Debbie Hucke here. I’m back. Thanks for missing me. After traveling the ends of the earth, sleeping on about 12 different beds, (most I was happy to leave) experiencing several very different cultures, a few panicked happenings, horrendous United airline experience, I am back. I had good intentions to write while I was away. With plenty of material, it was the practicalities of an electronic keyboard or even an accesible pen and paper at the ideal time that was the challenge. In the end I decided rightly to be fully present in my adventures and delay my responsibility to you.
Aww yes. Choosing rightly. It is a valuable skill and one that many of us control freaks often struggle with. We can’t imagine that the world can spin properly on its axis without us. We are after all, indispensable. The decision to take this trip in the first place, was my first right decision. Were things done perfectly in my absence? No way. But perfection should never be the benchmark. (as if perfection is ever achieved on my watch anyway) But no one died, others rose to the occasion, the body of Christ stepped in and everyone benefitted by my temporary absence. And I was reminded ONCE AGAIN that GodsGotThis and I am NOT indispensable.
How did I decide?
Many months ago, when I was contemplating this two-week international adventure, I faced a difficult decision. Ian’s independence was tenuous and the caregiver hours were not yet even on the table. How did I decide? After all, an uncertain future was my reality. I went before the Lord and prayed one of my favorite prayers. When faced with a hard decision I rely on this prayer often.
“Lord, this is my hearts desire. But I don’t see how it it possible. If I am not supposed to go, please shut the doors that are supposed to be shut while I trust you. If I am meant to go, please make the plans easy and fluid and assure me that you will take care of the rest.”
I said YES to the trip with both excitement and weak knees but claiming Isaiah 30:21. In my experience with hard decisions, He is BIG enough to handle a course correction. The key is that I am tuned in to hear His voice.
Isaiah 30:21 If you wander off the road to the right or the left, you will hear his voice behind you saying, “Here is the road. Follow it.”
God is BIG enough
As long as you desire to please God with your decisions, no decision you make will be completely horrendous. Nor will any decision you make be completely wonderful. The way I see it, every decision is a bit of both. God’s promises are not dependent on our ability to always choose well, but rather on His ability to use well. It should not surprise you that this time for me was no different. The Lord came through.
Upon my return I read the hand written summary from Sheri, Ian’s caregiver (Can I just interject that I am so thankful for that woman. Next time you think to pray for us, would you thank God for the role she plays in our family.) Her first sentence read, “welcome home from what I hope was a nice relaxing vacation.” Upon reading it, I laughed out loud.
Becca and I have decided that all vacations are not a vacation. In fact, we’ve decided vacations run the gamut. On one end there are adventurous self planned budget friendly travels and then there are stress-free, pay a premium, leave the itinerary to someone else kind of vacations. (Note to self.) But our travels, challenging at times, will be UNFORGETTABLE. And what price tag can you put on unforgettable? As I write to you this week as Debbie Hucke, it must be said… I’m different than I was three weeks ago. Traveling changes you.
With New Eyes
The last leg of our trip took us to Morocco. On my bucket list, I so looked forward to exploring this part of Africa. I realize now, I had many preconceived notions and opinions about the region and its people. Some were confirmed, others were destroyed. But of one thing, I’m certain. A first hand account changes everything. Getting to know a few devout muslims more personally has opened my eyes and I have a new respect. We live in a complex world.
Learning the Culture
Generally speaking I dislike tourists, even though I am one. Those clueless people, non respectful of the local customs who demand accommodation make me embarrassed for the opinions that are formed about our great country. I loved that Becca, fluent now in Spanish, made it easy to behave un-typically throughout southern Spain.
But even without command of the language, we still respected the Moroccan customs by dressing modestly, not taking pictures of the women, and appreciating any hospitality. We learned to say shukraan (thank you) and spoke it often.
