Sunday, March 28, 2010

Morocco 2

Morocco Day 2: Chefchaouen

Saturday morning I woke up very confused as to where I was before the animal like aroma reminded me that I was in Africa! What a completely weird feeling to have and I’m not sure I was really up for the pure coolness factor of it due to my sleepy brain. Katrina and I got ready for the day and headed to breakfast. It was weird meeting up with Laura and Tricia and not knowing exactly what they had been doing for the past 8 hours. It’s odd how much time we spend together and even more odd how a few hours apart can seem like days…

Good morning world!

After a quick breakfast we boarded one of the 2 big blue busses and headed through Africa. While we were pulling out of the hotel I literally saw two women carrying jugs on their head. This was another visual that will stay with me. Call me na├»ve, call me spoiled or just plain dumb but it had never fully occurred to me that this was literally something that people did. Yes I’ve seen movies, TV and read stories but it was baffling to actually experience the visual. And the most important part was that these women were literally right across from our hotel. The wave of shame I felt the night before regurgitated its way back up leaving a very unpleasant taste in my mouth. Reality doesn’t taste like chocolate chip ice cream.

We had about an hour or two ride to our first location, Chefchaouen (pronounced shef-showen). I had never heard of this city and had absolutely no expectations. Thus, I was left for the ride to watch the hills and the people on them. Much like the night before everyone was out and about and the majority of them were accompanied by some sort of animal. There were men and women leading cows, sheep, goats, donkeys, lambs etc. There were even people herding chickens like cattle, which did not look like an easy task. Chickens were everywhere. Just wondering on the street, cooped up in fences or my favorite, just tied together by their feet and laying on the sidewalk. (I’ll elaborate on this later.) There were also lots of huge billboards with a picture of the king of Morocco. His name is Mohammed VI (I didn’t even have to google it because it has been imprinted in my mind for the number of times I saw it.) The only thing that out-numbered the pictures of the king was the Moroccan flag. You would have thought it was a national holiday with how many flags I saw. They were flying everywhere! In all honesty though, we did learn that King Mohammed had been to this area only the day before so this might have played a role in how many we saw, but I tend to think they just always have Moroccan pride. More importantly, I couldn’t believe we had just missed the king!

Bathroom break at a beautiful view

There's our Beanie Baby :)

View from the bus. That would be a typical type home

Beautiful mountainside


As we started pulling into the city the frequency in Moroccan flags flying on flagpoles was growing and our big busses started maneuvering the somewhat narrow streets. The travel company we came with had hired a woman to basically be on the trip with us and to talk to us on the way, explaining certain things about Morocco etc but we were supposed to be meeting some guides to actually show us around Chefchaouen. So when the bus slowed and our woman guide (clearly I have forgotten her name or I would insert it here, my apologies) opened the bus doors and let a Moroccan man on I thought he had just scrambled aboard. This guy was quite old and was missing quite a few teeth. I immediately thought oh no, how did this guy get on the bus? What is he trying to do? When I tore my eyes away to look out the window I realized that everyone on the street had stopped to stare at us. Children were pointing, and craning their necks to see what was going on with these two giant blue busses. It was weird to realize that having tourists might be an exciting thing for them, considering I’ve felt like a nuisance everywhere else. Then the bus started moving again and I too wanted to know what was going on because the toothless man was still on our bus. If only I could understand Arabic.

When we stopped and were directed to get out we all followed orders and bunched together with the woman guide. She then explained that we would split into smaller groups for the tours and somewhat divided us off. The group we were all in was standing there, waiting for further instructions when she started to usher over the toothless man. He then introduced himself in English and welcomed us to Chefchaouen with a big jack-o-lantern smile. I literally could not believe it. How could I be so completely sure this man was of no importance to our group based purely on his appearance? That bitter taste of shame was becoming stronger and I can’t tell you how much I hated it this time. Why could I not believe that this man, although he may be missing a few teeth, could be not only completely literate but also clearly, highly intelligent to have conquered another language? I myself can barely stumble through the few Spanish sentences I’ve learned.

Our guide there on the right

As the tour started I slunk to the back of the group realizing that I had already broken the very promise I had made to myself only hours before. So, I vowed with new vengeance that I would be completely open to every person, place and thing here and soak up every bit of it while sending up a little prayer for help that I could keep it this time. Not really being able to hear most of what was being explained I started to look around at the little streets we were walking through and noticed one very common thread. Every building here had blue painted somewhere on it. If these buildings were canvases, which they pretty much were, then the main color would be white with accents only done in shades of blue. Since blue is my favorite color, and my grandma’s, I immediately loved it! Everything looked pretty and antique.

