Saturday, June 25, 2005

Van Leaves at 4am

Wow, could we be any more attractive than we are here?

The plan: stay awake until it is time to leave the hotel and head to the airport.

The flaw in the plan: We haven't gotten enough sleep since arriving in Morocco and staying awake this long does not do a body good.


There are things that are doable at the end of the semester after your last final. There are things that are doable when a close friend is getting married and you have one last chance to live it up single style. But these things were not meant for tonight.

I am fairly certain that our faces say it all. One thing that cannot be clearly expressed here is the question burning in our tired minds... "Wasn't there a fourth person here a minute ago?" That's right we lost someone. This is not however the end of the world. It is our last night in Morocco and surely he wouldn't have strayed too far.

Really, it's not a big deal. We found him eventually. Turns out he made some friends downstairs. Some guy named Mohammad and another guy who apparently wasn't as important in his tale, as he received no name credit.

Sadly, we did not make it all night. At 3am we decided that an hour of sleep wouldn't kill anyone, and we couldn't watch JK lick his underwear necklace one more time...

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Trains and KFC

We left Tangier this morning by train. The Glazes accompanied us to the station to say their goodbyes. They kept saying how much fun we had been and how much they were going to miss us. I must be fairly irritable because I as certain they didn't like us at all. I thought when they were leaving was the only time they seemed happy to see us at all.

The next train ride was five hours to Casablanca. The six of us were in the same train car for the first time on the entire trip. While this may have been more fun toward the beginning of the trip, we are all getting so tired that we basically sat in silence for five hours. Everyone but Ashlee and I put on headphones and did their best to sleep. Stephen and I developed a system of space sharing similar to the one Candyce and I had perfected early in the trip. It kinda reminds me of that butterfly thing on the swing set when I was little.
Anywho, I was bummed that people didn't want to do anything together... at least, I was bummed until everyone started to wake up. Seriously, I am so tired of the attitude that certain people (or person) always have to be at the center of focus. The joy of a group is that it is a group.
When we arrived in Casa, Debbie was not feeling well so she did not go to dinner with us. The rest of us headed to KFC on the beach. The drive was ridiculously long just for KFC. It seemed that the chicken chain had experienced a lot less success in entering the foreign market than its burger counter part, McDonald's. I think this was due to their lack of language assimilations as well as some of their menu choices. The sandwich that Candyce had was topped with a slice of ham. Whose brilliant plan was that in a Muslim nation?
Other than the drive to and from dinner, we stayed in the hotel and rested the remainder of the day. We watched a bunch of television in French like Law and Order, Crossing Jordan, CSI, and some WB shows. Also, the commercials were cause for note taking. They would have been interesting case studies in the advertising and promotions class.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Burried in the Sand: Orphanage in Essaouira

Women in Morocco who are pregnant an unwed have very few options. We visited an orphanage run by a Christian woman who had come to the country years ago and never left. She told us of the tragic decision that many women make...

They have their babies on the beach... alone, scared, in great pain. And to further hide the shame that they have hidden in exile and under a berka... they take their newborn baby and bury it alive in the sand.

Saturday, June 18, 2005


Essaouira, Morroco
We decided that nothing would be more touristy than riding camels and seeing no reason to disappoint the locals and the stereotypes they held of Americans, we rode camels. Candyce and I rode the Great Bambino to Castle in the Sand. The trip was a little ripe due to the two camels in front of us, Max (Haley and Ashlee) and Rasta (the aptly named camel of Stephen and Jonathan). The castle has been made famous due to the supposed connection to Jimmi Hendrix and the song Castles Made of Sand. While I can see a vague connections and know that he was definitely in the area, I am not sure if I buy the whole bit. I like to think that Candyce and I look thin due to the sheer size of the camel. It's like the "fat friend" that all groups of girls have to make the rest of the group look better by comparison... The camel was a great "fat friend."

