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11/29/2010

Better Late Than Bitten by a Monkey - Morocco

I know. I know. I'm how many weeks late. But that's okay. To save some time and effort I've used what I wrote for myself and copied it and then appropriately adjusted it here. Ta da! Here it is. Begin!

Of course, the excitement leading up to finally departing Alicante exceeded my desire to make physical contact with Natalie Portman. Margaret was also apparently so cripplingly excited that she forgot to pack underwear. I forgot to pack a tooth brush. Good start.

The flight was uneventful until we finally touched down on African soil, an occurrence which prompted Margaret to make some sort of guttural screech and my hands to start sweating like fat kids in a sauna thinking about homemade fudge. Similar to that one time I was in a Spanish brothel, I could only think of how freaking cool it was that I was here (that is, in Morocco). I got let into the country despite some language confusion and my giddy winking at Margaret while my passport was okayed. Sick. We caught a bus from the airport to the Medina (the old part of the city where we were staying), decided eff it man, how hard could it be to find our hostel and embarked on what wound up being quite the journey. Through all the contradicting directions we were given, we made it. After several hours. Yus.

The hostel was fantastic, if not a little hard to find. The middle of the building is kinda like an indoor courtyard and it was so cute that birds flitted around it serenading us in French. Upon checking in, they gave us complementary Moroccan tea (which is soooooo good) and confused looks in response to my Spanish. I left Margaret to the communication duties mostly. For the record, for pretty much the whole trip, Margaret navigated everything beautifully with her magnificent French skills. I would’ve been way lost without her, despite the fact that a decent number of people spoke English.

The hostel bathroom was pretty good and clean, although the stalls were incredibly small which made it quite the journey to take pants on and off. Also, I think the toilet paper was serrated, but it apologized by also being pink. I forgave it.

Our first excursion into the city took us into a place called the Souks, which is the world’s largest open air market. It’s nuts, so much going on, so much weird stuff being sold, and it can be pretty overwhelming at times. Everyone here vies for your love and affection and business with super friendly greetings but we learned quickly that responding to these solicitations excites them beyond anything they’ve ever experienced before and to prevent anxiety attacks it was best to ignore their advances. Regardless, we still had a grand time going around the Souks and teasing venders across the city. At one point we could’ve bought turtles and a squirrel. Excitement ignited. But would ryanair let that fly on the return flight? And then, hey, a joke about an herb to get Margaret to stop snoring was interpreted as “I’d like 5 kilos of that powdery stuff, please.” Excitement through the roof. No thanks. Oh! Hopes crushed forever. :( Sorry vendors.

I caught on that bargaining is the thing to do here rather early when Margaret and I decided that we were in fact married and that I therefore needed a ring. So our buddy Abdul (who, oddly enough and like most people in Morocco, for whatever reason, thought we were Spanish at first. This tickles me.) takes us into his shop of goodies and pulls out a whopping crate of assorted rings. The process begins. Found a winner, asked how much and Abdul responded: 500 DH. DH is the currency in Morocco. Wasn’t entirely sure what DH stood for at first, but decided that it’s most likely duckheads and that people of Morocco pay for things with the heads of ducks. 100 duckheads, more or less, is about 10 euros. So I respond to Abdul’s response, hey buddy I only have 100 duckheads and he’s like “Alright fine, 400 duckheads.” Dude, only got 100. “300.” 100. “250.” 100. “200.” Still 100. Long story short I got it for about 106 duckheads. Score. Talked down from 500 to 106 in less than a minute. He claims I got a great deal because it’s real silver, but it’s staining my finger as I write this. Either way, I’m effing married now. Not sure how to feel about that. This wound up being, of course, the source of endless jokes and a few awkward situations when we told varying accounts of our marital status to fellow hostel-stayers.

Adventuring around the market was quite interesting. When we entered a main plaza at one point we saw a man with a monkey. Margaret, being the uncontrollable person that she is, immediately shouted “MONKEY!” Now keep in mind, if eye contact makes the street venders smile and start pitching you on everything from pointy shoes to alligator skin, one can imagine what enthusiastically shouting 'monkey' might do. Bam, like a crowd of frat boys to the only woman in the room, this guy zipped over. He started off in broken Spanish, following the pattern of everyone thinking I’m a Spaniard, introduced himself and it was here where I made my first mistake. I shook hands with him. He does not let go. Gripping my hand, he tells me in poor Spanish to “guard my monkey. Here, take it.” I know these gypsy tricks. They want money for everything here and holding a monkey is as good as signing a contract that I am now obliged to give this man a metric truckload of duckheads. I think not. I protested immediately with a no, hey, no, let go of my hand and he’s like “Oh come on. Guard my monkey,” and tries to hand it off to me, causing the monkey to get totally stoked and nearly bite me. Context: I felt teeth on my hand. I got my first chance to say some real rude stuff in Spanish and pulled my hand from his grasp, monkey-free. Needless to say, while I’m shaken up and adrenalined-out, Margaret thinks this is the funniest thing in the world. Realistically, the whole scene probably lasted under 30 seconds, but when a man is not letting go of your hand and trying to hand you a monkey that just tried to bite you, that’s 30 seconds too long.

Another highlight of the market was purchasing a gift for a friend (dead chameleon) and then having the vendor try to talk Margaret and I into purchasing some aphrodisiac, the effects of which he proceeded to describe in a mix of French, English, whistles, and crude gestures. He’s looking totally stoked at the idea of Margaret and I having a bedbreaking tossfest with this herb and we’re like “Ho ho, you’re too kind. But no thanks.” We begin to walk away after a ridiculous talk and he calls us back over. Slightly confused, we head back over and he gives me two things of aphrodisiac for free and seems really really happy. I thanked him graciously but I’m yet to consume the herb. With my luck I’ll just get soul-shattering diarrhea from it. Also, what does this say about how the dead chameleon is supposed to be used if it comes with an aphrodisiac? Huh.

And this was all just the first night.

The rest of the trip was odd, spent in a trance-like state that comes with going somewhere so drastically different. We spent a good deal of time being lost but it was never that big of a deal, it seemed like it was just part of the experience. We saw some mosques, some palaces, some out-of-commission schools, a museum, and just weird stuff. It was quite the adventure. One day we opted to get away from the bustling of the Souks by going on a hike with some French people. This was probably some of the prettiest (and rockiest…and most, uh, trailblazingest) hike I’ve been on. We really just made our own trail through these gorgeous mountainous areas. The reward was a waterfall. Pretty sweet. Although the French seem like sissies they have badass habits like taking cigarette breaks during their hikes while I’m huffing and puffing without the smoking. Huh. However, in a massive symbolic victory for the states, Margaret and I beat the Frenchies on our way down the mountain. America: 1 France: 0. This is, of course, ignoring the fact that we booked it down the mountain primarily because I misread the time on my phone and thought we had like 20 minutes to catch our ride back to Marrakesh. Heh.

The trip was awesome. It was really like nothing I’ve done before and I am so glad I did it. Woo! I think I’d probably go into more detail about everything, but I’m already behind by hella days on all this journaling and I think I’ll just let the photos speak for themselves. Also, the captions will help. Read as: Next post, coming soon, pictures!

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