Garrett Harris 8 p.m., Sept. 16
- Community Blog
I will stick to it. I will go through all five levels, all 400 hours before I get on the plane in mid-April. I need to understand French, since my only other choice is Moroccan Arabic and that's not going to happen.
I have spent about, I'd guess, maybe 16 hours so far. I am enjoying it, all except the writing part that is. I think I need to just stick to the speaking and listening parts of the course now, if I have even a hope of making it through.
I'm going to tag along with a small group of Europeans and Moroccans to Akka in the Tata region of Morocco on the Sahara Plain. Approximately 10 years ago I talked to a woman on the Coaster, a woman I'd seen for a month or so, a commuter like me I supposed, but on that day I found out she was actually from Marrakech, here studying English, and she was a traveling bookseller.
Google me, she said, and handed me a piece of paper with her name. And so I did, and saw lots of postings and articles about her in other languages. And then life kept moving on, and I never thought much more about it. Until 2010 that is, when I was going to attempt my first "cruise"- a 12 day extravaganza in the Med- that departed out of Barcelona (one of my favorite cities). Looking at a map I saw that Morocco was right there, easy access, cheap airfares- a lot cheaper than trying to add on a trip to the Seychelles (where is that money coming from anyway- i'm still trying to figure that one out).
So I googled her again. Jamila Hassoune. There, you try it too. And I emailed her, asked if she remembered me and she said sure, come on down. And so after finally freeing myself from the cruise -that- i - will- never- try- again- until- my - mobility- is -limited (eeek), I flew via Madrid-Casablanca- Marrakech the next evening.
I had booked a room in a riad she recommended via the Internet, run by a French couple, and I used the "translate" function on my iphone in my emails- although I'm sure it wasn't perfect, the couple was under the impression that I knew much more than high school french, but we made it work.
The Caravane du Livre- you'll see a description on her website if you take the time. I was there just prior to their departure in 2010. I met some of the "presenters" who stayed at the same riad during that week. This was the year of the volcanic eruption in Iceland, and many of the participants couldn't make it to Morocco since the airports were all shut down. We didn't know that during that week however, and in fact, until I got back to Barcelona, and turned on CNN, I was cruising through the streets for dinner- not even aware I could get stuck on the other side of the world (without a lot of resources, since I'd been traveling for about a month at that point).
No one could tell me what was going on. The darling men at the hotel desk just shook their heads and let me know they had no idea if I'd make it out in the morning or not, so I decided to let go of my anxiety and have a bite in the hotel restaurant which overlooked a cathedral and a big plaza. It was relatively early and I was the first one in the door. I ordered some sort of paella type dish, and a small bottle of Spanish red. The sun was setting and people were strolling arm in arm across the plaza- young lovers, others with their dogs, herds of tourists following a guy with a flag. I was beat, really underdressed for the dining room of the Hotel Colon, but hey, I was hungry and didn't feel like doing much other than packing up for the "what could be" an arduous journey back to San Diego.
But back to Rosetta Stone. My time in Morocco was very different than most of my world travels on my own. There were not a lot of people around me that spoke English. I was not staying or hanging out with tourists, but with Italians, and Europeans- most of whom spoke limited English and were there for the caravane.
So I'm going back, I'm going on the Caravane du Livre this time, this year. I want to understand what is going on when we meet with local people, local kids- when the people I'm traveling with are teaching, or presenting, or interacting with people whose lives are so different from mine- so I've got to finish this course, I've just got to, or otherwise I'll be a looky loo, tagging along with no real contribution.
Jamila wants me to come, to accompany them. Perhaps I will sit in a classroom and answer questions about my life from little Moroccan kids, or Moroccan women my age- it's all going to be a surprise - and I'm very excited about it.
I'm flying into London for a few days before and after. I'm staying in Marrakech a few days before and after. I'm cruising in to this adventure, and cruising home. I'm taking clothes that are cheap, forgettable, and disposable. I'm getting my hair cut, but skipping the color until I return. Baggy pants and tops that hide my shape. Nothing to cause offense or attention. Easy to pack light for this trip. It'll be Spring but hotter and more humid. No point in taking makeup, or anything but a few bobby pins to keep my hair out of my face, and a scarf to throw over my head when the sun gets too hot.
The food, yum, can't wait.