Sticky Top Post

Howdy. We've moved from Cayce, but St. Elizabeth of South Rose Hill or Lizette de Waccamaw de Sud just don't do it for me.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Can you lie on TV?

So, Izzy and I are sitting here watching "the Wonder Years," when a commercial comes on there an announcer reads:

Eat all you want and still lose weight.

Eat all you want and still lose weight!

And remember, we couldn't say it on TV if it wasn't true!

(In case we weren't sure what we were hearing, the letters flashed up on the screen.) Here's a screen shot from their website:

So, what might be wrong with these claims?

Claim 2: We couldn't say it on TV if it wasn't true!
a. ... if it weren't true... (grrr---Would that there were more subjunctive police.)
b. If you've ever seen "Believers' Voice of Victory,"you'll know that you can spout all sorts of bogus stuff on TV.
c. Addressing the logic side of things, if Claim 1 is proved false, then Claim 2 becomes false.

Claim 1: Eat all you want and still lose weight
a. This brief commercial for a new wonder supplement was followed by a full minute of advertising for Jenny Craig. Then two other commercials for diabetes-related products. (What does this say about the audience for "The Wonder Years?")
b. So, even the Ion network doesn't think that this needs to be their only source of weight-loss advertising.

From their website: "These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration." So, if not the FDA, who exactly polices what can be claimed on TV? Turns out, pretty much no one, so long as your product is marketed as a dietary supplement. I wonder what-all they'd have to put in the disclaimer if it were a "drug"?

Worth a look: The FTC actually created a fake weight-loss product site, as a consumer education tool. Pretty well done: Fatfoe.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

And here's the aforementioned dress

A bit fuzzy--the autofocus apparently really liked the calla lilies.

Worn w/black jacket @ work.


Interview Update

Apparently, the red dress wasn't quite enough...

I'll not be starting a new job in September. Had a heart-to-heart with the "big boss" (whose job I had sought) about how/where to gain some of the experience that tipped the scales in favor of another candidate - valuable experiences that were preferred by the "really big boss." Apparently, "Big Boss" can't think of a way in the normal order of things in our division to accomplish this. (It's worth noting that she had moved into her current position directly from the one I currently hold -- so I knew I had sufficient qualifications, just not some intangibles.)

So, how to make myself a better candidate for whatever might come next? Looks like I'll be taking the GRE in late October, and filling out student loan paperwork for distance learning doctoral programs. What fun!

Sorry, I just can't resist

From the Miss Teen USA contest. (Google news here)

I'm going to give her credit for nerves and for being way over-coached to be sure and say certain buzz words during her interview.

It's still way too funny.

Brief version with subtitles here:

She's local. And, in a William Hung sort of way, she'll end up with far more publicty than the actual winner.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Mother Teresa

In an email discussion group I'm on, one Presby member commented on the Time article on Mother Teresa's "dark night of the soul."

"...The Rev. Joseph Neuner, whom she met in the late 1950s and confided in somewhat later, was already a well-known theologian, and when she turned to him with her "darkness," he seems to have told her the three things she needed to hear: that there was no human remedy for it (that is, she should not feel responsible for affecting it); that feeling Jesus is not the only proof of his being there, and her very craving for God was a "sure sign" of his "hidden presence" in her life; and that the absence was in fact part of the "spiritual side" of her work for Jesus...."
Paraphrasing his comment on the article, he wrote of being so impressed with her perseverance year after lonely year, doing what she believed God had told her to do, without hearing again from God.

My response to the forum:

I was privileged to attend a retreat last year led by Bishop Curlin, retired Bishop of the Diocese of Charlotte. He had been one of Mother Teresa's advisers, as well as confessors.

Within limits, and without breaking the seal of the confessional, he talked to us about her life and the dark night of the soul that she experienced for so much of her life. It was certainly something I would not have expected to have been the case - one often assumes that those who accomplish much for God must always be basking in the glow of close fellowship with Him.

Her example is an antidote to the weariness in well doing that we so often feel. (Galatians 6:9) and an encouragement to go on with what we have clearly been told to do.

I can see a very practical application in the vocation to marriage -- keeping a vow even in those times when feelings wane. (Note: I'm not trying to push the analogy as far as it can go, especially looking at the despair she felt, and I know that some marriages are not born out of true vocations, but I know we often give up far too early, far too easily.)

