So, its New Years Eve… and I’m looking back over the last two weeks of the year in this final blog post of 2016. Yeah, and I will probably do a little reminiscing about the past year too…
I realized its been over 2 weeks since my last post when I received an email today from one of my favorite people on the planet and one of the handful I actually consider a friend. I thought about it, and realized I had put a couple of updates on Facebook but hadn’t written my blog…. so here we go!
Christmas Eve Rouchdi had the day off and we went to Agadir, as we usually do. This time we did something a little different, though. About 2 months ago when we signed up for our internet service, I noticed a restaurant called “Little Italy” . They have a menu board posted out front. You know this South Jersey Italian girl had to give it a read. Much to my surprise, I saw one of my favorite foods on the planet, a calzone, on their menu! Of course I made a mental note and told Rouchdi we had to come back for a meal sometime…well, that, meal was our Christmas Eve dinner… it would be a treat. We got hungry that day around 2-3pm. We weren’t done our errands but we took a taxi to the restaurant and finished everything we had to do afterwords. We decided to sit on the sidewalk patio, as we usually do when we eat out. The waiter brough us out menus and each a bruchetta amuse-bouche . What a lovely suprise…who doesnt like a gratis appetizer! lol… To top it off it was absolutely yummy! On the table they had a bottle of crushed red pepper infused olive oil, which we both poured generously on our diced tomato, garlic and (lightly) olive oil topped croistini and I thought to myself, this is a good sign of how our meal will taste…at least I was hoping. Rouchdi took the first bite of his red pepper oil laden bruchetta and exclaimed that it was hot. LOL! Here in Morocco crushed red pepper isn’t a “thing”. It’s not on the shelves at the grocery and it’s not a staple flavor in thier dishes, although you will find a fresh whole chili in your tagine. I explained to him what it was, and he informed me that he liked it, which I could see because he proceeded to put on everything he ate that day…in genreous amounts. I told him, that he was going to feel it the next day but, he couldn’t resist the flavor.
We had ordered a salad maison (basically their salad nicoise), pizza Margherita and of course the calzone. I thought about ordering a half carafe of wine. It was only 65 dirham, about $6.50 usd…but Rouchdi wasnt going to drink it and I didn’t need to buzzed, by myself ,as we finished our errands. So, we just asked for water. The salad was a nice size and heavy with tuna, an ingredient usually skipped or skimped on at other restaurants. But, you get what you pay for and this salad cost as much as a half carafe of wine. We finished our salad and anxiously awaited our pizza and calzone. As the waiter approached me from behind, I saw Rouchdis eyes widen and jaw drop a little. The waiter put the pizza, then, the calzone on the table. Rouchdi looked at me and said, “what is that?!”. I couldn’t help but laugh and told him that’s the calzone….its like a folded over pizza. I have to admit I was surprised at the size of it myself. Not to mention, they both looked delicious. But, as we all know, looks can be deceiving so, we dove into the pizza first. The crust was fresh and home-made, which in my book made it outstanding compared to the other Moroccan pizza I had tasted. (most of the pizza here is made with a pre-made frozen crust) I could definitely tell the owners were from Italy, as the menu stated, just by the flavor. The sauce, which in my book is the second most important flavor of the pizza wasnt my favorite. I had ordered extra for calzone dipping purposes. Well, it was orange. Yup orange, not red. Which just leads me to believe it is made more in the traditional Italian sence…. with tomato, carrot, celery and onion pureed together. I’m not going to lie, it was a let down. No real garlic, basil or oregano flavor. Not that it wasnt good, but growing up in an Italian family of amazing cooks, you get used to specific flavors… which is why I rarely eat italian out, except for pizza and the like. Which brings me to the cheese. The mozzarella here in Morocco has a much milder flavor, but unlike some cheap American mozzarella it isn’t greasy…. meaning its made with milk not oil. At this point, I’m having mixed feelings about the pizza. Then, Rouchdi asked me how is one supposed to eat a calzone. I proceeded to cut it in half and told him I like to cut it up, eat it with my hands and dip it in the sauce. Their calzone was made with mozzarella, ham, mushrooms, a touch of sauce and…. that’s it. Wait! What? Where is the most important ingredient in a calzone….the one I usually order more of with light mozarella…Wheres the damn RICOTTA?!?! I looked and waited to see if it was going to run out from under the other cheese. Nope. None. I was devastated. The ricotta was what I was waiting for! My favorite Italian cheese and it was missing from my calzone. Now, I don’t know if I just missed the fact that it wasnt listed on the menu as an ingredient along with the others but, I’m guessing I did. How could it actually be on the menu and not on my plate, right? I just took it for grated that the ricotta would ooze out of my calzone making me a happy girl. Dammit. Well… Rouchdi LOVED it. So much so, two days ago he said he couldn’t wait till we could go to back so he could eat another calzone. I have to admit, “Little Italy” got mixed reviews from me but the crust is hands down the best I’ve had in Morocco, and maybe even had in months. Im pretty sure “Little Italy” is the only place I will eat pizza in Agadir/Tamraght area but, a calzone with no ricotta? My heart is broken.
