viernes, 1 de mayo de 2009

Allah Back Youngin'

I got back yesterday from the Dirty South (at least in Spain), known to the rest of the world as Morocco. I spent 6 days there, an amazing fact in and of itself because I originally only wanted to go for a weekend and get the hell out of there. But the amount of time (and money) I spent actually felt worth it as I stepped off the bus at 1 am Thursday morning in Sevilla... I had an unreal time. Since it was 6 days, I have decided to chop this blog up into chapters. Read whichever titles tickle your fancy.

Chapter 1: BUS-ting my Balls

I went to Morocco with a local tour group, DiscoverSevilla. I didn't really know what to expect, honestly, because most of the people who work there are pure and utter tools, and I was dreading spending 6 days in a moderately dangerous place without a competent guide (I only picked them because the schedule was better than other tour groups). I lucked out, however, because the owner of the company was one of our guides... he's pretty much a genius, so that's good. But yeah, we ended up getting to the bus leaving for Tarifa, the port from which our ferry to Tangiers would leave, at 5:15 am last Friday, beginning an excrutiatingly long string of bus journeys. Don't get me wrong -- I'm so much happier I went with a group in which everything was planned for me. I did, however, HATE the people I was surrounded with on the bus.

I think I should've known immediately that the majority of our tour group consisted of toolbags. Since Angela, Elle and I were the last 3 on the bus, we had to sit kind of far apart. Angela and I got the second to last row of the bus, which seemed fine because we got to sit together. And, being that it was 5:30 am, I immediately tried to recline my seat and go to bed. I was surprised to find the chair would not budge because the girl behind me was pushing her legs up against it. BITCH! In fact, she saw me struggling and turning around several times to try and get the chair back and wouldn't move. Thank God about 3 minutes later, the bus broke down and we had to switch onto bus #2, where I was able to elude the group of d-bags who thwarted my efforts to sleep.

The next day we spent pretty much entirely on the bus, as we were on our way to Merzouga, our Sahara Desert destination. And of course, Angela and I ended up smack-dab in the middle of the d-bag group once more. I seriously was considering sacrificing my life to get away from these people. Let me describe:

1. The ugly PDA couple - He had a beer-belly and badly receeding hairline. She had a moustache. But nothing could stop these two from groping each other for a total of 8 hours. PDA seems to follow me everywhere as a constant reminder of my imminent "cat lady" status, but their nasty-ness made me think I would rather cozy up to a few felines than be like that.

2. The not-funny loud guy - There's always one. The guy who sat behind me continually made comments he thought were HILARIOUS, but just made him out to be a douchebag to the rest of the bus. He didn't realize the Dali Lama of humor was seated right in front of him.

3. The Obnoxious girls - Really, this stereotype needs no description. These girls DID NOT SHUT UP the entire time. My favorite was the one in front of me who felt the need to brag about her travels for 8 hours. Bitch, we're in Morocco right now. There is NO NEED to brag about your amazing trips because we're all in AFRICA for cryin' out loud. She also talked excessively about Twilight, so I hated her more.

4. The Biggest Douche - I know I have called those in the above 3 categories 'douches,' but this guy wins. He had a faux hawk, a hoop earring, one of those black leather necklaces with a silver pendant thing, and either wore t-shirts with alcohol brands on them or t-shirts with the sleeves cut off. Really? Does anyone do that anymore? Also, if you're projecting what brands of liquor you drink on your chest, you are really out-gaying yourself. No need to brag.

So yeah, we were stuck in the midst of this for about 8 hours total. Sometimes, I was so awestruck by the conversation happening around me, I recorded some quotes in my textbook:

Background for this quote: The d-bag group was playing that game where each person has the name of another, usually famous person written on a Post-It note and placed on their head. The guy behind me was given the following clues, as he was unable to figure out who he had:

1. She was black

2. Something involving a railroad

Hmm... that's a hard one. What black woman was involved with a railroad? An underground one, perhaps? I feel like you learn this in, what, third grade? D-bag, however, answered with the following:


Hmm... again... WOW. So, you're familiar with Uncle Tom's Cabin, but you're unable to conjure up the name HARRIET TUBMAN? His group was gracious enough to give him a second try. His response?


