Beating Him at His Own Game

He breaks the pristine arrangement of red and yellow. The assortment of colors splays upon the green table with the motion of spilled Skittles. I play first and aim for a red one, succeeding in bringing it closer to the pocket just for my rival to sink it on his next turn. Immediately after, he tactfully sinks two more in a row. It’s a bleak start for me, a relative newcomer to the game of pool.

He starts to seemingly knock balls around but he is strategically placing them to give me a hard time. My rival is commanding the game’s difficulty. He coaches me how to execute some of these difficult plays, and one by one I sink the yellow balls and begin to make a comeback. Finally, I have two yellow left, while my rival has only the 8-ball.

photo by Michaella Wiss

photo by Michaella Wiss

I play for the yellow far across the table. I attempt to hit right but my hand moves and it hits left. However, now the cue is wedged behind the other yellow, obstructing the 8-ball. He is surprised by the dirty play, but his friend has taught me to do this. Sure enough he misses. I have two yellow left and two shots.

I line up my shot and sink the yellow in the corner. The cue rolls back into place and aligns perfectly with the second yellow. I sink it with ease. My rival is sweating with the realization that he could lose: a blow to his pride and his title as undefeated (by me). Unfortunately I mess up my shot with the 8-ball. The game is in his favor—until he misses the 8-ball due to overconfidence. I again have two shots.

The 8-ball is nearest to the side pocket: the most difficult pocket. It’s also in the middle of the table with the cue at a bad angle. However, I have learned to use my two shots to my advantage.

I tap the 8-ball closer to the pocket. The cue bounces off the wall and everything is now aligned.

“Don’t mess this up,” he says, trying to add pressure.

I tap the cue ball gently and the 8-ball slowly rolls in. I am overcome by a mix of pride and excitement—my friend has always managed to beat me by a very close game. Today, I have dethroned a king.

The woman who maintains our table gives a cheer—she was rooting for me to win and looks very pleased. My friend commends me for a good game; he had not expected me to win so soon. The woman resets the table to its previous perfection. We agree to play again. My friend is eager to reclaim his title and I wish to keep it. This time, I get to break—a privilege meant for those who win. The next game begins with a new intensity and higher stakes.

—Michaella Wiss

A Row-mantic Afternoon in Spain

You don’t have to spend a lot of time in Seville to understand why it is such a popular city. A sense of drama surrounds the Andalusian capital, from it’s extravagant Catholic churches, to the royal plazas featured in famous movies, to the way the strum of a guitar tends to start a whole room clapping. Contemporary shops, restaurants, and arts spaces line Seville’s narrow stone alleyways, and friendly locals seem to rule the day.

Seville is home to several high-profile architectural sites, but none has gotten more attention than the Metropol Parasol, an immense mushroom-like gridded structure. During our first few hours in this city, I explored this structure and was able to tour its archaeological museum, bars, and restaurants—along with a balcony with a panoramic view of the city center—and I got a free glass of bubbly sangria at the end.

Spain’s cities are characterized by large public squares almost everywhere, places that invite people to linger and to communicate. One of these squares stood above the rest, the Plaza de España! This beautiful square enchanted me. It seemed like a scene straight out of a movie and, as I found out later, it was! This sophisticated yet quirky square was featured in the most popular movie series of all time, Star Wars. It also used to be the home of a public outdoor library—until people began stealing books from the shelves and it was forced to shut down.

photo by Hannah Debeljak

photo by Hannah Debeljak

But this is not the story I want to tell. While visiting this elegant plaza, I was captivated by the swirling tile courtyard and the rainbow that appeared in the misting fountain during the afternoon sunlight. Horse-drawn carriages circled the fountain before heading off to give sightseers a tour of the city, and a little painted pony attached to a kid cart called out with high-pitched pony neighs to his friends.

Ashley, Sam, Michaela, and I decided to rent a rowboat and float around the canal. It was so beautiful! Koi and ducks intermingled around the boats, and the clip-clop of the horses and spraying of the water fountain could be heard as we rowed around the plaza; Michaela even put on “An Evening in Roma” to set the mood. We all were having a fabulous time learning how to row properly and navigate the tiny boat through the canal. I wanted to say “Row!” each time Sam and Michaela used the oars, but Sam insisted on the proper boating term, which was “Stroke!” After steering through the mass of boats for a while, we decided to just float and watch other people as they paddled by. They seemed to be even more incompetent than we were! We watched as people struggled to avoid other boats and tried to figure out how to use and hold the oars. We laughed as one guy ended up completely backward, in both the way he was sitting and the way he was paddling!

