Somehow, we raised a set of city kids. Over the course of nearly 20 years, we have lived in medium to large cities across two continents. They don’t require a lot of space to enjoy life…a cozy bit of couch for our daughter and her book; electronics for the boys; a movie shared with friends; games around a table. Our world can become small in the city…maybe as a defense against all the noise and craziness outside our door. Or maybe home, at the end of the day, is that place of respite for us…it’s all we need.
For the husband/dad in our family…a wider, less-peopled place is required, from time to time, to take that deep breath and remember a larger world out there, beyond the city. He has to get away from email and phone calls and appointments sometimes…just for a few days…and we all are the better off for it.
Ten years ago, while living in Casablanca, Morocco, we discovered a well-kept-secret, revealed to us by some of our local friends. Just a two-hour drive south of Casablanca is a tiny town by the name of Oualidia. It’s a fishing village, beside the Atlantic Ocean. Unique to Oualidia is a lagoon alongside the coast, protected by natural sea-walls. It provides a lovely space for families to picnic, swim, and play. Fishermen cast their lines off the rocky cliffs or take boats out into the open ocean. Young people gather for surfing or soccer, or in couples to properly court in this open public area. It is a magical place…Oualidia.
These were the days before we had smart phones, and internet connectivity was spotty. Leaving the city, heading out into the countryside, slowed down our lives the farther we got from home. Getting outside the normal can be a bit unsettling, especially for 13- and 14-year-old boys. Surely, there would at least be satellite t.v. in the hotel rooms…or maybe not. I didn’t always know what they were thinking, as our eyes got used to a different view outside the car windows. Winter wheat fields now golden, the occasional sheep herd, and people walking along the desolate road…to who knows where.
It would take us a few hours to recalibrate fun to a much more fundamental or even primitive level than what we were used to in town…with all our electronic supports removed, as well as our friends now more than just a phone call or taxi ride away.
As we settled into our shared hotel room (no t.v. after all), something extraordinary began to happen. The simple beauty of Oualidia and even our hotel, L’Araignee Gourmande, began to settle us down like a gentle massage. Our communication/entertainment choices in the city would keep us attached to screens (email, internet, computer games, t.v., phones). We could do just fine for hours on end, not looking at each other or engaging the world. In Oualidia, there was no other option but. After an early awkwardness, we made peace with our situation and each other. It happened on the walk to the hotel restaurant and over dinner that first night.
It was always fun for us to vacation in North Africa, especially not being tourists really. We lived there and we spoke the language. This always surprised the hotel staff and the servers in the restaurants and stores. We met kindness everywhere we went. And especially in this little hotel/restaurant. This tiny establishment was known for its fresh seafood brought in daily from fishermen just down the beach. And we ate like royalty – all types of fish, crab, mussels, oysters, and even sea urchins. Every meal was an adventure.
For that long weekend (and others after it), we let go of the city. In place of all our electronic devices and constant city friends, we found each other again. The boys played together, and with their sister. We took long walks on the beach and played for hours in the water, finding creatures in the tide pools we’d never seen before. We talked to strangers with abandon. We quietly soaked in the goodness of God through His creation of this beautiful spot and all its richness.
Late each day, we watched the fishermen cleaning their nets on the shore (just like they must have in Bible days).
By the end of the weekend, we would giggle and be silly in the dark of the room with a daddy who had repaired from his city life, along with us.
In those days, we loved our lives in the city, and returned quickly to the routines of life there…but a few days in that little fishing village changed us…reset us again to what mattered most.