Paris

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March 27-29, my roommate Olivia and I went to Paris. We found super-cheap tickets on RyanAir to “Paris-Beauvais” which is actually NOT Paris. After landing, you have to take a bus into the main center of Paris, which takes about an hour and costs 12 euros. That’s why the tickets were so cheap- not actually into Paris.

Regardless, we made it to our hostel fairly easily, without getting lost in the metro. Our hostel was in the Montmartre area, near the Sacre Coeur. We got in kind of late, so we just stayed up a little longer to decide what we wanted to do the next day. The worst part of the hostel was that the person sleeping under my bunk snored an insane amount. I thought at first it was a man, because the snoring was so loud, but no, it was just a girl with a really bad cold apparently. I ended up hitting her with my pillow several times before she woke up- even then she still snored.

Therefore the next morning Olivia and I were not quite as rested as we had wanted, but we only had one full day in Paris, so we still woke up around seven for the free breakfast, and headed to Notre Dame. It wasn’t very crowded since it was so early, and it looked really pretty with the early sunlight. We were harassed a little by some gypsies but after living in Morocco, Olivia and I are pros at avoiding and escaping. Then we passed by the Sainte-Chapelle, but it was something like twenty euros to see…and we are poor. The “Olivia and Caroline way to travel” means eating bread and cheese, drinking boxed sangria, and not paying any entrance fees. We spend way too much time trying to save a few euros.

So we walked over to Versailles…but again we didn’t feel like paying the entrance fee, plus we did not have enough time to really enjoy it. So we opted to go to the Museu d’Orsay instead, which has some of my favorite paintings and artwork, like Van Gogh. I love the building too- it’s an old train station. We spent the rest of our morning there, and afterwards headed into the Latin Quarter to find bookshops and crepes. Another part of the “Olivia and Caroline way to travel” involves walking everywhere. Why pay two euros for a metro ticket? More blisters, but you see more of the city this way. And those two euros can buy you more bread and cheese.

In the Latin Quarter we stopped for crepes- I ordered a cheese crepe and Olivia ordered a nutella crepe. A woman in the cafe mistook us for French, which was satisfying- we didn’t look as touristy as we had imagined. We had some issues cutting the crepes; I think we went through about four sets of cutlery.

Afterwards we walked around the Latin Quarter some more, eventually finding some bookshops to look around in. We walked back towards our hostel and dropped off our bags and changed there. Then we headed up the hill to the Sacre-Coeur. Personally, I think the Sacre-Coeur is more amazing and beautiful than Notre Dame. I also like how it sits on top of the hill, so you have great views of the city of Paris. By this time we were hungry again, so we searched for cheap crepes, meaning we had to walk a considerable bit. After crepes, Olivia wanted to walk by the Moulin Rouge, so we attempted to walk over there. We had some difficulties finding it because we both are not the best at reading maps and kept getting turned around. Eventually, though, we found it, took pictures in front, and headed back to our hostel for a power nap.

After the power nap, we got ready to go to the Eiffel Tower. We ended up following a Japanese tourist group, because we no longer believed in our own abilities to find our way around Paris. Unfortunately we were too late for the elevator ride up to the top…so we walked up. We had been planning on going to a bar afterwards, so I was wearing heels. I will never complain about wearing heels ever again- walking up multiple flights of stairs on the Eiffel Tower in heels was both scary and painful. I almost took them off, but I wasn’t quite sure how up-to-date my tetanus shot was.

Anyways, we eventually made it to the third level, which was the highest the stair went. The Eiffel Tower was so nice all lit up, and it wasn’t too crowded either, probably because it was a Tuesday night. We walked back down then, which was almost more terrifying than walking up. I really wish there would be slides instead of stairs down- it would be so much faster.

Our attempt to go out did not pan out because drinks were either too expensive for us, or the bars were already closed. So we ended up doing what we always do- buying a few Stella Artois from a corner store and people-watching.

