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The Thirst is Real

I’ve been in Fes for almost a week now, and I’m as thirsty as these local dudes who keep asking me if I want a Moroccan husband.

For those of you over the age of 30, modern day usage of “thirsty” translates to “being in desperate need of sexual companionship.”

And I’m just like, “buy a girl some water first?” I mean, seriously, this is the literal desert. The thirst is real.

You can usually catch me lugging around a 1.5 liter bottle of filtered water, which costs between 30 and 50 cents. As long as I have 5 dirham (Moroccan currency) in my pocket, I don’t need to get wifed up just yet.

But that doesn’t stop people from asking. I’m not trying to sound vain in the slightest, it’s just how a lot of the local men behave towards female tourists, especially young women.

The unemployment rate is incredibly high for men from ages 18-35, which makes marriage entirely out of the question for them. Think about it – who would want to marry jobless, hopeless, potentially homeless man? These guys are so thirsty because they don’t have wives or jobs. It’s a pretty lose-lose situation. That doesn’t make me feel any sympathy for them when my roommate and I get stared at and catcalled on the way home, but I’m certainly not oblivious to the implications of the whole situation.

There have been, of course, a greater number of positive experiences with locals, both men and women. Let me break it down chronologically:

In the hotel in Montreal, two Moroccan men overheard my conversation with my classmates about taking the train from Casablanca. It seemed harmless at the time, even when they joined in our conversation. Let this be a lesson to ALL future travelers who happen to be reading this blog: This is how you get taken. Once on the plane, the men approached the only guy in our group, Ethan, and invited us to share a taxi from Casablanca. Because of the sweet, accommodating personality Ethan has, he replied with, “yeah, maybe!” Again, this is how you get taken. Later on the flight, they came back to make arrangements, during which I interrupted as blatantly as possible to inform the men that we had to ask our program director for permission.

At the train station after the flight, we learned that the last train had already left, and we were stuck waiting for the next one in six hours. The same men asked us several times to share a hotel in Casablanca while we waited for the train, and I abandoned my polite Southern tendencies to say, “we really don’t want to go with you.” The men attested that they were professors at “Fes University” and that they wanted to help us navigate, but I didn’t buy it, because that’s how you get taken. We bought our train tickets for the literal butt-crack of dawn, and settled into the cafe near by, where we met an American couple who helped us find our way to school.

As it turns out, the University of Fes is a real place, but the moral of the story is that we didn’t get taken, bismillah.

On my second day here, I ventured to the old city with my classmates. There are five of us from UNC and seven from University of Florida, but only one student had yet to explore the city on his own. Here is where I give you the very valuable and time-sucking blog of Jalyn Mcneal. It is very much worth the read.

http://jalynmcneal.blogspot.com

Hopefully now you’ve spent thirty minutes reading his stories before remembering that you were previously on my page. I’m glad you’re back.

The market area of the old medina (“city” in Arabic) is a clusterf*** of tiny streets teeming with craftsmen, juice stands, children and donkeys, the heart of which hosts four restaurants on adjacent corners. Waiters at each restaurant stand outside with menus shouting, “Are you American? I LOVE America!” as they match your dehydration with their thirst for a hefty tip.

Jalyn warned us about this spot, but chose to drag us through it for a chance to meet Drees, a waiter he had befriended earlier in the week.

Drees was standing at the edge of his restaurant, smiling under the brim of a Yankees cap and sweating through a kaftan. I had seen the same hat for sale down the street. The logo font is a tiny bit different, but a non-PR major like yourself probably won’t be able to tell when I bring one back for you.

A native Moroccan, Drees spoke several languages just from working on the street around tourists.  He made me nervous initially; I consciously tried to see past his kindness into whatever game he’s got for swindling us in the long haul. He already knows we are here until August, so I’ve been waiting to see when his true character will shine through.
Not to my surprise, it didn’t take long. However, he is nothing like what I expected. Looking for lunch at Drees’ restaurant, we were disappointed when we didn’t find him. Several streets away, and several more degrees of hanger, we ran into him outside a cafe. He was helping a disabled man eat and drink, wiping the man’s face with every bite. Drees recognized me immediately and said “Hey! I want you to meet my best friend!” And gestured towards this man, who was hunched in a wheelchair. The man spoke unintelligibly, and Drees added, “he doesn’t speak any real words, but I know what he means because we hang out every day. He’s pleased to meet you!” I leaned towards the man and said “tsharafeen” (nice to meet you) pronouncedly, and returned to chatting with Drees.
He then showed us a cheap but delicious restaurant for lunch, instead of taking us to his own place. Pleasantly surprised by this glimpse into Drees’ character, I walked away feeling better about the local friend we collectively made.
This week has been a balance of learning to make judgments quickly, about taxi drivers, water sources, menu prices, cardinal directions, against my unintuitive ability to see past the smoke screen of people’s behavior and into their personalities. I tried to remind myself that despite the inevitable danger of traveling alone, God is still present and evident in the souls of the people around me.
We settled into our seats on the terrace of a beautiful restaurant as Drees exhibited his first-name basis with the owner and waiters. They are his friends, but we are now too (at least until we figure out his long term scam).
“Thank you very Marrakech!” Drees called as he left the restaurant to return to his friend, to which I failed to reply with my own witticism. I’m sure we’ll see him again soon, so I’m trying to come up with my own pun in the meantime.
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One thought on “The Thirst is Real

  1. Didi says”Hang Tough, Halah,Hang Tough! I am ready to come over there and stay with you but I know you can handle anything that comes your way. We are very proud of you. Love you!

    Like

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