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Friday, August 26, 2016

PICKPOCKETS, SOUKS AND MEDINAS

So, I wanted to avoid the icy touch of winter by going back to Morocco.

It may sound simple but if it involves Africa, it probably won't be.

Nothing is ever simple there.  I have no idea why that is.  If I believed in a god, I would say that 'Africa doesn't seem to be one of his favorite places'.  At all.  With just a touch of hate balm.  Not sure why that is.

Hell, I don't know why Africa is the way it is but I am not overly fond of it.  Sure I'd like it better than say Antarctica which to the best of my knowledge doesn't have a lot of internet access.  Which I need.

So, due to finances and not wanting a cold winter, I took my dumb ass back to Africa.  Naturally.

After bouncing from Romania (I miss it already) to Germany then to Spain I finally ended up in Tangiers Morocco.

That took two days of exhausting travel, to save about the amount of money I lost within an hour of being in Tangiers.

Romania had lulled me into a false sense of security - for the third world.  Within an hour or two in Tangiers, my dumb ass got my phone pick pocketed.  Sad how many times you keep looking where it should be thinking it will still be there.  Or searching somewhere you know it isn't but hoping.

Unbelievable.

After checking out eight places in Tangiers, I came to the opinion that all of the under $20 per night (all I can afford) places had dirty, dark and smelling like human and animal waste.  What the fuck.

Thinking back, I did even have some foreshadowing.  When I was in Tangiers, I met a couple tourists.  They asked what was north of us.  "Spain" I told them.  "Good" they replied.  "We want to get the fuck out of this country."  Hum.

Combine that with the loss of my smart phone and I said 'let's roll the dice again'.

I went to the bus station and got the first bus out.   Tetouan.  Never heard of that before.  Couple hours later and I was there.

Met a fixer, got a new phone (not sure if I like it or despise it yet) and found a so so place to stay.  It's about thirteen dollars a night and not really worth that.  Makes me miss Thailand.

All cheap Moroccan places are noisy.  This is because they have a central shaft down the middle for funneling air.  If you don't have your windows open, you cook.  No air conditioning, no fans.  The problem is that every noise in any of the rooms along that shaft is magnified.  Note, this is called a 'riad' - often a grand house converted into a hotel.  Which would make sense.  Being able to hear your family (who you presumably love enough not to axe murder for making so much damned racket) may be a good thing.

And no screens in the window.  So if anything gets in, you get a new room mate.

I'm seriously wondering about this town.

And Morocco.

But I'm not down yet.  The fixer I met offered to find me a place for 15% of the rent.  I told him my budget was 3000 dirham (about 300 USD) per month.  Honestly, the country isn't really worth more to me.

It goes back to my philosophy of why I dislike  a lot of Africa.  If stuff is dirty and squalid (see also India) it should be cheap.  Then, that's OK.  If it is shit and expensive, that's a problem for me.

So, we'll see what the fixer can do.  He asked for a day and I told him I'd stay for another after today.  He's going to check out some places and see if he can find anything decent.  If he can, I may rent a place.  If not, I might go back to a place I'm familiar with - like Marrakesh.

Another problem is that Logan was not the only one with the bright idea to come to Morocco during the summer.  This is their big tourist time.  Hence, prices go up and places to stay fill up.

Honestly, if I could afford an apartment somewhere warm in the USA (New Mexico, etc) I'd just go hang out there and wait for the warm weather to start LHI2 (the next tour of the states to visit people I know and people I've not yet met) but the rent in the USA is about more than I make per month.

So, I'll just wait and see what happens.

It's nice to have people out looking for stuff for me.



OR IS IT?

The next day (my third here, I think) I met up with Abdulla, my 'personal shopper', AKA fixer.  We went walking for a couple hours through souks and medinas.

Lots of walking.

There was a lot of stopping and chatting to this guy or that.  It is what one would expect from a fixer.  Plus, in Arabic influenced countries nothing happens fast.  You just have to accept that the whole process of ...well, pretty much anything, may take hours.  Life has a different pace here.

That's one of the funny things for people from 'first world' countries.  They always say they want the 'slower (or 'laid back') pace life'.  When they actually experience needing to wait for something that should be fast for hours, they lose their damned minds.  When most people say they want the 'slower pace lifestyle', they mean for them.  Not people they are paying for stuff.  They want them to hop the fuck to it.

The first place we visited was a riad in the medina.  It had been converted into a hotel.  Beautiful and build four hundred or so years ago.

Sorry the picture is crooked but I'm still trying to get use to my brand new phone/camera.

If you look closely at the floor, it is all done by hand.  Thousands of little pieces.  You don't find those in the newer riads because it is expensive as hell.

We had tea there and chatted for a bit.  I think my fixer was testing me to see if I was really serious about the 300 USD per month price.  This place cost 35 EUR per night for one person.  I didn't say that was my entire allotment of money for a day.  For two people, it is 40 EUR.  Pretty reasonable for them.

It is nice getting served tea everywhere.  Part of the tradition of hospitality (in Arabic 'de-aww-fa').  Nice.

