Saturday, January 30, 2010

Women Keep it Going

Near as I can tell, it’s the women who keep things going here. They are the ones going to work, earning the household money, cleaning the house, shopping, cooking the food and raising the children. It’s the women who manage the money and make sure there is enough to pay the utility bills and creatively manage to feed their families on a shoestring budget. That’s not much different from where I come from.

But here, I find the roles of men vs. women are in sharper contrast to those found in good old California, land of the alternative way of doing just about everything. And while I marvel at the stamina and forbearance of the women in Morocco, sometimes I just want to shout, “Stop the madness! You’re doing too much.”

Like many places in the world right now, work is hard to come by. Yet it’s the men who sit around in the cafés all day long while women board the buses to the factories and take in laundry. I’m told women get the jobs because they are willing to work for cheaper wages. Okay, so who takes over the full-time job of managing the household while the women work? It’s certainly not the men.

But isn’t this often the case? Women do what needs to be done to take care of their families. Women bear the burden of the daily drudgery and are breadwinner and bread maker all in one.
The workload is not being shared and the efforts of these tireless women and their acceptance of their lot both irritates and awes me. I can relate to the idea of taking a deep breath and doing what needs to be done as gracefully as possible. But I bristle at the notion that house management duties cannot be assumed by a man. Sure, some roles are more natural for them than others, but adjustments can certainly be made, can’t they? Shouldn’t they?

Maybe not.

I observe the women holding their families together and adding on responsibilities -- never delegating to the men. And the thing that really strikes me is the unquestioning acceptance of their lot. Why should they be doing all the work? And why, oh why, do they train their sons to let women mother them and coddle them for the rest of their lives, expecting their daughters and daughters-in-law to carry on the tradition?

Perhaps it’s because the system works. In Morocco, if there is more work to be done, simply gather more women together!

But can you picture a medina where it is the women who populate the cafes from morning until night, some smoking, eyeing and gossiping about the young men and tourists walking by on their way to the hammam or hanut? Envision the women bringing home friends for their husbands to feed. Imagine it is the women who arise from their beds in the morning, leaving the men to tidy up and fold the blankets.

Turn the whole situation around and see the men making breakfast for the household. Watch him usher his mate out the door with a few words of encouragement and a pocketful of dirham. Picture, if you will, these same men cleaning up the breakfast dishes and cleaning the house which the women messed up the previous night as they entertained their friends until the wee hours. And after this, imagine the men going off to their full-time jobs, returning in the evening with the 50 dirham they earned to prepare a hot meal and waiting for the hour when their women ultimately decide to come home after the football game they were watching in the café has come to an end.

Of course that doesn’t seem right either. It sounds downright preposterous when you switch the roles of men and women. But put the roles back in their place and this preposterous situation is accepted and passed on to the next generation.

But who am I to challenge the status quo?

These women appear to have a contentment that eludes me. I always seem to want more than the situation offers. And I always try to go it alone.

I recall being very upset one day about my life here and being told by a Moroccan woman that I just had to accept my situation. The fury of my reply surprised me. “I don’t have to accept” I hissed. “I can just leave.”

Ahhh. Perhaps this is the underlying difference. I have more choices and the resources to exercise those choices. I don’t need the forbearance Moroccan women need. I remind myself to keep this in mind as I bear witness to the yeoman-like work of the women here. They are doing what needs to be done to keep life going. And they do it with grace and humor and incredible aptitude. And in spite of all their responsibilities, they smile and laugh and take pleasure in the simple things in life. Me, I have more angst.

Who am I to suggest that things be done differently? Without these women, the foundation of family life would surely crumble.

Once again, I am reminded not to try to force fit my ideas and attitudes onto a culture that appears to be getting along just fine the way it is.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Little Girls

There are a lot of young girls on my street. When they see me approaching my door, or coming out for the day, they rush en masse to give me a greeting. I kiss each and every one of them. They giggle and stand in a cluster waiting for me to do something interesting.

Once in a while I have a treat in my pocket which I hand out. Very occasionally I put a dirham in their hands but I don’t want them to get in the habit of asking me for money so this is a rare occurrence. Most of the time, I simply ask them how they are and then tell them I have to go to work. They ask me questions in Darija which I cannot understand. Some try a little French they have been learning in school and we fare better with this. Despite our difficulties communicating, they never fail to greet me as if it’s been years since we last saw one another. Their sticky kisses and upturned faces are a welcome balm to my spirit.

