Tag Archives: chattanooga

One Year Later, Part 1: Back Home

How quickly things can change.

Well… they really didn’t change very quickly at all. I’ve written a total of three posts in the last 18 months of my life. I suppose if anyone decided to binge-read these, then everything I’m about to write would seem rather abrupt. But I promise—as quickly as it all may seem to have happened, it was all a long, winding, purpose-driven road.

When I last left you, I was pining for my hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee. I wrote several hundred words proclaiming my love for it and my desire to return to it. There really is no city quite like it, you know. In moving to the lonely metropolis of Nashville, we discovered that running from our problems only created more. We tried to make the best of a depressing situation, but it was useless. We weren’t making an omelet; we were just breaking eggs.

After writing that post, I knew we would be coming home sooner than we had originally planned. Once we found out we were pregnant with our third little boy, my timetable was moved up. The last thing we wanted was to be stuck almost three hours away from our extended family with three small children.

We were about to be outnumbered. We took that very seriously.

I applied for a several different jobs in Chattanooga, and I went weeks without hearing anything. That was the hardest part. With every resume I sent that went unacknowledged, every letter I sent that went unanswered, my spirits sank a little more. After a few months of fruitless searching and dreaming, it was beginning to feel hopeless. (Writing this now, it seems rather silly. Some people search for years to find a job, and there I was all downhearted because a couple months had passed without any results. But that was mostly a product of my environment; it wasn’t hard to feel down during those days.)

Thankfully, I wasn’t the only one looking. Michelle was also browsing all the major job sites, forwarding any that she thought I might find interesting. She’s the one who found the posting at Vikus, a software company that creates HR software for the senior care industry. They were in need of a content writer who could also handle digital marketing and social media. It was a perfect fit.

I’ll save my hiring story for another post. It’s quite funny, and deserves to stand on its own.

After I got the job, the planning began. Our third was due to arrive at the end of November, which gave us a couple months to get things figured out. We didn’t have a place in Chattanooga anymore, so we decided that I could stay with my parents for a bit while Michelle kept the boys up in Nashville. It wasn’t ideal for all of us to be split between two different cities, but my wife and the boys had developed a fairly active social life in the two years we had been living there, and it didn’t feel right to yank them away from it without a home of our own to go to. So we put the plan into motion, and I started looking for places for us to live while counting down the days to my new job.

Then came October 14th—the day history repeated itself in a way we hoped it never would.

 


My City.

My family and I have lived in Nashville for over a year and a half. In that time, we have managed to explore the city and even make a few friends along the way. We found the best pizza place . . . practically ever. We discovered some really cool places to hang out (like the Adventure Science Center and the Nashville Zoo), and we frequent them as often as we can. I found a great comic store that Liam and I like to visit on occasion, and the Dave & Buster’s that’s up here has proven to be a blast every time we’ve stopped in.

Downtown Nashville Skyline

We’re starting to learn our way around. The GPS is still a necessity, but it’s not a complete and total wash if I leave it at home. Nashville is a maze of highways and traffic, but it’s one that I feel I am beginning to learn to navigate.

All of that . . . and this place still isn’t home.

This weekend, we spent some time in Chattanooga. We were in town for a birthday party, and we managed to carve out some time that morning to see some friends, too. That night, I made the mistake of driving around downtown on my way back to my parents’ house to sleep. It could be said that the mistake was in attempting to navigate downtown Chattanooga during the notoriously chaotic Riverbend Festival currently taking place. But that wasn’t it at all. The roads weren’t difficult—the feelings were.

As I drove around, seeing the familiar sights and weaving through the familiar streets, I was hit with an overwhelming wave of feeling: This is home. This is where we belong. This is where life makes sense.

Downtown Chattanooga - Miller Plaza

This is My City.

When I talk about going home, I talk about coming here. Even when we’re in Nashville, the Reader and I both know that when we say the word “home,” we’re speaking of the next time we visit Chattanooga. No other place has ever felt like it, and I highly doubt any other place will.

When we left, it was due to necessity. We were in a tough position financially, and I was offered a job that would basically save us. And that’s what I keep telling myself: We didn’t have a choice. I was given an opportunity to advance my career as a writer, learn some new (and potentially valuable) skills, and get a pretty hefty pay increase at the same time. All I had to do was pack up my family and move to Nashville. I would have been an idiot to turn it down.

I still sometimes wonder if I should have.