Free Day

Today was our free day on the trip. The six of us stayed together most of the day. We met at 10:30am for breakfast and then headed to the medina for shopping. Some of the shops were beautiful, displaying many different colorful items. Some of the shop owners were too pushy for my taste. One very nice shop owner spoke with me for a while. He is a Berber and recognized the henna tattoos on my hands as coming not from a tourist city, but a small village. He invited me back for tea. I love that about the people we have met. Everyone seems so open and welcoming.
I called home and actually got a hold of my mom for the first time this trip. I really enjoyed hearing from her but our conversation was cut short because I saw Candyce crying. She had also called home and found out that her grandmother had passed away. It was hard for her because she felt guilty for leaving and not being with her family, sad for the loss of her grandmother, and angry with herself for showing so much emotion in front of the group. We had lunch at Salad’s Bar. Lunch was very subdued due to the phone calls home. We decided to take a few hours in our rooms and meet back at 4pm to ride camels.
We paired up and rode with our buddy to the castle in the sand. The crumbling structure was made famous by the alleged connection to Jimmy Hendrix and the song Castles Made of Sand. Many people believe this location was the inspiration for the song. Our camels had names (which we later found out was only to entertain Americans, as most people really don’t care and Moroccans don’t name their animals). Their names were the Great Bambino (Candyce and I), Max (Ashlee and Haley), and Rasta (Jonathan and Stephen).
Stephen, Jonathan and I made a quick run past the toilet paper store in search of wooden boxes. I wanted some, but the Kings had gotten such a better price that I didn’t get any boxes, just your basic toilet paper store supplies. It was a fun little trip though because we were so rushed to get back for dinner. It was also our first experience with a petit taxi. Whoa.
We had dinner in a beautiful restaurant overlooking the water. The place had live music provided by two young guys with guitars. They played Eric Clapton, James Taylor, Bob Dillon and the Doors just to mention a few. Haley some freaky fish on her plate at dinner and I had another crazy salad.

Friday, June 17, 2005

University Visit

This morning we visited the university in Marrakech. Dr. King had to meet with the leaders of the university to strengthen a bond they had previously developed and discuss a possible working relationship and grant. While the adults discussed the “important stuff” the rest of us spent time with a senior marketing student named Imane. Imane and I had an instant connection. It was a s though we shared a brain across the ocean. She and I discussed politics, relationships, cultural differences and life in general. A beautiful girl, she broke many of the stereotypes about Muslim women. She was dressed in trendy clothes (pants and a sleeveless shirt). She was not afraid to touch the guys. Her head was uncovered and she was wearing make-up (though not much). She had obvious intelligence and a strong educational background. She spoke with great knowledge of the American political system and carried herself with confidence. We invited her to have lunch with us at Pizza Hut. While there, she told me she believed the hardest social barrier to overcome was humor and that she felt she instantly understood my thoughts and my humor. It may be hard to believe, but I know that we will see each other again. In fact, I am sure of it.
On the way to Essaouira I had a severe asthma attack. I could not hear the other people on the team, I could only make out indistinct sounds as though I was underwater. In my head my lungs were screaming at such a rate and volume that to me it was deafening and nothing more than a huge reminder of my own physical weakness.
Imane called Dr. King’s cell phone just after we arrived in Essaouira. She and I talked for a few minutes. She said she missed me already and that we had chemistry. I understand what she meant. I would call us kindred spirits.
Essaouira was very hazy when we arrived. We are staying in Hotel Tafouk. Virtually everything in the hotel and town in general that is not a neutral color is blue. Dinner was an interesting experience. We ate at some sort of fish market just off the water’s edge. At the front of the stand there was a cart with many fresh fish, shrimp, and other sea food. You simply chose the items you wanted and they cooked them up for you. I was very glad that Dr. King had stopped in the market before dinner to purchase some vegetables for me. Otherwise it could have been a long hungry dinner for me.
Imane called again just to check on us. I miss her very much already. Strange considering we just met.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Djema el Fna

Dinner at Djema el Fna was interesting to say the least. The table was absolutely covered in crazy foods. Many of the items were meaterific, so I didn't try them. We had a kind of fresh salsa that was eaten with bread... actually, everything was eaten with bread... This was good since I don't eat meat, but bad since I am not naturally skinny. As you can see, there were French fries. Ahhh yes. A true American fatty food and great addition to any Moroccan meal. The entire area at the market was filled with different stands of food. You just walked up and pointed to whatever different uncooked dishes you wanted and the next thing you know out they came. The waiters put all of the skewered pieces of dead animal in front of me. I had to keep passing it down toward Stephen (my honorary meat buddy for the trip). It wasn't too bad though since they gave us wax paper to wipe our hands with.

Always the gentleman, Stephen offered me his bowl of snails. The little critters came complete with shell and unknown liquid pool. Many tried the snail, but few returned for seconds.


At the end of the meal, the workers put a chef's hat on Doc and persuaded him to join them for a great touristy photo op. All in all this was a great end to a very busy day.

