Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Surreality of a White Horse Prancing in the Rain

Friends and Family,

Marhaba/Labas-Labas/Bonjour/Salaam. I don't really have much to recount yet, but I'll just provide a brief overview as to
what has been happening so far on my journey:
Around 3 p.m. this afternoon my plane landed in Casablanca at
The Mohammed V Airport. The weather was balmy and cloudy; a comfortable 50 or so degrees fahrenheit. Conveniently, about four other girls
from my program were on the same flight as me over from Paris, which was nice because we immediately were able to band together and get through the airport together to find the woman waiting for us at the other side of customs with a sma
ll piece o
f paper reading "IES".
We took a big rickety cab filled with our luggage and about 8 members of an exquisitely and traditionally dressed african family. These men at the airport swooped around our van, insisting they put our luggage in for us and then harassing us to pay them. On the way out of the airport, I saw my first ferrel dog with a brown and black fur, slender build, and pointed semi-folded ears.

Then we arrived at the airport hotel, which is just about 10 minutes down the highway littered with semi-run down houses that almost l
ook like southwestern pueblos. The rest of the landscape is incredibly flat and filled with green vegetation and palm trees. The lobby of the hotel has an unfilled fountain in the center of it that remi
nds me of the one that was in our lobby when James and I stayed in the arab-inspired "casbah" style in Madrid. We haven't been in the hotel for more than ten minutes when the director of the program is insisting that we eat something at the hotel restaurant, which is oddly enough italian food. Twenty minutes later, our bags are in our room and a the group of girls that all found one another at the airport find ourselves alone in the dining room being served pizza. Unfortunately, I realized that when I was served a veggie pizza with cheese that they misunderstood my "végétalian" for being "végétarian".

I felt really bad, but they insisted that they bring me a pizza that I could eat. As soon as my waiter entered the kitchen, he immediately started yelling in arabic to all of the kitchen staff for their mistake, and his booming voice filled the entire dining room. I was completely embarrassed. However, as I soon found out, Moroccans hold pride in a very high regard and don't like to be wrong, or wrong a guest. Typically, if a situation like this arises, it results in a whole lot of yelling. Reminds me of another culture I know that is located diagonally across the mediterranean...

After the lunch, we had a while to relax and meet the other students that were around the hotel. Some of us walked around and checked out the different facilities that the hotel had to offer. It had a very extensive spa area, sauna, and even a hamam. It also had a well stocked bar and lounge area that was filled with predominantly men smoking cigarettes. There are ashtrays all over the hotel. We all had dinner all together at a big long table at the same italian restaurant. Personally, I was pretty disappointed that we weren't having local cuisine. How ironic: first day in Morocco, and I eat spaghetti and pizza. Where's the hummus??
At dinner, we learned the standard Moroccan greeting though, which I will share with you:
Person 1: Labas?
Person 2: Labas.
From what I gather, it seems to be very similar to the
french greeting of "Ça va?". You're basically saying "things are good?" "things are good".

Anyways, that's a re-cap. Tomorrow we begin our adventure. It's a 7 a.m. wake up and by 8:30 we will be on a bus first to Rabat and then to Fes to begin our 2 week stay with our first host family.

I apologize for the mundane post, but I felt it necessary to set the scene. Hope everyone reading is doing well.