Archives for April 2014

Kiva Loan: April

4 down, 8 to go!

April’s Kiva loan goes to Michelle in the Philippines. Michelle requested a loan to help pay for more ingredients for her stall. She sells a special concoction called “ice scramble.” The ingredients include ice, different candies, and chocolate. Sounds delicious. Michelle  helps support her family with ice scramble business and hopes to continue to improve their quality of living.

Quick reminder that Kiva gift cards make an awesome gift for Mother’s Day!

xo, jill

Tetouan + Cats

Beware of touts.

Oh goodness. Our time in Tetouan was… interesting. We arrived in town and headed to our meeting point with our hotel. The riad was one of those places that you’d never find on your own. After showing us the room we booked, the proprietor took us up to his best room and asked if we’d prefer to sleep there. Truth be told, it was pretty musty and dank up there… but we he was so proud of the room, we couldn’t say no.

On our way out, the hotel tried to book us a tour guide. Of course, we declined. We were feeling like veterans of Morocco at this point. People, listen to me when I say… accept the guide. Accept the guide.

As soon as we entered into the alleyway a tour guide offered us his services. We politely declined but he was hard to shake. The medina is confusing. You’ll get lost. You need a guide. He said he worked for our hotel and was legit. Well, that’s what they all say! We ventured on and eventually did make our way out of the medina without too much trouble. We explored a bit of the new city and then I made a mistake. An honest mistake. A mistake I could have never guessed I was making.

I bought a hairbrush.

Ok, so… I forgot my comb on this trip and couldn’t wash my hair without one. It was time to go in search of something to do the trick. Naturally, I began to peruse a cart selling hair products. Mike asked the man operating the cart if he had a brush or comb. He didn’t, but he could show me just the place to find one around the corner. He walked us to a variety store, I bought a brush, and that was that. Or not.

Under the guise of going down the block to get my change (this is actually really common), the man began to take us on quite the tour of the medina. Both Mike and I were thinking, “It’s really weird that this guy would just walk away from his cart…” before realizing we’d been scammed. Obviously, the man wasn’t actually working at the cart… just standing nearby and waiting to be “helpful.” But of course, we were now in the middle of nowhere without a clue. We thought about ditching him… but he was so friendly! He’s a teacher… just like us. He has ties to the US… just like us. He held a kitten out for me to pet for goodness sakes. We couldn’t be rude.

And that’s how we ended up in a Berber pharmacy listening to a presentation on herbs and oils. We were smelling what was put right under our noses and wondering if we’d wake up groggy and penniless in an empty room hours later. At one point during the disorienting “tour” our guide came across a man who was not a fan of him. It’s kind of awkward to be on an unofficial tour and have your guide get screamed at by another local. We were asking ourselves, “Is this when we escape?”

Eventually, we were able to bid our farewell and avoid another stop at a handicrafts shop. And did I get my change? I honestly can’t remember!

Band photo.

After that adventure, we were definitely in the mood to get back to our hotel. We just needed to find it. Eventually, we were able to get within a few “blocks” and decided to just ask for help. Being smart this time, we approached a man in a suit and glasses. It was only after he started mumbling incoherently that I noticed his suit was awfully shabby, faded, and dusty. And then I noticed his spectacles were a bit twisted and dirty. When he started pulling out bent business cards insisting we stay at one of his hotels, we fully realized our mistake. Maybe not the best person to have following you back to your hotel, annoyed at missing out on a kickback, and angry that you didn’t tip him enough. Luckily for us, guess who was still outside our hotel? Yep, the original actually legit tour guide. Our savior. He motioned for us to escape into the safe hotel and reprimanded the man in the suit for trying to cheat us. We sat in our hotel room feeling like it was impossible to know who to trust.

Later in the evening we headed out in search of food. It was not an easy feat. Tetouan is not much of a tourist attraction. Most of the restaurants and cafes in our guidebook were closed or non existent and the ones we saw were gentlemen only. It felt nearly impossible to find something female friendly. Eventually, we found a fast food place serving pizza and gladly ate in their upstairs dining area.

Can’t lie. I was pretty excited to see this bus station.

All that to say, I didn’t take too many photos of Tetouan, and none of the medina.

xo, jill

Baby Kitties of Chefchaouen

The blue city’s kitties.

As expected, Chefchaouen was full of cats. Cats lounging on stairs, sleeping in construction materials, begging at tables, and bounding up steps. Everywhere we went there was another cat to capture against the blue backdrop. Paradise, I tell you.

The curl of that tail!

This man was feeding the cats from his plate. At one point I counted seven cats at his feet!

xo, jill

Chefchaouen Part 2

More blue.

Here are a few more photos from Chefchaouen. I think these better highlight the blue wash of the medina. The lovely blue color was introduced in the 1930s. Prior to then, the city’s windows and doors were painted in green, the traditional color for Islam. To whomever dreamed up the blue city, I’d like to say, “Well done.”

Sneak peek at the kitties to come!

Part one photos are here.

xo, jill

Chefchaouen Part 1

Give me the blues.

After our stay in Tangier, Mike and I hopped on a bus and headed over to the much admired city of Chefchaouen. What makes Chefchaouen remarkable is its uniquely blue walls. Nearly every building in the medina is colored by a signature blue color. I must say, it’s a photographer’s dream. Everything looks beautiful washed in blue.

We stayed in a hostel (for about $8 per night), and explored the town during the day. Nearly every turn revealed a scene more beautiful than the last, or another lazy cat basking in the blue glow. (You know there will be another cat post soon…)

More of Chefchaouen to come.

xo, jill

Baby Kitties of Tangier

Ready for their close-ups.

I don’t think I’ll ever stop being excited at spotting cats out and about, which makes Morocco a very good place to live. As previously promised, here are the baby kitties of Tangier:

Love those little rascals.

xo, jill

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