What an immense pleasure it was joining fellow author Maria Rochelle in what became quite a revealing conversation… A discussion on travel, literature, writing, life, love and losing oneself in the beautiful madness of all things.

Since reading Knausgaard i’ve determined to take several wide steps away from the ego (easier said than done, right!). Giving my literature room for accuracy, honesty. It’s too easy to dress yourself up with fancy words, credentials, achievements etc. but what I want to hear, what I need to hear, comes from the fabric of reality — the truth.

So, it’s my objective this year to be more honest, with myself as much as others. Learning to say “no” more, and feeling less obliged to the prophetic “yes.” And in turn, taking care of my very self — I have a tendency to overcompensate, to be “too nice,” as they say.

Without further ado, I hope you enjoy our conversation and be sure to visit Maria’s work as well. As a multi-genre author, she’s covered some very impressive territory, including her tour de force children’s series, Jasmine Dreams.

Read the full interview here.

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A strange thing happens when you begin to contemplate the end. It’s as if setting such a definitive goal opens the world to endless possibilities

A phone is buzzing

It’s occurred to me that with the end comes the potential of a new beginning.

There are many types of death. Just as there are many types of love in which the subject, or subjects simply depart from one existance to another. Trading this for that, and in exchange receiving a fresh beginning and a new life, a new identity.

We are flowers forever teetering from Spring to deep Winter.

Forever waiting for Summer. For Fall

Our chance to really live.

Only to rise and be struck down.

Spring. Winter. Awakening. Death.

Where is Summer?

Where is Fall?

This realization came so urgently, slapping me across the face, I shot right out of bed that morning. Before the sun herself could shine and make me straight again, before the day could cleanse my palate as it often does and, in the deadpan winter, shuffled across my frozen, miniature tundra in snow flurry Kansas City, and drained my savings account in exchange for a one-way ticket to Morocco.

That will show em, I thought. Still unsure of who them was. For some reason, whenever I looked outside my window, hoping to spot them, all I saw was the hollow reflection of myself…

A phone buzzed, gliding smoothly across the bistro table. I don’t recognize ringer until realizing it’s mine: I’ve never heard it ring.


It was a cold spring night.

The city still reeling from the previous year’s terror attacks and whispers of Al Qaeda carried through the streets like cautionary tales foretelling the bogeyman. Maybe that explained the police on every corner, their unwieldy machine guns and serious frowns. They had no effect on me. That’s not true: I found it absolutely intoxicating, that life or death appeal is what lured me here in the first place. 

“Nobody said it was supposed to be so cold in the desert.” I said, catching my scarf as it fluttered in the sharp wind. It only occurred to me then that I hadn’t checked a single forecast. 

Moona laughed, “That’s because this isn’t the desert.” She said, looking up at the snow covered mountains. “It is winter isn’t it?”

“Is it?” I cringed as another gust came down from the mountain, lifting table skirts and extinguishing candles.

The waiter returned with my drink just in time for us to leave. I paid, left a few coins tip, downed the drink, shay ma nana, tea with mint, and flagged down the first cab on the square. A big burly man, mustachioed and jolly.

“Where from? Where? Oh, Kansas City! I have cousin in Kansas City, maybe you know him? Welcome to Morocco, America. We love America. Welcome to Morocco!”

He shook my hand as we paid and crossed the street to the souk on the other side. The shops were being washed out, dirty water came surging over the cobbles. And the streets were being watered down, to keep the dust from rising when the tourists arrive.

“And that is how we do it in Morocco.”

“You know it… Do what?”

“He just ripped you a big one. Do you realize what you paid him. What, like twenty dollars.”

My heart sank with shame. OK, so I didn’t check the forecast. But what about the exchange rate? The currency? The mysteriously scrolled dirham papers, lined with calligraphy and stained in pinks and greens. I could count to one-hundred in Arabic by then, but what did that mean of money, of value. Not a thing.

I had just paid twenty dollars for a two block ride down the boulevard.

“Now,” Moona said with her big smug way, “you are in Morocco.”

Uncovering the modern identity of an African Kingdom. A beautiful and rugged society, multicultural, secular in some ways, rigid in others.
I cannot stress enough the vast beauty and sacredness of Morocco. A great country to learn of Islam’s strides in science, medicine and even literature (Moroccan authors absolutely rock.) I feel that to understand the world at large this is a great place to start. But by starting you’ll only realize that you know nothing at all. And that we’re all as confused and bizarre as one another. But isn’t this the lesson anyway? In less words: #takemeback

To find yourself in Morocco is to enter into a most foreign world. Still, it is a globalized world. One of Coca-Cola and Bob Marley and the endless fascination with technology. But don’t be fooled by these familiar traditions–the world remains a wild place, full of surprises. This rings especially true for the Kingdom of Morocco. And here we find ourselves in the salty-sea splashed village of Tangier.
(more…)

Earlier this year, I set a goal to finish a solid draft of my memoir and to achieve this mission i’m going into the wild, er, offline…

A MONTHLONG period away from social media, the internet, ethernet and all those nets, in an archaic approach to finish this labor of love that i’m damn excited to share with you.