Our flight the next morning was pretty early, and we missed our bus but thankfully there were plenty of other buses that left around the same time. Another essential component to the “Olivia and Caroline way to travel”: missing buses and trains, therefore forcing you to literally sprint through the city or airport. I think that the only reason why I’d like to be rich is in order to travel less stressed. No more budget airlines or taking the somewhat sketchy public transportation.

I survived a Moroccan Wedding.

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Now, I have never been to an American wedding. But from talking to other people who have been to American weddings, Moroccan weddings are much more intense.

One of our program directors was getting married, and all the students were invited. My roommates Olivia, Bre, and myself were going to go with our host mother, Majda, and her friend Fatiha also. Preparations started the Friday evening before, with the hammam and face masks. Then on Saturday, we went to get our hair done. Instead of using a curling iron, the hairdressers washed our hair then used a hairbrush and a hairdryer at the same time to create curls. Which made them stay longer, I’m sure, but also meant that it was extremely painful because she was constantly pulling on my hair. At first my hair looked a little white-trashy, but after some tweaking it managed to look only slightly over-the-top.

Then we headed back to the house and Majda did our makeup, which, again, was slightly over-the-top. Olivia, Bre, and I managed however to tone down the colorful eye shadow. We then got dressed in our caftans, which is a traditional Moroccan dress, similar to the jeleba. My caftan didn’t have the wide sturdy belt like Olivia and Bre’s did, instead it had just a rope belt that reminded me of the tassels on window treatments. I really loved my caftan though- it was so pretty and soft. I had to be very careful with it though because it was made of silk and very expensive, according to Mamoun, my host brother. Which makes me wonder why Majda suggested I wear it: she knows I tend to spill food all over myself, and dinner is included at the Moroccan wedding. Anyways, we were all made up, so we headed over to the apartment where the bride’s family was staying.

Alexa, the bride, literally looked like a princess. She was wearing a bright white dress with silver and a crown. Also, she had multiple dress changes throughout the night: a red and gold caftan, a turquoise/blue caftan, a green caftan, and finally a traditional American wedding dress.There was a procession on the way to the hall where the wedding was going to be. Cars would honk at us when they passed, and we would also honk at the car with Mouhsin and Alexa. A few times it seemed a little crazy- people weaving in and out. But we made it safely to the hall, and found a table to sit at.

This was at around 8 pm. The next few hours were filled with loud music, dancing (sort of), and waiting for the food.One of my favorite parts of the evening was when I found my Arabic professor and we did a “cat dance.” He is such a great professor,he makes learning Arabic so interesting.

The food arrived at around 2 am, which was a fish bastilla, lamb and khobz, and fruit. I ended up swiping a bunch of fruit for later, and stuffed it into my purse. Olivia made fun of me, but she was happy later that I had grabbed some food.
My host mother was going to leave right after the food, but I wanted to stay, so I changed out of my caftan into the black dress I’d brought just in case, because I didn’t want to be responsible for the caftan anymore. Olivia and Bre also left because it was very late.
Coffee and tea and snacks were passed around at about 3-4 am, which was perfect because I was starting to get tired. I sat at a table with my friends Genaro, Meg, and Gus and we danced a bit more. Finally, at 5 am the wedding was over.  Now, we only had to make it home. We found a ride with one of the friends of Mouhsin, the groom.
There was a procession similar to when we were coming to the hall, except this time the bride and groom got out of the car and we took pictures at different locations, such as the lake near the medina, and the park in Hamrya. I finally made it back to my friend Meg’s apartment where I was going to spend the night at nearly six am. Genaro and I were joking that we were going to make t-shirts that read “I survived a Moroccan wedding.” It literally lasted 8 hours. But it was fun, and definitely one of my favorite experiences in Morocco.

Shwiyya bi shwiyya

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The title of this post means “little by little” in Arabic. That was the motto for the weekend my roommate Olivia and I went to Sevilla, Spain. We had started planning this trip about a month prior, with a group of other students from ISA. The idea was that we would all rent a car, so that it would be cheaper and we wouldn’t have to rely on public transportation and odd train times. However, everyone but a three other people dropped out, and they wanted to go to Granada, Spain. So Olivia and I planned instead on taking the train from Meknes to Tangier, the ferry, then a bus to Seville.

