The Story is in the Bread

Yesterday I went for a 4 hour food tour. Do it! Wherever you go, make this a part of your trip. Anthony Bourdain is right…the culture is in the food.

This is a sharing culture. One built on families and neighbourhoods. This land is also very much meat-based…sorry all my veggie friends – you may want to stop here 🙂

There were 7 of us on the tour…from Canada, Australia, Ireland and Switzerland that joined local Marrakecher, Atman for a tour of 4 eateries with some extra stops along the way.


We started in a narrow alley way in the heart of the Medina that no tourist would get to unless by mistake. In this laneway hardly more than a body-width wide, there were 5 small booth restaurants side by side that roast & sell meat. Sheep predominantly. In all its various forms. Behind the counter is a hole in the floor and in the hole is a cavern that is constantly fuelled with wood and filled with sheep. It doesn’t sound that great when I write it…but stick with me! These family-run roasteries serve tanjir (clay pots stuffed with meat and spices that are slow cooked to yummy, juicy, tender perfection) and roasts of sheep. Including the head. But not the brain… I don’t know why or what happens to it, but it seems Iike everything else gets used. It is brought on trays lined with craft paper and served with the local bread and sweet mint tea (Morrocan whiskey). We eat with our fingers and sop the juices up with the bread. Someone other than me eats the eye… But not really, it’s just the meat of the socket. The eye is not eaten, just left behind beside the rows of teeth in the jaw bone. Don’t forget – yesterday was Halloween.

Our next stop was a favourite local fish spot. We had a choice between sardine sandwiches or patties with veggies in the side. Ground sardines mixed with olives, tomatoes and spices stuffed inside a pita-like bread. It was good, but I wouldn’t stand in the cue that sometimes goes around the corner for it.

On our way to the next restaurant, we stopped at the neighbourhood bakery. Not the place that makes its own bread to sell, but the place you take your bread to be baked. Or cookies, turkeys, fish… The small room is lined by shelves and kept by a man that has stood by the opening to the massive oven for the last 40 years. He knows all there is to know about the neighbourhood, because the story is in the bread. The texture of the bread ingredients, the size of the loaves, the clothe it comes wrapped in, the tray it comes on, the number of loaves, if someone doesn’t show up when they are supposed to. Everything about the bread that comes into be baked tells the story. And this man knows…when someone needs help, when company is coming, who is a good match for who, when there’s extra money, when there’s not… It is not a nosy way of life. It is a life built on community. On connection. On knowing what it means to be part of the neighbourhood. And on trust. You don’t mess with people’s bread!

Every neighbourhood in Marrekech has 5 things that keep it together: a bakery, a mosque, a school for children to learn the Koran, a vegetable market and a hammam. Ah… The Hammam :)! It is the community bath house. Women go from 8am-8pm. Men, when the women aren’t there. Like the bakery, there is a man in the bowels of the hammam stoking the fires that keep the water warm, hot, hotter!. The one we visit is a fuelled by a happy, content man, because he knows he is providing an essential service valued by everyone in his community.

I had a hammam today in the small one provided at my Riad. It is decadent to be bathed and pampered by someone else. It is also something I would never, ever do in Canada. But here, because it is so much a part of the culture, for some reason it is ok. And essential. Go to Marrakech, have a hammam. Stay at Le Bel Oranger, have it on site. Please. Do yourself a favour!

Back to the food… From the bowels of the smokey oven that fuels the baths we went to a women’s-only trade square that had the most amazing couscous! It is the only area in the souks that is run by women – including this restaurant that is a second-generation eatery serving the some of the only vegetarian fair to be found… Couscous, along with tanjin is the traditional local fair. And if you can find your way to the Nomad restaurant and ask for the women’s market – order the couscous for the next day and make sure you remember how to get back. It’s worth the wait and effort!

Olives… They are the other traditional fair here. I thought I didn’t like them – but since they are served with every meal, like re-fried beans in Mexico – one develops not only a taste for them, but an appreciation! All olives come from the same tree (who knew!?) – the color depends in the time of harvest and the texture on the type of preservation. If the pit isn’t the same color as the skin, you’ve been duped!

The last stop was for fruit smoothies and cookies. They don’t really believe you here if you say you don’t want dessert. Commonly, it’s orange slices with cinnamon, but the little cookies we had are also a sure way to end a meal.

I was the only one in the group who had never been on a food tour before. I see why it is a necessary part of some peoples’ holiday… It’s not just about the food, it’s about the stories, the people and the culture fuelled by the food.