End of response.

More From the Time article:
Most religious readers will reject [an] ... explanation... that makes her the author of her own misery — or even defines it as true misery. Martin, responding to the torch-song image of Teresa, counterproposes her as the heroically constant spouse. "Let's say you're married and you fall in love and you believe with all your heart that marriage is a sacrament. And your wife, God forbid, gets a stroke and she's comatose. And you will never experience her love again. It's like loving and caring for a person for 50 years and once in a while you complain to your spiritual director, but you know on the deepest level that she loves you even though she's silent and that what you're doing makes sense. Mother Teresa knew that what she was doing made sense."
Sometimes, maybe many times, we need that sort of example. I mean, how often do we get to experience the grace of God through arrows, roasting, or any of the other trials and martyrdoms we saw in Rome this past summer?

To begin

When Izzy and I stopped for gas this PM, I noticed that the display on the pump was acting up a bit. The lights at the top of each letter block were staying lit, with interesting results (esp. for those familiar with older variant British spellings.)

To begin...

OK, it's not exactly the most common British spelling, but provided a laugh on a warm night.

Thanks to Izzy for taking the picture.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Get your notebooks--12 eaches

Originally uploaded by Steliz

Apparently, the lowest bidder doesn't need to understand the formation of English plurals.

There are 20+ boxes with this same label outside of our offices right now. Come by if you'd like to be sure this wasn't photo-shopped (or if you need economy-grade binders....)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Interview, Part 2

As much as anyone else in the blogosphere, I get my life direction from those little quizzes.

According to this one, I'm OK with my current job.

Your Job Satisfaction Level: 83%

Your job is nearly perfect - you've totally lucked out! You like what you do, who you work for, and the people you work with. And it seems like the job you have will eventually get you the job you want. So enjoy what you've got. You've landed the ideal job!

However, since I'm only 83% satisfied, I guess I'll go ahead and go to the 2nd interview scheduled for tomorrow afternoon at 2 PM for the newer job opportunity. It's in the same place where I'm currently working, so I could hope to be nearly as satisfied as I am currently.

Prayers appreciated.

Friday, August 17, 2007

4th (err, 3rd) in 10

(not quite the same as 4th AND 10, which is do-or-die, time to punt...)

Update from after the wedding: Turns out I'm actually the 3rd eldest now, now the 4th.

Sometime around 2:30 tomorrow afternoon, I'll go from being the eldest of six to being the 4th 3rd of ten children. We're getting three new brothers, one new sister, 14 new nieces & nephews, and a step-dad.

(Wednesday evening dinner: Mom, "Pops", Mom's sister)

Couple pics from events this evening:


Rehearsal Dinner

Mom & Pops (as he wants the grands to call him) seem really happy and I hope they have many happy, healthy years together.

And yes, Mom is a looker, isn't she?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

My muse came through

(#3 from the 8-things meme) And here's the song for this weekend's wedding reception:


Starting Forever Again

He stands at the altar and
looks up the aisle
He looks pretty decent -
blue jacket, white tie
and he's happier than he's been in a long while;
He's starting forever again.

She waits at the back with her
sister and mom
She'll walk through that door on the
arm of her son
and take a second chance on love, that she'd thought was gone;
She's starting forever again.

Chorus 1.
We're here in the church,
but we're not here alone;
The great crowd of witnesses
who stand 'round the throne
are cheering us on, and they give their "Amen",
as Bud and Bobbie start forever again.

The young pledge their love
to husbands and wives
For better, for worse,
in peace or in strife
But when holding a hand at the end of a life,
You wonder where forever went...

Some folks find love once
a few find it twice
When old friends find love
it's especially nice
to think loved ones in glory have made their assent
As we take our first steps to forever again

The leaving and cleaving are
starting anew;
Forever began
when they both said "I do."
Our fam'lies were joined by the love of old friends
and loved ones in glory are saying "Amen."

Chorus 2.
They're starting out fresh,
but not travel'ling alone;
The great crowd of witnesses
who stand 'round the throne
are cheering them on, and they give their "Amen",
as Bud and Bobbie start forever again...

We're cheering them on,
and we give our "Amen",
as Bud and Bobbie start forever

(C) All rights reserved to HCC Music. 2007

Happy Catholic Birthday to Gashwin!

and happy Assumption Day, as well.

