Monday, March 26, 2012

3 Countries, 2 Continents, 1 Post


In the past month, I have had the privilege of visiting Morocco, Dublin, and London. Now, these have been the sorts of trips that change a person—really give her some perspective and prompt her to ask the important questions: Where does my life come into play in a world so large? How might I have turned out differently had I not been raised in the comfy suburbs of the US of A? Does this headscarf make me look fat? On and on. A sharp increase in cultural awareness, though, is not something that I feel I can adequately describe within the confines of a blog. For that, you’ll have to be on the lookout for my memoirs. No, this post will try to hit on the finer points of each trip, and there are many.

 Many weeks ago, we began our venture to Morocco, stopping first in Gibraltar. I feel I can sum up the place in three words: geezers, monkeys, wind. As it turns out, Gibraltar has become a popular retirement spot for Brits – our tour guide even comparing it to the Florida coast at one point. After taking a driving tour, we walked around and took some photos across the Strait, almost blowing over to the coast of Africa in the meantime (paralleling Florida again, circa Hurricane Irene). Then, it was up to the top of the rock for Ape’s Den and St. Michael’s cave. I made the executive decision to watch the monkeys and abstain from any physical interactions. I admit it was a fun thing to observe, but I doubt Churchill himself could’ve pushed for Gibraltar’s sustaining the monkey population in good faith had he known of the crippling smell that would later plague tourists’ noses. Atrocious. And it didn’t help that every two seconds you found yourself downwind.

Anyway, after Gibraltar we ferried over to Morocco, where we met up with our tour guide, Jamal, and checked into our hotel. The next day, we started off in the city of Chefchaouen, which I would highly recommend Google-imaging. It’s a hill city with its walls, doorways, and houses painted different shades of blue to repel insects. It is here that I had my first try at haggling –said by Jamal to be Morocco’s national sport—and my first encounter with Surfer Girl. We called her Surfer Girl because she took a series of fake surfing photos on this structure resembling a wave before we learned her name:

Hang ten, you raving loon.

Upon telling my friends and family about my upcoming trip to Morocco, there was one common concern that was voiced: my safety. Now, you may ask – Were you scared when you, David, Marc, and Lukas got lost? No. Were you scared when that man tried to sell you hashish and then said that women don’t have speaking privileges? No. Were you scared when you and Surfer Girl were the last two people to leave the bathroom and she proceeded to belt out/awkwardly belly dance to the Busta Rhymes hit “Arab Money” down several streets until you could find the group after having just been advised to “lay low?” Why, yes. Yes, I was. And as we were followed by some males down the road, I found myself cursing the overall Moroccan fluency in English. She didn’t seem to notice, though, and instead spoke of how she could tell from the jewelry stores that “these fun Arabs” really seemed to share in her love “for all things glitz and glam.”

Bless her heart.

From Chefchaouen, we went to Tetuan for an afternoon of shopping and general cultural learning experiences. The night ended with a dinner that included live dancing and a man who had a candle balancing act. Wicked fun, if you will. The next day, we visited the Caves of Hercules, rode camels, and toured Ceuta before heading home to Sevilla. All in all, great success.

This past weekend, I went with 7 others to Dublin and London for St. Patrick’s Day festivities. We traveled with a large tour company that made all of our arrangements for us, which was nice. Instead of piling into buses full of other green-clad college kids, though, we quickly learned that our fellow Paddywagoners were primarily 30-somethings looking for a weekend to forget about life in the cubicle. Along with being a fun social change of pace, other benefits of this included acquiring many new inside connections with the gel pen industry. Our first night in Dublin consisted of a brief driving tour followed by visits to various pubs—the calm before the storm, we might call it. St. Patrick’s Day itself was exceedingly fun, yet very different than what I’d anticipated. The parade was science themed and featured several American marching bands, among them being those from the University of Missouri and a 3A high school from Fayetteville, Georgia (shout out here to any members of the Fayetteville High brass section who managed to find my blog even though I told you my name was SinĂ©ad O’Connor). The rest of the day was spent making Irish friends and watching Rugby.

Sunday, we drove through a little bit of the Wicklow Mountains where both PS I Love You and Braveheart were filmed and also stopped briefly to see the monastic sites in Glendalough. Then, we went on a tour of the Guinness Storehouse, returned to London, and ran around the city at lightening speeds in attempts to see as many famous sites as possible before the flight back to Spain. The trip was exhausting but certainly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. London in particular seemed like a city that I would be very interested in visiting again. If anyone wants to join forces in devising a plan to somehow lower the value of the pound by about 80 US cents in the coming weeks, I think I still have a free weekend in May.

Hasta luego,