One girl likes to draw on my door with chalk. I’ve admonished her several times about this but she can’t seem to help herself. Another girl always extends both arms wide open and comes running towards me for a hug when she spots my arrival. Sometimes a small group will escort me for a short time on my way to Batha where I catch a taxi to school. Their voices are like the chattering of birds as we part company and they skitter off.

Unlike the boys, these girls don’t stray far from the neighborhood. Their approved path is to and from school or the hanute (shop) to buy some bread or small staple for the house. But soon enough, I will see those same girls toting boards of bread on their recently scarved heads as they sashay to and from the bakery, growing into the responsibilities of young Moroccan women. All too soon they will lose the freedom of childhood that allows them to chant songs in the street and run up and down the derb in carefree abandon. They still won’t stray far from the neighborhood, even in young adulthood. Not if their families want to preserve their reputation.

Sometimes I cast my eye to the future and see these girls as young women with children of their own. I wonder what role we will play in each others lives as the years unfold. Will they remember me? Will I still be here when they choose a husband and begin to create their own family? Will I learn more Darija and will they learn some English so we can better communicate?

I don’t know. But right now, they are always a breath of fresh air, never failing to add something sweet and innocent to my day.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Fifty Dirham a Day

Fifty dirham is about seven dollars. Right now, I am on a tight budget (due to the fact that I am trying to save money for a trip to the U.S.) and have found it necessary to limit my spending to a mere 50 dirham a day this last week before I am due to get paid. That’s pretty tough. I must spend 20 dirham for the taxi to and from work. That leaves 30 dirham for food. But it’s do-able!

I can make a breakfast of eggs and baguette for 3 dirham. For lunch, I can have a bowl of soup and some bread for 5 dirham. That leaves a whopping 22 dirham for dinner. I can buy a hearty keftah (hamburger) sandwich for 20 dirham but you can see your diet is then filled with a lot of bread. It’s no wonder a lot of people who live on a small amount of money get fat. In order to fill up one must eat a lot of starches. But if I am really ambitious, or find someone to cook for me, a tagine of fresh vegetables with a smaller amount of meat can be prepared for that same 20 dirham.

You can buy a lot of starchy foods for little money; like crepes, deep fried potatoes, rounds of bread, french fries and rice. Peanuts are cheap,too. If you want to snack on a paper cone filled with freshly roasted peanuts or seeds, it will cost you 2 dirham. But you have to wait until the night when the nuts and seeds are roasted. Otherwise, you risk getting soft, unappetizing nuts or seeds that won’t crack open. If you want cashews, you have to spend 4x that amount.

There is also a healthy and cheap soup called bisarah that is made from mashed fava beans with copious amounts of olive oil poured on top. But I hate fava beans. All beans and olives are plentiful, nourishing and cheap. But I hate most beans and all olives. So I turn to alternatives.

Fresh fruit can be very reasonable. Right now, strawberries are in season and 2 small baskets of this delicious fruit are only 6 dirham. Oranges are in season, too and provide the means for fresh orange juice each morning. I prefer to prepare my own as many street vendors unnecessarily add sugar to the juice. And fresh pastries are offered daily for 1 dirham a piece.

Most of the time, I can eat and drink whatever I choose. But right now, every day is posing a minor challenge. But I make a game of it in my mind and feel victorious when I stick to the 50 dirham a day budget. But I do confess I wouldn’t like to have to do this everyday. I think of the families that live on the 50 dirham a day and marvel at their ability to do so, day in and day out.

When I arrived at work the other day there was a notice on the bulletin board. The center is switching over to a new payroll system and our paychecks will be delayed for another week.

Oh dear! I think I might have to dip into my savings afterall. Thank God I have some!

Friday, January 22, 2010

On Speaking Arabic

Tomorrow will mark the third anniversary of my arrival here in Fes. And with every passing year I am asked why it is that I don’t speak Arabic.

Well, there are many reasons. First and foremost, it’s very difficult to learn a new language at my age … especially a language which I have, heretofore, only listened to in music. I have an easier time comprehending French, Spanish, Italian and even German than I do Arabic. I guess it’s because I’ve been exposed to those languages throughout my life and it’s easier for me to pick up the cadence of these language. But Arabic eludes me even though I am now able to discern individual words. At first it was all a mish mash of sounds in which I could not distinguish the beginning to one word and the end of another. Today, I have a vocabulary of phrases that include pleasantries, entreaties to Allah, and a cache of haphazard words such as mulberry, mouse, knife, shattered, and retired.