Maior autem his est caritas: Thirteen years ago today ...#links

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Break-out the Tin Foil Hats!

Or whatever you wear when contemplating conspiracies.

According to the Charlotte Observer, folks in Charlotte (where Billy Graham is always big news) are upset about his portrayal on this week's Time Magazine cover.

What are those things sticking out of Billy Graham's head on the cover of Time magazine this week?

Merely the M in TIME, you say?

Some Internet bloggers see something else: A devilish plot. They're accusing Time -- some seriously, some tongue-in-cheek -- of putting horns on the Charlotte-born evangelist.

"Well, the left media continues its crusade of soft propaganda," wrote conservative blogger John Ruskin. "This time, the target is Rev. Billy Graham ... Yeah, tell me that was an innocent mistake."

"Say your prayers!" said, a celebrity gossip blog, which headlined its post "The devil and Billy Graham."

Altogether now: Sheeeeesh...

FWIW, if the "horns" were intentional, don't you think they'd have used a face-forward photo? Maybe Time is comparing BG, a latter-day prophet, to Moses?


For those with Caribbean vacation plans for this weekend

Be sure and get the travel insurance.

Monday, August 13, 2007

8-Things Meme

So, Gashwin tagged me and Izzy and a few other folks - leaving me nearly no one to tag. That's OK, I've not yet opted to ask Izzy his five questions, either.

Here the background:

The rules are simple…Each player lists 8 facts/habits about themselves. The rules of the game are posted at the beginning before those facts/habits are listed. At the end of the post, the player then tags 8 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog.
Here goes (I assume, as I try and decide what to write, that lots of this will be familiar territory)

1. Izzy and I have been friends during five presidential administrations, sweethearts-then-spouses during four. Yes, some of our stories go back to the Carter administration!

2. I really enjoy music. I love singing on Sunday AM, and I even enjoy rehearsals. Any chance to do harmony, and I'm there!

3. I write music (err, create songs, I don't play an instrument, so lots of it isn't written down in musical notation.) Mostly it's been heard by family. I'm working to finish a folky-type song for this weekend's wedding.

4. My middle name should have been "Volunteer."

Update: Before reading #5: Please note that items separated by semi-colons are separate and distinct and not possible related to adjacent items. Not hardly...

5. Short list of stuff everybody knows: I'm Catholic; I'm a convert; I'm an aunt; I'm really involved with my family; I have diabetes; we have a neurotic cat; I have a mostly new wardrobe; I love jewelry; I'm allergic to everything that smells nice, it seems, plus a few things that don't smell so nice; like Gashwin, I'm left-handed and extroverted; I work in Epidemiology; I'm a nurse practitioner; I have pretty good presentation and document layout skills; and did I mention the volunteering?

6. I've always loved photography and I'm excited to learn better how to use my new camera.

7. (Inspired by a news story I'm watching) I'm a regular blood donor. I have several gallon pins from the Red Cross, and I think I'm on their every-8-week speed dial.

8. (See #1) I'm incredibly lucky to have Izzy for a husband. He's creative, funny, brilliant, sincere, caring, godly, devout, loving, romantic, adventurous, considerate, and TAKEN. (Sorry gals!) We've been told we make a great team - I'm so glad we've had each other all these years.


That's it. I think Waldie and Baldman did this a ways back, so we'll read other tagees and let anyone who wants to consider themselves tagged.

Cat Pics

I've read somewhere recently that the non-porn segment of the internet consists of 80% cat pictures, 5% social-networking sites, and 14% ads for Rather than try and enhance the remaining 1%, I'll confess to enjoying the 80%. I'm not the only one who is interested to see what cat pics Required Reiding's Mom, Tricia, uses to illustrate her daily adventures in Vicksburg.

I'm also amused by the LOL cats at

I spend a lot of my time at work dealing with or planning for really bad stuff; cats napping in invisible pie crusts are a great antidote.

And few things are cuter than this pic:


or more true than this one:


I recently found LOL Cat pics of Oscar, the cat who appears to predict the deaths of patients on a dementia ward. Read the great article on this "art form" in the Archives of Mental Floss.

So, what's the point? (Blog posts need points? Discussion for another day...)

I made my first attempt at an LOL cat pic today. If you've seen our cat, and if you have, you're in an elite group, you'll know she's unlikely to sit still for a photo session. I consider myself lucky to have gotten a couple of snaps of her the other night.

Here's Caligula's LOL debut:

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Claire (or Clare or Chiara) of Assisi

It's after midnight, so now the feast day of one of our favorite saints: Clare of Assisi. Besides being patroness of television, she's also the namesake of one our favorite liqueurs. (Yes, also a cool saint in her own right.)

Years ago, Izzy and a buddy took the buddy's last weekend in Texas and headed down to Mexico to "import" several bottles of Santa Clara, which we couldn't get in Texas at the time. It's more available now, and we tend to drink less of it -- lost some of the allure?

We'll lift a couple glasses later today...or now, as a nightcap?

In case anyone hadn't noticed

It's hot. In fact, today was as hot as it's ever been in these parts.

I'm grateful that the humidity has stayed below 40%.

Friday, August 10, 2007

I'm sensing a theme

These three comics appeared in my inbox yesterday. Click to read any tiny print.

Happy upcoming flying...

Monday, August 06, 2007

New Look

Inspired by Izzy and Warren, here's my Simpsonized self.

I figured I'd be the Public Health Epi Nurse heading out to investigate the foodborne outbreak.

Sheesh! I gotta get a lfe!

Here's the smaller version of me.

Feeling better about the Apocalypse

Stretching a bit ... OK, a lot ...

In the past year, I've seen famine (major change of diet), plague (OK, lots of other illnesses & outbreaks with which I deal each day), war (on TV), even a cicada on the mailbox (stand-in for locusts.)

What's missing? Pestilence. That is, until a fateful day about 11 days ago when I got a chance to ride in the vehicle of that name. Having survived the ride, I'm feeling better about my chances when the four horsemen arrive.

PS: If you're not familiar with Pestilence: the Vehicle, good for you!

Outside the Box

So, after we left the Bible Study with the Catholic young adults, we stopped at a coffee shop and found ourselves in the midst of a Protestant singles group.

It's good to venture beyond one's assigned niches.

Grass Roots Politics: Consensus

It's the period of time when most Americans are enjoying Summer or checking out back to school sales. Even political semi-junkies like me are skipping/missing the preliminary debates.

I've been watching for signs of grass roots political activity around here, versus giant signs posted by candidates. I've seen a few examples (no pics yet.)

1. There is one (count-it) yard sign in our neighborhood: Ron Paul.

2. In the neighborhood through which I drive on the way to work, there are two yard signs for a "Ron Paul Revolution." "Reverse-stamped" over the e-v-o-l is the word LOVE.

3. Driving home from our shopping spree Saturday, we saw on signs on two streets tacked to light poles every 2-3 blocks: "Google Ron Paul." Today I saw another variant: "Google Ron Paul for a better America."

4. Leaving the coffee shop where we had dinner tonight, we saw a woman in the parking lot wearing the T-shirt version of #2.

So, in this very early primary state, the vox populi score is:
Ron Paul - 4 / Rudy McRomneyson - 0 / Dems also 0.

Usual caveats apply. In the interests of full disclosure, I'll note that the last presidential candidate I was excited to vote for was Jerry Brown.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Rome Trip - July 16-17: Going Back Home

Up at 8:30 for our last morning in Europe. Izzy is still queasy so we skipped the breakfast buffet. Hailing a cab outside the hotel was every bit as easy as we’d been told it would be. We were inside one within a couple of minutes of getting our bags outside. After a couple of minutes of driving and attempted conversation, our driver found a chart of the airport for us so we could tell him which terminal we needed. For G, who cares about such things, it was T-1.

Madrid’s airport, at least T-1, was under construction and seemed a bit disorganized, but folks seemed to be able to find their way into the correct lines. We’d heard explanations of how Spaniards can go to a grocery store, stand in multiple lines simultaneously (deli counter, baked goods, etc.) and always know who is at the back of the line and where they are in each one. So what may look like line-cutting is not perceived as such to them; it’s just a person showing up when it’s her turn.

Madrid airport chapel

We had a rather nice brunch at the airport. Izzy had Danon yogurt with fruit (in a glass jar), agua con gas, and some vino tinto. We both had small cheese and bread plates with a blue cheese, some brie, and something like a havarti/gruyere mix.