So pretty!

I like the different shades of blue on the different walls.

Inside the bakery

On top of the bakery

The most famous picture in Chefchaouen.

Learning about the spa/baths

Men and women aren't allowed to enter at the same time

More blue doors

We meandered through the city for awhile poking our heads in here and there whenever there was a little store. We even got to peak into a bakery which smelt like delicious fresh bread. Our fearless leader chattered on and on about this and that until we finally arrived at a “weaving store.” This is definitely not the correct terminology but I’m not sure what is so that is what I’ve assigned to it. We got to go all the way up some super steep stairs to the top where some of the hand weaving takes place on the loom. The room was small and seemed impossible to work in but apparently work was done because back downstairs we got to see a complete show of all of the work that they do. I don’t really know how else to describe it other than I felt like I was watching some sort of terrible infomercial. While the rugs, tapestries, scarves and table runners were quite beautiful the whole presentation went on far too long (much like infomercials) and they showed us just about every variation possible from patterns and sizes to fabrics and uses. Afterwards they informed us that there was no pressure to make a purchase but they then pressured quite a few people to make one. I was lucky enough to squirm on out of there while I could and boy was I glad! The work they did was definitely very impressive and I had a lot of respect for the craft that they have so clearly built their lives upon but I don’t think my mom needed a rug, nor would I be able to pack it in my suitcase home. Plus, some of the stories I heard later about the prices that people spent on their table runners for Aunt Brenda were ridiculous.

On the roof in the weaving room

The Loom

Waiting for the infomercial to commence!


Silk rugs?

Ok.. enough of these. I won't put you through any more :)

We still had a bit of time before lunch so we got to see the center of town, which was full of little touristy shops that were all calling my name, but I refused to venture into them yet. I needed some food in my stomach before I started attempting to make a bargain with these people. So we nosed around and noticed that the locals call Chefchaouen “Chaouen” pronounced chow-in for short, or like a slang word, much like we call Columbia “Como” or at least this is what I assumed. We also took some pictures of some cats (this has become a favorite pastime of ours since we have a friend that we call Kitty). When it came time to part with our guide I thanked him in Arabic which we learned was “Shukran,” pronounced shoe-cran, and I waved goodbye to the toothless man and I was truly sad to see him go.

Kitty picking through some stale bread (I'll save you the horror of the pictures of kitty eating fishies..)



Walking to lunch

When it was finally time to settle in for some chow time in “Chaouen” (you can imagine how long I’ve been waiting to make that joke) we were all ready to eat. We were handed a menu which consisted of 4 options all of which I believe were listed in a combination of Arabic and Spanish which left me basically looking at scribbles. In times like these I have come to realize how important it is to take note of what your friends like to eat. It is usually pretty safe to order whatever Laura is ordering since she’s kinda a picky eater but she also could barely decide what these meals consisted of so I next turned to Tricia who told me she was going out on a limb and ordering “blah blah blah.” All I needed to hear was that she was going out on a limb. I wasn’t up for any “limb-traveling” so, although I was weary, I still asked Katrina, who is our bravest eater, what she was ordering. She said she was going to play it safe with some lemon chicken. Perfect. I was sold. So when they asked for Katrina’s order I just held up a peace sign, which many forget originally stood for the number 2, and my order was placed.

We were joined at lunch by Nick’s roommate for the trip, Matt or “Matao” as he likes to be called. He was a lovely guy who was absolutely hilarious and would have fit right in working at Beauty Brands with me. The previous night the two hadn’t really spoken due to the late hour so it was fun to watch Nick get to know his bunk-mate.

Matao, Nick, Laura and Lisa

Our side of the table

The lemon chicken proved to be a bad choice but in true “poor-student” fashion I managed to take down enough of a portion to get my brain working again. The meal was actually really fun because the restaurant was very eccentric. There were bright colors, drapes, tile work, tapestries and lots of shiny glittery things. Probably not the best place to eat if you have ADD. It very much encompassed what I envisioned a restaurant in India might look like and yet again I became absolutely certain that I know nothing of the world. This has been a repeatedly sad realization in my life with some excitement though because I’m learning right?


In true foreign fashion lunch lasted about two hours and when we finally escaped to the outdoors we were happy to learn that we had some free time. Free time always makes me a bit nervous because I don’t necessarily know if I want to be running around “free” in Africa with no supervision. Then I remember that I am going to be 22 years old this summer and I’m old enough to handle this. (Yes, I have to give myself such pep-talks periodically.) So, we wandered off into the winding blue streets in hopes that we could find the center where the stores were. This proved to be no walk in the park but I’m not complaining. Honestly, even if we were completely lost I still don’t think I would have anything to complain about.

