Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Moroccan Baby

Hola Todos!

Sorry it has been a few weeks but time passes so fast here I don't even realize it. Midterms are over, thank goodness, and all of the tests went very well. Well all but one because he still hasn't graded the exams yet. I'm glad I'm going to take a few classes this summer when I get back because I don't know how I would handle it jumping into the fall semester after this. Not that the system is bad, but classes here are not nearly as time consuming as the ones at home. I've been planning the rest of my trips this week and finally realized that I brought way to much stuff!!! I use it all and am glad that I brought it but how the hell am I going to get all this crap home, especially with all of the souvenirs I've gotten!? For those visiting me be prepared to take home a load for me. It's crazy to think that I've been gone for almost three months now which isn't a very long time, but so much back home has changed. My brother bought a house, my mother bought a lake house, my Dad started a business, and a friend just got engaged (congratulations Rachel & Ty), sheesh!!

So this past weekend was pretty awesome, I was in AFRICA!!! My program took us to Morocco for four days it it was probably one of the best trips I have been on. I have know that I would study abroad since I came back from Italy sophomore year of high school. That trip for me was a pivotal moment in my life. I know it sounds crazy because I was so young but I can't describe how it affected me. Ever since then I have always been in the mind set that I would one day go back to Europe. There was a brief conversation about going on a European tour with a friend after graduation but for whatever reason that fell through. So I promised myself that I would study abroad while I was in college. Anyways that feeling I got from going to Italy has eluded me for the past three months. Not that this has not been an awesome experience but I guess I was just expecting the same. In Morocco though I found that feeling. I guess it is because I was seeing a place so completely different from anything I had ever experienced.

Morocco is a third world country where there is a large gap between the rich and poor and it is very obvious. While touring a Moroccan University I saw this poster that talked about why they are studying. Like giving a push to work hard because one day they could be making a salary of 50,000 - 100,000 Dirhams, which is equivalent to 5,000 - 10,000€ a year. This is what the Prime Minister and wealthy businessmen of Morocco make. It really is a different world down there. A few things about Morocco, it is an Islamic country so five times a day you hear the call to prayer, which is not actually a prayer but like an alarm clock, dogs are not allowed in the homes b/c they are unclean so they are only guard dogs.

So Thursday morning we began our trek to Morocco by a 3hr bus ride, 1hr ferry ride (thank you Dramamine b/c I was one of the few not sick), bus ride to the border and another hour to Tetuan. the first place they took us was to a craft school where kids as young as 12 are sent to learn how to make crafts such as decorative mirrors, mettle works and carvings so they can begin to provide for their families. They had beautiful works but it was crazy to think that a parent would say "I already have a few kids in school so you are going to work at age 12 to help provide for your family." Across the street we walked around the Medina, which is like a market. The market was probably the most disgusting thing I had ever seen. Everywhere you look are dead chickens, heads and hoofs of goats, rancid cheese patty looking things (which I'm sorry to say babe remind me of the asaderos sp? that your parents like so much from Presidio) and sweets infested with bugs that people just pick up and eat! I know that it is bad to judge another culture and I'm sure if I grew up with it then it would be very normal but it was a gross experience. In the market though is where I noticed that we were being followed by armed security guards, dressed in street clothes but obvious. everywhere we went they were there stopping traffic so we could cross the street, making sure no one got lost and once pulling some guy away from us by the neck and beating him. I have no idea what the guy did.

