In Morocco, as in many other parts of the world, people seem to have insane amounts of extended family. Part of this is due to large families, but there's another factor at play too--close friends who are unrelated by blood but connected by strong bonds of lasting friendship call each other aunts, uncles and cousins. In keeping with that practice, the 5 Chomicki kids are my wonderful Polish cousins who I now see far too seldom. My parents met Jan and Wanda when I was still a baby in Manhattan, Kansas, and they moved to New Jersey about a year before we moved there as well. They're now based in Buffalo, New York, and we haven't lived close to each other in many years, but my head is full of childhood memories of watching Tintin cartoons in French with them, annoying the boys by chasing them with many-headed-lego-men, playing outdoor hide and seek in their neighborhood in Kansas (and getting asthma attacks often as not), and eating all sorts of fabulous Polish dishes at their house. The skinny dried sausages hanging on the side of their fridge were my favorite. When a couple days after our wedding last August they came over to our house and made us a Polish dinner just the taste of Wanda's salad dressing triggered floods of memories.
Thankfully Facebook (of course) and blogs help with keeping up, and there are two nice Chomicki blogs that I follow. Urszula, with whom I'm the closest, has a very clever and funny blog about her travel adventures and misadventures, and married-in Chomicki Nichole's blog often features her and Oskar's adorable kiddies here.
|The Chomicki clan at our wedding, minus one brother |
plus one cousin. Picture stolen from Nichole, here.
Last week I randomly got an email from my mom forwarding a message from Wanda saying that her sister would be in Casablanca on Friday and Saturday. She said I should try to meet up with her, and that she had given her a couple gifts for Othman and I to expand our collection. For our wedding last August they gave us two of our favorite gifts-- a matching pitcher and baking dish (well actually 2 baking dishes but my mom loved them so much I left one in the US for "safekeeping") from Poland. They're beautifully hand painted and very practical because of how solid they are! It was so thoughtful of her to send anything along with her sister, let alone Polish ceramics.
|I didn't want it hiding away in a cupboard!|
Arranging to meet Wanda's sister Ania was a bit complicated, seeing as we could only communicate in French (which she hadn't spoken in a long time she said), was going to be in Casa for less than 24 hours, and I had classes to teach during many of those hours. It worked out that I recommended for them to eat at La Sqala (previously mentioned here) and Othman and I met them there at 9:30pm last Friday--the earliest we could seeing as my class got out at 9pm. They had already finished eating and the table had been cleared by the time we met them, but we had a nice multi-lingual chat with Ania, the three Austrians she was travelling with and the Canadian college student they had met at the hotel and invited to dine with them. Othman and I gave them all travel tips about what to do and what not to do! The European group are going on a nice tour around the big cities-- Casa, Fez, Marrakech and Essaouira, and I'm sure they'll enjoy it.
They had had a late night in Lisbon the night before and were all yawning after a while. I had to teach in the morning as well so we didn't linger too long, but before we said our goodbyes Ania gave us the lovely gifts from Wanda--two beautiful mugs-- filled with gourmet Austrian chocolates from her! It was lovely, we were both really happy and quite touched.
|One of the mugs this morning, full of steaming coffee.|
|Viennese chocolates, yum!|
It was really lovely to meet Ania, but funnily enough we had actually crossed paths years earlier. Oskar is the oldest of my Chomicki "cousins" and his aunt Ania was at his wedding, like me, back in 2008. The day after the wedding there was a big lunch for all the Polish family in town, with of course our Brazilian-American faction in attendance, so we even are in a picture together!
|This picture could be a fun game of "Spot the non-Poles"! Ania is third from the right in the bottom row in white, and I'm in the center back row in black.|
The world truly isn't all that big, and is full of so many wonderful people.