It was an extremely amusing half hour: a row-mantic afternoon boating under the Spanish sun!

—Hannah Debeljak

The Cherimoya

In Tangier, shopping is no longer a task, it’s an adventure.

photo by Aidan McGowan

photo by Aidan McGowan

Intense rays from high in the sky blind our eyes and sear the exposed skin on the back of our necks; the strange smells of the Tangier medina fill our noses. We know it is close to midday from the sounds of the dhuhr prayer filling the air, reminding us that we only have a limited amount of time till we need to be back on campus for our Society and Culture lecture. We walk with intention through the crowded streets, dodging immigrant beggars and a large group of tourists that might slow us down, all in search of the cherimoya, a fruit that Mark Twain once described as “the most delicious fruit known to man.” With our timeline quickly ticking down, we dive straight into the fresh foods portion of the medina, submerging ourselves in the flowing stream of Moroccan men and women buying freshly slaughtered meat and ripe produce. After several minutes of swimming our way up the crowded corridor, we find the treasure we have set out for; in a small wooden carton sits a pyramid of the green dragon-scaled fruit. Without hesitation, Alyssa dives into a short French dialogue with the shop owner, inquiring how much one cherimoya would cost us.

Il coûte combien?” she asks. “How much?”

To which the shop owner replies, “Soixante, sixty.”

When we attempt to barter, the man declines, suggesting that the price is fixed. While deliberating what our next move will be, I am tapped on the shoulder by a tall slender Moroccan man.

In broken English, he states, “Fruit too expensive . . . Want hash? It’s free, come with me to my spice shop!”

With the realization that we are making no progress with the fruit vendor and that we are starting to be targeted by the other salesmen of the medina, Alyssa and I quickly decline both offers––the overpriced fruit and the supposedly free hash that is––and quickly start to weave our way back out toward the open streets. As we proceed on our journey back to campus, Alyssa and I reflect about the unusual situation we have just escaped from, realizing that we aren’t upset about leaving empty-handed: it was all part of the adventure.

—Aidan McGowan

Tarik and the Black Hearts

The other night Nikita and I went with two Moroccan friends for some tea. When in Morocco, do as the Moroccans do. We met up shortly after the sunset started and raced to the coast hoping to seeing the last few rays of sun on the ocean. Although the Sunday traffic made us miss the sunset, we did find a little café on the coast, exactly what we needed.

While letting our tea cool off in the ocean breeze, we started the conversation. The subjects spanned the distance that we had traveled to get here (Morocco). To sum up our friends’ introductions to the subject: “Moroccan women are a combo of a black widow spider and a praying mantis.” Said our friend Karim, “They have black hearts and will rip your head off.” Tarik nodded in agreement.

Nikita and I were categorized as the opposite of Moroccan women. Apparently Moroccans like their women big. To my delight and that of any American girl, we were told that “big” was hardly close to our description.

Just hearing their ideas about the differences between Moroccan women and American women made it so clear why all our Moroccan friends are men. The women here don’t go out at night, they travel in packs, and the thought of trusting a Moroccan man is childish and stupid. All these things are part of the definition of a woman to Moroccan men, and yet so completely different than us.

From our conversation, you would think since women were treated differently, men’s morals about them would be different. But, just like any man would say (or should say), women are respected. “How could you be disrespectful to a woman when someone just like her raised you since birth and cared for you, when you couldn’t care for yourself?” said Tarik.

We don’t dress slutty or disrespectful, we said, we are American women given the majority of the same rights as men in our country. As our conversation continued, the ideas went deeper and deeper. Our friends made it clear they didn’t even trust their own mothers. “Don’t get me wrong,” said our friend Tarik, “I love my mother with all my heart, but I would never trust that woman.” There is no one in the world they respect more than their mothers; however, their respect only reaches so far.

After hearing this information, I now have a little more of an understanding for the comments in the streets, the looks at the cafés, and the catcalls while walking to grab a taxi. I may not possess a black heart like a Moroccan woman, but I’d still like to think I have a bit of that same fire.

