This past weekend I traveled to Morocco!
My Moroccan trip began with a long day of travel. We started in Granada with a group of about 50 students (all American except one boy from Turkey) and began our trek towards the port city of Tariff. Although we left in the morning, we had eight hours to kill before the ferry left, only four of which were occupied with the actual drive. However, the day was saved by a stop in Marbella, Spain, a beautiful coastal town in Southern Spain where I experienced my first ocean view in Spain. The beach was beautiful and relatively vacant, which was a much desired way to occupy the long hours. We made two other stops at roadside restaurants on our way to the port, and eventually made it to our ferry. After a rocky ride across the Strait, we entered Africa (!) through Tangier and made our way to the hotel. We were greeted with a delicous dinner of cous-cous and chicken, our first Moroccan meal. Most of us turned in early because we had an early morning on Saturday to make our way to the mountain city of Chefchaouen.
The blue city, Chefchaouen was an extremely beautiful city situated high in the mountains. We trekked a bit through the mountains. Unfortunately, my shoes did not make it through the ordeal, but we saw a great view of the city. After, we toured the city and had our first opportunity to explore on our own. No prices in Morocco are set, and when shopping, you can bargain with the owners for a different prices. Although scared at first, I found I really enjoy bargaining to get the cheapest price possible and it was quite an experience. I did most of my bargaining the next day in Asilah, but I had a taste of it in Chefchaouen. My favorite part had to be when we were sitting in the square, drinking tea, and two men came up to us to play music. Unfortunately, my friend had just turned to face the sun, putting her directly in the line of fire of the loud Moroccan musicians who proceeded to play their instruments practically in her lap. Her face was priceless and the rest of us could barely contain our laughter as they broke her comfort bubble and played their music. We finished the day and head back to a different hotel the second night (which was considerably better than the first).
Our final day was complicated. Although it ended well, it began in a very troubling way. Upon leaving the hotel, our guides instructed us to run to enter the bus as fast as possible. Although confused at first, we quickly understood why, as our coach bus began to be surrounded by young Moroccans scoping out ways onto our bus so they could cross the strait into Spain. Unfortunately, our bus was then hit by a car (no one was in the bus) and we ended up waiting in the bus for about an hour and half while our guides sorted out the accident with the police. During this time, our bus continued to be surround by people, trying to attach themselves to our bus. The boys had to be about fourteen, the youngest around ten, trying to find (unsafe) passage to a completely foreign country. I am still profoundly affected by this and cannot fathom this. I try to continually recognize my blessings and the amazing opportunities which I have in life, but it was something that I don't yet know how to respond to. I ask anyone who is reading this to say a quick prayer for these children and anyone in a similar situation.
After leaving Tangiers, we found our way to the ocean, where we were able to take a quick (like really quick) camel ride. The feeling of being on a camel is similar to a horse, except you get on and off the camel when it is sitting, meaning you have to be on the camel when it awkwardly stands up. My camel seemed to stand up as slow as it possibly could, making the situation quite uncomfortable. After the camel rides, we drove to the Hercules Caves, basically to take pictures and leave (which was all the time you really needed there). After there, we headed to Asilah for the final leg of our trip. Asilah was only for practicing our bargaining, and I was able to exit relatively unscathed.
In all, Morocco was an interesting experience. The beauty of the country was undeniable, but unfortunately I left Africa heartbroken by the poverty. It really is a different world, and I am continually reminded of the need for change in our world.
This week I am preparing for my first exam in Law. I had my second meeting with my intercambio and it was really fun! We ended up talking for almost four hours about everything from law to travel. I think I actually might be improving in my Spanish speaking skills (at least that's what my host family tells me). I do feel much more comfortable speaking and can understand the Andalucians significantly better. I still have a long way to go, but I guess I do still have three and half months....
Till next time!