Saturday, March 26, 2011

Semana Ocho: Lions, Camels, and Idiots--Oh, my!

18 March ~ 24 March 2011

I began this past week with a weekend jaunt to Africa—sounds wild, eh? Well, Africa wasn’t wild, the people were. When you book group travel, you would expect to be traveling with a group, right? Well, not me. For some reason, I thought Lizzie, Ariel, and I were just going to be in Morocco on our own, doing our own thing. I’m not entirely sure where this assumption came from. It was like the time I assumed—actually, audibly proclaimed—I wouldn’t get sunburned lying out in the pool in the middle of July without sun block. Waking up the next morning with first-degree burns was just a hell of a good time and a reminder of just how much of an idiot I am.

After our three-hour bus ride from Granada to Seville to meet up with the group and board our additional two-and-a-half hour bus to the port city of Tarifa, I was not in the mood for general human interaction, let alone those of the retarded Barbie and Ken group we happened to be traveling with. All I wanted to do was sit in my seat, as you would on a bus, and go to town on my mixed bag of gummy candies. Instead, my poor ears were subject to typical meathead comments like: (on a calculator)”If you multiply this by this, and add this to that, and then divide by this, it says “BOOB.” If the comment wasn’t irritating, the jacked-up, macho, hyena cackle was enough to make me slit my wrists. Seconds later, one of the Barbies wanted verification that the Strait of Gibraltar was “a rock, right?” No stupid, that would be the ROCK of Gibraltar. I didn’t have alcohol, or Nyquil so, I was stuck with these examples of reverse evolution/primeval middle schoolers at least until the port, where they could mysteriously disappear into the Mediterranean. I was just waiting for someone to say, “Pull my finger.”

At one point, after expressing my thoughts on our peers, Ariel chimed-in in support: “I’m glad you guys are jaded on general human behavior (like I am).” At least my companions were on the same page with me so, it was just a matter of surviving this Laguna Beach nightmare. Don’t get me wrong, there eventually proved to be some worthy, normal humans with us on the trip, but they were the minority. After watching a few people ram into my armrest while maneuvering their way through the narrow aisle with their luggage, I decided to put it down. Ten seconds later I put it back up. There would be no sympathy for this crowd, plus it was pretty amusing watching them take a blow to their kidney and literally being stopped in their tracks. One-by-one all of the passengers were being impaled or thrown backward due to my incredible object of amusement and it was delightful.

To add fuel to the fire, the tour guides, which were practically our age, decided to put on Superbad. Why? Yes, it is a very funny movie, but it would be like putting on Never Say Never for a group of teenage girls, or Spice World for me. I could just see the headlines now: “3 students (Ariel, Lizzie, and I) were found dead after hanging themselves with their backpacks in Tangier. Officals said they had been there for approximately four minutes.”
                                                           African coast

After about ten bus rides, three boats, two flights, and bicycling, we finally arrived in M’Diq at our hotel. I was absolutely starving as was everyone else. There was a group of Moroccan performers dressed in traditional Moroccan performing apparel at the entrance of the hotel playing music for us. While I appreciated the welcome, my stomach was on the verge of throwing a huge PMS episode and I did not have the time to wait for people to stop and take pictures, it was time to eat! The pasta with Bolognese sauce was very good, but it was the Moroccan tea and homemade ice cream that stole the show. The banana and vanilla ice cream was the best ice cream I had ever had. There must have been a cat farm in or around our hotel because our dinner was interrupted a few times by the pack/school/group/flock/whatever of cats that were roaming freely through the restaurant.

Fat, full, and happy, we finally got to go check out our room. We were already halfway to the room when one of the bellhops decided to join us and try to take our bags for us, which we didn’t give him as we only had a backpack each…that were ON our backs. He opened our door for us and showed us to the beds as if we weren’t capable of doing so ourselves and then practically broke my arm trying to take my backpack off to set it on the bench behind me. He then expected some kind of tip, but we had only just arrived and only had large Moroccan Dirham bills. Do you honestly think I’m going to tip you for the arduous task of taking my backpack off and setting it directly behind me?

As if this employee wasn’t irritating enough, the electrician/resident hobo certainly was. I shouldn’t say he was irritating, rather mysterious—a magician of sorts. Our bathroom light didn’t work and we had asked if someone could come fix it. A couple of minutes later this guy comes rolling in hair disheveled and sporting a tattered blue jumpsuit and goes to “work.” After fidgeting with the light switch for a bit, he opened our closet and was searching for something on the top shelf. I saw him pull absolutely nothing out of the closet, but afterward we walked back into the bathroom and the light was on. Either this guy was a wizard, or he pulled out a screwdriver and light bulb without me noticing. After he left, we went and tried to turn the bathroom light on, which didn’t work—again. There was something fishy going on, but we decided to leave it be and go to the bar. I was hesitant to leave because I just knew we would return to find the hobo asleep in one of our beds. At some point during the night, Lizzie rudely obliterated a poor snail outside of our room.

                                                                                     R.I.P. Gary

The next morning we were off to the blue-and-white washed hilltop town of Chefchaouen. After getting off the bus we met up with our local tour guide who took us on an extensive hike through the city. There wasn’t one corner of the town that wasn’t photogenic. When the tour was done we headed to the restaurant near the town square for lunch. The restaurant had your typical Moroccan design and furnishings, but more importantly, the pastilla. It was incredible. It was a curried chicken with nuts and other seasonings in a baked pocket of filo dough topped with powdered sugar and cinnamon and over a bed of mint leaves. Although it was delicious, at about the halfway point you begin to be overwhelmed/nauseated by the entire use of their seasoning pantry’s collection. After lunch we had free time to shop. Exiting the restaurant, I got a warm welcome from one of the local children who made a gun with his fingers and gestured shooting me in the face. Nice to meet you too, you little f***er.


