Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ras el Ma / Site / Ramadan

Ok…after Al Hoceima I jumped over to Ras el Ma, aka Cape de l’Eau. Woke up early on Saturday morning around 7am to catch an 8am bus. Well, after arriving to the bus station we learned the bus was full and had to wait for a 9:30am. It was a long ride. We arrived in Berkane around 3pm and Ras el Ma around 4pm. I settled down and then changed for an afternoon swim in the Mediterranean. We had an awesome house all to ourselves. Just beautiful. The Mediterranean was so choppy. I played in the waves for a bit but didn’t go out too far due to the tidal pull. Then after swimming I showered and walked downtown with several friends and we had the most amazing seafood dinner. A couple kilograms of tasty shrimp, perfectly breaded calamari, soft red snapper and buttery sol. We ended our perfect dinner with a scoop of ice cream before walking back to the house. It was an early night for all.

Then Sunday I woke up really early, changed my cell phone time as it was “fall back” here already, went back an hour. Had a breakfast of yogurt, granola and coffee before hitting the beach nice and early. Played around for hours in the water. The waves were just as strong and I decided to go out further. Was a perfectly tiring time out in the water other than the fact that a huge wave hit me and I totally lost my sunglasses, :(. Afterwards I went back to the house, showered and bought supplies to make a tuna melt for lunch and Pringles. The house was having plumbing issues so we had some staff over. At one point I took a nap only to wake up and be told we had to pack up and move to separate apartments. I was not very happy about this as I was still groggy and the house was so nice. The apartments were ok, but at least the plumbing worked. Went for another afternoon swim and then we had fajitas for dinner. Was delicious! Had a bit of a late night and a night swim before heading to bed. The water was so calm.

Monday I woke up early again and hit the beach around 9am. Starting to get a nice tan, for me, ;). Relaxed and read for a bit and then swam. This day the sea was calmer and we swam out a ways where it was gentle and just floated. Was wonderful. Afterwards I went in and had a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch before going out on a Catamaran! That’s a type of sailboat. I should have taken my Dramamine though…got a little seasick. Was still a great experience. After we reached the open sea we all jumped/dived off/out of the boat and swam around in the clearest, blue/greenish water I have ever seen. A friend took photos but alas I was unable to get them from her. It was just beautiful. That night we went out for dinner again and of course got another fish platter. This time only calamari, sol and shrimp. And ice cream afterwards again of course, :). Then as there was a bit of a fair going on we all decided to do the bumper cars. Was a blast! Some then did the ferris wheel after that, an interesting setup. Goes around much quicker here and virtually no safety bars of any sort.

Tuesday was out final day. Went for my daily swim as usual in yet another calm sea. Was pure bliss to simply float and swim around in the water. Then for lunch we had our final fish meal of shrimp, sol and calamari. Afterwards we bought supplies to make Italian for dinner. And it was amazing! A friend of mine made an absolutely delicious tomato sauce to put over pasta and garlic bread. I made caramelized banana filling for dessert crepes. I ate way too much and just relaxed afterwards.

Wednesday morning was a long travel day with a stop in Oujda for an early meal.

Thursday I went to town and bought a few things and simply relaxed and caught up on sleep and rest. It was also the first day of Ramadan. I was too tired to break fast with anyone though.

The past couple days I have just been catching up, doing laundry, relaxing. I was gone nearly 3 weeks. I have also begun making my travel plans for after I COS. I find myself planning my vacation backwards. First I decided to do the cruise, then booked my final flight back to Iowa. Now I have a flight from Vienna to Barcelona for the pre-cruise get together and to celebrate Thanksgiving with my fellow cruise taking volunteers. Now I just need to sort out my flights out of Morocco and to Eastern Europe. I have decided to do Prague and Vienna. I also haven’t had a very good internet connection since my return back to site. Though part of that could be the storms that have been rolling through almost daily now.

I have so much to do before I leave in less than 3 months now. Crazy to think about it. I am thinking of applying for Teach for America or a fellowship program similar to that when I return home. After much though and discussions with friends and fellow volunteers I believe I should give teaching a try. I’ve always been drawn to it through working at camp and in speaking to several of my friends who are teachers. We’ll see what life has planned for me when I return back to America. I’m also still definitely taking a short break to Australia mid-February through May, maybe a little longer depending on what work I find there and what work opportunities I come across in America. Hope all works out.

That’s the final leg of my vacation through to my current standing here back in site. It’s nice to be back, though I must admit I am counting down the days till my COS date. I’ve been here for a long time now and am simply ready for my next adventure though I will miss Morocco and many people here.

