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SARA KATE IN ESSAOUIRA, MOROCCO

Posted Jun 03 2009 12:24am

Hi there

Wanted to let you all know I am fine. I am in Essaouira, Morocco right now. This keyboard is rearranged for Arabic right now so this email may be short but I am going to see how long I can stand it.

So... Bill, our farmer, drove us to Torvizcon on Friday, where we caught a bus to Granada. Then we got another bus to Algeciras, the Spanish port city. Next day; found a place to leave most of our belongings, made arrangements, and took a ferry to Tanger, Morocco. Catherine barfed a lot and oversolicitous men tried to help us fill out all our forms. When we got to Tanger we had a 6 hour wait before our bus to Casablanca. So went and walked around and bought some groceries. Then a 5 hour bus to Casa; then a 2 hour wait, then 7 more hours to Essaouira. Then we got off and wandered around blindly fending off people begging to put us up so so cheap and yes there is a hot shower madame! We ended up with a beautiful room for 3 dollars apiece per night and our hosts made us pots of hot mint tea just like Catherine learned in Mali. That was yesterday. Then we went to get something to eat and went to sleep for 13 hours. Jesus Lord! Or should I say, hamdullah.

It is so shocking being here. I don't think I've ever received a greater cultural shock I have in our first 24 hours here. I am so humbled. I thought I knew a lot, but I know nothing. Everything qbout this trip up til now seems like a joke in comparison. I have no idea how I am perceived here. We had a little incident in Tanger where Nicci and I got grabbed on the street. It was pretty upsetting. But why did it happen? Because we are female? Or white? Or unaccompanied? Or out after sunset? Or in the wrong place at the wrong time? Or dressed weirdly? Women here wear hijab, a floorlength tunic and a head scarf. Men wear a different kind of tunic with a pointy hood and sometimes a turban. We just cover ourselves from head to toe in what ze have.


Leaving the city was another kind of shock. The cities are surprisingly cosmopolitan but the countryside gets increasingly bootleg as we go south. The landscape looks like what I would imagine in the Middle East: dry and scrubby. Although in other places it is lush and looks like I have always imagined Africa. In the small towns no one even speaks French. I am learning to recognize the Arabic writing for "Women" (for the bathroom), "Coca Cola," and "Essaouira." But I still have the linguistic abilities of a three year old. In Arabic I am limited to one word statements. For exqmple, a conversation that transpired at the bus station yesterday:

Me: (in Arabic) Hello sir.

Man: Hello:

Me: (pointing at bread) Three. Please.

Man: (in French) You....speak.... is... French?

Me: Uh... espagnole?

Man: Ah! My brother... marry... with Spanish.

Me: Um...

Man: (smiling, in Arabic) garble garble! blah blah!

Me: (smile, shrug)

Man: blah! garble! hfdgjkhdfqgljk!

Me: (laughing helplessly, take bread, smile more) Thank you.

Man: You're welcome. garble garble!

Me: Good. Bye.

Man: Goodbye

:::me fleeing back to the bus:::

Meanwhile, in French I can embarrass myself more thoroughly. I am capable of entire sentences of gibberish:

Me: And the street of our hotel, what does he call himself?

Man: Rue alAttouane.

Me: Ah! I me am an agreement of where our hotel is!

Man: Uh...

Me: Are we wanting to go there now.

Man: (smiling uncertainly)

Me: It is good! Thank you! Yes! Goodbye!

Etc.


You can see it is rather exhausting being here. We have a lot to learn. I have rarely felt more stupid, incompetent, or out of place, but so far it is ok. I am deeply grateful to be here with Catherine and Nicci of all people.

I also really want to keep going. I want to go to West Africa.

Ok. That is all for now. I can't stand the keyboard any more. Will write again soon.

Love

SK

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