OK, I've been back home (ie AMERICA) about 2 weeks now. Which means I shoulda updated this baby a LONG time ago but I keep forgetting. Oops.
I posted a few pictures on my Flickr account, but I have to get a paid account for Flickr to allow me to post any more. For photos, go here - http://flickr.com/photos/lindseyastin
Where I left off last time:
I dunno if I mentioned this or not, but ALIF threw us Americans a Fourth of July party. They even had hamburgers and hot dogs. Which almost tasted like America. Baghdadi got some Berber dancers and musicians from the Middle Atlas (apparently from his tribe, or so Yusuf said) to perform at our party. It was really neat. Baghdadi and some of the other ALIF people kept trying to get the students to go up and danced. People were reluctant at first, but after awhile, a bunch of people went up and started dancing. It was a really nice party. Sadly, no fireworks. Yusuf came up to our table (or at least to Kasie) and talked for a good long while. Apparently he used to be a musician and play in a band but he gave that up. He seemed bitter about it and wouldn't tell us why or many details about it. Now I'm really curious.
The weekend after the cat-catching competition, we took a loverly weekend excursion to the beach town of Asilah and then onto the village of Chefchaouen in the Rif mountains. Not too many details here, I suppose. We arrived in Asilah around lunchtime and stopped at a random hotel (Hotel Bellevue, I believe) to see if they could accomodate the lot of us. Because silly Ustav did not make reservations beforehand. Luckily, they had plenty of rooms. Most people were anxious to get straight to the beach. Me and a few others - Ryan, Kasie, Alyssa Lee, Emily, and Laura, however, were a pit peckish and stopped at a nearby restaurant where they gave us a complementary bowl of pickled fish and olives. Also weird decor on the ways. I don't think the place could decide whether it wanted to be a mediocre seafood restaurant or a hip modern artsy place for rastafarians. Food wasn't bad though.
After lunch, we set out on what turned out to be an adventure in trying to get a cab to take us to the beach. You see, Asilah is a beach town. Thus, it is on the beach. However, Ustav advised us not to go to the local beach, as we'd be harassed by locals. He told us we needed to take a taxi to "Paradise Beach" which was a couple of miles out of town and apparently AMAZING and a place where Moroccans and creepy Spanish men wouldn't oogle us.
Unlike Fes, where there are tons of cabs about, there were none to be found here. We must've walked the entire town of Asilah without seeing a single taxi. Finally, we asked a shopkeeper, who miraculously managed to hail one for us in like...2 seconds. However, the cabbie either didn't know where Paradise Beach was or didn't feel like going out that far. He refused to take us. Again, we were stuck cab-less and beachless. Despondent, we wandered the streets some more.
A guy came up to us and started pestering us, saying he could take us to the beach. We ignored him, and Kasie kept shouting at him in Arabic to go away and leave us alone. We figured he was just another sketchy Moroccan guy or a faux guide who would try and scam us for thousands of dirhams in exchange for taking us to a beach. He kept following us, insisting he could help us find the beach. Spotting a police officer, we go up to him and ask for help trying to get a cab or something to get to the beach. The guy continues to pester us and the police officer asks, "Do you know this guy?" and we reply no and tell him that the guy is bothering us. The cops can't really help, and we go to the hotel to see if they can get us a cab.
Well, what do you know, when we get back to the hotel, that guy that was following us is there! It turns out he works for the hotel and was really just trying to help us out in a non-sketchy way. Facepalm moment. We apologize profusely and he's really nice and a good sport about it and gets us a grand taxi. FINALLY we're off to the beach.
The grand taxi ride was half the fun. Grand taxis, unlike the normal petit taxis, can fit about six people. If someone sits on someone else's lap, anyway. The cabbie is really cool and joking with us the entire way and pointing out cool things. Unlikes most Moroccan cabbies, he actually tries to speak with us in Arabic. We get to the beach and he tells us he'll be back in about 3 hours to pick us on. The beach, of course, is unbelievably gorgeous and not crowded at all. It really was Paradise Beach. Possibly the nicest beach I've ever been too.
We go back to the hotel, post-beach, and I take a MUCH needed shower (first one in about a week...yup). Then a bunch of us go out for dinner at a nearby pizza place. Afterwards I wander with Kasie, Laura, and Alyssa Lee into Asilah's medina, which is relatively small but neat. Very artsy with lots of cool paintings and murals. Asilah is a cool little beach town. Alyssa Lee and I ended up wandering off away from the medina, down the "boardwalk" and we found...a carnival. A Moroccan carnival! It was very much like an American one. Cotton candy and spinny rides and carousels and everything. Amazing. We ran into Emily, Alyssa B, Chris, Megan, and Robyn around there. A bunch of them went on one of the rides, but I was too afraid. The carnival was really cool though.
After that we called it a night. Next morning we got some less-than-stellar breakfast at a local cafe and headed off to the mountains.
We got to Chefchaouen around lunchtime, after a nauseating ride through twisty turny mountain roads. A whole bunch of people got sick on that busride. When we finally arrived, Ustav told us that we had an hour to look around the town before we had to be back on the bus. Which is slightly unfair. We wandered around the medina and found a cute little restaurant with a terrace view, where we had lunch. Chefchaouen is a town famous for two things - it's pretty, strange blue walls (most of the walls there are washed in this really interesting shade of blue, it's gorgeous) and having really good weed. Apparently it's the pot capital of Morocco. Go figure. I suppose I can see that. Although it's a ridiculously gorgeous village, set right up in the muontains, it's pretty small and I suppose there's not much else for townies to do. If you're a tourist in Chefchaouen, especially one of college age, most of the locals assume you're there for the weed.
Anyhoo, lunch was really cool. We were up on the terrace, which meant we had a pretty cool view of the town. And the food was actually really good.
Our hour was up and we had to head back to the bus. It was really annoying because it took us 2 or 3 hours out of our way back just to GET here and we couldn't even spend more than an hour and a half in the town. Oh well. We headed back to Fes, where we were supposed to "study" for our final.
The last few days were full of final classes and reviewing for the final. The evenings were filled with rushing to the medina and other places to do some final shopping. Megan and I had a slightly amusing incident trying to find posters of the king of Morocco (don't ask), but I won't bore you with that. I bought a bunch of gifts for people, but didn't even nearly finish my shopping and I'm a little bit sad and ashamed about that.
The final passed uneventfully and I and most of the people in my class did very well.
The morning came when I and most other people had to leave to Casablanca to catch our flight home. It was really sad saying goodbye to the family. My host mother cried, my grandmother teared up. Then I started crying too. It was really sad knowing I probably would never see these people or this house again. Siham and her dad drove me to the school and Megan came too to wish everyone a bon voyage (she was on a different flight than us and was leaving from Fes instead of Casa). Siham asked us on the way there what we would miss about Morocco. She joked that Megan would miss the dijaj (chicken). We laughed. Siham cried too when she dropped me off and I cried again and promised to email her when I got home.
Yusuf was there to say goodbye and wish us all a good journey. Sadly he did not come with us, which broke many-a-girl's heart. We all wanted to marry him. We all got on the bus and headed towards Casablanca. I was really sad watching the Fes landscape go by. I guess it wasn't until then that I realized how much I would really miss it.
We arrived in Casablanca a few hours later. It's a pretty frickin' huge city. I didn't even realize. We drove around a little bit, passing by Rick's Cafe (which I'm sure was built after the movie) and the Hassan II mosque. We wanted to stop and take a tour, but we got there after the last tour of the day, so we had to content ourselves with just looking at it. It's an insanely huge mosque. HUGE. HUUUUUUUUGE. I've never seen a mosque that big. Apparently it's insanely fancy on the inside.
After that, we checked into our hotel and some of us went to explore the city. Ustav said there was a Chinese restaurant in town, which got some people excited. However, when we got there it was closed and we went to the beach to look for other foodstuffs. We stopped at the Megarama to see if the new Harry Potter movie was playing (it was, but of course it was dubbed in French). The Megarama was probably the only American-looking movie theater I saw in Morocco. After wandering around the city for a few more hours, we went to bed early, as we had to leave at 4 AM the next morning to catch our flight out of town.
And then, the next morning, we flew out of Casablanca. Siiiiiiiiiiiigh.
And that is the end of my tales of Morocco.