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O Fim duma Viagem


MOROCCO | Thursday, 12 June 2014 | Views [416]

Not since Rome have I been so sure that I was going to get run over. In Rome it was the fault of the drivers. Here, it's because the pedestrians are insane.

I'd noticed that a little bit with my walk with Nathan and Erika Sunday, and then a bit more when we were expected to follow Nistrine in her mad dash across the street to get to the restaurant. But I didn''t realize just ow insane the pedestrians were until Erika and I set off to follow my host father to the center.

I don't think we ever crossed at a light, but if we did we definitely didn't wait for it to change color. Despite there being a lot of sidewalks, we couldn't take them because if we walked in the street, we'd be able to cross from one side to another when there was a break in the cars. It made me look forward to be finding my way on my own, because at least then I wouldn't have to choose between following my guide and getting run over.

Having my host family take me to the center was a very nice gesture, though. As was the hotel we stayed in together and the dinner the night before. Much nicer than the last study-abroad, which had me fly in Saturday and need to make my way to the center on Monday, following somewhat vague train directions. Oh, and 9it wasn't even the main building I would have all subseqent classes in. It was a special building just for a placement test. I much appreciated the extra level of early support.

We arrived without getting involved in a car accident and sat down for orientation.

They'd given us all gift bags which included a bottle of water, a packet of tissues, a packet of handwipes, a key chain, an ID card, an emergency contact card, a lanyard and an “IES” in giant letters card, a bottle of nail polish for the girls (I'm not sure if Nathan got anything else to compensate) some chocolate and cookies, a tram map, and a foldable coin purse I never figured out how to unfold.

Someone from the US Embassy got up to talk to us about safety in Morocco. It was mostly common-sense advice (don't carry around large amounts of cash, don't try and elbow your way to the center of protests, etc.) The person who was giving us this advice mentioned having served one year in Afghanistan. (My thoughts: One year, so that means it's a high-stress country. Yeah, obviously.)

After that, Nistrine got up to talk about etiquette for the host family and for IES. In summary, ask when you need something (like warm water for a shower) and imitate your host family if you're not sure what to do. Also, we should say hello each morning to IES staff in Arabic, and she told us how. “Salam alekem.” I could definitely do that. She also finally told us the all-important “jbet.”

Then each of our instructors got up to give an introduction to their classes. Mostly, they just went over their syllabi in French. The political science professor had printed out his schedule, and our Darija (Moroccan Arabic) instructor handed out the books, (really stapled sheets of paper) but everyone else just talked. I completely tuned out during the description of Sociology and Migrationbecause I had no intention of taking the class, but paid attention to everyone else.


The orientation had taken longer than expected, so we saved the tour of the facility for another day and boarded a bus for a tour of Rabat.


We began by getting off at the Hassan tower. Once upon the time (approximately 1196) the ruler had wanted to build the biggest mosque in Morocco so that the center of Morocco could be moved from Marrakesh to Rabat. The sultan died, so the mosque was never finished and the minaret remained a paltry 44 feet instead of the 80 it was hoped that it would reach. With the Lisbon earthquake, most of the mosque fell apart, but the minaret remains.

Not as tall as it could be.


 Across from that are a bunch of pillars that are supposed to look old, but were reconstructed relatively recently, and the Mausoleum of Mohamed the Fifth Complex. This was built far more recently (1967) and consisted of a Mausoleum, the bodies of several deceased rulers, and I believe a museum. None of them were open while we were there.


 After going around to take pictures, we got back on the bus and then off again at the Oudaih Kasbah. It was originally a military compound, but now serves far more civilian purposes. Has for many years, in fact. Between 1600 and 1666, it was a refuge of many people fleeing from Spain, and it was during this time that the Andalusian gardens were created, though they've obviously been maintained since. 