Douche

This is at the hotel in Marrakesh. While the picture is not that exciting, the story behind the picture is funny in a sad, we were all a little worn out, kind of way. The heat index at times reached well over 100 degrees. We finally had the opportunity to take off some of the oppressive clothes and go for a swim. The lifeguard at the pool said something to me about three times that I did not understand at all. My fault for my lack of language skills. Even the word I know, I can't understand without Doc's Waco accent to slow it down to a Texan pace. I proceeded to dive into the pool. Well, it turns out he was saying douche. Now, don't get offended just yet. While douche may make us Americans blush, it means shower or bath to the French. Not private place shower or bath, just a plain old, get the dirty out kinda cleansing. Apparently, I was a complete ass and ignored the lifeguards request that I take a shower. Trust me, not my intention. Next time I go to a pool in Morocco I will know the real deal, I have to douche.

This picture was taken off our balcony at the same hotel. Again, not too exciting. However, notice that this hotel is in the middle of a large city. There are cars on the road along with some motorcycles, bicycles, and well... a man, his cart, and his donkey. This was interestingly enough a common sight along the trip. I was an ass, then I saw an ass. How apropos.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Amghrass, Morocco
This picture has been cropped for the safety of anyone and everyone who has a soft spot in their hearts for fashion. We are in truth wearing the worst skirts that we have ever had on out of seriousness. Sad, but true. This is the roof at the Refuge in the Sun. Some of the most fun I have ever had, I had in that lime green, floor length skirt. Oh the joy of it all!
We are all starting to look a little skeezy... well, except Haley... she always looks "perfect." The only saving grace for our lack of fixed hair, half done make-up (if that), and suitcase creased clothes is our new found henna tats. Candyce had one put on her foot, Haley had one put on her back, and Ashley and I had our hands done. I am not sure how well is can be seen in these pictures, but for future references, if I say something deserves the henna finger... it's really not a good thing. Unless you are Moroccan, then apparently the henna finger doesn't mean anything to you. We had the tattoos done at Jim's home in Amizamiz. We were bummed that we didn't get to have it done in Amghrass, but it turned out better this way as we all needed some decent sleep and a night in for bonding, mapping, and a story about a lady in a green dress. I would tell you more about the lady, but I fell asleep on Stephen's bed about two minutes into it. Nice guy didn't even wake me up. Jonathan kept telling his stories and I eventually woke up and made my way to my clay pillow upstairs.

This picture is of the henna process. After the henna base had dried on my hands a liquid funk was added to help the tattoo set. All I can say for sure is that if something had died in the room I was sleeping in, I wouldn't have noticed the smell anytime soon. Not that any of you were there, but what is the red blotch on my face. Seriously.

Vacation, Education, Innoculation

June 15th
Candyce was pretty sick this morning. She woke up on her rooftop suite and looked left, looked right, then silently vomited... on her sheets, and mine, and a towel. She claimed to be okay, so we headed off to breakfast. Despite the green shade of her face (perhaps it was the Moroccan sun), she still claimed to be okay. But, then, sitting at the table, she looked left, looked right, then silently vomited. She was then wisked away to the ac in town, a shower, and cleaner drinking water. We all had a sneaking suspicion that Debbie paid her to get sick so she could avoid the sheep.

We had to wait for what seemd like forever before we began innoculating the sheep. The day was getting hotter as we waited and at one point it looked as though we wouldn't be helping anybody out due to infighting among the people in the area. Apparently there had been some confucion on whose sheep we would be innoculating. I say the more the merrier. Bring it. We were giving free innoculations to sheep in order to improve the frequency and health of births in an attempt to positivly impact their regional economy.

While waiting around for a decision to be made, I dawned my sheep shirt. I made shirts prior to the trip to so that we would all match on innocualtion day. I figured it would make it easier to spot each other in the midst of all the sheep and people. It later appeared obvious that our skin and language made it pretty easy to find one another. Bust, but the shirts were fun regardless.

Ñ Karim was uber helpful, we had a whole conversation about his brother but we were speaking different languages
Ñ Visited bee keeper
Ñ tried to call home unsuccessfully

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Sunday in Meknes

Today we had praise and worship with the Klaassen family and some of the workers with them (Fatua, Camille, and Jenny). John Klaassen has a very easy-going nature and a calming demeanor that translates itself into all those around him. He has a son that we believe was adopted. Andy is full of life and eager to please and gain the approval of his father. He too is very calm, but with an excitement that can be attributed to his youth. Seth, their older son was a sweet boy, but he seemed a little under socialized.
For lunch we ate at a grill. We were joined by Camille, Fatua, and Jenny. I had a mozzarella and tomato salad that tasted like feet. Fatua told me she was on a diet and ordered a salad that was pretty sick too.