I hate you.

Another personal favorite came from The Douche. As we were driving THROUGH THE DESERT, he makes the genius statement "We're, like, in nowhere town." Oh, really? Because I thought the desert was a bustling metropolis.

Finally, Obnoxious Girl #1 (the one in front of me), was talking about an allergy to gummie worms that she has. "Gummie things... my mouth and throat don't agree with them." I bet you haven't used THAT one before.

So yeah, the bus sucked. We did make some sweet stops along the way, including a cedar forest, where we were able to see WILD MONKEYS, and a valley that used to be a river, so it was filled with lots of trees. The long rides were worth it, though, as you will see later.

How we felt about the bus, taken on day 6.

Chapter 2: Slow Jams

This chapter will be short and sweet, but it's an observation I must make nonetheless. Moroccans LOVE them some mood music. All I heard all weekend was, like, Celine Dion and Bryan Adams. Even more awesome was walking along the beach in Rabat only to hear MICHAEL BOLTON blasting. The ferry also played some slow jams, including James Blunt. I was tempted to get out the massage oils and candles, but then realized I would just be enjoying them alone, as usual. *runs off crying*

Michael Bolton says: "Thanks for keeping me relevant somewhere."

Chapter 3: Turbie Twist

This next chapter will detail the first part of the day we spent in the Sahara. We arrived at night via bad ass 4x4s. I figured that we would just ride out to the hotel, but no. I had my first off-roading experience in the Sahara. So BAMF. Our driver was funny, too. He kept pretending to be dead, take his hands off the wheels, etc., just to get the crowd going.

So yeah, the first part of day one consisted of a visit to a Berber village close to our hotel. It was slated to leave at 10:15, so Angela, Elle and I headed out towards the dunes surrounding our hotel (!) to take pictures of us frolicking in the Desert. No sooner than we stepped out onto the sand were we accosted by a group of Berber men. First, we thought they were being friendly, offering to take pictures of the 3 of us. Then, they each insisted on taking a picture with one of us, like a couple shot. Hmm. After we were done, they immediately dragged us to try and sell us some of their handicrafts - fossils. I guess being in the desert, there aren't many trades one can take up, so these guys sell little plates made from fossils. They're actually very cool, and I got my first bargaining experience with Ibrahim, my Berber friend. Orange turban and matching teeth, he was quite the hottie. I bought two heart-shaped fossil plates from him for 150 Dirham (a little less than 15 euro), after he wanted me to pay 420. I guess that's pretty good. We sadly had to leave them, though, to catch our group heading off into this village.

Little did I know....

After spending about 30 minutes purchasing and putting on new turbans, we headed out into the Sahara, walking across the blazing hot dunes to a little village. I absolutely CANNOT imagine living there. It was really depressing, actually. I'm sure the people are used to it and might actually enjoy it, but desert living is not for me. Another aspect that killed me were all the little kids that were selling jewelry and other little crafts to us. It took me a lot to turn them down... I ended up buying this pretty weird camel figurine from a little boy with the saddest, Hush Puppy looking eyes ever. Maybe that's part of the game, but I fell for it. Gah, I'm such a softie.

But yeah, while in this village, purchasing a bunch of worthless shit from little kids, I was continually followed by Ibrahim (Berber guy). He first kept calling my name, "An-dreee-uh," just to say 'hello.' I just responded with an, "OH HEY!" and thought nothing of it. Then, he kept appearing. He first tried to convince me to buy something from one of the little kids. He then told me that he thought I liked him because I bought the heart-shaped dishes from him. Wow. I finally signalled to Angela (by pulling down my sunglasses and making the "I'm creeped out, SAVE ME" face) to rescue me. As we were walking away, he somehow managed to get on a bike and ride past me, saying, "Andrea, I want to make you my wife someday." I was absolutely dumbfounded. I was unable to say anything, really, and could only stammer, "Uhm, I have a boyfriend." He claimed he was just joking, but for the rest of my time in Merzouga, I feared that I would be kidnapped in the night and forced into marriage with brown-gummed Ibrahim.

