Saturday, April 24, 2010

Morocco 3rd and Final Installment

We had to wake up super early Sunday morning and pack everything up. Katrina and I were running a bit behind but still managed to enjoy a miniature breakfast. We also grabbed a quick second to take a picture of the cool pool. Had the weather been more cooperative our hotel would have been beautiful. After a piece of toast and a large cup of coffee we waved goodbye to Kabila and set out for Tetuan before we were to catch a ferry home.

Bina on the bed

Would have been a glorious pool with some sunshine

Yummy tea

Goodbye Kabila!

This should help with perspective, this is what was across the street from our hotel.

Driving in the bus I caught a glimpse of something I saw the first night but had written it off to a sleepy mind because I was sure it wasn’t possible. However, there they were in a full costume, or I guess uniform, of red wearing a long cape, hat, silver buttons, badges and tall black boots. I couldn’t get a full view since we were cruising past them and I was disappointed but sure enough about half a mile later there was another one pacing by a wall and so the next few miles went accordingly. What was behind that wall and why was it so important that these decorated guards stand watch? This remains another one of my unanswered questions but it was really cool to see. I had never pictured anyone’s military or security wearing such outfits. As we were pulling into the city of Tetuan there were more policemen, or military men, I’m not really sure which, standing by the road, although not in the full cape uniform, serving some purpose I’m sure, but I just couldn’t figure out what it was. It was a bit intimidating having their presence be stamped so permanently on the landscape and I realized maybe that was indeed the very purpose.

Also, while we were pulling in I got to see Muslims praying towards Mecca. They were outside, down on their knees with their foreheads pressed to the ground. I’m taking a class about Islamic culture so it was unbelievably cool for me to witness this and at least somewhat be able to understand the meaning. For me to be able to see them in prayer and not wonder, or think it was weird, but to have knowledge behind such actions and respect them for their faith was a really neat moment for me.

When we piled off the bus we were split into two groups with different guides to go see the old Jewish market. Again, I had no idea what to expect but was still shocked as to what we saw. The “market” was just a labyrinth of streets filled with people selling just about everything from scrap metal to spices.

Guards in the distance

There were many “drive up window” type ordeals where you could go up and peek in to see what the person was selling but mostly you could gather what was being sold simply by glancing their way. There were old woman sitting on the corners selling herbs laid out, or barrels of fruit. I cannot tell you how many butcher shops, or meat stores we went past. As I mentioned before there were tons of chickens. There would be crates stuffed full of them or pins, then there would be three tied together by the feet just lying in a bunch or you could see the whole bird plucked of its feathers and hanging from walls and of course, there were eggs. It was quite disturbing to be able to see literally the entire lifecycle of the bird in one little store and once you got past the initial gag reaction it was I guess, kinda cool. To say that I saw multiple dead animals would be a complete understatement. (Mom, Paige you would guys would have never been able to even enter this market. Dad, Blake you would have LOVED it…typical)

Entrance into the Old Jewish Sector - where the market is

It rained a bit so the tarps were helpful

Selling herbs. Also, that is a typical dress outfit with the hood, that we saw frequently.

What we winded through

More winding

Beans, rice etc

Crates of chicken

More chicken

Whole life cycle almost...

We kept venturing through the winding streets until we happened upon a Jewish synagogue. There was loud music being played and our tour guide (who by the way told us he is often confused with Michael Douglas… haha funny guy) stopped to peek in. He, of course, knew people (so famous and popular) and they invited us in. However, this was somehow not ok and we were a bit confused until Mr. Douglas explained that it was a special time because there were circumcisions taking place. It took everything in me not to bolt down one of the narrow sidewalks in the complete opposite directions. No, no, noo thank you I would most definitely NOT want to witness such an event. I was ready to scurry on but apparently we were in no hurry as we were told about the building and God knows what else because my brain was way tuned out. And then, low and behold, we had waited long enough to hear louder music, cheering and then a father and son emerged… Needless to say the little boy was not a happy camper.

Mr. Douglas in front of the temple doors

And there's the unhappy camper!

After that somewhat traumatizing experience, we kept wandering through the streets until we found yet another “rug store” where we got basically the same show of rugs, tapestries etc. Apparently this is a huge business in Africa. The show, as before, lasted a bit too long and I was ready to escape but I found myself kind of wanting to buy something simply to help the business. However, I couldn’t justify any of the purchases and was sorry to leave empty handed.

Our next stop was the pharmacy, which was like no pharmacy I had ever seen. We sat around the store in a stadium type set up that had walls lined with jars of everything imaginable. The show started (and trust me when I say these presentations were every bit of a show with jokes and pizzazz galore) and jars were passed around for us to smell and look in. There were cooking spices, which I had never thought of being found in a pharmacy, that we were told were hugely rare and expensive in America so we should buy them here... This might be true but I figured my Mom would want something more than some curry. There was lip gloss that could be used for anything from cold soars to zits which didn’t sound promising nor did the majority of items that we were shown but when he finally talked about the tea I perked right up. I have never been a fan of tea but had had numerous cups of some delicious tea since arriving in North Africa. It is sweet (that would be the first necessary ingredient for me to like it) and just a bit mint-like but with maybe some honey to. It is always served warm after dinner or more for like a “meal-cap.” I really liked it so I snagged a few boxes when it was time to leave and was quite happy with my purchase.

Walls covered in jars filled with God knows what..

The ring leader of this circus, also known as the pharmacist.

When we were leaving I noticed that there was a man trailing along with our group whom I was aware of but our tour guide, and program guides were speaking with so I assumed he was allowed. When I inquired about this I learned that this was a police officer whom we had hired to accompany us through the market. This was shocking. Were we really in danger? I can’t say I was ever scared to necessarily be there but it was definitely a bit intimidating. I am still unsure if it was comforting that he was there, or more unnerving… Mostly I just felt extremely out of place and we stood out like an ugly sore thumb. I kept telling myself that we were not the first group to come through here and that groups did this all the time but it just felt wrong. We were taking pictures of how unbelievable their lifestyle was but at the end of the day it was not some spectacle, it was their everyday lives and it appeared more like we were visiting a zoo. For yet another time during this trip I felt ashamed.

Lunch was our next visit and boy were we ready for it. The place was really beautiful all decorated in a deep blue. We were served cuscus yet again in the very same format as our other meals. Since Laura and Tricia had boarded a different bus while Trina and I were still eating breakfast we were separated for the day, we were left to find new friends to eat with and did just fine! Hah we met some very interesting people who were in a different program and one was even from Kansas City. The world really is small.

View from up top!

When it was time to board the bus we all processed out to find our big blue forms of transportation. As always there was a bit of confusion so we had to wait for quite awhile on the bus and, as always, I did not mind because I had a window seat ☺ So I settled in for some good people watching. It was so neat to see how different these people dressed. I think I mentioned how some would wear the traditional Muslim dress, some women were sure to have their heads covered but other people would be seen in completely “regular” outfits. My favorite part however was to see the two combined. A woman dressed in a floor length Muslim dress, head covered and all but wearing 4 inch purple heels. Or a little boy holding his father’s hand in a very traditional outfit but with a Spiderman backpack on. These were the things that stuck with me, and will stay with me for life hopefully. It was further imprinted in my mind that these people are just like you and me. The terrible things, earthquakes, bombings or riots, you hear about on the news that are happening in these far off cities where you can’t possibly find anything to relate to are not as far as you think and the people, are not so different at all. We all want the same things in life, all possess similar dreams when we lay our heads down for sleep and yet there is this huge misunderstanding that we are different when in reality we are anything but. The entire human race is all racing for the same thing, we just run on different paths to get there. The problem remains in communication. Whether it is explaining a religion, a custom, belief or just a simple thought, the language barrier is the tallest, highest wall that I have experienced. It was here, in Tetuan that I learned the importance of a smile. Call me crazy, or lame or whatever, but I am telling you that as I walked the streets and saw the people and was unable to really even say hello, I found that the quickest way to communicate a positive feeling was a smile, and we each must have about 100 different smiles so that right there is language we all can speak, right? ☺

Total journal entry there, I apologize but obviously when I get to writing, I don’t hold back so you shouldn’t be surprised at this point if you’ve stuck with this novel of a blog so far! Now, moving forward with the day. Once we were back on the bus we headed towards the port and made a few pit stops on the way. First we traveled to an amazing view of the ocean. I could have gazed out at that thing for hours up on the cliff if it weren’t for the sand that kept whipping up in my eyes. Sunglasses were helpful! Lots of people wanted to ride camels and as luck would have it there were two men, with two camels who were harassed for half an hour as everyone in every shape and size climbed up to ride for all of 5 seconds before they were switched out for someone new. The men were beating the camels on the knees and I felt so bad for them I refused to cough over any amount of money to support it. These men were just dumb with their entire approach and stupidity makes my skin crawl. Thus, my focus remained on the wonderful view.

We're on a beach! .. kinda, more so on a cliff above the beach :)

View to the left

View to the right

Down on the actual beach now!

Trish and Lo on their camels! They were very nice to the poor guys :)

Sweet wittle baby camel

As we clamored back on the bus to shake out our jackets full of sand (I was actually careful to keep a tiny bit in my pocket so that every time I reach in a have a bit of Africa with me ☺.. Yes I’m odd) I looked longing at the cute baby camel and very badly wanted to somehow fit it in my bag to take home but I was forced to realize that was not an option. So I focused on our next destination, which was a “bathroom break” (most bathrooms largely consisted of a type of hole in the ground with a lid at times) at the place where the Pacific Ocean and Mediterranean Sea meet. I was quite excited about this because I had been picturing it in my head for the whole trip and I was not let down. You could literally see the two shades of blue as they greeted each other in their waves and formed a solid alliance of salty air. There were souvenirs you could buy and I nosed around a bit but came up empty handed because nothing really compared to the view. There were also really cute baby goats who tempted me for brief moments of “awe so cute” before my eyes darted back to the water. I was truly sad to get back on the bus because there were no more pit stops. The next stop would be the port and I would hop on a ferry to go back to Spain.

Saying goodbye to the 2 pretty shades of blue (you can kinda see a difference between the colors) please not the menacing clouds rolling in.

We arrived at the port at the same time as the rain. All you could do was laugh at the amount that was coming down and the perfect timing in which it decided to descend. There was a lot of confusion because the ferry we were supposed to be boarding was possibly not going out to sea due to the weather. After a bit of stress and getting damp in the rain we were directed onto a ferry but it was not our original one and would be taking us to Gibraltar first before arriving at a different port in southern Spain where we would get off. (Hope that makes sense) To add to the confusion, the busses were unable to board the same ferry that we squeezed onto, and I do mean squeeze because this thing was quite packed, which became a large problem once we arrived at our final port.

Don't rain on my parade

When we finally arrived at our port after a rocky ferry ride which, I confess, was a bit unnerving considering other ferries had chosen not to venture out in the weather and yet, we did? Not a comforting thought as we were rockin around in the middle of the ocean. However, I spent the entire time reading Dear John which I was not enjoying but definitely helped the time pass. When we clamored out of the ferry around midnight (longer ferry ride than it was supposed to be due to stops and weather) we learned that we had to wait for the busses. Not sure why this didn’t dawn on me earlier when they mentioned that our busses didn’t make this ferry but, for whatever reason, I was shocked by this knowledge and was comforted only by the shock of my companions as well.

So we set up camp at the station and proceeded to hang for about 4 hours. We were all starving so the trip leaders (who are like 25 year old guys who get the amazing job of leading kids around in awesome places) decided to go get some pizza. They took orders and money then left for literally what seemed like an hour. We all attacked them when they returned and ate our pizza so fast that afterwards we all stared at each other wishing we had more. But, we didn’t have more, nor did we have anything to do and one by one I started watching the group of about 200 drop like flies into an awkward slumber. It is so funny to see what people come up with for a “comfortable” sleeping position on a linoleum floor. I finished Dear John and was only mildly disappointed because I didn’t like the book much in the first place. However, I will most definitely still see the movie.. where I will probably cry.

With no book to read and with no possible sleep in the near future the few of us left standing decorated the faces of celebrities in a magazine and played made up games which were quite entertaining. When the busses finally arrived we all ran outside and fought for a spot on the first bus and luckily, we actually made it. However, the other half was still standing in the dark waiting for the second bus to arrive. I felt like Titanic was sinking and I had snagged a spot on a lifeboat only to watch everyone else out in the dark, lost in the night. Maybe that is a bit dramatic and an overly creepy comparison to have but it was weird... and it was past 4 in the morning so cut me some slack.. hah No recollection of the bus ride home but we grabbed a taxi once in Seville and were ready to fall into bed. It was all such a crazy and eye opening adventure. It could have ended on a bit of a better note but in hindsight I truly would not have had it any other way. My life is incredible and I do not have an ounce to complain about. Morocco will remain one of my favorite trips, not for the extravagance or the night life, or the history or people we met, but for the impact that it made and the lessons I have honestly only begun to learn. Shukran (Thank you in Arabic) Morocco I am a very blessed girl.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Rise and Shine

Good morning! It is 5:30 am here and we are departing for the airport hopefully within the next 20 minutes to jet over to Italy! London was incredible but I cannot believe that we have already returned and are turning around to fly somewhere else. LIfe is amazing and we are very very lucky girls. I can't wait to update my posts when I get back! Good lord I have a lot to do... So sorry! Most importantly though, I wanted to wish my sweet baby sister a Happy 20th Birthday!! She turned 20 on the 11th and I was able to send her a few things, but it just wasn't the same. Cannot believe we are both in our twenties now... Seems like only yesteryear we ere playing with Barbies and torturing Blake, wait we still do that second thing :)

More to come upon my return! Miss and love you beyond words!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Current Update

Ok, I'm over this whole posting in order thing. It has just got me wayyy behind and I want to actually keep you guys in the loop so from here on out I will try to throw in little updated blips and then post the full stories of my trip whenever possible. Sound good? It only took me three months to figure out.. hah

Yes, you heard right. I have been here for 3 whole months and in exactly 1 month I will be moving home to the states! I truly cannot believe it. Time has never flown at such a rapid pace in my whole life! Well.. maybe college in general because I now have the rest of my college career planned out as well. Getting old is very unnerving.

Speaking of getting old a VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY HANDSOME FATHER! He is turning a young 47 tomorrow with only a few sprinkles of gray in his luscious locks. (He looks very refined if you ask me.) We have agreed that this sounds like an excellent age and good things will happen. I can't wait to see what they are! I would post this tomorrow but I will in fact be in London for a long four day weekend. I am incredibly spoiled since I just returned from Greece on Monday. This is the most traveling I have ever done and while it exhausting, it is so much fun. My parents are the absolute best for allowing be to do all of these things. When I grow up and become filthy rich I will travel all of the time because I absolutely love it! I already promised them that I would send them on lavish trips and if you stay in my good graces maybe I'll bring you along too ;)

I hope everyone had a very happy Easter. Mine was full of crazy travel changes and probably a bit more stress than I would have liked but hey, I had just spent the last week lounging on the beech in Mykonos, Greece so I am in no place to even begin complaining. I am incredibly blessed to be having the experiences that I am over here and I thank God for each and every day of it.

Now I am off with a group of 8 total (me included) to travel through London and pretend we're Harry Potter milling with muggles. (Ok, obviously that is just going to be me..) I am sooo excited!! Gotta throw a few last items in my back and then we're off to arrive late tonight. I am sure that I will have great stories, many with obnoxious Harry Potter references, so check back soon. As for now, adios mi amigos! I miss and love you all!!

And Congrats to my cousin Amy and her husband Jeremy who gave baby Jack a sister, Blair Catherine! Such a beautiful name. Can't wait to see pictures!