„Every dream is given to us with the power to make it come true.”
This quote stayed with Kinga and Chopin all along their hitchhiking journey around the world. Now a new, but very old dream pushed Kinga towards Africa. Although as the Tibetan saying goes:
„You never know what will come first: a new day or the next life.”
Kinga lived her life to the fullest and passed away at the peak of fulfilling her dreams, in the happiest time of her life. She left us with the great power of inspiration to live a meaningful life and cherish each of its precious moments.
Kinga passed away peacefully, strong and well prepared for her next and greatest journey...
and such readiness I wish us all from the bottom of my heart.
Best things in life are free.
Best things in life are not things!
Enjoy a virtual journey with me across Africa
Wednesday, 28 September 2005
When I detoured from Central Asia towards Europe because Chopin was sick and waiting for me in hospital in Poland, I didn't know for how long I'm going home. I thought maybe just for a while...
But - a lot was happening. Living in Warsaw with Chopin at first, moving together to my place in Gdansk, then working on my Polish book. Then the English one. Then the adventure with the yellow van and European book tour. Finally two road trips around Europe with the red Ford Escort, Brad Brown from Virtual Tourist and friends.
And all that time (when not on some road trip) receiving guests from all over the world at my little Gdansk flat - friends we met somewhere in the world, new friends from Hospitality Club or lately also from Couchsurfing
What else? Doing all those things I didn't have much chance of doing while on the road for five years - enjoying the time and all big and little celebrations with my family. Time with my old and new friends at home and in Europe. Buying veggies from the same old ladies on the sidewalk five minutes from my place and enjoying the comfort and coziness of my tiny vegan kitchen. Watching lots of independent movies in the local cinemas. Walking or cycling through the forest to the nearby beach and seeing the changes of the seasons.
Yes, it's nice. And comfortable. Almost too comfortable...
But not for much longer. Summer almost gone, days getting colder, previous journey recorded in a book... Now, the time is coming for new adventures. For the last continent that is still awaiting me. Yes, Africa's calling! And is finally going to happen, two years after we came back.
I already got a new backpack (the old one was almost shattered). With the help of Filip (and Chopin as well), I’m having this new website created.
Thursday, 13 October 2005
There are different reactions when people hear about my Africa.
When there was still a chance that we would go together with Chopin, my good friend Basia Meder who also traveled around this continent on her own, told me:
"What you are living is amazing and unique. You have a similar attitude to me but a larger luggage of dreams. I wish and hope you can realize it all."
When it turned out, however, that I'm setting off on my own, she added:
"You are very brave to go on your own. I have fears about your lonely African journey. I can't see much of hitchhiking opportunities. Africa is also more expensive than Asia. I don't want to discourage you but to make you aware. I am ready to give you all the information you want. Ask if you need anything."
But my friend Asia from Holland has no fear:
"I'm not worried about you because how could I be worried if you're going to the continent where giraffes live... I know that their long necks will point you to the right direction in the moments of doubt, elephants will give you strength, monkeys will lend you quick wits, palm trees will share the food and the wind will be a messenger of good news, the sun will be warming your heart and the camels will help you with any distance, no I have absolutely no reasons to worry about you."
Thank you Basia! Thank you Asia! Thank you all – friends and strangers, those who worry about me and those who don't – thank you to all those whose positive thoughts are with me. This is important.
Thank you Filip for creating this website for me
and doing it with so much dedication and enthusiasm :)
Thank you Chopin for love, support, and understanding.
I'm still in Poland but already packed and on my way. Left Gdansk with my car which I'm leaving with Chopin, and we're spending some time together now in Chopin's Buddhist Center. Tomorrow, I'll go to the road and stick out my thumb. Towards Africa...
Saturday, 15 October 2005
Well, Chopin didn't let me go yesterday...
So we gave each other one more day together.
But now, in a while, he's dropping me off on the road.
I haven't received so much love and affection
(and not only from Chopin but everybody around!)
in a long time.
I guess I should be leaving more often...