—Natalie Tremblay

photo by Hassan Elkourfti

photo by Hassan Elkourfti

Bumper Carts

A bustling crowd, persistent salesmen, faux Ray Bans, and a cart coming in hot—the medina is all too familiar now. All it takes is a bump from an elbow to push me into the path of the speeding wooden vehicle. “Sorry,” mutters the man, who is pushing a frail woman in a wheelchair. Although a fellow English speaker, he appears to care very little about what has just taken place. Metal and wood on skin isn’t the greatest feeling: especially when cleanliness isn’t the medina’s best quality. Thankfully a semi-deep scrape is my only “gift” from this unwanted encounter.

Now Natalie and I have two goals: escape the maze-like market and find a clean sink with soap. Locating a sign to direct our travels to the square is our mission. After walking for several minutes with no hope on the horizon, we come to a familiar crossing. Our reward is a sign shaped like an arrow with dull mustard-colored paint. All we have to do now is follow these signs. If only it was that easy: the height at which the signs are hung make them incredibly easy to miss. Tattered brown signs scattered along the way add another level of difficulty to navigation.

By now, five to ten minutes have passed since the first marker. I’m not sure if the two of us could be more lost at this point. None of the stores, streets, or restaurants are ringing a bell. As it turns out, we have made our way to the exact opposite side of where we needed to be. As the sun is preparing to leave the sky, we turn around with a sigh. Side streets now deserted; it’s a race against the clock. Another five minutes pass, bringing us to the crossing at last. Now to figure out where we went wrong. Making our way back, much slower this time, a different sign captures our eyes. Instead of the right previously taken, a left turn was necessary to arrive at the square. Seven minutes is all it takes to reach our destination now that our bearings are correct.

photo by Kevin Thibodeau

photo by Kevin Thibodeau

Finding the café is the new objective. Scanning the rooftops for a familiar terrace, we spot the green wraparound balcony belonging to the café visited by the group yesterday. Natalie, my minor flesh wound, and I push through monkey handlers, snake charmers, juice vendors, and spectators until the granite steps of the café are at our feet. I’m making my way upstairs, walking fast, arm throbbing, and I’m sink-bound. Fresh soap cleanses my gouge. A sense of relief washes over me as the water slowly dissipates down the drain. Sugarless mint tea quenches my dry throat as the sun falls below the brick skyline. Following the fall of the sun, the moon rises once again, setting the stage for the night to come.

—Kevin Thibodeau

Fight Night in Marrakech?

Jemaa el-Fnaa is shrouded in a cloud of smoke and steam from countless eateries and illuminated from the lights within, producing a soft ruby-colored hue. The setting sun contrasts with the dark outlines of the cityscape and paints the sky, changing and eventually vanishing before your eyes. King cobras lie coiled on the cobblestones, swaying their heads ever so slightly to the sound of the charmer’s rhaita. Storytellers form spontaneous al-halqas, story circles, using their words to captivate their audiences. This is the Marrakech of legend.

On our first night in Marrakech, four of us meet up with two friends from Tangier who have made the trek to visit us for the weekend: Tarik and Karim. Our rendezvous is arranged for 9:45 p.m. at the Poste du Maroc. As is customary for the two of them, they keep us waiting, arriving shortly after ten o’clock. Wasting no more time, we begin walking toward the riad they have rented for the weekend. That’s when Tarik explains what we are in store for.

photo by Nikita Naumowicz

photo by Nikita Naumowicz

“Just so you guys know,” he informs us, almost too nonchalantly, “there’s a huge drunk man that followed us through the medina on our way to meet you. He started yelling at us and pushing us around—getting real physical with us.”

“So there’s a good chance we are going to be in a fight,” Karim chimes in. “Be ready.”

Having never been in a legitimate fight, this is something I don’t exactly care to hear. I’ve had some pretty intense hand-to-hand bouts with my brother but none really classify as a fistfight. My mind begins racing and my heartbeat quickens. I imagine what the altercation will be like: six of us versus one of him. I try to connect with my inner Jason Bourne and choreograph my moves in my head. Muscles tighten as we continue to approach the medina entrance. Just then Tarik tells us his plan.

“Okay guys, so if he comes up to us again, we are going to flat-out brawl with this guy. We need to team up and just beat his ass. And it’s all good because I’ve got a secret weapon.”

He reaches into his pocket and rummages around for what I assume will be some brass knuckles or at least a sharp knife. As his hand begins to withdraw from the depths of his pocket, I see the glint of a metal object in the dim light. When he finally reveals his “secret weapon,” it doesn’t quite have that intimidating and pugnacious aura we were expecting.

