By Leona Thomas
Today’s Magic Mondays blog is a very special one for it is the last of its kind here in 2018.
My Angel Cafe is on the move at last. There has been movement this year but now it is finally time for the big one. The tickets are booked, the bags are being packed and the goodbyes are being spoken.
I learned the hard way that goodbyes are important because we never know what will happen next.
Back in 2011 I left Kathmandu without saying goodbye to everybody. There were some friends that I hadn’t seen for a while and my plans changed quickly.
So I set off to India on a bus (never going to do that again!).
About 3 months later one of my Nepali friends wrote to me saying that he had just found out that I had left without saying goodbye to him and his heart was sore. I replied to him and then had what turned out to be a premonition. I said, “Don’t you go and die before I get back!”
I came back in May 2012 and was told that he was very sick. He had tried treatments in Nepal and in Thailand and in India before finally going to Singapore. And that was where he was – lying in a hospital bed, dying.
It was 7 July 2012, my Mother’s birthday, when I found out that my very special friend had died on the Summer Solstice, 21 June 2012. I was devastated.
I aborted my birthday cake plans and bought marigold flowers, incense and candles and went home to make a personal ceremony to celebrate our friendship and to promise to never forget him.
Now I make sure to say goodbye to everybody who is important to me.
And today is one of those days for goodbyes.
Tomorrow I leave Morocco. There are a lot of people in Casablanca that I am meeting with and many photographs are being taken and exchanged.
Casa Voyageurs is a place that most travellers pass straight through on their way to somewhere more exotic.
But it is their loss.
Hidden here amongst the hoards of bustling red taxis and irritated travellers there is a wonderful community of warm hearted generous Moroccans and I have been so blessed to live with them.
I find my heart is sore leaving behind all the souls that I have fallen in love with here in this crazy corner of the world. This wonderful community has stolen my heart.
Tomorrow Morocco celebrates the birth of the Prophet Muhammad and I begin the journey back to my other home.
Kathmandu Nepal welcomes me on Wednesday 21 November 2018.
And a new chapter begins.
By Leona Thomas
When Ramadan ends there is a huge celebration that starts with special prayers in the Mosque and then includes eating a lot of food all through the day. Most people also go out with friends and family now that they have more energy!
So in 2017 my Ramadan came to an end and some Moroccan friends took me and the other volunteer out to see the big Mosque down by the sea in Casablanca. The day is called EID and the whole world was out on the town.
We had a lovely time at The Hassan II Mosque and took loads of wonderful photos but eventually it was time to head for home. It was time to find a Petit Taxi (small taxi).
That was when we discovered that everybody else was thinking the same thing. We could see red taxis everywhere. The problem was getting any of them to stop for us!
Luckily we had our friend Aziz.
He puffed himself up tall and proud and went into Moroccan Man mode. He stepped forward and raised his arm, shouting loudly at the red cars passing on the other side of the wide road, “TAXI! TAXI!”
The little red taxis ignored him.
He shouted and he gestured that he wanted them to turn round and come to pick us up.
They continued to ignore him.
We watched as a steady stream of red Petit Taxis drove down the other side of our road. Aziz got annoyed. He kept complaining, “It is so hard to get a taxi...” “TAXI!”
I told him that was the real problem - he shouldn’t say that if he wanted to be able to stop a taxi!
I pointed out, helpfully, that if you think it is difficult to find a taxi and then you keep saying it is difficult to find a taxi... then you cannot be surprised to discover that it is difficult to find a taxi! Allah is listening to your every word!
He humoured me with a nod.
And then when the next red taxi came into view he repeated his Taxi performance.
His energy was getting more and more frustrated. He was in full Moroccan Man mode. And he was getting nowhere fast.
Unfortunately that meant none of us were going anywhere!
We watched taxi after taxi turn round further down the road and a huge crowd of people would stop them before they could come anywhere near us.
Finally I could stand it no more.
The energy coming from Aziz was never going to allow a taxi to come to us. His whole energy was focused on how we didn’t have a taxi and how hard it was to find one.
So I suggested we start walking home.
And I turned to our other Moroccan friend, Simo, and asked if his fancy camera made videos. I suggested we could make videos of each other as we walked home.
This sounded like fun and we began to chatter happily amongst ourselves. We were relaxed again and distracted from any thoughts of Petit Taxis.
So, of course, it happened. It had to now that our resistence was gone...
Before Simo could even get his big fancy camera out of its fancy case, a little red taxi pulled up beside us and the driver asked, “Taxi?”
But in Casablanca the Petit Taxis can only take 3 passengers. So now we just had to decide who would get a ride and who would have to continue walking home...
By Leona Thomas
One thing you notice if you travel a lot is that the standards for driving are very different in other countries from the UK. But it is not just the driving that is shocking. It is the condition of the vehicles themselves too!
In Morocco in 2017 I was in a small town called Temara and it was the beginning of Ramadan. This was a town with no tourists so there were no cafes open to serve any kind of drinks during the day but it was still possible to get into a supermarket and buy water.
The problem was that the supermarket was on the opposite side of a busy road and Moroccans don’t stop for pedestrians. It is not their thing.
So I did what I had seen all the other pedestrians do.
I stepped down from the huge kerb into the road itself and stood waiting for a gap in the traffic. There were two lanes of traffic on both sides of the road.
Less than a minute after I stepped off that 12 inch high pavement (sidewalk) I watched with interest as a large white taxi changed direction and steered straight towards me.
I assumed the taxi was stopping to drop somebody off because I could hear a terrific noise of screeching metal yet there was little sign that the battered white Mercedes saloon was actually slowing down.
But it was definitely driving straight towards me!
I stood watching its imminent arrival, wondering if I should prepare to jump out of the way. I felt no fear. It was as if I was an observer from some other perspective.
The high volume screeching of what was left of his brakes came closer and closer. Less than a minute had passed but it seemed to be lasting forever. It was almost a slow motion event - but there was not enough slow in the motion of the taxi as it closed in on me!
I waited calmly. It was too late to jump out of the way now.
Finally the taxi stopped.
I looked down at the front edge of the car and discovered that the bumper was about 4 inches from my legs and the toes of my shoes were underneath the car.
I looked up at the taxi driver.
Our eyes met and I roared with uncontrollable laughter.
It was the best fun I had had since arriving in Morocco and it was funny enough to keep me laughing all the way across the road, through the car park, inside the supermarket and then all the way home again too!
When I looked back on the incident I was surprised I had no fear at any point. I just stood watching my impending doom with great calm.
And that is what saved me.
Had I let fearful thinking take over I would have had to jump out of the way to save my legs. It was the peaceful vibes emanating from me that created the safe outcome in my experience.
More fun with taxis in Morocco
How hard can it be to stop a Petit Taxi?
Well that depends on who's stopping it...!