I’m writing this journal entry on the plane at the gate. We’re waiting on pull-away clearance. The child behind me has stopped kicking for just a bit (she wants to go get in the car now), and Izzy has fallen asleep. Soon, off to Philadelphia.

Movies I watched in Flight (couldn't sleep):
• Wild Hogs (Izzy also watched this one)
• Dream Girls
• Pursuit of Happyness.

They were “mono” instead of the intended stereo; only one earphone speaker was working in each of our systems.

Blood sugars were elevated today, even five hours after a meal. Travel stress.

My in-flight notes end here.
Addendum, not in original notes:

Landed in Philly and made good time through customs, getting our bags, more checking & opportunities for declarations, giving our bags back, etc. Checked the board a couple of times and plopped ourselves down at the far end of terminal B to await our 5:45 PM loading call.

I enjoyed taking shots of a bird that flitted on a couple of spots at the gate.


At 5:50, having heard no call, I checked with the agent (there were no signs at this gate) and learned that our flight was currently loading at the far end of Terminal C. We did the OJ-worthy dash and managed to get onto the plane. We were joined 5 minutes later by a German woman whose boarding pass had directed her to Terminal A-East - ever further away.

We had hurried up, now it was time for the waiting. We took off about an hour late, waiting on a long line of planes.

Can't see the ones beyond the bend, nor the ones at the other side. We were 15 back when this was taken.

Landed at RDU, where we were re-united with our car. We dropped off the young lady who had been using it and headed for home.

I took the first leg, and had to stop after 80 miles of very late at night driving in hard rain (my body now thought it was 4 AM.) Izzy did another 80 miles, then we switched off again. I managed to get us home by just before 1:30 AM.

We wandered in and discovered a new-cat's worth of hair on the mattress cover - obviously Callie had missed us. We cleaned off the cover using packing tape, re-made the bed, grabbed essentials (meds, C-PAP) and stared at the pile of mail.

Up the next day, and we've been working on this project ever since. I am determined to get this done before Craig Ferguson ends tonight (almost made it!), having taken only 18 days to download, sort, transcribe, edit, illustrate, etc., our trip.

Izzy and I are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to have taken this trip, and are both glad that we approached it as a pilgrimage. Can't wait for the next adventure.

Flickr set for today:

Rome Trip - July 15: Algeciras to Madrid

We woke up around 8:15. There was a note in our room inviting us to breakfast ~8:30. I went downstairs to find not a soul stirring and had my fiber & soy breakfast at 8:45.

To breakfast: In a surprisingly quick period of time, folks were all ready. We all left a little after 9 to go to a café at the beach. I had coffee, everyone else had coffee and breads with a pureed tomato & spice spread. We could see Gibraltar, but only through haze and fog. It was very relaxed.


To church: Back to the house. Our hosts got ready and left ~10:40 AM for 11:00 church. We left the house at a quarter to noon for Mass, arrived after less than five minutes of walking, and were among the first there. Spanish Mass in a Moorish design post-V2 church. The Stations consisted of crosses on the wall with Roman numerals and no figures at all. There were oscillating fans mounted on the walls all around the room, but only two were turned on. All the (we!) women used hand fans. One woman’s fan and beaded bracelet provided plenty of percussion.

We were unable to follow the lector (who had volunteered for the job when the priest asked when the readngs were due to start) or the 1st two readings and the Psalm, but figured out the Gospel: the Rich Young Ruler and the Good Samaritan. The homily seemed to focus on who one’s neighbor is and on social justice issues.

After Mass, the Priest disappeared into the sacristy and the congregation dispersed. He did announce that he would be on vacation visitng his family for the next week, so there would be no daily Masses. It was quite different from what we’ve experienced in American Catholic churches and more like the “sacrament dispensaries” people talk / complain about.

Back at the house, we had a very pleasant lunch and a chat about churches, futures, etc. Great visit.

We finished our TSA-worthy packing job, which will make things easier in Madrid tomorrow morning.

To the train: It’s very helpful to have in our hostess such a competent translator there to help us locate our tickets. We were told to keep our cameras out for shots of the cliffs, but the pictures were not what I would have liked since we were often behind vegetation. I’ll bet a double-decker sight-seeing train would be amazing!


