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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Race Sat

To avoid any more phone calls from the 'rents this blog is going to be pretty bland (at least they were more concerned about my safety than my spelling).

We have a classic rollerski race on Saturday. It's the Potter Valley course-- out & back on Old Seward Hwy and up Potter Valley Rd. It's a good course and I'm looking forward to getting a concrete reading on my training effect this summer.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I am going to die

When I'm skiing I almost always have a mantra running through my head. Some of the common ones are, high hands, compress, drop the body, or any number of sound effects. It's a bad habit that I've picked up from years and years of being coached.

Because I'm not particularly concerned with improving my running technique, when I run I usually merely have random thoughts or song lyrics floating through my head. (The kind they tell you to imagine as helium balloons and to gently push away when you're meditating.) Recently though, I have had a fairly constant mantra during my runs. It's "I'm going to die." I'm running through the mountains, thinking about that can of bear spray back in Anchorage in the garage chanting to myself, "I'm going to die, I'm going to die, I'm going to die."

I obviously have not actually died yet but I ran up Arctic Valley Rd yesterday and stopped on the way up to check out the bear tracks crossing the road. And thought, "I'm going to die." Other than that it was a good run, almost all L3 up to the ski area. Then I was almost back to my car, less than 500' away, and two bear cubs frolicked on out into the road in front of me. I threw on the brakes, back pedaled, and told myself, "I'm going to die." It was almost a relief to find the bears. Although I was pretty nervous about not knowing where mama bear was ("I'm going to die"). Luckily, a nice couple with two young children and a rented minivan drove up behind me and I stuck out my thumb and hopped in for the 500' to my car. Let me tell you, those bear cubs were way cuter from inside a car.

Monday, July 28, 2008

I imagine

We had a brand new workout today-- L5 intervals up Potter Valley Road. I thought it was great. There's not much that can beat skiing hard uphill.

I imagine Erik and Dylan sitting around in the office puzzling out the best workout for us to do each day. Actually, I imagine them in some kind of shady pub smoking cigars with their best poker faces plotting the best training regime for us while the other patrons go about pursuing their puerile interests. Which doesn't make any sense because I know what the APU office looks like, neither Erik nor Dylan uses any form of tobacco, and Holly or Casey would probably be around too. Regardless of what I know the facts are there's something kind of sly about the way Erik & Dylan observe us during our training. I feel like they're building a dossier of information on me and my skiing. They don't reveal all they know but they have a "I know more than you do" kind of expression which makes me feel a little bit like a puppet. But you know what, I don't mind having a puppet master looking down on me from the heights of wisdom and guiding my training. It's also reassuring when our workouts change every now and then, it confirms my suspicions that Erik & Dylan are sitting at some back table analyzing how we currently ski and train and bouncing ideas off each other about how we could be skiing and training better.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

I ran out the Iditarod trail on Saturday afternoon starting at the Eagle River Nature Center and heading toward Crow Pass. It was a good trail for running since it was mostly flat. Maybe some people would claim that made it a bad trail for running.

The rain must have gotten worse throughout the run because it doesn't look that rainy in these photos which I took near the beginning but by the end of the run it had turned into a true storm and I was soaked. Between the falling rain and the dousing from the underbrush crowding the last hour was pretty much like running through a car wash.

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Ky Eiben, Laura Valaas, Katie Ronsse, Becca Rorabaugh, Matt Johnson was our photographer.

I think I'll have to add the mud flats to my list of top ten reasons to live in Alaska. I have never had better mu in which to play. After our rollerski intervals in the morning we colluded to take advantage of the one nice day we've had in July to put together a picnic and play outside all day. If you had told me that I would ever be swimming in the Pacific Ocean when the ambient temperature was 65° I would have denied the possibility but somehow it seemed like a reasonable thing to do. I was also pretty impressed with the picnic we managed to put together-- salmon, mint basmati rice, brie, grapes, pears, salad with lots of color, hot chocolate, chocolate almond clusters. It was a pretty good way to spend the afternoon

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Thursday, July 24, 2008


I was driving over to meet Ronsse to carpool to practice the other morning. It was 49°F and raining, I would even go so far as to say pouring. I was far from excited at the prospect of putting on my ski boots and watching the rain drip off my helmet in front of my face for two hours. It seemed like maybe a good morning to stay home and read some of Nabokov's delightfully morbid short stories. But Ronsse was waiting to carpool and the rest of the team was waiting at Potter marsh and it was probably going to be raining the next day too so it's not like waiting for good weather was an option.

