Archive for the 'Food' Category



Along the Way

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On the way from Erfoud to Marrakesh our bus broke down, ironic since it was the first nice and new bus of our trip.  It wasn’t all bad though, as is usually the case with travel even the bad moments teach you something.  We stopped in this little town in the mountains where I took some of my favorite photos of the trip.

No this is not for you, from me, not yet

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We woke up for our first day in Ouarzazate to beautiful weather, we had opted for the room ‘on the roof’ which was right near the washing station and a bit cheaper than those below.  Our hotel was a little quirky but we were excited that it had a pool and the owner was especially nice.

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Ouarzazate comes from the Berber phrase “without noise,” and carries the nickname “door to the desert” because for most people it’s where to stay before heading out to the Draa Valley.  Maybe it’s better to go there before the desert because coming from the desert Sister and I were not very impressed.  We walked around town and found mostly touristy shops with a sort of sad repetition of all things typically considered Berber and Moroccan.

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Construction site that seemed to be using the same ‘hold it up’ techniques as our desert tents.

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I still have no idea why the majority of trees in Morocco were painted white at the base.  If anyone knows please, tell me! It seemed to be only in towns and cities, ending on the outskirts and not happening at all in the countryside.

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Man loading bread into his car.

We headed to the Kasbah, a site which is highly recomended in Ouarzazate but were a bit unimpressed there as well.  Maybe it was our lack of research about Kasbah culture but other than being an interesting looking building with some beautiful ceilings it seemed to be more of the same- shops with traditional garb and shop owners constantly telling you, “Welcome, come inside take look.  Only a look, please.  You are welcome.”

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Kasbah

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Nearby there was a little market, most of the same desert clothing and painted pottery but one man had a sea of things that piqued my interest.  I wish I had taken his picture, he was just what you’d imagine, a bit hunched with leathery skin and eyes that looked just past you.  He didn’t say a word when I walked in, which was refreshing.  After sifting through some of the slightly sandy treasures he had out I was feeling good about my finds, I went to pay and something rather odd happened.  He laid out the odds and ends and quoted each with a price then took one of them away.  I haggled for a lower price on all the items together then asked how much for the little tree he’d taken back.  “No.”

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Me Optimistic: “Con bien?”

Him: “No.”

Me Confused: “Por qua?”

Him: “No, not you, no this.”

Me A little offended and confused: “Why not for me?”

Him: A lot of fast French.

Me feeling/looking like I’m 5

Him: More French, laughter, a sigh “Not now, this, not for you now.  Later.” then a lot more French that I didn’t understand.

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I was still confused, but after a lot of gesturing and trying to purchase four different types of objects that all had trees on them I realized that this man just knew he would not sell me specifically anything having to do with the tree of knowledge.  He couldn’t seem to tell me why.  It just was that way.  We both ended up shrugging our shoulders, I paid for my things and wondered what any of that meant.

Later we went back to the center of town and met another shop keeper, this one much less pushy (even the old man got pushy with other products in the midst of our ‘why you can’t have a tree’ conversation).  My Sister and I wanted to try on some pants and we asked for a place to try them on, he said of certainly, we could change there while he went across the street to grab a pot of tea.  And so he left us with his shop, closed the door, and after about ten minutes came back to share a pot of green tea with us.

First he poured the tea into the cups, then poured the cups back into the pot.  He did this three times.  I asked him why, expecting some romantic answer then feeling silly when he told me it was simply to mix the sugar into the tea.  Later while looking at a plate I almost knocked over the entire stack, I looked at him nervously and apologized.  He told me it’s good baraka when someone breaks something in your shop.  I asked why.  Just because it is. I wondered again about the old man, why I needed to know why something was.

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Later, the shop keeper walked us to the best tagine in town (leaving his shop unattended).

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The morning we left it was pouring and unfortunately during one of the many taxi strikes, but we made it just fine and boarded a nice CTM bus (like greyhound) bound for Marrakesh with plenty to think about and even more to just let be.

He ran to catch the bus at every stop

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After hugs and best wishes from the staff at Auberge de Sud we were driven to the nearby town of Erfoud to catch our bus to Ouarzazate.  On the way there, we stopped by and said hello to a family of Berber travelers and this grave site below.  Then we grabbed some fresh dates at the market, anxiously handed our bags up to the man on the roof of the bus (no, no room below but don’t worry he says), and grabbed two seats across from the door at the back.

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fresh squeezed orange juice, everywhere.

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We seemed to make all the local stops and we started to notice that one of the guys got off every time but never took a seat; he would just rest by the back door until the bus slowed.  Then he would hop off and disappear, we would start to leave then, just as we hit the edge of the town the boy would come running along side the bus and hop in the open side door with ease.  At first I was nervous for him, after witnessing my obvious amazement he seemed to cut it closer and closer to further impress.  I stopped being nervous for him and more curious about where he was running off to.  As far as I could tell he was running into all the local cafes and telling everyone the bus had arrived, which is pretty amazing service.