Nashville is not home. It just isn’t. Many people have told me to give it a chance—that it has a lot of the qualities we’re looking for in a place to raise our family, and that it could be home if we wanted it to be.

And they’re half right.

It does have a lot of the qualities we’re looking for in a place to raise our family. It has a rich cultural heritage, and there is always something going on in some part of the city. Aside from the places I mentioned earlier, there is also the library system, which is one of the best I’ve ever had the privilege of using. There’s a lot of fun to be had here, and I’m sure we haven’t even begun to unearth all the possibilities that Nashville has to offer us.

But, no matter how much we might want it to be, Nashville will never be home. The most it will ever be is a way station—that place we stopped one time when we needed a helping hand. Funny thing is, it hasn’t been nearly as helpful as it was supposed to be. Despite having a substantially higher salary, things have never been harder for us financially than they are right now. With the bright lights and the big city came a big price tag. When you add the fact that we have never felt more alone and isolated than we do right now, we have come to one inescapable (and overwhelmingly relieving) conclusion:

I think it’s about time we came home.


The Battle for Chattanooga.

In the quaint yet bustling almost-metropolis of Chattanooga, a war is brewing. The indigenous population, a charmingly backwater and moderately peaceful people (depending upon the level of intoxication) is under attack by an army of strange and unusual foreign invaders with peculiar fashion tastes and completely alien sensibilities. The indigenous population at first welcomed these newcomers, as they are known throughout the country for their perceived hospitality with relation to their region of habitation. However, relations between the two factions soon soured. The invaders revealed that they intended to take over the city and consume (then renew, then consume, then renew) its available resources, and the indigenous population had no plans of converting to what they perceived as the completely ridiculous culture of the invading force.

Thus, the Battle for Chattanooga began.

Here, we will examine the two sides of this battle and offer up a plausible outcome based purely on the statistical information presented. I am not a fortune teller; I merely write fiction for the enjoyment of myself and, on occasion, others. Should this battle resort to actual violence, the outcome presented here may not be an accurate representation of what would unfold. This is simple conjecture. However, if the scale of this war were to escalate, then may God help us all.
 

Hipsters vs. Rednecks


First, a history.

[Note: History presented may not be historically accurate.]

Chattanooga, for all intents and purposes, was founded by miscreants. They were cast out of their respective countries of origin and sent to the American colonies, then cast out of those colonies and sent to Chattanooga. They were promised a mountain, a large hill that is inexplicably referred to as a mountain, and a river destined to produce hydroelectric power and lightly irradiated catfish.

Upon arrival, they found these things and were satisfied.

The wealthy made homes on the mountain, the slightly-less-wealthy-than-the-wealthy-but-still-pretty-damn-wealthy made homes on the large hill, and the untouchable peasants of the region settled into parts of the valley that would later house a nuclear power plant. To most native Chattanoogans, this makes complete sense, and is in fact how all municipalities should be set up. The rich live on mountains, the poor live in valleys, and all people regardless of social status are equally limited to consuming only one pound of river-caught catfish per month due to potential mercury poisoning.

From the nuclear-enhanced valleys of Chattanooga emerged the Rednecks. They built their society upon the traditional Christian values of killing nature’s most beautiful and delicate creatures with high-powered semi-automatic rifles and driving excessively large vehicles with excessively large tires through excessively large puddles of mud (often while listening to early 2000’s alternative rock act Puddle of Mudd, which was excessively bad). In these things, they found pleasure and meaning, and their simple yet fulfilling lives were exemplified in their big hearts and bigger appetites for all things sugar-coated and deep-fried.

Then came the Hipsters.

Their origins are a mystery, as are their motivations. Some have said they simply migrated to Chattanooga from the Northwest due to Hipster overpopulation in their area of origin. Others believe that they were once normal people, and that their odd and somewhat alien dispositions have been caused by years of protein deficiency and a propensity to glorify past trends and actions rather than innovate. It is believed by those who have studied their behavior that they possess traits similar to locusts: They move into an area that can sustain them, criticize and critique every possible form of media as not being up to their standards, and then move onto another area to repeat the pattern. But something happened when they reached Chattanooga:

They decided to stay.

However, they did not agree with the sentiments and practices of the indigenous population; therefore, the offending people would have to be exterminated.