“We are going to be just fine,” Tarik says. “I’ve got a fork.”

After a few nervous turns through the shady medina, we meet a policeman and his dog, who escort us safely to the riad. Our night-time antagonist is nowhere to be seen, and that’s alright with me.

—Nicholas Bolognia

If You Hand a Girl a Baby

I lifted the knocker on the timeworn white door. The loud ting of metal on metal created even more nervous tension than was already present. I stood alongside four anxious friends, staring at the unopened door, awaiting an invitation to enter. The clamor of the doorknocker reverberated in my ears, then was abruptly interrupted by the swift opening of the door. In front of us stood a husky Moroccan woman dressed in an all-white uniform. She greeted us with a look of confusion and silence, awaiting an explanation of our presence. Her face seemed occupied with anger.

After an initial moment of hesitation, one of my companions spoke up. “We are from UNE,” she exclaimed, but this only provoked a look of further confusion. My friend spoke again, “University of New England,” and this time her words were acknowledged by a rapid nodding of the woman’s head and a welcoming hand motion, beckoning us to enter the orphanage. “Oh yeah, yeah, yeah,” she said.

As we entered the beautifully aged building, I immediately noticed the sound of children’s voices floating between rooms. At the same time, my eyes wandered over the scattered toys on the floor and the many highchairs that lined a long dining table. Our greeter unlocked a child-proof door to the stairs and directed us to go up. She yelled something (incomprehensible to our American ears) and another voice quickly responded.

On the next floor a smaller woman, with comparably relaxed facial expressions, promptly handed each of us a baby and a warmed bottle. As I sat down on a cushioned wooden chair and received a rather plump baby boy in my arms, I experienced a feeling I had never felt before. As I glanced down upon the Buddha-belly-baby, I took in every detail of his innocent face: his dark skin tone, slightly lighter than that of his hair, and his wide brown eyes, decorated with handsomely long eyelashes, which seemed to be studying the contents of my own eyes. A sensation of happiness, contentment, and adoration fell upon me as I fed this boy and held him tightly in my arms.

For the next hour and a half I found myself in a room full of babies. They crawled and stumbled around on the padded floor, while their twelve colorful cribs lined the four gray-tinted walls. Although I was surrounded by eleven other babies, I couldn’t help but return to the Buddha-belly-baby. He was so quiet and happy, and his big eyes seemed eager to receive the attention I was all too willing to give him with my baby talk and big hugs.

After leaving the orphanage, much happier and relaxed than when I had entered, I realized what an impact an innocent human being can have on your mood, enough to force you to question your own mindset.

—Courtney Gautreau

Michelle to the Rescue (or Not)

Have you ever wanted something so badly that you keep finding yourself imagining it over and over again? You can’t go a day without it being on your mind and then when the day comes when you finally get it, you’re overwhelmed with enthusiasm and excitement. That was me, two days ago in Seville when I had my long-awaited white chocolate mocha latte from Starbucks. Here in Tangier, our temporary home, there are no Starbucks. It felt more than nostalgic when I spotted the famous green-and-white mermaid sign and burst in through the door with open arms, almost yelling, “Honey, I’m home.”

My companion Hannah and I happily got our coffees along with some Nutella cookies. We both are your basic early twenty-year-olds, who survive on coffee and are always eager to try anything that has the word Nutella in it. We then joined our friend Sam who had chosen a table outside. It felt almost too good to be true when I finally took a sip of the coffee I had yearned for.

photo by Michelle Krasuski

photo by Michelle Krasuski

It wasn’t too long before a mumbling wrinkled old lady in a silver wheelchair rolled over to us and started speaking to me. I quickly turned to Sam and started a conversation with him, hoping that this would give the lady the idea to leave. The lady started to mumble louder in Spanish. “Hello girl,” she said. “I want your money. I’m hungry and thirsty. Give me some money so I can go buy something at Starbucks.”

I looked over at the determined woman who sat there mumbling and reaching her hands out. When I looked down at her veiny arms, I automatically started to feel bad for her. I looked up into her deep blue eyes and decided to try and help her. Since I didn’t have much money with me, I decided that it would be best not to pull out my wallet, just in case she might snatch it or expect more euros. Instead, I had the bright idea of giving her one of my warm, mouthwatering Nutella cookies. I grabbed one and held it out to her, but she started to shake her head. I insisted on her taking the cookie but she refused it, still parked in her wheelchair next to us. I started to get frustrated with her for not accepting my good deed and not letting me feel like a good Samaritan.

