That’s Why You Make the Trip

img_3402Cinnamon on oranges and cumin on boiled eggs. The inside of a walled city so confusing that it has spawned an entire cottage industry devoted to directing lost tourists. Surfer towns painted in hippie colors and seaside resorts caught in a 50’s time warp as they offer hospitality to a smattering of elderly Europeans.

None of this is what I expected when I came to Morocco.

This is a blog about predicting the future, and over the past few days I’ve been thinking a lot about the unexpected. Three of us have just spent some time in Marrakech, and now as we leisurely make our way to Casablanca we have three nights to spend on the road. One of us wants to simply drive and stop when we feel like it, with no research ahead of time and no plans. Us other two have agreed. For me, planner that I am, this will be a true exercise in embracing the unexpected.

img_3345The first night we land in Agadir, the vacation spot for aging Anglos. Our adventurous non-planner has become ill, so he rests while two of us walk along a boardwalk under the watchful eye of an old but festively lit Ferris Wheel. We order pizza from a Lebanese restaurant on the beach. My vegetarian version is covered in eggplant and is some of the best pizza I have ever had.  Okay, I didn’t see that coming from Morocco. Back at the hotel, I go searching for something to calm the stomach of my sick friend. The kitchen staff barely understands me, but they insist I take plain rice and “water with gas” for him at no charge. They also insist that it will help, and it does.

The next day we move north along the coast, sticking to the small roads that keep us in view of the sea. The surfer town where we stop for lunch has people wearing clothes that fully expose their limbs. Something deep within me wants to stay longer in this part of Morocco, and live on the beach in a tent while I write deep brooding novels that I’m already sure will far exceed anything I’ve written yet. Okay, maybe someday I’ll come back and do that.

img_3371We’ve been advised to be off of the roads by nightfall, but as sunset approaches we are nowhere near a sizable enough town to have obvious lodging for strangers. Luckily one of us speaks some French, the second language of Morocco, and he is able to talk to a young man in the street who sends us to the town’s only open restaurant which also serves as an auberge. I didn’t know what an auberge was, but it turns out that this fairly common form of lodging is somewhere between a B&B and a hostel.

The young Moroccan working at the auberge is quick to offer us local beers. Fresh fish is a possibility for dinner, but when he has trouble communicating the kinds of fish that are available he simply brings me a bucket of everything that has been caught that day and asks me to pick one. Turns out I don’t know a sea bass from a grouper, so I point and hope for the best. We dine gazing at miles of desolate beautiful coastline with a sunset behind the mixture of cliffs and beaches that could fill dozens of different postcards and no two would look alike. My travel companions are generous and let me end up with the room that literally hangs out over the ocean, and I have one of my most memorable nights ever as I sleep to the sound of the sea.

img_3453Our last day takes us north into the greener, more populated and more industrial part of the coast. This time we turn to Lonely Planet for lodging ideas, and at sunset we find ourselves in a traditional Riad inside the town’s walled city but overlooking the lovely Oum Er-Rbia river (which translates as‎ “the mother of springtime”). I get the small bedroom with my own flower-covered terrace and consider what this sort of privacy and beauty would cost me for one night in the United States. I don’t think I could afford it.

I don’t often eat meat, especially when traveling, but for my last night in Morocco I opt for the adventure of a beef tagine, where the meat is steamed in a special clay pot to make it particularly tender. I’m hoping for couscous and vegetables with it and my French speaking fellow traveler tries to find out what else my tagine includes. He finally gives up. “I don’t know what they’re saying. It keeps sounding like prunes and that can’t be right.”

But it is.  I get the most tender beef brisket imaginable served with a mess of very tender stewed prunes on top. It’s delicious. Who would have guessed?

img_3431The next morning I get a final surprise as we try to do a little last minute shopping. We didn’t consider that the market in this town would not be like the markets of Marrakech but rather be a place where men and women buy small treats and cheap plastic items much like they would on a Saturday morning back home at Wal-Mart. Yes, there are more motor bikes than cars, more women wearing scarves loosely over their heads than not, and there is more fresh-picked produce and whole carcasses of animals than I am used to seeing ay my local supersaver, but otherwise this could be the small city I live near now or the Kansas town where I grew up.

Why in the world would you want to go to Morocco? I did get asked that question, and I understood it because I had heard about the pushy sales techniques in the markets and the difficulties for a female traveler in a Muslim country.

img_3363But I went to taste the fig jam and the mint tea. I went to discover the things I didn’t know, like how you can see a dozen or more goats in a tree, chomping on the argan fruits.  I went to see the amazing graffiti painted on the crumbling ruins along the coast, even if I didn’t know that was why I was going.

I went because I didn’t know what I would find.

(For more about my trip to Morocco see  Happy International Day of Peace Lahcen and NajetI see ghosts, It’s an angry world in some places and My Way on my other blogs.)

And That’s Why They Play the Game

red-soxWe are traveling during the final games of the regular baseball season, and it’s causing my husband a great deal of hardship. His beloved Red Sox have been on fire, winning eleven games in a row, and he has had to content himself with replays seen on my computer and games viewed on a small screen in the middle of the night. Worse yet, no one here in Europe cares.

So it has fallen to me, as a good travel companion, to listen each morning to the endless remaining permutations of possibilities for Red Sox success. Over one breakfast, Boston had at least secured a wildcard slot. By another, they had to lose every single remaining game to not win their division. Various future scenarios offer home field advantages, and each loss by other successful teams in the division changes the formula. The configuration even left him temporarily rooting for the hated Yankees this weekend as they played a team close on Boston’s heels.

I don’t really care about baseball, but I do care about him, so I try to pay attention while he speaks. Still, my mind wanders.

riverWe’ve been on the road nearly two weeks now and in a macro sense the vacation has gone as planned.  You know, we’ve shown up where we were supposed to be, when we were supposed to be there. No glitches. But that’s sort of like the Red Sox showing up to play their games, isn’t it? Yes, being there is essential, but it is the other stuff that makes it interesting.

Who could have predicted that the Douro Valley would be such a frustrating place to drive that we would be content to make several dinners out of our breakfast leftovers rather than brave the roads? Who could have guessed that a full moon rising over the Portuguese countryside would inspire us so much with its beauty?

One might have guessed that the GPS would get us into trouble, but who would have thought we’d manage to high center our rental car so thoroughly on a tiny mountain road that it would have to picked up by hand and moved? I certainly didn’t see that one coming.

p-seaNor did I imagine the twenty or so whales we got to watch playing in the late afternoon sunlight of a boat tour, or the wonderful custard-filled tarts that are everywhere. I didn’t know that hot coffee in a big cup would be quite that impossible to find or that a single difficult-to-use espresso machine could frustrate so many half-awake people at once. Why is the air circulation here so bad? Why is the bread here so good?

The original idea for my novel d4, outlined many years ago, was that everyone at some point in the future develops prescience, and they all know what tomorrow will bring, as well as the next year and the next decade. Every human understands how they will die, and when. My overall thesis was that this society would be sad and bored.

My feelings about predestination and freewill have changed a lot in the decades since I thought this one up, and I like to think that my story telling abilities have improved also. I recognize now that such a tale would be hard to tell well and I like the array of my partially prescient characters in d4 much better. But the original story idea has me thinking.

roadIn an hour or so, Boston is going to play New York, and they might clinch the title in their division. Computer models have them likely to win by three points, and odds makers are favoring Boston heavily. You don’t have to be a sports fan to recognize that in spite of this, the Red Sox might well lose tonight. Because of that, my husband can’t wait to watch the game.

And a year from now, the things I will remember most about this trip will be all the wonderful and the difficult things that surprised me. They will be what made the trip interesting. Tonight, I’m thinking about how we don’t show up just to be somewhere. We show up to find out what happens once we arrive.

(For more vacation-inspired epiphanies see Our Brand is Crisis on my z2 blog, Happy International Day of Peace, Alberto and Maria on my x0 blog, and The Moon Rises on my c3 blog,)

 

 

 

The Oddest Predictions for 2016

This is a blog about seeing the future, and all of the lovely, messy ramifications of anyone being able to do so. Therefore, it only makes sense to take a good look at some of the more interesting predictions for 2016.