But who will win this epic battle? Let’s look at the stats:
 

 Numbers:

Rednecks tend to breed more often than Hipsters and generally begin breeding younger — some as early as twelve or thirteen years of age. Also, a larger amount of couplings are made possible due to the fact that Rednecks are generally less selective in their choice of mate; many only stipulate that his or her sexual partner have the “proper equipment” and not be a direct blood relation, though the latter has been found to be optional on occasion (particularly when paired with the effects of alcohol). Combined with a lackadaisical understanding of birth control, the potential for multiple children per reproducing female skyrockets. These factors together all lead to a larger number of children for the Redneck population and, thus, a larger force with which to fight their opponents.

Hipsters generally find that an increased number of children would increase what they refer to as their “carbon footprint” on the world; as such, they prefer to convert non-Hipsters to their cause rather than simply breed new Hipsters. Also, many are believed to be homosexual and are thus not likely to have natural biological offspring. Even those who are not actually homosexual often feign homosexuality in their dress and demeanor, thus negating any potential couplings with members of the opposite sex. Without a biological system for replenishing their number, they must rely solely on their recruiting tactics, which, somewhat contradictorily, tend to include shunning those who do not share their Hipster sensibilities and acting cooler than all other social groups in the surrounding area. These factors lead to a considerably lesser force numbers-wise.

Advantage: Rednecks
 

 Survivalism:

Rednecks are known for their outdoorsmanship. They possess formidable skill in hunting, fishing, foraging, and camping, and most are no stranger to “living off the land” in extreme circumstances (e.g. getting kicked out of the trailer for a week and a half due to spousal discovery of certain photographs tucked away in the family Bible). If their available resources include a cooler of at least 50-quart capacity, their potential for survival away from the comforts of civilization and, indeed, their ability to outlast their opponents in the wilderness without provisions or supplies increases exponentially.

Common opinion would indicate that the Rednecks would dominate this category, but the adaptability of Hipsters should not be underestimated. They have made unprecedented advances in survivalism never thought possible by their Emo and Goth ancestors. Also increasing the chances of Hipster survival in the wild is the fact that many are vegetarian and can thus sustain themselves on local plant life if necessary. Vegetarianism is virtually unheard of in the Redneck community and, in fact, is generally feared as a heretical custom brought about by demonic possession.

Advantage: N/A
 

 Motive:

Hipsters are generally pacifists by nature, choosing to rise against modern trends and differing musical tastes rather than actual threats of violence. They will carry protest signs and write strongly worded blogs to express their anger and/or dissatisfaction with current states of being rather than commit to anything that could be defined as an “action.”

Rednecks, on the other hand, do not need motivation of any kind for a fight. Generally, uttering the word “fight” is enough to incite many to at least some degree of violence, doubly so if said fight involves some kind of offending remark or action against a family member or close friend. Hipsters are known for taking a more bystander-ish role in similar proceedings, preferring to “tweet” their support for their loved ones on select social networking sites long after the incident has occurred and generally following up said action with sending locally grown, organic edible bouquets to their loved ones’ hospital rooms (complete with a typed get-well note composed on at least 75% recycled paper, though 90% or higher is preferred).

Advantage: Rednecks
 

 Tactical Ability:

Rednecks are known for having average to below-average intelligence, mostly due to an inability to focus on school endeavors when in the formative adolescent phase. However, this gap of knowledge is filled with information learned from both network and cable television. With access to the right channels, Rednecks can learn much about the types of tactical strategy that could aid them in their fight against the Hipsters. However, the more likely outcome is that they will end up on a channel showing reruns of Walker, Texas Ranger starring conservative, kicking-ass-for-the-Lord martial artist Chuck Norris — from whom they will learn nothing but how to perform a picture-perfect roundhouse kick while wearing cowboy boots and very tight jeans.

Hipsters, overall, have a higher level of intelligence than their Redneck opponents, generally due to a higher quality and quantity of education, as well as a more nutritious diet. This heightened intelligence will help their strategic endeavors immensely, allowing them to use reason and at least some level of planning to develop their tactics. However, two hindrances to their tactical ability present themselves.

First, the smug disposition of the typical Hipster could lead to overconfidence and predictability. Much like some classic comic book villains, it is not enough to simply triumph over their adversaries; they want to prove their superiority at every turn. Such behavior leads to costly strategic mistakes, setbacks, and even defeat.

Second, though the intelligence of Hipsters cannot be denied, their areas of expertise are not necessarily useful in battle. One does not typically assault an enemy with knowledge of who played mandolin on the Smiths’ song “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want” or the number of times Paul Newman refers to someone as “Boss” in Cool Hand Luke. Despite these faults, I still believe the common intelligence of the Hipsters will prevail over the television-infused logic of the Redneck community.

