Enshallah, it will take 24 hours of travel time to get from our beds in Marrakesh to our front door in Takoma Park. The Marrakesh airport is reasonably alive for 5 a.m., although it takes a long time to process our tickets and bags. No worries, we are very early for the flight.
A week ago, on the way in to Marrakesh, we were bussed from Casablanca to Morocco. It caused hours of delay and great headache. If that happens today, we will miss our New York flight and spend another day in Morocco. We are a little anxious.
They had also lost our bags, so we wave them goodbye and wish them good luck as they roll down the Royal Air Maroc conveyor belt. If we can just get on the flight and arrive in JFK with luggage, we should be fine.
Inside the international terminal, there are a dozen or so eateries with coffee, stale pastries and some soft drinks. It’s not great, but it looks reasonably easy to get a good breakfast. We are hungry.
For most of the trip, breakfast was our most important meal. It was included in every hotel package, the buffet style made it easy to serve ourselves, and it had the most child-friendly items. After a month of eating breakfast every day, our tummies growl soon after waking.
But, I have no cash. I ended up holding a few hundred dollars of Jordanian and Egyptian currency because it was difficult to sell them. I was determined to avoid the same problem with Moroccan Dirhams so I purposefully ran out of cash the day before. But none of the little food stands take credit cards! One says the machine is broken, but I don’t believe him. There is no ATM either.
Royal Air Maroc food is not going to be enough for the next 15 hours until we reach JFK, so I panic a little. We roam from eatery to eatery, asking for food on credit like orphans from Oliver Twist. I know, I’ll just buy gobs of candy from duty-free! Wait, that’s not such a good idea…
The last food stand owner we ask tells us to try a cafeteria at the end of the building. On the way, I apologize to Emma and Lily. My desire to avoid some bad conversion rates should not have been a higher priority than feeding my family. Emma takes my hand and reassures me that I did my best and it’s not my fault. I am getting expert parenting from my nine-year-old daughter. There is more I could learn from her I bet.
And to my great relief we find an empty place that makes some lousy but edible food. And they take my card.
Our plane takes off on time and arrives in Casablanca very late because they take a detour to the desert city of Ouarzazate to pick up three passengers. We get to Casablanca about an hour late. As a result of the diversion, several people in Casablanca look stranded, but we are not among them. Our plane takes off and we settle into the 8-hour flight. The girls, particularly Lily, impress me by entertaining themselves the entire way.
It’s tough to sleep on the flight so I review the trip. Highlights miss the experience of going through it and it was so varied and continuously exciting. But if I had to select five they would be
1) Sahara camping: An overnight in the desert under the stars after a 2-hour camel ride.
2) Petra: The mile-long hike through the narrow gorge and then the rock climbing through the caves was Lily’s favorite.
3) Temple Karnak and Luxor: Huge temples remain intact after more than 3,000 years, and they are stunning.
4) Hezekiah’s tunnel in Jerusalem: A half-mile crawl through the dark in waist-deep water inside a still-functioning waterway from 3,000 years ago.
5) The resort at Sharm-el-sheikh: It had superlative snorkeling, beach, water slides and multiple pools. It was a perfect three-day weekend of family fun.
I know that eventually, this travel log, along with the 2,000 pictures and 6 hours of video, will replace our memory of the actual events. And even with all that recording, we will only know a fraction of the whole experience. While it’s still fresh in my mind, I want to record a few details that the girls should know when they are older.
- Lily got her cheeks pinched everywhere. The poor thing was the constant subject of unwanted adult attention because she was cute. I think it was aggravating at times. Once at the airport in Jordan, the passport control guy pinched her cheeks so hard she cried.
- Emma could not pick up the sunscreen without squirting it all over herself and the ground below her. And Lily would spread it on thick like peanut butter. It’s not a surprise that we went through five bottles of sunscreen.
- ‘Mummy Surfing’ and ‘Spring Board’ were the pool games we invented. Naturally, both involved me tossing them into the water.
