My Photography

Friday, May 29, 2015

Choir concert 2015

Last Sunday, May 24th, was my choir concert! I was so happy to have so many friends there supporting me, including many people from work who came to see both me and my college Youness.

The church was packed, and we were so excited to sing in front of such a large audience.

I spotted where Othman and his mom were sitting, saw he had the camera, and smiled for it! Most of the pictures were extremely blurry due to the lighting, but this one came out all right.

We opened the show with a very long, 5 movement piece in Latin called Te Deum by Karl Jenkins. Our repertoire this year also included some favorites from last year— Les Djinns by Fauré and Zahrat al-Madain, alongside a few more songs by Jenkins written in non-existent "African" languages.

We had another song by Fauré— Madrigal. I absolutely loved it and it was one of my two favorites, the other being Puncha Puncha, a Jewish love poem sung in Spanish. They were both absolutely beautiful pieces.

We also sang a traditional Sufi song in Arabic which morphed into a collective improvisation at the end. When our director Marie-Claire first told us about that idea a few months ago I have to say I wasn't sold on it, but in the end it was actually quite cool.

We closed out the night with Siyahamba, a traditional South African song that has a distinct gospel vibe to it. The song itself was just two refrains over and over, so we had fun changing it up with solos, "corporal percussion", and more. 

Overall the night went by very quickly, and the whole show was exhilarating. We were all very proud of ourselves afterwards, and happy with the show. I'm so happy to be a part of this choir and to have the opportunity to make beautiful music every Monday night of the school year. We'll get back together in September and I already can't wait! I'll miss my fellow alto choir buddies Madeleine and Marie in the meantime! 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Happy Birthday Pap!

Today my big brother turns 28! We live on different continents and so we can't have joint birthday parties anymore like we did when we were little,but at least I can celebrate here! 

At home Patrick is a silly, fun presence, always goofing around and getting his siblings to do the same!

Dec 2014, South Dakota

He was even able to start a music-less dance parties in my in-laws' backyard.

Aug 2014, Casablanca

He's also super generous, like when he took Isa and me out to probably the fanciest restaurant either of us poor lil sisters have even been to!

July 2014, Chicago

He and I have shared the best of friends.

August 2013, South Dakota, with friends Emily and Sarah

And we even went to the same university, sharing sibling lunches, a car, care packages, and of course always giving each other a hard time.

April 2009, Notre Dame

When we were all younger and would go on trips to Brazil, my dad and Patrick would often join us later, having to attend school and work. The day they arrived was always one of the best.

December 2006, Rio de Janeiro 

He has always been the leader we all follow!

July 1997, Indiana

And it's thanks to him and all the other boys I was surrounded by as a kid that I am as tough as I am now. 

1994, Texas, with cousins John Michael and Jacob

We don't see each other often, but when we do, we always have a wonderful time together, usually as he talks my ear off explaining something to me that I probably never knew existed. But it's fun.

Maybe 1995, Kansas
Thanks big bro for being such a good one! Here's hoping that year 28 brings you lots of happiness! 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Another birthday!

My dad, as seen below with my mom while they were in Casablanca last August, has the wonderful habit of bringing home fresh flowers on the least of occasions. In my family we all believe that flowers inside the house make a significant difference in morale, and his carefully selected bouquets have lifted up many a mood on harsh winter days in South Dakota.

My father-in-law has a similar tendency, and I'm happy to say that Othman has often taken after both their examples. True to his form, he doesn't just pick out a pre-made bouquet thoughhe goes through and chooses each individual flower to make up a bright and happy (if sometimes adorably incoherent) display. For my birthday I loved the range of colors he chose!

I'm very happy that my husband has followed in my dad's footsteps in this regard. In many other ways as well he is similar to my dad: they're both great lovers of music, they have quiet and scientific minds, they're deeply passionate about what they care about, and they are honest to a fault.

Mom and dad, about 25 years ago.
Today my dad turns 55, and I want to thank him for not only being a wonderful father, but also for giving me a model on which to judge any men I'd meet. He showed me what being a husband and father should look like, and I'm so grateful to have married someone who lives up to the high standard I set as a result. I love you dad, thanks for your example, kindness, and love. Here's to many more years of looking up to you, literally and figuratively!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day

Today is one of those rare, rare days that insists on two separate blog posts, because not only is the the birthday of my lovely wonderful sister, as seen below, but it's also Mother's Day! So today is the day to celebrate the woman who gave birth to two girls six years and one day apart, not to mention FIVE other children.

With all the offspring, plus a future daughter-in-law!