Ronsse got in the car and said, "it's been forever since I've been rollerskiing in the rain.."

"me too," I replied glumly before she could finish with,

"I'm excited about it!"

as much as I hate admitting that my mom is ever right there's something to be said for attitude.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Klister & Procrastination

I was dead set on cleaning off my klister-caked classic kickers when I got home tonight. (Someone slap me please, I alliterated and I can't stand alliteration, it's like a black hole of stupidity used when one isn't actually paying attention what's being written, imho.) Then one of my friends sent me a link to the following article on procrastination. The immediate effect was to feel better about myself and the secondary effect is that my skis are still oozing klister onto the floor.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

If I never saw a moose again...

...that would be perfectly fine by me. I'd gotten spoiled by my entirely moose-free glacier-maroc-glacier month and running in Kincaid this morning was constantly irked by the forgotten presence of moose scattered throughout the trails. They're such nuisances, like over-sized rodents that can seriously obstruct your forward momentum. And I'll tell you what's wrong with moose these days, they lack respect, that's what. Fear me, moose, FEAR ME. I probably spent a solid five minutes this morning yelling at moose. I was only successful at getting them to move about half the time. No respect for their human elders, that's the problem. I come from the species that harnessed FIRE, invented the WHEEL, walked on the MOON. I am IMPORTANT. This is a fact that those moose don't seem to appreciate. It deflates my ego and it pisses me off. If you're not Alaskan and think that moose are a novelty; if you think, "oh, let's take a cruise up to Alaska and buy a cute little stuffed animal moose to bring home as a memento." Don't think that, come up to Alaska, bring a gun, and take home an entire full-sized moose. Better yet, take home a couple. Because I am so over moose.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

In pretty much the most disgusting moment of the week, Miss Kassandra Rice drank a coffee mug of bacon grease. I think the incentive was $100 but I'm not positive. This is not how one should dispose of bacon grease.

Kate Arduser, Katie Ronsse, Kikkan Randall, & Taz Mannix hanging out in the upstairs living room. Taz is working and the other girls are watching, I believe, video from Kikkan & Jeff's wedding. Aw... cute. This is typically my realm as well, if you look at the table you can see my textbook, paper & calculator.

Katie Ronsse, Kikkan Randall & Jeff Ellis waiting to depart Eagle glacier Sunday afternoon.

This is post clean-up and pre-departure but the downstairs living room usually seems to look like this-- people draped over all the couches.

My favorite quotes from the week:

"...and that's the difference between slipping around and climbing trees."
-Erik Flora on some technique/waxing point.

"Are you telling me we've eating 25 sticks of butter?"
-Dylan Watts on hearing that there were only 7 sticks of butter remaining 3 days into the camp.

I also picked up a new phrase from Jeff Ellis which is, unfortunately, not appropriate for publishing.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

A very small person skiing across the glacier.

Dlyan Watts standing on the ridge where we had a new trail for our OD on Sunday.

Ellis's footprints heading out to the wax trailer one morning.

We didn't see much this week but the mountains around here always are spectacular when you can see them.

Being right back up on the glacier last week made Morocco seem like a crazy dream. I was amazed by how quickly my body adapted from glacier weather to highs every day between 40 & 50° and back to snow flurries almost every day. I missed a few workouts due to getting delayed on the way back but it was still a solid week of training with some L5, L4 & L3 workouts as well as some good video sessions and feedback from Erik on technique.