Sunday, 16 October 2005
Tuesday, 18 October 2005
Hitching through Germany yesterday was a breeze. Excellent highways, good fast cars. The most interesting was a ride with an Armenian driver with whom I spoke Russian. Otherwise everything predictable, smooth and easy, I never even waited for more than a couple minutes.
Only in Holland it did get a little more exciting.
I get dropped off on the outskirts of Groningen and try to hitch a ride to the center. An older man comes up to me with his bike. He doesn't speak a word of English (quite unusual in Holland) but asks me where I'm headed. I show him the address. He shows me the rack of his bike... So this is how I make it to the front door of the building where my good Polish friend Asia lives. Right... I know Holland isn't exactly on the way to Africa but Asia is worth a bigger detour than that. Tomorrow I'm heading on, and Asia says she might come and see me in Marrakesh...
to the south of France
Saturday, 22 October 2005
The day before yesterday in the morning I left Mastricht, and after a long day of many rides through the highways of four different countries (Holland, Belgium, Luxemburg, France), about midnight I arrived at Marseille on the Mediterranean coast. Finally I have a feeling I'm escaping approaching winter - while in Holland I was wearing a fleece and a jacket, here it's warm enough for a Tshirt.
And as often happens when on the road, I'm already starting experiencing spontanneous hospitality. The last ride of that night was with a father and a son coming back from a concert in Marseille. They invited me to their house in the charming countryside and today the father spent half of the day showing me the area and finally bringing me to Nice. I know, it's not exactly on my way again, but I couldn't refuse the invitation I just got from Monika, a Polish girl who lives here and invited me to visit.
But now - I'm on my way to Spain, towards Africa...
Thursday, 27 October 2005
Well, my way towards Africa looks like a way of smaller or larger detours...
Passing so close to Andorra I just couldn't miss this little but fascinating mountanneous country. The small road climbing up kept revealing better and better landscapes. In Andorra itself I saw just two towns built on the mountain sides and then... a thick white mist enveloped the entire country and the next ride took me out of there sooner than I managed to notice.
Then the road took me back to France for a little while and toward the Atlantic coast, and further just following the coast in northern Spain, then finally to Portugal yesterday.
So how's everything? Well, hitchhiking couldn't be better. Sometimes only I have to wait for a while but many times I have the car stopping as soon as I stick out my thumb! People seem to be a little surprised every time, especially when they find out I came 'all the way from Poland.' That in itself seems to some like the end of the world. And hitching around hitching around Africa - that's beyond their comprehension. Maybe even beyond mine at the moment, but the difference is - I can't see the reason why it can't be done.
And so far - the road provides everything I need. I never ask for anything but already a couple of times in the evening I was invited to local homes. Last time - in Spain by a woman who's a Chi Qung and Tai Chi master and we instantly felt a connection.
Here in Portugal, near the beautiful town of Guimarais, I'm staying with a Hospitality Club member Emma and her family. In the gallery you can see my today's photos from Porto where I spent the day. And tomorrow - heading towards Lisboa.
from Portugal to Spain
Sunday, 30 October 2005
Porto was beautiful. Also the little town of Guimarais. Well, just entire Portugal, actually! And Lisboa, even though big cities are normally not my favourite, turned out to be really charming as well. Especially its yellow trams climbing up and down steep narrow streets.
From the Atlantic coast in Portugal, I headed down to the south of the country, and then back to Spain, all the way to the Mediterranean coast where...
...where I had my first encounter with the elephants! That's in Marbella where I arrived last night and am staying with Carmen and Stacy whom I met last summer while cruising around Europe with Brad. Hitchhiking is still great. They didn't believe I could make it in one day from Lisboa, but I looked at the map and thought - why not. In the evening Carmen got a phonecall from my truck driver telling her where in Marbella he was going to drop me off.
It's nice and pleasent here, when we were walking back from a stroll on the beach last night around 1am, it was 22 degrees. Oh, and the elephant, it's really just a beach shower! And Marbella, even though touristy, it's still nice, especially its old town with white houses and narrow streets.
