But damn, I went to a cybercafe in Paris two days ago and spent half an hour writing you all a blog about our last few days in Paris, and because the keyboard was different I somehow did something that lost the entire thing. I'll summarize it here before describing our arrival in Casablanca yesterday.
On Sunday (today is I think Wednesday) we were invited to dinner, or the main meal of the day, by Adame Diop, a woman we met at a cafe a couple of days earlier. She came to Paris from Mali 20 years ago to study, and stayed. She's always worked in restaurants, which is how we met her. We got to talking and when she asked whom we knew in Paris and I said no one, she declared, "Alors, je vous invite chez moi!" Superb! One of the greatest advantages of home exchanges is precisely the opportunity to meet people who live where you're visiting, and I had been missing that. Adame lives in a new apartment with her three daughters, ages 14 to 9 months, and is obviously a generous soul: she had a cousin from Mali staying there for three weeks, and while we were there two friends from Martinique arrived for a visit as well.
Adame told us that next month her oldest daughter is going to Montreal, where she has an uncle, to go to school. Why? Because the schools, she said, are full of "bandits" -- her word. A terrible thing if you have to send your own child so far away to keep her safe. For the moment, she said, her middle daughter is okay. I've read about the lousy conditions in Paris for black immigrants, and Adame was confirming them.
It was a wonderful meal, for which she had taken a lot of trouble. We were there for more than four hours, and I spoke French all the time, which I loved, except when I was translating for Rick.
On Monday we took the train -- the real train, not the metro -- to see Monet's gardens at Giverny, about an hour north of Paris, at the suggestion of my friend Carol -- Carol, thank you so much! They were spectacular, just unbelievable. My sister, Sara, would have loved it, being much more a gardener than I am. Acres and acres of garden, a really interesting cross between the controlled French style and the uncontrolled British style of gardens, achieved by planting severely rectangular beds with wild but obviously deliberately chosen growth. I saw many flowers I knew and many I didn't. Then you crossed the road to get to the water part of the garden, the part everyone knows from Monet's paintings of the water lilies in the pond and the Japanese arched bridge over it. The water lilies grew in a large, irregularly shaped pond with weeping willows, bamboos, shrubs and trees surrounding it, and there was also a quiet, swift stream in deep shade. I learned that Monet employed 600 gardeners, and I certainly believe it.
We loved Paris but found it frustrating because the rate of exchange made most things too expensive for us. We couldn't eat even an ordinary meal at a restaurant, which would have cost more than $100, or go to a concert, or take a boat trip on the Seine. We spent an unbelievable amount of money just on transportation -- the metro, the bus to/from the airport, and the train to Giverny cost hundreds of dollars. But we loved looking at the architecture, or at least the domestic architecture of the apartment buildings as opposed to the grandiose monuments the French love so much. We'll spend a couple more days there just before we come home.
Yesterday on the flight to Casablanca we were lucky enough to meet Leila, a Moroccan/French woman who teaches at a university here. Thank goodness, because we didn't have any local introductions. A wonderful woman, who's been in the US twice and tried to practice her English which was hard because there wasn't so terribly much of it. She offered to drive us around Casablanca today to introduce us to the place, and I will call her to arrange it. We also met Omar, someone who works for Ahmed, the owner of this house, and he offered to spend some time with us this weekend. I've come prepared with the name and address of the main synagogue here, and we're planning to go on Friday evening to see what we can find.
But now this house. We are in a mansion, the kind of place that if you paid to rent this house would cost many hundreds of dollars a night. Rooms are many and enormous. The housekeeper had prepared us a traditional Moroccan meal, and then she and her 24-year-old daughter gave us the keys to the house and the car, and left. The meal was superb, and after dinner we stripped off our clothes and went into the swimming pool. The night was fragrant with jasmine, and the stars glistened. Occasionally a confused rooster crowed, but otherwise there was silence. The entire place is walled and gated, as are all the houses around here. In front there is a huge veranda, with an outside kitchen on the left and comfortable chairs and a coffee table on the right. Think 75 or 100 feet wide, covered with bougainvillea. Plus naturally a fountain and a beautiful, perfectly maintained garden. The garden is kept up by Habib, the caretaker ("le gardien"), who speaks no French. Fatima, the housekeeper, will come once a week to do the housework for us. We went to bed drunk with the scent of jasmine that flowed in through the windows. We have never been in such elegance.
Well, this has been a long one but assuming this now works you won't have to read so much at any one time any more. It certainly is wonderful having a computer again!
With our love,