My Photography

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The story of the ring

Take a look at our wedding photos and you might notice something about where my wedding ring is:

The story why is a pretty good one. Way back a year before the wedding, my Grandma and Tom visited while Othman and I were both in South Dakota, to get to know him. They all hit it off fabulously. Grandma and I had a lot of good conversations during those few days, and we were all sad to see them head back to Dallas. A day or two after they left my Grandma called me, saying she had wanted to check that she still had them before she said anything to me, but that she had two old wedding rings and if I wanted I could take one for my own when the time came. I was beyond thrilled. She sent me pictures of both but didn't know their sizes, and we both decided we'd just see which was better when we saw each other next. 

Fast forward 11 months to the night before the wedding. We had a giant "rehearsal dinner" at the Brazilian restaurant in Sioux Falls, to which everyone from out of town was invited. We took up many, many tables in a large corner and it was just lovely to have everyone around for more than just one night. When Othman and I arrived most people were already sitting and eating, and we had a nice time making the rounds to talk to everyone. When we got to Grandma's table she pulled out a little ring box, and I stood above the happily munching table and tried on both rings. The first was a bit of a dud but the second was lovely--a thin and dainty wedding band with three rectangular diamonds, that matched a larger "engagement" ring that my aunt Sarah had taken when she got married. I fell in love with it... but it only fit on my fifth finger, not my fourth.

With little bro and his lovely lady.
The next morning my little brother's girlfriend, who graciously became the day-saving errand-girl on numerous occasions, ran to the priest before the ceremony to ask if it was okay that Othman put the ring on my pinky finger. About 10 minutes before walking down the aisle I got confirmation that there wasn't an issue. Phew! The wedding carried on as weddings do, until the moment Othman was to put the ring on my finger. His 12 year old brother, acting as best man, handed over the rings with an air of relief (a big job for a pre-teen!) and not long after, Othman got hold of mine. He was all smiles, but his hands, like mine, were a bit shaky, and definitely more sweaty than usual. Before he could slip the tiny band completely on my finger, it dropped to the ground and rolled off! I can't remember if he was laughing, but that definitely got a giggle out me! Luckily I spotted it quickly, right next to the priest's big black shoe, and after a chuckle on everyone's part we carried on as usual. As a friend of mine noted, it was a perfect way for everyone in the church to be reminded of the humanity of the moment. Yes we were up to some pretty heavy stuff, but despite the solemnity of the task at hand were were all just friends and family gathered together to celebrate love.

Back when I was the only granddaughter!
Afterwards my Grandma confided to me that she thought Othman's fumble wasn't all that accidental. My Grandpa Mike, who died many years ago, bought that ring for Grandma, with help from my 7 year old dad, once he could afford something nicer than her original plain wedding band. I had a special relationship with my Grandpa, loved him fiercely and think about him often. I really wish he could have been there that day. Grandma thinks when it came time, he may have nudged Othman a bit, saying "Hey, remember what you're doing here, and remember she's my granddaughter." He was always a bit of a jokester, and that'd be just his style. Though I wish Othman could have met him, I like to think he was with us there in spirit.

Othman has a old friend here in Casablanca who became a jeweler and works with his father. He came over a couple of weeks ago, took the measurement of my finger and took my ring along with him. I didn't see it again until he came over today, with this wonderful surprise:

Absolutely nothing was changed except for the size of the ring, and the fact that it's cleaner, shinier and more polished than it was before. He understood it held sentimental value and took care that nothing, from a small engraving on the side to its tapered shape, was altered. I'm so happy to have it back, and to feel so official!! My wedding ring couldn't be more perfect, and was a lovely gift. Thank you Grandpa, Grandma, and Othman for your love, and this sign of it!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A little painted gift