I guess this is my last day in Europe before I enter Africa. Tomorrow Carmen and Stacy are taking me to Gibraltar where I want to see if there are any private yachts sailing towards Morocco. If not - there are still the regular frequent ferries. So I guess, the next update will be already from the new continent.
on the new continent
Tuesday, 01 November 2005
I went to Gibraltar to see if there would be any yacht sailing to Morocco from there. Well, there were a lot, but not to Morocco. Most of them heading to the Canary Islands and across the Atlantic. But I was happy to find out I wasn't alone. I met a nice French girl with two guys trying their luck towards South America.
So in the afternoon I ended up on a fast ferry to Ceuta and after 40 minutes stepped for the first time on the African continent, even though the town of Ceuta belongs to Spain. A little further, at the Moroccan border I found out what it means to enter a Muslim country during Ramadan. As the sun was just setting, all the traffic at the border was held up, while the custom officers started their meal after a long day of fasting.
I spent the first night in the city of Tetouan. Spent the day walking the narrow streets of Tetouan's busy ancient medina. And this evening I arrived at a smaller and truly charming town Chefchaouen.
Thursday, 03 November 2005
When looking for a place to stay here in Chefchaouen, I happened upon a freshly open, friendly, family run place called Harmony Hotel. Because it only got a licence recently and I am the only guest here right now, they gave me a good price. There's a rooftop where they keep some chicken, with a great view of the town and the surrounding mountains. Each corner of the old part of the town with its white-blue houses is like from a postard (photos already in the gallery) I love wondering around the narrow streets and observing life going on.
In the evenings I drink fresh mint tea with Abdeslam, the owner; and today I was making bread with his mother. Here most people make their own, flat, round bread - and they take it to be baked to one of the firewood oven owners.
Today is the last day of the Ramadan and tomorrow... I'm going with Abdeslam for a couple of days to his remote village in the mountains. There's no electricity there, not to mention internet, so I won't be accessible for a little while... .
back to civilization
Thursday, 10 November 2005
After a couple of days in the remote, tiny village in the mountains of northern Morocco, I'm back to civilization. In Meknes right now, and heading to Fes. I'm describing everything in my diary but find it impossible to translate it all and type it here now. So for now, just the photos, in the freshly added album in the photo gallery.
one day from my diary
Monday, 14 November 2005
I spend the morning in Meknes and around noon take my backpack from the guesthouse, walk towards the bus station and take the bus to Fes. Not far, about an hour away. I contacted two Servas members here before and they both invited me. I'm trying to call them from the bus station but none picks up the phone, and I didn't tell them when exactly I would come, since I didn't know when I would come back from the village. Well, I'll try later through the internet, and for now, have to find some accomodation.
Just behind the main, the Blue Gate, richly decoraded by mosaics, there's a bunch of cheap hotels and guesthouses. Although here 'cheap' is more expensive than in Meknes - 60 dirham (about 6 Euro). A young guy approaches me and tells me he can take me to a cheaper one nearby. I follow him along the crowded, narrow alleys of Fes' antient medina. He turns into more and more narrow and dark ones where the buildings of the opposite sides of the street are supported by thick logs of wood so that they don't touch each other by leaning too much. Somehow it doesn't look like there's going to be a hotel in here but the guy motions to me with a 'don't worry' gesture, and the other one who joined us in the meantime nodds assuringly. I guess this is when I really should start worrying, but I have already gone too far. We pass through some low, dark passages and finally arrive at the door of a building that doesn't look much like a hotel. But somehow I'm not worried. So far I have always felt safe in Morocco. An older man with a long yellow jellaba opens up the heavy door and with a kind smile invites us into the square courtyard of the house. His wife with a headscarf joins us there and the fashionably dressed young guy who joined us along the way turns out to be their son. It also turns out that they have a couple of rooms which they rent out to the tourists. First they show me their best one, a spacious room with a neatly made large bed, and they quote the same price as hotels. It's already an improvement because in these hotels more often than not what you get is a tiny, not always the cleanest space of four walls and a rickety bed. However, tell them gently that I'm looking for something cheaper. The son who speaks some French and a few words of English assures me there's no problem. But first I have to see the view from the roof and have a cup of tea. The view, indeed, is impressive - of medina and the nearby hills. The fresh leaves mint tea as usually super sweet. And the price - doesn't matter any more. If 30 dirham is what I can afford - in a smaller room and my own sleeping bag - that's fine.