After that, we went to another place.  It was really pleasant but there were a few warning signs.  There were no other people staying there.  The guy had the wifi off and needed to turn it on.  Always be wary of this as people have some odd beliefs about wifi such as 'it needs to rest'.  Or are too damned cheap to pay for electricity and will later object to having it on 'all the time'.  As it should be.  The price was right - 3000 dirham for the month.  I asked if it would be possible to pay 200 dirham to stay for two nights and then if I liked it just give him the rest of the money for the month.  No, it would cost 300 dirham per night and then on top of that pay for the month.  And he would have to talk first to his wife.

After we left, my fixer voiced his disgust.  "In Morocco, the women have no voice.  It was just a bargaining tactic."

Yes ladies.  I know.  You know me - I don't care if a human is male or female but in Arabic countries it is a whole different thing.  Apparently science saying we all started out as female (why men have nipples) is not something that is pondered.  Or it would be angrily shouted down and penises waved about.  Or something.

Despite it being a nice place that was just too many red flags waved about.

After walking around for a bit, Abdulla admitted he didn't have any place else to see right now.  I told him I'd stay for another night at the kind of shitty place I'm currently staying.

I remember playing the Cyberpunk tabletop RPG back in the 1980's.  That was my first introduction to 'fixers'.  It was surprisingly accurate.  I had no idea that decades later I would be employing them.

Cold showers and noisy with spotty wifi equal shitty for Logan.  Trudging my fat ass up four flights of stairs don't put me in a better mood either.

Maybe tomorrow he'll find a better place.  Though my needs are simple, he's working his ass off for that 15% - and if he could find a place I'd be happy to pay it.



TRAVELER'S TIPS - MOROCCO

French, Spanish and Arabic are keys to happiness here.


Check everything.  "This is the battery for your phone."  "Great!  Pop it in there and let's take a look."  "Oh - it's just a little too big."  Glad I didn't buy it.  In countries like this, consider all deals final.  Getting back your money is either impossible or often more trouble than it is worth.  Check everything first.  Negotiate everything first down to the dirham.




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PICTURES

{{2011}} London, GB | Rail N Sail | Amsterdam, Netherlands | Prague, Czech Republic | Budapest, Hungary | Sarajevo, Bosnia | Romania | Chisinau, Moldova | Ukraine: Odessa - Sevastopol | Crossed Black Sea by ship | Georgia: Batumi - Tbilisi - Telavi - Sighnaghi - Chabukiani | Turkey: Kars - Lost City of Ani - Goreme - Istanbul | Jordan: Amman - Wadi Rum | Israel | Egypt: Neweiba - Luxor - Karnak - Cairo | Thailand: Bangkok - Pattaya - Chaing Mai - Chaing Rei | Laos: Luang Prabang - Pakse | Cambodia: Phnom Penh | Vietnam: Vung Tau - Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City

{{2012}} Cambodia: Kampot - Sihanoukville - Siem Reap - Angkor Wat | Thailand: Bangkok | India: Rishikesh - Ajmer - Pushkar - Bundi - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jasalmer - Bikaner - Jaipur - Agra - Varanasi | Nepal: Kathmandu - Chitwan - Pokhara - Bhaktapur - (Rafting) - Dharan | India: Darjeeling - Calcutta Panaji | Thailand: Bangkok - again - Krabi Town | Malaysia, Malaka | Indonesia: Dumas - Bukittinggi - Kuta - Ubud - 'Full Throttle' - Gili Islands - Senggigi | Cambodia: Siem Reap | Thailand: Trat | Turkey: Istanbul | Georgia: Tbilisi

{{2013}} Latvia: Riga | Germany: Berlin | Spain: Malaga - Grenada | Morocco: Marrakech - Essauira - Casablanca - Chefchawen - Fes | Germany: Frankfurt | Logan's Home Invasion USA: Virginia - Michigan - Indiana - Illinois - Illinois - Colorado | Guatemala: Antigua - San Pedro | Honduras: Copan Ruinas - Utila | Nicaragua: Granada | Colombia: Cartagena | Ecuador: Otavalo - Quito - Banos - Samari (a spa outside of Banos) - Puyo - Mera

{{2014}} Peru: Lima - Nasca - Cusco | Dominican Republic | Ukraine: Odessa | Bulgaria: Varna - Plovdiv | Macedonia: Skopje - Bitola - Ohrid - Struga | Albania: Berat - Sarande | Greece: Athens | Italy: Naples - Pompeii - Salerno | Tunisia: Hammamet 1

{{2015}} Hammamet 2 | South Africa: Johnnesburg | Thailand: Hua Hin - Hat Yai | Malaysia: Georgetown | Thailand: Krabi Town | Indonesia:
Sabang Island | Bulgaria: Plovdiv | Romania: Ploiesti - Targu Mures | Poland: Warsaw | Czech Republic: Prague | Germany: Munich | Netherlands: Groningen | England: Slough | Thailand: Ayutthaya - Khon Kaen - Vang Vieng | Cambodia: Siem Reap

{{2016}} Thailand: Kanchanaburi - Chumphon | Malaysia: Ipoh - Kuala Lumpur - Kuching - Miri | Ukraine: Kiev | Romania: Targu Mures - Barsov | Morocco: Tetouan

{{2017}} Portugal: Faro | USA: Virginia | Michigan | Illinois |

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