Friday, September 28, 2012

Study Abroad: Part [Excursion]

So, I'm on the last day of a six day excursion with my study abroad group.  The highlights? So many. The disasters? Kinda worth it.

The first day was pretty calm.  We left Rabat at 8am.  That means, I rolled out of bed at 6am, waited 20 minutes for the water heater, and then took a "shower" (I filled up a bucket with warm-ish to hot water, and dumped it all over me).  It also means I was heavily fed by my homestay family: I was stuffed with dates (which seriously look and taste like pure sugar), coffee (half milk-half coffee, with two blocks of sugar), and sandwiches (egg sandwich, cheese sandwich, olive oil and butter sandwich).

 Upon reaching the Center, we (12 students, plus our amazing Program Assistant) loaded onto our bus.  Mind you, this is a decently sized bus: not a short-stop bus, but rather, a bus designed to hold about 15 to 20 people, plus a driver.  We also got a trailer hitch.

Our bus...

 Things get blurry from here: we stopped for lunch in Azrou (which is also Berber for rock of all things), saw Barbery Macaques (monkeys!), and went to a five star hotel in the middle of nowhere (or rather, the Midelt of nowhere, with Midelt being the name of the closest town... Get it?... Nevermind...).  And that was the first day.

This is Azrou.  This is also the namesake rock.  Go figure.

The monkeys... Pretty cool, eh?

Descending onto our hotel.

The second day was an issue.  I got sick.  As in, very sick.  The kind of sick where your bones ache, you creak, and a fever that just erupts will take you out.  I did, however, ride a camel.  Also, instead of camping out under the stars, we arrived in the Sahara while it rained, which only happens once or twice a year.  The cold weather + my fever = I got a room inside ---> Hot shower access for all.  Fairly good trade!

The third day, I was feeling slightly better, but not great.  I spent the majority of the bus ride passed out, and on medication.  The lunch was fairly interesting.  We stopped at Yasmina Restaurant in Tinghir, which is a VERY mountainous trek.  It was beautiful. For our big event of the day, we spent the night at an all girl's dormitory in Ourzzazate (or Ouarzazate, depending on the spelling).  The area is used for filming movies, like Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, and other fun movies.  The girls were all so interesting, and it definitely drove home a point: college is kinda the same no matter where you are. There's gossip, boys, boyfriends, crappy food/good food (depending on the day and place), and things you just can't stop doing.

This girl was very cute and running around Hotel Yasmina.

One of the oldest film studios in Ouarzazate, which has now been shut down.

A couple of the girls from the dormitory were nice enough to pose with us!

The next day, it was a bit of a dine and dash to hit up Marrakech.  We ended up at a nice hotel: Hotel Mont Gueliz.  We also got there in time for lunch and had the rest of the day to explore.   We chose to explore the square of Marrakech, and to also go to Jardin Marjorelle, which was the former home of Yves Saint-Laurent.

Jardin Marjorelle also holds his memorial... It's absolutely beautiful, and costs 50dh
(or a little over $5).

Each student was given a 50dh gift card to be used at Pizza Hut, McDonald's or a grocery store like Marjane (which is basically the Moroccan equivalent of WalMart).  Fun fact: the gift card was courtesy of Sodexo.  Marjane, interestingly, sells liquor, but you can only pay for it in certain lanes of the grocery store. 

There may have been some McDonald's french fries involved as well...
The night was spent with a bottle of wine, brie, fig jam, bread and such in our room.  Then, we went out to a club.  Word of advice: if you want to go out at night, as a woman, please go with a guy.  We went to a music club that was very upscale, so we didn't get harassed inside.  On our way over there, we were escorted by hotel security (snazzy, right?), so it was fine getting there.  The complex was called Montecristo, the live music bar was named Sinatra, and there was an open-air hookah lounge with DJ by the name of Aoli.  Side note: mostly prostitutes, and foreign men, visit bars, which was an interesting experience for us.

Today was a more chill day.  We arrived in Essaouira around lunch, after stopping by an argan oil collective called Cooperative Marjana.  We ate lunch at Chez Sam, which is where Jimi Hendrix apparently stopped by at.  There was a pick up game of soccer of the beach which got brutal, and there was napping all around.  For dinner, we went to the Hotel des Iles, where Orson Welles stayed at. 

Tomorrow morning, at 8am, I say farewell to this fun week, and return to Rabat.  I say farewell to the boys "rolling up" in a horse-drawn carriage, I say farewell to beaches and people that I've met.  I say farewell to singing "Whistle" on a bus, learning to dance to "Waka Waka" with prostitutes, and laughing at myself. 

"We do not remember days, we remember moments."
- Cesare Pavare

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