The last 24 hours have been a whirlwind. I flew across the Atlantic, changed planes in both Frankfort and Barcelona, and I’m still wondering how to adjust to the time difference. Our group signed our official State Department Language Contracts today, which means we must speak Arabic–and only Arabic–in class, with staff, with each other, and on all parts of campus. This is both challenging and exciting–we get an incredible number of “contact hours” (linguistic jargon for time spent speaking Arabic)–while also improving our skills at miming when we don’t know the vocabulary.
We descended on the city for the first time today–Tangier looks, feels, and smells differently than any American city I’ve ever been to. Here’s a glimpse at what I saw:
1. The concept of “flat” doesn’t exist. The streets are uneven, the sidewalks are uneven, and there’s a surprising amount of hills, steps, and ridges to navigate.
2. 700,000 people in Tangier sure make Iowa City look small. The sidewalks and streets are packed with people on foot, in Taxis, on busses and riding bikes. They’re all trying to get somewhere. However, they’re not going nearly as fast as Americans run around in the city.
3. Be prepared to bargain. Everything is for sale on the street–I mean soccer jerseys, soap, leather purses, and rugs from all over Morocco. There’s all manner of food–dead fish, fresh veggies, juicy peaches, and a zillion kinds of soda. All of it can be paid for with Dirhem–Moroccan currency that equals has an exchange rate of 8 to 1. One American dollar gets you 8 Dirhem. To give you an anchor, a typical meal goes for about 40 Dirhem–or 4 American dollars.
4. Traffic has no identifiable signs, rules, or regulations. Honking means nothing–it doesn’t make pedestrians or other cars move and it’s like a symphony out there!
5. The colors are fantastic. Buildings, advertisements, and cars are are a rainbow! Taxis are a tealish blue and there are all kinds of light up signs and colorful billboards.
Morocco has held a few “firsts” for me–first International airplane flight, first view of the ocean, and first friend from Finland! More on all three in the next post!