So the dig was DEFINITELY not what I expected, but I learned so much. For certain days it is hard not to get jaded at digging in the sand for 8 hours a day, but finding coins, pottery sherds, small bones, and "grandma's ashes" make it worth it.
While these posts are WAY WAY WAY overdo, I though you guys might like to see the field where I dug at Kalkreise.
The German public checking out our dig site. I got a cushiony job for the day. Drawing.
This is how my first days at the dig started....YA sieving through tons and tons of SAND! Only finding porcelain sherds... This must have been the first day because I'm still happy sieving....
One of the warm days! We found what Axel described as possibly "grandma's ashes." Hence the need for about 6 soil samples from a square foot area and find massive pottery sherds.
I'm doing what I told my mommy I would grow up to be...an ARTIST! Who knew I meant drawing sand.......
The sexy artist....one of the last days and it was WARM! YAY!
Here is Simon marking a spot on the chart. GPS does wondrous things.
One of our biggest sherds and one of the biggest area of events to mark!
This is how we chill out in the farmers field. From left to right Arne, Simon, and myself.
So the dig was DEFINITELY not what I expected, but I learned so much. For certain days it is hard not to get jaded at digging in the sand for 8 hours a day, but finding coins, pottery sherds, small bones, and "grandma's ashes" make it worth it.
Well a weekend of friends after slaving in the hot German sun, is just what I needed! I took Thursday afternoon off to go to Karlsruhe to see a new band from Germany (that I knew I wouldn’t have the chance to see unless they got SUPER huge in the U.S. or until they were so big in Germany that the tickets would be expensive). “The Baseballs” were the coolest band to see in concert. They even beat out Lady Gaga for performances! This trio from Berlin does modern tunes in the style of Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis. They do the whole shebang with the hairstyles and the band. They were so talented, they switched places with their band, played various instruments each and had great crowd interaction!
Digger also did a Jerry Lee Lewis move and lit the piano on fire and played through a song! Girls even threw a few bras on stage along with a neon green garter belt. I was amazed how long their hair stayed in place
Sam’s (the big muscly singer) hair started to go at the end but probably because he had the longest hair and moved a lot with many Elvis kicks and gestures. For those of you who want to check out their band, here is their webpage.
You have to see their “Candy Shop” cover! It’s WAY sexier than the 50 Cent version maybe because their lyrics are so clear or their hip swinging is mesmerizing and makes even me BLUSH! I feel like I just stepped out of the 50s!
I got myself a t-shirt and bag to remind myself of the awesomeness I saw.
The next morning I left Karlsruhe relatively late in the morning to head to Erlangen. I arrived in Erlangen around 4pm and picked up Morag at her work and we chatted all the way to her apartment. We chilled and she got me hooked on a new TV series….I’m a bit ashamed to admit which one. Then we both gorged on heavenly Thai food, before heading to the Havana Bar to meet up with Philipp.
Surprisingly the bar wasn’t as jumping as last time, but we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and then returned to her apartment for more tv show indulgence….
The next morning Morag hurried to get ready for a wedding, so I prepared coffee and gave minor fashion and hair advice before we hurried out of her apartment early. Philipp picked me up and drove me the suburbs of Erlangen to his childhood home where I met both of his charming parents.
Then we packed the car with a few snacks and headed off to the city of Würzburg to admire the castles, eat and catch up…
Needless to say we saw beautiful and interesting sites on the way….
I tasted German pizza aka Flannkuchen for the first time….and we both also sampled the ice cream…
We took in the sites of Würzburg... the bridge, another castle, the rain...., ice cream, and the beautiful scenery.
Philipp and I said goodbye for now. It was sad to see him go especially after enjoying his company once again. Sometimes studying abroad gives you a strong bond like to soldiers in wartime. The familiarity of traveling and exploring together was great. Hopefully his new job might bring him to the States soon!
I'm back blogging about my time in Germany! There was very little internet and and so much traveling on the weekends, that I didn't get a chance to tell you about everything...so here it goes..
I lived in a small blockhouse at a farmstead within walking distance of the Varusschlacht Park with a cute older couple called the Schomborgs. Around us was the "Middleland" canal that drove small cargo ships between Holland and Germany. Between that and the Schomborgs' residence, I was in the middle of nowhere, with the nearest grocery store 3km away and no car and a very rickety bicycle.
I was up at 6:45-7 every morning to fix a large breakfast to last me until our “breakfast pause” and packed my lunch. I met with my crew leader at 7:45 am every morning over at the museum offices where we packed up the supplies we needed for the day, brushed off a few shards before leaving and then climbed into his car to drive the 2km to our dig site in a local farmer’s field.
For western Germany, it was quite a cold summer and it rained a few times during the dig, so we spent most of the mornings in three layers of shirts plus jackets and jeans.
I chose the perfect week to join the dig. It was press day on the Wednesday, so I got my picture in the German local newspapers! Check out the website and you can see how bundled up we were!
Here are some other pictures of the first few days:
^The Iron Age House in a town nearby.
Ok so before I tell all about the first week in Germany I should conclude my Morocco story.
Tuesday of the final week, my class took one final venture out for a lecture in Arabic and to see the Saudi Library and Cultural Center in Rabat only about a ten-minute walk from our school. Because there are a few Saudi students studying in Rabat, the country gave them their own library to use and to work in, not to mention other Arab scholars and people interested in the Saudi culture. With my fascination for libraries and the Arabic language, naturally I was intrigued by it and proud that I could finally understand a lot of the lecture (before our teacher then translated it for us, because most of the students that went were beginner 1 and 2 classes).
Outside they even had a “traditional” Saudi tent complete with windows and a big screen TV. We talked about Ramadan and the pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca, before racing back to the school for our delicious lunch (complete with the best French fries on the planet!). BUT I did make sure our group got some pictures and I got a picture of my friend Juana and me, since it was our last week and she was one of the first classmates I met in Morocco.
Realizing that the clock was ticking and I still hadn’t gone to see my former host family in Meknes from 2010, or my awesome professors and director from ISA either, I had to make a whirlwind day trip over to see them all.
Leaving at “earlier than the crack of dawn” I caught a lone cab to the closest train station and RAN to get my ticket and jumped into first class at the end car, starting my day off with a bit of exercise. I slept the 2-hour trip to Meknes and was happily there around 10 am. I jumped in a cab and went to greet Dounia, a friend of mine I met in Meknes at an ISA party (who now lives and works in Flagstaff, Arizona) at the Café de Tulip. I scarfed down a full Moroccan breakfast as we caught up on the past two years, her work teaching Arabic in Arizona and our future plans. She then took me over to the ISA office where I caught up with Daniel, his girlfriend Christina, Iman, and the new student services coordinator Mouhsine.
In summer 2010 when I was there we had the grand opening of the ISA office in Meknes, and now after two years, it’s very homey with ISA logos, computers for the students, couches, the kitchenette and the desks of Iman, Daniel and Mouhsine.
After about 4 hours of catching up, looking at photos, I had to bid adieu to everyone before getting some lunch and venturing to my host family’s house and going to the university to catch the current students and my former professors at break.
I was so nervous to see my host family after two whole years and hoped everything was ok because they weren’t hosting students anymore. As I climbed into a petit taxi and said farewell to Dounia, my heart raced. I told the driver to head to Hay Zitoune and told him I was seeing my family for the first time in two years. It was so strange to drive along the racetrack next to the “Haras” area and then approach the gate like no time had past. I re-introduced myself to the guardsman who was the same man from two years ago and asked him if it was ok to go in and visit the family. He generously shook my hand and welcomed me home.
The day before I left, I left my Meknes host sister a message that said that she should be home in the afternoon because I was planning on visiting.
I approached the door I had entered so many times and knocked. There seemed to be no answer, but I could hear my little host sister Isra somewhere inside, so I knocked louder. I hear a 7-year-old’s answer of “Schnoo?” meaning “What?” in Darija. I said it was Gwyneth and she seemed terribly confused by the answer, so I asked her in Arabic if she remembered the American student from two years ago from Nebraska named Gwyneth. Still not completely taking me at my word she called for her grandpa/ my host dad Rachid to come outside with her.
Then out in the garden I saw little Isra a bit taller and older gapping at me. I asked her in Arabic if she remembered me, but she still looked speechless as Rachid came around with the biggest surprised look on his face. He gave me the biggest hug on the planet a small, thin man of his stature can muster and pushed me towards the backdoor and to the living room, where he, Ibtissam (his daughter) and Isra (Tissam’s daughter) gathered for tea and talked about the family, what’s new and what I’ve been up to. Isra has started to fix the tea and she served me two cups (that’s a lot of caffeine if you know about Moroccan tea). About an hour into my visit he got a call, so I had to excuse myself so I would be on time at the university.
I quickly jumped in a cab to get me to Moulay Ismail University for the ISA classes. I got there in good time to have a quick coffee with Iman and talk about her studies before all the students came down for break. As the students joined us, Driss and Nachit walked in and it took them both a few seconds to realize I wasn’t one of their current students, but a student back to visit and say hi.
^Moulay Ismail University got a paint job since I was last here.
The current ISA students gathered to listen a bit to me about the Global Ambassador Program that I’m involved with and then went back to enjoy their precious few minutes between classes. I talked to Driss and Nachit about my Fulbright proposal and got some good ideas and impressed them a bit with my new found spoken Arabic before they had to go back to class and before I headed back to the Haras to see if anymore of my former host family had shown up. Happily I got to see the WHOLE family! My host brother Yessine, Meryam, and my host mom Amina had all come back from wherever they were and greeted me like a member of the family.
The girls took me back to stables and to “my” old horses that I would ride with Rachid. I think they remember me, because they were friendly and alert with me there. I was sad to learn though that Meryam quit riding after she got dumped on her head while jumping with the horses. Luckily she was wearing a helmet, but it’s such a shame because she was such a good rider!
My visit ended as quickly as it had begun, but I promised them I would return very soon and I ran back to the Ville Nouvelle to have a quick juice with Daniel and Christina before jumping the train back to Rabat.
And the next day was my final test AND presentation and I had a special guest coming to my presentation! Beligh my first ever Arabic teacher who taught me Alif Baa at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, was visiting Morocco (while he was back in North Africa visiting his family in Tunis) and doing a quick week tour of the country with other former Fulbright students.
After the traveling of the past few days, the stress of packing for Germany and a MAJOR test, I was completely NOT ready for the presentation, but luckily I gave my presentation on fantasia (Tbourida), the topic of my private lessons for the last two months. Of course, all my former teachers were there and all asked questions, and Beligh as well. It was so much fun to answer questions on a topic I knew so well in Arabic. While I don’t think I aced the written test, I definitely excelled at this presentation.
In the afternoon I caught up with Beligh and his friends at the Kasbah in Rabat and showed him around the downtown, the Hassan mausoleum and took him to a Syrian restaurant to break his gorging on Moroccan tagines. It was nice to show him my city and also my final chance to see Rabat one more time before I leave.
Did I also mention I ran into another person I knew? It was such good luck that we met up with Othmane after dinner! He was one of the people I was going to be guilt-ing myself over if I didn’t meet up with him. He took us to his favorite juice stand before we all called it a night. Beligh and Hassan were off to Fez and Meknes the next day with Othmane.
Is my poor reader tired yet of just hearing about four days? The last day in Morocco was definitely the icing on the cake to be sure.
Friday: I got a sleep-in….sort of. I was planning on going to a fantasia with my friend/newfound sister Donia (not the Dounia from Meknes), but we hadn’t talked on the phone, so I skipped the morning class and starting to back up most of my clothes so when I came home I could relax.
Around 10am I got a call from Donia and we planned on meeting in Casablanca for lunch. I thought it was just going to be a quick trip and then back for the Qalam graduation. Oh what a day it turned out to be! Donia came and picked me up at the train station and we took about half a dozen taxis to make it out to her country home about 20 km outside of Casablanca, where we met up with her mother and cousin (?). Of course, it being Friday, we ate the traditional Couscous, this time with my hands (which is SUPER hard because one: it’s couscous and two: because it was STEAMING hot). We sat and talked in English and some Arabic and some translated Darija. Donia’s mother presented me with a new dress and her cousin gave me a beautiful ring!
Donia’s big first surprise for me was dressing me up in her fantasia (Tbourida) clothes and taking about a million pictures!
And she showed me her medal from when she won the championship for Tbourida in Rabat at Dar Es Salam.
After the multitude of pictures and food, we ventured out to a neighboring town to the Moussem (festival of sorts) with its MASSIVE fantasia display! My second fantasia was just as thrilling as the first, more so with my new sister who is a seasoned champion rider. We walked around and she said “hello” to some of the male riders she knew and we ventured (or more fought our way through the crowd) to find a seat at the end pathway of the Tbourida. I discovered that part of the thrill of being at the front is the adrenaline rust from the possibility of being trampled by the horses if they don’t stop in time. A few times I think I jumped into the laps of a few children and their mothers, but no one was hurt and it was part of the fun. Sadly again there was no girl groups doing the fantasia, but I’m guessing that’s all I will be seeing when I come back (inshallah). I must have taken a million pictures the first time I saw the fantasia in Essaouira….this time I took a billion!!!!
We spent only two hours there, which flew by before I needed to catch the train back to Rabat. I was so sad to say goodbye to Donia, but she hopes to come study in the US, so hopefully we will see her soon.
Sadly I missed the train by a hair of a minute, and I had to wait on the platform for another hour putting me back VERY late at my home in Rabat. I was so sad because my whole family was asleep when I got home and I had to be awake and gone at 6am which I knew, no one would be awake for.
Luckily, Marouane was sleeping in the living room and my little sister Selma stayed up to say goodbye to me and give me a keepsake keychain from her. I shooed her off to bed because I knew it was WAY past her bedtime.
I pulled an ALL-nighter which I rarely ever do, but I knew I wouldn’t sleep well anyway, so I packed and watched YouTube videos until 6am came around. Marouane helped me out the door with my bags and gave me a big hug goodbye. That was the biggest regret of the whole trip…not being able to say goodbye to host family. They were by far the nicest people I’ve met my whole trip and I really connected with them. I’ll miss them so much! And that’s how I left Morocco…no sleep, exhausted and contented and not completely ready to leave…but I will always remember the awesome memories…
Last weekend was spent with Michael and Zoe at Tetouan and then Tangier. It was Michael's last weekend with us, so we caught up with the Mountain Man in Tetouan after he finished a few days of climbing in mountains (amongst the marijuana fields).
We were lucky enough to witness the king in residence at the palace in Tetouan. Hence the lit-up royal coat of arms above.
Tetouan was a great place to relax and listen to Michael’s climbing stories in rural Morocco. Zoe and Michael and I enjoyed the old Spanish city walking and eating our way around the souk…as usual.
We enjoyed our three-bed suite close to the square and enjoyed our sleep-in on Saturday morning.
The next morning us three stooges went to the small archeological museum in Tetouan that houses finds from Lixus (the Roman ruins on the coast) and other pre-Roman and Berber artifacts. It was tiny and we were the only visitors, so the curator had to turn on the lights for us.
We called it an early afternoon and took a grand taxi (6 passengers full) to Tangier. We checked into our hotel and ventured out into the souk to see what we could find in the way of bread, souvenirs, and dinner, then back to our hotel to make ourselves ready for a last night on the town with Michael.
Our dinner was slightly disappointing at an upstanding Spanish tapas restaurant when our pella was not up to par, but our wine diluted our disappointment and then we ventured to the biggest, fanciest, beachfront bar and disco we could find…. although it was not what it looked like.
We went in for just one drink and saw the richest, skeeziest looking Moroccans in Tangier and really younger women perhaps of the prostitute persuasion. We quickly went to see if there was anything better going on in the disco and with the music pumping it was very surprisingly dead. There were lots of people, but no one was dancing. Leaving and trying to find something more our style and price range…our next place was AWESOME!
The three musketeers got a little crazy with some drinks and some dancing. Before we knew it, Zoe was getting the number of a guy and I was dancing outside while we were waiting for her. It was 4 in the morning and making it back into the hotel without running into onry Moroccan teenagers was a bit of a detour, but we made it back to our hotel door at the first call of prayer. If someone wasn’t awake to pray, we probably would have watched the sun rise on the beach. We all climbed out of our smoky clothes and took turns spritzing the booze and cigarette smell off of us before falling into bed without much ado. To be truthful, it was the happiest night since the group left, but the also the saddest. It was our last night as a trio.
The duo remained for the last two weeks. We celebrated the Fourth of July with Zoe and the newbies with a cookout and karaoke. I brought a bit of the country spirit to Morocco, by singing “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy” with Zoe and Kevin. We even encouraged one of our administrators (Lotfi) , who used to be a wedding singer to serenade us. It was a fun evening shared by a school full of new Americans, Germans and others. We ended the night seeing Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.”
Needless to say the first week without "the group" was hard, but Zoe and I were comforted with the fact that the weekend was soon to come and we would have at least a weekend full of adventures with our Australians Maggie and Michael.
Zoe and I could hardly contain our excitement as we took a VERY long train ride from Rabat to Marrakesh and then a bus to Essaouira, a beautiful coastal town. Halfway through the the bus ride, Maggie called with UNIMAGINABLE information for me......she told me to listen closely.....at first all I heard was wind in the phone.....then I heard a BOOM!....Could it be? It was! Maggie yelled into the phone..."IT'S A FANTASIA!" Talk about making the bus ride take SOOO much longer knowing that I was missing the one Moroccan thing I was dying to see!
Between the elation of seeing my friends (if only after a week) and seeing my first fantasia....I could tell this weekend was going to be an EPIC adventure. As soon as we stepped off the bus, we heard the booms of what I imagined a canon would sound like, but instead, as we made our way to the beach, it was the sound of old powder rifles in the hands of skilled tbourida riders.
I left Zoe to find Michael and Maggie in the crowd so I could get as close as possible. The poor Moroccans must have thought I was absolutely "meznoon" (crazy in Arabic) with my crazed grin and wild eyes and I tramped through the crowd to block the few of others while I took pictures. I saw about 20 minutes before the performance concluded and I turned around and there was Maggie and Michael approaching: Maggie dressed as her Moroccan alternate personality Lela and "Mountain Man" Michael looking scruffy and happy from a week of climbing in the mountains.
We all then made our way to our hotel at the edge of town, where we shared an awesome 4 bedroom room and a silly tiny bathroom. But we made ready to hit the town as the Gnaou Music Festival was in its opening night, we were starving and Essaouira is known for its AMAZINGLY, just-fresh-from-the-sea, caught-maybe-three-hours-ago, maybe-still-alive seafood!
Right next to the massive stage in the old city of Essaouira, were the fish markets. Talk about intense sellers hawking their products, butI suppose there is some urgency to selling seafood.
We picked out about 10 pounds worth of seafood to try, including crab, sea urchins, sole, shrimp and calamari. We did have the choice of shark, but guessed it might be a bit pricey along with the still live lobster crawling around on top of the rest of the seafood. Almost all of it was chilled on a charcoal fire and kept being served to us in stages with bread and salad. We totally gorged ourselves!
After having to loosen my belt a hole or two, we made our way through the crowds (where a mischievous 12 year old slapped my butt) back to the stage close to the beach where we saw a Moroccan Reggae band and Maggie got her dancing shoes on. Surprisingly, it was terribly cold with the wind off the sea that I was wishing for my wind jacket. We didn't return to the hotel until close to 2am.
While we didn't expect to get up at such an early hour, we decided it might be best to get out and site-see and enjoy what Essaouira had to offer.
We enjoyed breakfast at a snooty little café mostly filled with tourists (probably because it is highly recommended in the guidebooks), but it was cheap and delicious nonetheless.
After breakfast, we proceeded to conquer all the sites in Essaouira, from the ramparts of a massive fort where Orson Welles filmed bits of Othello in 1949. The harbor, with the ships and fishing boats, fisherman and fish market were unlike anything I've seen in Morocco to date. It is so different from the typical rural dusty Morocco. The boats painted blue and the amount of seagulls hovering around created the essence of a magical town.
At 1pm, after a long morning of site-seeing and wandering in the souk, we stopped for a lunch of epic-ness of sardines, couscous and an amazing sweet tagine.
While Zoe and Maggie returned to siesta in the hotel, I dragged poor Michael to another fantasia that was to my delight happening on the beach again. This time with many more riders and groups. Surprisingly there were no female groups! But I did enjoy every single moment I was there!
This night we splurged on a fancy restaurant called Chez Sam located in the dark (slightly sketchy) recesses of the port and created from an old fishing boat. At the door, it seems like the there is barely anyone in there, but inside the table clothes and bar definitely make the place sparkle with charm and class. Here we proceeded on our second gorging, this time tasting the flavor of the sea whether it was grilled, sautéed or fried, along with two bottles of crispy Meknés-y wine.
The next morning was spent enjoying our breakfast once again at the same restaurant before the real endurance trial began. Because all the mainstream bus companies were booked for getting to the city of El-Jedida, we took a chance on taking a no-name bus to Safi where we would then take a grand taxi the rest of the way. I don't want to gross people out about the bus, nor do I wish to recall the experience in great detail, but I do think the pictures below will illustrate our experience pretty well.
Before the bus ride: Fresh faced, ready for the next leg of the adventure....
After the nastiest, longest 2 hour endurance test of a lifetime...."That bus was shit!"
We finally made it to El-Jedida slightly worse for wear, especially that our grand taxi drivers personality seemed to match the nastiness of the bus we had just gotten off, but El-Jedida redeemed itself in the morning.
The morning at the beach café was gorgeous and inspiring. Afterwards we wandered through yet another amazing place with seafood. The old city was once occupied by the Portuguese in the 16th century, so we visited the old cistern which was also another location used by Welles for Othello.
I think this place was by far, my favorite site in Morocco besides the fantasia. The acoustics and the lighting were phenomenal. I think we probably would have spent the better part of the day if the lady hadn't told us that we only had 20 minutes before it closed for lunch.
We walked along the bastion walls to see various parts of the port and sea. It was gorgeous but we worked up our appetite between the walk and Maggie's awesome bartering skills that we opted for a few plates of well seasoned beans before our trip to the beach!
Now I've swum in the Atlantic before, but never endured this type of freezing cold water. The water numbed you quickly, but then returned your body the harsh reality of EXTREMELY cold water. We took two dips and that was it, but it was nice to spend a few hours in a bikini after a FREEZING Berlin winter and being decent in Morocco.
Well that weekend felt so much longer than three days looking back on it, and all the things we saw and traveled to. It was also our last weekend with Maggie. She returns to France for a few months, before going to Qatar on full scholarship to learn Arabic for a year! She's going to be doing amazing things with her Arabic! Miss you Maggie!
Well the school month came to an end last Friday...very sadly I might add. All the students who had scholarships and only had a four week session at the school have gone home or continued on in their travels.
^The "Cool" People
We held a graduation ceremony for our comrades celebrating our advancement and receiving certificates. That night we celebrated watching the England versus Sweden in the Europe Cup Football Championship (England won) and then retired to the boys' apartment for final goodbyes and cuddle time into the wee hours of the morning. We dragged the mattresses into the middle of the living room like in the Sahara and spent our last hours, giggling, snoring, watching ridiculous videos and cuddling up.
The first two to depart were Aubrey (American) and Asif (British) leaving at 3am and gently waking us awake for kisses and hugs goodbye before catching a cab to the airport.
The next one to bid farewell was Kuba our awesome Polish friend. Four more of us woke up to catch the train down to Marrakesh. I gave Kuba a fond farewell, with the promise to hopefully visit Krakow during my last month in Germany. We also bid farewell to Josi from Holland as she would catch her plane after we left.
As I was sort of sleepy and grumpy, but ready to go, we ended up missing our first train and went back for another hour of sleep. Then we endured a 5 hour train ride without air conditioning and not being able to open the windows :( BUT
when we made it there...Philipp, Maggie and Michael and I relished the "Red City."
We found a wonderfully cheap riad (old Moroccan house) to stay in close to the souks. We were welcomed with tea and shelter from the sun beating down on us. Then we ventured out for lunch....
We tried the Marrakesh specialty of a Tagina which is like tagine but cooked in a different pot and cooked longer. Then we visited the souks...and Marrakesh souks are like none other in ALL of Morocco....this is the place to find anything and everything. The first woodworker we encountered even gave us a demonstration with his "Moroccan Black and Decker" tools. He reminded me of my dad without the wood-lathe, especially with the cockeyed glasses.
We ventured to TONS of sights including the Kotubia mosque, gardens, the Djema-El-Fna. My traveling companions needed a quick nap to recover after not sleeping much the night before.
At night we visited the massive square in Marrakesh and fun was just beginning....we grabbed some orange juice and saw the set up of the night-air restaurant before watching the sunset and the town come to life.
Jotting down a few notes, we watched the sun dip below the horizon of buildings and enjoyed a tea and the noise of the city below us.
We finished our tea and prepared ourselves to join the hustle and bustle of a night in the square. We picked out the best restaurant in the square because we constantly saw flames arising from the grill.
Then Michael, Maggie and I still felt adventurous enough to try the prairie snails that Marrakesh is so famous for.
Then we topped it all off with our second round of the "aphrodisiac" tea made from ginger and ginseng before retiring to our riad and chatting until midnight.
The next morning we were up in decent time to lazily enjoy our breakfast on the terrace before working our energy to enjoy the rest of the day in Marrakesh before splitting up and saying goodbye to Philipp.
We visited the Saadin tombs that were hidden until the first world war, then two palaces, breaking for lunch at a schwarma place where we impressed the locals with our Arabic and the local girls went gag over our good looking men.
Our last step was the Jardin Marjorelle that was owned by the famous painter before Yves St. Laurent bought it and restored to its glory.
We finished the day with ice cream before Philipp and I jumped the train home to Rabat. Philipp said his fond goodbye to Michael (who had been his roommate for the past month) and to Maggie (our other awesome Aussie). I left Maggie and Michael with the promise to see them this coming weekend before we say our goodbyes.
Upon returning to Rabat, I said my sad farewell to Philipp. It was sad to bid "Abu Hadith" (Philipp's nickname) bon voyage as he was the creator of many good analogies and jokes. Luckily he shoved me in a taxi before I had time to cry over the breakup of our glorious group, but I will be hopefully lucky enough to see him soon when I visit Erlangen again during my month in Germany. The fun isn't hopefully over for forever, but just taking a rest before our group can reconvene again.
Upshot of it all....I still got my girl Zoe with me for the next month. Things will be alright....inshallah!
Well everyone! Last weekend was Fes and Meknes with 9 of my schoolmates. We visited the Jewish Quarter, then got literally lost in the souqs (old city markets). If all the walking around wasn't enough, we certainly felt like climbing a massive hill to get to the armaments museum. But it was worth it. We all got in shape wearing our backpacks and trekking up a nice incline. Not any purchases of major note except a pretty traditional dress which I shall model later, but Zoe did end up bargaining for one of her favorite souvenirs!
We took about an hour in the museum before returning to the train and getting to Meknes during the cool hours of the evening. This is where my heart started to race. Returning to my former "hometown" in Morocco. The reception was beyond compare. While trying to arrange grand taxis to take us to our hostel, I found my long lost Moroccan "brother". I explained to the taxi driver that I used to live in Meknes and the area of Zitoune, and he was so excited that for the rest of the weekend, he introduced me as "his sister." This started an experience in Meknes, I doubt anyone will forget.
After that "my new brother" took us to the look out point close to the medina (old city) in Meknes, before our hostel. Everyone got to view the beautiful old city and great Moroccan hospitality.
That night we all rested in order to get up to visit the Roman ruins of Volubilis. We had arranged with my new "brother" and his friend to pick us up and take us to Volubilis and the neighboring holy town of Moulay Idriss. Because this was my fourth time to Volubilis and and Moulay Idriss....I led the tour through the extensively AWESOME ruins!
But naturally there are always monkeys in the group that want to climb on the columns....
We broke for lunch in Moulay Idriss before returning back to Meknes for an afternoon of jam-packed site-seeing before jumping the train home....granted we picked up sleep wherever we could.
After that we said a sad farewell to my beloved new "brother" and I led my friends around my beautiful city of Meknes. We visited the historical granary of Sultan Moulay Ismail. This granary was designed to hold enough food and water and supplies to withstand a 20 year long siege. Behind that was the stables that could hold 12,000 of the sultan's favorite horses. This was great because when I was here last they were still restoring the stables and visitors were not allowed. So this was something new I had not seen! And of course with my love of horses....HOW COOL!
Then we ventured to the mausoleum of Sultan Moulay Ismail. This was not only a cool thing to see but a great place to break and take pictures!
Then before saying goodbye to the town of Meknes (well I'll be going back soon to be sure) I took them to the rooftop café where they could look over the square of Bab Al-Mansour that leads into the local souq.
We all lazily returned home to Rabat as this was our last weekend visit all together. Today is the last night with all my friends together. Honestly, I don't know what I"ll do without such cool, interesting people. ....well I do believe I'll be traveling to visit them all very soon!
So finally about Morocco: there is SOOO much to say I can't begin to describe it all. Being the second time in Morocco, I still find it breath taking and fun in every way.
I'll try to fill in details as I go along, but first the SAHARA! First of all, Sahara in Arabic means desert, so this is THE Sahara, because all the other deserts in the world have names.
We packed up last weekend on Friday and took our 7 hour drive south in the mini bus to Merzouga. This was a lot of bonding time us and the students who had just arrived that week. Thirteen of us and two teachers trekked to the Atlas mountains where we fed the semi-wild apes, stopped for a bit of watermelon, then clambered back onto the bus to get to our AWESOME hotel in the middle of nowhere Morocco.
I reverted to my girl scout ways and taught (or re-taught) everyone the cat's cradle game that can last for hours, using my shoelaces. (Photo Courtesy of Josh Lee)
Below: Philipp feeding a nagging ape...
Michael enjoying his hunk of watermelon.
Balcony neighbors at the hotel..
The next morning we got in the bus again and drove to the town of Rissani. We picked up our turbans and water there before heading to hear the magical music in a SMALL town south of Merzouga. Some of the girls even got up to dance.
We continued on in 4x4s offroading to our meeting place with the camels.
At 5pm we mounted our camels for an hour and half ride into the Sahara to our campsite.
We all wanted to watch the sunset, but there was a big dune blocking the way...so naturally we all ran up it....that didn't work as well as we had planned...it was VERY difficult towards the top and we ended up missing the sunset, but we did make it to the top!
Later we returned to the camp, a bit run down after our sprint on the dunes and waited for our dinner.
At night was our true bonding time. We opted to sleep outside under the stars with our blankets and initiated "cuddle time" so that we could all stay warm. We stayed up a little past 1am talking and giggling until exhaustion overtook us and we were wakened by the groaning of camels the next morning.
Waking up at 5am to get our butts back on our camels to travel and watch the sunrise was great. We were all a little smelly of camels, dirty, sand in everyplace, but the sunrise was definitely magical. While I didn't top my first picture in the Sahara, I did get quite a good one (featured as the first picture of this post).
This would be a great picture if Kuba wasn't doing something funky in the background
Below: Me and my camel I nicknamed "Arn."
Needless to say we were all pretty "out cold" on the bus ride home. We barely even woke up for gas/bathroom breaks. But we did see one of Morocco's own springs (right in the middle of the flatlands!)
Michael's semi-shower before getting back on the bus.
This was my second time to the Sahara and to be sure, I will be back again. I had so much fun getting to know my new classmates, that these next weeks with them will be some of the greatest!
I'm finally in.....
Sorry everyone it took me a week to finally post about my arrival and trip in Belfast but running to site to site, visiting with friends and finally getting situated in my host family and classes, this week has just been crazy.
(^sorry for the water on the lens) I had a blast with my friends Joy and Adam who left Nebraska last fall to go back to Belfast (Adam's home) so that Adam could do his Master's in Business at Queen's University.
Before heading to Morocco, I was getting my fill of Northern Ireland to tied me over until Adam and Joy visit me in Nebraska. The picture above was taken at Giant's Causeway on the coast between Northern Ireland and Scotland. Getting the story from a native was very important so I got the "true story" from Adam and Dave....
There was a giant and his name was Finn McCool and his land was on the Irish side and of course there was another giant who's land was in Scotland. The Scottish giant wanted Finn's land and built a "causeway" between Scotland and Ireland. To trick the Scottish giant, Finn hid under a blanket and disguised himself as a baby, when the Scottish giant came and saw Finn's wife with the "baby" he was convinced that Finn must be huge because the "baby" was so big already and the Scottish giant ran home and broke the causeway in case Finn wanted to chase after him...
And the "myth" of Giant's Causeway is that it is an ancient volcanic eruption which cooled rapidly leaving these pillar like stones to climb on.
Then we also saw the Giant's Boot...
Then we went to the Giant's Organ....
And then we drove a bit down the coast to view the ruins of Dunluce Castle. While we didn't go in because it cost 10£, we decided to climb around it and take some pictures. This is where the show "Game of Thrones" is sometimes filmed.
And this was all in one day! Earlier in the week Joy and I got to explore Belfast together on her last week of freedom before starting a new job...
One of the top sites I wanted to see was the new Titanic Belfast museum..
The museum was barely over a month open when I visited and Joy and I stayed in there for 3 and a half HOURS! While it's called the Titanic Belfast Museum, it starts with the history of Belfast to give a background to the building of Titanic and its ultimate fate.
While I did get to see some awesome sites of Belfast, I was truly there to see some of the coolest people I've met and spend time sharing laughs, hilarious photos and stories.
I also experienced my first Ulster-fry for breakfast the first morning...unfortunately I don't have a picture...just imaged all that is good and fried for breakfast plus eggs....YUMMY!
Being in Belfast and being an ISA (International Studies Abroad) Global Ambassador (Alumni from their Study Abroad and now a student representative), I got a chance to visit our ISA Resident Director Paul and one of the students.....but more to come soon....because this was a long LONG blog post....