Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Leaving Mirleft with Hakim and Bachir

Jumping into the pool

Karmous gets some love in the sand

Chilling with "The Governor"

There was no going away party when we left Mirleft. No going for last swims, no last moments of deep reflection, nothing that I generally associate with leaving a place that I’ve loved. Instead I experienced a steady last few days where being conscious of my imminent departure allowed me to peacefully come to terms with the idea that I may never see this place or these people again (although I do imagine that I’ll return some day, but you never know).
Watching the water from Ahmed's place. Imin Tourga


Our Mural

During my second to last day I spent an epic afternoon on the water, going for a long paddle and taking moments of repose to float and soak in the last images of the Atlantic almost-to-the-Sahara red cliffs. The water was especially warm on this last paddle on my second to last day, and the water was especially calm considering that it was the afternoon and there were already steady winds. What I felt were soft and rounded sensations- rolling waves, embracing winds, velvet waters, and radiant cliffs. I’ll love this ocean forever, I thought, remembering how an octopus Bachir caught at low tide spat a stream of ink on my arm and chest. When it happened it startled me at first, because I wasn’t expecting it.

Oh the Water.

Oh the Whale

Oh the Mint

And oh the Mint

I left my cat Mona on my rooftop terrace, and am hoping that the landlord will give it to Edgbeni, the kids who asked me to take care of the cat in the first place. She was a great cat that learned to trust me and sleep on my chest while I read. She also learned to play with Karmous, my faithful dog that I also left behind in Mirleft. I put a collar on her and left her in an open field to play with the other many stray dogs. I painted the collar in the blue of the whale mural and also wrote her name in black sharpie and drew a small design of a whale as if to say that the dog should be cared for with the love we put into the whale mural. I’m not sure why I care for that stray dog so much, but I sincerely hope that she makes it on her own in Mirleft.

We caught 5 rabbits at Bachir's house and ate them in a tajine




Now back to the cat, who had learned to play with Karmous, although this could simply be interpreted as the cat learning to tolerate the dogs wrath. Often times I would hear the cat cry as the dog carried it around the terrace in its mouth, or pounced in it with his two front paws. But the cat fought back, and in the end I think that she liked the rough play because as soon as I would take the dog downstairs, the cat would sit in the doorway and cry until Karmous came back. The cat would also claw and pounce on Karmous while he slept, or play quick tricks on him while he was eating. It was a beautiful relationship to have seen evolve since their first days when they arrived on my terrace as timid and malnourished critters and slept together in a cardboard box.

The lifeguards of Imin Tourga

Last Couscous at Bachir's house

After dinner at Bachir's

Bachir and Hakim had never been out of the country before, neither had they been on an airplane. Thus the first part of our adventure was to pack their bags and get ready for our trip to Madrid. For some reason we didn’t get together to organize our luggage until late on our last night in Mirleft, and when we did, it was a communal fiasco with seven people hanging in my apartment all telling us what to do. I actually think of this experience as a good-bye party, because the people that came that night to “help” us pack our bags were the people that I cared most for in Mirleft.

Getting on the airplane for the first time

Getting ready to fly

In flying with Ryan Air, we had to be very conscious of weight limitations. So when we were packing our bags we were constantly redistributing weight between one bag and another, weighing each with a hand-held scale that Rachid had kindly borrowed from a neighbor. At times it was overwhelming to have the voices of seven people all acting as if they had flown before and knew how much each bag could weigh or how many pieces of luggage you could take. I patiently explained that it depended entirely on the airline, but was often second guessed. Their words of advice were all out of love, but in the end I had to take charge and forcefully redistribute the weight of our six kilos of dates, or the eight kilos of wood paintings. The observers received articles of clothing that we deemed unnecessary to bring to Spain, along with some swimming material and even a few books.

Kicking it in the hotel room in Marrakesh

MADRID!!! We made it!

Once our bags were packed we went to Hakim’s house to say goodbye to his family. It was late but they were all there waiting for us. His grandfather Lahsen is a beautiful old man that always smiles and hugs me every time I see him. We communicate in a few, but emotion filled Berber words, that are exchanged in many orders and in various combinations. We say things like Good, Great, Waves, Swimming, Welcome, Food, Happy, Couscous, Eat, Thank You, Good Bye, Thank You, Thank You, Sit Down, Everything is OK. He was there that night to say Good Bye and Thank You, and I kissed his hands in recognition of his age, wisdom and still bright smile. Hakim’s brother Youssef was also there, so were his uncles Mohammed, Bachir, and Hussein. Hakim’s mother Rahma was also present, and she began to cry when I said goodbye. In that moment she loved me so much that it hurt, and all I wanted was for her to cradle me as a child. Instead I could only touch her hand and kiss my fingers and look her in the eyes and say that I would watch over Hakim.

Hanging in Madrid...getting some warm milk for Hakim

Dam. That is a lot of ham...especially if it is your first time ever seeing anything made of pig

The night extended itself into a last couscous at Bachir’s house with seven of his eight brothers and two of his three sisters. Bachir’s parents and his sister’s husbands were also present. We were a numerous bunch that sat on the floor and ate communally from a huge pile of couscous. His entire family was thankful for the opportunity I have given to Bachir, and if it hadn’t already become clear at Hakim’s house, it now suddenly became apparent that leaving Mirleft and going to Spain was for them something bigger than I had imagined.

La Puerta de Toledo...our barrio in Madrid.

Hanging with Marga in Madrid

We left early the next morning, with our bags filled with dates, wetsuits, wood paintings, swim gear, and clothes, and also traveled with my 11ft paddle board which made the trip a bit more interesting. We had to do the typical 40min shared taxi to Tiznit, followed by the 7 hour bus ride to Marrakesh. We spent the night in Marrakesh and took the plane to Madrid the next morning. Even though Hakim and Bachir were obviously nervous, it was a smooth trip. We even managed to take the metro from the airport to the center of Madrid, having to change trains three times with all of our luggage and my 11ft paddle board. Arriving in a small park near Marga’s house, we sprawled out on the pavement, looking like a group of refugees with all of their possessions in hand, and waited for her to come home from work. Now we’re still in Madrid, and having a really good time.

One last swim before crossing the Strait of Gibraltar

Dinner at Marga's

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