I put my backpack in the room and... immerse myself with my all senses in the ancient medina. Fes is said to have about 9 thousand twisting streets and alleys. There's no way not to get lost. But this is what I like best, getting lost and found again in the magical maze, discovering new things behind every corner. In some of the streets there's a lot of shops with Moroccan handicrafts, jewlerry, lamp shades and souvenirs for tourists. Plus of course plenty of carpets and kilims. Further on I walk along the theme streets, more for the local people. Streets with herbs and aromatic spices, with dried fruit and many different kinds of dates. Also terryfing meat shops - in one of them I see a solitary camel head hanging on a hook, with hair, eyes and still with the mysterious camel smile. Streets with jelabas are a more pleasant sight to the eyes. There are many gates opening to a little square surrounded by a specialized shops. There are ones with jewlerry, with shoes, honey or leather. Leather indeed, is a local speciality.
Another young guy joins me saying he will show me something, assuring me he doesn't want money. All he wants is to make friends and practice his English. He leads me to the famous place where leather is tanned with different colours iin large clay holes in the ground. Unfortunately now, in late afternoon there isn't much happening here, and the stench in the air is appaling. Also, it's seems to be hard to get rid of my new 'friend' now, and I would rather say goodbye, as I get an uneasy feeling. But we do part when soon he starts talking me into 'trying a Moroccan'. Because how can that be - being in Morocco not to try? He assures me they're better than Europeans. But by the tone of my voice he understands that there's no way and disappears quickly. I decide not to let myself be led by anybody anymore, which isn't exactly easy here where I constantly hear 'Bon jour madamme' accompanied by offers to show me something unique. I don't give in, however and walk on my own, stopping by the mosques, decorated gateways and mosaik covered water taps.
When I look into one of the square courtyards, a young man starts explaining to me that in the previous centuries the building around was a hotel. Upstairs were the rooms for the guests, downstairs, stables for their camels. Now the ex-stables are occupied by shops and the ex guestrooms by tiny workshops, mostly leather goods workshops - producing Muslim pointy shoes for visiting the mosques, handbags, purses, etc. We look into a couple of them and I'm always greeted in a friendly way. In the end the man invites me to his shop in the corner. A shop in a real Berber house. A Berber carpet shop. He doesn't seem to mind when I honestly tell him right away that I have no intention of buying a carpet or even a small kilim. He says we can still drink some tea. While I'm ipping a sickly sweet mint tea, the man displays the more and more incredible pieces of carpets, telling me some tales and stories. He says he comes from the desert area. When I tell him I'm dreaming of maybe buying a camel and traveling with it for a while, he instantly says:
"You want a camel? I'll sell you a camel."
"What do you mean you'll sell me a camel? You really have a camel?!" - I ask with disbelief.
"A pretty one. This colour." - he points to the shade of the thick camel wool carpet. "But don't you prefer a camel carpet? It's much more practical."
Well, if it was a flying carpet, I wouldn't hesitate. But as it isn't, I'd rather stick to a real, life camel. The man tells me to come tomorrow. His friend has a camel. Also his family in Merzouga, at the verge of the desert.
hitchhiking in Morocco
Thursday, 17 November 2005
I hitchhiked from Poland all the way to the southern tip of Spain. Took the ferry to Africa, and there... everybody was shocked at the idea of me hitchhiking there and warned me how dangerous it might be, so being for the first time on the African continent I got a bit scared at first and just took local buses like everybody else. But now, seeing how friendly people are and how safe I feel here in Morocco, I decided to try. Because I do believe in the basic goodness of people.