Getting lost

Such cool doorways

I'm blue a-ba-de-a-ba-di... (yes I've been waiting to post that comment as well)

Another cool doorway

Still walkin

We finally found the center of town and nosed around in a bunch of different shops. I was surprised that when I tried to speak to the shop owners in Spanish they would respond in English. However, this proved to be confusing when it came time to bargain. We were told to try to talk down the prices but I felt bad doing so. This is these people’s livelihood, who am I to deny them one extra euro? Tricia and I made a valiant effort and put on our game faces when it came to some jewelry though. She wanted a blue bangle with elephants and I wanted a string of turquoise beads. Together, we wanted a deal and after a little bit of talking we managed to knock down about 50 cents. This somehow seemed victorious at the time though so we walked away happy with our accessories.

Center of town

Happy shoppers!

The sky had matched the pretty blue city at various times during the day but it also had periods of dark gray. It was pretty overcast as we were all congregating in the center of town for our meeting place before further instructions and just as our guides were explaining we were going to head back to the bus it started to sprinkle a little. So we started making our way through the streets and I was doing some serious people watching. It was so cool to see the traditional clothing that they wear. As I somewhat described earlier, the men wear a dress-type covering that reminded me of what alter boys at church wear. The women too can wear a dress but most just wore a wrap over the heads.

Blurry woman

The busses were trying to pull around to pick us up but the policemen who were in the street were making it difficult. The rain had somewhat subsided but was spiting down on us periodically so I was pretty ready to just get on the bus. When we were finally able to board I scrambled on up to grab a window seat and settled in for some more people watching. Yet again I was amazed at how many people were just staring at us. It was a bit unsettling because I kept wanting to look behind me like maybe a celebrity is on our bus or something but nope, it was just us weird American students. The policemen were really unhappy with the busses and were trying to get us to move by yelling and blowing their whistles but apparently we were waiting for someone so they were trying to stall. We weren’t blocking traffic by any means so I was confused as to why it was such a big deal but for whatever reason, it was.

When we finally started pulling out I waved goodbye to this beautiful antique town and could not believe that people actually lived there. I thought about this all the way home. Yes it was beautiful and quaint etc but I did not see one house, apartment or any type of housing that looked like somewhere I would want to live. Everything seemed behind in the times but I maybe that was because we didn’t see that part of the town? Doubtful. It is just amazing to me how I am beyond blessed.

Darkness was falling on the ride home and I got to see somewhat of the nightlife I spoke about earlier. People were out walking around or sitting in doorways. It is just such a different lifestyle. I also was amazed at how many animal carcasses I saw hanging outside. There were quite large ones too that I won’t go into detail with. (Paige, I don’t think you would life Africa ☺)

When we got back to our hotel we were all hungry again but more than that, I needed a shower. However, we didn’t have time for a shower because as Katrina and I were trying to get into our room we realized the door was stuck. We were trying to unlock it but it was like another lock was in place or something. We had to go back to the desk to ask for help and the owner of the hotel brought his keys to try. Those weren’t working either so he called for backup. Backup proved to be a little old woman in a basically a robe and slippers who appeared out of the night like a panther. When she tried her keys and they didn’t work she tried the room next to ours, which was apparently a storage room with a door connected to our room (comforting). When that didn’t work either (I somewhat sighed in relief knowing someone couldn’t come get us through the storage room) she disappeared back into the night and I had no idea where she had gone. The man was pointing to a window or something and before I knew it the wiley panther was letting us in the door. She pointed to our sliding door that let out to our balcony. We thanked them both repeatedly and I went straight to the back door to lock it. As glad as I was to get into our room, I wasn’t going to have there be another option in.

We barely had enough time to look ourselves in the mirror (not pretty) before we had to head back to the main hotel lobby for dinner. Dinner was going to be exciting tonight because rumor had it we were going to get to see some traditional Moroccan performances. Matao had dubbed us cool enough and decided to join us again for a meal. He had some very entertaining stories about gay guys in Spain and we all listened intently. However, my favorite thing to watch was Nick’s face at the exchange of all the details of Matao’s life and I could literally watch Nick's brain thinking “I’m sleeping next to him tonight” haha. We were served family style again and when I looked at the bowl I realized that cuscus with meat and veggies on top were a favorite meal here. We were all hungry enough that we weren’t complaining though and it was good!

