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"I fly because it releases my mind from the tyranny of petty things." --Antoine de St-Exupery

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Third Continent

Hard to believe that I'm about to be finished with my three weeks straight of weekend traveling. Last weekend was amazing. I went to Morocco with my study abroad program so it was another weekend that was completely planned for us. Of course there are pros and cons to having less flexibility, but I think the pros definitely outweighed the cons this weekend.

We left early Thursday morning to take a bus ride (about 2.5 hours) to where we would catch the ferry. I'd never really been on a boat like that before and it was sort of windy so when we walked around the ground would move unexpectedly and it felt like I was wearing the "drunk goggles" they gave us in D.A.R.E. It was only about a half hour boat ride or so and it took us to Ceuta which is a Spanish province but on the continent of Africa. We then caught another bus and got through to boarder to Tetuán, the city where we spent the day and where our hotel was. Our guide for the day was "Michael Douglas" and he was awesome. We learned some Arabic words and felt completely free and comfortable to ask him questions about Islam all day. It was very interesting to hear the answers and reasons behind Islam from someone who is Islamic.  

That day we went to la Escuela Taller de Tetuán which was an art school where students learn the ins and outs of all the intricate details of their art. There was everything from painting on wood to cutting it to doing work with metal, etc. The pieces were amazing. Hard to believe that students did them.

Our group plus "Michael Douglas" right next to me on the bottom
After that we had a typical Moroccan lunch complete with vegetable soup, shish kebabs, couscous, steamed veggies, and mint tea and cookies to complete it. Mint tea is amazing there. We checked into our hotel then and headed out to the city.

Mmm mint tea

Tetuán is a city that contains a medina which is a section of the city that has very narrow and confusing streets. Tetuán's medina has 1,800 streets, and it is a very smaaaaall area. For that reason, and because it was a pretty crowded market, we had about four burly men with us as guards. It was not my favorite part of the trip. The streetw were very crowded, dirty, and smelly when you were deep within the medina. It was a good experience though. We saw a tannery, something that I will never ever do again, learned about some of the natural self-cleaning products they have, and talked more about Islam with our guide. All in all it's a day I wouldn't take back, but I wouldn't necessarily repeat it again.

In his hand is natural shampoo and the pile of stuff are natural teeth cleaners

The tannery...

Part of the market

The next day we went to Tangier which is one of the largest cities. We went to their Coke Bottling Company and got to see the whole assembling process. I sort of felt like I was coming out of an episode of Mr. Rogers when they have the "intermission" type thing and see what's going on in the world. It was pretty cool actually. To make it even better, six of us were wrapped in plastic wrap and then we all got to sample some of their drinks that are only sold in Morocco.

Me, Lauren, and Alison at the Coke factory

Then we took a beach break. Unfortunately we didn't have swimsuits, but it was still amazingly beautiful. After about a half hour there we went to have the best lunch ever. I think it was something called chicken pastry, but I'm not sure. All I know is that it was some of the best food I've tasted. And there were french fries, tea, and cookies which made it all the better.

Beautiful beach

A few of us

Las Cuevas (caves) de Hercules were next which was really neat since there's a cutout of Africa backwards in the rock so that sailors could find their way, or so the story goes. Soon after that, we rode camels. It was fine until I felt some slobber on my ankle and looked down to find that the camel behind me was all about going after my foot. It was definitely the troublemaker of the group and didn't give up even though one of the "trainers" was next to it the whole time.

Had to put in another beach shot

Africa! (backwards)

Caught in the act

Still paranoid at the end of the ride

The rest of the afternoon was filled with shopping in the market. This market was a lot smaller and less crowded, so we were allowed to go off on our own for a couple of hours. Bargaining was a necessity in Morocco and I think overall my friend and I did well. That night we had a relaxed dinner and went to bed pretty much right away.

Our final day was by far my favorite. We went to a city called Chefchaouen. The drive there alone was worth the trip. The whole time in Morocco I would see things that reminded me so much of El Salvador, but this drive made me feel like I was in El Salvador at times. Insanely beautiful. Chefchaouen is a city in the Rif Mountains that just sort of appears on the hills.

Pretty drive

We toured the city which was probably my favorite part due to the blue and white walls. They paint the bottom half of the walls blue and the top half white due to a tradition that started when the town was Jewish (now Islamic). They repaint the walls four times a year which I think is just amazing dedication. The whole culture in general of the town felt so much more inviting and just comfortable. It is definitely a place I could see going back to and maybe even staying for a longer period of time. We got to shop around again that afternoon and then had lunch and headed back to the ferry to take us to Sevilla.

Lauren and I

PC would be proud of the amount of the pictures I took here

On Sunday, my friend found out about something called el Encuentro de Alternativas which was a festival about taking care of the environment. Basically it was a hippie festival, something I would never have expected to find in sophisticated Sevilla, and was so much fun. Good music, good food, good shopping stands, good company, just overall a good time and nice break from the formality of Sevilla. I love Sevilla but I do miss all the diversity of Madison so it was nice to see and participate in a different part of Sevilla.

School is finally starting to get a little stressful. I have two group projects coming up the week after next and with the weather being in the 80s, it's pretty hard to get work done. Plus, we have off school next week for Semana Santa aka Holy Week. I'm leaving this Thursday night to go to London with my friend Vanessa and am very excited. We have tickets to see Les Miserables on Saturday night! I'll get back on Monday night and will spend a few days in Sevilla before going to my family's beach house for probably the majority of the weekend. May be a little tricky to fit in school, but I'll do my best :)

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