Our day started at 2:30 am when we were walking from a friend’s apartment to the train station. Meknes a night is kind of sketchy, but a police van pulled up alongside us and escorted us to the train station, which was nice. Then we settled in, and figured out when the train-change at Sidi Kacem would be.

At Sidi Kacem, which is about an hour from Meknes, while we were standing outside waiting for the new train to Tangier, a fight broke out between some teenage boys when one pulled a knife on another, but the police at the station broke it up quickly. We boarded the train, and I fell asleep fairly quickly. Olivia couldn’t sleep after the exchange at Sidi Kacem, so she looked over our stuff. I woke up once when a group of women (they looked like prostitutes to me and Olivia) and men were trying to find seats, but Olivia did a good job of glaring at them and apparently I’m an “angry sleeper” so they left. I woke up again when a well-dressed man sat down next to Olivia and tried to talk to us. I pretended to go back to sleep, and she ignored him.  The ticket collector came, though, and made the man leave because he supposedly left his ticket in another car. After my trip to Spain a few weeks before, Olivia and I pretty much didn’t trust anyone on trains and only talked to the people working on the train. Also, our host mother had told us stories about men who travel on trains without luggage, looking for people to rob. So we were alert, almost paranoid at some points, along our trip.

Finally made it to Tangier, and easily found a cheap taxi for ten dirhams to the free bus that takes you to the port at Tangier MED. Arrived at the port, bought our tickets for the ferry, and we were in Algeciras by 1:30 pm. By then we were near starving so we found a market and bought grapes, khobz, and a huge block of Edam cheese. We found the bus station and ate lunch while we waited for the 3:30 pm bus to Seville. The bus ride was about four hours, and we arrived in Seville at around seven pm. We got a little turned around trying to find our hostel, but made it there by around eight thirty pm. It was called the “Gardener Backpacker” and had a very nice garden, terrace, and free WiFi with computers also. We checked into our rooms, cleaned up a bit, and then headed to the back garden for free sangria. Afterwards, Olivia was craving ice cream and I had a killer headache from caffeine withdrawal so we went searching for a cafe, and found one only a few blocks from our hostel. When we returned, Olivia went straight to sleep, but I decided to make an itinerary for Saturday. There is so much to do and see in Seville, and I wanted to make sure we saw everything we could in the short time we were going to be there.

The next morning we woke up at eight am to go find snacks. Unfortunately nothing was open, but we did get to walk around and see a bit of Seville before breakfast. Our hostel hosted free walking tours of Seville at 10:30 am and at 3:30 pm, so we decided to take the morning tour and then we could spend the afternoon exploring. The walking tour was really nice: it was in Spanish and gave a brief history of Spain in addition to the history and myths surrounding the various places we went to see. We saw the Cathedral and La Giralda, the Toro de Oro, the river, the parks, the Plaza de Espana, and a science exhibit/museum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the tour Olivia and I found a Starbucks. This was actually the first time going to an American institution- we hadn’t even been to a McDonalds yet. We also found a store and bought bread, jamon serrano, and cheese for lunch. Then we walked over to the Museo de Bellas Artes, which is supposed to be second to the Prado Museum in Spain. The best part about traveling with Olivia is that she really likes to go to art museums and see all the historic parts of a city, and not just want to see the nightlife. The museum was very nice, most of the artwork was from the Middle Ages to early 19th century. We found that there were two main types of paintings: Jesus/Religious paintings and paintings about Isabel and Ferdinand. The museum was pretty deserted too, since it was siesta time and everyone was either still eating lunch or sleeping.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We walked over to the Espacio Metropol Parasol Sevilla, which is this huge modern art sculpture that mimics a huge umbrella. It also is said to resemble a tree canopy, and provides shade and relief from the hot Spanish sun. We paid one euro to go see the view from the top, where you can see the entire city.