Just last night I was having a chat with some girlfriends who were over, and we were discussing motherhood. I made the comment that it seems like the first child a couple has is in many ways a selfish act. The child is for them, the couple. The subsequent children, however, especially if they're born close together, are very unselfish gifts. My siblings are the most wonderful gift my parents could ever give me. I told my friends, all of whom come from small families, how I was so glad my parents were open to having so many children, and how much less rich our family would be if they had stopped after two, three, or even five! 

We were cuties, sure, but how different our family would be if Isabel was still the baby!

The conversation meandered a bit, until we landed on the subject of how much moms sacrifice for their kids. My mom is finally, now that her youngest kid is 14, getting a bit of a life for herself. She just taught a Brazilian cooking class at a local supermarket that was a huge hit, and has been more active in publishing articles and various small books in recent years. This past year she has taken up exercising daily, something she never had time to do before as a homeschooling mother of seven, and is looking more amazing each time I see a picture of her. She even has lots of friends that are not just the moms of our friends! After such a long time of sacrificing everything for us, including never having a career though she has a Master's degree, she can finally take more time for herself, and its a wonderful thing to see. It really highlights how much she has done for her kids. We sure are lucky.

At the cooking class.
Thank you for everything mom, and Happy Mother's Day.  I can only hope to someday be as half a good mother as you are someday. If I get even there, I'll be content.  

I've also got three more Mother's Day shout outs! The first goes to all of my friends who have had babies in the past couple years and are experiencing their first or second Mother's Days. All my respect and love goes out to you today!

The second goes to my mother-in-law. Even if it's not the French Mother's Day, which will happen on the last Sunday of May, I want to take this moment to thank her for going out of her way in so many instances to help me get settled in Morocco. At large Berrada family functions when I'm usually feeling rather overwhelmed she makes a point to guide me through what I'm expected to say or do, what is going on, and who everyone is! Let me say it is much appreciated. Merci d'être une belle-mere tellement attentionnée!

The last is for my wonderful grandmother, who has always been someone I could rely on for strength, fairness, and unconditional love. She and I have only grown closer as I've grown up, and I am so grateful for that! I love and am truly grateful for our long phone chats, and even more our not-so-long (because they're generally interrupted!) talks in person! 

Lots of love and gratitude to you all today!

My one-day-late birthday present

Yesterday I had the loveliest of birthdays! Happy and well behaved students, lots of sun and nice weather, a nice lunch with hubby plus a new dress, and wonderful friends coming over in the evening made for a great day, and I really couldn't have asked for more! I was busy and away from Facebook/the computer the whole day, and sporadically checking up on my email, newsfeed, my mom's and sister Maria's blogs, as well as messages on my phone made my heart feel so full. 

If it was my birthday yesterday, than that means it's my one-day-late-birthday-present's birthday today!! She takes the form of this superwoman:

When I was five I had a big brother and two little brothers, and desperately wanted a sister. When, the day after I turned six years old this beauty was born, I was overjoyed!

The six years between us used to feel like a huge gulf, but steadily as time goes by it has become more and more insignificant, and in many ways Isa is my little-big sister. Not only is she taller than me, but her maturity, wisdom and grace pretty much consistently outrank mine! Back in the day we used to say she was 3 going on 30, the way she would watch out for her clueless big brothers Thomas and Gus, stopping them from riding their tricycles out in the street! That good common sense and loving care for others has stayed with her and has only grown. She's a rock, but certainly the prettiest and most charming one I've ever met!

Though we often joke about how she's different from the others in our family, it's in only good ways, and she completes us sisterlies!

I wish for you the happiest of days my lovely sister, and that this year of being 20 brings you bountiful joy, love, strength, and hope. I love you!!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Apartment art

As we travel Morocco on various mini-vacations, one thing Othman and I never fail to bring back with us is at least one piece of original art. We never have a large budget, but find a lot of pleasure in decorating our home slowly with pieces of art (bought directly from their creators the majority of the time) that each have a story and find a place on our colorful walls.

Joining our Moroccan art are various pieces from other sources, including France, Brazil, and the US, many having been given as gifts. There is even a painting from me! Conspicuously missing is the season series my sisters and I collaborated on last summer. I'm saving them for our next place, which will be chosen partly on whether it has enough kitchen wall space to accommodate them!!

For the purposes of this post I've focused simply on art that hangs on our walls. If I included other mediahand woven blankets and carpets, little sculptures, etcthere'd never be an end to this post.

The entryway:

This piece was acquired at the last Pages event, from the talented Moroccan
pop artist Mouad Abou Lhana, who is based in the north of Morocco.We fell in
love with his style and decided we couldn't leave the night without something!