Bon appetite!


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.



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 (;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 🙂 (let me hear from you if you know what that means 🙂

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 😉 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???

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 – all 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 – always.  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


Letting Go


Last week at a yoga book club dinner the topic of ‘letting go’ came up. It often does in circles such as ours. It’s a pat answer for pretty much everything. And as such, has become almost cliche.

It’s meant to help in situations of transition, in the mire of the past that bogs us down and in the obstacles that block our path when wanting to move forward.

I am in a time of great transition in my life right now. Things are changing at a rate and pace that I have no control over. So fast that if I hold on my limbs will be ripped from my body and I will be rendered useless.

I know, because the last time my world was in this state, that is what I did. Held on. To what was. To what I thought I had. To what I always imagined my life would be and how I thought I would grow old within the safe confines of my parameters. The holding on broke me.

Today when I called into work to ask for the day off, it was the word I used. Broken. It was what I felt happening as I wrote the last entry into my son’s journal before he moves.


The keening, wailing sound coming from me was the sound of the frayed ties I had put myself back together with breaking. The sound of my life changing. I actually saw the crackling veneer covering my heart breaking apart as my heart opened – like a chick breaking through its shell. This time though, it’s not me breaking, it’s me breaking free of the crust of corrosion that’s grown over my atrophied heart and paralyzed fist that’s been holding onto the the dangling strings of ties that have long been severed.

I see now that it is not enough to cut the ties that bind. Besides, life does that for us. My husband left. My daughter left. Loved ones have died. Moved. Moved on. My son is leaving. Although they are still in my life, they are not my life. We will always orbit each other in the dance of the gravitational pull of our hearts. And even though I know we are not bound to each other, I could see clearly that if I don’t break through the veneer covering the parts of me still holding on to the ties binding me to illusion, I will remain paralyzed. The only way the release of ‘letting go’ can happen is to open up. My fist, my heart, my throat and my mind so that the ever moving expansion and contraction of my breath can break through the crust I’ve built up around myself. Only then, in the Open, can the strings, the ties, the junk that I’ve been holding onto naturally drop away.

All of this being said, as agonizing and freeing and full of grace this experience was, it happened because, like the chick, I had grown enough within my protective shell to have the strength to instinctively know when and how to break free. To know that what once protected me was now preventing me from reaching my full potential.
“Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes,
If it were always a fist or always stretched open,
You would be paralyzed.
Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding.”
From Rumi’s BirdWings

May the softness of my breath contracting and expanding lead me to my deepest presence. Because being in the Open isn’t just about ‘letting go’. It’s also about being able to receive.


I am paraphrasing Prashant: when you get too caught up in the technique of the pose, you can miss what the pose has to tell you.

Prashant is the son of BKS Iyengar. He and his sister, Geeta, were brought into the duty of teaching Iyengar Yoga. The third generation is being groomed – namely through granddaughter Abhijata.

Prashant is the theorist. Geeta the technician. And Abby is finding her way.

Geeta gets you into poses more deeply than you knew you could. Prashant wants you to find where the pose takes you, not where you take the pose. At least that’s my interpretation of the teaching this time.

That being said- it’s still not the free form-do what feels good-rainbow and puppies yoga that can give the illusion of changing the world. This is traditional yoga that expects you to change yourself.  Or at least to take responsibility for your self and your actions. Blaming the ‘universe’, or the situation is not an option here. “Is it not your duty to find out…” Geeta

I’m finding out a lot of things here…

That depression is sometimes necessary to create the desire/environment to do what’s necessary to take the steps to finally change the things that are stopping you from…

That empathy, compassion and sympathy are different and although the situation may be the same, where I’m at in the moment determines my response.

That every time I come here there’s a different button that gets pushed. Which is not a big deal in itself. Even buttonless people get pushed in India. It’s the place for it and why it’s so powerful spiritually. It’s certainly not because it’s clean, quiet and organized the way we think things should be when we’re doing deep inner work.

That when a button gets pushed, I become righteous. It’s one of the things I’ve been working on releasing. In the sense that self-righteousness makes me right and the other person/ situation wrong. Period. Full stop.

Righteous is like getting caught up in the technique of the pose. It doesn’t allow me to learn anything. I can miss the point, the magic, or as Cynthia would say, the essence of what that particular situation has to teach me.

And although I’ve come here for the third time to fulfill a requirement for teaching Iyengar Yoga – to learn more about it, the one thing that’s the same on this trip to India is that I’m learning more about myself than any of the poses.

