Sunday, November 3, 2013


Alternate Title for this Post:  The great memory card download.

The end of our tour in Morocco was filled with lots of traveling, pregnancy fun, and goodbyes.  Thankfully, while working for the Department of State, all roads lead to or through Washington, DC so we will get to see all of our American friends again.  Even so, it's a roller coaster of emotions for sure.  I can't even begin to write about that...especially in my current state of 37 weeks gestation; i.e. pregnancy brain, in a permanent bad mood (just being honest), and fatigue.

However, I can do pictures. (And lo and behold Joe writes a guest spot for the first time in about 3 years.  WHAT?!)

We'll start with our final Team D/Stephenson road trip.

We went to Essaouira, an ancient, laid back coastal town about 4-5 hours south of Rabat.  We rented a 3 story riad with a floor of bed/baths for each family and a bottom level with full kitchen/living area.  It was in the heart of the medina and while all that sounds charming, not everyone was thrilled with it.  OK, I wasn't thrilled with it.  And Matt wasn't either.  But Joe and Mary had no problem with the open sewer right outside the riad that ushered in those types of smells whenever the front door opened.  To go anywhere one had to be very careful where they stepped.  We made sure to put the boys in the stroller before we stepped outside the house.  The city has a beautiful beach, but it was still a little chilly to get in the water.  (For most people.  It didn't stop G.)

Exploring the fortress that is also the city.

This pic perfectly illustrates how each one of us feels about our accommodation.
Looking up from the ground floor in the riad.  It was really pretty, I'll give it that.

Mickey Mouse and jammies before bedtime.
The first weekend that was warm enough for the beach was also our last weekend as a family in Rabat.  Our Saturday morning trips to the beach will surely be one of the things we miss the most.  The added bonus was that inevitably a large group of random embassy folks/other diplomats/friends were there to hang out with throughout the day.  
Our boys love nothing more than the beach.
J still proudly wearing his European style bathing suit as all the boys his age wear on that side of the pond.  We let G graduate up to trunks this year.  
This may seem like an odd picture of nothing.  However, I for one am sad that I didn't take it closer up.  At the shoreline, in white, stands Joe and our friend David (also known as his boss) who was wearing a fabulous linen Middle Eastern/Arab/Tunic/Man-shirt.  But here's the thing- if anyone has earned the right/ can pull off/ deserves to wear this shirt, it's David.  He has spent a long career toiling as a diplomat in the Middle East/N. Africa and can just rattle off the Arabic.  And he's great at it. So wear that shirt with pride, David.
A few of our couple friends thoughtfully threw us a small going away garden party complete with catering, a signature cocktail, and of course speeches.  I mention these three things specifically because they are not something that is a part of our weekly/monthly/even YEARLY lives in the States, but are certainly par for the course in the Foreign Service life.  Or at least the African FS life.  The cocktail was a basil lemonade, if I remember correctly.  I can't speak for the full-on spiked version, but my special "pregnant Mommy" one was excellent!  The night was an absolutely perfect time with our friends.  We miss all of you greatly!

Being spoken of...
I can't remember why this award was presented at this party instead of at an Embassy ceremony.  Carleton is doing the honors, with boss David looking on. 

And then we were expected to speak.  I love how we are both speaking at the same time.
A snazzy maternity outfit if I do say so myself.  And just so you know, I tripped all over my words while speaking.  Don't be fooled by my calm demeanor in this photo.
This was taken on our last day with Khadija.  Saying goodbye to her was seriously one of the hardest things I've ever done.  So I won't linger on it here.  Thankfully we still Skype and talk on the phone with her.

Joe had a few adventures of his own after we left.

With his buddy Joel, an amateur (could be professional) photographer/attorney/awesome IT guy, he took a day trip to Volubilis, an area of Roman ruins.  

Joel and Joe
Their lunch stop.  Moroccan fast food- an open-air grill in the middle of a small town.  Taken right off the carcass hanging in the right of the picture.  Dang good eatin'.  
Joel's wife/our friend Vasantha.  I think this was Joe's last night in Morocco.  Don't you think they should move to DC when they finish their tour?
His last big hurrah was a trip down south to climb Mt. Toubkal.  I'm going to let him shortly summarize his trip-

For my last weekend in Morocco, I wanted to take a guys trip to the High Atlas mountains for some hiking and camping.  My friends Matt and Colin were all in, but as we began to plan the trip, I quickly realized that my relaxing guys trip was shaping up to be an endurance race.  Colin suggested that we hike up Mt. Toubkal, and Matt, and I both agreed that could be an amazing trip.  Toubkal is about 13,600 ft tall and the tallest mountain in North Africa.  Traditionally hikers summit the peak in two days.  Most people set out from the village of Imlil (about 5,600 ft) and hike about 5 hours to a base camp at 10,500 ft.  Then on the second morning hikers ascend to the peak in about two hours and descend all the way to Imlil.

Colin upped the ante, however, and suggested that we could do the entire ascent and return to Imlil in one day.  His logic was not without merit.  The base camp is crowded, and as one colleague put it, "a meningitis factory."  A night there was not an attractive option, so Matt and I agreed to give the one-day ascent the good 'ol college try.  At this point, I should mention that Colin is a 2:25 marathon runner and always looking for a race.  Matt and I were quickly made aware of this.

We set out from Imlil at about 6 am, and Colin was prepared for a mad dash to the summit. While Matt and I were wearing hiking boots and traditional outdoor gear, Colin was sporting running shoes and marathon attire.  Matt and I were able to hang with him for the first 2 or 3 hours, but we gave him the go ahead to take off and we met back up with him at the base camp after about a 4.5 hour hike.

By this point,  I was really feeling the altitude.  Rabat is at sea level, so going to 10,000 ft in one day was a big kick in the pants.  While other hikers coming off the trail were settling in for the evening, we took a quick break and started the steep ascent to the peak.  After about 30 minutes, and Matt and I knew that we were in trouble.  I was dizzy and Matt was cramping.  After a 10 or 15 minute pow-wow, he and I decided to head back down.  Colin, being the physical specimen that is he is, continued up to the peak.

While Matt and I only had blisters and body aches to show for the hike, we were able to have celebratory beer and tajine with Colin when he got back to Imlil a few hours after us.  All-in-all, it was a great trip with great guys, but the best part of the weekend actually happened on the drive to Imlil.

About an hour outside of Marrakech, Ash called from Texas with results of the sonogram.  I quickly pulled over the car to make sure I could keep my cell reception and also avoid any oncoming donkeys.  It was then that she told me were having a baby girl.  Pretty great stuff, and definitely the highlight of the trip.

Colin leading the way as we hiked out of Imlil towards Toubkal.
Matt and I just after the decision to head back to the Riad for tajine rather than risk breaking our necks going up to the peak.
A look at the base camp from 1,000 ft or so up the mountain.  The tiny orange dots are tents.  

And that's all!  Morocco: we love you, we miss you!


  1. Hey guys -

    We miss you so much and can't wait to see you guys when we get back. We really enjoyed our time with you guys and the boys and really miss you.

    I hope that all is well.


    ps - Joe, the pink champagne was ooh-la-la delicious. Thanks.

  2. Pics are fabulous! Now I want to go back to Essaouira... You guys are game for a return trip, right?