Another reason I don’t speak Arabic is I get along fine without it. By a stroke of luck, there is currently a great interest in learning English among many Moroccans and so there is a willingness to try to communicate with me in my native language. Also, I know a little bit of French and a lot of Moroccans are proficient in this language. So with a mélange of English, French and Arabic, I am able to communicate with many people. And because it is my job to teach English, I am often forgiven for my lack of Arabic because of my so-called expertise in English. Lucky for me.

I did try to learn Arabic and took 3 semesters of instruction. And while my teachers did their best to teach me the alphabet and the corresponding sounds, the complexities of the vowels and the compounded challenges of learning how to write characters from right to left, and create sounds in my throat that had never housed such utterances before, plus structure the words in a way that have never been clearly explained to me have left me relatively mute and more than a little frustrated. Plus I found it incredibly challenging to be a teacher and a student at the same time. I was always scrambling to do my homework assignments in between preparations for my English classes and full-time teaching.

And finally, I have my own translator. Whenever I need help getting a legal document or finding the exact branch of the post office to pick up a package from home, or negotiate the price of laborers, my husband speaks on my behalf and I get the information I need. And while I don’t always understand the nuances of what is being said, I am getting more adept and comprehending the general meaning or intention of the speaker because I can pick up a few phrases and words that I do understand.

And when I don’t fully comprehend what is being said to me at all times, a smile and an appropriate utterance seems to serve me well.

I guess my difficulties learning this language in a country where so many people are multi-lingual has made me humble. At the same time, I am more tolerant of those in my own country that haven’t learned English.

So even though I haven’t learned to speak Arabic, I have learned something valuable.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


About a month ago I was contacted by a producer of a popular American television series who reads this blog and was apparently intrigued by my ‘story’. I was invited to send a written account of my search for a home in Morocco along with a video. The program is about Americans house hunting abroad. At first I tried to dissuade the producer, saying I didn’t actually hunt for my house. I really couldn’t see how I fit in with the premise of the show. In fact, I had bought my house sight unseen. There was no hunt per se. But this was not perceived as a problem and I was encouraged to proceed with the process.

So, I wrote my account and scrambled around for a video camera. I borrowed said camera but had to purchase a cartridge for it and some batteries. Then, with the help of some friends, a video was prepared. It was incredibly amateur and I had a great deal of difficulty making my camera-shy husband act naturally while being filmed. In point of fact, his effervescent personality never did come across on film. And at first, I almost entirely cut him out of the scenes as he couldn’t be heard and kept his head down out of shyness. Ultimately, I relied on my own innate theatricality to carry the film.

We didn’t have the appropriate cable to attach the camera to computer so we had to find someone in the medina that could transfer the video onto my computer so I could email it. Then I spent hours sitting in Café Clock uploading the video. So with a little bit of time and money and a good deal of perseverance, I completed the task.

Miraculously, the producer ‘loved’ the video. But they wanted more footage … of my husband.

So the entire process was repeated (and not without a good deal of cajoling on my part) and we waited for word on the decision, telling ourselves it was destiny that would decide for us.

Finally, word came that the producer was ‘going to pass’ on my story.

While I never fully allowed myself to believe this would actually transpire, I did allow myself to briefly imagine the fun of filming in the medina and the excitement of the proffered trip to the U.S. for a day of studio filming. And I confess I did allow myself to fervently wish for the all important visa that would be granted to my husband for the trip. I also saw this as a great opportunity to tell others about Fes and encourage them to visit or purchase their own home here. I rather naively saw myself as a kind of ambassador for Fes. And last, but not least, I thought it would be a great opportunity for my family and friends to see a bit about my life here in Morocco.

But none of this will happen now. As quickly as the opportunity arose, it faded away. Easy come, easy go, I guess.

But in spite of my underlying doubt about the actuality of my being on national television, what I am left with -- having allowed myself to dream a bit -- is a sense of disappointment. I’ve found myself in a bit of a funk these past few days. And I wonder, if I do believe in destiny (and I do), then this ‘exercise’ was for some purpose. It just remains to be seen just what that was all about!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Tips for Foreign Women

A blog reader has asked for tips for women considering a visit to Fes.