So the day before yesterday in Fes, Said - my young Hospitality Club host walked me to the road in disbelief that I would do it. For 'security reasons' he wanted to wait until I get the first ride. The first ride happened to be a horse cart. When it pulled by the side of the road, Said also felt the spirit of hitchhiking adventure and got on as well. Right then he wanted to continue around the continent with me. But I only let him join me during this first hitchhiking day. And the day was beautiful, the road taking us through more and more amazing landscapes. One thing that I didn't expect to see in Africa was snow! While it's not even snowing in Poland yet, here we passed through heaps of it. Well, it was at over 2000 meteres but still it felt unreal. And soon after passing the snow-covered mountains the colours changed to dramatic reddish of the desolate landscape basking in the setting sun, just as the full moon was rising.
I have just created an album with a couple of photos from my first two hitchhiking days.
And one with the inhabitants of a little forgotten town I spent the night at.
a week with a Berber family
Tuesday, 22 November 2005
I stayed for almost a week in a little, quiet town of Rich, with the family of my Hospitality Club host. It's a traditional Berber family, and I had a chance to experience and taste a little of their way of life. There are seven brothers and sisters in the family, and I was happy to spend most of my time with the sisters, learning how to make a delicious vegetable tajine, watching the mother making fresh bread twice a day, eating with the whole family gathered around one large dish. Or eating just with the women when there was a man visiting the family. Visiting markets in the morning and aunts and neighbours in the evening, and having lively discussions late into the night exchanging ideas about culture and life... There's a lot I could write but for now, I'm just posting an album in the gallery with the freshest photos.
from the verge of the desert
Saturday, 26 November 2005
Just a quick visit to the town, shops and internet place.
I'm on the verge of the desert. Surrounded by mystical landscapes, and... dreams of a white camel...
More and photos soon...
white camel dreams
Saturday, 03 December 2005
Arriving at Moroccan desert, I ended up staying in a colorful Berber tent belonging to one of the sand castle stype hotels at the edge of an immense, magical sand dune. The sand dune streaches for kilometers, and changes colors depending on the sun and the time of the day.
And among this amazing landscape - camels! Among a couple of ordinary, brown camels, I saw a unique one - a beautifully white camel. I've been dreaming of having and travelling with my own camel for a while. And now - a white camel! Maybe this is the time and place...
I looked and asked around. It turned out - buying a camel is not a problem - everybody will sell you a camel. It's expensive. More expensive than my old yellow van - but I decided - the price for fullfilling your dream can not be really measured in the number of Euros or dirhams. Besides, I was hoping to travel with the camel to Zagora, and try and sell it there. According to different sources, it's between 8 and 14 days walk through the desert from Merzouga to Zagora. Not pure sand dune desert, but varying landscapes, with a couple of tiny settlements or nomad tents along the way. A few locals told me I could do it, but most said - on my own with a camel - impossible!
However, I wanted to try. So, acompanied by a Berber nomad guy, I walked the area, met the people, drunk soft tea, watched their white camels, negotiated the price writing it in the sand on the side of a dune. When I decided on one, went to town to get the money from a cash machine and came back to have my first camel driving lesson - it turned out... the camel will not walk with me without being led by a rope by somebody.
"Camel is not a horse. Or a car." - the locals laughed.
"But then - how can I ride a camel to Zagora?"
"You need a guide."
But I don't want a guide. With a guide I can go for one of those tourist trips, I don't need to buy my own camel for that. It turned out none of the camels in the area will do it. They told me I would either need a military camel (those receive a different kind of training), or one of those Saudi Arabian racing ones - those can be ridden by a single person.
So for now - my white camel dream will stay just that - a dream. And who knows, maybe one day I'll come across a camel that is able to travel with me without a guide...
with my Moroccan Berber families
Tuesday, 06 December 2005
In a new album you can see a few shots from the life of my Moroccan Berber families. I ended up at their place quite unexpectedly, simply by hitchhiking and being dropped off there in one case, and being invited by my driver in the second case. Those aren't very remote places but normally tourists never stop there, because the village is not particularily beautiful or attractive but it does have beautiful people living there. People who immediately made me welcome and made me part of their large families. I'm describing everything with more details in my diary, but for now - just a few photos.
no hurry like Ferrari
Thursday, 08 December 2005
"No, really. Thank you. I have to go." - I was trying to avoid yet another invitation for tea in a carpet shop.
"Hey - no hurry like Ferrari. It's morning. No rush. Europe people always hurry. Too fast."
