It has been some time since I posted an entry. Honestly, blogging is whatever for me. I do it more out of obligation to share my travels with my folks (shoutout to my #1 roll dog! I love you Papa!). A great deal has happened since my last entry and even if I had 101 nights I could still not sufficiently describe all of my experiences. Below are some brief descriptions of the places I have visited throughout Europe and experiences I have had thus far. So my camera cord broke, so not many pictures for now.
Love and light
Last few weeks in Morocco
I was getting anxious for a new setting. Yet, I was equally anxious about leaving the life I had made for myself in Morocco— the overcrowded tramrides to school, my classes, the delicious fruits and fried sardines steps away from my home, and my weekly visits to the hammam. I had found my place there. Morocco transformed from merely a place of the exotic to my home, my life. I was used to waking up at 6:45 in the morning, freezing (yes freezing!), none of the houses in Morocco have heaters because they are designed for moderate weather. Sometimes I would wake up before my alarm and drift into semi-consciousness lulled by first call to prayer, then I would smile and go right back to bed. Oh I loved listening to Friday’s call to prayer. Unlike other days, when there would be an old man yelling and clearing his throat mid prayer, the man who called on Fridays had a lovely melodic voice that made me feel at peace. I became so used to the chaos that comes with navigating the streets in Morocco as a pedestrian, I find it bizarre now to see that pedestrians actually wait for the light to change. The food, the people, the music, my professors, my Moroccan family…all of this was apart of my new evolving identity and the thought of leaving it and starting all over again seemed daunting and necessary all at the same time. During my last few weeks, I really tried to be present. I tried to find a new beauty in things that I saw everyday like the beach or the lovely art in my neighborhood. I was ready to leave it and deeply tied to it. Oh, Morocco, my soul country, now I have a very special place in my heart for you!
So I packed my belongings and prepared for my departure, trying to condense four months of my life into one suitcase and a backpack. Hamdolilah, my x-roomate Cecelia was there to help me carry that heavy thing up and down stairs! Oof! I never want to travel with so much ever again! So we hopped on the train to Tangier, met a lovely soul on the train who shared her food with us, my last dose of the famous Moroccan hospitality. We got to the ferry station in Tangier MED and I felt tingly all over. SO excited to start a new journey! Of course sadness accompanied my excitement, but nothing was holding me back from starting this new chapter in my life. I buy my ferry ticket and proceed to show my passport to the security officer with a huge smile on my face because I was able to indulge in some Arabic greetings and that impressed him. And then his face shrieked, telling me to wait. Well. Ok. What could possibly be wrong?
He comes back with the chief of police and tells me I can’t leave Morocco until I renew my student visa! Which meant that I had to go all the way back to Rabat (2.5 hour journey). What?!?! Long story short, I called my program coordinator on the security guards phone telling him what kind of mess I was in and he talked to the Chief, tried to reason with him, offering to fax my renewed visa, but the Chief, with his heels planted, did not bend. His soul was ice cold. Thank God, my program coordinator sent a taxi up, put me in a hotel (very nice one) and sent me back to Tangier the next day. By this time I had just the slightest bit of sadness for leaving Morocco.Duccceeeesssssss!!!!
I took the ferry from Tangier to Algecieras, then a bus from Algeceiras to Sevilla and was finally reunited with my friend Cecelia at our hostel. Sevilla at night felt like something straight out of a movie. All the buildings were light up golden, which the cobbled stone streets reflected brilliantly. In the morning, I went on a free walking tour and had the most hilarious tour guide. He knew a lot about the culture and was very smart. That night, we went bar hopping trying different types of tapas. MMM mm mmm, those tapas were delicious! After a three glasses of some vino tinto and some tapas I was full and pretty toasty. On our last night in the hostel, everyone gathered on the terrace. There were like 6 people and like 5 bottles of wine. Needless to say, it was a memorable night. However, I will never drink that much before a day of travel again.
We departed in the morning, sluggish and hung over. I made it to the bus, by the grace of God, and slept like a baby almost the whole eight hours to Madrid. We arrived in Madrid in the late afternoon. It was a sharp contrast to the cozy, warm and bohemian Sevilla, with it’s huge buildings and gloomy weather, Madrid, was dry, cold and metropolitan. For the first two days, I hated it. And we were right on Gran Via which is in the middle of the most touristy part of town. And since I was always hungry during the ciesta (when most places close in Spain from 3-6) I always ended up eating in the very touristy overly expensive places. The city reminded me much of Times Square, New York, one of my least favorite places in the world. I was thinking to myself, damn, should have stayed in Sevilla longer. But as New Years approached things turned up. Met up with my professor from high school which was so delightful. I went to the Reina Sofia and saw Dali and Picasso’s work. For New Years, we went to Plaza de Sol with our twelve grapes, and bottle of champagne and ate a grape for every one of the last twelve minutes of 2012. It was crowded, it was cold, and it was raining. But no matter, it was an enjoyable experience that I will never forget.