The first this I should tell you is I feel very safe here but I do take precautions. I don’t go out late at night unescorted. I don’t speak to people I don’t recognize. I dress modestly. And I always try to appear purposeful when going from here to there.

That said, there are some things that take getting used to. Like being stared at. At first it really bothered me the way people would follow you with their eyes and don’t even attempt to hide the fact that they were staring at you. Now I just pretend I am someone famous to whom this happens routinely -- so I basically ignore it.

The other thing is you must understand is, as a tourist, it is unlikely you will pay the real price for something. This is not 100% true but it is common to be charged a different price from a Moroccan. Even when I shop with a Moroccan who bargains on my behalf, my benefactors are criticized for ‘taking my side’. Most people will assume you have a lot of money because you are a foreigner and will quote prices accordingly. But once you frequent a shop for a while, I have found the shop owners are courteous and fair. When someone overcharges me, I simply take my business elsewhere.

Young women are subject to a lot of harassment -- mostly from teenaged boys. The boys can get away with more than their adult counterparts for they are too young to be arrested. So, they can be very bold and rude and relentless. They will follow you for a long time and if you don’t respond, you may be subject to some harsh words. I’m not even sure they fully understand what they are saying half the time. But for every obnoxious experience, a heartwarming one seems to follow. Most of the people in Fes are helpful and hospitable. It’s just a matter of separating the wheat from the chaff.

If you dress in a provocative way, you are opening yourself up to harassment and ridicule. Dressing in a modest way is less problematic in the winter when one must bundle up to be protected from the elements. But summer is a different story. I always find it incredibly challenging to find something appropriate and conservative to wear in the sweltering summer months. A light linen scarf draped over the shoulders can do the trick nicely.

Marriage proposals are made with some regularity. Taxi drivers routinely chat you up on your way from here to there. During that time you will be asked if you are married. You can save yourself a lot of hassle by referring to a husband throughout the conversation. Unless, of course, you are looking for a husband. If so, you will find a lot of interest. It will be up to you to ascertain their motives.

Finally, I believe the truly valuable tip holds true for anyone visiting any foreign country. Leave your judgments at home and keep your mind, heart and eyes wide open. Be aware without being overly wary.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Ranting and Raving

I rant and rave a lot in Morocco. Mostly I rant against the brick wall I run into as I am immersed in yet another clash of cultures! Often – well, always, really -- the brick wall is something within myself that is difficult to face. And the mental, emotional, and physical push & pull of the ways of my own culture and those of this culture twist me around until I realize I don’t know what to think anymore! So I rant. And I rave. And eventually, I kind of sort things out and calm down.

Lately I have been ranting about giving. Seems I am always being asked to give. And the brick wall here was the realization that I don’t like being asked to give. I want to give when I feel like it. Ugh. That doesn’t sound – or feel – very good. And giving is so much a part of the culture here.

Now I have always embraced the notion that generosity is a highly worthy characteristic and a generous spirit should be cultivated. But the funny thing is, I’ve never truly practiced being generous because I’ve always given when it was comfortable for me to do so. That’s generosity with strings attached so it isn’t really generosity. So I quickly review my lifelong giving habits and I find them wanting.

Ok, I ask myself, what amount of giving can you live with? I am a woman with limited means, and I really don’t have much extra money to give to others. And what little extra money I do come by, I put into the house. I do try to be generous with others when I get a bonus or a gift of money. You know, ‘extra money’ that I feel comfortable parting with. But I now realize that that doesn’t count. Not really. Not in the true sense of the word.

But darn it, the need here seems never ending. People come right up and ask for all kinds of things many times a day! They ask for money, pens, jeans, English lessons, copywriting, the food you are eating … you name it. They ask for a loan, they want to be seen talking to you, they want, this, that and the other thing. Whew! Sometimes it’s exhausting running this gauntlet of extended hands and fair weather friends.

Being confronted with so many requests for help is a new experience for me. I realize I have been pretty sheltered from poverty during my life. Seeing it full-on is unsettling and brings on lots of security issues. So I think about money a lot.

But then again, I’m sure the basic problem lies with me. Maybe I just can’t find the mindset that will free me from this assault of empathy mixed with contemptuous anger and guilt over the realization that I am feeding that anger. Can a balance be found in that mélange of emotions? And yet I feel that if I don’t establish some sort of boundary, I’ll dissolve into the mass need.

