It seems that the transition to life here in Fes becomes easier with each return since we rented the apartment in October 2013. This is our third trip back since then; the fourth time we shall have spent more than a month in this neighborhood by the time we leave in mid-May. It is much more comfortable being here now; familiarity with people, locations, and resources make the daily routine much more manageable.
Today is our fifth day in Fes, having arrived Tuesday afternoon about five. Denise reminded me yesterday I had not sent a safe arrival message to anyone. This message can satisfy that requirement as we are fine. We left home about nine Monday morning for our initial flight from Birmingham to Philadelphia. After a two-hour layover, we departed on a seven hour flight to Madrid and afterwards, a ninety minute flight to Casablanca. We elected to use American Airlines and Iberia this trip rather than Delta and Air France, the airlines that have normally provided the best scheduling for us. Choosing the route is a function of price and length of trip from take-off in Birmingham to landing in Casablanca. In both cases, American provided the best option for this agenda. Length of trip was about 19 hours but price almost always trumps other considerations.
We had also made the decision since we would be arriving in Casablanca earlier in the day that we would continue on to Fes, rather than take a night in Casablanca to recuperate. We negotiated with a Grand Taxi driver at the airport to take us directly to Fes and eventually arrived at an agreement in price. Though a little more than we wanted to pay, the price seemed reasonable given that we could deposit our three large suitcases in the trunk, not have to take a train in to Casa and a second train the next day to Fes, as well as saving the cost of a night at a hotel. What we did not know is that the taxi driver made a phone call and subcontracted our trip to a tourist van driver he knew who was looking for passengers to carry back to Fes. The van driver had brought a group of tourists to the airport that morning and likely mentioned his schedule to some of the taxi drivers. The Grand Taxi driver delivered us about 10 or 15 miles from the airport to a rest stop on the auto-route (their interstate system) and we made the switch. Fortunately, we had a thorough understanding that the first driver would pay the second driver all that he would be owed. We were the only passengers with a personal driver and plenty of room, so we fared very well in that transaction.
Four hours or so later we arrived immediately in front of the apartment building and the driver helped schlep the bags up the three flights of stairs. Though it was a long and tiring twenty-four hours (almost), we really had very little to complain about this trip, especially compared to the last couple of times we traveled. No bags were lost, no flights were cancelled, and we departed and arrived pretty much at the projected times.
Given our increasing age, it’s obvious that the travel itself takes more time to overcome, but we are already into our normal routine of visiting friends and looking for productive opportunities for observation and learning. We have enjoyed a couple of meals in Moroccan homes already, connected with many of our acquaintances here in the neighborhood where we shop and have regular times of conversation, and lunched yesterday at our favorite “rotisserie chicken” restaurant located just across the street. Since it was Friday Denise opted for the traditional Friday meal of couscous.
We have shopped at the local fruit and vegetable market about two blocks up the street, where vendors mysteriously emerge each morning and subsequently disappear before dark. For my physical therapy I try to do some walking in addition to the built-in “stair-stepper” up to our front door. Thursday, my fit-bit monitor recorded that I walked 6.1 miles and traversed 38 flights of stairs. I have sat in a couple of cafes and browsed the internet with my I-pad. Denise has spent time with some of her friends, and has been invited to participate in a transformational event in the life of one woman with whom she spends time each week, a significant milestone in their friendship.
Even familiar change brings a certain amount of stress and anxiety, however, and we face the usual challenge of justifying our presence here. Trying to quantify what we do here seems impossible so I suppose we shall continue in much the same vein, seeking affirmation when needed, accepting a correction in course when required, and hoping for a sense of fulfillment eventually. Maybe as retirees, a lifestyle described as spending time trying to make friends and trying to be a friend is sufficient. Living in a location and culture in which we can never be an “insider,” I think we are still reaching for that designation as an “acceptable outsider.” Even if we are not, it still feels a whole lot like a second home.
Pictures by Denise