Advantage: Hipsters
 

 Territorial Advantage:

This is a close one. Due to the Hipsters being the invading force, it would be assumed that Rednecks have the home field advantage here. However, this may not necessarily be the case. Rednecks are fairly reclusive (bordering on isolationist) and tend to stick to areas with which they are comfortable, often shunning more densely populated areas known for urban development and culture (i.e. downtown Chattanooga). Hipsters, sensing this apprehension, have swooped into this area with remarkable swiftness and established a base of operations that continues to expand with time. Rednecks have made no indication to re-conquer this territory, giving the Hipsters a permanent and central base from which to strike.

In general, Rednecks do know the lay of the land, and this will serve them well in the fight against the Hipsters. However, Hipsters are more willing to adapt and venture out into parts unknown, generally in search of cool and undiscovered things they can then brag about liking before anyone else even knew they existed. Rednecks are not known for their adaptability, generally clinging to the same principles of their fathers, grandfathers, great-grandfathers and so on. This steadfastness keeps them shielded from the onset of dangerous ideas like annihilationism and natural selection (ironic, considering the topic of this article), but it will not serve them in this battle.

Advantage: Hipsters
 

 Arms & Transportation:

The category of Arms is one of the few where there really is no argument. Rednecks embrace their Second Amendment right more than any other subculture, and it should come as no surprise that most have a fairly well stocked arsenal right in the comfort of their own homes. With a gun-to-person ratio of approximately 8-to-1, the Redneck has no shortage of available weaponry at his disposal. Also, Rednecks begin instruction on the use of firearms at a very early age, usually achieving their first kill before they lose their first tooth. The Hipster, on the other hand, generally has no experience with guns or weaponry of any kind, save the pistol-shaped cigarette lighter they use to light their cigarillos.

Vehicular transportation is another category that heavily favors the Rednecks, both in quantity and in utility. They favor large, intimidating vehicles with ample storage opportunities and multiple-terrain capabilities. Echoing their insistence with firearms, the average vehicle-to-person ratio among Rednecks is approximately 5-to-1, with at least half of those vehicles being in somewhat working order. Contrast that ratio with that of the Hipster who, due to their ecological sensibilities, have closer to a 1-to-5 ratio of vehicles to persons. Many choose to walk, ride bicycles, or use public transportation in lieu of owning and operating a carbon dioxide-producing vehicle. The hybrid and electric vehicles championed by Hipsters who do choose to own an automobile are no match for the trucks and SUVs of their opponents.

There really is no contest here. More vehicles and more weaponry make for a more mobile and more lethal force.

Advantage: Rednecks
 

 Provisions:

The availability and quality of supplies alone can determine the outcome of a war, and this is another area where the Rednecks seem to come out ahead. From study and observation, Rednecks seem to survive on a combination of Mountain Dew, beef jerky, energy drinks, and various forms of potato, all of which are readily available in the Chattanooga area via chain grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations, pharmacies, friends’ houses, etc.

Hipsters, on the other hand, have a much more selective diet, generally consisting of various teas, hummus, vegan/vegetarian cuisine, and anything labeled “organic.” These supplies can generally only be found at one of a handful of organic grocery stores and the occasional farmers’ market. And while the healthier content of the Hipsters’ diet will certainly provide them with greater longevity, the scarcity of their foodstuffs is a hindrance. This will not be a generations-long battle; availability is more important than nourishment.

Advantage: Rednecks
 


Conclusion:

Looking purely at the statistics, it would seem that the Rednecks have a clear advantage. After all, they have more experience with weapons and fighting in general, they are better supplied, and their numbers make them a more than formidable opponent. However, the Hipsters should not be written off so easily. They possess a stubbornness rarely seen in any society and will “not go gentle into that good night,” to randomly quote poet Dylan Thomas (something which they are also apt to do). They defend their ridiculousness to the bitter end — something I am sure the Rednecks would very much like to witness firsthand.

While compiling this article, I came across something that was of particular interest. Hipsters tend to combat modern societal advances (with the exception of those that feature an Apple logo) with the same tenacity and fervor as their opponents, the Rednecks. Perhaps if these two sides could peacefully meet on neutral ground and expand on these commonalities, some kind of compromise of coexistence could be reached. However, given the easily offended nature of both parties, such a compromise seems highly unlikely.

