The weekend of March 3-5 I went to Málaga, Spain to visit my best friend from Loyola, Maddy, who is studying abroad in Prague this semester. My roommates and a few of our friends were planning on going to Tangier that weekend, so they would be able to take the train from Meknes to Tangier with me.
We decided to take the 2:50 am train to Tangier because it was a 4-5 hour train ride, meaning we would get into Tangier at around eight am. The time wouldn’t have been a problem if my roommates and I hadn’t already decided to go to a traditional Andalusian concert at the Cultural Center with our host family. The concert was supposed to start at 8 pm, but this is Morocco, and the concert didn’t actually start until nearly 9:30 pm. The concert lasted four hours. The first hour or so was interesting…the next three not so much, especially since we all had been up early that day and were starting to get tired. The last part of the concert involved dancing, so of course our host mother encouraged us to dance as well. We finally escaped the Cultural Center at 12:30 am. We practically ran back to our house to grab our bags and head over to our friend’s apartment which was closer to the train station. Meknes after 6 pm is kind of sketchy…there’s not really anyone out, with the exception of a few men wandering around or hanging out on street corners.
We made it to our friend’s apartment, and decided to just stay up until we needed to leave for the train. An hour and a half of sleep would not really do much good. We left for the train station at 2 am and waited for it to arrive. My roommate Bre almost got attacked by a cat who wanted her breakfast of scrambled eggs on bread. Successfully boarded the train, found seats, and figured out where we needed to change trains. Unfortunately, when we had to change trains, we couldn’t find seats all together. I was paranoid about someone stealing my bag so I didn’t sleep on the train at all, instead I read the book I brought to exchange with Maddy.
Finally made it to Tangier close to 8 am, and had to figure out how to get to the ferry station. It was only about a forty minute walk to the port from the train station so we decided to save some money and just walk. I bought my ferry ticket for the equivalent of about 45 US dollars, and then had breakfast near the port with Olivia, Tina, and Amanda. My ferry left at 9 am, and it was pretty easy to find the right one. I told Olivia if I couldn’t find the boat I would just ask “¿dónde está la bota?” which I thought meant “where is the boat,” but actually means “where is the boot?” which Olivia thought was just hilarious. This was the weekend of me trying to communicate in four different languages, without success. Some of my sentences would start out Spanish, throw in an Arabic preposition, and end in French. No one can understand that. I would have been better off just speaking English.
It only took about half an hour to get to Tarifa, Spain. I had heard from the ISA directors and a student that there was a bus that took you for free to Algeciras, but I couldn’t figure that out so I just asked for directions to the bus station and walked over there. It was a really nice day, so much warmer than Morocco. The bus from Tarifa to Algeciras was only about two euros and took about forty five minutes, and once in the Algeciras bus station I bought my ticket to Málaga, Spain. It didn’t leave for another hour and a half, so I bought some water and tried to figure out the pay phone system. Managed to call Maddy and let her know I’d be there in a few hours, and I tried to call my parents but ran out of euros.
I awkwardly fell asleep on the bus, and freaked out when I woke up because I thought I’d missed my stop. So I got off the bus at the next stop, and went inside the station to find a map. That was when I realized I got off at Marbella, not Málaga. Thankfully the bus driver had taken a long smoke break so I was able to get back onto the bus as he was pulling away from the station, and hopped back on.
I finally made it to Malaga at around four pm, and somehow figured out where my hostel was by asking approximately four policemen and two men selling newspapers. Our hostel, called “Babia Hostel” was right across from a neat old church and right around the corner from the Constitution Plaza in the downtown area. I was so happy to see Maddy that I almost cried: I hadn’t seen her since December and traveling by myself was slightly scary.
We walked around Málaga and checked out the beach which was only a ten minute walk from our hostel. Then we wandered around the downtown center and sat down at a small restaurant to get a sandwich and coffee. I took Spanish all throughout middle and high school, but lately because of living in Morocco, I tend to first try to say things in French or Arabic. Which really confused our waiter when I asked for “qahowa noos noos” instead of cafe con leche. Then we spent about an hour trying to find a corner store to buy a cheap bottle of screw-cap wine, because we didn’t have a wine opener. We finally found a very nice bottle of white-ish wine for only three euros. Actually it was horrible, but we drank it anyways. We didn’t know the rules for open container laws in Spain so we had the brilliant idea to pour it into one of Maddy’s water bottles. That was back at the hostel, so we headed back there to grab her water bottle.
It was about nine pm at this point, and a soccer match was going on. Our hostel functioned as a bar at night, and our hostel owner was watching the game, had popped his collar, and was on his sixth beer, judging by what was on the table in front of him. He yelled at the bartenders to make us some Sangria for free as a welcoming gift. It was pretty good, and then we left the hostel to go drink our cheap wine out of a plastic bottle and people-watch. It was Saturday night, and the streets were full of people walking around, at restaurants, and going into the bars. We were pretty exhausted though, especially me since I hadn’t really slept the night before, so we headed back to the hostel and were asleep by midnight.
The next morning we woke up pretty early (for us) and ate the free breakfast in the hostel, then walked over to the beach. It was fairly empty when we got there, only a few people on the beach. It was such a nice change from Morocco, being able to wear a swimsuit on the beach. Maddy and I just laid out and watched this crazy guy in front of us who was wearing really tight shorts and had brought his dog to the beach. He also had long hair and kept trying to get his dog, which actually looked a lot like my family’s dog, to swim. The dog was not having that and kept running towards Maddy and me to escape the water.