My friend left and I, as planned, was going to Couch Surf. However, my hostess, having a last minute family emergency said she could no longer host me. I was like shit! I have no place to stay for the next four days! Then she called me back and said she would give me the keys! Bless her soul! She was an angel! She took me to a bar in the back alleys of Sol, and we drank sidra (apple cider), which had alcohol in it! We ate Fabada, which is a stew like dished made with white beans and clams. Oh it was amazing! She took me to a café, where a group meets weekly and speaks 20 minutes in Spanish and 20 minutes in English. I thought that was such a great idea! And they were all very generous. My hostess was the best! She cooked for me, showed me the city, and introduced me to lots of people. She made my time in Madrid fun and unforgettable.
Lisbon, I like to think of it as the cousin of San Francisco, with its rolling hills, tram cars, and colorfully painted houses tucked in between the river and the ocean. I was immediately enchanted by this city. I felt at home right away. My host gave me the keys, a map and told me all the places I needed to see before leaving Lisbon. Even though he was sick, he insisted in helping me in any way with information or advice. He knew so much about the history of Lisboa…again I felt like I was experiencing the culture more authentically because I was rolling with locals. I went to Sintra, a lovely little village with castles nestled in the mountains. And of course I could not go there without seeing the Moorish castle ;-). It was one of the most beautiful places I have seen—rivaling my experience in Sahara dessert at night. The views were amazing. And as winded and out of breath as I was, I still got goose bumps being there, humbled by the beauty before me.
Monday night was Fado night. Ok so, I learned that Fado music has origins that go back for more than 300 years, when women and men would sing about the country, about sailing, and the loves of their lives. I was told, that in Fado, one’s vocal ability comes second to one’s ability to convey emotion and passion to the audience. Mmm so, perhaps after a few glasses of wine, I could go up there and give it a go?
The club was dimly light, with blue Christmasy lights and orange glows from the ends of cigarettes. Again, I got goose bumps listening to the singers. Pedro, a guy I met through CouchSuring explained to me the phenomenon of “saudade” and the difficulty of translating it to English. He said it is like a mixture of nostalgia, sadness, and tranquility. Fado singers attempt to convey their saudade for…whatever to the audience. Reminiscent of the blues in the states.
London 1/9/2013- 1/18/2013
Colder than a witch’s tit in a brass bra. It was bizarre being in a country where English is spoken on the streets and the directions and street signs are all in English. One would think it would have been a sweet taste of the familiar for me. And it was, a little bit. I liked not having to translate my thoughts into Spanish, French or Arabic when I wanted to communicate with people. The British mannerism that I experienced reminded me of the states—polite and patient (as oppose to Morocco or Spain where it is not rude to talk over someone else). Yet, British English may as well have been another foreign language for me—especially in the north, in Yorkshire. I had to listen very carefully to decipher what I was hearing because the accent makes their English sound like a completely different language. Perhaps it is. I didn’t spend too much time meandering around London because I only spent a couple of days there and even with all the sleep I got in Kingston upon Hull, I was still utterly exhausted. I stayed with a woman I met in Morocco who lived in a great central location in London, just a few blocks from Tower Bridge. The most exciting part of London was the British museum. When I was a little girl, I used to want to be an Egyptologist. I was infatuated with mummies and pharaohs. I remember reading about the mummies the British took from Egypt to display in the British museum when I was in middle school and ever since I have wanted to visit the place. I spent 4 hours there. It was marvelous. The Egyptian and the Americas exhibits were my favorite ones. Hull was everything I needed at the moment. Spent some quality time with a good sister of mine who is getting her Ph. D in modern slavery at the university there in Hull. She was a lovely hostess. Also, since it was literally freezing, I spent most of my time inside watching the entire first season of Scandal, writing, and reading. It snowed there and it was beautiful!
I volunteered on a farm in Valdepenas, Spain which is in the middle of Sevilla and Madrid. Quietly situated in a valley of perpetual olive groves and hills, the farm was a world in and of itself. We had no internet, which I loved because I had a chance to really withdraw myself from this vortex and be present in the real. During the week, it was just me, a guy from France named David, Ahmed from Morocco and two dogs, Tikva and Luna. We all got along pretty well. The work was pretty light since the winter didn’t yield much harvest. We painted, cleaned, weeded, pruned, and laid the foundation for a new building. I loved looking at the sky at night. I experienced a great deal of nostalgia from gazing at the stars—it reminded me so much of the stars in the Sahara. All I could do was give thanks for such a full and adventurous life thus far.
Morocco in Spain…and Free Tapas
Well I would call it the staircase to heaven because the old city is basically a huge hill. Similar to the medinas of Morocco the neighborhoods were all a series of narrow cobbled stone streets. The Sacromonte, where most of the flamenco spots are located consisted of white buildings with Arabic ceramic plates, flower pots, and lovely designs on the exterior. It was nice to hear arabic on the streets again. I had so much nostalgia here. I also learned a lot of history while in Granada. It is the capital of Andalusia, former Moorish Spain. I learned that when the Christians took back the city the turned all of the mosques into Christian churches. So all of the churches in Granada have minarets.
I would say I really became connected to the people I met at the hostel. Everyone had a story, some traveled with a friend, some alone, like me, but we all were curious about the world. I have learned from traveling how human beings live, breathe and fight for their beliefs, ultimately only wanting to feel connected with one another in the end.
Cheers to the human experience!
Keep shinning. One people and One love.