‘Trust in Allah’, I am told. And I think about this. And I come away with the resolve to take the wisdom of all the religions I’ve become acquainted with; a wisdom which encourages me to yield to a higher power. And I do believe in the existence of a higher power and I know I am not in control. So I try to let go.

But my head won’t leave me alone and I plan and I analyze and I realize I am pretending to be in control. But even though I hold my plans lightly, I still want to prepare and accumulate. I seem to be hardwired that way.

So I seek a place in the middle.

Everyday I try to regain my balance. And when I don’t do well, I rant. And I rave.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Winter again

For me, winter is the lesser of two evils here. I find summer to be unbearable with the withering heat and I find it next to impossible to work. And while the winters are not much better, at least you can always pile on another blanket or wear another pair of socks. With no central heating (anywhere it seems) I am often cold. And Fes has been bitter cold with rain this past week. It requires real fortitude just to take a shower.

I do have a portable gas heater on the ground floor where it is the coldest. I’d love to buy one or two more but they are pretty pricey and right now I don’t have any spare cash. I’ll just have to rough it for a while. Right now I am sitting at my kitchen counter, warming my hands with a cup of hot tea.

I was supposed to give a dance lesson at 11:00 but just couldn’t get myself together in time so I postponed it until 3:00. That’s coming up soon so I’ll have to prepare myself for a hot shower and layer on the clothes to withstand the cold. I’m tempted to go back to bed so I can pull the covers over my head for a while and gather some warmth.

The thing I like best about winter is the excuse to hibernate. After all, winter is a time to go fallow and rejuvenate. I sleep longer in the winter and eat more. Just to stay warm. The thing I like the least about winter is the steady rain. As I am from Northern California, I am used to rainy, wet winters. But here, I find it really challenging just to keep up with the laundry for without the sun, there is no opportunity to dry the clothes and linens on the terrace. I have a basket full of laundry that has been sitting by my front door, just waiting for the sun to show itself and for Rachida to pass by so I can give her the wash to do.
I understand it is bitter cold around most of the northern climates -- colder than here. But at least you probably have central heating or a fireplace to keep you warm.

Oh well, at least I don’t have to pay exorbitant heating bills!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


There are some sounds I will always associate with this town.

The twittering sound of the swifts as they careen through the sky.

The man’s voice pleading for wares to sell as he slowly traverses the streets in the morning.

The beating of pigeons wings as they are released from their cages on neighboring terraces.

The soft rolled “r’s” as an owner encourages his donkey to keep going with his heavy load of gas canisters.

The abrasive ‘tak tak tak-ing’ of heavy machinery as it putters up and down the street carrying debris and lumber to yet another restoration project.

Hakima’s cackle.

The sound of water splashing in the fountain.

The dulled but constant thumping of the wood workers next door as they pound nails into yet another repair project.

The chanting cadence of the first call to prayer.

The sound of silence late at night -- no cars, no airplanes, no people. Just profound and utter silence.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Getting my laundry done is often a trial; especially when it rains for an extended period of time and the clothes and linens cannot be hung out to dry on the terrace.

I, myself, do not have a washing machine. I need to get some electrical work done and the top floor before I can put in a washer and, of course, there is the price of the washing machine itself. I have yet to move ‘washing machine’ to the top of my list of things buy.

So, for the past three years I have relied on the help of others to do my wash for me. Oh, I do my own hand washing when possible. I now have the required number of buckets to perform their various duties – one for cleaning fluids to wash the ground floors and one for the upper floors so I don’t have to tote them up and down. I have one very large bucket for receiving my sudsy clothes; another for rinsing. But when it comes to towels and sheets and jeans, I don’t have the power or the will to wash them by hand.

One of my neighbors has a machine and twice a week (when it isn’t raining) I hand over a basket filled with linens and sturdy clothes for her to wash. It’s a fine arrangement. She, a single Mom, appreciates the extra income. And I appreciate getting changes of linens (often just in time) and turning a chore on my ‘to do’ list over to someone else.

The first time I asked Rachida to do my laundry for her I handed over some Tide with the laundry. She looked at the Tide and said “Ariel” to me. Rachida doesn’t speak English or French and I didn’t understand what she was trying to tell me. She then said “ma-chine” (with the emphasis on the first syllable) and I still didn’t understand her. She raised her voice (as if I were deaf) and kept repeating “Ma-chine, ma-chine”. Finally I understood. The laundry detergent she needed was called “Ariel” because it was specifically for washing machines. I’d never heard of the brand before but somehow I made the connection. I ran down to the hanute (shop) and purchased the required Ariel.

