Differences

I have not travelled much compared to many. But I still feel very honoured to have seen some of this world. To know that it is so much more than what we are familiar and comfortable with. I have travelled all-inclusive style when it made sense for multi-generational ease, airbnb, b&b, with tours, solo, and have become a local householder when the time allowed. All of these ways of travelling offer different experiences. And, most importantly, levels of exposure if you are willing to stretch your boundaries. McResorts could be anywhere. Same pool, buffet, tours, trinkets, different beach, different airport.

When I first arrived in Morocco, i expected it to feel like India. Architecturally, I find it closer to Puerto Vallarta except clay-colored, not white. Dress is definitely Muslim – not familiar at all. Few full burkas, but not the shalwar kameez or saris I’m used to. Mostly, though, the difference is in the air. The weight and texture of it – and the smell. It is unlike anywhere I’ve been. There is history here, in the horizon that is made up of rooftops until there aren’t any and then it is like being on a waveless ocean of dirt. Not sand. Not by Marrakech. Sand is in the desert. Here it’s a fine powder that covers and dulls everything. It is what makes the tangines, the buildings, the roads, the city walls…the earth becomes the world here when mixed with some water, molded and left to dry in the scorching sun. Any bright color that shines through catches the eye and seems out of place, and it’s like that powder in the air absorbs odor. In India the first assault on the senses for me is smell. Good, bad, permeating all pores until i think whatever that smell is must be me! ¬†Until it’s a really bed smell. And you know it’s really bad because it breaks through that which you’ve gotten used to and you know you must walk in the opposite direction. It is like a survival mechanism in India. Here, while there are smells, they are localized and surprising. They don’t waft after you and although I can’t say it smells fresh here, it is something I’m surprised to find lacking – happily so.

The second assault on my senses in India is noise. You are immersed in it until it becomes the background environment and you wake up if it becomes quiet. Here, it is noisy to be sure, but because of the high walls and maze of alley ways, like the smells, sounds become localized. My room in the Riad is the only one with a window to the street. All other rooms have their windows facing into the courtyard of the 3+ story building. For safety I assume, but also because the thickness of the walls and the height of the buildings dull the magnification factor the narrow alley ways have on loud noises. And they LIKE loud noises here! Drums, clapping, wind instruments, symbols, voices… all coming together in the speaker system of the alleys. Fading and amplifying with each new corner turned. Last night at 11:30 I was woken abruptly by the celebratory parade of joy when a young couple became engaged and they were joined by many in announcing the news! This morning just after the 5am call to prayer I was lulled by the rhythm of an elderly blind man walking around and around and around the small cul de sac outside my window. His hand softly scraping the sides of the building to guide him safely home and me back to sleep.

With each new experience travel brings me – no matter what my initial reaction to the sights and sounds – I am opened, and my tolerance and humility expand with that opening. My way is not the only way. Canada, as I know it – as wonderful, colourful, fresh, safe and real as it is can lull me into a kind of white wonderbread way of being. Familiarity breeds habit and, as Mr. Iyenger says, habit breeds disease. I can feel that disease creeping in at home with the hateful messages and ditch/ditch rhetoric of politicians tricking down to the people who actually have to work in those ditches. Making intolerance an acceptable tone. Making us/them a way of life.

Because of that, more than anything, I am so incredibly grateful for this opportunity to step away from the narrow way of thinking that becomes a way of being into a space that challenges and expands me. To be reminded that difference is not only ok, it is essential. Here I am welcomed by people who know a different way of life than mine and they remind me that this world is magnificent because of that difference. I am reminded that no matter how loud or stinky, bright or flat, no matter how different, we are all walking this Earth together.

Marrakech!

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After the intensity of teaching and being at the AGM, the mind over-load of studying/observing for 9 classes over 4 days at YTC with the incredible knowledge base and compassion of Marlene Mawhinney, 3 plane rides and 2 hours to get through customs in Marrakech, I slept! Until 9:40! I set my alarm for 8, but didn’t even hear it. I woke up to kids playing in the street outside my window.

Aziz, a native Berber and manager of the Riad la Bel Oranger (https://www.booking.com/hotel/ma/riad-le-bel-oranger-marrakech.en-gb.html?aid=356293;sid=f715143b32d28e2de600b25b90c93dfd) gave me a quick orientation after breakfast which consisted if really good coffee :)!, and bread or pancakes. He is a lovely, smiley, man that waited up so late for me to arrive the night before. Elyas was the driver that picked me up at the airport – I told him I’d tip him when I saw him again

– I hope I do…he was fantastic! He was very tired after having to wait for me to clear customs. There’s nothing like seeing your name on a piece of paper held by a person with a huge smile after a long journey to a new place!