In the end, it must be remembered that the Rednecks are fighting a defensive war. They do not have to necessarily defeat the Hipsters; they must only outlast their trendy opponents until the next ridiculous fad comes along and the Hipsters collapse from within. Rednecks have been around as long as Chattanooga — probably longer. The Hipsters are not just fighting the Rednecks; they are fighting their own superficial natures, as well as the very history of the city which they are invading.

The day is yours, Rednecks.

At least until the great Geek uprising. Once that happens, your days are numbered.


The Wrap-Up

NOTE: This is the last entry in my “From Main To Morocco” blog series, chronicling my ten-day trip to various cities in the country of Morocco. Click here to read more entries in this series.

Two months ago, I ended my Day 10 post with this little gem:

(This isn’t the last entry in the series, by the way. I have at least one more planned — one where I wrap things up, tie up loose ends, and do all those things that so many authors nowadays just don’t understand … and actually end the story.)

Yeah … so much for that.

What can I say? After such an amazing trip, I was ready to come home and just … be home. I missed my wife and my little boy terribly, and I was ready to dive back into our life. I kept telling myself that I needed to write the last entry in the series, and I even almost did a few times. But, in the end, living in the present won out.

Plus, I started working on my eight-years-in-progress novel again. (I’ve actually made a lot of progress on it since then, thank you very much.)

Also, Batman: Arkham City came out. I couldn’t pass that up.

But, alas, here I am, returning to my blog after a two-month hiatus to finish the series and start chronicling once again. So, first … let’s finish the series.

Our journey back to the States was not what you could call smooth. One could go so far as to say it was the exact opposite of smooth.

[Insert Firefly quote: “How come it never goes smooth?”]

The trip back started out okay. Our flight from Marrakech to Casablanca was rather uneventful, and the flight from Casablanca to New York was late. Even with how late it was running, we thought we would have plenty of time once we got to JFK.

Oh, how we were wrong.

The layout of JFK makes no real sense. With many other airports, passengers can go from terminal to terminal without leaving the building, thus making any additional security checks unnecessary. However, that isn’t the case with JFK.

We arrived late, with less than an hour to get to the gate and catch our next flight. We had to go to a completely different terminal on the other side of the airport, and we were forced to go through security again. We reached the line … and it was 178 miles long.

(That might be a slight exaggeration. It also might not be.)

We stared at the line in disbelief. After navigating the airport, we had a little over half an hour to reach the gate before the plane departed. It looked impossible. Thankfully, the attendants were informed of the late flight in from Casablanca and started moving people from that flight — including us — forward. Long story short, we arrived at an empty gate, but the plane was still sitting on the runway. We weren’t too late — which, in itself, is a miracle, considering that the plane left early.

That’s right. I said early.

When in the history of commercial air flight has a plane ever left early? October 25th, 2011, that’s when. Our flight from New York to Atlanta left the gate a full fifteen minutes early. We almost missed the flight because of it. Once we were rushed through security, we actually thought we had some time to breathe. We contemplated grabbing a quick bite in the terminal or, at the very least, stopping by the restroom. I’m glad we decided to check the gate first; otherwise, we would have stayed the night in New York, and I wouldn’t have been home until a full day later. As much as I loved the trip, it was time to be home.

So, there we were, in the air above the Appalachians and heading toward Atlanta. Unfortunately, our bags were not.

You see, we wanted to go to home. But it seems that our checked luggage wanted to stay in New York for an extra night. Maybe our bags really liked the airport. Maybe the airport really liked our bags. Nonetheless, they didn’t join us for the return trip, and we arrived in Atlanta missing the majority of our luggage.

At that point, however, we really didn’t care. Once we figured out what had happened, we got on the shuttle to Chattanooga and headed back. I was back in my home sweet home by a little after one in the morning, and I was back in my bed about five minutes after that.

No worries, though. Our luggage arrived at the Chattanooga airport the next afternoon. Their vacation wasn’t what they expected, and they decided it was time to come home, too.

And that does it for my trip to Morocco. It was an amazing experience, and I can only hope to have dozens more like it over the course of my life. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about it, and I hope you’ll continue to read.

After all, I still have plenty of adventure left to write about … even if it does take place here at home.


Days 1 & 2: Shukran

NOTE: This is the first entry in my “From Main To Morocco” blog series, chronicling my ten-day trip to various cities in the country of Morocco. Click here to read more entries in this series.

Shukran is Arabic for “thank you.” It is the first Arabic phrase I have learned (and used) while I’ve been here. However, it also sums up so much about this day. Morocco is a place unlike any other I have ever visited.

