28 February 2015

Visit Morocco! (Under Certain Conditions)

I've been in Morocco 48 hours.

It's the most unique place I have ever been.

It may be the most unique because it is the most unlike any other place I've been.

The sun is setting, and I hear the Islamic prayer call echoing from across Casablanca through my open window.

I feel more comfortable when wearing my sweatshirt hood or my scarf around my head. It makes me a little less obviously blonde, and my sunglasses hide my blue eyes. It's not that I'm afraid; it's that I don't want to stand out from the crowd even more than I already do.

Most of the Moroccans think I'm French. Their own accents and vocabulary have as many eccentricities as mine. So "I will never be French" - except in Morocco.

There are very rich people and very poor people; the exquisite mosques contrast deeply with the crumbling shacks. Everything is so cheap here that the expats and tourists can live and eat like kings.

The roads and markets are pushy, full of colors and scents (both pleasant and not so pleasant), and noisy in their needs.

My experience so far in Morocco has been heavily influenced by 3 crucial factors.

1) Living in France has exposed me to French. I can speak with and understand the taxi drivers, shopkeepers, and other locals. I'm actually enjoying arguing with cabbies.

2) Living in France has introduced me to Arab and African athletes, students, coworkers, and friends. My moments with Moroccans have been overwhelmingly positive, and impacted which African country I would go to first all along.

3) Most important factor: I may be flying solo, but I am in Casablanca because my friend from college, John, lives here. He has tons of Moroccan and expat friends, and has brought me to some awesome in-the-know places that I'll talk about later.

I could not have done this trip 5 years ago. I don't even think I could have done it 2 years ago. I definitely couldn't have done it without the help of a friend-turned-local.

If you can accept the dirty chaos of a developing country, only then are you able to see past the bad differences to enjoy the good differences.

At this point in my life, I can finally accept Morocco as a tourist, but I don't think I could handle it as a place to live.

Should you come to Morocco? Yes, but...

Yes, but with the right person/people.

Yes, but with a wide open mind.

Yes, but do your homework in advance and know what to expect.

Yes, but be prepared to play by their rules.

Yes, but don't come until you are ready.

20 February 2015

Monthly Musings with Marc - February

My Top 10 European Churches

Everyone has something they have to see or do when they go on trips: old ruins, local cuisine, famous landmark, or things like that. Me, I'm a steeple chaser. I love cathedrals! The architecture, the stories, the feeling I get every time I walk into a holy place, it never gets old for me. Below are the Top Ten Churches I have seen on my travels in Europe. This is not a ranking, just a list, because, for me, no church is better than another; each has a great story, and is beautiful in a different way.

1. Notre Dame

Paris, France

Team Amplify was some of the first visitors Swags and I took to see Notre Dame. Thank you to Victor Hugo for saving this Parisian gem.

14 February 2015

6 Reasons I Will Never Be French

[No matter how hard I try.]

I really wanted to be French. Since I was about 10 years old, everything in me wished that I could speak accent-less French, I could strut around with that maroon French passport, I could be full after tiny portions at gourmet cafés, and I could do all of that in a dress and heels, even in the middle of winter. I know it's impossible to become 100% of another nationality, but I always thought maybe I could fake it to the finish line.

But it will never happen, and here's why.

09 February 2015

Back in Time to Those Days in Belgium

I know you can't trap time in a bottle.

I hate it.

I never did write my promised recap of my first magical season in Belgium. Probably because of time. And if you've even been reading this blog since 2011, in time, you probably forgot I was going to write it, anyway.

We were the champions!

04 February 2015

Un Autre Quartier de Paris

Lavender, red, and blue.
Paris is perfect for me and you.

26 January 2015

VLOG: [First Home Loss] VB Highlights

It's not exactly "good news," but I do finally have some footage from a volleyball match this year, thanks to Marc!

In the first half of the season, we went up 2 sets to 0 against Hagondange, and ended up losing in 5.

We got to play them again on Sunday, and unfortunately, history repeated itself, and we lost in 5 again. Our Bulgarian outside hitter is out with a sprained ankle for a while, and that definitely affected the results.

But I still want you to see some of my team this year, so here are a bunch of plays where we did awesome, all set to my favorite throwback warm-up song from high school!

(Feels like we won now!)
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17 January 2015

Deux Châteaux Sont Mieux Qu'Un

Our plan for my birthday was a bit loose last week. Grandma Carol passed away Monday, then the Charlie Hebdo attacks Wednesday put even more stress and sadness on everyone. Friday was spent watching terrorism news. We knew that Saturday, the actual day of my birthday, we wouldn't have the team van. Sunday it would be warmer and driving freedom would be ours.

We thought maybe we would finally go to the Château de Chantilly. Or should we go see the city of Arras? What about the abandoned Coucy-Le-Château nearby?

It wasn't until I happened upon a castle article on Twitter that things began to come together.

There is a château just outside of Compiégne?! That's not even an hour away!

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