Just then Sam dug into his pocket, pulled out a handful of coins, and gave them to her. The lady thanked us in Spanish, then she called to a man to tell him that she was leaving. I watched her roll her wheelchair past Starbucks and towards a liquor store.

“Well at least I got rid of all my coins,” Sam said. “Those were annoying to carry.”

We got back to drinking our coffees.

“But next time people start talking to us,” Sam continued, “You should start speaking in Polish. Then while they’re really confused, we can escape in the meantime.”

—Michelle Krasuski

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Unexpected Attention

Djemaa el Fnaa; photo by Hannah Buckley

Djemaa el Fnaa; photo by Hannah Buckley

My friends and I were sitting in a small café in Djemaa el Fnaa, a crowded square in Marrakech. We had chosen a convenient table on the outer perimeter, already set to accommodate a meal for four. We were surrounded by people who were visiting Morocco from all over the world. Sounds of drums and singing filled the air around us. While we scanned the menu, we were approached by a young girl who looked to be about six or seven years old. In her hands she held a small plate of homemade pastries. She was staring at us with her glossy brown eyes, but we hid our faces behind our menus as if doing so would make her disappear. Her presence was undeniable. It felt so wrong to be shamefully hiding from a little girl behind a piece of laminated cardstock.

She inferred from our silence that we did not want any of her pastries, accepted defeat, and retreated back to her plastic lime-green stool. There sat a baking sheet full of pastries covered with clear plastic wrap. As she walked away from her post to find her next potential customer, a group of four boys, about the same age as she was, approached her supply. Two of them started to beg empty-handed, trying to acquire a donation of a few dirhams from the various tourists mingling around in the area, while one munched on a pastry for himself.

After being approached by several people, from all stages of life, selling watches, cigarettes, pastries, and tissues, my friends and I had had enough. We moved our seats to the inside of the open-air café and pushed two plastic tables together. Our waiter seemed to understand our frustration—he nodded his head and gave us a reassuring smile as he set a ketchup bottle on the table.

Now that we were under the safety of the café’s roof, I thought we had escaped the incessant begging. But this was the case only until a white and black cat appeared from beneath our table. She sat upright on the tiled floor next to me, then wrapped her long tail around the front of her body, covering her paws as if they were cold and needed to be blanketed. Her green eyes looked up at me, begging for a single crumb. She watched me as I finished my meal, until an employee noticed the extra guest. The woman kicked out her leg toward the cat and spoke something in Arabic that gave me the impression that this cat was a regular visitor. The cat ran outside to escape the angry woman, but returned shortly after, sneaking around the legs of our chairs and settling down to play with some backpack strings. There seemed to be nowhere to escape the attention of cats and humans alike—even in the smallest of cafés.

—Hannah Buckley

The Siren Pottery

Along the roads on the outskirts of Asilah you can find many stalls selling pottery. One after the other, overflowing with tajines, vases, plates, and other clay objects. Those items that are still dressed in the color of clay sit outside, luring in victims whose pockets jingle with coins wanting to be spent. Their smooth surfaces seduce a possible buyer’s hands and call out to anyone willing to spare them a glance. If you are able to walk past and ignore the pottery’s spell, I congratulate you and admire your strength for I wasn’t as resilient.

The pottery stall captivated me and held its grip on my willpower like a siren’s call. I crept past the unglazed pottery and entered the shabby stall. Inside, its appearance wasn’t as appealing as the song I heard outside. The walls were of plastic tarp and the roof was a mixture of bamboo, hay, sticks, and plastic. The floor was carpeted with red sand and the broken shards of the unfortunate pottery that had been victims of gravity’s power. Even though the interior was an eyesore, what it protected was a treasure trove.

pottery

photo by Natalie Tremblay

Tables filled the stall, and every one was covered in pottery even more attractive than those outside. The tables created a maze that you had to weave through to travel from one end of the stall to the other. I dared to navigate the maze, being careful not to run into support poles. There was so much in the stall that I never felt alone. As I walked, beautifully painted tajines glinted at me, hoping to steal a bit of my time. Mugs offered me endless drinks I could have, if only I would commit to them. Bowls and plates distracted my gaze as they showed off the elaborate patterns on their faces, hoping that I would fall for their beauty. Wherever I walked, whichever direction I faced, the voices of pottery filled my ears. I knew that if I listened long enough they would trick me into purchasing them. They were all beautiful, all desirable—and what made it worse—they were all inexpensive. My wallet listened to their calls and agreed that I should buy them.

