Friday, September 18, 2009

We'll always have Marrakech: Part 2

The morning began sooner than I expected as I was awoken by the call to prayer an unfamiliar sound but something I figured out pretty quickly. Being in an Islamic country during Ramadan was a unique experience. Our tour guides followed the Ramadan custom of fasting from sunrise to sunset. Our tour guide Mulay’s voice was strained by the middle of each day as he spoke a lot but could not sooth this throat with water. I felt guilty sitting next to Mulay for the 9-hour bus ride as I occasionally took a sip of water from my Nalgene.

The 9-hour bus ride was not as bad as one might imagine, at times it was exciting, other scary and thanks to my well-honed skill of falling asleep in cars, sometimes restful. Driving through the Atlas Mountains making hairpin turns and blind curves reminded me of the Mullholand Madness ride at California Adventure. Being in the front seat often made it feel like I was hanging over the edge of the cliff knowing the tires were still a few feet behind me safety (as I kept telling myself) on the road.

We arrived at a restaurant for lunch and took over the entire second floor of the restaurant when another LLC, Ana pointed out the time to me. While I had previously given thought to the day, September 11th, I did not try to compute the time to east coast time. It was approaching 9:20am in the east coast. Ana asked if she should ask for a moment of silence when a student at our table realized what she was asking and said, that we should. Ana stood up and addressed the 170 SAS participants on our trip. I could see the emotion in her face and hear it in her voice as she called for everyone’s attention and stated that the time was approximately 1320 or 9:20est. All side conversation halted as students realized what she was doing. She asked for a moment of silence to remember those who were no longer with us and for all those affected. A minuet later she thanked everyone and students went back to their conversation and waited for what would be another great Moroccan meal.

Back on the bus we continued along our way, passing small towns and wishing that we could stop allowing us to get some photos of the people and communities. There were many moments that I wanted to capture along the way. The landscape was equally beautiful. If you have ever seen the movie Babel the opening scene with the bus traveling along, we were on that road. Nonetheless the drive continued and then almost without warning the bus pulled of the road and a small pack of camels waiting for us. My bus was the first to arrive and I knew that things were about to get interesting.

My bus alone held 43 passengers and as I have said multiple times we had 170 total in our group. It was then confirmed what was previously chatter among the students that there was 1 camel for every 2 people. So it was up to us to decide with a partner if we would ride the hour to the camp today and walk out tomorrow, or split up both ways allowing both people to ride each day. Now, remember the Life Long Learners I mentioned in Part 1. My poor LLL Louaine used a cane and also needed assistance to step on and off the bus. With the news of camel sharing I was suddenly preparing myself to walk both ways in order to allow at least one LLL ride the entire way.

Ultimately I rode for a bit and had a great time and plenty of laughs with the students around me. Along the way the SAS photographer Steve got a few good shots of me and then I switched with him. While I had assumed that Louaine would ride the entire time thus was not the case. She was complaining about being uncomfortable and she wanted to walk. Fantastic! So, I watched my group journey into the sunset as I slowly walked with Louaine as groups from the other three buses passes us by. Eventually camp came into sight and one of the tour guides called us over as the rest of the group was making an extra loop buying the crew some additional time to finish setting up for us. I will say, once walking Louaine never complained and really was a trooper but I was happy to get to the camp and take a few moments to myself after the long bus ride and slow walk with Louaine before the rest of the group arrived.

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