With Aziz’s basic instructions and a whole lot of trust and repetitive mental directional mantras (right at the spray-painted wall, with the purses on the left and the veggies on the right under the bamboo and I’ll be ok…, small arch to the right to get to the souks – make sure the large arch is on the right when I come back…), the directive to not make eye contact and say “la shukran” (no thank you in Arabic, thank you is Shukrya in Hindi so that one sticks for me), I set out to find the grand bazaar and main post office. It is truly a maze in the old city and the alley ways are so small and tight gps is of no use, so you better know how to landmark. I’m going to take a culinary tour while I’m here and the meeting spot is the post office, so I wanted to be sure I could get there on my own. I was warned repeatedly about the touts and aggressive behaviour of the Morroccan men, but so far I can’t find anything to be concerned about. I’m going with it was because of my hat, sunglasses, and confident walk – not my age ;). As well, I am not shopping, which makes things easy. If you are a shopper, this is the place to be! And if you are, you then need to be in command of your bargaining skills, wits and sense of humour – or you will be overwhelmed and taken advantage of. Which is as it should be. Their land, their rules. Your problem when you don’t play by them.

The central square is the largest bazaar on Earth. They were just starting to set the tents up for the madness of the night while I was there. It’s a daily event and something to be seen. Even in the quieter hours of the day, the snake charmers and performers were out. Men with diapered monkeys on chains – some not happy about that and very aggressive. Ladies doing henna. Musicians. Vendors. Rows and rows and rows of absolutely anything you want to buy. All of them want your money – even if you take a picture of any of them – you’ll be harassed. Thus the lack of close ups ;).

Because I’m on my own, I’m glad I’ve been to India before and know the drill. That I’ve bought my share of souvenirs and am travelling with carry on so I have no room for one thing more. That I know how far a smile goes. That I know learning ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’ in the native language goes even further. Barney was right – they are the magic words ūüôā (let me hear from you if you know what that means ūüôā

I’m also glad that I know Morrocco is a ‘dry’ country – unless you want to spend 16 Euros on a glass of wine! As I write this I am sipping my contraband vino bought at the duty free in Madrid just before I boarded the plane. Glad too, that I purchased the only bottles (yes, plural…they are individual-ish servings ūüėČ because everything else had a cork and there are explicit instructions at the Riad that NO OUTSIDE food or beverages are allowed. My gig would have been up if I had asked for a corkscrew!

So…it’s time for a nap. Tangine avec poulet et citron (Angelique??? Boy I could use you here!) for supper and then, if I’m really brave, I’ll head out into the craziness of the bazaar tonight.

Stay tuned…I’m booking a tour for tomorrow – not sure which one yet???
Love,
Sam

Here we go again. And again. And again.

imageIt’s been a long time since my last post. And so much has shifted… ¬†As I get ready for my 4th trip to India, it’s hard to believe that I’m doing it 7weeks in to my new digs in Edmonton. ¬†My son is living in Fernie. ¬†Jay, my daughter is in Hamilton. I dropped Charly (dog, co-best friend, and saviour) at my sister’s last weekend. ¬†For 10 weeks. 10. Fucking. Weeks! And I leave in 5 sleeps.

For India, yes. But on the way I start with 5 days in London, On for the Iyengar Yoga Association of Canada’s AGM conference where I have the honor and extremely daunting task of being this year’s first teacher… Everybody say ‘yikes!’ ¬†Usually there is a guest teacher from India teaching at these things, but this year most of Canada’s senior-level teachers, and those going for our Senior I assessment are teaching. ¬†These gatherings are important for many reasons, but mostly the feeling of coming together with others on a similar path in an atmosphere of shared learning is the best part.

From London I’ll visit Jay for a bit and then carry on to study at the Iyengar Yoga Centre in Toronto for 4 days. ¬†Then it’s 5 days in Morroco before going in India!! Eeeee! I’m so excited. ¬†Ever since reading The Drifters as a teenager I’ve wanted to go to Marrakech. ¬†This year has been such a big one in so many ways for me – and this trip is a symbol and offering – to my self, of my worthiness. ¬†I haven’t quite drank the koolaide on that mantra that I keep repeating. ¬†But I’m getting there. Worthiness. ‘I am worthy.’ Of being a good teacher. Mom. Daughter. Friend. Partner.

Some blows knock you down.  And the time and space and nurturing that it takes to get back up and to feel worthy, to feel worthwhile can be hard to navigate.  It is a journey that, for me, was done solo with the support of those that knew I was the only one that could really do anything about myself.

The Yamas ask us to know the difference between help and support. ¬†I know the difference because of those that supported me and didn’t feel the need to fix or make me better because they knew I was strong enough to do it myself. ¬†So, at the risk of forgetting someone, I’ll say thank you to all and name a special few…whether you knew it or not, your presence was (is) vital.

Jayden, Josh, Angelique, Gabe, Jill, Pam, Carrie, Heather Рall of my yoga people in Fernie, those at The Arts Station that trusted I could step off of my mat to do something else. Frema, Lola and Vince for giving me a place to be safe while I learn to fly in a new place.  Rhondi, Bill, and Mom Рalways.  Patty and Dana for sticking around through it all.

This is trip is a symbol and offering to all of you as well. ¬†One taken with incredible gratitude. ¬†Please follow along – I’ll be travelling with you all in my heart.

Love,   Sam