Shortly into the meal there was a large explosion of noise coming from the lobby and within seconds a group of about five teenage-boys processed in playing various instruments. There were two that were playing long horns that I thought were going to snap in half any minute. It was so cool and the music was incredibly loud. Next came a group of men playing, singing and dancing and then an old man came out with a tray of lit candles. He proceeded to do everything under the sun with this tray including spinning it on his head and just about anything dangerous. There were times I closed my eyes fearing when I opened them this little man would be on fire. He was incredibly limber and could contort his arms around so he could squeeze his whole body through them. (I know that doesn’t make sense but just go with it.) It was so cool but I couldn’t help but think that this old man should be retired by now, not risking his life for some stupid American tourists. For the finale, all the Moroccan boys and men joined together in a big song and they even brought out a cake for one of the American guys on our trip. He was turning 21 in Africa. How cool!? The performers were pulling people up to dance in the middle but I thankfully, was against a wall and unable to be forced to join the group. Matao didn’t need any prompting though and was up and dancing before I even noticed he was gone.

Once eating and dancing had worn everyone out we decided to head back to our rooms. Nick decided to accompany Katrina and I and hang out in our room for awhile due largely to the fact that he wasn’t up for lots of bonding time in his room. This was quite lucky for Katrina and I because when we tried yet again to get into our room, the door would not open. We tried to get help from the front desk and once again they called the black panther. While we were waiting for her to emerge from the darkness Nick decided we could boost him up through the little window above our shower which he found to be unlocked. (Why were there so many entrances into our room that were available?) During this discussion however, the panther appeared and started working through the very steps she had tried earlier. When she disappeared Nick was confused but Katrina and I knew she was trying the back door. I was crossing my fingers she would open the door but instead she reappeared with apparently no luck. (Oops, I had locked the back door. Well at least we knew no one was getting in that way to steal us!) Then, through a serious of hand motions and sign language we explained that we were thinking about boosting Nick through the window. She apparently concurred with this idea so Trina and I “cheer-leader-lifted” Nick up and then watched him contort his body, much like the little fire dancing man, until he slipped into the window. He then had to maneuver through the room in darkness and find the lock to let us in. I have no idea how he managed to do this but he did and was our hero!

Up he goes!

Almost in!

We decided we weren’t going to leave our room for the rest of the night after that fiasco. So I showered and Trina and I put our PJ’s on to settle in for the night. I started reading “Dear John” and after reading for a bit we both turned out our bedside table lamps, whispered a good night and fell asleep in moments, much like an old married couple

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Morocco 1

So I decided that I'm going to post about my Morocco trip in a few sequences because it has taken so long. I just can’t seem to stay on top of these darn blog posts. It’s hard because I have so much to say but only have little spurts of time to sit down and write so it is a long process. Thanks for hanging in there with me! Just a bit of background; Morocco is in Northern Africa and we had to take a bus trip to the ferry station where we then crossed the Mediterranean to arrive in Africa!

On Friday, February 26th we played yet another game of frantically packing and rushing to find our bus. We didn’t even have the excuse an early departure since we didn’t have to be at the bus until about 4. None the less, we arrived and had to split up to sit in the single sporadic seats left, well except for Nick and Tricia who somehow managed to get seats next to each other. I however was stuck with a girl who I immediately liked because she let me sit by the window (although I guess she didn’t really want it since she was already sitting in the aisle). Thus, I was very friendly and we chatted for the first 15 minutes before the bus started moving. Once we were set in motion though I was no longer really up for chatting but apparently I wasn’t doing a very good job of getting the message across because Chatty-Cathy was on a role. She had other friends on the bus that she pointed out and even talked about for awhile but they weren’t sitting by her and I now knew why. I nonchalantly took out my iPod and started attempting to wrap up the convo while slipping my headphones in my ears. This was not enough of a social signal though and with my favorite “movie” of the Spanish landscape starting I finally had to say “Alrighty well it was nice talking but I think I’m going to try to get some rest…” That seemed to do the trick, at least for awhile.

I cannot express to you how much I love sitting on a bus and watching Spain stretch out in front of me. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is or how tired I am, I cannot tear my eyes away from it. There were about 20 times when I went to tap “Cathy” on the shoulder to say “Oh my gosh look how pretty that is!” before I thought better of it in fear that it would start an hour long conversation. Plus, sometimes it’s just good to savor your own wonderment.