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Saturday, July 19, 2008


There's a pair of skis leaning in my entryway. Classic skis. With klister oozing down the entire length by now, I imagine. I try not to look at them. I try not to see them. I know for a fact that I would feel better about life if I took ten minutes and took them into the garage and cleaned them and put them away. It's been on my to-do list for, well, months now. The longer I wait the more the klister petrifies into unmanageable amber. Furthermore it's right by a coat hook so every time I hang up my sweatshirt I have the take extra care to keep the sleeves from swaying into contact with the kick zone.

And for some reason I don't strike people as a procrastinator.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Obesity Map

This is a pretty interesting map of America published by the Center for Disease Control charting the percentage of obese Americans from 1985 through 2006. Startling, really, especially since it only covers 21 years.

Check it out HERE.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The second largest mosque in the world. Casablanca.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

USSA Licenses

Don't forget to renew your USSA license!

USSA has a sweet new set up so you can renew online. You have to set up an account but it's way easier than filling out the paper form.

USSA Online Membership Page

Monday, July 14, 2008


I passed my Exam that I took in May!

If you have no idea what I'm talking about and are wondering what has happened to this blog I'll be back from the glacier by the 21st and promise that I'll get back to skiing topics like I should be writing about with only occasional flashbacks to Morocco experiences. Promise.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


I had hoped to be on the glacier tonight but I'm having a forced extended layover in Salt Lake City. I suppose that it was about time for a travel snafu. Maybe the only part of my vacation that didn't go perfectly. Hope I make it tomorrow.


Friday, July 11, 2008

Tafraout verbosity

On our adventures the other day we only took Cammie's camera so you have to wait for pictures of Tafraout. In fact, you may have to wait all summer but I do promise to put them up sometime and in the meantime they should pop up on Cammie's facebook profile if you're a facebook-er.

Tafraout is more than we expected. We got here on Monday, today is Thursday and we still haven't left yet. Although I think we're planning on catching the 6pm bus back to Agadir and the Atlantic coast for a day before our Moroccan adventures draw to a close.

I don't know if Dr. Seuss ever came out to visit Tafraout but I have an inkling that he may have. That would provide a clean explanation for how he came up with all of the weirdly shaped landscapes in his illustrations. The rocks here are fantastic. The coolest ones are of a granular granite (where's one of my many geo-major friends when I need one?) and have been carved into eerie forms by the wind. It makes me suspect that some giant with a lot of sculpy made a playground for me here and then baked it into rock with the sun. (It's 40-50 here mid day... one reason we splurged $20 on a hotel with a pool.) Tuesday we went for a bike ride to the "les pierres bleues" which is artwork out in the desert by, um, I'll have to look up his name in my guidebook, Jean Verges or something. Anyway, in 1984 he came out here and painted a bunch of rocks. These are big rocks too, I think he used some 18 tons of paint. Yeah, I said tons, as in the unit of measure not just the generic term for a lot. We took a nice break scrambling around on them.

We also rode out to the Ameln Valley North of Tafraout. Here we found a sick abandoned Kasbah to explore. I don't even normally use the adjective "sick" so you know it really must have been. Dark, creepy, mud and stone and wood brick floors and walls, some intact some not. We climbed all three stories and kept telling ourselves that the only time these things collapsed was in the spring when they were heavy from moisture. At least nothing broke on us. There were old woven baskets and pottery to sift through. We felt like archeologists.

Seriously a good day out in the countryside. We were out wandering for 9 hours although that included a lot of stops for juice.



It took us two days to get from Imelil to Tafraout. We started late and the first taxi would only take us to Ansi. So we crammed 8 of us into the taxi. I shared the middle of the front seat with a young boy. Ten minutes into the ride I saw the driver hand him a plastic bag and turned toward Cammie to look out the window while he puked. We stopped and he moved to the backseat, maybe to be by a window? I don't know, they were all speaking Berber. (In case you're counting that is five people now across the back seat.) In Ansi we had to decide whether to go back up to Marrakesh and the more frequently traveled, and hence cheaper, routes or head more directly south. After a lot of discussion and people telling us there were no buses today only tomorrow and getting practically mobbed by two or three people trying to get us to buy something/give them money we made it into a taxi that agreed to take us all the way to Taradounnt. Hey, two very forceful people shoving bracelets at you can feel like a mob when it's well over 40° and you just want to get out of town.