Now, I generally write longhand, heavy Cross pen, paper, table and tea–so this writing without a computer business is basically how I conduct my work anyway. But, to be away from my peers, my colleagues and you people taking time to read these articles, that’s the toughest part.

I want to keep this short so let me finish by wishing my fellow Americans an enlightening and restful Thanksgiving. And, you Turks, love him or hate him, happy Ataturk Day (Nov 10th.) The same goes for you Zoroastrians out there, happy Adargan (celebration of fire Nov 10.)And, to you Moroccans and Lebanese–happy Independence Day (Nov 18th, Nov 22nd respectively.) And, you, yes you, take a break and celebrate “Buy Nothing Day” (Nov 28th.)

You can reach me at info@nicholasandriani.com and I’ll get back to you in 30 days or more. It’s just little strange to say that.

Thank you for all the support and encouragement. I look forward to catching up with all of you in one month.

Until then…

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–Andriani

 

Ourika, Morocco

 

547357_3665455120320_1240248596_nThough only 6 hours (460 km) separate Marrakech from the oasis town of M’Hamid I could have dedicated six days between the two place names. The villages that scatter Ourika Valley hold their own against the more popular Imperial Cities (Marrakech, Fes, Meknes and Rabat) and it’s out here in the wilderness of the High Atlas Mountains that I come across the Cafe Tajine.

An hour outside Marrakech the Cafe Tajine emerges from an icy riverbed along the narrow road that parallels the River Ourika. Makeshift bridges of repurposed woods and carpets reach across the river at many points along the route, leading to mud-brick villages, markets, and, in this case, one of the finest dining experiences i’ve had to date. 

Here, for a few dollars (it’s truly a steal), you can feast like royalty. A spread of three tajines, salads, breads, mint tea, and a few beggars in between will cost you around the same price as the new Jay-Z album.

Tajines are made to order and, like most “Old World” recipes can take a good deal of time to cook. This is when the industrious locals strike. Peddling handmade goods, women and children make offers on African keepsakes and jewelry boxes, even crystals, as men serenade us, strumming the guitar-like Moroccan sintir and playing unusual flutes and drums.

Over the melodious North Africa beats we dine late into the night, taking our sweet time, dancing and haggling away.

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Yallah bye

Despite the spell Marrakech cast on me (I fled the city only to return on several occasions) I managed to break away one night on a whim, buying a ticket for the overnight train to Tangiers, only leaving myself 2 hours to prepare. I bid farewell to new friends and set out on foot hoping to basque in the Moroccan air just one last time.

The hostel in Marrakech that I was staying in, Auberge Riad Douzi, rests deep within Jemaa el-Fnaa. This is where most of the action happens: snake charmers, fire breathers, food carts, and a wide display of goods from holistic herbs to camel’s milk.  Here I am, on the opposite side of town from the train station attempting to avoid too many distractions so I can make it before the train departs.

Since it would be my last jaunt through the Moroccan streets I had to document it properly.  The journey to the train station and my last few hours in Marrakech begin.

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Ma salaama, Riad Douzi! Admiring the Arabesque entrance.
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The deep, winding alleys.
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This man is prepared for a feast! In Morocco, entrepreneurs operate public ovens, for households without access to their own. It’s not uncommon to see individuals running breads to and from the ovens.
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Gare ONCF, i’m on the right track!
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Just across from the train station sits the Royal Theatre. An architectural marvel, open to all. With a open air Carthage-style amphitheater behind pillars of Ancient Egyptian influence.

Opposite the Royal Theater rests the Station Marrakech, which connects the major rail hubs of Morocco.  Inside I collapse from the heat. Within the grand hall of Station Marrakech there are a few eateries and a post office, selling maps and knick-knack souvenirs.

Moroccan Dirhams can’t legally be exported, or even imported, so it’s crucial to either buy, buy, buy or exchange your dirhams for whatever currency you would be needing next. To be completely honest my anxiety of leaving Morocco manifested in “shopaholic” tendencies! So I stock up on postage to send out all the letters I had penned out over the last two weeks.

On que, I dropped the last of my postcards into a receptacle as the 9 o’clock train rolled in. The station was nearly empty by now so I made way to the loading dock with ease. Only to be corralled to a lonely car at the end of the beast where I was escorted into a cabin of four bunks with a raging airconditioner.

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While it may be rock-hard, it beats a rock any day.

Settled in I kill the lights saying my goodbyes to Marrakech.

Within moments the lights flicker back on with a burst of energy as two rowdy Canadians hijack my cabin. Paying no attention to me they drop onto the bunks adjacent to mine in a haze of B.O. and smoke.

The lights are back out just before my eyes adjust and we travel in darkness for the next 10 hours.

