Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Adventures of the B.L.G.
There must have been a lot of people praying for me last week. Just saying that I'm pretty amazed I managed to make it back to Spain alive.
I returned from Fes, Morocco (where I was unfortunately labeled the B.L.G. by a loiterer outside of our hostel; call me that and die) on Saturday evening after five days and four nights, and I would say 90% of the trip was the scariest, stupidest thing I've ever done in my life. For the sake of my mother's heart, I shant reproduce all that went down (it was sketchy to the furthest extreme), but here are a few nuggets along with highlights of the day that turned the entire trip, and maybe even my life, around.
From the minute we arrived at the Barcelona Girona airport and took note of the demographics of the check-in line, we should have known we were in for it. Both long lines consisted exclusively of Moroccan men with the exception of five women, all besmocked in heavy, full-body black veils that left only their eyes uncovered. My friend Elise and I glanced at each other wide-eyed in nervousness and sheepishly attempted to ignore the fact that we really had NO idea what we were doing.
We had only booked a hotel for our first night, intending to scout out something cheaper once we arrived in Fes. The hostel we eventually found for about 7 euros a night was, well, only worth about 7 euros, if not less. It was actually so putrid that Wednesday to Saturday, I only showered once and pooped twice (both on Wednesday morning). My foremost thoughts every morning as I awoke was "How long can a person go without pooing before dying?" Great way to start off the day, I know. I was sure I caught about 80 diseases and infections from that living environment, and the prospects of imminent death by internal turmoil was a constant psychological plague as well.
But bathroom unease and all other shadiness aside, Morocco turned out to be somewhat of a positive venture after all. Though Thursday brought the scariest (no joke) moments of my life, Friday turned the spectrum on its head. We got to take cooking classes with a Moroccan chef and I can honestly say it was one of the most incredible things I have ever experienced.
Lahcen, a friendly, humble chef from the south of Morocco, met us at our hotel in the morning and proceeded to take us to the souk, an open-air marketplace of fruits, vegetables, meat, and a wide array of other edible delicacies. He led us around, taught us how to pick the freshest produce, and gave us small cultural lessons along the way. We stocked up on a plethora of goods, including a chicken which I killed!!!!!, before taxi-ing it to a renovated palace from the 14th century.
There we were served Moroccan mint tea and pastries on the rooftop terrace grandly overlooking the old medina of Fes before diving headlong into kitchen duties. We then spent the following few hours chopping, dicing, peeling, sauteeing, wrapping, stirring...you name it, learning the ways of Moroccan cuisine. Together with Lahcen and two other ladies (the sweetest women you will ever meet), we crafted a delectable spread of chicken tagine, candied artichoke hearts with oranges and preserved lemons, cheese and olive briouwates, and an apple cream pastilla; seriously a feast fit for kings.
We partook of the fruits of our collective labor in the fancy palace on a fancy tablecloth and fancy plates. My taste buds all died and went to heaven the food was so delicious. Wow. (For all that Morocco was not, I will say the gastronomy was consistently amazing.) AND there was a clean bathroom, so I knew I could thoroughly enjoy my meal. Ahem.
After the delicious repas, Elise and I set to work mopping the floor, washing the dishes, and scrubbing the table covers soaking in bleach, unthinkingly shocking the kitchen crew beyond words. It was no big deal, if anything, merely the natural thing to do, but Lahcen and the two Fatimas were stunned. We were immediately afforded access into the inner sanctum of acceptance, where Lahcen promptly offered us permanent jobs and the Fatimas invited us to their "family" meal, which apparently has never happened to any guest in the year and a half history of cooking classes.
We crowded around a heaping tray of cous cous and vegetables, the traditional dish for lunch on Fridays (Muslim day of prayer, equivalent to our Sundays) squatting on small straw stools on the kitchen floor and dug in. Language barriers presented no obstacle as we all joked and laughed and ate until the point of bursting. The tight-knit family environment was so heart-warming and certainly did its work in transforming the trip. We went from swearing never to return to the continent to figuring out when we could logically go back for an extended stay.
Man. It was incredible and this blog entry does it no justice. I mean, I wrote 15 pages front and back in my journal throughout the entire trip, so...yeah. If you remember and are still interested when I come back to California, I will let you read all about this eventful African adventure. Until then though, I still have five and a half months left on this side of the world, and more immediately, finals and papers to slog through these next few weeks. Studying and productivity currently beckon, entonces so long for now.