"O.K. But you know I'm not buying a carpet."
"Who says buying a carpet? Just have tea. And look. For the pleasure of your eyes."
This is a beginning of a typical tea brewing and pouring ceremony plus sometimes a really interesting discussion, other times a gentle struggle to avoid leaving with a carpet or exchanging the entire content of your backpack for nomad amulets.
Anyway, I'm not hurrying. I will actually spend two months just in Morocco as I'm expecting my best Taiwanese friend Grace to visit me just before and my Polish friend Asia during Christmas - in Marrakesh.
Morocco's beautiful. Also safe and easy to travel. And plenty of cheap internet access - so I've just uploaded some new photos into the gallery.
vamos a la playa
Sunday, 11 December 2005
"vamos a la playa
vamos a la playa
a que playa?
aqui solo arena
aqui solo arena
It doesn't sound so cool in English, but for those who don't know Spanish here's the translation:
"we're going to the beach
we're going to the beach
here only sand
here only sand
Now, imagine that - sung to the rythym of African drums played by the nomad guys in the desert near the dusty village at the end of the road...
back from the desert
Sunday, 18 December 2005
Back from the desert and in the city of Marrakesh, surrounded by the overflow of exotic shapes, smells, sounds and colours. What a change after the simplicity, the vastness and the silence of the desert!
It's here that I met Kati - an Irish-American girl, but really - just a citizen of the world, an artist, a hitchhiker, also a true 'free spirit', heading soon in the same direction as me. We hitched together to Casablanca and back from where I returned with a Mauretanian visa in my passport.
And tonight - I'm picking up Grace, my best Taiwanese friend who's coming to visit for a couple of days.
four days with Grace and Kati
Saturday, 24 December 2005
"Look," I told Grace showing her the map of Morocco, "We can go to the ocean, we can go to the mountains, or both, or we can stay in Marrakesh if you prefer."
"Can we go to the desert? See those sand dunes and the camels?"
I have just come back from the desert, besides as for four days it would be a rather intensive trip. But I had promised Grace that when she comes we can do anything she wants.
"OK, we can go to the desert."
The following day we set off. Kati joined us too. All by hitchhiking. With no luggage, towards Morocco's most impressive sand dunes, where I was searching for my white camel. The new photo album tells the story of this little adventure.
Yesterday morning I already said goodbye to Grace at the Marrakesh airport and the same afternoon I picked up Asia and Izabela from Casablanca. Now, Christmas... Somehow you don't feel it here at all, but at the same time - it doesn't matter. Because for me here - every days is like Christmas. I wish you all the most wonderful one too!
with Asia and Izabela
Wednesday, 28 December 2005
There are two new photo albums in the gallery on the site - one from our little trip to the mountains with Asia and Izabela, and the other one with a few shots from Marrakesh. We're finally leaving this city tomorrow. Towards the ocean, and the desert - this time the real, not touristy desert of West Sahara...
Happy New Year!
Monday, 02 January 2006
We spent the last and the first day of the year in a little place, TanTan beach, where Sahara meets the ocean. Now I have just said goodbye to Asia and Izabela, feeling nostalgic for all those moments we shared in Marrakesh, in the mountains, by the ocean and on the road. They are on their way to Casablanca to catch the plane back to Europe. And Kati and me - we're setting off through Western Sahara towards Mauretania. We wish you the most wonderful year!
Our New Year's Eve - described by Kati
Monday, 06 March 2006
Bonne Année from Tan Tan, Morrocco where the desertand sea collide. I spent a great deal of yesterday looking at my watchand calculating when it was midnight in other parts of the world, andimagining different friends of mine counting backwards from ten and erupting incheers. I hope it was all festive and wonderful!
I have finally managed to untangle myself from thetenticles of Marrakesh. I went there for a day and stayed for a month. I am sure that I would have let one month turn into two or three or four, so enchanted was I with all the mysteries there. But I made a new friend named Kinga, and she pulled me away. She is a famous hitchhiker from Poland, who hitched her way around the whole globe. We recognized eachother instantly, and within moments knew that we would have a journey together.