The First Class ride on Renfe (Spanish Rail) was just as nice as it had been on Thursday. Choice of Champagne or OJ first thing, very wide armrests between people,and a one seat--aisle--two seats configuration. Dinner service included tiny little olive oil and vinegar bottles and adorable salt & pepper shakers (same amount of spice as the single-use paper tubes, but much cuter). I kept a set as souvenirs(for the office). There was plenty to eat and drink, all included in the price of the tickets.

Adorable Condiments

I caught up on my journal entries (through this AM) while half-watching a Spanish-dubbed version of RV. My fatigue level must be pretty high; I actually caught myself laughing quite a few times.

To the hotel: We arrived at Atocha Station in Madrid around 10:30 PM and hiked down the street to our hotel, which we had found by accident on our walk last Thursday. The young man checking us in had spent several formative years in the UK; his English certainly made the check-in process smooth. We had a pre-paid voucher for the room with an e-mail print-out.

We were in room (25 or) 624 (cue Chicago song). The TV welcomed Izzy by name.


His tummy had been upset all day (most likely something he ate in Morocco), so it was good to finally be in one place with a stationary bathroom. (Izzy’s comment:the bidet was even better!)

We watched a bit of CNN International. Half of the news time was given to the Beckhams' moving to America. I’m not sure the Brits understand that this really doesn’t matter to most in the US, but maybe it will keep full employment for British ex-pat paparazzi.

Flickr sets for today:

Rome Trip - July 14: Morocco from a Microbus

Or, you knew you'd have to pay some sort of "tourist tax" this trip...

We got up early and made it to the Port by 8 AM, where we were given stickers and told to go to another area and wait—someone would come for us; we’d been stickered.

8:15—Someone spotted us and told us to go upstairs and wait; he’d be back in 15 minutes.

8:45—We saw “our guy” again as he motioned a group to go through security. We followed, but when boarding passes to the ferry were passed out, they were two short. It turns out this was the wrong group for us (US high schoolers on an EF Tours package). We headed back out of the security area and found “our guy,” who had our boarding passes. He gave us no information as to what would happen when we docked in Ceuta and did not board the ferry. No one with similar stickers was on the boat.

Easy ~35 minute ride to Ceuta (Arabic: Sebta).

Ferry to Ceuta
Bird Flu alert in Ferry Terminal. Avoid visiting ... markets ...

When we got off the boat, a Moroccan guide for a different group saw our stickers and told us to go outside where our guide would find us. And so he did. We were approached by our new guy, who told us that his name was Ahmet and that he would be taking care of us today. He took our passports and our tickets, told us to go to the "meecrobus" (microbus) at the end of the line of big touring buses, and wandered off somewhere.

Eventually there were seven passengers on the bus, two of whom had stickers like ours but didn’t speak English. Ahmet came back with our driver, and we were off to a day of a completely different sort of adventure than what we thought we’d bought.

1st stop, border crossing from Ceuta (an independent Spanish Colony) to Morocco. Ahmet took our passports and entry/exit documents “somewhere.” He came back and announced that he had sold our passports. This did not reassure the young Scottish couple with us, who were already concerned due to Ahmet’s sketchy ID badge, lack of uniform, and general uncommunicativeness.

Bus ride to Tetouan, Ahmet’s home town. It had been a Spanish protectorate, then became Moroccan-ruled under Mohammed V (they’re now under Mohammed VI). Ahmet had a few themes: Muslims and Jews get along in peace here, there is lots of progress (we certainly saw lots of building projects), the seaside resorts made great places to come for vacation, there was no terrorism, and handcrafts are very important to the Moroccan economy.

New construction for vacation/retirement homes

We stopped for 1€ camel rides, a roadside attraction that all of the tour guides know about and support. We saw the same group of US high schoolers from the ferry terminal among the buses stopped here. The only other attraction at this wide shoulder in the road was a trash fire. Several of the camels were muzzled, and one was hobbled. Recalcitrant beasts, no doubt.

Scottish couple & the Camels
My first camel ride

Arrival in Tetouan: We walked past (a? the? it wasn't clear) Presidential Palace then into the old city (“medina” in Arabic). [The medina of Tetouan is a UNESCO world heritage site.]

Presidential Palace
Cleaning the door of the mosque

Ahmet had told us repeatedly that this was our lucky day since it was a special Muslim Market and the Berber people would be in town.He showed us some architectural features of the Medina (wall colors indicating what section of the medina we were in, door styles & markings, etc.) but walked us very quickly past stalls, tailors, little tiny shops, and other points of interest.