The next city we went to was Tangier. While there we went to a Moroccan "sweat shop" as everyone called it but to me the working conditions were actually really nice. Personally I would not want to work at the same station for eight hours a day sewing clothes but it was clean the people seemed happy and for Morocco they had pretty high wages. I think the best part of that city though was when we got to tour a business school and talk with the students. Our tour guide painted this picture of a very traditional Morocco where women were obedient, didn't go out, couldn't go to the Beach and arranged marriages still happened. But while talking to the students the generation gap makes all the difference. Obviously they are better educated since they are at University and there fore a little different, but on the whole they were just normal kids like us. The only difference was that they do not have any sort of physical relationship until marriage. They were all so great though and everyone in that country was just so nice and hospitable. They were so happy they we were visiting, I'm sire part of it was that we spent so much money there but still. even when we were in the markets if a store didn't have what we wanted they would send us to another no problem. That night in Tangier we went to a belly dancing show, which was....interesting. I mean it was cool to see I guess but it was a little raunchy. I think the best part though was that they pulled up this guy from our program, took off his shirt and dressed him up as a belly dancer. I have to give him props he completely went for it (of course I thought of Tony b/c I know that would have been him if he was there). Thankfully all they made me do was balance a candle on my head and dance, which is actually very hard! lol and the guy was so short I had to kneel down for him to put it on my head. AWW and there were these two little girls, no older than 8, who looked like Cirque 'de Soleil acrobatic stuff. I felt kind of bad for them, like why weren't they home asleep. We had a chance to ride camels the next day after lunch but I figured I could do that in Egypt so I went down to the beach instead. It was so beautiful and I found some great sea shells!

Ahhh Chef Chouine, what do I say about this city...it was easily the most beautiful set up in the mountains with white washed houses and blue doors. Although while touring the city we found out people didn't really like you taking pictures of there houses. I mean I can understand why, if some random group of tourists started taking pictures in my neighborhood I would think that was a little strange to. They say that they paint the doors and some of the walls blue to keep the mosquitoes away in the summer. I can't even really describe how picturesque it was. We stayed in a hotel even further up the mountain so we could see the entire village below. It was interesting to me though how they kept all of there traditions. As far as Moroccan cities go they are supposed to be one of the richest. They have a great infrastructure, which sounds strange but don't take it for granted, but it was interesting because they still wash all of their clothes in the river. They have like these open air buildings set up with built in wash boards and this river coming down from the mountain runs through it and you just see all these women there talking and washing. I think it's kind of nice that they have kept some of the tradition.

*Sigh* Now on to the title of this blog...so Sunday morning we had two choices; go on a three hour hike through the mountains, or go down to the town and walk around/do some shopping. Obviously you all know I'm not athletic, i mean I do like to hike but not with a group of about 25 and not in the thin mountain air. So i decided to go down to the square, and I am the absolute only one who takes option number 2. So after going down with our tour guide who stayed at the hotel where we were supposed to have lunch I went off to walk around. There were several groups of tourists even other students who I made sure to always be around just in case. Honestly though I have never been more openly stared out in my life. I don't know if it was because I wasn't walking with anyone or because, like and idiot, i decided to wear a dress that day, but yea I mean blatantly by like anyone from age 10 to 60! I found a few things that I had wanted, some silk scarves, a leather bag and this awesome green tea that is a local drink, and I'm looking around when I walk through this hallway that opens up to a courtyard with more shops. So I start browsing and the owner comes up and of course is trying to sell me rugs, jewelery...whatever. After a while i find a few things and am about to finish bartering and leave right, well he invites me to have this tea (and we've been told about this that its a local custom and it's ride not to accept) so I'm just like ok. We sit just like in the middle of the shop with people still walking around and I'm asking him questions because I think it's cool that I'm talking to a native so on and so forth. Well then he like takes my hand and asks me if I "have a son" of course I'm like "no I'm just a student," so then he asks if I would "like to have a son on both sides of the ocean." Of course I'm just like shit what did I get myself into so i like jerked away and was like "o I'm sure my group is looking for me gotta go peace", and as I'm literally running away he's like "don't forget about me." lol so yea some interesting times in Morocco.

All in all a wonderful trip though. The cities are kind of sad because you see how poor they are but once you get out into the country side it is just breathtakingly beautiful. I'm sure it's not high on people's places to travel but the people were so friendly and the scenery is worth it, just watch out for those shop owners.

I hope everyone has a good week!