Sunday, August 3, 2008

Summer Days, Driftin´ Away

And I don´t mind spending the last of them in Barcelona!

Wow, I think this is the first time I´ve had a solid hour to sit down and write anything in the past month and a half. I´ve been busy and tired to the bone, and it´s been fabulous.

I guess I´ll start where it all started...I flew into Madrid on June 10th to spend a week at Pueblo Ingles... a program that brings 20 English speakers and 20 Spanish speakers together so that the Spanish can improve their English... all the English speakers have to do is talk about ourselves and drink all the Spanish wine our hearts could desire, all on Pueblo Ingles´ dime...not bad. We stayed in a beautiful small town in the Spanish countryside called La Alberca, which is famous for it´s iberian ham. It´s in the Spanish province of Salamanca, the city where I studied abroad way back when. It was great to be back.

After Pueblo Ingles, I hung out in Madrid for a few days with my new Spanish and English friends before heading down to El Puerto de Santa Maria, a beach town near Cadiz, in the south of Spain, where I did training week for the English Summer Camp I´d be working at. Training week kept me busy from early morning until late at night... and that was only a taste of what was to come. When we actually started working at a beautiful whitewashed monastery in a smaller town called Santi Pietri, I realized they expected us to work 24 hours a day. Between the teaching 4 hours per day of lessons, 2 hours of arts and crafts and having meals, evening activities and putting to bed the kids, and of course some time in there for sleep, they also expected us to find some time to plan 20+ hours per week of lessons...

But despite the lack of sleep, I liked being that busy. It´s nice to feel like you´ve really earned the cold beers you´re drinking on a hot day in the South of Spain, during your one day off per week, and its nice to go for a swim in the Mediterranean during your 2 hour break and just forget it all, letting it drift away with the waves.

The thing I´ll take away from the summer is the amazing people I´ve met from all over the place... Ireland, England, Zimbabwe, Australia... and of course the US. It was hard saying goodbye as I set off for Morocco to meet up with my college roommate Johanna.

Meeting up with Johanna, however, was great. As I said in an earlier post, I was so impressed by her ability to speak not one, but two Moroccan languages, which if I have it correctly are Darisia (spelling?) and one of the 3 Berber dialects, Taselhit (spelling?), which they speak in Johanna´s town in the south of Morocco near the Sahara desert.

Johanna was great for filling me in on all the cultural aspects of Morocco and making new Moroccan friends. More than once we were invited to have tea or lunch at random Moroccan´s houses whom we had met on the train, or in shops around town. I was excited about the prospect, but with only 6 days in Morocco, we had to politely decline as Johanna explained they "trick" you into thinking it will only take an hour or so, and then Kazam, after a 2 hour lunch they insist you stay for a two hour nap, and before you know it the day is gone. But it was nice to at least see the hospitality offered that Moroccan´s are famous for.

We started in Tangier, an international city if Ive ever seen one. When being hustled by cab drivers and street vendors, if I didn´t respond in French, they´d try me in English, then Spanish and maybe even German. The Moroccan men that lusted after us, and on one occastion followed us, because we weren´t covered the way a Moroccan girl would be, tried the same tactics of harassing us in every language imaginable.

But aside from that I loved everything about the trip. We went to some beautiful beaches outside of Tangier, and after a few days, made our way down to Fez, which is a much more typical Moroccan city. On the hottest train ride of my entire life, from Tangier to Fez, Johanna of course met some Moroccan´s who recommended us a tour guide in Fez, which is apparently necessary since the city is such a ridiculous maze of teeny tiny pedestrian streets, some of which are so skinny you have to walk single file just to fit through.

We set up an appointment and at 9 a.m. the morning after we arrived in Fez, Khalid, our tour guide met us and showed us the ins and outs of "The Medina" or the center city of Fez. Our group consisted of me, Johanna and an Iranian girl who was on vacation in Fez, who said that Morocco was a very liberal Arabic country compared to Iran. Johanna and I had much the opposite opinion about Morocco v.s the US, and Johanna decided to voice that opinion about every half hour to Khalid, who was very kind and patient with his explanations. We stayed with Khalid until 10 p.m., visiting the leather tannery, the tapestry production areas, a few madrassas (islamic schools), the silver teapot stores, and of course the carpet bazaar, where I spontaneously bought a persian rug and now have to lug the damn thing home. But it´s beautiful so I am happy.

Khalid´s tour was one of the highlights of my trip and stands out as a prime example of Moroccan hospitality, willing to do anything to show us the experience we were hoping to have and always availble for help beyond the tour for as long as we were in Fez.

The day after, Johanna and I went outside of Fez to some Ancient ruins built in the 3rd centry BD called Volubilis and then spent the rest of the afternoon in Meknes, which is, without having seen Marrakesh or Casablanca, so far my favorite Moroccan city.

Johanna left on Saturday morning and I took a plane to Barcelona that same afternoon. Unfortunately after a week of miraculously feeling fine, the "stomach bug" decided to hit me the night before my flight. I guess Í deserve it for eating things more unsanitary than a piece of chewing gum stuck to the floor of a public bathroom, but I still say it was worth it. The Tagines (Moroccan meat and vegetable crock-pot style dish), Pastilla (meat pie), honey pastries, nougat, "Jellyfish pancakes" (as Johanna and I deemed a think pancake-like breakfast food) and sweetened mint tea, were all delicious.

After throwing up in the small plane bathroom, I took it easy last night in Barcelona, my favorite city in the world, and had a glorious night´s sleep of almost 12 hours... the first time in 2 months. Today I took a walk down memory lane hitting up some of my favorite old sites of Barcelona and walking by the apartment where I lived 3 summers ago.

Time flies, and soon I will be home...

No comments: