Category Archives: Expat life

Sefrou Cherry Carnival and Festival


Hanane and I went to Sefrou on Sunday to spend some time with her family and check out the Sefrou Cherry Festival. We found that the actual Festival doesn’t begin until Thursday, June 17 and then runs through Sunday, June 20. The festival promises to be exciting and fun and we will probably head up there next Sunday (my only day off right now) to check out the Fantasia and events. I’m looking forward to it.

What was exciting was the Sefrou Carnival which is in full swing. This was the largest carnival I’ve been to in Morocco with a huge exhibition area which sold everything you usually find in the souks or the Medina but for less money, a fairly big selection of rides, and some other unexpected entertainment.

Getting to Sefrou, we relaxed with her family at her father’s house. Her cousin was visiting along with a family friend from Syria who goes to all the exhibitions in Morocco and sells his wares. There is always someone visiting at the Souidi house.

Since it was still early, I had the pleasure of watching World Cup matches with Hanane’s mom and dad and milking one of the goats. This was sort of like the Thanksgivings I remember where the family would gather around to watch American football matches and milk goats, only better. Hanane’s mom loves football (soccer) and she made me promise that if a big match ever comes to Fes that I will take her to it. I gladly agreed. Hanane smacked me when I told her it would just be me and her mom, of course, I was only kidding.

Later, in the afternoon we headed to the carnival. It was strangely cold in Sefrou (especially for mid June) and I borrowed one of Selim’s jackets.

There is no such thing as lines in Morocco and so this carnival was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Instead of people lining up for their turn to take a ride, it is exactly like waiting for a grand taxi with everyone running up and whoever gets the seats first taking them. No tickets either. The attendants just wait until the fighting for seats is done and then collect 5 dirhams per ride from those who managed to grab seats. If you want to stay on the rides all day and keep paying, you can do that.

All of the rides themselves are familiar but in a much greater state of aging and disrepair than I’ve ever experienced anywhere else. No guard rails, safety equipment at a minimum with only what still survives from when these rides were being used in Europe or the USA, and of course, because it is Morocco, each ride with a stereo blaring out Moroccan pop music.

I kept having visions of our seats flying out from the machine and killing us and all the spectators who crowded around the rides. I have no idea if there are annual fatality reports from Moroccan carnivals, but I suspect there must be.

The funniest ride was the 4th Dimension rocket ride. It was one of those spaceships you get in and then it moves while it shows you a futuristic (at least it was back in 1982) video that simulates movement. Hanane was scared to go on this, but for 5 dirhams, I had to see what it would be.

As we got on, it smelled like an old bus. In fact, except for the lack of windows it could have been an old bus. The carnies are obviously living in it at night and the rear seat was filled with their dirty clothes, another seat was filled with something but covered by a blanket. A strange assortment of old ladies boarded the rocket to experience the ‘4th dimension’.

The viewscreen was cracked and the hydraulics were shot, it was actually bumpier than a ride on an old bus. The program was all in English (which only Hanane and I understood) and was a mission to ancient Egypt to recover a terrorist nuclear bomb in King Tut’s tomb.
It was incredibly fun and we laughed the whole time as our ancient toothless Moroccan pilot navigated us through tombs he probably helped build.

The other rides were not quite so dilapidated as that one, but still I was nervous we would go flying. We rode the octopus and a couple of other similar rides.

Hanane wouldn’t let me pay 5 dirhams to go see the dancing Berber woman in a closed tent, but we paid 5 dirhams to see the motorcycle daredevil. He was amazing.

Essentially, they’ve built a big wooden barrel and everyone goes inside and climbs the stairs to the top about 25 feet or so. Then you look down. The daredevil then comes in and rides his motorcycle around the walls defying gravity. He rode with Moroccan flags covering his face so he couldn’t see, the crowd would hold out dirham notes (okay just one guy) and the daredevil scooped it up as he went by, and he would get the crowd clapping using his throttle to set the rhythm. Of course, one mishap and he could easily have killed a dozen people, so we were all being daredevils too, though I was probably the only one thinking that as I pulled Hanane back from the ledge a bit.

After this Hanane and I shared a bumper car while her brother and his friend shared another. I felt like we were targeted by all the little kids, probably because we were laughing more than anyone else.

And of course, what would a carnival be without food and games. I only played one game, a shooting game where I paid one dirham and then hit the bullseye….when we asked about prizes, we were told that there were none. It explained why no one else was bothering to compete. No prizes were evident at any of the games.

And for the food, we ate a tasty deep friend donut, fresh potato chips, and some ice cream…all for a whopping 1 dirham each. Then we bought some bedsheets at the exhibition area.

Unfortunately, it started raining before we could ride the Ferris Wheel and to my surprise, they shut down all the rides for safety. So we went back to the Souidi house where Hanane made harira soup. It was a very nice day and I highly recommend that you check out the Sefrou Cherry Festival Carnival…all told, we spent about 100 dirhams (about $12.50) and that included the bed sheets.

