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April 2007 Archives

April 1, 2007

This sucks! Looks like I'm not going to Morocco after all...

Morocco's a no go. Julia just called me to quickly tell me we can't go. She's now calling EasyJet again to see if we can get a refund on our flights, but it's looking unlikely.

The US Embassy in Bordeaux contacted her (as she's the one who bought the plane tickets) saying the State Department is issuing a travel warning to American citizens visiting Muslim countries in the Middle East, Asia and Africa during the first two weeks of April, and most likely thereafter, due to "potential retaliation concerns". She asked what the cause of those concerns were but they said they weren't allowed to elaborate. I couldn't find mention of this on their website, which is acting very strange. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but there's been talk of a US strike against Iran on April 6th and this makes me fear it's true. Ugh.

So now we're out a couple hundred euros and 'stuck' with flights from Toulouse-Madrid and vice versa. Not so bad. I suggested to her that we look into visiting Barcelona as well since I haven't been there yet. I'm a little nervous about traveling in general though, but maybe I can keep convincing people I'm Canadian.

edit: april fool's... i'm out!

April 15, 2007

Begging for my wallet at rockpoint and then looking for it on the floor of a bus

I wouldn't call my trip to Morocco the worst vacation I've taken, but I would describe it as the worst experience on a vacation I could possibly have. That's not to say it was all bad. For now, though, I will focus on the bad. You see, this vacation is defined by my being robbed twice. I was going to make a little video describing the misadventures but I no longer have a camera. And I'm too lazy to figure out Flash. Instead...click here for the story

Back to the good:
· The BEST orange juice I've had in my life. For around 30 cents a glass I had the orange semen of the gods in my mouth at least twice a day every day.
· The couchsurfers we stayed with were really nice. Madrid was cool. We drank 3 litres of sangria on our last night for only 15 euros. You know how I love sangria!
· The awful sunburn I got has given me some awesome freckles! Seriously, I have these new, very noticeable freckles around my nose and I love them. Plus, I forgot that I look kind of good with some color. I always say it's the Indian in me. I may not be able to get those scholarships, but I can get some Native American pigmentation!
· I was able to speak French more consistently, comfortably and confidently for two weeks than I've been able to in France this whole time.
· Losing all my money means I didn't have to fret about souvenirs!
· Having three bikes, two cameras and one wallet (twice) stolen makes me think my secret wish to lose everything and remove all my attachment to objects should come true. Does that mean garage sale when I get back?
· Aside from the thieves and pushy salesmen, everyone else in the country was incredibly friendly and helpful. Though Julia would pull my arm to get me to stop talking to someone who would just randomly say "Hello/Bonjour" (since a few sentences later some would then ask for money), I got to talk to and get helped by some nice Moroccans.
· Awesome couscous! (The famous Marakechi tanjia isn't anything to write home about though. Hint: it's just roast beef cooked for four hours.)

When I come back to the US in just over two weeks, wow!, I will be at the edge of my planned life. From August of 2001 I've known what I'd do until May of 2005 and in the meantime that got extended to May of 2007. For the first time in my life I don't have any concrete plans. This is terrifying and liberating. I thought of this while on the train between Marrakech and Casablanca and started writing things I wanted to do, subjects I wanted to study (I thought about school again) and places I wanted to visit or live. I felt excited and inspired about the future again for the first time in a long, long time. I've been happy with what I've done. But I've felt like I signed up for, say, Basketball Camp years in advance and when it was time for camp I had to go because I already paid the dues and it was expensive. Now I get to choose what camp I want to go to based on my immediate, though well-considered, whims. And that starts this summer. Feel the excitement!


Pictures that Julia took!
I first have to get another confession off my chest. When I was in London alone I didn't take many pictures. I didn't see the point of photographing places that have better pictures available on the web. I began to see tourist photography as a Pokemon-like phenomenon and it angered me. I didn't have a friend to take pictures of/with so it was pointless. This then got me depressed that I was traveling alone and visiting the sites that I just wanted to see that was an extension of the "gotta' catch (see) 'em all" philosophy, which is dumb. "Okay, I saw Big Ben. But did I get to enjoy and discuss my travels a companion. Did I really see/live/enjoy London?" No. Okay, the guy I couchsurfed with was really fun and we saw some cool stuff, but I'll never see him again."

