Alright so continuing with the whole confusing timeline I'd like to start this post with where I am right now and then go back to the beginning. I do this because if I don't write about my current frustration I may explode. We got on the bus at 1:30 - it leaves at 2 - because seats in the front are less bumpy and dizzying and the bus fills up fast. The bus is hot. Like, the phrase "Africa hot" that dad used after coming back from the Sudan has a whole new meaning. I'm. Melting. And naturally I'm completely covered up because shoulders and ankles and basically my entire body is just too much for the general public to bear to see seeing as I am a mere woman. So I'm melting. Cannot wear weather-appropriate clothes. There is no FREAKING AIR CONDITIONING on this bus because where are we? Africa. We are being stared at because our blonde hair is a novelty (I keep mine in a braid - I think if I let it down car crashes would soon commence). And, to top it all off, the stupid dumb preteen girls in front of us are blaring whatever Arabic music is currently popular for the whole bus to hear. I may kill them. If the heat doesn't kill me first, that is. Mom wants to play some Brad Paisley from her phone in retaliation but I get the distinct impression that country music would not be particularly popular here. OH SWEET ALLAH A MAN WITH THE WORST BODY ODOR ANY NOSE HAS EVER EXPERIENCED JUST SAT DOWN NEXT TO US THIS IS A 3 HOUR BUS RIDE PLEASE LET ME GET HEAT STROKE IM NOT GOING TO MAKE IT. I would do obscene things for a fan right now. Or better yet, a pool. Okay. Moving on from my current suffering.
Alright, so in my last Africa post I left you on the bus towards Chefchaouen, and now that I'm on a bus back to Tangier, I guess now is as good a time as ever to tell you all about Chaouen.
We arrived in Chefchaouen around 3pm this past Monday unsure of what to expect after our less than fantastic time in Tangier, but I was hopeful and mom - as usual and understandably so - was a little apprehensive. We took a whole bunch of pictures on the way over - actually mom leaned over me and took a bunch of pictures while I typed up a storm on my tiny little iPad. We got into Chaouen and as per the norm found ourselves with the perfect mixture of luck and skilled map reading to lead us to our hotel. This place was freakin' adorable. Charm out the wazoo. Beautiful colors, intricate patterns and artwork, wooden doors, the whole deal. Mama picked well. We unpacked a bit and changed into clothes for warmer weather and headed out into the city. Somehow as luck would have it we walked by an information desk with an adorable guy who was full of information and happy to help and spoke fantastic English - a rare find, let me tell you. We learned from him that the city has several public ovens to use for bread and later were lucky enough to find and take pictures of one, it was huge, like a mega pizza oven but for a whole town. He told us about the kasbah we should rock (see what I did there) and how to get into the ancient medina. We immediately went for the medina!
Okay so the medina gets its own paragraph. First off, it is literally everything you could possibly imagine and more. It is truly beautiful. Chef in and of itself is a famous Moroccan city due to its blue buildings and walls throughout the city. Gorgeous doesn't even begin to describe it. So walking around the medina or a Moroccan city in general you learn a few things. You learn that you need to keep your bag closed and in front of you. You learn that if someone charges you 120 dirham you shouldn't have a problem getting the price down to 50. You learn that somehow, somewhere, a lot of Arabic men were taught that calling a girl "flower" or "sweetness" was the way to reel her in - wrong. You learn that there are freakin' cats all over the city and they run wild - I guess no one ever considered spaying or neutering them. Interestingly enough, almost no dogs. You learn that you will never feel as helpless as you do when you can't understand a single word someone is saying because you never learned Arabic. You also learn that Spanish is way more useful and universal than you thought - I used more Spanish than English. You learn to not just dip your toe out of your comfort zone but to take a nose dive out of it. You learn that men are abrasive and women are very friendly when there aren't men around. You learn that if a restaurant is full of men, you should probably move to another one that has a decent number of women in it. Oh, and the men eating together all sit on one side of the table, it's strange. You learn how adaptable you are as a person. You see a whole new perspective on life and appreciate everything you have so much more than you already did. You learn how patient you are - having men truly every five seconds try to sell you something from their store and pushing you to buy something if you look at it for more than 3.4 seconds and telling you "they give you best price because you beautiful nice woman" reaaaally tests your patience, let me tell you. You learn how easy it is to get lost in a place with almost no street names where every street is blue and there are stairs leading to seemingly nowhere around every corner. I'm a decent people reader and I would say out of the dozens of men whose shops we went into, only one of them seemed to be a truly good hearted person who was not trying to seriously overcharge us, and that man happened to sell me a beautiful pendant that I plan to keep forever.
We ate in the medina for dinner both nights, kefta tajine and Moroccan salad and soups and fresh baked bread and lots of olives. We still have to try couscous, I think we'll get some tonight in Tangier. The 1.5 liter water costs about half of what the meal does - it ain't cheap, let me tell you. Moroccan mint tea and freshly squeezed orange juice rapidly made their way to the top of my favorite-beverages list - I will never look at tea or orange juice the same way again. The coffee was delicious as well with a strong milk base and was served with sugar cubes instead of packets. Their deserts are pretty fantastic as well, I could probably live off of them. I have issues with sweets.
In regards to clothing, there is an overall pattern. The vast majority of women wear head scarves, even a lot of the young girls. From there, there are two basic variations: either the women are in the entire burka getup, or wearing jeans and a long sleeved shirt. I'm really curious as to the root of the difference in women's apparel. Piousness? Regional differences? Husband's preference? Upbringing? I truly do not know. But nonetheless, every woman is covered up. The men are more casual in some ways, most men under 45 are in jeans and a tshirt while a lot of older men are wearing what basically looks like a pointy-hooded, long drug rug (sheep herder lookin' thing). Honestly, if they wanted to cover up so much they should've chosen a different place to live, Africa is like the 7th level of Hell kind of heat, man.
Morocco in and of itself has been a huge life lesson, for both me and my mom. I think I liked it a lot more than she did, if only because she's a mom and she worries about what could happen and I have a (possibly dangerous) less cautious mindset. But we both really appreciated this experience. It was eye opening to say the least. Everywhere you looked was something different and new and unbelievable. The community ovens, the hourly call to prayer, women washing clothes in the waterfall, all of it. Walking up a mountain to a mosque or just strolling through the medina, this place will change your life. You learn about yourself and about the world around you, and it isn't an experience either of us could ever forget.
Today we're headed back to Tangier. Our hotel has a pool so we plan to take in the sun and walk down to the Straight of Gibraltar and put our feet in the water, stop by the Kasbat, and get some dinner. Tangier lacks the charms of Chefchaouen but we plan to get everything we can out of the rest of our time in Africa. We have a 2:30 flight back to Madrid tomorrow to meet up with Er and her mom for two days before the moms head home and Er and I leave for Malta! As if I need more of a vacation from the vacation that is my life.. But then we head back to school and exams start in May and if I don't get my life together I'll fail them all.
Until next time cariños
Ps. We are sitting on the bus and a man just wrote a note to us in broken English about how he is a moroccan teacher who met a beautiful german woman and they fell in love and he doesn't know whether he should treat his new whirlwind love logically or just go for it. Crazy to think that despite a sea of differences, we all have the same damn problems. Love is hard in every country, I guess.
I wrote this blog while living in Spain my second year of college - figured it wouldn't hurt to share.