You have plenty of courage, I am sure,” answered Oz….There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces danger. The true courage is in facing danger when you are afraid, and that kind of courage you have in plenty. Whenever I feel blue, I start breathing again. –L. Frank Baum, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Of course I have more often thought of Baum’s words since looking up at the sky over the Casablanca airport, “Toto, you are not in Kansas anymore.” Living in a new culture is exhausting and sometimes even scary. More on that in a later post but just know that all is not pools and palm trees. Fall break was at times tiring, too, given the trek from the Sahara in the deep south to Chefchouen in the far north—over 800 miles one way by van and bus/roundtrip in 8 days—almost the distance from Nashville to Miami or New York—but a hiatus from Marrakesh with my dear friend Monica was what I needed. We met in Nashville where she taught Spanish, and she has been here three weeks. Having her and Ale, her husband, so close (they live in Vigo, Spain) was a huge benefit of moving to Morocco.
When I first saw Chefchaouen, “the Blue City,” after the dark and dirty Medina of Fes where a nationwide strike and demonstrations had threatened to keep us holed up in our riad, I heard the song in my head that Dorothy heard as she saw The Emerald City: “You’re out of the woods, You’re out of the dark;You’re out of the night; Step into the sun; Step into the light.” So while this was the end of our journey, I’m sharing it now. Like my Uncle Preston who ate my grandmother’s best-chocolate-cake-I’ve-ever-had with his Sunday lunch, I, too, believe, “Life is Short. Eat Dessert First.”
The ride to a hamlet of 35,000–near the size of my hometown– felt familiar as we passed land plowed by donkeys and John Deere. Winding through mountains covered in pine trees (minus the olive groves below) felt like riding through The Smokies or watching Bonanza. When we entered the gates of the most enchanting villa I’ve ever stayed we exhaled. Perched above Chefchaouen we found not only a room with a view but also a dining terrace/ pool/ rooftop/ gardens with views. We breathed. Moni says she can tell a difference in me since I’ve moved to Morocco. The rose-colored glasses have come off, but rather than seeing red about things that frustrate me or feeling yellow about things that scare me and make me sad, I am trying to trust God to give me His eyes. It was nice for a couple of days to become an indigo girl and see life through blue-tinted lenses. Humans most need love, adventure, and beauty. I miss the colors of a Tennessee autumn. Here’s what colored my world as fall break wound down. I hope the calming hues of sea and sky bring you serenity Blue is said to be a color of spiritual devotion and was used by Jewish refugees in the city to remember the power of God . Blue is known to decrease blood pressure and to yield peace, calm, stability.
Compared to Marrakesh, the “Red City” which seems to never sleep, Chefchaouen is quiet and calm. It was founded in 1471 inland of Tangier (next on my list). Taken by the Spanish in 1920 and returned to Morocco in 1956, most speak Spanish here, an advantage for us since Monica is from Vigo, Spain. With only a couple of exceptions–a carpet seller in the Medina, a waitress in the top-rated Italian restaurant, a guy on the street who made comments though we were told it was the safest city in Morocco for women to eat dinner out alone –everyone was friendly or at least indifferent. Some might assume the young backpackers and the region’s reputation for being the biggest producer of the country’s cannabis adds to the chill vibe though it seems hard to believe, given the conservative appearance of the town. Unlike Marrakesh where restaurants serve alcohol, this almost-Mayberry doesn’t even serve wine in the Italian restaurant though the fancy bottles of balsamic vinegar had me fooled. It’s a place where school children rushed to school as moms with babies on backs talked in the square. A place setting up for a carnival this week like the one I grew up with–bumper cars and paratroopers– waiting for the fun to begin. A place that is true blue.