Seen in tailor shop
Marking seen on Jewish homes
Door knocker

In later discussions we discovered that all the paying members of our group had expected to be able to stop at these sorts of places to buy souvenirs and gifts. Instead, Ahmet took us to “a typical Moroccan pharmacy” where a guy in a lab coat gave a spiel on herbs. I should have noticed the lack of non-herbal merchandise, especially when third world pharmacies are well-known in public health circles as sources of all sorts of “generic” antibiotics and other remedies. Wherever we were, it wasn’t “a typical Moroccan pharmacy.” It turns out that this was a harbinger of the rest of the day—hurry past the locals and be herded into someplace that exists only for tourists.


I bought some green tea and a curry-type spice. Izzy, who had been complaining of a stiff neck for a couple of days and had skipped my adventure of a camel ride, paid 5€ for a massage.


Out into the medina again, walking past poultry vendors and their still-living wares, shops selling ready-mix wall paints, toys, clothes, produce, etc.

Open-air stalls in Tetouan medina
Izzy managed to stop for one of these

Ignoring the fact that we all just wanted a guide to take us to the little shops, our guide took us to an “Art Institute.” I knew something was up when the seven of us were separated into four groups (three couples and the single Indian guy from Michigan/Texas/Bombay) and handed off to four different guys wearing djellabas and pointed shoes (each with limited English and a silent assistant). While the one guy described various sorts of rugs, the other unrolled examples of them: silk, silk/wool, knotted, woven,embroidered, Berber, etc., all very beautiful, very large (“we can ship anywhere”), and doubtless very expensive.

Ahmet, @ the entrance to the Art Institute
Izzy checks out the rugs

They asked us to join them in mint tea: “Sugar? No sugar?” I asked for no sugar, but discovered a thick layer of undissolved sugar in the bottom of my cup about the time I finished the liquid (to which I had added sweetener and so hadn’t noticed the sugar). This did nothing for my mood. I was already feeling trapped in a high-pressure sales meeting; I’m sure that’s why they had separated members of our group. We had no need of a rug, and Izzy was ready to walk away, but I saw an intricately woven table covering I wanted (we got it for 600 dirham, about $75 US) and they kept trying to convince us to add a rug to it and “put on credit card.” I think they are convinced that all Westerners are rich; how else to afford this travel?

Lunch was at a restaurant designed for and frequented only by tour groups. The only locals in the place were the wait staff, the musicians, the dancers, the whirling dervish... all of whom had their hands out. Our guide and his assistant in the medina (an older man named Mohammet who trailed at the end of the group to make sure none of us “got lost” and who kept pointing out photo ops for me) did NOT eat with us, but went somewhere else. (Midday prayers?)

Mohammet, encouraging me to snap a short of the Berber woman

Hmmm, this looks like yesterday's travel poster
Whirling tea set Dervish
Lunchtime sights

Over lunch the seven of us on the tour discussed our rug purchases. One guy had bargained his rug from an initial price of €280 down to a mere €40; he had been raised in the US but was Indian and had been spending some time back in the homeland. He said, “I just bobbled my head and told them in broken English that I was a poor student.” We were all impressed.

Izzy asked if any of us had noticed a guy in a peach and white striped Levi Strauss shirt who had been shadowing us. At first he thought the guy was going for my bag, but then noticed that he was hanging too far back. No one else had seen him. But when Ahmet and Mohammet reappeared and led us out of the restaurant, Peach Shirt picked up our tail again within a couple of corners. He followed us all the way back to our minibus, where Mohammet said goodbye and asked for a tip and Peach Shirt just vanished. Izzy wonders whose minder he was. [He’s visible in the striped shirt here and here.

As we drove toward Tangier, I raised the question we had all discussed at lunch: would we be able to shop for small souvenirs? Ahmet seemed surprised, and said he had given us the chance to shop, and I mentioned that the places he’d taken us were very expensive. His reply was, “perhaps nothing will please madam; some people spend only $75 and think it is too much, but if we stopped everywhere someone wanted to, who would pay when you missed your boat?” Shocked that he knew how much money I had spent in the “Art Institute” (& in which currency!), I help up my hand to stop the conversation—there was nothing I could say that would not provoke him further.


