Culture shock.Â Thats the word Im looking for... whoever came up with that phrase really hit the nail on the head.
We have been in Morocco for about three days now, and it has left me reeling or enchanted by turns, sometimes both at once.Â Not since semester at sea have I felt so disoriented by the difference between my own culture and that of my surroundings.Â And now is even harder, since we are basically on our own.
Our entry into the country involved a bizarre and intimidating border crossing.Â Once through, we caught a taxi to Chefchaouen.Â The ride was two hours, and I spent roughly half the time studying our Arabic phrasebook (to little avail).Â The rest I spent watching mountains, minarets, and mules roll by out the window.Â On arrival, we had to fight our way through a mob of motel-marketing Moroccans only to end up standing in an intersection for five minutes peering at our Lonely Planet map in bafflement.
But the moment when I realized just how far we had traveled out of our comfort zone came a bit later.Â We were quite lost, looking for our hotel in the medina, or old town, surely the craftiest maze we have yet been tangled in.Â On all sides were bustling dark men in hooded robes, or women with scarves laid out and piled high with mint leaves or strange vegetables.Â And everwhere, the exotic, throaty buzz of Arabic: there was not a Westerner in sight.Â At that moment, from high above our heads came the long, ululating wail of the muezzin calling the faithful to prayer.Â As that haunting, alien sound echoed off the dazzling blue walls all around us, I suddenly understood that I was very, very far from home.
So, I admit that I have, with some frequency, felt something akin to pure terror.Â And why not?Â Moroccans are forward,Â inquisitive and pushy, while I am an introvert who already felt as though he was on a different planet.Â But like I said, I have also become enchanted with this place.Â Moroccans are also friendly, hospitable and charming.Â Our hotel is easily the funkiest place we have yet stayed; the food is always served piping hot; and everything is very inexpensive (with the one exception of the tourist-trap shops, which I admit I have been snared by a couple of times).Â It is so amazing to lean back among some pillows with a tall glass of hot mint tea, just looking at the fruit markets, the stained glass lamps, the keyhole arches and the people passing by.