Thursday, November 17, 2011

Day 49: Chaperones and Prosperity

Another quickie...

My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle, but certainly full of hope. It's hard to believe that I'm about to walk off the map of Morocco (though I never actually found one). In three days, I'll be at the frontier with Algeria and the Gendarmerie have assured me that I'll be able to pass freely.

The wonderful men of the Gendarmerie have become my most fraternal chaperones. I stopped at a pastural farm with a magnificent view of the sea yesterday afternoon and asked a Berber woman toiling in her kitchen garden for some water. Her husband motioned me to come up the slope and sit in the shade. Cold water was poured. The grown daughters of the house finished unloading sacks of manure onto the terraced garden and joined us. A short table was rolled out, a caraffe of coffee, another of hot milk... then some cookies, then a plate of olive oil and bread, a few fried eggs... a dish of olives, some dates, tangerines... laughter abounds. My lack of Arabic was hardly the issue, it was the lack of Berber that stunted the conversation until another daughter, one who'd lived in Spain for a while, joined the impromptu party, and communication began. Though an early end-of-day for me, based on time and distance, I asked if I might pass the night, and once more food started coming out the door. Yes! Of course! They wouldn't have it any other way.

I wasn't inside the house for ten minutes before the boys in red-trimmed steel grey showed up to interrogate the man of the house. There's a foreign woman inside this house; no harm will come to her. An unnecessary command, but it shook up the cheerful family who'd never had need to encounter the national police before. The women were suddenly in a tizzy. Lots of shouting going on. The Gendarmerie had been following me at a distance (I noticed from the hillside glints of sun on their binoculars like a spaghetti western) since I departed Al Hoceima, but to put pressure on this nice family was a bit close for comfort. I got a bit riled - politely, of course - but pleaded that they put the family at ease or I'd have no place to sleep. All was well within a quarter hour, but really, it was a short-lived ordeal.

That they mean well is unquestionable, but from their perspective, it's not that I'm a foreign woman passing through their domain that necessitates the close oversight, rather it's the demonstrable insanity - walking all the way to El Quds, Philistine [insha'allah] when I could easily hop in a taxi or hitch a ride through Morocco - that proves I could use extra help. They're really so sweet, all of the ones I've spoken with, and exhibit a level of gallantry beyond Jane Austen's descriptions of soldiers of equal rank.

Approaching the city limits of Nador today, I asked my assigned escort who'd been leap-frogging past me in an unmarked car every kilometer or so for the best way to get to city centre where I'd find the French church. I took the rare opportunity to accept a ride from him - entering any city by foot is mundane at best. First, though, we sat for some civilized tea - ultra sweet and stuffed with mint leaves. The questions that had mounted in my mind over the last few weeks about the conditions I see were all answered... the new houses come from the prosperty stemming from government programs - King Mohammed VI is apparently very well loved - and rather than bring electricity and water to the old-style adobe haciendas, new houses with integral utilities are being built. It's clear that the architectural style changes with such design criteria... the courtyards were needed to bring light to the small cubical rooms; electricity supplies the light in modern homes, thus, the new have no courtyards... Paved roads, irrigation systems, other civil projects are widespread... Trees are being planted in tidy rows for their agricultural virtues - almonds and olives I see a lot of - which will revegetate the denuded slopes stablizing them and reducing the dust... fisheries and commercial fishing co-ops are being created. Anyone with investment money wanting beautiful seafront property should buy it soon. My guess is that in ten years, this will be the hotest real estate around the Mediterranean.


Anonymous said...

I love every one of your postings, Ann, but especially when you tell about personal interactions with the locals! This was super!
Your reading audience is growing!

P.S. How is your footwear holding up?

Amy R said...

Yes, to Anonymous's comments. Keep us apprised of your conversations (if you possibly can!).

Kind of funny/sad that you're being escorted, sort of, by the gendarmarie!

Compostelle 2008 said...

I echo Anonymous' comments, I love the descriptions of your personal interactions! Hope the chaperones in other countries are as nice! Keep on trekking!

Michèle (Ottawa, ON) Canada

gracefilled fool said...

Wow Ann... glad to read through your recent posts and know that you are 1) ok and 2) not being disappointed by having experienced it all before... because you relate new things each time.
Blessings to you on the eve of Christ the King Sunday... and as you begin Advent, I pray your time of preperation will be as beautiful as these last days of regular time.

Anonymous said...

so inspirational
so unbelievable
so remarkable

we're not worthy.

be safe as you travel onward.

Sheila Phelan Wright said...

Well my original comment got lost, but am glad to see you haven't. Such adventures come your way because you are so exquisitely open to them. Glad we have you representing the likes of us in the world.
Can't wait for your next post.