My vision was a colorful blur and my ears nothing but unintelligible noise. Before I knew it I had two mugs, a tajine, a plate, and a jar resting in my arms. They did it: they broke my will and I bought each one of them without any regrets. Today I still hear their song in my head luring me to buy more. And—to my dismay—I agree with them.

—Ashley Tullo

Jamaa el Fnaa

photo by Nicholas Bolognia

photo by Nicholas Bolognia

Billows of steam are rising from the food tents below, but you are still higher than their reaches. Comparatively the steam from your mint tea seems larger, closer to your face as you consider and reconsider drinking the still boiling water. Up here on this rooftop café the hectic square is dulled and the picturesque version of Jamaa el Fnaa is amplified. Just ten or fifteen minutes earlier you were bumbling around the open-aired center for vendors and entertainment trying to stay in tune; the drums were coming from within your head; people either staring with questionable intent or brushing past like you were an inconvenience; smells of horse manure and spicy sweets mixing pungently; wicked cackling, monkeys and snakes being forced upon you; and constantly hands outstretched, grappling for change. Marrakech is the rebel kin of Tangier: a complete assault on the senses, a provocation for that nauseating heightened feeling, like an overdose of caffeine or a squandering head-buzz. It is an overstimulation. Now, actually risen above the chaos, you are settled. The noises have muffled into a softer music, transient lulls being swept over your cheeks with the light wind. The setting sun casts a desert pink over the sky and the erect mosque is now cloaked from behind, a nightly ritual of appreciation. In the center of the square are the vendors’ tents, exclusively clad in a Tuscan red, each glowing from the fires and lighting within, the exact degree of translucence seen in the webs of your fingers when covering a flashlight. Pulsing beneath is a unique energy, one that could sweep you up and make you dance alongside the drummers or release a belly-shaking laugh at the antics of the animated story tellers encircled in their private al-halqas, but you much prefer to catch the slowed-down, diluted ripples lapping the edge of this rooftop balcony.

—Nikita Naumowicz

The Musical Alley

The medina in Fes is huge—one of the largest in Morocco—with thousands of streets and alleyways to get lost in; there is something new at every corner. Whether it be a tannery, a woodshop, a restaurant, a simple street vendor, or authentic street music—the opportunity to participate in or watch something new is seemingly endless.

View of the Medina; photo by Alyssa White

My family and I had been cramped in a small car all day, leaving us tired, irritated, and very hungry. As we unpacked our belongings at the riad, the rumbling from everyone’s stomachs could be heard throughout the room. With our first priority being food, my mother and I began to search for somewhere to eat. Soon after deciding where would be a suitable place for our first meal in the old medina, my mom’s boyfriend John exclaimed that he had arranged for a local man to bring us to his family’s restaurant instead.

With his arrival, the local man yelled “yallah” and began a fast-paced walk through the labyrinth of the medina. As we attempted to stay close behind, taking quick turns down side streets and alleys, a faint beating of drums and an indistinct humming began to emerge. With every turn the sound increasingly filled my ears, traveling down to my stomach and momentarily distracting it from its desire for food. The invigorating beat from the drums seemed to sync with the steady rhythm of my heart; I wanted nothing more than to stop and listen.

The alley we stumbled upon was full of restaurants, each offering its own unique music. At one restaurant, three sets of two drums each were placed adjacent to one another—the first drum half the girth of the second, but both the same shade of beige. Despite the monotony of color, the rhythm was the opposite of the drums’ appearance; it was captivating. The unease that had previously controlled my body faded away, leaving me feeling lighter and ready to become one with the beat. I wanted to stay and eat here, but after looking around I realized that the music had not had the same effect on our guide, as I was left standing several hundred feet behind my family. Upon catching up, I realized that any desire I had to turn around and return to the music would be trumped by their hunger.

Soon after our arrival at the guide’s restaurant, I quickly regretted my decision not to eat in the musical alley. The guide’s restaurant had terrible service, and lacked any sounds other than local dialect. After filling my stomach with mediocre food, I was left feeling disappointed. My family and I all wished we had stopped to listen and eat at one of those restaurants. From that experience, I learned not to second-guess myself, to take opportunities when they present themselves—especially when they offer live music with the meal.

—Alyssa White