Who makes these forecasts? Everyone from self-proclaimed psychics to extrapolating news analysts have weighed in on what 2016 is likely to bring. The following prognosticators were selected based on their popularity, using a simple test. I typed “predictions 2016” into my favorite search engine and looked at everything that showed up in the first two pages that wasn’t about predicting entertainment awards or sports team successes. (Surely we can agree that both of those are another whole subcategory of seeing the future.)

spirit science 2Then I picked the prediction or two from each that I found to be the most interesting. A surprising number of everyone’s predictions were just sort of what you’d expect. Things like “global unrest will continue” or “men’s suits will remain cut close to the body” abound. So, just for fun, let’s look at the predictions that were, well, less predictable.

Dr. Carmen Harra, a best-selling author and clinical psychologist, goes out on a limb predicting that North and South Korea will join forces soon and that a global event in 2016 “will ask people to step out of their homes and march through the streets” resulting in an unprecedented protest.

Fortune magazine mostly focuses on stock market and other business predictions but steps out of their comfort zone to suggest that 2016 will be a great year for advocates of legalized marijuana, and for scientific advances in addressing Alzheimer’s disease. They also predict further rises in the price of almonds, of avocados and chocolate. (I’m okay with the almonds but nooooooo, not avocados and chocolate.)

Balkan prophetess Baba Vanga has predicted that next year we will see the end of Europe as we know it. According to Vanga,  Europe will cease to exist in 2016 and the continent will lose almost all of its population.

Writers at Forbes took a step away from their usual focus on money matters to make a series of predictions in the world of physics. Many were esoteric, but readers of science fiction will appreciate the prophecy that 2016 will bring the first direct detection of gravitational waves. Note that this is one of the last unverified predictions of Einstein’s theory of relativity, and it could lead eventually to successful human attempts to manipulate this most poorly understood force. So, if you’ve been waiting for the real hover boards that use anti-gravity to float in the air, if Forbes is correct, there is hope.

Business Insider took a stab at predicting men’s fashions, declaring that in 2016 men’s hair will start to get longer, the man-bun trend will die the slow death it deserves, and most guys will have something they wear on their wrists every day in 2016.

The Atlantic predicted that the renewable-energy sector will grow rapidly in the year ahead and the fact that we can now instantly access all of humanity’s collective intelligence with a small device pulled from our pockets will finally start making society more productive in 2016.

Psychic Jeanne Mayell and her students predict refugee riots in Europe, the U.S. military going into Syria, and the Pope becoming ill and possibly (but hopefully not) dying.

cosmic conduitThe Washington Post focuses on U.S. politics and at least one writer there predicted that at some point this year, we’ll see President Obama truly lose his cool, and we will see conservatives turn on Paul Ryan. Furthermore, the Post carried a prediction that Donald Trump will become a news analyst after his bid for the presidency fails.

A UK psychic blog predicts a massive earthquake in Himalayas, a Japanese island sinking beneath the sea, and a comet/asteroid that is missed by most astronomical observatories and comes close to Earth.

Chris Cillizza, writer of “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post, predicts that fusion will emerge as a viable long-term alternative energy source in 2016, and R&D biotech company Calico will become the world’s hottest company. He goes on to forecast that the markets for drones, driverless vehicles and industrial robots will boom. Ominously, he also predicts that Ted Koppel’s “Lights Out,” which makes the case that a major cyber attack on America’s power grid is likely, will prove prophetic.

The sources of all of these forecasts are quick to point out how difficult it is to get predictions right. Chris Cillizza wrote “it’s worth recalling the prescient words of economist and diplomat John Kenneth Galbraith: There are two types of forecasters: those who don’t know and those who don’t know they don’t know.” He added “I’ll let you decide which I am.”

The author of the UK psychic blog demurred that “I am fallible – and our skeptical friends will quickly highlight anything I get wrong – so do not be fearful of the future or see these predictions as inevitable. I get a lot right but some wrong too.”

My favorite, however, was the writer for the Washington Post who concluded with “I’m extrapolating outward from what I know now, and I predict that this prediction is wrong.”

For more year end fun consider whether it really is an honor to be person of the year, read about my best New Year’s resolution yet,  take a look at the top women of 2016 and catch 2016 plans for world peace.