Monday I went to my women's new coop where they can now meet as they please, :). Due to it being Ramadan, work is at a standstill and they currently meet twice a week to sing verses out of the Koran and tell biblical stories during the morning hours.

I finally broke fast with half of my most family on Tuesday evening. Last year it was always both families but now that they have moved into their new home they have moved into 2 different floors. I was also surprised to not see the usual festive shebekiya. Deep fried pastry coated in honey and sesame seeds. It was a quiet affair. I had fasted all day and was having trouble communicating.

Yesterday I went into town to use internet as can be noted from my blog entry with Ras el Ma photos. Also to purchase a few food items.

Today was not very note worthy as I stayed in and rested. I had planned to visit my women again, but had an ear ache. I hope to visit my counterpart tomorrow and start planning a few workshops. I won't be doing very much traveling over the next 3 months and hope to get several desired projects completed before I leave. I hope to break fast with my favorite neighbor tomorrow as well. I haven't been breaking fast very often during this first week of Ramadan as I haven't been completely fasting and feeling a bit under the weather. I am feeling much better now and plan to enjoy harira (soup), shebekiya, eggs, figs, and dates during the remainder of this Ramadan month, :).

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ras el Ma Photos

Seems I have forgotten to transfer my blog update to my USB, so until I can find my way to a computer and internet again please enjoy the photos of my trip to Ras el Ma. Currently I do not have a very good wireless connection in my site, possibly due to all the storms. We had an outright downpour the other day.

Some volunteers decided to commemerate our trip, very pretty.
This is where I got to swim everyday, :)

Some decided to brave the Moroccan ferris wheel, they move a bit faster here and have less safety features...the rest of us just did the bumper cars.

One of many delicious seafood platters enjoyed by several of us

The catamaran me and several others sailed out on one day, apparently I do get a bit seasick, so I spent the majority of the trip laying down. But the swimming part was fun!

The beautiful open sea view from the catamaran

Several volunteers helped to make an amazing dinner of fajitas

Me posing at sunset on the beach so near our apartment

Beautiful sunset view of the Mediterranean

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Al Hoceima

After my 5 wonderful days in Chefchouan I made my way over to Al Hoceima, a city on the Mediterranean 6 hours east of Chefchouan. I woke up very early at 5:15am to catch my 6:30am bus which ended up not arriving until 7am. The bus ride was the worst I have ever been on n terms of windy curvy roads. The bus itself was very nice, the air conditioning worked and I had leg room and 2 seats to myself. The road was worse than the Tichka pass, which is the windy road between Ouarzazate and Marrakech. I was lucky to sleep the majority of the way. I arrived in Al Hoceima around 1pm and made my way to our hotel. I was meeting with a couple friends who happened to all be male. The only reason why I feel this needs mentioned is I ended up staying in a single because the hotel staff wouldn't allow an unmarried female to share a room with a man not her relation. That rule does not normally apply to foreigners. But it turned out I had a much nicer room than the 3 boys so I didn't put up too much of a fuss over paying more than them. After settling in at the hotel we ate lunch and then made out way to the beach and had a late afternoon swim that was wonderful. The water was so turquoise. Then we came back to our hotel, showered and had dinner. I ate delicious shrimp.

On Day 2 we all slept in, had a full breakfast and found a new better place to stay. This time I was allowed to share a room with a male. Just a good friend of mine. We spent all day at a beach further down the road and I lost my Moroccan silver ring, :(. Was very sad. I've lost so many things in this country. Other than that it was a great day. We then had a late lunch where I had a salad before showering and relaxing. We had a late dinner where I had calamari.

It was a nice relaxing stop along the way. The beaches were so beautiful if a bit dirty. We left early on Saturday to make our way to Ras el Ma, aka Cape de L'Eau. We had planned to take an 8am bus but it was full so we took a 9:30am instead, but I will describe my adventures here in Ras el Ma in another entry. Enjoy the photos!

Where I went swimming on Day 1

Posing pretty on the beach

Beautiful sunset

Colored water jets in the main square

Saturday, August 7, 2010


On friday I woke up very early to catch a 6:30am Supratours bus from Essaouira to Marrakech in order to get to Fes before dark. My original plan had been to catch the 9am train but I missed it by 15 minutes, so I waited at the Marrakech train station until the 11am train. I had a yummy lunch and read for a bit. The train took nearly 8 hours, I arrived in Fes around 7pm. It was very hot as well, no air conditioning in 2nd class on that train! I then stayed the night in Fes, just relaxed and took a nice shower. I stayed in a very nice hotel not far from the bus station that was also air conditioned! It felt wonderful. I've been to Fes before, so I was ok just staying and relaxing at the hotel without doing any exploring.