Shopping in Morocco is tiresome and flat-out infuriating. I can’t even handle retail employees in the States coming up to me and asking me if I need help finding anything. Well, I don’t know, I did JUST walk in the damn door. Give me a minute to breathe. In Morocco though, they follow you, and they keep talking, keep talking. They tell you how good everything looks on you, and how it’s a good price and a good size. I just wanted to scream. I was in one store looking at traditional Moroccan poncho sweaters when Lizzie and Ariel decided to ditch me. I left the store and couldn’t find either of them. I began walking through the winding alleyways trying not to wander too far off the main path as I did not want to end up lost in that labyrinth of blue. I really wanted to find them after I was called a “mother fucker” by an older man trying to sell me hash, who was “talking” to me from behind me. How, just how am I supposed to know you are talking to me when I can’t even see you? He was apparently trying to ask me if I wanted hash and took my blissfully ignorant stance as an offence and then walked by me with a dirty glance and said, “mother fucker.” The best part was after walking ahead of me a bit, he turned around and asked me again if I wanted to buy from him—seriously? Well, I was contemplating, but since you decided to call me such an endearing term, the deal is most definitely off. Such savvy business tactics these men have. 

When we got back to the hotel, we decided to hit the beach to check it out. Besides the mounds of trash everywhere, it was a pretty beach. The coolest part of the time on the beach was watching the tour guides play an impromptu game of soccer in the fading light--it looked so full of life and majestic, and I would have liked to have been a part of it, if I were at all coordinated and could kick a ball straight without it managing to go backward and me falling into an awkward shape.

Returning to our room I was stricken with another tragedy—the cleaning lady took my empty, glass Coke bottle—obviously I was keeping it as a souvenir lady! Luckily, it was time for dinner and could preoccupy myself with food, as I often do. Tonight on the menu was chicken couscous served family style! It was simply amazing. We then had a very lengthy conversation about strobe lights. I know it sounds a bit odd for dinner talk, but for some reason it was weird to Ariel and Lizzie that I, on occasion, take a shower in the dark…with the strobe light on. I don’t see any problem with this. The fun-filled spirit of dinner was quickly interrupted with news that the one tour guide received word from his Moroccan policeman father that the countrywide radical protest would be taking stage tomorrow afternoon. At first it seemed rather frightening,  the fact that if we didn’t leave before the riot took place we would be stuck in Morocco at our expense, but then it kind of seemed like a fun challenge—a real episode of Survivor. It would be kind of badass to say that I had to flee a country in revolution and in the process had to scale a few walls, dodge a couple of car bombs, and swim across the Strait of Gibraltar back to safety. I knew none of this would happen, given my track record for grace and adequate fitness.

The plan was to cut Tetouan out of Sunday’s agenda and head straight for the Caves of Hercules and the camel rides which were near the Tangier port. On the way to the caves, poor Daniel’s bladder was on the verge of rupturing. There weren’t any bathrooms on the bus, and the tour guide had told him to wait 20 minutes until we got to the caves. After a couple of more minutes he feared for our safety and his own sake as he for sure did not want to be known as “the kid that peed on the bus,” and had the bus driver pull over. I thought he would have gone to the bathroom the minute he hit the grass, but he instead took off full-speed into the jungle. Soon after, he came riding out of the African bush on a mountain lion and then jumped a barbed wire fence and got back on the bus.

Our tour of the caves was very short as the revolution timer was counting down. It was actually a savior because there wasn’t much to see or do in the caves. The tour guide tried to dupe me into thinking the entrance of the cave to the ocean was in the shape of a map of Africa, but it was a very liberal interpretation. He then tried to have us put our hands in a dark, wet hole to feel God knows what. No thanks. To add to this, the cave drippings were grossing me out and there selling product of choice was marble eggs(?) When we exited the caves I saw two camels in the parking lot and I had to laugh to myself. I thought this was our “camel ride on the beach.”—how ghetto. Thankfully, these weren’t for us and we hopped back on the bus to go ride the camels. There is not much to say about the camel rides, other than I got on, rode for five minutes, and got off. Fortunately, I guess, we made it back to the ferry and departed for Tarifa without any problems.

Thinking I had enough excitement for the week, my geography professor had a trick up his sleeve. In class Wednesday, we were discussing the metropolis of Barcelona. Suddenly, we were watching a music video featuring a Spanish drag queen version of Prince. I don’t even know where it came from. He tried to tell us it was a famous Spanish film director before his directing—and sane—days, but I’m still convinced it was/is him at his night job. The video then morphed into another, but this time it was a duet with a Spanish KISS member. The song was called “Suck It To Me.” Our teacher then began to sing the not-at-all creepy chorus of “Suck it to me. Suck it to me. Suck it to me. Suck it to me.” I thought I had been scarred by many things in my life, but this put an end to anything else previously deemed scarring. I’m still trying to connect the dots between “Suck It To Me” and anything, anything geographically related.

                                                   ¡Por que esto es Africa!

Un saludo,


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