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O Fim duma Viagem

North of the City

MOROCCO | Friday, 25 July 2014 | Views [286]

 While we were eating lunch, the woman who did pretty much all interactions with us at the auberge came over and told us that we weren't going to be able to ride mules today because it was too hot out. We asked if it would work to go the next day at 9 in the morning. She said probably, but she needed to check. (It wouldn't.)

So we changed our plans and decided to to to the Chefchouen Mdina instead. As we were getting out of the taxi, Nathan made a comment about how it was closer to Senegal than Rabat, and that proved to be true. I stopped at a store to admire scarves (I always admire scarves, regardless of whether I intend to buy them) and the owner immediately appeared to tell me the price and start haggling with me. He was less aggressive and didn't follow me out of the store, so it was a considerable improvement.

Chefchouen is farther north than Rabat, so most of the people we met had Spanish, and not French, as their second language. This is good if you're fluent in Spanish, less good if you're not. At one point, I was inspecting a stone figurine and asked how much it was. “Ochenta.” Theoretically, I know the numbers in Spanish. I've haggled in Spanish before. I know enough to function at a basic tourist level. But my brain was not ready to process Spanish, so I needed Cynthia to translate. I consided for a moment before deciding I didn't want to have to deal with that and left.

The next shop I went into was more a convenience store than anything else. They had a few books, and I wanted to look around a bit. The salesperson asked me (in French) if I spoke Spanish. I told him no, and said I speak French? (I was trying to ask him if he did. My Spanish is limited, rusty, and buried between four other languages.) He said no. He also didn't speak English. Then he asked if I spoke Japanese. I knew he was joking, but I still responded (in Japanese) “Yes, you speak Japanese?” (Again, I meant to say that I spoke Japanese, but I added a question at the end, and without a pronoun I can translate that however I want. I prefer that it was me asking him the question back then questioning my own language ability, though the latter's probably more appropriate.)

We did shopping for the people still on our list. Which, at this point, was down to the people who were hard to buy for. What can you bring back someone who's in the process of trying to get rid of most of what they own? What can you bring a priest from a Muslim country? What can you bring an anarchist from a still pretty authoritarian country? Rock collection?

It was Chefchouen, so we were offered weed. Constantly. Mostly, though not exclusively, Nathan. I noticed someone trying to sell it to me once, but the others didn't. I'm not sure if it was because everyone, including weed sellers, liked Nathan better, or the rest of us had just gotten a lot better at ignoring shifty guys in the street. Could have been both.

Shortly after being offered opium (my 8th grade Health teacher who talked about how marijuana was a gateway drug leading to opium addiction: “I told you so!”) someone approached Nathan and asked in a soft voice “do you want some peace? Peace with the pipe?” Nathan turned to the rest of us. “Hey guys,” he said in a loud voice. “Want to buy some weed?” we looked at him with confused-to-worried expressions of what he was thinking. He turned back to the guy. “Nah, I think we're good.”

It didn't stop us from being offered more, but it provided a bit of amusement. And yes, there was a pretty consistent smell of marijuana smoke as we were walking.

Chefchouen was pretty, I guess. I mean, it was blue. Blue's a pretty color.

I mean, what's not to like about blue?

 Several of the shops sold the same kind of knit sweater. It was a simple pattern- stockinette, with a slight pattern on the neck, knit up with bulky weight yarn. It looked boring, so I suppose the bulky yarn was the only saving grace to needing to the same pattern over and over instead of throwing in cables everywhere. Either that or the people making them fall in a the considerable percentage of knitters who don't get as easily bored as me. In any case, bulky yarn meant one thing- somewhere, there was a real yarn store!

 I found one. It was a lot like the yarn store in Japan (I couldn't buy a skein of yarn as was. I'm pretty sure I needed to take the yarn to the counter and have the salesperson measure out the yarn from there. I wouldn't know because I didn't buy anything in Chefchouen.) I stroked yarn for a bit, then told Cynthia that she should probably get me out of there, because I didn't think anyone on the program realized just how much time I could spend in a yarn store.

 Mmm. Yarn.

 When we were done shopping, we just had to find a taxi. We wandered around by the side of the street for a bit until someone asked us if we were looking for a taxi. He then led us through non-car roads and down a flight of stairs to wait for a taxi. Once it arrived, his leading us there earned him a decent chunk of the comission.

 There was confusion at the beginning, but that was solely in getting the proper amount of change. It would cost us 70 dirhams to go back to Auberge Dardara, just as it had cost as 70 dirhams to get from there. So we paid, and off we went. Near the end of the trip, the taxi driver acted confused and said he'd thought we wanted Dardara centre ville, which seemed to be just a gas station. To get to the auberge 3 kilometers away would be another 20 dirhams.


 We got back to the hotel and killed time. Read: took naps. I'd intended to go out and take pictures during sunset, but when I woke up it was 8:00 and done being pretty colors. I was no longer tired, so I did some reading and writing. At 9:30, I decided it was time to wake up Cynthia and discuss going to dinner.

 While I was using the bathroom, she saw Nathan walk past. We figured that they'd decided to go to dinner without us. Just to be sure, we knocked on the door to their room. Sleepy voices asked us what time it was. Natasha and Erika were still in the room, sleeping. They hadn't realized Nathan left.

 We figured he was probably at dinner. “If he's eating alone, we should sit down next at the table next to him, conspicuously. Then we realized he wouldn't be sitting alone, he'd be sitting with the new friends he'd made on the walk to dinner. He wasn't doing either. He wasn't anywhere we could see.

 We texted him, though he probably didn't have his phone on him. He didn't, but he did show up a minute later for unrelated reasons. He'd heard the bathroom door close, mistaken that for the door to Cynthia and my room closing and us walking out, and gone to join us for dinner. He never answered where he'd been when he realized we weren't in fact eating, or why he thought abandoning his roommates to starve was a good idea.

 During dinner, we realized that our bottle of olive oil was mostly empty. So someone went up to switch it with a fuller bottle at an empty table. It still wasn't that full. In fact, by the time we were done it was pretty empty.

 We ate dinner next to another table of Americans. They were talking loudly enough that we could hear them during lulls in our own conversation. At one point, we'd just quoted Mean Girls, and then there was a silence long enough for us to hear their discussion about issues in contemporary Moroccan society, or something else suitably intellectual. Erika commented on how inferior our conversation felt by comparison. Within minutes we'd moved on to a similarly intellectual topic, though we'd already forgotten how that transition had been logical. By the time they left, we were in the middle of a pretty in-depth conversation about communism. Which is the real test of a good group. Not “can you have intellectual conversations,” but “can you jump from a very pop-culture (or fringe) non-academic subject to a topic like communism without contrivance?” If you can, you pass.

 We went back to our rooms, but not without staring at the sky for a bit. The stars. How had I not noticed the stars the night before? They were so gorgeous. Like a picture from an astronomy book. Enough stars to blend together, instead of just standing out in distinct and removed points.

 For however much I like the civilization of big cities, you just don't get that kind of beauty in them.

Tags: blue, communism, olive oil, shopping, stars, yarn

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