Along with the beauty of the landscape that was rolling past me I also got to see the damage all of buckets of rain southern Spain has been experiencing. As I mentioned before, Seville hasn’t experienced this much rain in over 30 years and such statistics pretty much stand for everywhere in Spain (just last week we had students in our program get snowed-in in Barcelona. The whole city shut down because they had never seen such weather). What I was seeing was huge pools of water covering large areas of land. There were trees underwater and homes flooded. I saw numerous men with their herd of muddy lambs trying to find areas without water, which left muddy ground as their other option. Clearly that is not ideal weather for livestock and I saw the casualties lying right there in the muddy water. I had never seen anything like this nor had I considered the hardship that such conditions placed on these people. I was unbelievably ashamed to realize my main concern for the past weeks had been that I had to walk to school in the rain, or that I wouldn’t be getting a tan. Little did I know that this was only the beginning of an eye-opening trip.

When we arrived at the ferry station in Tarifa the sun was saying it’s last goodbye for the day and we had to leave our bags on the bus but bring our passports and little slips of paper for entering a new country. By the way, never have I appreciated my parents enough for filling those entry form things out. What is with that? Will I have to start doing all my own paperwork now that I’m growing up? ☺ We had a little bit of a wait so the majority of people grabbed something to eat and relaxed. When it was time to get on the ferry I had a weird sense of not knowing what I was about to climb onto. I had never been on a ferry as far as I could remember and the only thing that I could picture was an open boat where you stand around the edges and peer at the water. Don’t ask me where I got this visual (I’m assuming from some Mary-Kate and Ashley movie). So you can imagine my utter amazement to see that the boat we were about the board was huge! My excitement and nerves were rising! It was dark out and all you could really see was this big boat lit up and with the addition of the smell the salty air and the feel a warm-cool breeze I could have probably just sat right down on a curb and been a happy camper. But we had to keep moving and actually board the ferry!

All aboard!

Climbing aboard I was shocked to see how incredibly nice it was. It was almost like a cruise ship with tons of seating, nice staircases up to the second floor with pretty railings all around. The chairs were plush and placed facing each other or around little tables for convenience. I absolutely loved it! I had thoughts of the Titanic before I realized we were about to go out to sea in rainy weather and quickly changed my thought process. There was a bit of a delay while they considered the conditions of the water etc but we ended up pulling away from the dock. I couldn’t see anything due to the darkness, which to this day I cannot decide if it was a curse or a blessing, but I’m leaning towards the latter. The ride was about an hour or so long and we tried to play a few games of cards but ended up just talking. I was afraid I would get seasick or something but managed to arrive in Africa with no major hitches. Let me say that again for you so it can sink in, I arrived in AFRICA.

Nick on the ferry pretending not to belong with us.

Wasting time while waiting to step off into Africa

I truly can’t even believe that I just typed that and that it is now a fact. I was in Africa and that is something I never in a million years thought I would do. So, when we scrambled off the ferry after waiting onboard for what was literally probably about an additional hour I was more than ready to soak up everything I saw. When we were walking up the hill from the ferry towards the station we had to have our passports checked. It was a pretty informal check, which was a bit sketchy, and I kept thinking wow, anyone could sneak in here. Then again, we are very American looking students traveling in a pack of 100 so they probably wanted to get us out of the way.

Getting off the ferry. Say hello to my new blonde friend from Finland!

We're here! Tricia wants to know where the animals are

On the short walk towards the ferry station I looked at all the other boats to my left and glanced to the large wall to my right. That is when I realized there were military men patrolling on top of the walls with huge guns. I literally almost stopped in my tracks. Was there something big that might happen this weekend that I was unaware of? Why did these guys need such huge guns and why were they literally pacing on these huge walls? As we got closer to the station there were more policemen with dogs stopping the cars pulling out from the ferries. Were these drug or bomb sniffing dogs? Was this normal? However, this was no time for questions because we were late to check into our hotel and we still had a long bus ride there ahead of us. So I kept up my pace and went through some mild security that consisted of a metal detector (these people were pretty inconsistent) and made our way towards where the bus was going to pick us up.

We had to wait out in the parking lot for actually what seemed like a long time. Maybe it was because I was a bit on edge after the military presence and since there were people sitting in cars staring at us, some even appeared to be living in their cars and a few taxis pulled up to look at us as well but I just felt sort of vulnerable. I had no idea what to expect in this new country nor did I know the language. Then I looked up at the full moon I had spotted earlier to see that there was a big road sign in the way and it was in Arabic. This struck me in an odd way. I was in an incredibly different country and sure it was strange and different but here was a green road sign that very well could have been plucked from highway 70. It was then that a switch flipped for me. I promised myself to soak up every aspect of the trip with a complete open mind because after all, these people were probably very similar to you and me.