IBRAHIM: Single & Looking. Would you hit it?

Chapter 4: Ridin' Humpback

By midday, it was time to get up on the camels and travel out into the SAHARA. This was really the part everyone was waiting for. We quickly lined up and got ready to mount those studly beasts. It's fun getting on a camel that's sitting down, because they stand up like a car with hydraulics - the back legs go up first, then the front. It's like a car from PIMP MY RIDE, minus X to the Z X-ibit. So yeah, that was fun to experience. Sadly, my camel was probably the fattest of the bunch, meaning my short and stubby legs were basically in a perfect split for 2 hours. The pain was numbed for a while due to the absolutely incredible scenery (Remember that part in Aladdin where he goes to the Cave of Wonders? That's what it looks like), but when the wind and sand started to pick up and I was holding on for dear life. At the end of the 2-hour journey, I couldn't feel my groin and I walked around like, well, yeah... like I had a lot of pain in that general vicinity. Still, it would've taken being shot, stabbed, etc., to make the camel trek not worth it.

Chapter 5: Climbin' Dunes...

Once you get out into the desert, there is shockingly not much to do. So, many people from camp decided to hot foot it up this monstrous dune that overlooked our campsite. The 3 of us got a late start, as we were chatting it up in our sweet Berber tent. After about 10 minutes of climbing, though, I realized that my ass was NOT going to make it up the entire thing. Have you ever tried climbing sand? It's basically impossible, especially up a dune that's at an almost-90 degree angle. I also made a decision, like an idiot, to bring my camera. Instead of struggling with one hand carrying the digicam, I placed it in the safest spot I could, my panties (because you know NOBODY'S goin in there). I felt bad for a second because it's my dad's camera and I'm sure he wouldn't appreciate it being in my underwear, but what the hell. It was safer there than in my hands, because I passed out in the sand about every 12 steps. I really felt like a big fat bum, especially after working out for, oh, the past like 2 years and not being able to climb a sand dune. Elle left Angela and I to climb the entire thing while we just rolled around in the sand, laughing about our inability to conquer the beast. Despite not making it up the whole way, we got a good ways up, so we were able to see out across the desert landscape. It was an unreal sight. We could even see the Algerian border off in the distance. As the sun set, we decided to head down the dune and join our group for another Berber music session. Of course, I was dared to roll down the dune instead of walk, and I did it. Nauseated, dizzy, and bruised, I headed back to camp. (Note: I still have grains of sand EMBEDDED IN MY ARM from rolling down the dune.)

Chapter 6: Midnight at the Oasis

As we made our way down to camp, the sound of drums echoed off the dunes. We knew it was time for a party. Everyone was gathered around while a group of Berber men played the drums and Berber spoons, basically little simbols. It was ridic. And, of course, I got dragged up to dance. Never one to shy away from an opportunity to put my hottness on display, I stayed up there for a while with the towelheads. It was great. They played a lot of songs that we had learned at a prior Berber drum sesh (I think all the Berbers do is play drums around a campfire). My favorite had the following lyrics:

Fiesta, fiesta
Yo quiero mas fiesta
Quiero divertirme y olvidarme todo

...aaaand repeat

We also had a heinous dinner in the Berber tent, consisting of some pretty bad rice (how can you mess up white rice?) and an odd dish involving red meat that I refused to eat. I was more interested in laying out in the oasis and staring at the sky. It was just incredible... I don't think I"ll ever see as many stars as I did that night. In fact, I made Angela spoon with me while looking at them. I'm sure she was glad to have her arm as my headrest for an hour... however, it was freezing, so our closeness did have its benefits. Our peaceful stargazing sesh was cut short by an attempt to bring the party outdoors, as the Berber guys lit a fire and started harassing us to practice Berber phrases. The guy I got stuck with was probably not a certified language teacher but was, of course, a certified creep, as he asked me for my e-mail address so he could send me Berber words. Instead of saying no, I sketched off to the bathroom and then tiptoed back to my tent in order to avoid seeing him. Even in the desert, I am not safe.

Chapter 7: Places my ass will never see again

1. Berber mid-desert bathrooms

Holy hell. The place smells just as awful as you'd imagine a bathroom without running water would. It was worse than the port-o-potties at the Fairgrounds, which is saying A LOT. I felt like I was in that part of Slumdog Millionaire, where Jamal is stuck in the bathroom that is just brimming with shit below. I wanted to cry/vomit/die/etc. I actually felt bad for exposing my ass to that toilet seat. I held my pee from then on, limiting myself to only one more trip to that nauseating restroom.

Chapter 8: Things that go EEEEEERRRRRRR in the night

At around 12, after enough stargazing for even Aristotle, we headed off to bed in our Berber tent. The little cots we slept on were surprisingly comfy and warm, at least for me. Like 12-year-olds, we had a lovely gossip sesh before turning in. The best part was really when our nextdoor neighbors in the tent to our right spoke up and acknowledged that they could hear us talking about, well, everything we'd been talking about. Awkward. 

But the title of this blog is not about the sex talk sesh that we had. Instead, it has to do with the crazy sounds one hears whilst sleeping in the middle of the Sahara. All night, either a camel or a donkey, I'm not sure, was MOANING.  Sadly, this was not a keep-it-to-yourself moan, but a "BITCH-I'M-PISSED-OFF-AND-I-WANNA-GO-HOME" moan that seemed to happen every hour. 

It went a little something like this:


Along with the PMS-ing camel, I also heard a cat or other feline creature freaking out outside of our tent. You know that overly used track on TV of a cat screeching (REEERRR!)? That happened inches away from my face outside of our tent at about 3 or 4 am. And although my body, groin especially, was tired and weak from the journey to the oasis, I was somehow able to conjure up a resounding "Ew," before immediately falling back into a peaceful sleep. I hate cats.

We ended up waking up at about 6 am the next morning, much to my surprise. In fact, I thought our tour guide Jorge was joking when he kept telling me to wake up. We were the last 3 to get on camels and headed back out into the Sahara. The walk home was about 20x better than the first time around. My camel was normal sized, and, although my groin was undeniably sore from day 1, it would've been a LOT worse had I had a camel with a donk like my first guy. There also was much less wind, helping me get some amazing shots of the desert and, of course, of myself. 

After the camel trek, we finally got showers & real food. Soon, we headed back on 4x4s to our bus and made the loooooooong ass journey back to Fez.

Chapter 9: I don't know you but your... Fez?... is familiar?

Quoting Austin Powers above was the only way to appropriately introduce the last leg of our Moroccan journey, FEZ. Fez is the capital of Morocco, boasting a royal palace, sweet mountains, a very old, windy, and sometimes smelly medina, and about 1.5 trillion satellites. The city is actually pretty cool. We got there late on Monday and immediately crashed in order to prepare for the next day, a full tour of the medina with a knowledgable and able-bodied guide, Aladdin. Okay, not really, but I kind of wish that Prince Ali, fabulous he, would've been our guide, because much of our trip reminded me of that classic film. The markets in Fez, the desert, the little fez hat like Abu wears, that magic lamp I found and rubbed long and hard (I kid)... I could've stepped into the movie.

But really, Fez is pretty crazy. The newer part of the city is pretty normal... it's just the Medina that is absolutely outlandish. All the streets are narrow & windy. Oh, and did I mention that there are no street names? I can't imagine living in a place like Fez, but I guess you get used to it after a while. The first tip we got upon arrival in the Medina was to be aware if you heard "Atencion" or some Arabic word I don't remember because it means that either a hand cart or a pack mule is behind you carrying loads of shit into the city (the aforementioned narrow & windy streets make it quite difficult, aka impossible, to drive a car load of supplies into the Medina).  At first it was amusing, but slamming myself up against the wall in order to avoid a trampling by donkey loses its luster after about 17 seconds. This ain't no Indiana Jones, and there ain't no escaped boulder, so I shouldn't be forced against a wall. Rude.

I really felt like my tour group had pimped us out to several businesses in Fez. Our "tour" involved going to a leather tannery (where I bought shoes), a scarf-maker (where I spent like $100 on 6 scarves that I don't even KNOW what I'm gonna do with and it makes me sick that I spent that much), a Moroccan medicine place (where I sniffed a bunch of herbs, lotions, etc., and bought only one thing), and a Berber rug factory (where I was way out of my price range and my wallet was given a rest). It just felt as though we were carted from one business associate to the other, expected to buy luxurious Moroccan goods that none of us needed. 

I will say, though, that haggling for better prices is way too fun. The general formula of our haggling went a bit like this:

Andrea, Angela or Elle is haggling with shopkeeper
Remaining two either a) hysterically laugh or b) egg on haggler and encourage a walk-out for lower prices.

We all got in shouting matches with Fez shopkeepers. In one case, I was beyond the threshold of a store yelling back at the shopkeeper, who eventually dropped his price from 500 to 150 Dirham. I felt pretty damn boss. I did, however, have to tolerate him KISSING MY CHEEK 2x for my deal. It wouldn't have been so bad had he not resembled a terrorist and had a unibrow. 

So yeah, by the end of the day in Fez, I had acquired the following goods:

6 scarves (5 cashminas & 1 sparkly plain one)
1 pair of earrings
1 bangle bracelet
1 gift for Adam 
1 decorative item for Leambrose
1 pair of camel leather shoes
1 little bottle of perfume

I would say that's a pretty impressive load. A bit too impressive, as my wallet was completely empty post-shopping.

After the long day in the Medina, we again headed back to the hotel and packed for the next day's journey back to Spain.

Chapter 9: Beach & Bus-lympics

Day 6 found us back on the bus heading towards Tangier, the port that would take us back to Tarifa, the southern Spanish city from which we'd head to SEVILLA. At this point, I was ready to go back to Sevilla, although I liked Morocco a LOT more than I thought I would. We stopped of in Assilah for a bit, a little beach town outside of Tangier, to eat lunch and kill time before our ferry left. After a relaxing picnic on the beach, we decided to explore the much smaller medina of Assilah. I really thought Assilah was gorgeous, with its whitewashed buildings and blue and green accents. It was quite Mediterranean, reminding me of home a bit. 

Angela and I somehow ended up alone wandering the Medina. Of course, within seconds, we pass a creeper who says something to us, but we continue walking (at this point, we are WAY too accustomed to creepers to make eye contact). I only became alarmed when I realized that the creeper had TURNED BACK AROUND to see us yet again. I really had no clue what was coming. He walks up to me and extends his hand, turns it and opens it to reveal... a tiny leather shoe. 

"A souvenir from Morocco for you," he says
"Umm... no thanks," I say, afraid I will then be forced to pay. Gypsies have made me weary of this type of behavior.
"No, take it. It's free"

So yeah... we decided to continue walking despite this fairly creepy incident, finally arriving at a vantage point over the ocean with Assilah's lovely buildings in the background. Bored, and with several hours of battery life on our cameras, we decided to take severrrrrrrral pictures of each other on the walls of Assilah. Awkward for probably everyone watching, but hilarious to us. 

We finally realized that the bus would be re-opening soon, and we were ready to get back on with Sevilla as it's next and final destination. On the way there, however, I realized that I had to get rid of the final 2o dirham (less than 2 euro) that I had left in my purse. Like some kind of omen, a man dressed in a brown cape and sombrero appears with.... his pet MONKEY on a chain!!!!! I gave him the final dirham in exchange for 2 photos with his adorable pet ape. Angela went first, and I was able to snap a plethora of great shots with the monkey on her arm and head. Of course, luck would not be so great for me. I cradled the adorable beast like a child in my arms (world-class babysitter here)... however, unlike a human baby, this guy was NOT wearing a diaper and therefore, when he decided to RELIEVE HIMSELF, it went warmly all over my arm. Not one to get upset, I laughed hysterically as the monkey's owner wiped the warm peepee off my arm with his cape, assuring me it meant "good luck" and not that, well, I received a golden shower from an ape. 

The last detail about Morocco that I want to put in here is this weird tradition that teenage Moroccan boys have. I guess there is not much to do in Tangier, because lots of young boys crouch behind bushes and highway barriers, waiting for a passing charter bus. What do they do when the bus DOES pass, you may ask? Well, they decide to just run up and jump onto the back or side of the bus, hanging on as long as possible before they fall off, hopefully not in traffic. It's the weirdest thing. And, being seated in the back row of the bus, I got to see it all. I was even blown a kiss by a very strapping 14-year-old who had latched on. If someone could explain this obsession to me, I'd appreciate it. It wasn't like they were trying to sneak into Spain (that's what I thought at first)... they were literally just riding the back of the bus. Weird.

Chapter 10: Casa, Buena Casa

I LOVED MY RETURN TO SEVILLA (Mostly because I was in need of a hot shower and a hot meal and a nice, big hug from Mercedes. No really, that's all I wanted.... ). At 1 am, we got off the bus in Sevilla, and instead of walking home, we took a cab for the first time in as long as I can remember. It was great. We did, however, get raped by the cab rates during Feria, and ended up paying a whopping 10 euro from the river to our building, a trip that usually costs about 6. Whatever. 

As soon as we got in (about 1:40 am), we did something we had never done in Sevilla yet: make food. I figured Mercedes wouldn't care, as she knew we had just gotten back from Morocco, where I honestly found it hard to eat when all I expected the entire time was that I was going to get sick. So, we get inside, drop our things and head into the kitchen to make some PB&J sandwiches. As soon as we are getting the final touches on our sandwiches, I hear a cough down the hall and then footsteps. "OH shit, she's coming!" I whisper. "It's too late now..." said a very wise Angela. So Mercedes walks in to us, smiling in her kitchen at 2 am making sandwiches. Any other senora would probably be pissed, but she just laughs. I gave her a huge hug mid-convo because I really just missed her while we were gone. She had stayed up to make sure none of us were sick (cue resounding Full House "AWWWW!"). Nothing like coming home after a long trip.


In summary, Morocco was a great experience, and one that I most likely will not experience again. I didn't get sick either, which was a huge bonus. The best part about that is that they told us several times to eat very plain foods the first few days after getting home from Morocco in order to let our stomachs digest; that meant nothing fried, nothing fatty... just boiled, basic foods. Well, guess what our first meal back from the Dirty South was? Croquetas, fried balls of doughy chickeny spinachy goodness. And we didn't explode! 

Sorry for that detour. So, again, in sum:

-Lifetime experience
-No sickness
-Lots of souvenirs

I'd call it a success story. 
Congratulations, me, on conquering Morocco. 

1 comentario:

  1. can I just say, I love you even more because you mentioned hating Twilight (!!!!). Also, Office Space was on today, and Michael Bolton references abounded (were abound?). Anyway, Morocco sounds hella cool (yes I did just say that) and I wish you many more adventures before you return to me (and I need one more parenthetical thing to say...)

    lovsies, bri