After we finished our meal, we finished our errands. Which included me purchasing a bottle of wine for myself. A little Christmas gift lol. It was the 2nd bottle of wine I had purchased since my move to Morocco. So, it too was a treat.
Christmas came and went quietly. Rouchdi had to work and I spent the day alone…with my bottle of Moghrabi white wine. At around 10am (5am est), I texted my family and friends wishing them a Merry Christmas. Of course I told them I loved them and a few I asked to call when they could. With the time difference, I had no idea who would be doing what or at what time on the holiday. Much to my surprise a few minutes later, my Aunt Annie texted me back. I knew it was 5am in New Jersey, which led me to assume she was the only one awake at her house, so I decided to call her to talk. It was such a nice conversation, especially since this was the first Christmas that I had spoken to her in decades. Yes, decades, I’m ashamed to say. Aunt Annie is my Dads Aunt. After he passed away in 1993, I lost touch with that side of my family. She, her kids, my Aunt Pat and my cousin Ronnie. All missing from my life for way too long. I had tried to locate my aunt and cousin over the years, but as it turned out I was looking in all the wrong places. Everyone moving and life getting in the way made my search futile. As it turns out, Aunt Annie found me on Facebook this past year. I rarely use Facebook, if ever, over the past few years. I just found no reason for it really. Then one day, I decided to login….I’m not even really sure why. I looked and saw a friend request from her. I was shocked, overwhelmed and happy. I was able to reconnect with family I hadn’t been in contact with for over 2o years. This was one of the sweetest gifts 2016 has given me… my family back. Throughout the day I spoke and texted with my Mom, Nana (Dee), Aunt Pat, along with texting with friends but hands down the greatest gifts for me this Christmas was talking with my Aunt Pat and Aunt Annie.
The day after Christmas, we were on a mission. Although Rouchdi had to work, he asked his boss if he could pick me up mid day to get my visa extension application taken care of. Luckily, his boss said yes and around 2pm he picked me up in the van and off we went to Taghazout and the Royal Mounted Police office there. I had my application filled out, passport photos along with other required documents and what I had hoped was the proper amount of copies of each. When we arrived the door was locked and we were informed that there was an auto accident and they went to check on it…. we could speak to someone once they arrived back to the offices. Luckily, it wasnt long before someone arrived that we could talk to. It turns out we needed a few more copies and everything to be stamped (notarized) back in Aourir at the city hall. The office where they notarized paperwork was packed. Theres 2 things you should know at this point…. first, almost everything closes here between 1230pm and 230pm. When we arrived it was about 245pm, so of course it was busy. The second thing is, everything here is still done by hand…. no computers. Records are kept in a book where both parties sign. So, the wait was a little stressful considering Rouchdi was on the clock and suppose to be working. Plus, it was like a zoo, no order whatsoever for who was in line or who was next. Layer on that I have no idea what is being said and my neck back and shoulders were going into spasm mode. Finally, we got everything stamped and headed back to Taghazout. Luckily the wait there was only a few minutes and we were seen by the Officer who handles the visa extensions. He was young and kind. He took Rouchdis number and is going to call when the paper is ready to be picked up. He even gave us some information on what I need to get my civil ID card (residency), which is the next step. This way I wont have to leave Morocco every 3 months when my visa runs out. Within 2 hours we had the application taken care of and Rouchdi was on his way back to work… we were both very happy and relieved to have this out of the way and know that I wont have to leave by January 18, which saves me a lot of money.
On Wednesday I wound up walking to Aourir. I just wanted to get out of the house and didn’t intend on walking so far, but I knew the souk was happening and just kept walking. I did stop to have a coffee because my feet were hurting, which is really why I kept on walking… I needed a place to sit. I know it sounds crazy but I did it anyway. I had my coffee and decided to check out the souk. It had more of a flea/farmers market vibe than the big one in Agadir. I guess it’s because this one is only once a week and its completely outdoors. It was really cute. I did grab a few vegetables that I can’t get at the shop at the bottom of the hill, mostly because I didn’t want to have to carry too many things on the 4km walk back to Tamraght. So, last Wednesday I took my trek back to the Aourir souk. I decided that it was good exercise and I actually enjoyed the walk. I know I have to get over my bus anxiety and I am…. slowly. I think I have figured out how to say Tamraght and Taghazout properly enough to communicate to the driver where I want to go without any drama. At the end of the day, I’m doing it for the exercise, fresh air and sun. So, the bus will have to wait… for now. Although, this weeks walk did take a toll on my feet. It’s now Saturday and they are finally recovered. The problem is wearing shoes. I actually need a boot or high top to accommodate the weak, stretched out ligaments on my right foot, which is easy enough. But, the real problem is my left foot. Because it was nearly severed…my middle toes don’t move like they should. They are a little curled up and this causes me to get blisters on the ends of my toes and its very painful. Plus, because of the subtalar fusion I have lost most of the padding on the ball of my foot… not to mention my little toe always rubbing inside shoes due to the lump on my big toe from the lawn mower incident as a kid. Needless to say, shoes arent my friend but a necessary evil. I was thinking today that I would walk to Aourir more often, but until I find some user-friendly footwear… I’m limited to once a week tops.
Yesterday I met Youssef for coffee on the beach. It was a nice day and the beach was packed with tourists learning to surf. It being the holiday week the beach was unusually busy. It was sunny and it felt good to sit in the sun and have someone different to talk to. Youssef is a nice guy, he may be a couple of years older than I originally thought but, he’s kind and respectful. I wont be learning any Moroccan Arabic from him though… he explained he likes to use English because he doesn’t want to lose the knowledge. None of his friends speak English only Arabic… so he prefers to speak English when he can. I get it. If you don’t use it you lose it. precisely why none of the words I learn stick in my brain. I have no one to use them with. Rouchdi speaks to me in English. This is something I’m going to have to work on in the coming year. Anyway, as we left the restaurant there was a camel tied up by the corner. I have wanted to touch one of the camels and yesterday I did. I pet his nose and scratched his chin. I loved it. He kept trying to get closer to me and I would have loved to stay with him but, I was afraid his owner was lurking around. I wasnt interested in confrontation, so I left my lovely camel friend until the next time I’m at the beach.
There are just a few hours left here in 2016 as I sit and write this last blog post for the year. I’m alone in my apartment and have Maureen on Google chat from Kuwait. A lot is running through my brain as everything winds down and comes to a close. It was a hard year for many. For me, maybe the year started harder than it ended. Having the surgeries and all the stress I was put through during that time. Not being able to find suitable income when I was well enough… all the money I feel was wasted… and always feeling alone. I am alone once again on New Years Eve…but the nagging feeling of loneliness doesn’t feel that desperate. Through all the pain the year brought, it also brought my family back to me, brought love into my life and gave me hope and courage to change my life. Changes that will make me a better person, both for me and the ones I love most. Its giving me insight and the ability to learn to let go of what isn’t good for me. Letting go isn’t easy, but its a process and I’m learning. Change is hard but, it is always welcome… it’s the only way to grow.There are so many things I want to say but, at the end of the day most of what I would say could go without saying. The one thing I must say is this… I want to thank all the people I love and that love me for being there for me, having patience with me and making me smile so many more times than you know… it all means the world to me and gives me strength to get through this thing we call life… for you’ve all made me a little bit richer this year and I hope the same for you. xoxo