Service members stick together through a-'mazing' foreign market

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Natasha Stannard
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
To say I'm easily distracted is an understatement.

When I was younger, I would get lost in the supermarket on nearly every trip, so my parents got one of those child leashes to lead me along on their errands.

The leash is gone now, but the distractions of the world around me and my need to further explore them are still there.

The littlest things will catch my attention like animals being in places you wouldn't normally see them. For instance, if a monkey was in the middle of a shopping market, I would stop whatever conversation I was in to jump up and down and immediately run to the monkey.

Lucky for me, on a cultural-day trip to the Jaam el Fna market, Morocco's largest market square, April 2 I got to see monkeys. My luck didn't end there as the group of Airmen and Soldiers I traveled with for the Aeroexpo Marrakech 2012 were by my side at this market. We looked out for one another as we all veered toward shiny, colorful, new and entertaining things.

"There was something to look at around every corner," said Maj. (Dr.) Bob Baltzer, U.S. Air Forces Africa flight surgeon.

Once we arrived at the market, we began our journey past the motorcycles buzzing by and flute-playing snake charmers into the coriander, fresh olive and leather scented corridors. The stairways in the market may as well have been blueprinted by M.C. Escher, a mathematically inspired graphic artist.

Inside we discovered a welcoming culture filled with a vibrant assortment of items ranging from cooking spices to handmade scarves made with the pitter-patter of a sowing needle.

There was a lot going on, so much that it was easy to get enveloped into the new world around us.

Thankfully before I got completely enveloped near a stand with decorative mosaic mirrors and lost in a foreign country, I felt a tug on my arm as Capt. Sylvia Kim, U.S. Air Forces Africa translator, pulled me out of the pathway just as a motorcyclist sped by.

"We were watching out for one another," Kim said. "The Medina is a labyrinth, so we could have easily gotten lost or stranded if we didn't stick together. The vendors were also very kind and hospitable as they tried to direct us through the market."

Looking out for one another like this as we journeyed through the twists and turns of the market and back out to the busy square where monkeys roamed and acrobats flipped, kept us all from getting lost and run over. It also turned what could have been a hectic day into an unforgettable experience.

"I wouldn't have traded it for anything," Baltzer said. "It was such a unique experience."