Saturday, June 4, 2011

Don't Worry Be Happy

After a long bus ride I got to the ferry to take me across the straight. While on the ferry I was really thinking that I have never felt like I really didn't know what I was doing more than at this moment. I had no idea what to expect. I excited the ferry and took 2 more buses before arriving in the city of Tangiers Morocco about 2 hours later.

When I got off the bus I was flocked by many people. It was a mad house. Someone came up and said don't worry wait we have to get your bag. I thought oh this is the bus driver he is telling me not to worry about the flock of people and that I just need to grab my bag. The bottom of the bus flung open and I grabbed my bag. That is when I realized the guy talking to me was not the bus driver, he was one of the “flock.” He proceeded to follow me saying “don't worry be happy,” “happy in Africa,” over and over. Telling me I needed a hotel etc. I couldn't seem to shake them so I popped into a money exchange place with 3 other English speakers who were in the same situation as me. The Moroccan men waited outside. I decided to make a break for it while the exchanged money and the “flock” was waiting. I was halfway up the hill and I thought I had lost them when someone behind me kept saying that I needed a hotel. I told him I was fine, and he responded by saying “don't worry I work for the hotel I'm not a guide.” I asked him how much for the hotel (he was right I did need a hotel). The price was right so I followed him. He continued to tell me how great he was and “don't worry be happy.” After checking into the hotel he was going to show me where the ATM was so I followed him and I pulled out some Moroccan Dirums. I was then lead around by this pretty nice toothless man for awhile who was clearly trying to be the “guide” the he told me he wasn't. I thought okay, well he lied and I have fallen into the trap that everyone warned me about, but really how much can it hurt.

The next step was to take me into a shop to try some traditional Moroccan mint tea. As I entered the shop I see it is a carpet store (yet another thing I was warned about). I'm thinking oh man what have I gotten myself into. I sit down on a pillow in the carpet store and the man who owns the store calls in another man from outside. The man from outside is dressed in traditional Islamic garb and starts to make some tea for me. The man who owns the store starts to show me every single thing that they have in the store. After telling him that I think it's beautiful but I don't have room in my bag or money to buy anything he starts to get a bit more intense. Overall everyone was very nice, although extremely pushy. At the end of the encounter I ended up with a blue turban that I paid about $13 for and I gave my unwanted tour guide another $10. They understood that I was a “student” and they explained it was their job and that they were nice people. It really was not necessary because I understand that it's a different culture and I think I did my best without being ripped off and without insulting anyone.
My next step was to go to my hotel room and to get a bite to eat. As I walked up the stairs to my room I got some interesting stares from the families living here and eerie glares from women that had nothing but their eyes showing. There is a shower next to my bed that trickles water out of it about as fast as a leaky faucet. There is one plug in the room and it happens to be in the shower. It felt like the scene in the Tom Hanks movie “Big” where he spends the night in a seedy New York City hotel; having a breakdown as he heard gunfire out the window and people banging on his door in the middle of the night.

I then went to get some food and was approached by 3 different homeless (looking) people who were trying to sell me some dirty shoes out of a garbage bag. They didn't seem surprised that I didn't want the shoes but they did take the opportunity to tell me, “don't worry, be happy.” I was also followed by a man who kept asking if I was okay in Spanish, he stopped when I said that I was fine. Then I wandered through a market with some of the craziest looking stuff I have ever seen. I saw people walking around wearing every muslim garb I could imagine as well as people wearing western clothing. I also saw poverty that I have never seen before; people selling single cigarettes seemed like middle class, people picking up scraps of food next to mangy cats and eating it off the stained streets was a bit more shocking.
I finally found, what looked like the most “touristy,” looking place to get a bite to eat. By “touristy” I mean they had a menu with prices, but they also had a bug zapper in the open kitchen that was making a loud ZAPP about every 3 minutes. The food was good and I decided it was time to head back to the room and try to wake up very early. 

This my first 3 hours experience in Morocco where I will be spending the next 5 days. So more blogs to come, and hopefully more pictures.

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