I can learn how to do a better pose, but if in that I learn nothing about myself, I’ve missed something. That if I get too caught up in the technique of my life, I can miss the magic in the moment.

Pilgrimage Parade

imagePilgrimage Parade

I’m still not sure about the Pilgrimage, but it happens every year at this time. 1000’s of people walk 100’s of miles to converge in Pune. It affects the whole city because they block of roads for the parade.
We were on the other side of the river trying to get home from a grocery shop and our rickshaw driver tried his best but he finally pulled over, and made us get out with all of our bags.
We didn’t have a clue where we were and he spoke no English.
So the good deed shout out goes to the lovely young professional woman that was walking back to work and was kind enough to escort us to a familiar place so that we could walk the rest of the way home.
The rickshaw driver tried, she graciously offered guidance.
Choices. We could have gotten pissed off at Crazy India…the bags were heavy, it was stinking hot, and we were ‘lost’. Instead we embraced the adventure, got some cardio and were witness to the crowd of pilgrims that also had to rely on the kindness of others on their walk to get to Pune.

Good Deeds

Good Deeds

In the middle of one of the busiest roads in Pune (which we have to cross to get anywhere-and one of the reasons we’re glad to be moving into the apartment today) this woman stops everyday to feed the homeless dogs that live in the area. Some students carry dog food to feed dogs like these, I choose not to because when I leave – then what? So Kate and chose to give money to her instead. Good deeds… I plan to find and support them if possible this trip

India 2013

I’m in India for the 3rd time to study with the Iyengar Family and teachers at the RIYMI in Pune. I’ll be posting pictures, comments and rambling observations along the way.

So far the biggest realization is the way technology has changed travelling since my 1st trip in 2007.  No more hanging out the window on a passed-along cell phone trying to get reception or walking to the Internet cafe to sweat with the cram of bodies and overheated computers only to have the power fail half way through downloading pictures for a blog. Free, accessible wifi plugs me in. Let’s me see my family when I FaceTime, allows me to pretend to be a mom from 11.5 time zones away. (Josh is no longer answering my texts -ha! What am I going to do from here ?!). I can check my bank account, change my travel bookings and chat with my next door neighbour.

The downside to this, of course, is that it’s very easy to stay insulated and sterile.

So, on that note, I’m logging off. Switching to airplane mode and heading out in to the chaos of India.

Stay tuned won’t you?

Just being Sam

Our lives are nothing more than moments.  There’s a lesson in each one of them whether we like the gift it’s wrapped up in or not.  Some are presented over and over again because they are the ones we are meant to learn the most. We miss many of them because we think we already know.  Or are too busy to pay attention.  Or we think we’re not worthy.  Often the universe keeps offering those lessons as a gift until there’s enough space in us to receive it or it gets so obvious we have no choice but to pay attention.  At some point we may learn the lesson in that moment if we can see it as a gift.  If not, it can be just another moment that really sucks, or one of lost beauty because we’re too occupied to receive it.

I had a really sucky moment earlier this week.  It was so loud and in my face that i had no choice but to be affected by it.  Thankfully, in this place where i now live (literally and figuratively) i was awake enough to receive the gift of the lesson that was presented to me in that moment.  The moments that mirror our dark side and provide an obvious experience of how we can be from the ‘other’s’ perspective are powerful.  And are just as much a gift as the moments of pure connection and joy because of our bright side.  None are to be brushed aside, ignored or taken for granted.

Moments, everyone of them, whether i like the gift in them or not, are precious.  One of the greatest gifts presented to me here are the moments when i experience the independence of just being Sam.  For the first time in my life – and it’s a fairly long one – i am realizing the gift of just being me.  Not the child of, girlfriend or wife of, mother of, or teacher or student of:…  There is no regret or sadness in this – i have many deep and loving relationships from these rolls, but for the first time in my life, for some people, I am just ‘Sam’.  And, for some people, that is good enough.  In this town of orphans, this gift is presented to many like me, who are starting new.  And, it’s one of the reasons, i think, people fall in love with this place.

It is a powerful gift.

Present.  Presented.  That which is presented to us, is not always seen as a present.  The only way it can be is if we are present in that moment.  Not everything needs to be life changing, but change will happen if we choose to take that which is presented to us and do something with it.

Learn from it.

Appreciate it.

See the joy and beauty in it.

Experience it.

Whatever the moment has for you today, are you able to see the gift in it?