So I today I am beginning my journey to London, where I'm spending 2 weeks for Christmas and New Years with very dear old friends! I woke up at 9:30, finished packing and ate breakfast (bread and honey) and headed down to the Gendarmes (police) station. We're required to tell them when we leave the region, and also I needed to pick up my carte du sejour - my official Moroccan registration card, the equivalent to a Green Card!! - which had finally arrived. We've been waiting for this since June! Then he had one of the other gendarmes drive me to the taxi stand! I was so grateful I told him "Llayerhem waladeen" which means "may God bless your parents". I ended up getting the bus rather than a taxi, so that saved me 5Ds. When I got to Essaouira, I left my bag at the bus station baggage consignment area, and went Christmas shopping. ... (I can't tell you what I got in case you are one of the people on my list!)
I stopped at the sandwich shop my sitemate and I have started getting sandwiches from before we travel and got the chicken sandwich with everything on it. Not really sure what "everything" consists of. I usually have it eaten before I even realize what is happening. But other than the baked chicken, there are olives, beets, tomatoes, onions, some yogurt sauce and some hot sauce. Maybe rice sometimes. It tastes completely different every time I get it (it has been three different people making it the three times I've gone so far) but it is always surprisingly good! And it comes with fries (though they are admittedly a bit soggy). All for only 10 Ds (approximately $1.10). On my way to the bus there was a cart selling the biggest reddest most juicy looking strawberries I had ever seen. So I bought one of the medium sized crates for 15Ds (approximately $1.90). A bit of a splurge, but I felt I needed something of a reward for the long travel day ahead. I got to the bus station, got my bag out of consignment, bought my ticket, and headed out to the bus lot. As I followed the voices calling, "Marrakch!!" and approached the bus, it was pulling out. They grabbed my bags and slid them into the compartment as I passed them the baggage fee, and I jumped on. They keep the doors open for both the luggage compartment and the passenger area, and pull out of the station really slowly, because half the passengers get on as it's pulling out. Perfect timing!
I happily ate my lunch and strawberries as we drove, while listening to music and reading "The People's History of the United States" by Howard Zinn. He inspires the revolutionary in me. I read 20 pages during the bus ride (it's a 688 page book and I have been making great progress - only have 268 pages to go). Got to Kech, got a taxi and made sure he wasn't going to overcharge me (by asking how much it was going to be before getting in) and then he took me to Jam3 Ifna (the main square in Marrakech with the flame throwers and the snake charmers and the monkey men). This is where the "Peace Corps" hotel is (not officially a Peace Corps hotel, but we all regularly stay there and we have an understanding with the proprietor).
He said there weren't any single rooms left (at the rate of 50 Ds) but he would let me have a double for the discounted rate of 70Ds (instead of 100) so I sighed and decided it was worth 20Ds extra to not have to lug my bags around and find another hotel that DID have a single room. So here I am happily lying on my bed eating strawberries and waiting for my hunger to build so I can go out and get the chef salad at that one cafe I went to last time. I have to find out how far it is to the airport so I know how early to start out tomorrow, but it shouldn't be too bad either way because my flight is at 12:10. Tonight is all about charging my ipod and loading up movies (just downloaded some software to convert .avi files to .mp4 files so I can put Casino Royale on my ipod - WHAT UP!) in case the journey starts to drag tomorrow.
This is the first time I've left the country since I got here over 9 months ago. This life I lead here in Morocco, which I have come to regard with a certain sense of familiarity, half the time seems normal and the other half of the time I can't believe this is my life, and shake my head at the wonderous miracles, or ridiculous frustrations I encounter. So who knows what kinds of insights I'll gain while I'm away from it for a bit! I feel peaceful, happy and expansive. But mostly, I know that as the plane gets closer and closer to landing in London, I will be nothing but excited. I can't wait to see my friends!!