Archive for the ‘The World’ Category

Christmas Eve 2014: No Pictures, Please

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

Fez, Morocco…Christmas Eve. I couldn’t, didn’t take a picture, though my hand itched for the camera. All I have is mental images, translated here:

“And, this,” says Ali, the city guide, “is the caravanserai (CAR-uh-van-sir-I).” He continues, “The farmers stay here when they come to sell in the Medina.” A donkey wreathed in a rope harness stands in one corner. Two women pull veils closer around their faces and watch us warily, four American women, decidedly unveiled. The men stare at our way, expressionless. I look away to the baskets, woven from palm fronds holding onions, garlic bulbs, potatoes and carrots. Nearby, a cluster of chickens tied together at the feet, cluck and mutter, in a feathered pile on blue plastic mesh.

Ali points to a row of blue battered doors on the second floor. “That’s where the farmers sleep.”

Standing here is almost unbearably intimate. We. are. not. welcome. I smell the straw, the donkey dung, and the dust and try to nod or acknowledge a greeting? That we’ve intruded?  Ali led us here, but I can’t look away.

Each cobblestone lane in Fez’s Medina, seems more Canterbury Tales than 2015 Christmas Eve.  I’m jolted to remember the celebration of Jesus’ birth in an obscure stable in Bethlehem, another Mediterranean city 2000 years ago. This courtyard, this caravanserai, could be that barnyard. Tonight on a farm in South Dakota after Christmas Eve supper, my brother will read aloud the passage from Luke 2:7 in the New Testament:  “… and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.” (Holy Bible, NIV). This real life moment in Fez feels like a very, very old story. Time travelers? Them? Us?









Information Exchange

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

Dialed customer service tonight, the dreaded call that is something like spinning the globe to see what country lands under my index finger. When someone answers with awkward English and a corresponding unlikely name like Ashley or Justin, my patience drops precipitously.

Tonight, the guy’s English was good with a little New York-ese sprinkled in. He didn’t give a name, but sounded like he was off-shore. He was helpful. We got through most of the details needed to solve my problem. He asked for my email. It’s related to this domain name, He stopped and said, “How did you get that? It’s your name!” There was wonder in his voice.

“I got the domain name.”

“What? How?”

“I registered it. Where are you?”


“OK,” I paused, imagining the miles in between. “Here’s how to do it. It’s a brave new world and Egypt is one of the best examples.”

“Don’t make fun of my country,” he said, not unkindly.

“Oh, no, I’m not making fun of you or your country. I wish you all well and a government that works for everyone in Egypt.”

“Yes,” he said, quietly, wistfully. “Yes.”

I gave him the url of my domain registration site. “Search your name and see if you can register it. Then, get a web host and you’re on.”

There was a moment of silence.

“Huh.” More wonder and a bit of delight.

We finished the work at hand. He had solved my problem, his English was excellent, the protesters in Cairo’s Tahir Square seemed close to me here on a subzero Farenheit northern winter evening. I promised him an excellent rating when I received the customer service evaluation email.

Wish I’d asked for his favorite Egyptian recipe.