Marrakesh, part 4. Travel home. Monday, up at 3, leave 4, train 5, Casablanca 7:40. Tough time getting a cab there, dropped off wrong spot, American school, rather than American consulate, but only a couple of blocks away. So, I thought I read the American Consulate website, but apparently not. No one is allowed to take a suitcase nor laptop into the consulate. So, you are just passing through, what do you do? The guy says “no problem, you have about 15 minutes before your appointment to get rid of your stuff.” Hmmm. Where is the nearest hotel? I guess I can rent a room and leave it there? He looks at me like I have grown a third eye. Meanwhile, there is a man across the street waving me over to him. I get the idea that he is offering to watch my stuff. The florescent vest under his jacket sort of adds to him presenting as official. He is also small and older, making him seem trustworthy. I ask the guard if that man is offering to watch my stuff? “Yes, that is what people do”. “Is he OK?” “I can’t say if he is ok or not, but he is there every day”. So…accepting that things like this happen every day here, I hand over my suitcase and laptop to a total stranger. As I go through security, I return to him three times with more items rejected by security. Now he has a buddy offering me visa services, we chat, but I need to go. My photo is the wrong size, but I am told that there is a place around the corner. As I re-appear on the street, my friend senses my dilemma and come to guide me to the photo place. It takes 3 photographers and 12 attempts to get a conforming photo. I am beginning to feel a personal relationship with all the security people. Finally, I have completed all tasks needed to renew my passport. During the application process for Peace Corps they had mine and it expired. I am traveling on the special PC Passport, but if they were to boot me out, I would not have one, so happy to have that done. Back to my friend. He leads me to his room in the abandoned (?) building where he has the stuff. He asks me to make sure I get all my stuff. I ask how much and he just says, whatever I think. I tell him I am sure I don’t have enough to repay all his help, but give him 200 dh, which I hope shows the right amount of gratitude. He helps me to a taxi and after all that I still make my train to Rabat.
The transportation situation from Fes to my village, in the late afternoon, makes it impossible to get home in one day. Since I need to spend the night somewhere, I choose Rabat, so that I can get my teeth cleaned at one of the approved dentists. PC only pays for a cleaning after one year, but I can have more if I pay. I have a reservation at a PC recommended hotel. After wandering the street back and forth I finally find it. An elevator, behind a coffee shop, takes me to the 3rd floor and I get out to another dirty looking place. At any other time I would have just rolled with it and called it “quaint”, but after the week I just had, I was not in the mood. So I moved to a place right across from the train station, nothing fancy, but clean. It was a much needed break, and I had just enough time to catch a cab to my dentist. Again, dropped in the wrong spot, but thanks to the kindness of strangers, found my dentist. The doctor was a woman, nothing surprising about that in the US, but a bigger accomplishment here. She did a good job and had interesting comments about my teeth. I got a nice cab driver back, who pointed out a few of the sights. Dinner at the hotel was predictably poor and expensive. The best food is always at the local places, the street places. But I was tired and did not feel like going further than the elevator would take me. The restaurant did have a lovely view.
In the morning I took the tram that was right outside my door to a short walk from the Moroccan Peace Corps headquarters. I was there at 8, but happy to find a familiar face, one of the staff I know, who gave me a tour and helped me retrieve the wayward shovels. The place was much nicer and bigger than expected, with several small buildings and garden, within a walled compound. I returned to the hotel just in time for a quick breakfast and to catch my train home. I shared a car (until I found out I was in the right seat, wrong car) with a couple from Kentucky. Those peaches had morphed from bloom to in leaf, redbuds were blooming in Meknes.
Again, a taxi driver tried to hose me, though not as common in Fes as Marrakesh. Next! I had a bit of a wait for the small bus home. The place where one catches that bus is at one of the old city gates, so I wandered a bit. I returned to find my favorite ticket guy guarding my stuff (ya, why not, that is how it is done here). I may have mentioned this guy before. He is the only man I have met, (Morocco, America or anywhere) that just gives me the blatant up and down “I am going to eat you for lunch look”. I just crack up. I need to remember to bring him some chocolate next time.
Back in my village, my host sister met me at the bus and I was so happy to see her. We stopped at the Dar Shbaab to drop off the shovels. I found my time slot being poached by Hamza (the guy who stole 140 dh from me). Great. So, I needed to stick around and see what that was all about. A good discussion about our objectives for working with youth, Hamza, Music guy and my Director, turned into a heated argument when Khadija came in. Had nothing to do with me, but there was no way to pick up the discussion again.