After lunch we headed to Volubilis. Volubilis is an ancient Roman ruin located near Meknes. The site was amazing. We had a very interesting tour guide. The dolphin tile mosaics represented good luck, the toilets were a communal bench, and the bathroom had a vomit bar and tank. We had the opportunity to experience an impressive bit of history and take some great pictures.
I had a little breakdown at the ruins due to a picture that Jonathan had taken. I explained to the group that no matter what size I am, I will aways see the fat person that I was. It made for a slightly uncomfortable moment and I was afraid it might linger throughout the trip.
After touring Volubilis we headed to Moulayidris for mint tea. The holy city serves as an alternative to Mecca for Moroccans. However, Moroccans must visit the city five times to equal one visit to Mecca. All of this is monitored by the tally angels. When we were in Moulayidris, a town where until the early 80’s non-Muslims were not allowed, the situation was a bit uncomfortable at times. We were stared at more than we had been in any other place. The men looked at us like we were livestock to be bought and sold. The city was as though time had stopped there. The streets were narrow and made of stone. While there were a few cars, many of the things we think of as common were lacking. The children looked at us as though they had never seen people like us before. The experience was humbling, saddening, and unnerving all at once.
The drive back to Meknes did not seem far enough for all the thoughts and feelings I was having. I almost feel as though I was meant to be there at that exact moment and perhaps I missed something that I was meant to do.
Dinner was great! We went to an Italian restaurant that had an interesting decorating theme. It was a mix of southwest US, walnuts, and roman bling. It was very interesting to say the least. We had so much fun eating and talking. It felt closer to home than anything yet just because we were able to openly laugh and be ourselves, something that I had not felt I could do up to that point. For dessert we went to Disco Mac. Apparently the McDonalds in Meknes is quite the hot spot for young people. Camille and Fatua told us that couples met at McDonalds and sometimes they had live music and dancing. I was sitting with Fatua when she was telling me about her and Camille’s pastime of coming to Disco Mac to chat and laugh at the locals and their mating system. She said she was going to hell. That made me laugh because Candyce says that on a regular basis as a qualifier. Too funny.
Candyce and I have the unfortunate luck to be really good friends who both like to talk. I only call this unfortunate because we stayed up until 5am talking. What were we thinking? I feel like I know her on a very different level now as we have discussed faith, friends, misconceptions and ideas… and eyelashes, Tammy Fay, and boxers. She is an incredibly carefree and forgiving person. She doesn’t seem to hold anger towards anyone. Very admirable.


A bit more about Volubilis:
Volubilis was a Roman settlement constructed on what was probably a Carthaginian city, dating from 3rd century BC. Volubilis was a central administrative city for this part of Roman Africa, responsible for the grain producing in this fertile region, and exports to Rome. Volubilis was also administering contacts with the Berber tribes which the Romans never managed to suppress, but who only came as far as to cooperate with the Romans for mutual benefits.


Unlike so many other Roman cities, Volubilis was not abandoned after the Romans lost their foothold in this part of Africa in the 3rd century. Even the Latin language survived for centuries, and as not replaced before the Arabs conquered North Africa in the late 7th century. People continued to live in Volubilis for more than 1,000 years more. Volubilis was first abandoned in the 18th century, when it was demolished in order to provide for building materials for the construction of the palaces of Moulay Ismail in nearby Meknes. If that demolishing had not arrived, Volubilis could have become one of the best preserved Roman sites anywhere.

The site was amazing. We had an interesting tour guide. The dolphin tile mosaics were a sign of good luck, the toilets were communal, and the bathroom came complete with a vomit bar and tank. We had the opportunity to experience and impressive bit of history and take some great pictures.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Bathroom