I also knew that my own attitude was not the best. I had a headache from the potions at the “pharmacy” and some people smoking a couple of tables over at lunch, and I had been overly loud asking the Eastern European couple traveling in our group (the ones with stickers like ours) not to light up at our table. And I now suspected that everything we did or said when Ahmet was not around got back to him and that he was getting kickbacks from our purchases to supplement his own income. I was also a little afraid of being set out of the bus. So I took an Imitrex and napped the rest of the way to Tangier.

Into Tangier: We passed a bullring on the way to the Place de España where we got out and walked quickly into the medina.


We immediately stopped for Ahmet to buy olives at a local stall. We weren’t allowed. We passed many more shops; there was a lot more mass merchandise here and not so many handcrafts. There were also many more people walking up to us with hands full of things for us to buy, all of whom were shouted away by Ahmet, who kept us moving.

Olive stand
Open air poultry market
Who, in this Muslim/Jewish enclave is going to buy these?
Closest we got to the Bay of Tangier

After a bit of a walk, we were taken somewhere, “with clean washrooms” in case we wanted “to freshen up” after the long ride. It was a three-story warehouse of beautiful knickknacks. There were no prices and very few pushy, hovering people. Realizing we weren’t going to get the chance to shop elsewhere, Izzy and I picked up some simple leather goods.

Back outside, Ahmet apologized to me for our tiff earlier. I realized that he wanted a tip. Izzy had earlier mentioned that as Ahmet walked down the streets, people kept approaching Ahmet; he would give them some money and say something, and they would duck into a store and come back further up the street with a bag or package for him.

At one point in the medina, we definitely saw marijuana being passed from hand to hand by people out on the street.

Back on the bus for the long ride back to Ceuta. We stopped once for Ahmet to buy a large melon from a roadside stand (it was later taken by our bus driver to deliver to someone in Ceuta on Ahmet’s behalf), and another time for Ahmet to drop off a package for someone working at a gas station. We got stuck on mountain roads behind a hay truck with V-shaped load (wider at the top than at the bottom). It wasn’t the slowest thing on the road though, because we eventually caught up with a truck hauling a load of cement bricks, and that truck was stuck behind the really slow hay truck. Hay truck, brick truck, hay truck, “microbus.” Folks were mainly quiet on this leg of the trip, napping. Ahmet had given up his tour guide patter and was talking on both his cell phone and the driver’s.

A bit blurry, but you can see the hay truck, brick truck, hay truck sequence.
Closer view of hay truck
Taste of Home
Seen in front of our microbus
Roadside produce stand

Back to Ceuta: We got our passports back at the border. We had missed our scheduled ferry at the terminal (hay trucks) and were assigned to the next one out. They are running 24/7 in July and August for all those Moroccans coming home on holiday. So that’s what would have happened if we had stopped to shop from local stalls (!)

While awaiting our new boarding passes, we were approached by a mother and child selling jewelry, including necklaces for 1€ each. I used the last 5€ I had with me and she threw in a sixth necklace for free. The young Scottish couple did the same, glad as I was to be able to get some sort of souvenir.

Izzy and I each tipped Ahmet $10 and asked him to share with the bus driver, who had disappeared with the melon after doing such a good job on the roads. We hope he got his cut of the tip.

On the boat, we vented and laughed with the Scottish couple, who were very funny. It seems Ahmet had been rude to the Scottish girl when she’d tried to find out what he was doing with their passports (he had been as brusque and uninformative with them as he had been with us, apparently). I think it’s just a major insult to a Muslim man to be questioned by a woman. Definitely NOT the American sense of customer service. Good cross-cultural learning opportunity.

We all realized that Ahmet was at least getting kickbacks from these places (if not related to their owners) which were convenient to but totally separate from the life of the medinas. None of us felt we’d had a real exposure to Morocco, but we all expressed interest in getting exposure some day.

Back in Algeciras, Izzy and I hit the ATM and hailed a cab. When we got back to our hosts’ house, it was a bit after 9:30 and still quite light out. They were at a wedding, so we assembled a dinner of (ham and) cheese sandwiches, greens beans with lemon, and vino tinto (Izzy) followed by an ice cream bar (also Izzy).

We took showers and headed off to bed well before our hosts arrived home ~3 AM.

Flickr sets for today: