit that we could both live with. She’s going through her sloppy wear-her-brothers’-clothes stage. I’m going through my turn-into-my-mother-after-all stage. Her idea of appropriate Christmas concert attire: jeans and old (red!) tshirt of Elliot’s with a football on it. My idea: skirt, tights, boots. We compromised, but it took time.

In the meantime, Donn returned with a lovely pot and a bucket full of dirt. Lovely dirt, yes. We stuck the tree in, packed dirt around it, and stood it in a corner. Beautiful! Well, to be honest, it looked rather like what it is—a scraggly cedar bush,  but green and needly at least. Then we changed and rushed off, bearing still-warm cookies, to the concert. The choir marched in by candlelight to “Dona Nobis Pacem” (give us peace), a medieval round. Ilsa read a long passage without, apparently, breathing. Elliot was fantastic on the song he was supposed to accompany, and improvised wildly on a congregational carol, just because he could. I don’t think anyone really noticed. All was well.

In the evening, I made homemade chwarmas and of course hot chocolate. It is pretty much required that you make hot chocolate when decorating a tree, even though I didn’t have any, since I don’t like sweet hot drinks. It was pretty awesome to have our own decorations again, after two Christmases without them. We hung the Doulton china snowman, and the ornaments we bought in France, and the paint-your-own-china that the twins did at the age of 18 months. (Abel’s is black and Ilsa’s is a delicate violet. You can’t tell me there aren’t innate differences!) There’s a train round the base, and hula-girl lights in the window. Our Mauritanian angel is on top, made by a sewing cooperative of women who live without electricity or running water.

On Sunday afternoon Ahmed the Tree Guy showed up again, as Sayid and I had arranged. It’s good to know he’s getting his messages.

Ismail was there when Ahmed came, so afterwards Donn invited him up to see the tree. He admired the decorations, suggested we get lights that blink. We explained our lights do blink, just give them a minute. (The only lights we’ve found here are multi-coloured and blink) He liked the train.

He asked us how much we paid, and shook his head and tut-tutted when we told him. It was far too much. Never mind that we paid only one-third of what they are asking at the nursery across from LaBelVie. Never mind that it’s twice the size, less spindly, and still cost less than the fake trees they have at Marjane this year.  Never mind that he’s never bought a Christmas tree in his life and couldn’t be expected to know what they cost. In my experience, Moroccans love to ask you what you paid for things, and then tell you that you paid too much. It’s fun and relaxing for them.

He said we got a good price on the dirt though. So that’s a relief.
I’ll post pics tomorrow–in the evenings the connection is often pretty bad and I can’t get them to load.

Today we finally got a tree. It’s been very complicated, but we’re excited.  I am going to tell you all about it tomorrow, or possibly sometime next week, but right now I don’t have time. Instead, I’m rerunning one of my all-time favorite posts. I don’t know why I like it so much–possibly because everytime I look at the Mary/Anakin that Abel made from Legos last year, I just feel warm and happy inside.

This year will be much better than last. We have our Christmas decorations out of storage in Mauritania, for a start. Donn and Abel are right now buying a pot out at the Potteries to house our scraggly cedar bush beautiful fresh Christmas tree. We have our own place, and I had so much fun wrapping  fake garland round our very own staircase. The stockings are are hung from the window latches with  care. (We still don’t have curtains. Or a mantelpiece. I’m open to other suggestions)

But this post is a good reminder that all you really need to be festive is tin foil, kleenex, legos and creative  children.

From December 2008:

This is Mary. No really.
marywereyouangry

I don’t THINK she’s as angry as she looks. (Although maybe that song line about “no crying he makes” isn’t accurate)

On Sunday, I walked over to a neighbour’s house for choir practice. I’ve joined an amateur choir and we’re doing a Christmas concert on Saturday. It’s the first time I’ve been in a choir since university days, and I’m really enjoying it. We’re singing lovely songs; a couple of haunting French carols, a mix of traditional and modern. The director has sensibly chosen songs that aren’t too high, so we don’t have to have that shrill drifting into sharp that is such a feature of amateur choirs made up of mostly middle-aged people.

I rounded the corner and saw a truck full of greenery. “How fun; looks like Christmas trees,” I thought, amused, never thinking it would be true. But it was. “This guy delivers our tree every year,” the family explained to me. He dropped 4 off for them to choose from, and never came back, so we are now the proud owner of a fresh, green tree.

It smells wonderful. Apparently it is some sort of cedar, and it’s really aromatic.

treeangel

We are sorely lacking in the decoration department, but we are making progress. So far, we have two felt ornaments that a friend gave us, and an angel that Ilsa made out of tin foil and Kleenex.
tinfoilangel

And we have a Lego creche. Abel made it himself, but I’m sure it could be a bestseller.

marywereyouangry1
I think this look makes a nice change from the blonde, bland look.

Here we see the baby Jesus, looking slightly blurry. Not to mention legless.

blurrybaby

And the complete nativity scene, including the star that rose geometrically in the east.

legocreche

starfromtheeast

So you can see we’re making tremendous progress. I’m sure you’re all in awe.

Jill needs more recipes! This woman is cooking up a storm! Today we’re doing baked eggplant and baked cauliflower dishes. These make great sides. Khadija is a miracle woman who has gotten my husband to not only eat eggplant without complaining, but to actually order it in a restaurant. He likes olives now too!

Baked Cauliflower:

Start by steaming your cauliflower.

Meanwhile, make a roue out of butter, grated fresh garlic, a crumbled boullion cube, salt and pepper.

Add 3 large tablespoonfuls of flour, then stir in milk to make a basic white sauce. Meanwhile, arrange the steamed cauliflower artistically in a glass Pyrex dish. Does it have to be glass Pyrex, you ask? Yes, it does, if you want to be just like me and my stellar Marjane purchases, it does.

Pour white sauce over top. Sprinkle grated cheese (we use Edam–cheapest, most widely available, and delish!) over the top.

I believe real food bloggers have more attractive tea towels in their pictures, but oh well.

Bake in oven till heated through. Turn on broiler for a bit so that the cheese is browned and bubbly. Forget to take picture of finished product. Enjoy the fact that husband and kids are still so traumatized by the thought of cauliflower (perhaps because the kids at Elliot’s school sometimes call him “chouflour” because of all his curls?) that they somehow end up leaving this whole entire pan for you! Yum! No wonder all that jogging isn’t showing tons of results!

Baked Eggplant:

Eggplant is super common and popular here in Morocco. There are two ways to make it. The other way is actually my favorite but I don’t have the recipe yet. This way is pretty darn good though!

Slice eggplant lengthwise. Steam in steamer (do you have one of those colander-like thingys?) with 3 cloves of garlic until all flaccid and nasty-looking.

Meanwhile, chop 2 -3 fresh tomatoes and a bunch of fresh parsley and cilantro.

Add 1 t of pepper, 1 t harissa, 1 t cumin, salt, and the 3 cloves of steamed garlic, sort of mushed with your fingers.

Add some oil. Do not be shy about the oil! None of this modern fat-conscious American namby-pamby worrying about the oil. Add some oil! Relax that wrist as you pour! It will feel good. Live dangerously for once. You can do crunches afterwards to appease your conscience if you must.

Let the tomato mixture cook down.

Meanwhile, arrange the eggplant, artistically of course, in, yes, a Pyrex glass baking dish. Work with me here!

Pour tomato mixture over top. Grate two slices of burned toast over the top. Bake until it is all crispy and spicy and yummy.

It goes well with lamb/prune tagine, as you can see.

Enjoy!

So I’ve started jogging. I did this during the kids’ Fall Break (Vacances de Toussaint, or alternatively Vacances de novembre), in which I cruelly and forcibly MADE THEM go with me to the aptly-named Hilton Forest. The hotel next to it is no longer the Hilton, and it’s not EXACTLY a forest, but it is lovely and the sort of place that should be named Hilton Forest—a large park with a center lake and a café serving very good orange juice (freshly-squeezed of course…no other kind exists in Morocco!), a stand of planted pines (no turkeys though) and a running path that goes through grove after grove of eucalyptus trees (I’m addicted to parenthetical comments so thought I’d add one more).

The children whined horribly. Anyone would think that being dragged kicking and screaming from in front of the television into the fresh air at 11 a.m. on a delightfully crisp sunny fall morning constituted that much-maligned cruel and unusual punishment. At one point I had to threaten to smash Ilsa’s head into a handy eucalyptus trunk if she didn’t stop whining!

That last bit is sort of true.

I had planned to simply walk and talk and connect with my oh-so-delightful-and-happy children, but I decided to see how far I could run. This thrilled them, as you can imagine. And, surprise, I could go father than I’d thought. (It was still pitiful, and you don’t need to know how far it was). It was clear that I needed to start jogging regularly, here amongst the large trees and filtered sunlight just meters away from heavy traffic and honking horns.

Three times a week now, I go and run amongst the eucalyptus, breathing deep their spicy scent. It’s a great place to run. The entire track is 3.5 kilometers, and there are little markers along most of the way, showing how far you’ve come. Or, you can head into the middle of the park, where there are benches, soccer pitches, a prettily-landscaped lake (and café, as I’ve mentioned). I am rather proud of myself for managing to add some regular exercise into my life, and keep it up for several weeks now!

The Hilton Park is a popular place. There are always scads of women, usually in groups, wearing headscarves and velour track suits. Western women in sports bras, tank tops and leggings weave their way in and out, iPods blaring. There are kids on bikes, and toddlers picking up pine cones and eucalyptus bark peels. There is a small army of men working, constantly raking the paths, collecting the debris, watering the plants, resting on their rakes as I pound heavily past, gasping for breath. (Hey, I just started! I’m working on skipping lightly and gracefully) Young men sprint the entire track, beaming with pride at themselves. Families stroll. It’s the place to be for a lot of the population of Rabat.

On Saturday afternoon, the kids deigned to meet some friends there. They don’t mind going as long as they are not forced to walk/run the perimeter, which is unbelievably boring and Must! Be! Whined! About! They were willing to go play football however, which doesn’t count as “exercise.”

My friend Shannon and I went for a walk, through the planted pines (he’s right—they’re not straight! i.e. Vernon, Florida), around the “lake” (really more of a large pond), and had an orange juice in the café under the trees. And, since I wasn’t jogging, I brought my camera and took some pics of the kids and made that an excuse to write a post…

She loves to climb trees

You know they love to pose for pictures!

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