depart at 5:30am, arrive at 10:30pm

Posted in Uncategorized by Diana on March 10, 2011

A couple things I forgot to mention about yesterday:

1) I went to the US Consular Office in Casablanca to renew my passport. In my quest for the entrance, I met a nice gendarme, perhaps a captain, who not only spoke Tashleheit but was from my area of Essaouira! How cool is that?! He’s not from my village but his house is in one of the douars close to mine.

2) I was beyond excited to renew my passport at the Consular Office, mostly because that meant I’d be on US territory. Speaking Arabic helped win the cordial assistance of a few gendarmes who were posted outside the office. However, my brief – yes, less than an hour – visit to American territory lifted my spirits a lot. No kidding. How wonderful it was to feel the tables turned: I wasn’t asking Moroccans for help; rather, Moroccans were asking the US for some, namely applying to visas to visit the US.

Today…where do I even begin?

5:00am: Woke up to catch the train.

5:45am: Leave Rabat Ville. Board train. Destination Marrakech. (By the way, I’ve taken the train at this time before, twice.)

8:30am: Train breaks down for the first time. Wait for who knows how long. Starts up again.

10:00am: Train breaks down for the second time. Wait for who knows how long. People are stepping off the train and hanging out on the side of the tracks. Something is broken (clearly). After waiting for who knows how long, passengers start to leave the train, walk through a field, and stand on the side of the road to hail a ride.

First souk bus arrives. BIG group of people rush to that bus. I stay put. “Let’s wait a few more minutes and see if this train can get its operations together.”

Some time later, second souk bus arrives. Train is still not moving. It’s decided – I’m getting off the train and boarding that souk bus! Yes, that means I too am walking along a field with my backpack and duffel bag. Oh, the true Moroccan experience, ay?!

11:00am: It costs me 40 dirhams for the bus. Bus finally gets going. 200 kms until Kech. Better to be sitting in a transit that’s moving rather than one that’s stalled.

Stop at Settat, small city and many field surrounding it. Beautiful small town. drop off passengers, pick up new passengers.

Stop at a bus station somewhere else. Same deal.

2:00pm: Stop somewhere that’s 10kms outside of Kech to switch souk buses. Everyone gets off on and boards another. Without even calling “shotgun,” I am given the passenger seat next to the driver. Now I have a good view of the road ahead.

2:45pm: Finally arrive in Kech, a full 4 1/2 hours later than I planned. Thank goodness I wasn’t planning on returning to site today because there’s no way I’d make it. Head to the Ouarzazate/Kelaa M’Gouna window and purchase a spot. I stop at the hanut inside the bus station. The guy running it is friendly and speaks Tash, woohoo! I purchase a cheese-and-jam sandwich, chocolate croissant, pack of cookies, and small carton of orange juice. This is my breakfast. I’m on my way. yet again.

3:00pm: Board bus headed to Kelaa M’Gouna. The passenger sitting next to me is a young university student. He speaks enough English to have a conversation. I tell him how I really feel about Morocco: I love my experience but there are days when Moroccans make it tough for me to like the place. Specifically – and here, I give concrete examples – the harassment. The Chinois, Japons, Koreans, gazelles, fish and chips, and how much. Finally, I am letting a Moroccan know what I think of the males here. It’s about dang time.

Predictable conversation topics. I ask him how he learned English. He tells me he learned in school but that he also had an English girlfriend before. (Flag goes up in my mind.) Blah blah blah, I tell him I’m an American who’s working in Morocco for two years. There are about 200 volunteers like myself in Morocco. He tells me he has American friends.

“Oh really,” I say. “Are your friends still here? Or how did you meet them?”

“I meet them online,” he tells me. (Another flag goes up in my head.) “I have many friends in different countries from all over the world.” (Sure…oh-kaay.)

3:30pm: Bus finally leaves the station. I will get to Kelaa M’Gouna sometime today, inshallah. I pop in my earphones and take a nap. I wake up a few times and out of the corner of my eye I see the Moroccan student writing in a notebook.

5:30pm: Rest stop on the Tishka pass. I hop out to use the bit lma, hasak, and order a kefta sandwich. Finally, I’ve been craving to try one. This is my lunch.

5:45pm: Hop back on the bus, journey resumes. Seeing as I’m up, the Moroccan student hands me the notebook he was scribbling in. Oh goodness, I think, what is he handing me?

Turns out to be what could only be described as a futile attempt at a romantic story about how the sun is like love. Sunrise, sun at mid day, and sunset.

Awk-ward. I knew something like this was coming. How did I respond? You’re going to laugh.

I pointed out his grammatical mistakes. Yup, I really did. I decided the best way I could ignore this Moroccan form of…how do I even describe this?…not even assert but more liken to attempt at “romancing” (and here I want to puke) is to simply put on my English language editor hat.

I told him where he could delete a word, change a tense, and correct subject-verb-object sentences. Then I returned the notebook to him and popped my headphones back into my ears. At this point, I wasn’t listening to the radio anymore.

The higher up the Tisska pass the bus traveled, the colder it got and sprinkle turned to rain. Pretty soon, the bus was driving in snow! Too cool! The mountainsides were blanketed in a thin white sheet of snow. Any of it that fell onto the bus or road immediately melted. I took a few pictures, of course!

7:00pm: Sun has set behind the wet gray clouds. We drive pass Ighrem. We drive mass Agouim, ahh, my CBT site.

8:30pm: Stop in Ouarzazate.

10:30pm: Finally, arrive in Kelaa M’Gouna!!! lHamdullilah!

I walk from the bus stop towards the direction of two PCVs who are picking me up. While I was waiting, however, a very nice older man, possible one who works with the buses that go through the town, asked where I was going. Or maybe was suggesting that I wait somewhere better lit. I thanked him but told him I was meeting my friends. Then, during the brief walk to my friends, a taxi stopped and asked where I was going. Clearly, my appearance, backpack, and duffel bag were dead giveaways that I wasn’t from the area. I told them “here” as in Kelaa M’Gouna. Again, the passenger asked where, as in perhaps they could give me a lift so that I wouldn’t be walking alone at night. I told them my friends were coming. Satisfied with my response, they bid me a friendly “bslama” and continued on their way.

Two minutes later, I saw my friends walking towards me. Goodness, was I happy to finally have arrived at my destination! No more transits for the day/night! We walked back to the apartment of the PCV in Kelaa M’Gouna. They had dinner ready for me – Allah bless their parents! – the moment I walked in.

After dinner and hanging out for a little bit, I am exhausted. Long day, long trip. but, in some respects, it was all worth it. I mean, I ended the day with a few more stories to add to my Moroccan experience.

What more could a PCV ask for? 🙂


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