Afterwards we walked towards the Aqueducts, stopping by a bookstore on our way. It took us forever to find the aqueducts, partially because Olivia lost the map that had where they were located, and also because the aqueducts are very small. When we found them, we were a bit astonished and disappointed because we were expecting these huge Roman aqueducts and instead found a couple of arches in the middle of the street.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then we headed over to La Giralda and the Alcazar, but the Alcazar had already closed. So we wandered around the area a bit, looking for a place to eat. We went to a tapas bar and got a platter of five tapas to share, then headed back to the hostel. The hostel we stayed at hosted a pub crawl, and since it was St. Patrick’s day, we decided to go. The first place we went to was a flamenco bar, which was really neat. The next two places were nice too, and it was refreshing to be able to go out and stay out late since it isn’t possible for us to be out after night really in Morocco.

The next day was when everything that could go wrong, went wrong. First, we missed the bus to Ronda by only five minutes, so we ended up taking the noon bus meaning we didn’t get to Ronda until about 2:30 pm. The train from Ronda to Algeciras was supposed to leave at 4:15, so we ate a quick lunch of our leftover jamon serrano and bread and cheese, and tried to find the historic and artistic center of the city. We ended up going the exact opposite way we were supposed to go, but finally found the place where you can see how the city is built right into the mountainside. Unfortunately, Olivia’s clock said it was already 3:40 pm, so we pretty much had to run around Ronda, frantically taking pictures. Since we had been wearing heels last night, and walking all over Seville the day before, our feet were sore and blistered. Running around old Spanish streets in flats with blisters all over your feet is quite painful.

So we finally made it to the train station. The clock read 5:00 pm.

Meaning we had missed the train, because we hadn’t set our clocks to Spain-time, which is one hour different than Morocco.  The next train wasn’t going to be leaving until seven pm, and we probably wouldn’t make it to Tangier in time for the 9:30 pm train. We sat outside the train station and both started laughing so hard that we cried- it had already been such a stressful day, and now we wouldn’t be back in Meknes that night.

But we found an internet cafe, found a hotel, because there were no hostels in Ronda, and checked into the hotel. We showered, got dressed, and headed back to the internet cafe to call our host family and email our professor and parents. We then looked up train times, bus times, and ferry times. Finally we figured everything out, and went to find some dinner. After dinner we headed back to the hotel, and I managed to find Modern Family on the tv, which actually made our day a lot better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next morning we woke up early and headed to the train station. We ended up on the same train as Cristina, our program director’s girlfriend, and her cousin coming from Granada. They took the ferry at a later time than us though, so we parted ways at Algeciras. We managed to get a ferry at noon, and it was supposed to be the “fast ferry,” arriving in Tangier at 12:30 pm. The ferry was delayed, however, as usual. Then we had issues with our passports.

Coming in to Morocco is infinitely more difficult than getting out of Morocco, which is strange to me because I would think that borders would need to be more secure in Spain than in Morocco. Seriously how many people try to sneak into Morocco? Anyways you are supposed to get your passport stamped BEFORE exiting the ferry. Well the announcement telling us to do so never happened. So we got off the ferry, walk to the border police, and they tell us to get back on. A passport policeman will be there in like fifteen minutes, so they said. Olivia is sick- she had a cold before we came to Spain, and now it is a full-fledged fever and chills. One hour plus passes. Olivia and I are joined by an older American couple from Napa Valley who made the same mistake as us. Finally the policeman arrives. He stamps our passports, we exit the ferry for the second time. We get to the border police again. He won’t let me pass because somehow the policeman didn’t stamp my passport. So we have to go back onto the ferry. I find a woman working there and she helps me find the passport policeman, who starts laughing at us, prompting Olivia and I to start crying out of frustration. Finally we depart the ferry for the THIRD time. We somehow find the bus that takes us from the port to the station, joined once again by the couple, who also had issues getting their passports stamped.