What I'm getting at is, I miss having my friends around. I miss going places with you, taking pictures with you (that sounds lame typed out) and enjoying your company. This makes me fear I'll never make more friends, but I think I've just been slightly misanthropic here and have high standards that can't be met in France. Hopefully...


I like how Julia included this picture of the slum around the 3rd largest mosque in the world, in Casablanca. We were told they basically kicked all the homeless out and built a mosque. We went on a tour of this with an elderly racist Israeli-American couple living in Texas but on sabbatical and visiting Morocco for a month before they could return to Europe because of their 90-day visa expiring. The guy, Ramon, said to me, "It's like that song. The 'Silence Song' where he sings, 'Islam like a cancer grows.' Well, those are the lyrics I use."


They really do like this shape for doors (found at the kasbah).


The Chellah was hellah awesome. Better than the Kasbah.


Doesn't that cloud look like a flying chicken or something?


More Chellah. I asked for directions and pronounced the "ch" like Challah bread. Oops.


Disrespect. This is not the oldest mosque in the world, as the hotel manager said. It's old, yes. But go Allahu akhbar elsewhere.


I do like sewer covers. And after being robbed twice I decided to think that at least they're idiots who can't spell their own city name.


The best part about this museum was not the art that looked like it belonged on velvet and sold at flea markets, but was this awesome interior patio. And that kid.


Julia at Place Djemaa el Fna. Orange juice, olives, henna, fake snake charmers, you name it. This is in the center of the medina of Marrakech. Quite fun/impressive, really. Outside it you find 'souks' where people sell all their wares and you haggle with them...which I hate...especially in French. I tried to bargain once, when I had about 40 euros left, but walked out. The guy followed me and offered another deal. I apologized for not having the money and Julia said I was being too nice.


Look at me! I'm just like Obama! I'm in a Madrassa!


Ooh, Atlas mountains. Last afternoon at our b&b (had great/bizarre, foreign satellite porn) in a Berber village to the south of Marrakech. I'm still ready to get the eff out of this country.


Madrid's Retiro Park: El Ángel Caído- The EasyJet magazine told me this is believed to be the only statue of the devil in the world.

April 19, 2007

Stereograms

· PBF will always be the best.
· Something I forgot to mention about Morocco. I saw a dude wearing a Dolce & Gabanna shirt with a NASCAR hat. I bet the hat, at least, was genuine.
· Hearing French people talk to animals I keep thinking, "They don't understand what you're saying!" Now I may never talk to an animal again. In any language except love.

April 23, 2007

Music Is My Hot Hot Sex

This was a pretty great weekend.

· Saturday night in Toulouse a large group of us was drinking by the river and a guy with a sign that said "Free Hugs" (in English, not French) came over to us. To be an ass, I asked him what "free hugs" was and he went into a spiel. Several people in the group gave him a hug. He went over to the group of three guys near us and offered them as well. Instead they pushed him into the river.

I was furious. I flipped off the perpetrators and lamely said, "You're jerks" and, "Why did you do that to him?" They said, "Stand up if you got something to say," and "I piss in your ass". Someone kept tugging at my arm not to get up. Probably for the best. I can't really argue in French and though it would have been cool for me to fight them without saying a word, the timing/odds weren't great.

The simple solution is this: I need to get in a fight. Rae agrees. I've been a victim of other people's forthrightness (so to speak) and I just need to stop bottling this up and actually react. And since I obviously have a thing since I've never been in a fight and just want to get in one, leaving me the loser or winner I don't care (well...), I need to get in a fight. I was considering letting it happen in New York where I'm sure someone will do something to piss me off and if I react they'll be ready to throw down. I could say, "Hey, I fought a guy in new york. Yeah, I lost, but-". I have reservations though, since the opposer might want to fight to the death or may be carrying weapons. Instead I'll save it for some Grand Rapids provincial, flaunting my having "seen the world" (as in I lived comfy in France, teaching and eating bread) and fearlessness.