AmericanJapaneseMarriage

International Marriage Series #2 – USA and Japan

International Marriage, USA and Japan

Todd and Kay are the first international marriage I will be profiling in this series:

1) Your names – Todd and Kay
2) Your blog- Todd’s Wanderings
3) Your nationality -USA
4) Spouses nationality – Japan
5) Where do you live now? Do you live with your spouse?- Kosovo, yes with my spouse
6) Amount of time married-8 months
7) Are you still married?- yes, I hope so!
8) How did you meet?- In East Timor during the running club Hash House Harriers
9) What was the biggest impediment to getting married?- We move country every 2 years
10) Where did you get married?- US with a appropriate receptions in Japan afterwards
11) What was your marriage ceremony like?- Ceremony was on the end of dock, in a marina surrounded by the ocean. It was a Christian wedding as it was from a minister but he made it interfaith so that we would both feel comfortable
12) How is the relationship with your in-laws? Great. I love them and they are really happy that I can speak Japanese.
13) What about your spouses with your family? They love each other, no problems at all.
14) What was your biggest cultural misunderstanding? Can’t say that we have had one as we have both lived for extended periods of time in the other’s culture. Maybe expectations over how much to clean the house…but that could just be a guy and girl thing.
15) Can you tell a funny story about a cultural mishap? Again, I don’t think we have one.
16) Have you traveled with your spouse? yes, we travel all the time. She is also in international development working for the UN so we are often in different countries.
17) If so, has it been challenging? Why? Nope, not a challenge. But we have had to adjust to how the other travels. I like it cheap and dirty and she like hot water. I have become used to paying the extra money for hot water.
18) If not, why not?
19) Do you have children? If so, what is that like, internationally
speaking.
Nope, no children yet.
20) If you don’t have children, why not? Do you plan to? Plan to have children but we just got married 8 months ago…back off and stop pressuring us ;)
21) What is the best and the worst thing about international marriage? The best thing is that she understands the two sides to my personality (US and Japan). The worst is not being close to either family and always having to choose which one to visit.

International Wedding, American and Japanese Wedding

You can read about Todd and Kay’s engagement in Sri Lanka at
http://www.toddswanderings.com/2009/03/sri-lanka-engagement-surprise-in-unawatuna.html

Read about Todd and Kay’s Wedding at
http://www.toddswanderings.com/2009/12/our-wedding-in-newport-rhode-island.html

To find your own international love, find your ideal flight with the Vagobond Flight Finder and be sure to get your hotel room so you have somewhere for all that love with the Vagobond Hotel Search Engine (more than 300, ooo hotels and counting!!!)

Photo2923

Cherries and Injustice in Sefrou

One of the oldest festivals in Morocco takes place right next to Hanane’s parents house. The Sefrou Cherry Festival has been around for about a hundred years. Sadly, most of the cherry trees are gone now, cleared out to build new developments and villas for rich Fassi people who want to enjoy the country life a bit.

At this point, Hanane’s families house sits surrounded by luxury developments in various states of completion and the big field that the Cherry Festival gets held in. One would be tempted to think that perhaps the Souidi fortunes have turned, but because the justice system in Morocco is hardly just (and really, where is justice to be found anywhere in the world?) and the nebulous nature of real estate law, the overwhelming power of those who have money and connections versus those who don’t, and really, the corruption that runs rampant in Morocco and you can be sure that nothing is guaranteed.

As an example, Hanane’s father just lost a court battle to save a property he and his family have owned, lived on, and improved for over 40 years. It’s another piece of property that could make him a rich man, but the judge has recently issued the order to give it to people who are already wealthy…and thus, have the ability to sway the courts more than a simple shepherd like Mr. Souidi.

He bought the land over 40 years ago when he first came to Sefrou. At that time, contracts were fairly simple deals and it was more a matter of a handshake and the exchange of cash. Everything was fine until the man he bought the property from died a few years ago. Until that time, the Souidi family lived there. All of the Souidi kids were born there. A few years ago they bought their present property and moved most of the family there leaving Mohammad and Samira on the old homestead to start the next generation with Amine and Taha.

Then when the man the property was purchased from died, his heirs started looking at the property with greedy eyes. They started legal proceedings against the Souidis and made a case that Mr. Souidi had never actually purchased the land. Never mind that they had been living on it for forty years and that in fact, he had purchased it.

You can be sure that the family who is stealing the land has all the advantages of wealth and power with at least one judge, several police officers, and some government officials in their family tree. And of course, all of this happened about the time that land in Sefrou started booming, all the cherry trees were cut down on the surrounding acrage, and the value of the property became something worth stealing.

I’ve only just found out about this family drama recently and I’m told it is too late to do anything. The judge has issued the order that the land be vacated and given to the thieves. Mr. Souidi is appealing that Mohammad and his family be given time to find another place to live, but with luxury developments going up all around the property, it is doubtful whether he will win even that, especially since he is a simple shepherd and he is fighting against a family with wealth and position.