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An example of a typical Moroccan toilet, could be better could be worse.

The Desert

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After our sleepless night on the bus the surreal quality of the desert was only intensified.  We freshened up and sat drinking tea, playing more Rummy, and taking it all in.

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Then it was time to ride our camels into the desert.  I had a lot of trouble getting my turban on but, my Sister it turns out was quite the pro.

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That night we ate tagine and listened to the guides play drums and sing.  After the other guests went to bed we wondered out into the dunes to lay on the sand, watch the occasional night traveler (when the moon is full or close to full they go in the night to avoid the wind and heat of the day), and tell/translate jokes using our common knowledge of a little French, Spanish, and Italian mixed with English.

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Our tent complete with candle surrounded by rugs and sticks.

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Our guide Ibrahim posing proudly with one of the camels, he was explaining to us how important it is to respect and be kind to them which was nice to hear.

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In every photo I have of this camel he looks like he’s flashing his best smile, really he’s chewing his cud but we’ll pretend.

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The photo just doesn’t do it justice.  I’m not a big fan of super hot climates and sandy beaches (more of a mountains and lakes kind of girl) but I was blown away by how wonderful I felt there.  It was disorienting in a really calming way.

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The next day we didn’t really have anything planned, and since we didn’t have a car (like most of the Spaniards there) we just tried to be comfortable with just relaxing.  We played a lot of cards, read, drank a lot of mint tea, and while my Sister napped I had a little conversation with my camera.

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Scarab and camomile from a walk in the dunes.

As it turns out most of the action happens in the evening, after enjoying another wonderful dinner these men of the Nowa tribe of Sudan came to play.  After a while the staff joined in and then everyone was on their feet.  After dancing and jumping for hours Sister and I cartwheeled out to our tent, grabbed a blanket and enjoyed a gorgeous view of the stars. We might have slept out there if our star gazing hadn’t been interupted by some of the staff guys who kept asking if they could visit us in America.  When I look back on it I’m sure I’ll omit the cheesey lines and just remember the view but, if you’re going to visit don’t expect all peace and quiet- even in the desert.

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Fire pit outside our tents.

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Sand in my bed.

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Hooray desert! Thanks for the wonderful visit!

Mint Tea on a Hot Day in Fes

The Riad we stayed in didn’t seem real, gorgeous mosaic over every inch and an opening to the sky in the center so that the light of the day seeped in.

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We headed out, repeatedly having to remind each other that we were here in Morocco, taking the trip we’d talked about over dozens of dinners at Mogador.

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Fresh squeezed orange juice stands everywhere

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The way we look in Arabic

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Graveyard

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Lounging donkeys

My Sister and I have developed a great dynamic, we both like to see the sights and have those days that are so filled they feel like weeks when you look back on them but in order to appreciate them we also have lazy afternoons.  Plus she’s gotten really understanding about stopping a thousand times for me to take or take and retake photos.

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Spices in the Medina

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After getting our bus tickets, walking through the Medina, checking out the tanneries (where I haggled for a camel leather bag), and taking tons of pictures we ended up on a terrace sipping mint tea, playing cards, and smiling about how amazing everything was.

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Fes had the best mint tea

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The Tannery

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A Berber Pharmacy

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Cafe Clock view from above and lunch on the roof

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mint, everywhere

Before we left when my Sister was planning things she had asked me if I was ok with an overnight bus trip so that we would have enough time to see Fes and the desert.  I had almost scoffed at her worry; listen I’ve been working through nights lately a bus ride where we can sleep sounds nice.

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We met some Spanish clowns at the hotel bar

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Fresh Kefta, yes please.

And you know it could’ve been, we were prepared for nearly everything.  After having some wine at the one bar in Fes (inside a very nice hotel) we grabbed some delicious kefta kebab, had a coffee, used the bathrooms, bought some water and boarded the bus at 10pm.  We even had the whole back seat to ourselves to stretch out.dsc_0338

When you think of Morocco frigid temperatures don’t really come to mind, certainly not mine when I packed.  My Sister was able to run out and grab her pack at one of the stops since my coat was not doing the job.  As we drove through the High Atlas Mountains we proceeded to layer on every item of clothing my Sister had packed, with the holes in the seats opening directly to the air whizzing past the speeding bus it was really no use.  We hugged each others feet and shivered our way to Merzouga.

Flying into Fes

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I fell in love with a stranger sitting in front of me on the flight over, turning courteous considerate gestures into a personality I admired.  He only carried a newspaper onto the plane which is something that always attracts me since I am the girl with the giant bag of two or so books, an iPod filled with podcasts, and some postcards to write in case.  We didn’t speak at all but in the course of the flight I imagined how we met, why I loved him, the troubles we faced together, and the happy conclusion of why it was better that we go our separate ways.  We were both better for having had the experience and would always reflect fondly on our time together.

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The colors of Morocco instantly awoke me and the giant back pack felt like nothing compared to the weightless excitement I was experiencing.  I hoped into a taxi and showed him the address and the hand drawn map I’d copied from google maps at 6am that, no wait, the morning of the day before.  I tried not to think about how little I’d slept in the past week. Too many good things were coming up.

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The taxi driver taught me the word for sunset in french as I clicked away with my camera, he kept looking at my grin and breaking into a smile himself, “you will love Morocco, you are welcome.”  This phrase would come back many times in the next two weeks but hearing it for the first time it felt like it was just for me.

After arriving to the landmark closest to the Riad where I was supposed to meet my Sister (which she had warned would be impossble to find) the driver apologized, he couldn’t drive into the medina.  He grabbed a shop owner nearby that seemed to be a close friend.  The driver pointed to a cart that looked like a backwards wheel barrow, “he can take you.”  I politely declined and started to walk when they insisted I let the shop owners son take me.  A shy boy about 6 or 7 lowered his head and stepped forward.  Soon we were walking throught the medina, a little wobbily in my state, attracting attention from each group of people in each narrow passage.dsc_0137

I made some friends, felt a bit helpless and overwhelmed, but an hour or so later my Sister and I were hugging and swapping travel stories.  We had some delicious dinner before heading to the Riad where we started our Rummy tournament, Morocco 2009.

Highlights

It’s been a while.  My procrastination tendancies have shifted recently, instead of ignoring things like excersize and openings across town for books, long meals, and blogging it’s been the other way around.  I think it’s because Spring is coming.  Whatever the reason I’m trying to embrace the change of pace.

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The kids artwork in the bathtub

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Winnie with the world at her back after work

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The coffee mugs that were.

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The day we didn’t work and sipped coffee all day instead.

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I wish I could live in a lamp shop.  I love them.

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Blumen (flower) Shop in the U Bahn station.

We should all make Spring Rolls more often

I’m so happy to have a nice kitchen.  A little This American Life, a little Nina Simone, and rolling delicious things into delicate rice paper.  Yes please.  dsc_0220

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The whole story of my new home

I’ve found an apartment that I really love.

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At first I looked for studios and one bedroom apartments, they were still cheaper than any rent I’d seen anywhere decent to live in New York and lately I’ve really been craving my own place.  A kitchen that I want to sit and sip coffee in, a hallway with artwork, and a bathroom that is not relatable to a dorm bathroom in any way.

Then I realized I’m moving to a new city where I don’t speak the language and don’t know anyone and I kind of freaked out.  The appointment I had with a realtor about an apartment that required a year lease and proof of income from the last six months, it didn’t help.  Plus most of the places just came with a bed or in some cases just a mattress, and sometimes a desk. So I started looking at the rooms/sublets page of Craigslist and after a week of not so great appointments I was about to buy a plane ticket back to the states.

It was raining and I had taken the wrong train and the directions I could’ve sworn I’d put in my day planner were missing.  How did I get here? What the fuck am I doing here? Argh. I missed my friends and knowing what street signs said and overhearing conversations.

So after six appointments that ranged from really nice to quite scary looking I ended up at what would be my final meeting.  It was in Prenzlaur Berg, lots of coffee shops, cozy restaurants, and a park.  The building was 17/18 and the bamboo plant near the door leaned a bit as if it was waiting to see who was coming out.  When K answered the door I realized how funny I must look.  I was soaked with flakes of snow and my glasses were so fogged I could barely see.  He offered me a cappucino. He was much older than I’d thought and in the hallway I noticed a bunch of kids drawings proudly displayed.

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view of the kitchen from the window

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kitchen from the other side

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living room

K is American; he moved here about 9 years ago and has 2 kids, Lucy (pronounced Lootzy) and Leon and his girl friend N runs a company that rents rooms and apartments to students and travelers.  The kids are here with him every other week.  I would be taking the room across from the bathroom towards the front of the house, currently Ross was living there, another American who’s doing his masters here in German History. He was set to move to another place at the end of February, I would stay in K’s room until then, and K who was going to Italy in two days with N would be gone for a week anyways.

When I told my Sister and my friends, I kind of sort of didn’t mention the kids.