But first, I had to actually get here.

[You’ll have to forgive me here. I’m actually consolidating the events of two days into one entry. Since so much of the true first day was spent on various airplanes, it hardly feels like actual time went by. More like … standby time.]

Going on just an hour and a half of sleep (don’t ask), my great aunt Judy picked me up at my apartment in Chattanooga around 7:00 in the morning. I stumbled and fumbled, attempting to finish the packing job I had abandoned around 5:15 that morning (a decision made partly due to an insomnia-influenced lack of deductive reasoning). I said a very long goodbye to my wife, and then to my son, who responded by lying face-down on the floor and crying his heart out.

[Not really. He actually did that because Michelle wouldn’t let him have the leftover pizza that I had left sitting on the kitchen table from the night before. But I’d like to pretend it was for me. Don’t ruin my version of the story.]

We took a shuttle to Atlanta, where everything went as smoothly as it possibly could. I love the Atlanta airport. It is huge, and even slightly intimidating, but it is remarkably well organized. You always know where you are going, when you need to be there, and what you need to have with you when you arrive. Some of the airports we visited afterward made me appreciate this even more.

The less said about Montreal, the better. That airport was a nightmare. And if it wasn’t for one decent man who went above and beyond to help us with a baggage situation, I would have lost serious faith in humanity. Instead, I have just lost serious faith in the humanity of the employees of the Montreal airport — with the exception of that particular man. I wish I knew his name.

We arrived in Casablanca early this morning, nearly twenty-four hours after we left Chattanooga. The airport doesn’t quite offer the same rich cultural experience for which the city is generally known, but I knew it wouldn’t. I’d like to go visit the city proper someday, if only to pretend I could be as cool as Humphrey Bogart.

From Casablanca, we flew to Marrakech. And … well … here we are.

Here in Marrakech, the most common spoken languages are Arabic and French. We heard plenty of French in both Montreal, but there was still some English being spoken as well. By the time we made it to Casablanca, the English options were drying out. Were it not for Eric, my second cousin, we would be in serious, serious trouble. He speaks for us here, haggling the prices on taxis, ordering food for us, and giving us the rundown on various local customs so that we don’t appear quite so tourist-ish.

We still appear quite tourist-ish.

Tonight, we experienced the Jemaa El Fna, a square which TimeOut’s Guide to Marrakech describes as “uncontained, disorderly, untainted by grandeur or pomp, untamable by council or committee” and “nothing less than bedlam.” While I didn’t find that description entirely accurate, it was still completely unlike anything I have ever before witnessed. Imagine an open-air market mixed with a carnival, set it at night, and then turn the volume up two clicks past the max.

Jemaa El Fna

Jemaa El Fna ("Assembly of the Dead") at night.

We ate a kind of soup that was remarkably similar to minestrone, followed by kebabs of beef, chicken, lamb and vegetables. It was all fantastic. And, despite Judy’s warning to me while we were still in Atlanta … yes, there were french fries.

Dining in Jemaa El Fna

Dining at Jemaa El Fna.

The beggars in Marrakech are relentless. Erik told us as much as we made our way to the square, but I wasn’t ready for how accurate his warnings would be. They will do anything they can to get your attention, and if you so much as make eye-contact, it’s over — you’re not going to be left alone until you part with some of your dirham. Plus, they’re much more aggressive about getting what they want than the panhandlers I am used to in Chattanooga. While we were eating, an older woman walked by our table, grabbed a handful of food off of my plate, and just kept on walking. I was too stunned to even give a reaction.

After we ate, we walked around the square a bit. We watched an interesting game where the objective was to put a ring around the top of a two-liter bottle by means of a fishing pole. Nobody won. There were also a few groups of musicians sitting in the square with circles of people surrounding them, plus what appeared to be an impromptu boxing match.

Perhaps there is a little bit of bedlam in there after all.

And now I sit in the hotel room, chronicling these events. I’m looking longingly at the bed, knowing that as soon as I close this laptop, I’ll be under its sheets. Within ten minutes, I’ll more than likely be asleep.

Judy, thank you for this amazing opportunity. Erik, thank you for being our guide and, in many ways, our savior. Michelle, thank you for being such an amazing wife and allowing my great aunt to borrow me for a bit. Ten days is too long to be without you, and I will see you and Liam again so very soon.

And to everyone reading this, shukran. I’ll see you all again tomorrow night, when I’m sure I will have even more to report.

Until then … goodnight and sleep tight. I know I will.


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