And that is what kept me wide-awake for the hour or so long bus ride to the hotel. I watched just about everyone blink into slumber but my eyes were glued to the window. Sure it was late and very dark out but there was so much to see. I saw lots of people out for such a late hour. They were sitting outside on little sidewalks in front of their stores, leaning against walls under streetlights, sitting in doorways with a friend or alone, some even slouched in sleep despite the glow from the restaurant windows, others were sitting on the stoop of their store with a pig carcass hanging outside, walking on the sidewalks, walking next to the street in the dark, pushing their cars on the street in the dark (I actually saw numerous people doing that) and there were kids out doing these things as well. While some of the people were wearing regular clothing, or I guess American/Spanish type clothes, others were wearing the traditional “hijab” which is a dress for men. I was intrigued. The buildings all looked rough but I was used to that in Spain however here it was even more un-kept looking. The main road was nicely paved but looking out past the road there would be just miles of dirt then a haphazard building. I even saw a village of tents, which is an image that will stay with me forever.

You can imagine then, my feelings as we made a left into our resort area of Kabila. Not only were the streets beautifully manicured but there were decorative lights, some even flashing or changing colors. It wasn’t necessarily an obnoxious Vegas look, it looked more like they had decorated for a holiday but when I asked later I was told that is how it always is. I had a weird surge of emotions that consisted of embarrassment and shame. I don’t know where I thought we would be staying, and I can’t honestly say that I wanted to stay upstairs in one of the buildings we passed but this just felt, wrong.

As we slowed into arriving at the hotel my fellow travelers started rustle around. Everyone was groggy and I wanted to talk, typical. Had anyone else seen any of what I had just experienced for the last hour? The general consensus was no so I quit trying which was also largely due to the fact that as soon as we walked in the doors we were ushered to the dining area. Food is a quick way to shut me up. We felt bad because the entire staff was waiting for us and it was almost 2 am but we were hungry! All meals were included with the trip we took and we were excited to see what they were going to put in front of us. They served us “family style” with a big bowl of couscous (little small balls of rice) piled with different forms of meat and veggies. However, the drinks were not included so we had to order water and pay for it.

This is where we realized that we needed to exchange money since they have a different currency called “Dirham.” Luckily the hotel could exchange money for us and it was really weird because for 20 euros you would get a 200 dirham bill and a bit of change since the euro is worth more. It was bizarre to head back to the table with “hundreds of dollars” in my pocket. I paid for my giant bottle of water and then Katrina and I went to the desk to get our room key.

We stumbled through the darkness trying to find our room, which was not close to Laura and Tricia’s, until a man working for the hotel beckoned for us to follow him. He was short and grungy and somehow reminded me of a Disney cartoon character. No words, just leading and pointing and when he pointed all the way town to the end of a building where the light above the door was out I got a little nervous. All of the rooms had doors opened straight to the outside so there were not hallways. When we managed to open our room and turn the lights on we were more than ready to dive into bed. There was a somewhat funky smell permeating the air and it had a bit of a “zoo” hint to it but we ignored it, did our nighttime routines quickly out of pure exhaustion and hopped into bed. We had to be up early for breakfast and a very fully day so I drifted off easily with thoughts of baby elephants in my head…

Monday, March 15, 2010


So apparently I need to apologize for the “creepiness” that I alluded to in my post about the pizza party. I assure you that it was not creepy at any point and that my storytelling may have accidentally set the wrong mood. Never was I actually afraid for my safety and never would I partake in activities where I believe that my own safety, or that of my friends, was in jeopardy. I am so sorry if any of you were afraid, nervous or disappointed and I certainly hope that you continue reading this blog/diary/novel/journal thing I’ve got going here. ☺ On another note, I would like to think that if you are reading this blog you know that I am not some stupid girl twirling her hair (er.. maybe on that one) who throws all inhibitions to the wind for some precarious adventures in Europe... Enjoy! :)

Note: This link has been posted in honor of Dylan Noe who I have watched way too much of SNL with andddd in Spanish time is now Legal! Happy Birthday to the best looking, hair flipping, sasha sauntering, shampoo selling friend a girl could have :) Miss and love you!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Pizza Party With Pijos

March 6th
I mentioned in my last post that I would be writing about my trip to Morocco but I realized that there was another important happening in between my two trips. So the Morocco trip will have to momentarily be placed on hold while you suffer through some details of my Spanish life.

The week we got home from Madrid brought the relaxation that comes with knowing your next exams will not be for weeks. So, while I went to all my classes I can’t say my brain was entirely there. Thus, when we were invited to dinner by the Spanish boys we met earlier, we jumped at the chance. We were feeling quite adventurous as we showered and got ready for our eventful evening and we left the house in a rush because, go figure, we were late. Plus, we promised to bring some wine and we needed to grab that before we met up with the other two girls that were coming (Kelly and Katie). When we happened across a gas station, we assumed they would sell alcohol like they do in the states. However, the only thing we could find was a giant juice-box of sangria. It was 1 euro and we decided it was unacceptable to actually show up with. So, as any logical girls would do, we purchased the juice-box and finished it in on our quest for legitimate wine.