· Look at this mantis!

· On Sunday I went voting with Alain & co. Let me explain this really quickly. You go into the building, pick up 12 small sheets of paper- one for each candidate- and one envelope. You go into a private booth and put one of those papers (or none, if you want to make a statement) in the envelope. You throw away the other pieces of paper, keep them or whatever. Then you'll probably have about six elderly people continuously cut in front of you. Then you give the envelope to an official and it's put in the magic box and voted. I witnessed French democracy in action.

· French election results:
Sarkozy 30.7% Right..ist
Royal 25.17% Socialist

(these two will go head to head in the next round of elections on May 6th)
Bayrou 18.4% Centrist
Le Pen 11.05% Fascist

· We came back to Alain's and had delicious cepe mushrooms and confit de canard. My first time eating duck. Delicious.

· Then we went jet-skiing. I'm looking forward to visiting Grand Haven a lot this summer.

· Unrelated, but I think water is the best thing ever.

· I've decided that I'll just come out with it. I really don't care about song lyrics. I can't remember lyrics (or film quotes) and so I don't learn, recite or analyze them. Sometimes I can't even tell what the lyrics are. Since I don't care about lyrics I shouldn't care about the language of the song. Reflecting on this, it's not true for me. And the pathetic reason why, I've just come to terms with, is that i want to be able to sing along and at least temporarily know the words. I'm an idiot, really.

· Another confession: I hate that thing people do where they partially cover up their mouths like, "Oh là là! I didn't do it. I'm shocked," or whatever. You mostly see it in girls' pictures on facebook/myspace. Enough!


Guy on left and people doing this, stop it! Just stop. If you're thinking of doing it, cover up more of the mouth like lady on the right. Thank you.

April 25, 2007

Le pineau and lapinou

Filip (Belgian) and Ana (Mexican), two students studying engineering in La Rochelle, just left. About a week ago Filip emailed me, through couchsurfing.com, asking if I could accommodate them for a night on their way back home after couch surfing and touring the south of France. I immediately said yes (though I didn't really think anyone would want to stay here, but there you go) as I've used couchsurfing quite a bit and need to put more karma in my corner.

They came in last night at 8:30. I helped them bring in their bags and they gave me a bottle of Pineau. Very generous of them and I quickly felt a pang of guilt. Before Julia and I stayed in Madrid she asked if we were supposed to bring a gift to the host. I said it wasn't necessary, but taking them out for a drink is probably customary. In London I was a total mooch off of my host Kai. He was just a really good host anyway and we went halvesies on all the booze, but London isn't cheap. So here I am, a total moocher who has only leeched off of the generosity of these other couch surfers.

So we went into the apartment, they showered and then made spaghetti. We all chatted and ate. I made it my goal to try and swing karma my way by being an annoyingly hospitable host. We went into town and I stopped at the ATM, crossed my fingers and took out far more than there is in my account (so I can buy a train ticket too, and also because it will be replenished in good time). We sat down at the bar, Le Flamand (coincidentally Filip is Flemish [flamand]), and met up with the normal Montalbanais crew. I bought us a girafe of Bel Pils and we had a good time getting our drink on and chatting. I had visions of hosting more people back in the US and getting all of you to join couchsurfing so you can host people and never need to pay for a hotel room again. Do it (it's not just for Europe)!

This morning I went to the bakery and bought some pains aux chocolats then brought and awoke Filip and Ana with the chocolate treats. We then walked around Montauban and I got to appreciate it all over again. I hadn't really walked around to the places we went since I first came here and I realized I really will miss this place. I think France in the summer is the best and I'm getting robbed of that.

Also, my landlord's pet rabbit (named Fripon [Rascal] but often called 'Lapinou') I see scurrying around the backyard and have gotten to play with a few times is adorable. I now understand Veronica's obsession.

About April 2007

This page contains all entries posted to spacebase in April 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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