The road South from Ansi is touted by the Lonely Planet as "the most perilous road in Morocco." One lane paved, narrow shoulders, blind corners, abrupt edges. Don't worry mom, I only thought we were going to die twice! Actually, the time we almost drove off the road (unexpected oncoming traffic on a blind downhill corner and all that) Cammie was on the cliff side and could see how close we actually were to the edge. That was the first I'd heard Cammie swear on this trip. We stopped once for tea and so our driver could pray. I'm not sure really though how much he wanted to stop to pray and how much he just wanted a smoke. The second time we stopped just to have coffee. I don't normally drink coffee but our driver got us each a glass and due to the Moroccan tendency to put more sugar than anything else in their beverages it was actually quite tasty. The third time we stopped because there were goats climbing trees. This immediately had Cammie and I plastered to the window and laughing. So when he offered to stop to let us take some photos we quickly assented. I've never seen trees with goats climbing them before, but I guess it's a good adaptive technique since there wasn't any vegetation on the ground for them to eat. The fourth time we stopped I don't even know where we were... a bigger town that didn't look very pleasant and our driver negotiated with another driver to take us the rest of the way to Taradounnt. In Taradounnt our timing was good enough that we were on a bus headed to Agadir within half an hour. AND the bus only left 5minutes after the published departure time. I was impressed. In Agadir we found another taxi that would take us as far as Tiznit. We had a very nice Moroccan pharmacist sitting with us who helped us with our French for the duration of the ride. We stayed the night in Tiznit and finished with a 2hour excruciatingly hot taxi ride to Tafraout the next day.


Thursday, July 10, 2008


Morocco is touted as a bird watching locale. There's apparently 454 species that hang out in Morocco at some point during their travels. It makes me wish I knew my birds better but I think I will enjoy seeing them even without knowing their names.



I loved Imelil. Probably in part because it reminded me of Wenatchee. I don't know why I have to go all the way to the High Atlas mountains of Morocco to feel like I'm back in Wenatchee. They even had apple orchards here in some of the lower, more easily watered, land. The upper and more arid part of the canyon was mostly argan & olive trees (I think at least). The apple orchards had irisis growing in them too which I imagine would be stunning if they'd been in bloom.

The small hillside village where we staid above Imelil. Most villages here are on the hillside so they can use a gravity powered water system.

I went for a walk the morning after we summited Toubkal and was completely enchanted. There was even a group of women doing laundry in the stream. If I had to wash my clothes by hand all the time I'd never get anything else done. I porbably would also have a lot fewer clothes.

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008


Cammie bought a sweet dress thing in Tiznit. I tried one on but being slightly taller than the average Moroccan woman it was a bit too short for me.

Incidentally, Cammie went for a bike ride this morning... at seven. I was feeling not up to the challenge so I staid home and went for a shorter (although still 2 hrs) run among the rocks. I expected her back around 1. With how hot it was and on a mountain bike with and estimated 80k trip I gave her 6 hrs. Breaks you know. She wasn't back by 2pm. I got a little worried, but hey, Cammie's super resourceful and I knew she'd just been to the atm so she had plenty of cash. At four I decided that maybe I would have to rent car to drive the route she was going to ride. I decided to give her until 7 to get home before going in search. She got back at 6. I'm not sure I've ever been so happy to see someone. I imagine she'll give you the details on her blog cameron.byerley.blogspot.com one of these days.


Words about Toubkal

When I posted pictures last time my keyboard quit working half way through, so I just was working with the mouse and didn't feel like cutting & pasting to get words. Probably okay because I couldn't figure out how to get my keyboard off of the french keyboard anyway and it was slow typing. Now I'm back on an English keyboard so things should go faster. The dude sitting next to me in on his fourth beer and probably fifth cigarette so I might not stick around too long!

