Paella. Believe the Hype.

Spain was, in short, glorious.

After a morning of Arabic (I was the only one who had class Friday which made it even lamer) and a four-hour, sweaty bus ride to Tangiers (a place that would merit its own weekend excursion, actually), we got a taxi to the port and took a ferry across to Tarifa. The orginal plan was to continue on to a city called Algeceiras but by that time it was 8:45 and the last bus to Algecerias was leaving at 9. (There is a weird time zone change from Morocco to Spain).

So, throwing out the idea of Algeciras, we asked the people working in the cafe for a hotel (not hostel) recommendation and they gave us some directions. Upon arriving we found the hotel clean and adorable. And only 100 Euro for all three of us for two nights! I’m not sure if that’s a good rate but sounded reasonable to me–a little over 15, each, per night. After putting our stuff down (I love that I packed the lightest out of us three–even lighter than the guy in our group) we went out and got dinner in a cafe. Brynn and Pete took every opportunity to drink something alcoholic–drinking in public (even at a cafe) is severely looked down on in Morocco. Those two sure can put it away.

The next day we slept in until “ten” (really nine, Morocco time) and went to the beach until around one or two. I had to buy a towel since I completely forgot to bring one with me… across the Atlantic… at all! Haha. Now I have a cheapo towel to remember Spain by. Its pretty at least. I was very careful not to get sun burned and it was delightful. Even though its seperated from Morocco by only a little bit of water (one could actually see Morocco from the beach) it was so much less humid and several degrees cooler. When we’d had enough sun we went back to town to do some shopping but realized that all the stores were totally closed until like 5pm for the siesta. So that was a bust. We went back to the hotel and napped. After our nap we ate at a pretty nice restaurant, then did some window shopping and finished up the evening with dinner.

To your left, a handsome young man. To your right, um... not so much.
To your left, a handsome young man. To your right, um... not so much.

Since we were in Spain but we weren’t really going to any historic sites or anything we took the opportunity to delight our tastebuds in hyped Spanish foods–namely, tapas and paella. First off, tapas. OVERRATED. Don’t bother. They give you what looks like potato salad and put it onΒ  bread and expect that to be your meal. First off they totally skimped on the bread so half of our tapas went uneaten. Secondly, the stuff we chose didn’t really taste that good. After the disappointement of the tapas, we were delighted when the paella was brought out and it was ~delectable~ even though it contained all manner of questionable seafood. Steering clear of anything that wasn’t chicken, fish, or those small shrimp I’ve had before, I scarfed my portion of paella in no time. I am determined to learn how to cook it when I get home.

Yummmmmmm.....
Yummmmmmm.....

The weekend ended far too quickly. Being in Europe reminded me what its like to eat with a knife and fork, and how lovely it is when people follow traffic laws.

Other notable moments included a crazy Spanish bachelorette party at a club we went to, Pete being convinced the flamenco dancer outside the restaurant we ate at was a tranny, and wearing a tank top the entire time I was there.

Journey to Morocco: Part Two

Okay so where did I leave off–Madrid?

Flight three: Madrid to Casablanca: So, nice, finally I get a window seat, for the shortest leg of the journey–just an hour and a half. I tried to nap and I think i may have succeeded…. at this point the whole thing was a blur. I woke up in time to see us cross from Europe to Africa, seeing the familiar geography from the plane was actually really thrilling. At that point I thought we were close to landing but I was wrong–we flew over Morocco for what seemed like forever.