Finally, we make it to the station and the bus taking us into Tangier Ville arrives shortly. The bus ride is long but uneventful, and we manage to also take a taxi, after bartering with the driver (who wanted four times what we paid when we took a taxi from the train station to the bus station a few days ago). We took the taxi with the American couple, too, to save money and also because they didn’t know where to go. We arrived at the train station and bought our tickets for our train which departed in about an hour. We decided to go ahead and purchase first-class tickets so we wouldn’t have to deal with as much sketchiness, and strangely enough the ticket for two people was only 130 dh versus the 85 each we would have paid for second class. There was no place to sit inside, of course, so we ended up sitting by the curb of the station while we waited for our train. We boarded the train, and made friends with a woman who was traveling with her young daughter to Fes. Then the ticket counter comes by, and tells us that we only have one ticket. Which makes sense, because we were confused why a first class ticket would be less than a second class ticket, but we also managed to make it past two ticket-checks and no one stopped us. But the ticket counter allows us to purchase another ticket, and even makes it cheaper because we are at a closer station, which was a nice gesture.

The rest of the train ride is uneventful: we changed trains easily and managed to sleep a bit, arriving in Meknes at around nine thirty pm. While we loved being in Seville, after all our travel difficulties we were so happy to be back home in Meknes.

Hiking in Ifrane and Azrou

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On Saturday, March 10, our group went hiking in the Middle Atlas Mountains region of Morocco. About an hour from Meknes is the town Ifrane, which hosts the Al-Akhawayn University, where one of my friends from Loyola, Jamie, studies. It is also nicknamed “Little Switzerland” although it looked remarkably like Colorado Springs to me. Ifrane was so clean, virtually no trash anywhere, and all the houses and buildings looked European. We got coffee and walked around a bit, but it was eerily quiet and we saw more tourists than Moroccans.

Then we walked around the town a bit, and back onto the bus to the place where we would start our hike. Before hiking, we stopped at a cottage/hut near the forest for a typical Moroccan breakfast of meloui, bread, jam, butter, honey, hard-boiled eggs, orange juice, and tea.

We hiked in the Cedre Gouraud Forest. Olivia and I have been running in a park near our house most days of the week, and the other days we do other workouts, so we figured we were in pretty good shape. Not so much. This hike was intense. It was all uphill. But it was beautiful, and the weather was really nice. It reminded me of when I was younger, and my parents would take us camping in the Shenandoah Mountains or other places throughout the East Coast. My mom would bring trail mix and most of the hike was characterized by trying to get my youngest brother to keep walking.

At one point, our group was taking a video of them dancing, so Olivia, Gus, and I tried to run away. I ended up tripping on some rocks and wiping out in front of everyone. Today I was especially clumsy, and kept tripping over everything in my path.

We also saw some monkeys, but after the experience in Marrakesh with the medina monkeys, I decided to just view from afar. I knew that the monkeys would try to either a) bite me or b) steal my stuff. Later in the afternoon one large monkey did end up stealing my friend Tina’s bag of peanuts.

After the hike we went to Azrou and had lunch and free time. It’s name literally translates to “big rock” and there is a  black volcanic rock/hill thing in the center of town, which we tried to climb. Then we headed back to the bus, and it was about an hour drive to Meknes. We were exhausted and covered in dirt. Somehow I had gotten rocks in my shoes and my pants where covered in a layer of brown dust. It was a nice change though from going to cities and doing the typical medina tour.

¿dónde está la bota? Málaga with Maddy

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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.

Rabat and a typical Sunday

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This Saturday, our group visited Rabat. We saw most of the same things that Olivia, Bre, and I had seen when we went to Rabat a few weeks earlier. Olivia and I ventured off a few times in search of khobz, which is home-baked bread. Unfortunately we did not find any. The best part about Rabat this time was that the weather was absolutely beautiful- almost hot. We went to the beach with our friend Graham during our free time in the afternoon, after getting lunch at a Berber restaurant.

