Friday, April 11, 2008

What I've been up to

I know its been a while, so let me do a quick overview of how I've been spending the last week or so--

After my group left to return back to Stanford and school, I moved to a wonderful little hostel near the Stazione Termini in Rome. There, I met a wonderful Kiwi named Teresa who hung out with me as we tried to explore some more of Rome before going our separate ways. The Hostel was incredible, but I have to say that I seem to have a lot of luck with sleeping in awkward situations.

First of all, after spending an entire day schlepping about my huge bag and then carrying it up five flights of stairs because the hostel didnt have an elevator, I walk in half-drunk to find a very pious looking 65 year old in my room. Granted I was in a 4 bed dorm--I knew I was going to share a room--I was just expecting it to be filled with girls! This guy was uber Catholic awkward Irishmen who was in Rome for a conference on some saint. He was nice enough, I just couldn't understand most of what he said or what he did in the morning. He'd get up and bless himself with holy water, and alternate between kneeling and sitting as he read the Bible and some manual on Santa Faustina. In summary--weird guy. I also spent the next night with the Irishman and then also with an Italian boy from Napoli who was very respectful and gracious and an Englishman from Bristol who smelled horribly like B.O. and didnt have the decency to take off his shoes as he slept. Moreover, he was sleeping in the bed next to me and would periodically nudge me with the guitar he was sharing his bed with. Again, very strange.

Teresa and I ended up going to the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps and the Pantheon. On our way back (by this time I was SO over being in tourist-havens) we found an amazing restaurant where we drank beer and shared traveling stories. Anyway, Teresa was exactly what I needed after being so burnt out--she was chill, funny and a joy to talk to. She was even willing to watch the big match between Roma and Manchester United as we drank shots of ice-cold Limoncello--did I get lucky or what?

From Rome I headed to Casablana, which I have to say for all the world to see that Morocco a la Josephine Anderson is absolutely fantastic! If you have an opportunity, go and spend some time with her. She is a fantastic hostess and I couldn't have asked for a better experience.

On my first day I got to take a tour of the school Josi works at (after being picked up at the Airport by a man holding my name on his clipboard) and was very impressed to see how huge her theater and stage are. I was also impressed at how "teachery" she looked and how well-organized her classroom was. From there we headed to her place which is located in the Ma A rif. Her apartment is beautifully decorated and furnished and even though I had seen the photos online, I was very impressed when I got to see it in person.

That night we ate at the Sqala which is this adorable Moroccan restaurant near the Corniche. There I met Daniel, a guy my mother had tried to set up with Josi. He, like both Josi and myself, is a product of the Schlumberger oil brigade and was moved around quite a bit as a child. Anyway, we had a blast and it turns out that he is currently living in Paris (where I am currently staying) and about to move to San Francisco. It appears as though maybe we will end up being roommates (if all goes well) and I'm very excited to see what happens.

I then spent the next day recuperating from travel and enjoying the Moroccan neighborhood. I walked around and tried to get an authentic Moroccan experience. I also went to see the Mosque, the second largest in the entire world. Sadly, I didnt get to go on a tour, but I returned the next day to get a wonderful tour of the huge structure. The Mosque can hold 25,000 people. Insane, huh? It was so intricately designed and beautifully maintained. You definitely have to visit it if you get the chance!

On Saturday morning, Josi and I went to Marrakech, which in itself, was quite the experience. We took the train ride from hell--it was boiling hot, no where to sit, no working windows to allow for air circulation, and to make matters worse, a little girl managed to vomit all over the floor (about 3 feet away from us). To say the least, it was an uncomfortable journey.

When we arrived at Marrakech, we went to find our hotel which was this beautiful Ryad just outside of the Fna, or main square. The Ryad was gorgeous, filled with flowers, and very authentic. For the rest of the day, we bargain shopped, looking for gifts for family and friends. At one point, I bargained with a vendor who wanted me to kiss him in exchange for a lower price on scarves. Luckily, I managed to exchange to cheek kisses for one on the mouth kiss. We saw monkeys, cobras, camels, cameleons, lizards and so many birds and exotic insects--absolutely insane! We also went on a wild goose-chase to find a working ATM, and we ended the day by taking luxurious baths in our amazing hotel room.

We returned to Casablanca after eating a filling breakfast AND managing to find some space on the train to stand. You see, getting on the train in Marrakech was INSANE--grandmas were beating each other, children were crying, men were arguing, women were scratching each other--I don't know how Josi and I managed to get on the train, much less find a place to sit (which is VERY different from finding a SEAT). It was absolute and utter chaos that reminded me a lot of what I think riots might be like...

(I will update the blog with the rest of the story tomorrow...)


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