The pictures don't do the Toubkal area justice. It was so beautiful. The best I can describe it is that it's the kind of terrain that I would imagine for the David & Goliath Bible story. Huge rocks, steep mountains, herds of goats and sheep wandering around, hot and dry with sparse vegetation. Surprisingly there was still patches of snow in some of the creek valleys... not what I was expecting in North Africa. We caught a taxi from Marrakesh to Imelil on friday, checked into a hotel to ditch most of our stuff and hiked in to the Toubkal refuge that afternoon. I say "took a taxi" and "checked into a hotel" but you have to translate these yourself into Moroccan experiences. Not how you'd do it in the US.

When we got the the Refuge- run by the French Alpine club and way nicer than any backcountry hut I've been in before... running water and even one western style toilet instead of the ubiquitous hole-in-the-floor. They also did breakfast and dinner for you if you wanted (which we did). Arriving at the refuge was like dropping into a cosmopolitan airport hub... there were people from all over the world speaking all kinds of languages. Of course the Moroccans who worked at the refuge all spoke 5 or 6 languages. The Moroccqn capacity for language astounds me and has created a whole new definition for me about what is a reasonable number of languages to learn (more than I know now!). Spanish seemed to be the dominant language of the day and Cammie and I quickly suffocated all the French we knew by spending the entire evening visiting with the spaniards. We even got an invite to come with one of the groups to Todra Gorge for some rock climbing the next day. Well, Cammie got the invite, those blondes get all the attention. (& we didn't go.)

The next morning we impressed everyone who noticed by reaching the summit in two hours. Not actually that impressive but we seemed to be a step above the typical tourists fitness-wise. It was a long trip back down to Imelil, mostly because Cammie was sick so we had to stop a lot (Cammie's perfectly healthy at the time of writing this). But at Imelil we had our hotel (One of the Berber houses in an upper valley that rented rooms along with dinner & breakfast) and our host, or rather some mysterious women whom we didn't meet, cooked us a tagine for dinner. Probably the best tagine I'd ever had at that point. Then again, every tagine has been the best I've ever had so far.

Our next destination was Tafraout. We didn't know anyone who'd ever been there and it was far away but we decided it seemed like a place we would like.

Okay, I've been officially smoked outta here. More later.



I tried to pick a piece off of a cactus because it looked exactly like the cactus pieces that the street vendors sell and I thought I could eat it. The cactus came to no harm and I've been picking cactus spines out of my hand ever since. I think I'll just buy one from the street vendors. You would think I would know better.


Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Saint Augustine

Morocco's population is about 90% Berbers (or Imazighen, meaning free men). My (least?) favorite Berber so far in my studies is Saint Augustine. Augustine was from Algeria, Morocco's neighbor to the East. I'm not sure that I agree with all of Augustine's philosophies (& I've only even read The Confessions of) but the dude was an important figure for modern thought and has had a huge impact on our society even 1,610 years later.


Monday, July 07, 2008

Djebal Toubkal

We trekked up to the highest peak in N. Africa... Djebal Toubkal.

Along the route to the Refuge there was a smattering of small huts offering spring-cooled refreshments.

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

Djebel Toubkal

If my life is going as planned I should be milling somewhere near the vicinity of Djebel Toubkal in the Atlas Mountains.

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Friday, July 04, 2008

Independence Day

Happy Fourth of July!

Morocco gained independence from France on March 2, 1956 and from April 7, 1956. The Northern half of Morocco was controlled by Spain and, in fact, two towns on the Northern coast still are part of Spain. The Western Sahara part of the country in the South of Morocco is a little more complicated. Spain finally pulled out of Western Sahara in 1976 leaving Morocco, Mauritania and the Saharawis (the local population) to fight over it. Mauritania got beat down and the territory is currently mostly under Moroccan control but the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic would like to be recognized as self-governing.


Thursday, July 03, 2008


Wednesday afternoon we took the train to Marrakesh from Rabat. Marrakesh is quintessential Maroc... a crazy big Medina with winding streets, souks, food stalls, masses of people, and mad chaos in general.

