Tag Archives: Casablanca

3 Countries, 9 Days, 1 Amazing Journey

26 Mar

I wanted to do this entry differently. I was going to write a journal article every day in Europe. I did well, until day… 3. Needless to say, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. Since I managed to get in two days, I will transcribe them here, and then fill in the very large blanks.

3/13/10

Insane is the only way to describe this day.

After witnessing an arrest before getting on the train to Casablanca, a man jumped in front of the train, making us almost miss our flight. My first experience at Mohammed V airport went at double speed in order to catch my fight to Madrid. As our group slowly peeled off, I found myself alone, map and badly translated English directions in hand. After a slight turn around, I found “Hostel Yolanda.” After meeting an old woman who I assumed lived/ran the hostel, I met her son, who showed me everything and gave me my room. He was a dirty 35 year-old man, you know, the Spanish version of your typical stay at home fat hairy “dungeon master,” but he was nice enough, so who I am to judge. After collecting my running thoughts (the accordion player who followed me onto the metro, 3 other street performers and the “parkour” I was witness to upon emerging from the metro stop, I was ready to see the city.

I walked around, breaking my porkless few months at the “Museo del Jamon,” and being propositioned by prostitutes who sell sex like Moroccans sell drugs (loudly, and with a dogged persistence). I watched some Sub-Saharan Africans selling goods on the street, and the police chase that then ensued. This, in addition to hearing some Moroccan Arabic later on in the night made me question if I had actually left Morocco. Maybe I have just found pork-eating Muslims. After reveling in this feast for the eyes, I made my way back to the hostel, witnessing kissing…not only kissing, but more same sex kissing than anything else. This is going to be an interesting week…

3/14/10

Another day, another feeling of exhaustion as I opened my eyes. Just a few more minutes. I utilized my hostel checkout time of noon as best I could, knowing how valuable this sleep is going to be later in the week. A night in a single room was a good way to ease into Madrid, as I am now sharing a room with 12 others. After trying to decipher the time from my camera, the only functional clock I have, as my phone is now 100% worthless, I decided to head out and check out the flea market. A street lined with makeshift booths is nothing new to me. In fact, it was almost like a home comfort, if it wasn’t for the Spanish and copious Euro signs. I learned I can get socks here cheaper than I can in Morocco. If that isn’t a load of crap, then I don’t know what is. After the market I maneuvered my way down to the Achote Train Station and bought a Pepsi for 1.40€ (Keep this price in mind. Moroccan Price for this good: 5 Dirham -.75€). I then walked around an ogled at the Prado and the Rena Sophia, and then made my way on the metro out to the Bullring. After a bunch more sightseeing, I decided to find a cheap meal. Having almost no money, and wanting to save what little I had for tonight, I found a supermarket and bought a bag of packaged pastries and a bottle of lemonade for 2€, gorging myself on the chocolaty and cheap goodness. In the same super market I found a 1L bottle of San Miguel, a Spanish Beer for 1.15€ …I only take note of this because of the complete flip of soda and beer in this country. 40 Dirham at a restaurant in Morocco (roughly 4€) will get you a bottle of the same beer, but only roughly 200ml of it.  This may be the most shocking thing yet this trip, finally coming to terms with how cheap everything in Morocco is, except for nightlife and alcohol. The “re”culture shock of Spain is interesting, since things that have never really bothered me before (homosexuality and public promiscuity) have now become a big deal… I’m not quite sure what to make of it. I’ve met a fair number of Americans here, so tonight should prove interesting. As I sit here thinking about sleep, every muscle straining with the smallest movement, I find it hard to believe that another plane, city and country await me in less than 24 hours… This may just be one of the best weeks ever… but only time will tell.

PS- Loving this daily hot shower thing.

End Transmission.


This is all I wrote about while I was on my trip, and looking back in retrospect, it was one of the greatest weeks I’ve ever had. Travelling alone can be a frightening and sometimes lonely experience, but it forces you to meet new people every day, people you may never have talked to otherwise, and makes for an experience that is frustrating, tiresome, lonely, but quite possibly more rewarding than anything else you could possibly experience. It is based on this emotion that I will continue the story of this journey through Iberia.

The night in question ended with the quintessential Madrid nightlife experience, and conversations that carried over into an early lunch at Burger King. After that I made tracks to the airport. Lisbon awaited me.

Lisbon was gorgeous, and I do believe that I fell in love with the city while I was there. The atmosphere everywhere oozed relaxation, and everything I did just seemed as though it was imbibed with good luck. I visited the Parce de Nacoes (Multiple Times), Sinitra (an outlying city that was beautiful), and Belem. These three areas made my week, mixed in with the city itself and a hostel that was more accommodating that most hotels I have stayed in. I spent my days sightseeing, and my evenings around, meeting a score of interesting people, ranging from Sao Paulo, Brazil expats to Munich Med Students. Lisbon was a hard place to leave, but it’s not a big deal, seeing as I have decided that I am going to move to Lisbon and live out the rest of my days there.

After Lisbon, it was back to Madrid for a few more interesting days, throwing Toledo into the mix as well. After a tiresome run in Europe, it was back to Casablanca. I then received a text message, and made a detour to a music festival in Casablanca to see people throwing fire (and losing control of said fire), before retiring to Rabat, and struggling through a week of class, slowly readjusting to the daily drawl.