The beach was really nice, the water was a bit cold though. Olivia and Graham played frisbee with some Moroccan pre-teens for a bit, while I watched a fight break out between two Moroccan boys; I think it involved a backpack. Not quite sure.

Then we got tea at the surf shack on the beach, and watched a dog try to catch a cat. A very relaxing afternoon. We took the bus back to Meknes, and spent the evening hanging out with the host family.

Chellah, and a view of the beach from right outside the Kasbah.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday we were supposed to do a donation trip to a village in the mountains near Meknes, but that was cancelled. Instead, we relaxed and did homework in the morning after breakfast. For lunch, Olivia and I helped Majda prepare the fish. This was literally the ugliest fish I have ever seen- it looked like one of those deep-sea monsters. Grey and big with scraggly teeth and massive eyes. But we overcame our fear of the fish, and helped her stuff it with a mixture of rice noodles, peppers, onions, hot sauce, and tomatoes. Then we helped Aziza sew it up, placed tomatoes under the fish, and cut up the vegetables that would go in the sauce. The fish, despite being the ugliest fish I’ve ever seen, was delicious. Especially with the rice noodle-vegetable-sauce filling.

After lunch Bre, Olivia, and I decided to go to the Medina, because Bre wanted sunglasses and Olivia and I wanted some house-shoes. We walked there, and most shops were closed for lunch so we sat at a cafe in the square. Aziza and Miriam ended up meeting us there, and they helped us bargain for house-shoes and sunglasses. After that, we stopped in the square to watch a man in Aladdin-pants yelling loudly. He had a circle formed around him, and he was doing magic tricks/comedy show. He pulled Olivia in as a participant which was…interesting. It’s difficult to know what was really going on because we had no idea what he was saying. Overall though it was definitely interesting to see that.

On our walk home we stopped to get a Bollywood movie to watch for after dinner, but we ended up not watching it because the Grammys/Oscars something like that was on. So ended a typical Sunday at home in Meknes.

The fish, and Olivia with our new friend, the magician with Aladdin-pants.

Fes and the family farm

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On Sunday, February 12, we took a tour to Fes, which is about an hour from Meknes. Fes is famous for their leather work and tanneries, and most leather goods in Morocco come from Fes.

We took a tour of the medina in the morning, which was not as enjoyable because it was particularly cold and rainy that day. Of course, since I never dress correctly for the weather here, I didn’t have an umbrella or thick enough jacket. It finally warmed up and stopped raining around lunchtime, when we were done with the guided tour of the medina. During the tour we went to see a couple traditional Fes shops: the tannery and a shop where they sell scarves, jelebas, and woven blankets. The tannery smelled awful, but the shopkeeper gave us mint to smell while we looked around.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next weekend we went to our host family’s farm on Sunday. It was only about fifteen minutes outside of Meknes. The farm has lemons, olives, oranges, pecans, and some kind of vegetable, I can’t remember what it’s called. It was no longer orange season, but we helped our host dad Mustafa pick lemons. Actually, he climbed into the tree and threw the lemons down at us, we just picked them up.

It was similar to camping- there was a house, but it was pretty run down. It was a beautiful day though, actually warm for once. Mamoun and I went exploring the “islands” on the farm. They weren’t quite islands, more of just the side of the creek that ran throughout the farm. We saw a lot of turtles, and Mamoun actually managed to catch one. I joked that we could make Turtle Soup, but he didn’t seem to keen on that idea.

We also met Mamoun’s donkey, named Nissan, like the car company. It was a nice donkey, but I kept almost falling off.

After lunch the family played soccer with a tennis ball, which was comical. Breanna, Olivia and I just laid down on a blanket and tried to do some of the homework we had due for class on Monday. Around three we prepared tea, coffee, and “meloui,” which is a type of bread that gets flaky and is really good with jam or honey or nutella.

Aziza trying to get onto the Donkey with Miriam’s help, and Miriam with Majda making meloui