- Lily’s progress swimming was slow but consistent. Her biggest fear was opening her eyes underwater and goggles were absolutely necessary.
- We had to fight to get the right kind of rice, bread and noodles. It was so hard to get them plain. Cooks would sprinkle parsley on noodles, or saute the rice, or put seeds on the bread. Eating well was a challenge, especially for Emma.
- The soundtrack to our trip was mostly ‘Hairspray’ and High School Musical 3′ — along with large doses of tinny video game music from Zubo and Mario Karts for Nintendo DS.
- Lily and sometimes Emma had serious panic about elevators. The closing doors would make the girls crazy with fear. I once accidentally got left in the elevator with the bags and got sent up and down. Lily’s worst fear realized! She nearly fainted.
- We loved ‘Kracks’, the hilariously named, Pringles knock-offs that we found once and then unsuccessfully searched for our entire trip in Morocco. Lily would pout, “Why can’t I just have more Kracks?!”
- With the kids asleep, Trish fell off her chair in laughter while on a work conference call when my butt tooted ‘Old McDonald’ from the bed five feet away. This is a true story. I don’t know how the kids didn’t wake up. I was sure her howls would draw hotel security.
- The Side Monkey. Lily would creep into Emma’s Kid Reporter segments. Actually, she was always showing up next to whatever Emma was doing. She adores Emma.
- Cousin Sylvie is a terrible traveler. Every time we would compliment Lily on her ability to travel, she would tell us that her cousin Sylvie ‘would not have been able to handle it.’ Lily was distancing herself from the role of the baby by keeping Sylvie down.
- Lily and Emma each wore one of a matching plastic bracelet/necklace set at all times. By the end of the trip, the multi-colored plastic pieces had faded to white, but the bracelet and necklace were still being worn. They were an inseparable team the whole time.
Woot! Touchdown in New York, and our bags made it through from Casablanca. We were home free! We got through passport control around 4:30 p.m. and we had several hours before our flight to D.C. So we went upstairs to the international terminal and had Sbarro’s pizza and McDonald’s. It tasted familiar. They didn’t negotiate the price and they took my credit card.
The next flight was in another terminal, so we took the air train over only to discover that our flight was canceled. No way. Of the 20 flights we took on this trip, our first and last between DC and JFK were canceled. Only one other didn’t go on schedule. How likely is that?
The line was really long for re-booking, and we were hearing people grumble about not getting confirmed seats for two more days. After ragging on Royal Air Maroc for the past week, Trisha was outraged and shocked that Delta had let her down. She stormed off to the first class line to work the people over there. I held our place in the steerage line. Emma ran between us giving and getting updates. (She liked that.) Lily wanted a role too, so I made her, um, the lookout.
Trish’s angle worked the best, even though we weren’t first class. (I would have been tossed out of First Class. How does she do that? Go, Trish.) The agent worked for over an hour to find alternatives, but in the end, the best we could do was 4 p.m. the next day.
Fortunately, Aunt Laurel and Uncle Fahad are only 30 minutes from JFK and they were able to come pick us up. We got to see the cousins, Alex and Max, which was great.
They drop us off early at JFK in case we can get a stand-by, but there’s nothing all day. Our final day is spent in the Delta terminal of JFK. With a toy store, Internet, good coffee, a magazine stand and decent food, we could have spent a week there standing on our heads. Four o’clock rolls around and the plane gets to DC without incident. The two girls turn to each other and high-five when we touch down.
It’s not over till it’s over. Inexplicably, the bags had been sent to Boston. Trish doubles over with laughter. But they will eventually get delivered. Home is clean and air conditioned. We order a pizza and watch “So You Think You Can Dance.”
Emma comments that our house feels like ‘a gigantic hotel room!’ Around 8 p.m., Lily sends herself to bed, exhausted. We all follow shortly thereafter. There’s no place like home.