Bonjour from Morocco or Moroc as it is spelled in Arabic!
This trip has been insane, a total and complete contrast from the semi-familiar spain. Spain was comfortable because I could speak the language (kind of), I could wear whatever I desired, I could jump in a cab and communicate where I wanted to go. That was definitely not the case here in Morocco. It was difficult to find a restaurant because of Ramadan let alone order a meal but let me tell you, once I drank the Mint tea I was hooked!
It was a shock when I first got up and looked out my window into port. All I could see were cranes and large cargo containers and a filthy ship yard that reminded me of many CSI episodes I have seen before. The actual port or place of berth for the ship was terrible compared to Cadiz. We had to walk for about an half an hour to get to the port entrance, not to mention trying to not get attacked by cranes or run over by imported cars. The rats were a nice addition too, very beautiful- picturesque!
I traveled this port with my neighbor Allie from Boulder, Mika from Hawaii and my roommate along with her friend Jenny who met up with her in Casablanca who is a SAS alum from F06 and fluent in French, that was a nice perk. Because Morocco is 99.9% Muslim, we were told that we had to wear pants, long sleeves and no shoulders should be seen. I opted for capris hoping that a little ankle would be acceptable. One interesting and maybe TMI observation I noticed from walking around Morocco is the fact that the men tend to stare for a long while right at your crotch? Maybe it's because most women around them don't wear pants or perhaps they are looking for some fertile woman? beats me, but you could feel it. I found myself looking deep into the people's eyes and the men either took that as flirting or offensive I'm not really sure. I just love looking into their big, round eyes to see the story they tell... the women however cast their eyes down once you look at them and they never answered when the were spoken too. It did not feel like women were oppressed but you could totally feel the difference when a guy was traveling with us and how we were treated.
The people as a whole in Morocco are incredibly friendly. The Medina is were you can find all the Souks which are the big markets were you can barter and find the coolest things. The exchange rate this time was much better compared to the Euro, it was $1 US = 7.76 Dirham so the money went much farther. It was difficult for me to calculate how much money I was really spending because 1) I suck at math and 2) because a bottle of water for example was 20 dirham, it just made it seem so much more expensive.
The first day in Morocco was rough but I am glad that I did not write it off, we went back out and saw the amazing Mosque. It was neat because we had to take off our shoes and cover our heads, my romanian heritage came through as my bandana looked like my ba-bush-ka. It was so ornate and at night a green laser points from the top of the tower towards Mecca, it's actually quite amazing. Hookah bars are also very prevalent so we hit up one in the evening and we had palm flavor seshia, very Moroccan if you ask me. So many of my peers were upset with the forbidden items list when they noticed the hookahs on there, they are pretty cool but I understand why they are not allowed, I mean you can smoke more than one thing out of them.
I took another Semester at Sea trip to Merrakech were I got to trek on a camel. It was fun and just enough time. I also got to take home a nice free souvenir of a camel bite on my thigh, that was fun. Actually it was really funny and I wasn't scared. The rats on the pier scared me more than that. Merrakech is amazing and there is so much to see including the snake charmers, monkeys, hanging meat, millions of shoes and 'real silver jewelry'.
I experienced some really amazing things and met some really cool people that expressed how much they liked our business and would give us a student discount (yeah right.. 50 dirham for this authentic Moroccan keychain.. that came out of a 'made in China ' box). Although Morocco is so cool, I am so excited to move onto Ghana. I have some exciting plans including going to a refugee camp and working with Habitat for Humanity to build a home, I cannot think of a more rewarding feeling.
I am still enjoying this trip more than I could have imagined. I continuously meet awesome people and now, we are hanging out more than just for a meal. Tomorrow is laundry day so that is something to get excited about. I attempted to wash some things in my sink but everything just smelt like Lever 2000 so I wasn't digging it although that is better than the smell of camel.
Classes also begin tomorrow so that is something to NOT be excited about, we do have three days of class and then a day off and then three more days back on and then we hit Accra, Ghana!!! If this pattern keeps continuing, I am going to love each port more than the last, learn amazing things about other cultures, people and myself and try some amazing food. I get to start taking my Malaria medicine soon so that will give me something fun to do everyday:)
Well I will give more detailed updates in e-mails later but I have to load up my laundry bag, aka pack it to the brim! I love you guys and hope that life is treating you well and that you are thankful for everything you have in your lives. This trip has opened my eyes in that way already more than I could have imagined. Let's be thankful for health, successes, friends and most importantly family. Cheesy enough?