Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Sara Kate Drinks Tea in Marrakech, Survives Bus Crash; Hotel Proprietor Mops Up

Dec 1
Hello to all from Morocco.

My main difficulty right now is from this Arabic keyboard. The logistics of using it defy description. I would have better luck typing with my nose. For example to type the word 'am' I type the keys that on a normal keyboard are q and ; but on this computer they say Arabic symbols plus w and colon; but written over w and colon in permanent marker it says z and m. meanwhile the m key is where b should be but has w written over it in marker yet really makes a comma. AIIEE!!

The last three days have been some of the most challenging, exhausting, and amazing of my entire life. The main idea of the revelation I am having here is that the world is bigger than I thought. Before there were two worlds in my mind and you can divide them however you want, US and Latin America or first world and third world or English and Spanish, but now I see there is this whole other world and whole other way of doing things. Of course I knew this before but now I really KNOW it. And yet it still won't sink in. We continue on with our silly American agendas. Example, today we needed to buy Catherine a pair of pants. Ok we thought, we'll go to the pants store, be back in an hour max. Of course, two hours later we were still drinking tea, looking at the pants man's photos of his entire extended family, politely declining offers to come to his house to eat supper and meet his family, (only because we have another engagement) and explaining to him yet again why we haven't married our fiances yet. He called two friends on the phone just so we would talk to them and say hello. He is giving us some CDs of a 'movie' he made about Essaouira (which with any luck we will be able to watch together soon), and when I spoke to him in Arabic he kissed my hand.

Such is life here. It blows the mind. Every day we set out with a plan and end up drinking tea in shoe stores instead. Cultures are clashing in my brain.

Dec 3
Hi all,
So, we are in Agadir right now. We came here to go to the national park, which was quite an experience. Our plan was to leave Essaouira yesterday morning, so we packed up and went to say goodbye to our friends, but somehow we ended up drinking tea again and missed our bus. We just sat there and watched the clock tick away, and what to do? We decided we didn't need that bus anyway. When we finally got to the bus station we had to wait an hour, so we ate some slop in a bowl in the street (20 cents) and then had some perplexing multilingual conversation with some guys inside. Our bus finally came at 5:00 and when we got on there was barf on the floor and Nicci stepped in it. It was really beautiful out the window, though, until it got dark and we got in a wreck. We totally mashed this guys truck and ripped the front off our bus. I saw his body lolling over the steering wheel and I thought he was dead, but then it turned out he wasn't. Everyone was shouting in Arabic and drivers coming the other way were getting out and pushing their cars through the dirt to go around. Nicci and I went and peed behind a bush with some goats. But this is what I mean about everyone being nice here: we had no idea what to do, but two guys helped us rescue our bags from the bus and offered to share their taxi with us the rest of the way to Agadir. We took them up on it. Of course after about 10 minutes we passed a little village and had to stop and... you guessed it, drink tea. You may see why I am stqrting to understqnd the phrase N'shallah, which they say after every third word. I'll see you tomorrow, N'shallah. I'd like to eat supper now, N'shallah. We want to go downtown; N'shallah. It means god willing. Evidently, Allah was not willing for us to ride that bus yesterday. Allah wants us to drink tea.

Anyway we got to Agadir just fine and declined their repeated offers to stay with their family and eat a tagine. Instead we went a cheap little hotel mostly inhabited by Lord of the Rings guys with purple robes with pointy hoods and bare feet. I have this sort of conversation every time i set foot ourside our room (this is a verbatim example):

me: Ssalam malakum.

man: malakum assalam.

me: Labas, onta?

man: Labas, hamdullah. Onti?

me. Labas. Um, est-ce que je pourr--

man: Pardon me, you are american?

me: yes.

man: Oh! What country you from?

me: Uh... the United States?

man: Oh. Is that near Portugal?

me: Uh... not really. It's near Canada.

man: Oh, I know a lady with eyes like you from Columbus, she learn me English and Frisbee! And my cousin drive taxi in Alabama City.

me: Er, that's nice. So could I--

man: Pardon me, you are fuming?

me: Um, what?

man: Are you liking to smoke one cigarette.

me: Oh. Um, no thanks. La shukran. I really just need a blanket for the bed.

man: what?

me: Est-ce que il y a une coverture pour le lit!!! S'il vous plait! 'Afak!

man: Mmm, yes. Are you liking Michael Jordan?


You can see why it's hard to get anything done here. Sometimes we just give in and drink tea. Although today we actually did make it to the national park, so perhaps you have an idea now of what an accomplishment that is!

We are going to Marrakesh tomorrow.

Dec 5
So we are in Marrakech now. We haven' seen much of it yet because we only got here last night, and today we have been occupied with taking our clothes to "le pressing" and ourselves to the hammam (bathhouse). We smell feo.

Dec 10

Good morning
I think I'm going to go soon because I'm still feeling a little sick. We are currently still in Marrakesh. In fact, you could say we are stuck here, thanks to N'shallah and stomach parasites. Meaning, we were planning to leave several days ago but Allah didn't want us to, so the night before we were supposed to leave I was suddenly blighted with a dreadful affliction that left me sweating, fainting, crapping, and barfing while squatting over the shitter for hours at a time. Suffice it to say, whatever misdeeds I have committed in this life or the previous, I have now atoned for. And then some. But at least I am in the land of Niceness; my first ralphing bout left me standing on the terrace halfway between our room and the bathroom, sobbing piteously because I felt so miserable and I'd barfed all over the bathroom and had to clean it up but there was nothing to clean it up with because Morocco does not believe in toilet paper. I resolved to use my sock, because I'd already barfed on it anyway and what's to lose? So I began hobbling back towards the bathroom in my pjs, one sock on, one sock in my hand, my face streaming with all kinds of snot and ooze. Of course at just this moment the hotel proprietor, a round little man in his nightcap, came doddering up the stairs to see what all the commotion was. (It was the middle of the night.) "I'm sorry," I wailed in incomprehensible French, "I'm sick in my stomach!" Instantly I was enveloped in an astonishingly soft and cushy hug, barf and sock and all. "There there," he crooned as I did not know fat little men could croon, "you get back to bed." "But the bathroom," I wept, "it is very... badly. I must clean it." I brandished my sock for emphasis.

But he wouldn't hear of it. He sent me packing back to bed just like a mama bear, and when I was back in the bathroom an hour later, I saw that he had neatly removed all traces of my spewed spinach and eppglant. And for the next day, every time Catherine and Nicci set foot downstairs, he inquired anxiously after my health and reminded them fervently that, N'shallah, I would be well again soon. Nice people, indeed.

So that's my story about now. Let's just say that being back in my own house and bed in the States won't be entirely unwelcome.

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