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O Fim duma Viagem

On My Own

MOROCCO | Wednesday, 30 July 2014 | Views [313]

I still had some last-minute shopping I needed to do. At this point, it was only a couple specific things that didn't match the couple of specific things that other people needed. So I decided to test myself and go shopping in the Mdina alone.

The first thing I wanted was some spices. My mother had mentioned that she wanted some, so off I went in search of the spice store we'd went to last time. (Strictly speaking, it didn't need to be the same store. But I knew that the store we'd been in last time sold a mix, which was the best thing to buy when you weren't sure what individual spices you should pick up.) I thought I kind of remembered how to get there, so off I went.

The Mdina was crowded. I'm not sure what made it seem so bad, but it seemed more crowded than normal. Maybe it was just the knowledge that I'd soon be back in a country where physically pushing the stranger in front of you was not considered a valid way to get through a pedestrian gridlock. Block after block, I hoped that this was the right way and vowed I would take a different route back.

I kept passing stores that sold spices and wondering “is it worth it to go all the way back?” In all likelihood, the answer was probably no. But I still felt like I was on the right route, and the alternative required me deciding which of the spice shops looked most promising and asking them if they had mixtures without knowing if they did. Continuing forward with blind (and overplaced) faith in my directional memory was a much easier option.

I wasn't sure if I would recognize it. I remembered it as being on the left side of the street, and I remembered the turtles. The turtles weren't much of a guarantee, since they could have been moved. Or escaped. Or been tragically eaten by the hordes of street cats. But the fact that there had been turtles in the middle of the street meant the street needed to be wide enough for there to be space for the turtles and man to sit. This meant that for most of the walk, I didn't need to worry that I would miss it. The streets were too narrow for me to even stand still in the middle of them.

When we went out shopping for spices the alst time, we'd started in a different place. So I wasn't sure if I was in fact going to the right place, and my sense of how far I should walk was completely off. It seemed like I must have gone too far and I should just give up and decide which spice store to use instead. But I kept walking. And then the street expanded.

I saw a man sitting out on the street with some spices. I'm pretty sure he was a continuation of the spice shop. Then I saw the turtles. (There was still a little one that was valiantly if uselessly trying to push his way out of the box. There were also two large ones that were trying to climb over the edge) Then I saw the spice shop.

 I'd spent some time mentally recalling the area around the spice shop. I'd also spent a little time thinking of how I'd ask for a mixture of spices in French. I'd spent absolutely no time considering how much I wanted to buy. So when the man asked “250 grams?” I just went “sounds reasonable” and nodded. I didn't realize until he was handing me the bag and I was paying him that 250 grams is a lot, both to use up and to pay for.

 With the spices in hand, I could go back. I didn't want to go back the way I'd come, so I decided to try cutting through the smaller streets in the Mdina. In a way, it was a test of my abilities. I'd lived here for six weeks, but could I find my way to my house without using the three major roads I was familiar with.

 I walked, guided by my sense of “my house is thataway” and “this street looks like it's not going to dead end.” The latter proved amazingly accurate, since I never once walked halfway down a street, realized that the only people there were going to their houses because it didn't go through, sigh, and turn around slightly sheepishly. I zigzagged my way through, going to streets that had more and more people. Nothing near as crowded as the way down had been.

 I was on a street that I was pretty sure would lead straight to Sidi Fatah which was made more promising by the decent number of people who were with me. It seemed to be a market street, which was neat in that all of the people were Moroccan, unlike other parts of the Mdina. So it was nice when I was walking past fruits and vegetables. Less nice when I was walking past protein.

 The smell of fish, fresh from the ocean. Try and ignore it and walk on. Oh God. The fish is just staring at me. Look elsewhere. Look on the other side of the street. See! Vegetables! Good. Good. Oh God Oh God. The good thing is that that animal head doesn't have open eyes. The bad thing is that that animal head is a cow head. And... oh, look! That's an entire cow carcass. OK. OK. More fish. Still freaky, but probably preferable. Keep walking. Try not to look and... dead chicken. Oh God. Live chickens, cooped together. They almost look like they know what's going to happen to them. And the smell of dead fish and dead animal... I can't do this!

 I ducked into the first side street I saw and kept walking. I wasn't really sure where I was going. At that point, I would have been content to walk until I saw a gate out of the Mdina, then skirt the edge of that until I found the gate for my street. It would have been vastly inefficient, but it would have reduced the number of dead and dying animals I saw on the way. I didn't really care where I went, as long as it wasn't down another street like that. So I kept walking away from it.

 “Stop,” a small voice in my mind commanded me when I'd emerged out of a small street into a busier one. “Stop and look at that building.” Yes, it looked familiar. Was that.... yes. It looked familiar as a building that I passed to get from my house to the Sidi Fatah meeting point. Was this really Sidi Fatah? I turned around and saw the sign for “Gateaux” that was the last store I passed on my way home from school before turning into my street. I'd somehow gotten home.

 I turned down that street, and then promptly lost all self-satisfaction at finding my house by walking past the impasse that led to my house and not realizing it until I reached Mohammed V Street. At which point I needed to turn around and sheepishly head back.

 Being able to navigate my way through the side streets of the Mdina was a valuable test of my familiarity with Rabat. But I don't think I want to do that ever again.

Tags: fish, shopping, spices, wandering

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