By the end of this week abroad, there was a 5 second delay on everything that came out of my mouth, as I now had to not only think of what I wanted to say, but decide which language to put it into. Yo quiero deux min fadlik, obrigado. Yep, that’s 4 languages right there, and yes my head hurts.  I no longer knew what to do, as I was using a new language every 3 days, by the time I got use to using one it was not longer relevant. I said gracias to the Portuguese, obrigado to the Moroccans and shukraan to the Spanish. It’s hard enough to struggle along in Morocco with the 3, but adding two more to the mix just made it painful. Thankfully the aftershocks of this headache didn’t last long, as I am now back to thinking and speaking in broken Arabic/French/English. The week, despite its headaches, was a long and informative one, as I can now gladly add Portuguese to the list of languages that I know more than 3 words in. Such connections between languages, and the giant mass of language I have encountered has made me start to look at things I never looked at before, like cognates, the relationships between romantic languages, and the ability to extrapolate existing knowledge of these languages to figure out words in languages I don’t speak (la cuenta and a conta, “the bill” in Spanish and Portuguese, was a important one). It is an interesting phenomenon, but unfortunately one that I don’t think I will ever have the time or patience to study in depth. I have a feeling that this is the beginning of a lot of similar experiences, experiences of language, and the frustrating and rewarding experiences that are always going to accompany my studies and my work. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited at the prospect.

Ta’aben (Tired)

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Casablanca, Real Madrid, Etc.

19 Feb

It is almost incomprehensible that I have not written in almost three weeks for my blog. The time is passing in two speeds, the tiresome daily drawl that exists anywhere you put effort into your work, and that speed in which you look backwards and try to figure out how it went so quickly. It moves like the wind, slow on the surface, and like a bullet the further you rise up. Sometimes this needs to be taken into account, and you just have to find an hour to sit on a park bench and do absolutely nothing…

These past few weeks have flown by. The stress of Arabic and classes has normalized into the same grade worried stomach knotting experience that has typified my college career. The true stories now lie in the slowly developing comfort and the adventures that ensue of the aftermath of stupid statements like “Let’s go to Kenitra…No, I don’t know what we’re going to do when we get there…”

Last weekend was one that will forever etch a need for foresight into my memory. After a bar-filled evening of the most dingy, and literally fascinating experiences of my life, concluding with a McDonalds McArabiya and fries, I decided to convince a select few to hop a train to Kenitra, a beach town 40 minutes north of Rabat, with no plan, minimal information, and nothing more than a vague idea in my head. In hindsight, not a good idea, but it was one of those experiences that has grown better with time.

A learning experience.

We get to Kenitra, and after 10 minutes it becomes clear that this is not Rabat. The out of place feeling pervaded more deeply than ever, and for the first time ever I truly came to the terms with being an outsider. Harassment and an exhausting amount of walking, we beat a retreat to Rabat without finding a way to the beach (a 15 minute drive from the town itself). After returning, the feeling of defeat slowly faded, and an overwhelming desire to make another outing with a little more foresight came to the top. This weekend was that redemption.

After a work-filled weekend evening (they suck even more abroad), I beat a hasty retreat to bed, chuckling about the earlier events of the evening (I made my first purchase of significance, a soccer jersey. I bought Ronaldo’s Real Madrid Jersey, the best prossibly fake jersey I have ever seen, for roughly $12, placing myself in the Madrid Camp in a Barcelona Stronghold. After being told that it was 130 Dirham, I wanted to tell him 50, instead, saying 15 in Darija. After a serious amount of laughing, and some discussion, I got the jersey for 100, and my little brother told everyone in the entire house the story of me getting the jersey, laughing hysterically when he got to the part when I said “Hemztache” (15)), and got ready for my early morning departure for Casablanca. The trip, and ensuing madness was just more of the same third-world harassment that has become just another part of the day. We walked around, coming upon uninteresting spot after uninteresting spot. We eventually made our way to the Mosque of Grandeur, the Hassan II Mosque, a mosque ranking 3rd in the world in size. The grandeur of this place has been unrivaled by any building I can recollect, and none of the pictures I could take captured the mass of this place. After the mosque grandeur, I took in a warm sun-soaked day by the Ocean, basking in the fact that, yes, it was in fact the beginning of February. Upon our retreat to the Hostel, we ran into problems… hearing horror stories of passport theft, I left my passport at home thinking it was wise… ooops. I eventually found out that I needed my Moroccan entry number to sign into the hotel, the number stamped in my passport. Luckily I was one of three in this conundrum, so set out with an address given to us by the uptight and evil old man of the Hostel, and made our way to the central precinct of Casablanca. Upon arriving at a large granite and plaster building, we maneuvered our way through many Casablancan police officers to a decrepit interior of the precinct to a room literally lined, yes lined, with forms much like the one we needed to fill out for the hostel. Tourist Police are a big deal here… We managed through our speech fine thanks to French fluency on the part of my companions, and actually had a conversation with the police office worker filling out our numbers for us (I scraped through this process on a NY State ID…….needless to say it was a stressful evening). After a quick revel in what we had just accomplished, we beat a triumphant retreat to the Hostel and relaxed. What followed that was a night of Paella, sketchy weird bars, and more of the same Moroccan experience that I have grown to love. After a good night, we slept, and made a much more triumphant train ride home than we had taken back from Kenitra.

Casa Verdict: A city worth the visit and worth the experience, but nothing that would require another night in the city. I would give the city a visit without a doubt, but there is no need to linger in its atmosphere.

Comfort and a feeling of home set in upon my return to Rabat, and I finally felt like this place was becoming part of me, part of my life experience, and it felt good. Dare I say, Morocco feels a little like home now, another area to add to the list of comfort I have that I am determined to stretch across the globe. But… along with that has come a sense of boredom…something I am sure the desert will change for me on Monday.

Meshi Mushkil (Not a Problem)