tetchi blog

Tetchi's blog about life and stuff

May 2018: Morocc’n’roll Edition

Tetchi’s thoughts and ramblings for May, 2018. Moroccan travels, WordPress Gutenberg, the book Fifteen Dogs, and motivation.

What happened

On April 29th I flew to Morocco with six of my friends. We started in Casablanca and visited Marrakech, Fes, Chefchaouen, and Tangier over a span of two weeks. Between cities, we hiked up Imlil, did a desert trek in Merzouga, and checked out many cool sites.

Map of our Moroccan travel path. We went from Casablanca to Ouarzazate, then Merzouga, then Fes, Chefchaouen, Tangier, then back to Casablanca.
Our Moroccan adventure’s travel path.

We went at a good time of the year as the temperature was still nice and cool. Most of the time it was in the high 10s and low 20s, and even got to single digits at night. As someone who cannot stand the heat this was really welcoming.

The landscape in Morocco was unreal. We saw everything from red cliffs, snow-capped mountains, river canyons, dense pine tree forests, oasises, and of course the Sahara desert. I had no idea that Morocco was so diverse!

Trip highlights

The hike up Imlil was refreshing after spending a few days in the hectic Marrakech markets. When we arrived we decided to recruit a walking guide on the spot. This turned out to be a great idea. He took us through many paths that we wouldn’t have known about had we ventured out on our own.

We climbed many steps and sketchy bridges all the way to the top. We saw some nice waterfalls and got a wonderful view of the mountains.

Sharhan almost slipping into the water in Imlil.

On our way to the desert, we checked out Aït Benhaddou, an old fortified village south of Marrakech. A lot of shows and movies were shot here, including Game of Thrones, Prince of Persia, and The Gladiator. Our tour guide Mohammed was super chill and gave us a nice history lesson. 

Aït Benhaddou village.

We then drove to Merzouga to get a little taste of the Sahara desert. This was without a doubt my favourite part of the trip. It was surreal to see the Sahara in person; seeing the desert go on for miles and miles had us in complete awe. Riding on camels for the first time was cool too 🐫.

Camel Ridaz

Midway through we relaxed on a little hill until sunset. The temperature was perfect and it felt amazing to relax in the soft Saharan sand. The desert was even more beautiful in the twilight.

Jared walking into the distance

In Fes we attended a cooking class at Cafe Clock. The friendly host showed us how to make some tasty Moroccan food. We made friends with a group of American tourists who were also attending the class, which was a nice bonus. We all worked together to create a wicked three-course meal. The chicken pastilla that we made was the bomb!

Our main dish, chicken pastilla. So friggin good!

Finally, our very first hammam experience was a riot. A hammam is a public bath that originated in Turkey and is found in many Islamic countries. We knew there was some sort of massage involved, but we went to the local hammam with zero expectations.

Little did we know that there was going to be an old Moroccan man that would scrub the living shit out of us. What’s worse was that I was the first one to be scrubbed down, so I had no idea what to expect. The old man slapped me into different positions and proceeded to scrub every inch of my body as my friends watched. At the same time, he would pour water over my head making it difficult to breathe at times. It was an interesting mix of getting massaged, exfoliated, and waterboarded.

Not everything went peachy-keen, however. During the first week, four of us (including myself) got incredibly sick with food poisoning. What made it worse was that I happened to get sick on the day we needed to drive six hours from Merzouga to Fes. Luckily I was able to sleep it off after one night, but I thought I was going to die in the car.

Being on the lookout for scammers was not fun either. We were frequently flanked by unwanted guides that offered to show us around. Most of the ‘guides’ lure tourists into shops for a cut of any sales they may bring. Staying in the medinas (massive, walled markets) was a cool experience, but became exhausting very quickly because of these guys.

All in all, it was a wicked trip. It’s always fun to explore unknown territory with a group of friends 😄

Stuff I learned

Earlier in the month I switched over to writing my blog posts using Gutenberg, WordPress’ new Rich Text Editor. I didn’t even know of its existence until my girlfriend introduced it to me.

Being the cranky old man that I am, I was hesitant to change my workflow. I would write my posts in iA Writer and then paste the contents over to WordPress when finished. This workflow worked for years but admittedly it was far from perfect. It often required diving into the HTML/CSS code to get the styling that I’d want, especially when working with images.

Writing in iA Writer was so very zen.

Gutenberg introduces the concept of blocks to make it easier for users to add and customize content. For example, the new image block has a new option to make an image break out of the container of the page, as seen above. Under the hood, it’s just adding a CSS class to the image, but it’s nice that I can now do this with the click of a button.

I spent a couple of days updating my blog’s theme to take advantage of these new image features, and you can see some of them in action in this post.

Writing in Gutenberg’s is not quite as distraction-free as ia Writer, but it’s close enough. For me, getting a more accurate preview of what the article will look like inside my theme makes it a worthy trade-off.

As I continue to use Gutenberg, I’ve been taking notes on what kind of improvements I’d like to see so that eventually I can contribute to the Gutenberg Github project. I also started reading a fantastic series on CSS Tricks that will help get up-and-running for Gutenberg development. They’re doing a fantastic job and I’d love to be part of that community!

What I read

This month I read Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis, a fictional book about fifteen dogs who are given human consciousness. When my buddy Kevin recommended this to me I was expecting a happy-go-lucky tale, but it turned out to be a profoundly philosophical and emotional read.

Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis.

The book starts with the two gods Apollo and Hermes chilling in a Toronto bar. They argue whether or not animals would live a happy or unhappy life if they have the same mental capacity as humans. They step out and gift fifteen dogs in a vet with human consciousness. The book follows these dogs as they try to figure out what to do with this newfound power and what it means to be a dog.

Fifteen Dogs was a great read that was surprisingly introspective. It was cool to see the dogs become smarter and smarter and start questioning things that even humans do not understand. I highly recommend this book!

What’s on my mind

Ever since playing my last jazz show back in March, I’ve been having a hard time finding the motivation to practice my upright bass. What had been a daily routine has become a chore that I constantly avoid by making excuses.

After some reflection I realized that my motivation for practicing jazz has become completely external. I only practice if there are jams or shows to look forward to in the future. With travelling and work keeping everyone busy, we haven’t had much time to get together to practice or organize a show. I should be practicing because I enjoy playing jazz, and not for any other reason.

I haven’t figured out how to remedy this yet, but it’s something that’s been nagging at the back of my mind. I need to make jazz fun again!

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