Like time travel, Tangiers appears instantaneously. My roommates are gone and I’m quick to follow suit. In a dark terminal I merge with a mass of travelers moving into the city where the two Canadians, Christopher and Matt, are waiting for me. I quickly learn that in the past 72 hours they had crossed over from Spain, hit up a Tuareg colony, arranged a trek into the desert for a nights camp and now they’re “hightailing back to Espana”. Very efficient! As seasoned travelers of the region they invite me out for breakfast and ask if I’d like to tag-along in crossing Gibraltar. Bingo!

Over the ceremonial mint tea and sweet pastries we share our travelogues, fighting for who would impress who with the last word.

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After a steep climb to the summit of Tangiers it’s all downhill from here and these ladies seem to know where they’re going…

Tangiers rests atop a slanted plateau, leading you up then down from one street to the next. We pass through a few bazaars that have yet open for the day working our way to the port. I have little time to worry about missing any sights as we’re hoping to catch the boat as soon as possible.

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Bridging Africa to europe Tangiers has played a greater role than most are aware in the development of our world. And now the port town, reminiscing on a rich history, is becoming once again a cultural hub screaming “Go ahead, wax poetic!”, luring bohemians across the globe.
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Faro Square. Canons line the historic park. To keep the pirates at bay.
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This really struck a cord with me. The historical foundations have been preserved and serve their purpose well, they’re just a hell of a sight.

With the docks in sight we’re forced to decide whether to catch the express ferry or to take the economical, far slower, boat. It was 3-0 for the express route, again I chose  to follow their lead, looking for more insight on Spain. I later found out the reason for their haste was due to their sisters wedding taking place that day! Apparently they had abandoned the party three days ago for an excursion into Africa.  And to avoid all argument they hadn’t filled their sister in on any of this until just yesterday. These guys are gutsy!

With our tickets in hand we hit customs. There were a dozen ticket holders racing us to the boat and as soon as our feet landed on the stern whistles bellowed sending us off to the north!

The Canadians fall into their seats and pass out in sync. With 45 minutes to go I head out to the stern. In the wake there’s a school of dolphin and out beyond I catch one last glimpse of Morocco.

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Ma salaama al-Maghreb! Heading into unknown.

With an X over Barcelona I have no idea what to expect.

End Scene

Next time on Yallah, Bye!

The Strait Of Gibraltar: Part II

It’s about time I bring you up to speed. Excuse the short entry but I felt an update was in order. Within 48 hours, this happened…

Austin, Texas to Casablanca, Morocco

Waving goodbye to my loved ones I embarked on a 21 hour multi-flight jaunt over the Atlantic Ocean; Austin, Texas to Chicago, Illinois, then the great airport of Heathrow in England for the short leap to Casablanca, Morocco. Whew! Luckily I had plenty of reading material between beefing up my Arabic vocabulary and maintaining, at the very least, a coherent understanding of my coursework.

Before long Morocco broke through the clouds emerging from the Atlantic. I had to snap a photo to capture the memory. Though it doesn’t show well, the materialization of Africa out of the deep blue is something of an emotional experience. Let the adventure begin!

 

Morocco on the Atlantic
Morocco on the Atlantic

Casablanca to Marrakech

 

Marrakech. Take-1Meeting an old friend in Casablanca we caught the first train to Marrakech. There, we would hook up with a group of French backpackers to begin a week of exploration, and long-term partying.

We hit our destination late in the cool spring evening. While the mudbrick structures were holding onto the warmth of the day.

In minutes we were in the great square of Jemaa el-Fnaa. Where the fragrance of saffron dances in the air which can sweeten the toughest brute while a few steps away you can be slapped in the face by the putrid aroma of livestock and the trill siren-esque call of the North African ‘Rhaita’ (a double reed flute) which is both haunting and poetic. Attempting to criss-cross the streets of metal and beast feels suicidal though becomes effortless and the locals are more than ready to accomodate your awkward swagger. Monkey’s, snake charmers, fire breathers, medicine men, and acrobats, vie for your attention as you’re swept away by a refreshing, cool glass of camels milk or freshly squeezed orange juice. This is going to be wild.

Down one of the fingerling souks we found a riad to drop of our gear before hitting the markets… or should we start with the “bastilla”? I’m bordering starvation and the impulse to move at 1,000 mph… or is it 1,000 km? With my camera, a handful of “dirhams”, and an open attitude i’m heading into one of the greatest cities this world has had the pleasure to concoct.

Marrakech is somewhat of a Genie. The embodiment of an alien world while welcoming and warm.

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I’m more than ready to begin exploring the legendary city and i’ve come to conquer… myself that is. Let’s find out what this world offers while getting to know ourselves through adventure travel, history, and our brothers/sisters on the other side of the world, that’s my plan! So long as I make it to Amman, Jordan before my classes begin in April, i’m basically going with the flow here.

Don't pict the oranges! The Garden of the Koutoubia.

Don’t pic the oranges! The Garden of the Koutoubia.

 

Yallah, bye!

-Andriani