Casablanca: cut to Staci standing in line at the passport-checker-place (I am so tired right now the correct term is escaping me) FREAKING OUT because of an irrational fear that they for some reason wouldn’t let me in the country and I would just have to turn right around. My worries were exacerbated by the fact that the guy in front of me was getting hassled for some reason or another. Luckily there were no problems, I found my baggage, and I stepped out where someone from CIEE was supposed to be waiting for me–right? Wrong, nobody was there–no sign with my name on it, no nothing. I sat around and tried to look conspicuously lost and American in case someone decided to help me but no such luck. I made a couple laps around the terminal, changed a little bit of money, and sat some more. Like half an hour later (I thought waiting 30 min was a good amount of time) I bought a phone card and called the emergency contact for the program.
An English-speaking, chain smoking Moroccan guy (worked for the phone card place, I think–or was just friends with the guy at the phone card place) was SUPER helpful and without his help I might have lost it. Anyway long story short I got picked up, the CIEE guy had been waiting for me at the wrong terminal. I guess my plane got in at an unexpected gate.

Casablanca to Rabat: I got here by car, it took like an hour but really I dozed for a large part of the journey. I was awake enough to notice that Morocco is just as flat as Kansas and just as hot as Temecula. I also saw a ton of donkeys just chillin wherever they thought would be a good place to be. The houses and buildings along the road were actually pretty rustic, falling apart and whatnot, but I did see a lot of satellite dishes (for TV) the closer we got to Rabat. FINALLY I got to Rabat, checked into the hotel, called the parents and got some SLEEP!!

Journey to Morocco: Part One

Flight One: LAX to Chicago O’Hare… I read like a third of “Into Thin Air,” written by the author of Into the Wild (read: one of my favorite books and movies) the narrative is arresting and the fact that he was THERE makes it more real and arresting. The summit of Everest is about the cruising altitude I am flying at right now… pretty much mind-blowing. Living in a base-camp at like 16,000 feet in tents for two months makes what I am embarking on look like a walk in the park. I guess its reassuring? Reading inspiring stories of what individuals can do makes my life look easier and my little tasks seem very doable.
Later, on a much less inspirational note I Watched an episode of the office on the in-flight TV. I listened to some baby cry (loudly) for the whole descent. The guy that I sat by during this flight looked like a weird cross between George Lucas and Richard Gere (I know, right?)

Chicago: Super short layover! I am sitting two chairs away from an attractive young man who looks like a young Dave Grohl. This is the last time I’m going to be able to text anyone in America until July 24th? 25th? I should really find out when I’m coming home.

Flight Two: Chicago O’Hare to Madrid: it has become evident that its physically impossible for me to sleep sitting up without leaning on anything. Right now I am in Madrid, unfortunately I’m not leaving the airport so I can’t really say I’ve “been” to Spain. Does spending three hours in the airport count as visiting? My gate to Casablanca isn’t announced yet so I am at my leisure to peruse the duty-free stores and smell the expensive perfume I am making an effort not to succumb to buying.
On the flight, I saw a menu in the in-flight magazine with prices listed next to it and I got all paranoid about whether they were going to serve me food or not. The announcements in the plane were made in Spanish and English, but it was so muffled that I couldn’t hear what they were saying, like, ever. So it was a mystery. FINALLY, they brought out the food–I was starving–I have no idea what time it was in any time zone but all I knew is that I was hungry. Say what you will about airplane food…. at the moment it was the most delicious meal served on Earth. Er, over the Earth.

Madrid: I am typing this update in notepad because they want me to pay 5 euros for 30 mintues of internet time… a little steep? Its the first rate I’ve seen so I have no basis to compare with. What am I supposed to do during this three hour layover? I have to report back to the info booth at 9:30 to get my gate assignment. It is 11PM California time [Saturday] and 8AM Madrid time [Sunday]. Trippy right? Time zones are so weird!
I snagged a bench where the arm rest was broken off so I essentially have a double seat. Naptime? Time to guard my valuables with my life and perhaps try to get an hour or so of sleep.

Update: that whole nap thing didn’t work out. I’ll post the rest of my journey from Madrid to Casablanca to Rabat next time… for now I should probably try to sleep.

Also, I tried to add a couple pictures but it gave my computer a heart attack so you’ll have to wait until I can find a stronger internet connection.