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book shelf in the living room

So I’m 24, I consider myself an independent lady, I’ve lived away from home in a number of places and situations.  When I imagined my life in Berlin, it was very chic and sophisticated, going to the great parties and dating and being in the know about all those things I’m supposed to be in the know about.  I’d throw dinner parties and have minimalist art work on my walls and start wearing heels more often.  I’ve met the realization that I’m not this person many times, and I honestly don’t even want to be that person.  I like my disheveled collection of post cards and my to do lists and big unflattering sweaters.  And even though it is a bit difficult for me to admit to myself and my independent friends: I really like the idea of living in a home that reminds me that there are things bigger than my take on the world.

dsc_0005my room (for now) the one I will be in is bigger and white.  I’ll post photos at a later date

For right now, that is seeing kids (although not being responsible for their care) and living with someone who will ask me how my day was and being reminded that not only am I not only a hot 20 something artist but that the rest of the world isn’t either.

So there you have it, my new home, feel free to send me letters and postcards!  (just email me and I’ll be happy to give you my address).

You’ll Make Yourself Sick

At 11:36 I looked at the time on my cell phone.  I had already ignored the two alarms I’d set and by the looks of it my Sister had as well.  She was rolled up in the comforter next to me, her mouth a little open and sending out a shushing noise every other second or so. “Wha time issit?” Always surprises me the ease with which she can go from sleeping to functioning.

The previous night I surprised myself by getting into an argument in Italian, this has been a goal of mine since I decided to learn the language, this argument was about racism in Italy.  The two Sardinians were sitting across from me in the living room of a friend; M was just sitting back watching me with a slight grin but the other was laying out sentences that begged to be interrupted.  We switched between Italian and English and took sips of cheap wine between overly dramatic scoffs.

I jump in the shower not giving the day ahead of me much thought; I’d given it enough these past few weeks.  I felt like I was betraying someone by moving to Berlin.  Myself I suppose, I’d been answering questions for years with far off glances and sighs ending in smiles, and the answer had always been Italy. I had learned Italian, after all, I was finally being invited in to stay, and now I was going.

My head and my stomach ached; all I wanted to do was curl into a ball on the floor in the spot of sun from the window.  My Sister convinced me to eat, which was helpful later on the train when I was vomiting every half hour.  I think seeing it hit the tracks as we sped along made it worse.  I’m beginning to loath Trenitalia bathrooms.  I still love riding the trains though, listening in on conversations and simultaneously wondering about destinations with strangers.  I’m sure I gave the people sitting next to me plenty to wonder about.

When I arrived at the Milan Train Station I paced back and forth three times before making up my mind.  I would buy some bread, make myself eat it, and it will make me feel better.  I could only get two bites down.  My forehead had a layer of cold sweat and I’d never seen my hands shake like this.  The fresh air felt nice and I started to think the worst was over; I walked with a bit more confidence towards the bus.

Oh the bus.  It was like the fung wah or lucky star, except this bus had no bathroom and instead of Chinese food it smelled like bad cologne and olive oil.  I swallowed hard as I paid for my ticket.  If I wasn’t better and I was going to get sick again…NO I was all better, I would just sleep the whole ride and be fine.

Nope, I wasn’t fine.

While sitting amongst some of the most attractive men I’d ever seen on public transportation I, Lucy Huffman, while wishing as hard as I could to not puke, puked all over myself.  It was about a half hour into the ride.   The worst part was I was looking up when it happened, using some of my worst logic ever I had thought with my head up the puke would stay down.  Wrong.  Thankfully because I couldn’t eat it was only water and two bites of bread but, it was still puke and it had gotten on my face, on my coat, and a little in my lap.  Everyone was trying really hard not to stare at me.  Especially the really attractive guy sitting in front of me who I think, I shudder as I say this, may have gotten some on his sweater.

There is a moment just after something that embarrassing happens where everyone swallows the initial reaction to react.  I teared up and felt my face get hot, then stared at the ground to not think for a second.  Someone placed something on my knee.  All the men around me had gotten out their tissues; some people were passing them forward from the back.  I didn’t dare look up but I felt myself instinctively mumble ‘grazie.’

It wasn’t that bad, things like that rarely are for more than a few minutes.  I changed into an extra shirt I had in my bag and using a big bottle of water with the tissues I cleaned myself up.  Later, the guy in front of me turned around and asked if I was ok, my head tilted and nodded trying to say, ‘ok as a girl who just puked on herself can be.’  He seemed to regret asking and slumped back in his seat, I felt like telling him I was sorry but that just seemed silly.

Once we got to the airport, two and a half hours before my flight, I went to the bathroom and spent the next half hour changing, cleaning myself up, and making a long list of reasons why it wasn’t that bad.  I drank another liter of water and found some food that didn’t gross me out as well as a plastic bag for the flight, just in case. I was still pretty shaky but I felt better.

As I arranged my coat and bag in the plane I noticed a familiar face four rows back.  It was the guy that was sitting in front of me on the bus, the first to give me his tissues and ask me if I was ok.  He looked at me for a second and I feel like we both tried really hard to not have the bus experience be the reason we knew each other, but it was.  I winced.  He smiled a huge grin, then I smiled and we took our seats as the only two people on the plane laughing about the absurdity of the same moment.


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