We met up with the other American girls who were going to be dinner guests, found some wine to present to our new Spanish friends and headed across the bridge to Triana (the part of Seville that lies on the opposite side of the river). As we were crossing the bridge Kelly called Carlos to tell him we were almost there and he said he was standing on the corner with a few of the guys waiting for us. I don’t know what it was exactly, either somehting about this phrase or that I realized our plans were actually happening, but I started to really freak out. What were we doing going to meet random Spanish guys? Hadn’t I heard of the movie Taken? What if this was a trap and we were about to be kidnapped? I can’t even speak Spanish! My brain argued back with the fact that these guys weren’t creepy last time, they seemed genuine and funny from what I recall, they are studying engineering at the University of Seville and were “pijos” (whch means preppy if you recall) so they weren't hooligans which is usually a good indication..

So as we started to approach the guys I slunk to the back of the group as if Carlos and the two friends he brought with him were going to start snatching us in which case, since I was in the back, I would have enough time to run away. These were legitimately my thoughts and at the time seemed not only logical, but smart. They all started to say hello to each of us (six girls total) with a kiss on each cheek and I quickly realized I would not understand a word tonight because, as I should have guessed, everyone was speaking Spanish. Therefore, when the guys started leading us to their apartment I again found myself slinking to the back of the group. So, I was more than surprised to see one of the guys drop back with me and start chattering away in Spanish. I looked at him dumbfounded. I recognized him from the night we had gone out with them before but I couldn’t remember his name. So I laughed and said “No hablo espanol” to which he looked at me quite seriously and said in English “What? Haley, you were speaking Spanish to me the other night.” I tried to explain that he must have me mixed up with someone else but he told me he was sure that it was me. Oh wow, I must have had more fun than I thought that night! Good news though, this guy could speak English and that was a huge relief!

When we arrived at the apartment it was a bit awkward with introductions and the exchanges of cheek-kisses with cute strange men (not that I’m complaining!) For about the first 5 minutes I was very on edge looking at doors, windows and thinking of an escape route until I started taking in more of the details of my surroundings. There was a playstation with multiple controllers, laptops, signs on the wall with pictures and writings drawn but most importantly, beer bottles. This was clearly the Spanish version of a frat house and I started to feel much more at home. ☺

We're here!

Awkwardly waiting our next move

The boys opened a few large beer bottles (Don’t worry mom I watched them open it and there was no mysterious substance sprinkled in) and gave us all a nice full cup of beer. They then asked if we wanted to hang out inside or outside and due to the nice evening we voted on the outdoor patio. They were on the top floor so they had a nice view and after a bit of attempted conversation we decided to play some games. Luckily, I brought my cards and we set out to teach the boys how to play “Circle of Death.” This was quite a challenge and we changed some rules because it was so confusing but it was ultimately really fun and we all ended up laughing each time it was one of the guys’ turns.

Impromptu flamenco dance lesson

I was beginning to think there wasn’t going to be a real “dinner” aspect to the night but then the boys declared it time to eat. Enrique (who is also training to be a bull fighter or something) brought out some chicken that he made and dished it out to all of us. It was delicious! I kept asking who’s mom really made this but they swore it was actually Enrique. Gotta love a guy who can cook!

Enrique passing out his delicious dish. Clearly he's happy.

Next Carlos brought out a bunch of small pizza crusts, some pizza sauce, cheese and toppings, which consisted of tuna, bacon and hotdogs. Yes, those would be what the boys considered acceptable pizza toppings. I was skeptical but the guys were digging in. So I chose to sprinkle some bacon on and Miguel, the guy I was sitting next to, quickly told me that was not enough and proceeded to cut up two hotdogs with scissors. Apparently scissors, and I’m not talking the kitchen kind but the art-class kind with orange or blue finger holes, are an acceptable cooking utensil. I just sat there in shock watching this cute Spaniard cut up hot dogs onto my personal pan pizza thinking, is this real?


When there's a blonde in need...

Helping to put the pizzas in the oven please note the "stuff" piled in the kitchen.