The sun is shining today. I think I’d better gather up my linens, purchase some Ariel and find Rachida.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

On Creating Ambience

I like to create ambience. I always have. Even when I was young I would paint the walls and the furniture to create new looks in my bedroom. Eventually, as I grew older and more skilled at painting, my mother would ‘let’ me paint the other rooms in the house. I was especially skilled at painting trim without slopping over onto the wall paint or the ceiling paint. Later, as I got a job and earned money, I would purchase curtains and carpets and light fixtures for my bedroom and then my mother, Bless her soul, let me unleash my creative efforts in my parent’s bedroom.

I guess decorating is in my blood. But my talent in this area is more one of making do with what is at hand rather than envisioning something and creating it from nothing. I guess that comes from my middle-class upbringing and the constant threat of my father’s death … we never knew if we’d have money coming in so we created something new with a fresh coat of paint or by arranging something in a different manner. My mother wrapped presents in aluminum foil and cut out bouquets of flowers from magazines and pasted them on the package in lieu of ribbon and I guess her imaginative use of items on hand was a skill passed on to me.

Renovating this house and now furnishing it brings me fresh opportunity to enlist my skills as a ‘use what you’ve got on-hand (or can purchase cheaply)’ decorator and I always take great pleasure in sitting back and observing my handy work.

And while I don’t particularly enjoy housework (who does, really?), I do enjoy the results. I like order and the appearance of cleanliness (I am not a white glove tester at all). These old houses in the Medina are subject to a lot of dust from the streets and the wood surfaces always need oiling and polishing. So I find I spend a lot of my free time re-ordering the house and polishing and oiling and scrubbing and wiping down.

But I can deal with that if I get paid for my efforts.

Seems maybe 2010 might be the year I finally make some money from my housekeeping/decorating/renovating efforts. Lord knows I have been apprenticing for a long, long time.

Friday, January 1, 2010


This past year can be summarized as a year of perseverance, patience and personal growth. Although it was not a year of ease, it was a year of accomplishments, acceptance (sometimes resignation) and realizations.

Perseverance characterized my work on the house and my marriage. One has shown progress, the other – well, the other keeps presenting me with new opportunities for growth. Both aspects of my life have shared the feeling of a having set something in motion with a resulting need to see the events through to the next stage. I have always felt that the setting in motion was more never driven by me, but rather a force I agreed to go along with.

We all learn that patience is a virtue. Why do you think virtuous behavior is difficult to cultivate? Every day I practice patience … when I am teaching and must repeat my instructions (slowly and distinctly) 4 or 5 times because the students are chattering away with one another. Or repeat a lesson for the 20th time but attempt to teach it yet again with an enthusiasm that isn’t always easy to find. When I employ someone to work on the house I must wait twice the time for the promised completion date while being hounded and wheedled to meet the original payment schedule. And when I work so hard to understand that those brought up in this culture have many viewpoints and behaviors that differ from my own but that understanding of differing points of view and behaviors (or even the attempt to understand) is not often reciprocated. And when I long to be among my friends and family but cannot fulfill that wish because of financial and time constraints. Yes, patience has been hard to come by but I am getting better at practicing it. For practice I must because it doesn’t always seem to come naturally.

As for personal growth, well, that is something that always seems to be hard-won. I can say though, that this year I have been able to see the mistakes I’ve made with greater clarity and step outside myself a bit and witness unfolding events as part of a greater pattern. Likewise, I can view all the good that has happened is a result of cause and effect and certainly not a reward for my efforts, intentions, intelligence or skills. I can accept that I am flawed but always intending to do the right thing. I can accept that I am not in the driver’s seat and my effort to navigate from the ‘shotgun seat’ is just another illusion about being in charge of my destiny. I can also see that what is difficult and challenging today is often exactly the issue I need to deal with in order to prepare me for what is about to happen next. And the really big lesson I’ve learned is not to take matters so personally. That has been a huge leap into a more peaceful mindset.

So I welcome 2010 as I would welcome returning to a novel that has me enthralled. I know the basic plot, but the individual events and the twists and turns of the paths taken will hopefully keep me turning the pages.