It is such a pleasure to have someone with whom you can convey oceans of meaning in the tiniest glance. There is a lot of silent laughter carbonating the air between us, as we wander through places so different than we are.
I look forward to travelling with her.
All the same, I was traumatized to leave Marrakesh.
I has a forlorn day wandering the streets and replaying funny moments. I had many farewell cups of tea with new friends who I fear to leave, because I know they might just evaporate to memory. I swallowed an apple of nostalgia and walked to the edge of town, all the way to where the sidewalk ends. Then I turned around and took a breath and stuck out my thumb.
My first ride was with a white horse. "Bonjour Madame", I was greeted with a toothy smile. I couldn't have painted a more perfect way to leave the magic city. It was slow and loud with the clickity clackety of hooves. I turned around and looked at the pink city, with its minarets reaching into the blue atlas sky. I got to have a little musical montage goodbye, thinking of the people who made me feel so welcome there. I hope I go back. It is so hard to fall in love with a time and a place, and then have to leave it for something completely unknown. But I guess that surge of emotion is one of the addictive parts of being a traveller. I find myself sighing a lot.
I met up with Kinga on the coast, and we hitchhiked with some Polish friends down here, to Tan Tan. As the sun set on the last day of the year, I found myself doing laundry on a windy rooftop. I felt like an old washerwoman, squatting and scrubbing and watching the water turn black with the dirt of so many places. It has been a long year for me....From Ecuador down the Amazon to Brazil....to New York.... to Ireland and Spain and now Morrocco. And I cant imagine what this year will bring! I have plans to go to Timbuktu, and to Japan, and to rollerskate back to Ecuador, and I might do all of it or exactly none of it. It is so bewildering and lovely to have no plan. Again, i sigh!
We scrounged up some friends to make a New Years Eve beach party with. Their names were Brahim and Mohammed, and they built us a fire. People dont really celebrate New Years here, so it took a lot of cheerleader antics on my part to churn up the holiday spirit. Trying to find alchohol in a Muslim country isnt always easy either. Thankfully, Mohammed knew of a certain street where you could go and clap twice, and a sketchy man would come out with a plastic bag full of choices. We elected a sandwich baggie full of licorice flavored homebrew that promised headches. Mohammed also got us lollipops.
On the beach, Brahim played the drums and sang Saharawi songs. We tried to sing along, but didnt know the words. Then Mohammed whipped out his cellphone and played a Kenny Rogers ring tone (You gotta know when to fold 'em). So we clapped and sang along and laughed at the patheticness of it. It was really quite beautiful. There was one random moment when we were visited by a very provacative prostitute dressed all in white. She got on all fours and did this hair swinging dance around the fire that made me tear up with laughter at its utter wrongness. Then she made a friend and wandered off just five minutes before midnight, leaving a little empty space in her wake. We gathered around the cellphone, its screen illumintating our faces. 23:59.......
We jumped up and down in the sand and erupted into a spirited chorus of that oldtime favorite, "Olé, Olé, olé olé, oléééééééé, ooooollllléééééé"
How many times, for how many reasons, have I sung that song? And it is exclusively in the company of drunk foreign men! The silliness of the moment, the absolute mediocrity and randomness in such an exotic setting....I loved it all. I slept well. Today we ate coos coos. Tomorrow we head south, with the Sahara on our left and the Atlantic on our right, and Timbuktu somewhere ahead of us, Inshallah.
It starts like a joke
Tuesday, 07 March 2006
And at the end of Moroccan chapter - here's Kati describing just one of the rides we hitched together here. Not all of them were like this one, though.
It starts like a joke:
SO, Three drunk arabs in a station wagon pull over to offer us a ride........
The driver turns and surveys his new female cargo in the back seat, seemingly content to let the car steer itself. 'Aimez-vous la musique Berbere?' he says as he pops another beer. Moroccans always are curious to know if we like Berber music. As guests in their country I always try to be polite, so I smile and say 'oui!!', by which I mean 'non!'. Not to knock Berber music, I mean, it might really be your thing. Especially if you like listening to elementary school orchestras in which half the students absolutely suck at violin, and the other half gave up their instruments all together and decided to drag their fingernails across the chalkboard and shriek at each other.