As a matter of fact it was real and I was just as surprised at that fact as I was to find that the pizza they brought out, hot dogs and all, was actually really good! Now, I’ve become accustomed to eating whatever is in front of me lately but I truly believe I wasn’t in a “hunger trance” but genuinely liked the odd pizza. The boys were very polite in serving the ladies first. They used the art-class-scissors again to cut the pizza into pieces (a multipurpose kitchen utensil none the less!) and there began to be a silent lull at the table. We were all enjoying our pizza, beer, chilly night and good company and with the slowing of conversation it was almost like we all got a good view of the nights events. How funny that we would be sitting here with new friends who we could only somewhat communicate with (barely on my end) and be completely at ease. It was as if I had known these guys for much longer than a few weeks and it was weird to think that college guys are probably pretty similar all over. I held on to that thought tightly, as I do anything that I find can ring true internationally, because such commonality is refreshing.

I mean scissors are scissors right? Why do you need a special "kitchen" pair.. hah

Someone loves Katie!

After dinner we all tried to help clean up but the boys said just to pile the plates in the kitchen. Clearly this had been their strategy for awhile because there was stuff piled all over the kitchen. Empty beer bottles, dirty plates, glasses food you name it, all sat in some sort of creative, balanced tower. Carlos quickly explained “Sorry we couldn’t get around to cleaning, we’ve been studying all day…” Yep, sounds just like my sarcastic friends at home! Haha

Next we congregated in the living room and the boys made sure all of our glasses were full before playing some rockin’ Spanish tunes. We were having fun with this for awhile until we decided to take control of the laptop and started playing American songs. The boys loved this, as did we! We were playing all these goofy rap songs from high school and middle school and singing every word. A personal favorite of theirs was “I Like Big Butts.” They were literally rolling around laughing so hard at us as we were singing and dancing around the living room. It had to be the highlight of the night for me! (Partially because it is one of the only rap songs that I actually know most of the words too..)

Patstar doing my signature hand move

The girls and I were very intrigued as to what the big pieces of paper with the pictures and scribbling all over them that were hanging on the wall above their couches were there for. After inquiring we found out that each piece of paper was for a big party they had had that everyone in attendance had signed. Before we knew it they had made a little paper-poster just for us and we were signing it as well! Obviously this was a monumental party.

Party signs

Our addition!

When Laura and I caught each other yawning across the room we decided we should probably call it a night. However, when we made this known, the boys flew into a “No, no it’s way too early!” It definitely wasn’t early, but maybe on the Spanish schedule it was. They started deciding where the night should lead us but there was no convincing Lo and me, but the other girls rallied and voted on going out with the guys. So we passed out hugs and kisses, thanked our lovely hosts and bid them all a farewell!

We walked out of the apartment complex with everyone and Miguel hopped on his moped. I stopped in my tracks. Wait is that really a moped? Hold on...this guy was exactly what I had been searching for. Not only was he super cute, could communicate with me through broken bits of each other’s languages, wasn’t creepy and was really smart but most importantly.. he had a MOPED! Being the avid Mary-Kate and Ashley fan that I am.. I mean was, this had always played a very large role in my daydreaming of boys. For those of you who don’t know (which should be no one if I call you a friend), multiple plots in MK and Ash’s movies include a moped, (Passport to Paris, When in Rome, Our Lips Are Sealed.. I could go on). So, a very serious goal of mine since the age of 9 has been to ride on the back of a moped with my arms wrapped around a cute boy. Therefore, the sight of Miguel literally slowed my steps. What should I do? Ask for a ride? No, no definitely need to play it cool. Should I all of the sudden switch my plans and decide to go out? I’m super tired and I can’t let Laura go home alone. So, all there was left to do was to continue dreaming and I vowed to myself that next time I would most definitely get a ride on that bike.

There he is... Ok this is creepy but I swear I didn't actually take this picture. Although I'm not sure who did.. I was definitely too shocked to move though so it wasn't me!

Being so close to fulfilling a dream and walking away from it into the night was very painful but when I dropped into my bed later, I was content with the certainty that there was still time. It was a great evening and I was excited to have made more friends. So as I closed my eyes to drift off to visions of me (as Ashley Olsen) on a moped I was a very happy girl.

Little did I know that probably about the very time I was enjoying my dreams my friend Kelly was fulfilling them. The next day at school she informed me that Miguel had taken her home on the back of his moped. My jaw dropped. I wanted to stomp on her big toe and hug her in excitement but decided to settle for a “Oh my gosh no way!?” She said it was so fun and hilarious and that she really loved that group of guys. I had to agree and we all decided to make sure we kept in touch with them. I was pretty sure we would A) because I wanted a ride on that moped and B) because the boys had already said they would let us use their kitchen so we could make dinner for them.. Aw, such gentlemen ☺

What a lucky brat...