Morocco’s pre-dominantly muslim culture is vastly different than anything I’ve experienced. And I’ve been to many many countries. I was fascinated! It’s uniqueness even more pronounced given that our visit hit during Ramadan. Oops And while my faith is very different, I respected their faithfulness. Redouan, our driver to and from Chefchaouen, provided helpful understanding of Islam and more specifically Ramadan. Ramadan, fasting, is one of the 5 pillars of Islam. And Redouan, a regular guy in his mid 30s, was faithful to Ramadan all month long.
According to Wikipedia… Ramadan is considered the holiest month of the year for Muslims. In Ramadan, Muslims fast from food and drink and even sexual relations during the sunlit hours as a means of learning self-control, gratitude, and compassion for those less fortunate. Ramadan is a month of intense spiritual rejuvenation with a heightened focus on devotion, during which Muslims spend extra time reading the Qur’an and performing special prayers.
Visiting during Ramadan had its challenges. Food was not always available, shops often closed. Our sleep often interrupted by their late night rituals. When the sun sets they break the fast. — think late night party every night. At sundown after they eat a feast which begins with fresh juices, smoothies and figs the celebrating carries on. 2, 3 am wasn’t uncommon with raucous singing and laughter. (all this without the assistance of alcohol.) Typically during Ramadan, Redouan explained, you rise at 4 or 5 am to eat a filling breakfast and then you go back to bed. Sleep is common throughout the daylight hours to make fasting tolerable. The fast from food is the easy part. Think of the challenge of not sipping water or any other drink when it’s 90+ degrees.
How could we be so lucky?
After visits to Marrakech and Chefchaouen, our last night in Tangier is one I will never forget. Headed back to Madrid the next morning we had burned through all but 5$ worth of dirhams. (TRAVEL TIP… it is VERY RARE for any establishment in Morocco to take a credit card.) Unfortunately the credit card I brought did not include the ability to draw cash on it. So we were in a pinch.
With only a few American dollars and a few Euros and a hearty appetite we went in search of dinner. At least our timing was thoughtful since the sun was down. Most restaurants were still closed. But then we came upon Chez Hassan where a table of people spilled into the sidewalk. I explained our plight to a petite non traditional woman who looked to be working there. “Could we pay with credit card?” I asked. “No I’m sorry.” was her response.
We stood there forlorn and salivating over the spread of food before us — figs with walnuts, smoothies, fresh juices, stew, bread, olives, avocado salad etc. The display was only the starters.
Becca and I were strategizing our next move when Amir, the restaurant owner, (the man serving wearing a beanie) invited us to join his table. His. Personal. Table. What? In very broken English he pulled up two chairs, and told us to sit and join him and his friends as they break the Ramadan fast.
The table of misfits
It took Becca and I the whole evening to figure out this eclectic mix of people and how they were connected. The man with the beard across from me, owns the hotel up the street. His wife was the woman I spoke with who helps Amir during Ramadan. The Parisian couple at the end were staying at their hotel. And not pictured is a muslim man visiting from the UK and some other arabs who work close by and are close friends of the restaurant owner. Think open thanksgiving table for all the misfits.
The meal which included course after course, went on for hours. Arabic, french, and english flowed freely. There was lots of laughter. The man who took our selfie loved speaking English and wanted to practice with us. He giggled as he asked us to pronounce random words like Connecticut.
Amir held up a peach and said, “how you say this”? After I said “peach”, he pointed to a tall bottle and said “bitch juice.” Everyone laughed. How he misheard peach for bitch remains a mystery. No one understood everything, but each of us understood what words couldn’t express anyway. Gratitude. Kindness. Generosity.
I can honestly say I was quite humbled. At the end of the evening I approached Amir asking how I could possibly pay him. I offered to do dishes, to set tables, donate some euros or dollars. No amount of money would have been adequate.
He responded… “Next time. You my guest. You my guest.” And other Arabic mutterings I didn’t understand. But his warm eyes and kind gestures allowed me to understand his intent. All I was left with was shukraan. shukraan. shukraan. And the invaluable gift of new eyes.
Thank you God for traveling with us. Thank you for walking in front of us, beside us and behind us. My heart is full.