Around eleven a very loud group of Americans sat near us and started annoying us, so Maddy and I went off in search of food. We had jamon serrano sandwiches, which is like salted cured ham, at a small restaurant close to the beach. I think every meal I ate in Spain involved pork since I haven’t found any in Morocco. Then we wandered around some more, eventually finding the Cathedral and also the Picasso museum. We ate a second lunch of the best calamari I’ve ever had and french fries. It was almost unbearably hot so we headed back to the hostel, showered, and took a short nap. Then we did some more wandering, this time nearer to the train and bus station, which looked much more modern. We found a restaurant near the aquarium which had a special deal of two plates, a salad, a drink, and a dessert for eight euros. Maddy and I split this “feast” of a crab salad which was an interesting mix of tuna, orange, crab, onion, pepper, and hard-boiled egg, and a plate of albondigas, or meatballs. I also got a huge cup of coffee, and we made friends with this old woman at the table next to us who had lived in Los Angelos for six years with her husband.
We walked back to the downtown center when it started to get dark and sat on the benches of the main street to do some more people watching. An older man and two younger men came up to us and asked us where we were from, and we found out that one of the younger guys was actually from Meknes, where I am studying. They tried speaking Arabic with me but they spoke too fast and I couldn’t understand them. The older man worked for the Spanish Navy and had spent some time in Minnesota. They gave us some tips on where to go in Malaga, which was nice but semi-useless since we were leaving the next morning.
Maddy and I thought that since the last night had been so busy, Sunday night would also be a good night to go to a bar. Not so much. Even our hostel’s bar was closed. We finally found a small tapas bar and I ordered a tortilla and we ordered some red wine. It was a very nice relaxing evening, just hanging out with Maddy and observing the Spaniards.
The next day we woke up a little late but still managed to make it to the bus station on time for Maddy’s flight. I decided to just take the bus to Algeciras, then ferry across to Tangier instead of going from Algeciras to Tarifa, and then taking the ferry. Should not have done that. The ferry that takes you from Algeciras goes to Tangier MED, which is the “new port” and about an hour’s bus ride from Tangier. Also, this ferry was supposed to leave at 2 pm, but didn’t leave until nearly 4 pm, and took almost two hours to cross because of “delays.” I did meet a nice German couple on the ferry though, who were staying in Rabat with a friend. Once I finally got into Tangier MED, we had to wait about half an hour for the bus, which took an hour. By then it was dark in Tangier. I couldn’t figure out how to get to the train station, and the girl I had befriended on the bus didn’t speak any English and I was so tired that I just could not speak in French or Arabic. Ended up taking a taxi to the train station, which was a disaster.
First the taxi driver took me to the train station for fifty dirhams (only about six USD, but still a ridiculously high price) and when he got there he asked me where I was going. I told him Meknes, and he told me the next bus didn’t leave for almost three hours, at nine thirty pm. I knew this, but he insisted on taking me to the bus station which would be leaving sooner. Spent the next thirty minutes arguing with him about taking me back to the train station, because he kept trying to convince me to pay him eighty euros to drive me directly to Meknes. It is only eighty five dirham (ten USD) to take the train, and I was fine with waiting a few hours in the train station. I had homework and phone calls to make. Finally he took me back to the train station, after I threatened to get out of the taxi.
I made it inside, ordered a coffee and sandwich, and bought my ticket. I still had two and a half hours to wait, so after eating I called my host family to let them know I was alive and would be coming in at one am. My roommate Bre said she would get our host mom Majda to come pick me up since it wasn’t safe to travel from the train station that late at night. Feeling better, I also called my house in Texas, but only talked to my twin brother since my parents were not home.
My goal now was to find a woman and befriend her so I would know when to change trains. Unfortunately there were no women in the train station that late at night. So I just sat down on a bench and tried to do my homework for the class I was missing. I started talking to an American older man who was going to Marrakesh. Another man was sitting next to him, and he then started talking to me. He was Moroccan, didn’t seem creepy, and was going to Fes which is the stop after Meknes.
I had read articles and posts online before coming to Morocco that it is a good idea to wear a wedding ring even if you’re not married, and one girl in my program bought one a few weekends ago after she was harassed in Rabat. But I thought all that was stupid. I should have borrowed hers, because the man who was going to Fes, while we were on the train, noticed I wasn’t married, and proceeded to tell me consistently throughout the evening that he loved me. His name was Said and he was a chef with a sister who was a police officer. He also gave me his phone number three times. And wrote all over my homework that he loved me. It was mostly annoying, I really had to do my homework, and he kept trying to talk to me, but we couldn’t have a conversation because he didn’t speak English and my Arabic and French speaking skills are not the best.
Finally, at one thirty am, I made it into Meknes Al Amir train station. My roommate Bre was waiting there. Said had decided that he was going to walk me home, then take a taxi to Fes. Well thankfully my host mother was there with the bigger car and she yelled at him when he tapped on my window to talk to me, and sped away. I got home, sent an email to my mom, and passed out. I was so happy to be in Meknes again.