Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Morocco 2016 - Day 1

Click on photos to enlarge

On Thursday, February 4, I began my Chinese New Year's vacation trip. My destination was Morocco, with a two-day stop in Liechtenstein on the way back.

For several months since I had booked the tickets, I was excitedly anticipating my first time in Africa!

With my backpack

On airplane to Hong Kong

Swiss passport stamp

Ready to go!

1st flight:
Hong Kong

2nd flight:

I arrived in Zurich, Switzerland early Friday morning, where I had about six hours until my next flight to Marrakesh.

--Warning: Geocaching nerdiness to follow!--

I spent the time looking for a geocache near the airport. At first I spent about an hour looking in the wrong place—outside in the cold winter drizzle along some train tracks. I finally realized that I should have been looking in a nearby parking structure. Although I had to climb ten flights of stairs, it was worth it to get out of the rain and find a cache full of trackables!

backpack with geocaching supplies zurich airport cache Snack at Zurich airport

How a geocacher packs for a trip

Arrgh, there be plenty o’ booty insde!

Äpfel Blechkuchen and latte @ Zurich Airport

The next leg of my journey took me from Zurich To Marrakesh. Although I ended up with an entire row of seats to myself, I was too excited to lie down and sleep. Morocco awaited!

north african desert from airplane

North African desert from the airplane

marrakesh from the airplane


currenciesI was so tired from all the plane rides that by the time I arrived in Marrakech I was dead tired. But finally being here gave me a second wind. The first order of business was exchanging money. By this time I ended up with five different currencies in my wallet: Taiwanese and Hong Kong dollars, Euros, Swiss francs, and now Moroccan dirhams.

I needed to get a SIM card. For geocaching. Priorities, you know. I was directed to a shop in the airport where two young Moroccan guys were helping a middle-aged woman. They were speaking French so I could kind of understand the gist of their conversation.

I watched the scene, fascinated. The young guys shamelessly flirted with the woman, who could have been their mother’s age. The woman seemed to enjoy their flirtatious comments and gestures, and played along with the game. I couldn’t imagine this taking place in the U.S. in this kind of professional business setting, especially with the level of innuendo that the salesguys were using. Yet, they completed the transaction without incident; the woman didn’t seem uncomfortable in the least. It was a very interesting salesperson-customer exchange and I was curious if this would be typical here. 

The driver from my riad (a Moroccan B&B) met me at the airport. He was a sweet older guy who explained the sights along the drive. We drove through the “Pink Palace” and I learned a little about King Mohammed IV.

marrakesh first impression 01

marrakesh first impression 04
marrakesh first impression 02 marrakesh first impression 03

First impressions of Marrakesh

As we entered the medina (walled city) I remembered the warnings I had read online about the labyrinth of streets. I thought, “These streets won’t be so hard to navigate.”

Then reality hit as we parked and I followed my driver through twisty lanes to the riad. I would never have been able to find this place on my own, and this wasn’t even in the heart of the medina.

Road to riad Another alley Riad La Porte Rouge front door
The first unmarked road to get to the riad… …Down yet another unmarked alley… …Front door of the riad, found only thanks to my driver!

The old plaster walls and tight spaces in the lanes of the medina do not give any indication as to the space and beauty found within the riads! I was pleasantly surprised by the North African ambiance—and especially the hospitality of the hosts Ahmed and Mustafa—as I entered Riad la Porte Rouge.

I was greeted with Moroccan sweet mint tea, cookies, and a warm introduction to the riad and the activities that awaited me in Marrakesh. Truly first-class customer service here!

Riad entry

Riad inner courtyard
Entryway Inner courtyard

My room at the riad

Courtyard pool
My room “The Narjisse” Courtyard decor
Riad lounge Moroccan beauty
Lounge Moroccan beauty

Ahmed helped me arrange a daytrip to the Ouzoud Waterfalls for the next day, as well as a relaxing hamam scrub and massage afterwards. I ate a traditional Moroccan dinner at the riad, deliciously prepared by Mustafa.

View into kitchen Lamb and egg tajine
View into the kitchen

Lamb and egg tajine


Max the cat

     Max, the riad’s mascot

Since Thursday evening Taiwan time, I had spent many hours traveling through three continents. I was exhaused and thrilled. Tomorrow at 8:00am I would be heading to the High Atlas Mountains so it was time to finally get some real sleep (not airplane “sleep”) in a comfy bed.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Day 1

1 SQ, 1 PU, 1 SU

Monday, June 1, 2015

Some advice on karma

I've had the following newspaper clipping on my refrigerator since 2008, when I brought it from the US to my new home in Taiwan. It's a response to a question posed to advice columnist Carolyn Hax.

Why do good when being bad seems to be more rewarding?


Do you believe that what goes around comes around?

I've seen it too much lately where the bad guy wins. The jerk in my office got the promotion. A guy who cheated on me and all the other girls he dated managed to get a nice girl to marry him. My friend was fired unfairly because of a suck-up to the boss who spread lies. I could go on. I'm starting to wonder what living by the Golden Rule is getting me.

—Karma Town

I believe what "comes around" for being a jerk -- assuming the jerk doesn't eventually grow into a better person -- is dying alone. Even if you're a jerk with people in your life, your relationships with others are strained, conflicted or outright bad, and so you still die alone even though you have family surrounding your bed. I see a spouse and children who can't admit they hate you except maybe in therapy, and only then if they have the nerve to confront and grow from their problems.

Of course, if you have no conscience, then you don't care. Surely someone cheats for the promotion and gets the girl, and then laughs all the way to the bank while abusing the wife -- who, the classic victim, stays by him till he dies -- and leaves the world feeling like he won the lottery.

But then the question has to be, do you want that life?

I also don't believe "what goes around comes around" just so the good can watch the bad get theirs. Entertaining though it may be.

You feel like the good guy finishing last; I get it, and sympathize. However, the justice in being good is perfect only if you treat goodness as its own reward.

If religious reasons for this didn't stick, here's a pragmatic one: Make it about a promotion or getting the nice girl, and it becomes a quid-pro-quo, clean-your-room-and-you-can-have-dessert system -- which is swell, but logistically impossible. You can see when a room is clean; you can't always know whether an employee is predatory or a mate is cheating, and of course icy roads can't distinguish nice drivers from mean. So at least some spoils are going to be doled out unfairly. And that's before you even begin to tackle the question: Dessert -- good or bad?

So, this is really about how to handle unfairness. If whining made people feel better, the demands for beer, cigarettes, gambling, shopping and corn chips would dry up in 24 hours. If everyone took the if-you-can't-beat-'em-join-'em approach, society would be gone in a long afternoon of looting.

I suppose you can let everyone else be good while you grab what you want on the sly -- but either it'll torment you or you're as bad as those who disgust you.

If instead you keep treating others as well as you can and make your best guess about the way others are treating you and, when you screw up one of these, try to do better next time, and repeat repeat repeat, then your gratification occasionally may get flecked with envy, frustration and loss. Nevertheless, it will be immediate, constant and in endless supply -- and totally in your control.

From the Washington Post, July 25, 2007
By Carolyn Hax, Washington Post Staff Writer