He turns the music up. The road gets a little curvier. The second man whips out a big knife and peers at us from below his turban. My mind's eye recalls all the benevolent images that American media has created for our Arab brethren....my chest tightens a little. He then offers to peel a cactus fruit for us. We gingerly nibble at it and get thorns in our fingers.
The third man has a large bag of random items, which he searches furtively for some sort of gift for us. First he pulls out a large yellow stuffed bunny. We smile and politely refuse, but in the process all learn how to say 'cute' in Arabic (quickly forgotten). He proceeds to extract a wide assortment of items between sips of beer. We politely refuse each, though I am tempted by the super-sized gift wrapped box of Ferraro Rocher chocolates. He grows displeased that we are not responding to his generosity. So in a diplomatic move, Kinga graciously accepts a nappy old stale donut. The man seems content. Kinga turns to me and thrust the donut in my direction (the sugar instantly rained on my black clothes like dandruff). 'I am vegan' she said so innocently. Bitch! I am left high and dry to fake a smile and a few 'mmmm's while surpressing the heaves.
'Soyez bienvenues a Maroc!' The music squeaks on. My eyes adjuts to the dark, and I begin to appreciate the little details of the decor. The embroidered swath of fun-fur across the dashboard, the Christmas tinsel strewn everywhere, the beer bottles clanging against each other by our feet.
We speed thru small towns and catch glimpses of children playing with fire, men boxing, and animal carcasses dangling from butcher hooks.
Our companions introduced themselves. Abdul, Hassan, and Hassan Also. Hassan Also was on the mobile phone with his brother Mostapha, thus confirming my suspicion that nothing in Morocco can occur without at least the token presence of a Mostapha. They invite us to spend the night at their home. We smile with tight lips.
They get drunker. The sun goes down. We are in mountains. The roads are not good. The headlights don't work. The car is full of cigarette smoke. It begins to rain. The music is turned up. They are overcome with sentiment, pride, nostalgia, and alchohol - all the necessary ingredients for a monumental sing along. They belt out the Berber greatest hits, in unison and all off key. They thrust their fists in the air. They are really feeling it. WE are living the Bohemian Rhapsody scene from Wayne's World.
By this point the driver has given up such trifle conventions as staying on the right of the road. To hell with dividing line! The road is all his. To hell with speed limits. To hell with oncoming traffic. To hell with plunging cliffs and certain death. He is FEELING the music.
Then the philosophising started. 'A quoi sera la vie, puis que le mort nous attend....' They get pensive. Brooding. Stern. Melancholy. Tearful.
And then tragedy strikes.
The beer ran out.
We screeched to a halt in the next small town. Immediately composure is regained, and doors fly open with a sense of purpose.
From my position, like the family dog, in the way-way-back of the station wagon, it suddenly occurs to me that I now have a modicum of control over my fate. In the previous moments I was relying on a new found fondness for prayer to navigate the sharp curves. But all of a sudden we are parked, and the door is unlocked. And I am washed with a sense of maturity and tactfulness. I suggest, and my traveling companions concur, that we will get out.
Wow, I am so proud of myself. I actually did something to counterbalance my old friend Recklessness. It must have something to do with my upcoming 30th birthday. Not that old age is going to keep me from doing something capricious like hitchhiking to Timbuktu, but there is no reason to flagrantly invite the opportunity for amputation and paralysis along the way. I feel so grown up!
'Chokran! Merci! Thank you so much!' we say, innocently, trying to play off like there is nothing strange about disembarking 40 kilometers before our stated destination.
'PORQUOI?' the driver asks, his face morphing from incomprehension to anger. I dodge his spittle and cling to my tired and true Innocent Smile. Our former New Best Friend develops a deep crease in his brow, and then utters some interesting sounding words that, I suspect, were my Arabic a tad better, may be ever so slightly rude.
They slam the door and speed off in a swerving fury. We are all feeling quite right about our decision. Within five minutes we are on a ride all the way to our intended destination.