Monday, March 24, 2008

Salaam, worthy friends. February 29-March 10 I traveled with a group of friends to Morocco and Valencia, Spain. We had an amazing time getting to know the cultures of both countries and learning about the people there. This first photo is the gateway into the medina, the oldest part of the city where we stayed in Morocco.

Upon entering the medina, we stopped at a local restuarant to grab some tasty Moroccan food. This is what I ate. It's a vegetarian "tagine," which is a stew cooked in these unique clay dishes. The top of the dish is covered by a cone-shaped lid. Tagines can also be made with meat and they're yummy.
Here you see the ruins of the old wall that surrounded the city.
Walking down the very narrow cobblestone streets, we sometimes had to stop and let the men with their donkeys pass by. They'd alert everyone by calling out, "Attention!" in French (spelled the same but pronounced differently).
Here are some of the kids we met at Amicita, the American school where we worked for a couple of days. There are approximately 120 students, 85% Moroccan, 15% expats. They study French, English, Arabic and all the other traditional classes American students learn, including music and art.

Here is the front of the school building. They recently purchased a 3-story building directly behind this one which will be the high school, hopefully opening next year. It's been abandoned for 4 years so there's LOTS of work to be done first! That's where we came in.

This is how much dirt there was on the floor. Amazing. We wrapped torn sheets around our faces to (ineffectively) keep out the dust. Then we swept out and painted two classrooms on the second floor.
A view from the road as we left our new friends and traveled to the ancient city of Rabat. All along the roads were olive and eucalyptus groves and fields of green onions.

We passed several herds of sheep. This was the best shot I got from the van.
We stopped at a scenic place to get a fun group shot.

We saw the best preserved archaelogical site in Morocco on the way to Rabat. These are the ruins of Volubilis, a Roman city.

Here's a picture of Mekness, another city we briefly drove through. We toured a mosque before proceeding on to Rabat.
Here are some detail shots of the mosque in Mekness. The wood above the doorway is cedar.

The intricacy of their tile work is staggering.
After a night in Rabat, we traveled by train to Casablanca, where we caught a short flight to Madrid. There, we rented a van and drove 4 hours south to Valencia.
Here is my gorgeous friend, Silvia. She was an exchange student at my high school from '92 to '93. We've kept in touch for 15 years and finally got to see each other again, face to face! She lives in Barcelona so she took a train down to hang out with us for the day.
Together at last!
Walking around Valencia, I spied this horchateria, a shop which sells horchata. It's a sweet drink made from the milk of the tiger nut. Bess had bought some a couple of weeks ago in HEB and I had tried it for the first time. It has a nutty aftertaste and is similar to rice milk.
The buildings in Valencia are huge and beautiful.
There were lights strung everywhere for some celebration. I didn't catch what all the fuss was about, but we were constantly jumping from the unnerving explosions of firecrackers everywhere. Silvia said it was a Valencia thing.
Here we have our friends, Ken and Monica, with Pastor Ebitu and his wife. They oversee a Nigerian church in Valencia. We attended their service on Sunday morning, our last day in Spain.
What a great church!! We all thought we were in Africa. The entire service was in English, but so heavily (and beautifully) accented that sometimes I had trouble understanding what they were saying. Boy do these people rock the house when they worship! Dad, you would have LOVED it.

They even dance while giving their tithes! The whole congregation came up like a Congo-line, dancing up to the basket and dropping in their offerings.

Here's a little white girl speaking earlier in the service. I had so much fun; I think I'd like to speak at an African church more often. They responded so much and we had a great time.

Two babies I photographed in the children's room. They were all so cute!!!
Later that evening after a full dinner of homemade paella (chicken and rice) we drove down to the shoreline to see the Mediterranean. It was so cold and windy that we looked for about 5 seconds and then had to run inside a building.

I'd been pining for icecream (really, gelato) during Morocco but never had an opportunity to buy some. So, Grace took pity on my and bought us all a cone. Lemon gelato! Fabulous! Tami and I enjoyed ours.

A fun photo in front of some of the colorful buildings there.

Me and Grace with Kathryn Stephen, the oldest daughter of our pastor back home in Georgia. Kathryn's about 10 years younger than we are and is living in northern Italy right now, working as a nanny for two little girls. It was so cool to see a face from home!

Well that wraps up our trip! It was a lot of planes, trains and automobiles (and walking!) but we had a great time and met lots of good people. I found them all on Facebook when I got home so we are still keeping in touch. It's so important to stay connected in the Body of Christ.

We traveled for about 24 hours to get back home and I walked in the door of my house at 1:45am Tuesday morning, the 11th of March. Lanier greeted me at the door with roses and tulips and Hannah had put out some brownies she'd made with a sweet welcome home note. I kissed her and she woke up groggily and said, "yaaay, you're home!" They missed me horribly. Thanks to everyone who took care of Hannah and kept them both company while I was away.

Until next time!

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