This came from the streets of Essaouira during the 2013
Gnaoua Music Festival and is the largest painting we have.

I rotate different works of art, often my own paintings,
in this funky display case. Currently it holds a piece I
commissioned from my talented little sis Isabel last
Christmas, 2014.

This is the one painting of mine that is constantly on display, and is
the first I ever did, back in December 2013! See my post here about it.

The living room:

While we have lots of wall space in our living room, there
aren't any previously made holes for nails, and due to the
brittle quality of the paint we hesitate to make any. So these
two paintings, done on inside sections of cement bags, are
taped up and are the only ones. They are our most recent
acquisitions, purchased in Assilah a month ago. The artist
himself spoke to us at length about the symbolism behind
the figures,(two women in front of a window in the further
painting, and Gnaoua musicians in the closer) and we spent a
long time talking art with him in the morning sun.

Seeing as they're hard to see above, here is a better view of the two paintings!

The hallway:

These both have special places in my heart. The top was bought
on the boardwalk of Agadir during our New Years 2012 trip, and
was the first piece in our collection. The figures are traditional
Gnaoua musicians.
The second we got during a rummage sale in the spring of 2013
from a young Moroccan girl who painted it herself directly onto
the glass. If I remember correctly she was 10 years old, and the
 moment we bought it she phoned her mom half-screaming with
excitement that she had just sold her first work of art ever. We
both sincerely hope that she continued!

This lil guy is from Essaouira as well, and we got it during
the same music festival as above. It hangs right between
the kitchen and the second bedroom, and its vibrant colors
make it a favorite of mine.

The extra bedroom:

Gnaoua seems to be a theme in the art we buy, and this is again
from Essaouria, but from an earlier trip during New Years 2013.

This comes from Othman's family home, and was
done when he was only a preteen during a family trip
to Paris! He loves the misspelling that turns "Othman"
into "Hothman," and we keep it up for a good giggle.

Seeing as that was already on our wall during our mini-honeymoon to a
theme park in Minnesota called Valley Fair in August 2013, we thought
sitting for a caricature together would make for a fitting companion!

This is an old keepsake from Brazil, a doodle-turned-gift
from an ex of a cousin of mine, who was an artist. I've
always found it fascinating and have kept it for a long
time—I received it back in 2008!

Our room:

Another lovely I commissioned from Isa last summer, 2014.

Finally, a treasured handmade wedding gift from a good friend of my
mom's. It hangs above our bed and reminds us what our home is built on. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

A picnic in May

Unlike in the USA, May day is a public holiday here, and is an equivalent to Labor Day. Seeing as it was a beautiful Friday and we all had the day off, Othman and I joined up with our friends Gioia and Driss for a wonderful picnic in the forest of Bouskoura!

We somehow ended up with way too much food—cabbage salad, rice salad, hummus, carrots, couscous (the boys' contribution, from a nearby cafe), french fries, and chicken... and that's not even including dessert!

As we feasted on the ridiculous amount of food, we suddenly heard a strange noise coming our way.

A herd of cows wandered over, stomped around in the woods a bit, and apparently not finding much of interest to eat, they went. 

As lunch wound down, I realized that the light was just perfect to take some portraits. Here's Gioia being sweet with her husband...

and he being silly with her...

while Othman was simply skeptical.

The boys then wandered off, digesting a bit, and Gioia and I laid down on the blanket, relaxing in the quiet of the woods and chatting about this and that. Listening to the wind in the trees, the birds, and the soft murmur of insects and smelling the fresh air and earth and greenness surrounding us was truly magical. It was such a far cry from the traffic, loud voices, and pollution we're used to in Casablanca.

The boys rejoined us and I got out the board game I had brought along—one I got for Othman last Christmas, and with the great features that not only is it easy to teach and play, but also it can be played in any language, or more than one simultaneously!

The game proved a hit, in large part because it is one of those games which depends wholly on what you make of it, and we made it fun for ourselves. I love that it's a cooperative game, so it doesn't bring out a competitive streak in anyone and is simply relaxing and amusing.

The day slipped by us and before we knew it, it was 5pm and time to head back into town. Before we left I asked Gioia to snap a picture of Othman and I, who unwittingly dressed ourselves in matching shirts that morning! I guess we both subconsciously wanted to blend in in the woods.

As we were lying under the trees earlier on, Gioia and I had discussed how having a picnic was a perfect way to enjoy a day out of the house without much hassle and without having to spend a bunch of money. It was a lovely picnic, and I'm looking forward to many more!