Before entering through intimidating gates into the Kasbah, we had the chance to go visit a traveling museum of artifacts from King Tut's tomb. The display was neat, but the fact that it closed while we were there wasn't really. I heard this creaking and looked up to see two people closing the giant doors and turned around to look at other people, wondering if we were no longer allowed to leave. We were once they opened a smaller door, and the closing of the gates were only to stop more people from entering, but I was very glad to be out in the cool air again.

I couldn't have gotten this picture without almost being trapped in a museum full of things to accompany the Egyptian dead to their afterilife.


 Our tour guide described the Kasbah as a city within a city, and I'd agree with that assessment. There were kids playing and cars trying to get through and houses and shops and everything that a mini-city needs. There was also a cafe with absolutely stunning views. Not just Rabat,, Sale, and the river between them, but the ocean too.


 After we'd spent some time there, we walked through the Andalusian gardens. Not “looked around” the Andalusian gardens. Not “strolled through” the Andalusian gardens. Walked through like there was nothing of interest to be seen and it was merely a shortcut between where we were and the bus. Personally, I thought it was gorgeous and would love to go back. Allegedly, it's supposed to be close to both our homes and the center, which I might believe if they hadn't made a point of driving us around significantly to confuse us as to distance. I'll probably go back. I do have time. (I love that! I'm so used to spending maybe two days and then moving somewhere new. It will be nice to spend significant time exploring one place.)

Why did no one else think this was even remotely interesting?


 We drove around in the bus some more so that we could see the sight of Rabat's major practice (a multi-year effort to built a luxury hotel, theater, and several other things) and then the bus drove us to the drop-off point for our host families and we went home.


 When I arrived, my host family was ready with rolls, cheese, and tea. Having learned from the past two non-breakfast meals, I ate more lightly, saying “jbett” after only one roll.


 Two hours later, Saeeda and Abir were going out to make photocopies and asked if I wanted to join them. I did, because it would be another chance to walk around a little.


 “Do you know what they're doing?” Abir asked while we were waiting for the photocopies to be made.


 I didn't even know what “they” she was talking about. There were a lot of people around us. The people standing a couple of feet away talking? The people carrying heavy-looking carts across the street?


 “They're photocopying it very small. To cheat. I'll probably do the same thing. I don't understand the material.”


 I was surprised by this admission from someone I barely knew, and not quite sure how I felt about accompanying her on her mission to cheat.


 As we were walking back, Abir saw several people she knew, so she stopped to talk to them. From what I can tell, she was stressing out and one of them was trying to help her. “Respiration.” He took several dramatized breaths.


 They finished that conversation and we started walking back. The person who had advised her to breath was then introduced to me.


 “Are you in university?” He asked.


What are you studying?”


After clarifying if he meant for the program or for the major, I told him “mathematics”


You're very génie then.”


I blushed and shook my head.


Here in Morocco, people who study math are génie.”


 Then he talked more to Abir and Saeeda in Arabic, and we said our goodbyes a block later.


 When we got back to the house, dinner was ready. Which was good, since I was starting to worry that this would turn out to be the one time I'd misjudged things, and I wouldn't get fed. But food arrived and I was able to eat more of it.


 Dinner was I believe turkey (it might have been chicken) with a spicy sauce. For dessert there was a yogurt with almonds and fruits in it. I sat back and let the Arabic wash over me without too many concerns. I missed a couple of times when someone addressed a question to me, but mostly it didn't matter.

When I was done eating the turkey, I started in on the yogurt. My spoon had scooped some up and was on the way to my mouth when my host mother, pointing at the chicken, told me to “kuli.”

 First of all, I'm in the middle of eating. What more could she ask of me? Secondly, and more importantly, how did I respond? I couldn't very well say “I'm full” when I was in the middle of eating, but it seemed like I needed to say something to stop her from taking a piece of turkey and putting it in front of me. I kind of laughed and hoped that sufficed.

 We finished dinner around 11:30. I hung out in the living room a little longer, then went into my room to sleep. It hadn't been as long as the day before, but I was still ready for sleep.



Tags: food, gardens, moroccan students, school, tour

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