Thursday, February 12, 2009

Walk the Casbah

It's hard to follow a masturbating Greek.
(although, I guess it would quite risky standing in front of him.)

After the fun of Madrid, Steve and I went to Marrakech. The flight was late, but our ride from the airport was there, provided free from the hotel if you book for 3 nights. The Dar Touyir was a particularly enjoyable hotel - cheap, quiet, relaxing, with very friendly staff and tasty food. Steve planned to sign up for a Moroccan cooking class for 100 euros, but we instead learned that we could take a class at the hotel for 30 euro. Steve negotiated them down to 25 in French (which is not bad, since his French is) and we did this 2 days. Wake up, eat a good breakfast, meet our instructor (a wide and kind faced woman), follow her to the little shops to get stuff, cook with her for 3 hours, have a feast. I took notes the whole time and look forward to having a pressure cooker so I can try it again.

The markets, indeed the whole city, were just what we wanted: different. Unlike Europeans, even Eastern ones nowadays, the people and dress and decor were not quite what you see in the States. Cars and technology were everywhere and I sensed again the fortune of being able to make it to Marrakech while there was still some of it left, before the whole world gets homogeneous. The Muslim call to prayer rang loud and blear five times a day, though few people seemed to heed it. The shops were filled with all kinds of things, all hagglable, often jutting from really narrow dirt alleys. There were several central bazaars and one of them had a row of people selling fresh orange juice. Each of them sold for 3 dirham, or under 30 cents. After my yapping about how nice it was to have fresh OJ for 2 euros, this was just too much to handle. At first, anyway. I asked one if I could get 2 for 5. No, he said. Steve and I went to the next cart. Same question. No, he said. Next cart. Same question. Sure. Easy to haggle with such accessible competition.

Amidst the snake handlers, weird fortune tellers, oddly dressed but friendly cops, and various street performers, there were a lot of beggars. Some got quite obnoxious, and one followed us arounf for a good half kilometer pestering us for money on the grounds that he directed us to the central square. Counterarguments that we did not request that information, did not want to go to the central square, and already knew where it was (all of which were true) were totally unpersuasive. Nothing much you can do about such people, which I also encountered a lot in Atlanta. Guy just kept pestering, wouldn't take no. It can sour your afternoon, along with the choking pollution there. But overall a great time, can't wait to go back.

On the last evening, Steve's friend from high school came down. Sam lived nearby on a Fulbright and spoke some Arabic. We walked around the city, haggled, had lunch, and did indeed walk the casbah. It was a walled area, cool mainly in that the walls and indeed the whole city were in that Arabic style. I never really considered firsthand the proposal that it be rocked. We instead had a great dinner and crashed. That morning, our little breakfast table had a third setting that we were not charged for. We already loved the place, but that really sold it.

Now over at the temple
Oh! They really pack 'em in
The in crowd say it's cool
To dig this chanting thing
But as the wind changed direction
The temple band took five
The crowd caught a wiff
Of that crazy Casbah jive
-- The Clash, Rock the casbah

Gotta speed up to catch up to now in time to catch a bus. After that, we flew to Barcelona. It had a different style than Madrid and we had a lot of fun. The second day there, I had to give a talk and asked a guy named Felip from Barcelona Digital where he recommended. Senor Parillada, he said, and it was indeed a great meal. The next day I gave a talk too, and the last day we made it to the Picasso museum before flying to Amsterdam.

Amsterdam. What can one say? It easily deserves its own blog entry, and um.... yeah.

Then there were a few more days in Bremen before Steve left, and then sudden silence. Hadn't seen my brother in 2 years, and now he was gone for who knows how long. I had to refocus on my work and my move to Graz. All kinds of horrific, ugly last minute politicking from Ivan and the boss, but (as always) I got along great with eveyone here except those two and that makes up for a lot. We had a nice little going away party/movie night last night and I'll miss working with most of the people here. But, it's over. It's 11:45 PM on my last night in Bremen. I just burned my last DVD, printed my last article, and said goodbye to Ivan. I am about to take the last bus to my quiet and empty apartment. I got a train at 7 tomorrow to Munich, then Salzburg, then Graz. No return ticket.

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