The next morning I took a 7am CTM bus to Ouazzan and then a grand taxi the rest of the way to Chefchouan. The CTM was wonderful and air conditioned, :). Fes and Chefchouan were a bit warmer than Essaouira but still cooler than Errachidia. I arrived in Chefchouan before lunch and found the hostel where I had a bed on the roof for only 40dh a night. Was awesome and so nice. I ate a delicious lunch of a cheese salad made with fresh cheese produced in the region and shrimp with a flan for dessert, then explored the old Kasbah in the square with a friends before going back to the hostel and relaxing. Met a really nice american and some australians during the day as well. Many of the australians were leaving for Fes in 2 days time.

The blue of Chefchouan

The blue of Chefchouan

my beloved roof top bed at the hostel

On Day 2 I hiked up to the fields with a peace corps friend and the american I had met the day before. We had a full lunch and then a hot steepish climb up the mountain and past a church/synagogue. I had yummy chicken pizza with the cheese salad and flan again. The hike up was during the hot part of the day, we were so hot by the time we reached the top and there was an amazing cold water source with the most deliciously cold water. We had decided to make this venture at 3pm, not the coolest part of the day. But we made it and without burning. I did manage to lose my sunblock on the way up though, :(. We took some great photos and then made our way back down, showered and then ate dinner. I then had a late shopping trip with the american I'd met and we bought some things from a local seller. I bought a beautiful long sleeved short red patch-worked silk dress. It's beautiful. It was also the American's birthday.

me and my new american friend on our mountain hike

me posing in front of the beautiful views

not a Moroccan mountain hike without seeing a herd of goats

view on our hike

Chefchouan's view at dusk from the nearby mountain

I had planned to leave on Day 3...but then decided I liked Chefchouan so much and didn't desire to stay in Fes for a couple nights that I changed my mind. Luckily I was able to sell my ticket to another traveler and bought a new one to leave on that Wednesday, August 4th. The australian guy I met walked down with me to the bus station to see about changing my ticket. Boy it's a steep walk back up that hill! For lunch we bought some food and made a veggie and tuna couscous with fruit for dessert with a relaxing afternoon of fast internet. That was another great aspect of the hostel, the super fast wireless internet that I took full advantage of. We went out to one of the local restaurants for dinner and brought another American with us who had just arrived that day. Always great food.

On Day 4 I spent the morning post card shopping with my new friend as well as with another American who had just arrived and one of the Australians. It was a great morning. We started with a yummy breakfast of melowee and honey and orange juice. For lunch we bought fruit and some tomatoes and watched part of Sex and the City 2. Then we ate an early dinner in the cutest little nook of a restaurant in the square but soon regretted the decision as it was so warm. It was me, the 2 americans, a girl from japan and the aussi guy. I ate pastilla and had "cake" for dessert with coffee. The "cake" was actually an assortment of cookies. We were going to take a hike but decided we were too tired and too dark, so we wandered around the medina instead and took photos and shopped. Earlier that day I had bought a new blanket. It's thin and large with different shades of blue and made of cactus fiber silk. Later that evening I bought a new purse and earrings as well. The purse was a green version of the blanket fabric and I bartered the price down to 55% off his asking price, :). The earrings are an amber colored plastic set in silver. Then that evening we finished watching Sex and the City 2. It was our Aussi friend's last night and was supposed to be mine...

many things to be purchased in Chefchouan

store shopping at night

But alas on Day 5 I decided to extend my stay one more night. I had switched my ticket the day before and decided to travel straight to Al Hoceima instead of down and around to Fes and Taza. I enjoyed a relaxing day hanging out with the 2 american girls. We had a small lunch, relaxed and then took a late hike up to the church/synagogue before eating an early dinner where we met an English guy. I missed our aussi friend's presence. The place where we ate dinner did not have friendly staff, but the food was good. I had my now favorite cheese salad and a delicious carrot soup that was supposed to be onion. Oh well. I had a late night not going to sleep until 1am and then getting up very early at 5:15am to get my 6:30am CTM to Al Hoceima.

I absolutely loved Chefchouan. My bed on the roof was perfect during the summer, the place was clean, the bathrooms nice and the people so great. The food was decently priced and delicious. Overall a great experience and I was sad to move on. I had also met many interesting fellow travelers.