Monday - Thursday, Feb 15 - 18
Monday, Feb 15, 2009
Still on the road to recovery. About the best I could muster was food and more naps. Sadly there is no more to tell.
Tuesday, Feb 16, 2009
I woke up with energy for the first time in what felt like forever. Sister and I went on a morning hike before anyone else was up. After breakfast we went on a bike ride too. Nothing eventful, but it was wonderful being out of the house and moving my body. The sun was a treat too. It’s been crazy rainy and windy here the last several days. I was thankful the sun was smiling on my recovery.
I’m still not 100%, but close. Sadly, it seems April is coming down with what got me. Hopefully she doesn’t get hit as hard or as long, because she has boy company coming tomorrow.
Wed, Feb 17
In Morocco, rarely do I enter my days before 9 or 10:00. Today was different. I was in the kitchen making sandwiches out from the best peppered turkey you can imagine at 5:30am. I was alert, full of energy, and excited to be moving on to a new city, meeting new friends, and celebrating my healed body.
Aunti, April, me and our taxi driver chased Tariq on his scooter to the train station. In spite of the early start, we were late. We ran into the station, they got tickets, we ran to the ATM to get cash (Dirhams), and we all sprinted to catch our train. We found a mostly empty room on the train and settled in for the long ride to Casablanca.
I like trains. I like trains way more than busses, cars, taxi’s or camels (more on that later). Clickity clack, clickity clack, soft rocking motion combined with the company of my sister and wonderful Aunt and the African countryside, creates an introspection that’s hard to duplicate. Amazing. There have been terrible rains here for the last week and sections of our track were under water so our progress was slower than usual, but we arrived in Casablanca about four hours later.
Aunti had some business at the Consulate, and April and I were on our way to the airport. See, April has a guy, and he’s crazy enough to buy a ticket to Africa to hang out on a whim. I like him already. In spite of being in Africa for two weeks, this was our first venture out alone. I was super stoked to be adding a person to our crew, all of having no idea what to do, an nothing but imagination to guide us.
We found our way to our airport train, found our way through airport security and found out that Gary wouldn’t be in for another 12 hours. What!?! We argued with the guy at the information booth, wandered around some more, and finally made a plan to double check his itinerary ourselves. I tracked down a WIFI for my iPhone, and paid 10 Euros for a little bit of time and worked on getting into my sisters email to see what the hell was going on. In the mean time, she went hunting. Turns out we were right all along. Up tromps this tall dude with dark curly hair, a scruffy face, and traveled eyes, along with my sister who is glowing. Stoked!
Our plan from the airport was a bit comedic. We took the train to a new station, asking at each one of this was Casa Port. Nobody speaks english. Nobody. This hip young dude, threw us a nod when we got to the right place and pointed to the other train we needed to catch to get to Casa Port. Chocran (thanks) buddy.
At Casa port I battled with the pay phones till I get through to Tariq in Marrakech to find out where we are supposed to meet his friend. I got a hotel name, we flag down a taxi and go zooming through Casablanca chaos to our meeting spot.
Casablanca is way different than Marrakech. It’s much more cosmopolitan and modern. It’s like any major city in the world without the mini skirts. Lots of people rushing around, less mules, more cars, and people who look like people, not like monks.
At the hotel, we waited for a stranger to come find us. Fifteen minutes later our pal arrives. He come up and says Tariq, we nod, grin and shake his hand. He speaks nothing we understand, and he can understand nothing we say. We buddied up and hiked back to his bachelor pal. It’s impossible to share how silly, but empowering it feels to so readily have a friend in a new city with no verbal communication possible and still creating a bond and functional communication. We all liked each other immediately.
He showed us his house and I realized he was trying to figure out if we were pleased with it enough to stay with him or if we wanted to get a hotel. It was a basic crash pad, and the decision was a no-brainer. I emphatically told him that we loved it and would be honored to stay with him and it was settled. We drank some tea, talked to each other in gibberish, laughed about that, and jumped in a couple of taxi’s to head to biggest Mosque in Northern Africa.
The Mormons have some stuff to learn about architecture from the Muslims. The scale, beauty, and intimate detail of this building made me want to face mecca and praise Allah. Being there at sunset added to the magic. Being there with friends made the magic matter. What a deep honor to be in such a sacred place.
Finding a taxi back was a challenge, so we hoofed it. One trip through a corner of a city on foot or by skateboard, and I can always find my way from any place. It’s my superpower. I was glad for the chance to see the city up close and to calibrate my compass. Our new pal had to work, so we were on our own for the evening. We kicked back, watched some american action movies with french voiceovers and Arabic subtitles, ate takeout, and got to know Gary.
Gary is a published author of philosophical fiction, plays poker for money, worked for the NSA, and has traveled the world. We share many of the same world views, ideas about life and work, and have made similar choices in regards to drugs and alcohol. April met him at a book store in Vegas and didn’t know him much better than I did! It was a good time talking to him. It was a better time when our Casablanca hookup got off work and lit up the hookah.
The word for hookah here is chisha which sounds a lot like hashisha to my ear. We really weren’t sure what we were smoking, but what the hell. When in Rome… He packed the sticky stuff into the top, covered it in foil, put a big charcoal on top and puffed away. And puffed and puffed and puffed. I figured he wasn’t sucking that much hash into his lungs or he would have passed out in moments, at least I knew I would, so we figured it had to be tobacco.
He passed me the tube and I sucked in a long delightful pull of minty smoke. Following his cue, I sucked in more too. When the smoke around my head was as thick as Utah smog, I passed the love on to April. We went around and around and smoked and smoked, drank mint tea and smoked more. Conversation wasn’t even needed and everyone was beautifully content.
This was why I wanted to get away from Marrakech. This was the Morocco I was missing. My perfect day was perfectly complete.
Thursday, Feb 18
Gawd I slept good. Traveling before sunrise and staying up till 3 am smoking with pals will help with that. Around 11 or so we all headed down the road to get our coffee fix. The little cafe our Casablanca buddy took us to was awesome. The coffee was the first good coffee I’d had here, and the corn cakes were the closest to an American breakfast I’d had in weeks. Did you know that America and Great Britain are the only places in the world who have big ridiculous breakfasts?
Our buddy had to work again, so we were on our own for the day. He pointed us towards the Medina and we set off. You’ve read about other Medina’s in my other posts. The medina’s here are similar, but slummier. The energy is more dangerous and the goods more modern. Designer jeans and fancy shoes are next to slaughtered sheep. Electronics and hand made pottery share the same corner. All around us are the high red walls of the original ancient city.
We hiked aimlessly for hours, found ourselves in the slums and kept on going. We were warned about wandering too deep off the main roads, but I’d rather risk a mugging than sanitize my experience. I like the slums, I like the trash, I like the dark corners and shady characters. I like that I was hiking with a stout 6’4” ex-government agent too.
We wound up near the ocean and giant mosque again, made a lap, played yo-yos with the visiting school kids and hiked back the way we came. On the way home, we bought a new Hookah for our friend who took such good care of us, and took him out to eat.
Around dark we said our goodbyes and taxied over to the train station. Sadly, the process of catching a cab took longer than we expected and our train to Marrakech had departed by the time we got to the station. No matter. That just gave us two hours to eat M&M’s while we waited for the last train.
There was no scenery drifting by on the return trip, since the sun had been down for hours, but my ipod, some naps, a some snacks created the absolute clarity we all treasure. Clickity Clack Clickity Clack to Marrakech. I found my bed around 2 am and sleep was a blanket pull away.