The End of Days

I SLACKED OFF; I’M SORRY!

But the end of the program was really busy. And right after I came home I did some traveling to visit friends and then packed up all my stuff again and moved down to DC for an internship, so I haven’t had a lot of down time. Unfortunately that means that a lot of the exact details have sorta blended together, but don’t worry, I’ve still got some stuff for you.

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Side note: these are the “Bus Kids,” those of us that lived in the suburb and got to school everyday on the bus. I think I can proudly say that not one program-wide meeting went by without someone raising their hand and saying “Well this is more for the bus kids, but…”

Ummm first up was a Saturday day trip to Fez with my friend Zac. Fez is really close to Meknes, so we had been planning on going there on a weekend when we only wanted to be gone for a day. I will admit that we did go back and forth a little deciding if we wanted to go, but we finally decided yes and ended up traveling on the same train as some of the girls from our program. We had no idea what was really in the city, so we just decided to get in cabs and ask for the old city, planning to rendezvous in the city. Well that never happened and Zac and I ended up on our own with what seemed like miles of tight streets packed with shops, people, way too many donkeys, and one really low beam that I had to stop Zac from clocking himself on. Fez is famous for its tanneries, so that was what we hoped to stumble across, and lo and behold, within 45 minutes of wandering around the city we ran across a guy who offered to take us to the roof of his shop to see the tanning vats. It was a really cool view and he gave us a bit of a rundown on how they make the leather and the products, followed (of course) by a trip into the shop and some slightly pressured sales. I was planning on buying something anyways so it wasn’t too bad; I’m sure the prices were a little high but I prefer to think that I also paid for the experience of seeing where the products were made. We alo got slightly Shanghai’d into a perfume and spice shop, where we did steadfastly refuse to buy anything, much to the owner’s displeasure. The funniest thing about this experience is that they guy at the tannery told us we should go there, and then sent us with another guy, who literally RAN through the market and occasionally looked back to see that we were following. It got to the point where Zac looked at me and asked “Are we supposed to be going with him?” Then after we leave the perfume shop without buying, the guide asks for a tip, and the tannery guy shows up asking if we bought anything and why didn’t we? He also asked if we tipped the guide, so that was about when we decided to make our exit from the leather district and not look back.

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The vats where they cure and dye the leather, right in the heart of the city. The guy told us that they do different colors every day, so I think that other days ths area has a lot of red and yellow and such.

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Let’s just say that PETA wouldn’t be too happy here…

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Leather on leather on leather?

Not a lot else happened while we were in Fez, besides us finding a random restaurant that was open in the middle of the souq (still Ramadan). It was a pretty cool looking place, and although we realized that we didn’t have enough cash with us to pay for the meal, the hostess assured us that there was an atm nearby and we could deal with the money afterwards. Slightly nervously, we ate  and afterwards the waiter led us through the maze of streets to an atm and then back to the restaurant to pay, no muss, no fuss. After  little more walking we got fairly tired of the city and headed back to Meknes by trian, where we met a lovely young lady from Rabat who wanted to talk to us about studying Arabic; I think my partner in crime got a little shy…

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The restaurant that basically functioned as the Room of Requirement; it looks like it is build in an old Moroccan house.

Ramadan ended the next week (Finally!) which caused some craziness in our academic schedule because we didn’t know if our day off for the holiday was going to fall on Thursday or Friday. That’s what happens when you deal with a lunar calendar folks; can you imagine if Christmas came on either the 25th or 26th, and we didn’t know until the night before? We ended up getting Friday off and after some visiting with my family I spent my last weekend in Morocco braving the hordes of people who travel on the holiday to visit their families. I was on my way to Tangier again to visit a friend from McDaniel whose family owns a house in the city and had just arrived; traveling by first class train helped me avoid any kind of craziness. My friend was born in Morocco but moved to Belgium when he was 12 and came to study at McDaniel for a year, so he was completely at home in the city. We spent the weekend relaxing on the beach or in his apartment with his mother or out searching for bars that would serve us; even after Ramadan people are touchy about serving Belgian/Moroccan mixed people.

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McDaniel in Morocco!

It was a good relaxing weekend before I headed back to Meknes for my final exam Monday evening, packing, and impromptu American football and soccer game in the dusty streets of our neighborhood until 2 am.

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This photo series took place in the half hour before our final exam; you can tell we were done with studying.

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“Wait, now how does he get down?”

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“I’ll just pick him up!”

Also note the awesome decoration that was everywhere in the language center.

The final day in Morocco is kinda a blur; we hung around the house with the family until the bus came to get us at 3 pm to take us into the city for the last time. There were definitely some teary goodbyes, as well as a bunch of weird family photos that got taken. We then had some down time in the city until our final goodbye party, which included surprising our Resident Director with full bridal regalia and treatment, along with a fake marriage to one of the teachers. After the party ended we had time to kill until out 3 am departure to the Rabat airport; it turned slightly crazy as we all utilized the showers in the language center and then became crazy hyper over the prospect of leaving.

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Me, the roomie, and the host brothers…and the giant stuffed koala that we had for unknown reasons.

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This is our amazing Resident Director, Leanna, who got carried around on the bridal chair thing, and I think terrified for her life.

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Some of my last interactions with these people; I said that things got a little crazy right before we got on that bus.

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We were tired and the trip was just starting (Maybe also a little tipsy)

Fastforward about 24 hours to Washington DC, after layovers in Paris and Frankfurt, and I was back on US soil! Only without my suitcase, which had been misplaced somewhere in Paris, along with pretty much everyone in the entire program’s bags. Though initially concerned, I was assured that it would be returned to me and al hamdu lilah, I got it delivered to my door within 2 days. Successful trip!

Well people, I think that is all that I have for you. It was definitely a crazy journey; at times very stressful, but a great experience that I am very thankful for. I’m now moving on to the next part of my journey: an internship with the Project on Middle East Democracy in DC. They are a really cool organization and if you really want to keep reading stuff from me, or just stay updated on the situation in Egypt, you can subscribe to the Egypt Daily Update, which I will be in charge of producing once I am all trained up and such.

1000 thanks for reading!

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