Medina means the old town before colonization so the streets are narrow (sometimes very, like I have to stop and turn sideways when a motorbike comes through) and cobbled and the buildings are quaint and frequently crumbling. Souk means market. Our French is improving every day here, although with the Moroccans' aptitude for languages we would probably have survived on English and Spanish. We did take a tour of the Palais De la Bahia today which was a relief. We'd started with the French speaking tour but I heard spanish drifting over from another room and promptly pulled Cammie over to it.

Cammie's theme is cats... so she has a lot of pictures of cats and I'm ending up with a lot of pictures of Cammie playingwith cats.
The attention to detail in the palaces is amazing. This ceiling is carved cedar wood and full of intricate geometric patterns.

p.s. Maroc is amazing, internet is sometimes questionable. I'm trying to get photos posted but if not, I'm uploading them to facebook for safekeeping of some form so if you want more photos check there.

p.s.s. Some of my posts were pre-published while I was still in the states so the dry, informative posts are those and the rushed posts with pictures and poor grammar are published from the scene.

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More Marrakesh

We still haven't found any pomogranates but there's been everything else we've been looking for. We got dragged into a spice shop. Dragged is maybe too forceful... everyone here is really nice so it's hard to turn people down but it does make the wandering experience much more pleasant than if people were more abrupt. So we started talking to this guy whose brother randomly lives in Seattle and we ended up getting 6grams of saffron from him. Then he invited us to have some mint tea with him as friends. Which we did, it was time for some sugar anyway. He spent the next half hour probably showing us his wares. I was fascinated... it was like being in ursula's cavern with jars of everthing from floor to ceiling. He told us what everything was and what it was used for. He was a good salesman. He even demonstrated the orange flower oil by giving us a mini brow massage. Of course we got sucked into buying more stuff!

Our apothecary friend
Cammie being given a "present" of a small henna tattoo despite her best protestations. I ended up with the same tattoo.

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Cammie sitting cross-legged on the floor of an antique shop waiting for some mint tea.
Nothing like fresh fruit after a hot walk through the Medina.

I made it to Rabat Tuesday afternoon with absolutely no glitches in the plan. When I got to Rabat Cammie was even waiting at the airport door for me with a taxi driver she already knew. We went straight to her friend \jane's house and only got slightly lost. How deluxe! Since I'd been good about sleeping on the flights over we went straight to the Medina to check out the scene.

Morocco is everything I had hoped it would be so far... there's orange trees lining the roads like fireweed in Alaska, everything smells of spices, it's sweltering hot and full of palm trees. We almost immediately got sucked in to talking to one of the shopkeepers in an antique shop in the Medina. He was super nice and didn't even try very hard to sell us anything, he just wanted to practice his English. Wanting to practice our French, we were perfectly happy to oblige. We had a seat in his shop and drank hot mint tea. Very sugary.

We made our way out to the ocean and found ourselves in a huge cemetary. We made our way through the cemetary and across a busy street to the rocky seashore. no swimming today... we're saving the beach for later in our trip when we run out of steam.

Cammie walking into the Medina
Cammie with the Atlantic ocean in the background.

I liked the snails. The first snails I saw here were in pots of boiling water but the more I looked the more I noticed that they were crawling up everything. No wonder the street vendores are selling snail stew.

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Alternative Blog

My partner in crime for these two weeks in Morocco has her own blog at


Cammie's not only a better writer than I am, she's a more copious writer. So if you want more info on our Moroccan adventures you can check out her site. As a bonus, the last time she was using this blog was when we were in Peru together so you can scroll down or hit the archives for her perspective on our month in Peru in '06!

Live life, love it.


Tuesday, July 01, 2008


Sometimes you just have to follow your intuition and travel a little bit. I know that I have a little (huge, actually) streak of wanderlust and that it's good for my soul to get out and explore the world. So I'm meeting up with one of my surreally amazing friends this afternoon in Rabat, Morocco! My plane gets in at 14:30 local time... it's going to be HOT after a trip to the glacier!

No ipod, no cell phone, no computer... escape from reality, yes! (Or would that be entering reality?)


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