Sunday! We left the Fondouk at 6am today with Dr. Bourassi and out head tech Hussein and then Dr. Gigi Kay driving. It was dark and the road not well marked and after a few detours we headed north to the souk. Rolling through the incresasingly hilly countryside Gigi was talking animatedly in French and Arabic to the guys about some of thepolitics involved in the recent change of directors. It was hard to follow but like Spanish soap opera with people dying, loving and just messing around. We finally got to the souk, which is generally held in various rural towns to showcase and sell the animals and goods available. The buyers are dealers or like us, people looking ofr one animal to replace another. There were more Mercedes Benz trucks and vans than you’d see at Longwood tennis Club on finals weekend ! But they had walk up ramps and were full of sheep, goats, bullocks or mules or donkeys! Amazing stuff. We walked through muck, mud ans herds of sheep to the donkey/mule area and started looking. Our mission was to replace a donkey that had died at the Fondouk last week and the family had no income to replace. So Dr. Gigi agreed to buy a new one. Amazing. No lawyers, no welfare people no pressure, just a realization that if they had no animal there was no work, no income. So there we were, me, Gigi, Hussein and Borassi, meeting dealers. Watching the animals move and trying not to create a scene. We were recognized by a few and greeted warmly, and we tried out a few donkeys. That means we palpated. Flexed, squeezed and sometimes watched as an enthusiastic seller jumped on and rode him 50 yards at a full trot while we watched! Hat’s a true PPE! Finally decided on a 4 year old, bigger than the late deceased but with no obvious defects! And the seller would deliver him t
o the Fondouk. Much grinning, shouting and shaking of hands and a final changing of bills from one to the other. Included delivery! Then we were shown to a picnic table and given a breakfast of sweet tea and bread dipped I oil. Amazing. The sun was coming up as we ate and the area suddenly became beautiful! Our muddy shoes (the TSA is gonna love them), suddenly dried and we climbed back into the car and headed back through th
e hill to Fez. Gigi had seen a few hill town villages on the way and wanted to stop and look at the homes, so we followed a really narrow track up the side of a hill and out of sight. We rounded a corner, scattered a flock of sheep and came to rest at a dead en overlooking a magnificent valley that wa topped by a white adobe building and associated house and barn. Bourassi approached a young man coming out and asked if we could look around, as he had a friend from Amerika who wanted to see, pointing at me! In a minute we were in the courtyard and blinking in awe at the white walls around us. And in ten minutes, as Gigi had predicted, we were sitting on the courtyard being served a beautiful breakfast of bread(freshly baked in a round ,flat style with a crunchy crust, olives picked locally in oil, cheese and fresh churned butter and a dipping bowl. “only use your right hand” whispered Gigi, as I started to tear into my part! And we sat in the warm sun, dipping and chewing “make lots of slurping sounds” she whispered and feeling transported. The grandparents showed up, he in a long hooded robe, she in a full wrap and leggings, to sit with us as we talked. Hussein is wonderful with people and they seemed to think they were related! Finally after much conversation with the old gent, Hussein related that he was 110 years old and counting! Funny, cause I wouldn’t’ have guessed him over 105! And he was a lively one for sure, saying he was the last guy to go to bed at the last party but fell down off the porch and woke everyone up last week! We finished up with a tall glass of yogurt that I could only get halfway through, Gigi only sipped. We got a tour of their premises, very adobe/ Southwestern and headed out. This afternoon, after we returned, we had a little quiet time (I disinfected my boots) and we had a bit of review for a report to Boston. Then we gathered the student, worked on the horse with no eye and then did a final review of my report. Had a dinner party tonight and now I’m packing for the flight home. Going to be a long day, but I think I’ll be back. This is an important outpost for education and working equids. It’s a brave start and I am glad I’m a part of it.