For the past year and a half I've tutored two lovely French children who used to live in India. Their mom hired me to come see each of them once a week to ensure they don't lose their English. They attended an American school in India and the older one speaks fluently, so we mostly play games, read books, draw and the like. The younger one needs more structured lessons, but we still have lots of fun and he'a very sweet kid. Last Saturday he turned 9, so as a birthday present, remembering his two favorite colors and his favorite animal, I painted this for him. I planned on doing something a bit easier and simpler, but this is how it turned out. Othman drew it and I painted, and little Julien seemed really happy with the gift. His mom said the colors made it look very Indian too, which was a happy coincidence. They said they're even going to frame it! 
They might be heading back to France soon which will make me very sad, because I've grown quite attached to the kids, but at least Julien will have a tiger hanging in his room to remember me. =]

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Happy Birthday Grandma!!

You are so full of kindness and wisdom, and I hope some day to be as good a mother and grandmother as you are! I often think of you throughout my days and miss you dearly, but even though most of my life has been spent very far away I am so grateful to have you as a grandma. Thank you for everything you have given me, from happy holidays in Dallas, to wise words during long phone conversations, to a wedding ring of your own. I hope today and this year, are full of beautiful experiences for you, and lots and lots of love. Sending plenty of it to both you and Tom from Othman and I!


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.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Marrakech- Jemaa El Fna by night

The most popular tourist attraction in Marrakech is the huge square Jemaa El Fna that leads to the old medina that houses a huge winding marketplace. During the day the open square is filled with snake charmers and women offering to do henna on your hands, musicians and performers, and stands selling dried fruit and nuts and orange juice. When we were in Marrakech a few weekends ago Othman and I headed to have dinner in the square, since it's cheap, good, and always an experience! 

We're not quite sure if the sign is like that on
purpose or not... you never know around here!
It's hard to capture how big the square really is. 

Once the sun goes down something very interesting happens-- the snake charmers and henna ladies make way for a bunch of portable restaurants to set up for the night. The cooks buy a bunch of fresh veggies, meats and seafood, or make huge vats of a traditional Moroccan soup called Harira (it's a bit like chili), and serve until their night's supply is finished. If you walk anywhere near their stands, the guys who work there are very insistent in trying to get you to sit down and eat. The food is simple--grilled meats and a variety of veggie salads--but well-priced and fresh. When in Marrakech it's worth a trip!

Our random choice for the night. The only real way to choose if you don't know
one personally is by looking to see which ones have more people eating at them!

Food waiting to be served up.

After Othman and I ate we wandered around a bit,  seeing a few wares out for sale:

Yes those are pirated DVDs and fake Beats headphones.

some more dried fruits and nuts:

and finally had some orange juice for dessert. The fresh squeezed, cold juice from Jma El Fnaa is delicious beyond words. I've never had better, anywhere in the world. When it's hot and sunny there's nothing better you could ask for, and even when it's not you still can't resist. And at 50 cents a glass, why would you want to?

He was happy to pose!

As you can see above, the stand had a bunch of pictures. Seated in
the middle of this one is 
Mohammed V, the grandfather of the current king, 
and standing on the left is his son, the former King Hassan II.

We headed back to the car, stopping to snap a picture of the historical Koutoubia mosque, satisfied with a lovely evening.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Marrakech- La Palmeraie

When Othman and I were in Marrakech two weekends ago we stayed in an apartment his grandfather owns in an area slightly outside of the city called La Palmeraie. Palm trees are protected there and it is illegal to cut any down, so while there are lots of luxury hotels and condos around, there are also lots of open spaces too littered with palm trees to build anything on. Given the significant amount of tourists in the area, Moroccans and non-Moroccans alike, in almost every open area one finds a troupe of camels with their owners, waiting to be ridden for exorbitant prices. We just opted for photos!

We got slowed down for a bit...

...till they turned to join their friends.

This scene was on a big street right outside the Palmeraie, on the edge of Marrakech. We saw the boys run and hop on when the truck was stopped at a big traffic circle, and also saw them run away a while after we took the pictures when some cops spotted them.