The bathroom at the hotel in Meknes had just been remodeled. The bathroom, while attractive had a major flaw. The shower curtain was approximately 3 feet wide and stationary. The shower head sprayed straight out and was also stationary. This was not a problem as long as the person in the shower stood directly in front of the shower head and was stationary. Every time I moved to get shampoo, soap, anything, the shower sprayed the wall and the floor at the end of the tub. Classic engineering. Sweet.
At some point despite my lack of sleep and the time adjustments, Saturday has arrived. While in my younger days it seemed okay to still be awake in the morning… it’s not entirely okay now.
Amsterdam was a little out of control. We had to stop for boarding passes which put us in quite the time crunch. We got a bit hung up at the security checkpoint due to a woman and her family who were escorted off by security. Basically it appeared that they were being dealt with due to a small problem that escalated for the most part due to the woman’s attitude. The situation almost turned ugly for us when Stephen and Candyce made a joke about me holding up the line. The man gave me an awful look, but then left with bad attitude lady.
The flight from Amsterdam to Paris was completely uneventful… or I was getting too tired to notice anything. Paris was another rushed event. We barely made it to the gate in time to catch the bus to the plane. The whole thing seemed a bit bazaar. The ride to the plane made the plane appear to be 10 miles away although I am sure it wasn’t nearly that far. I got quite a bit of sleep on the flight to Casablanca. It’s a good thing since we had to make a run for the train in Casablanca.
It has been 29 hours since we left the house to head to Morocco. Having arrived in Casablanca a few hours ago, I am still waiting for the rush of excitement about being abroad. We have taken a train from the airport and are heading toward Meknes. What we have seen out the window thus far has been has primarily been poverty stricken and dirty. There is an overwhelming amount of drab, muted colors like khaki and tan. Many of the buildings appear to be slowly crumbling into the barren dirt that surrounds them. The frequent sight of laundry offers and unexpected splash of color to the portrait in the form of a handmade rug or covering.
Camille, one of the workers in Meknes, picked us up at the train station and drove us to the hotel. We settled in and then walked to dinner down the street. Our first experience with Moroccan cuisine was more about the things going on around us and less about the food. While intending to enjoy the food, the people staring, the women covered from heads to toe, and the boys begging for food distracted me completely from the meal. I was in a hurry just to get back to the hotel where we had some privacy and a bed for the first time since leaving home.
Plane from Amsterdam to Paris... 1 hour 15 minutes
Plane from Paris to Casablanca... 3 hours 5 minutes
Train from Casablanca to Meknes... 3 hours 30 minutes

Total travel time since leaving house = 28 hours

There isn't much to say, we are in Meknes and Candyce's face says everything about how tired we are. There are men everywhere and hardly any women. I don't know what anyone is saying. The bed is hard and tiny. The shower, well, we'll cover that another day.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Seriously Long Day

8:00am, the scheduled time to arrive at the airport… 8:30am, Candyce and I arrive at the airport. This possibly does not bode well for our score on the punctuality section of the evaluations. At the airport, Ashlee and I bought books for the trip, everyone else bought food.

The flight from Austin to Minneapolis was fairly uneventful other than the frightening flight attendant who appeared as though she would be perfectly happy if the plane burst into flames. I think she pointed to the wrong rows during the emergency exit demonstration in the hopes that we would die. Tragic. I am sure that she didn't really want us to die. (I'm only saying that in case she somehow knows how to find my blog, we all know she wanted us dead.) She has funny story potential, but not until we are safely out of her icy grasp.

Minneapolis: first visit and hopefully the last. I don’t think I have ever purposely spent that much time in an airport. We had a terrible lunch at Chili’s Too. An older waitress dropped a ton of change and exclaimed, “POOP!” Only she didn’t say poop. This didn’t seem to bother anyone but Candyce and I. Our waitress, much like the aforementioned flight attendant seemed very displeased with out presence. After waiting about half and hour for food she told us it was because a black bean burger takes longer to cook than actual beef. Delusional? Yes, I think so. I mean seriously, how long could it possibly take to reheat a premade beean patty? ( I never realized how gross that sounded until now.) After returning to the gate the others had ice cream from McDonalds. Sadly, I have to pay a little more attention to what I eat and I abstained from the frozen calorie cone. We played BS for a while and attempted the who-can-hold-the-carry-on-longest game. We garnered quite a few looks as our game progressed into draw a card and pick someone else's bag. We quickly discovered that we looked a little suspicious and a lot crazy. In an airport environment, this is not the best plan, thus we decided just to talk until boarding.

The ridiculously long flight to Amsterdam turned out to fair better than the trip had to that point. The stewardess on this flight was funny and actually seemed to enjoy her job. When she nearly ran over Stephen's foot with the beverage cart she told him if she had she would have to get him a toe truck. She made fun of the guy a few rows up that had the sanitary head rest cover stuck to his head when he stood up. She even commented that it would be funny if it said "kick me". Toward the end of the flight, Stephen and Haley were playing cards. Stephen was cheating. Again amusing, as I was the only one who could see what he was doing. Somewhere in all the travel and time zones the day changed. Great fun. I only slept about an hour and the travel is starting to get to me. I am beginning to regret not bringing a cd player, but I hope in the long run it helps me get more out of the trip.