Monday, August 4, 2008

goodbye ghana, hello morocco

Damn you computers!

So the blog was doing well until Ghana, where computers just took too darn long. And I thought surely, SURELY in Morocco these machines would be lickety-split and we'd be back on track. And they ARE lickety-split, but they won't load my photos! Quelle domage! (But at least I can check on the Cubs now.)

The highlights of the last few days in Ghana?

1 - Sam and Carl coach rugby at a local school; let's join! 3 tro-tros later, we get off at Pig Farm (no joke), and... man I wish I had photos. It's tough to explain how excited Ghanaian kids get at seeing abruni. They just stampede right at you. Teachers came around with switches to keep the kids off me, and I still ended up with a trickle of blood running down my cheek from a zealous boy who needs to clip his nails. I bought some oranges and juggled for the group (I think Sophie got some photos of that), and threw the oranges one by one into the crowd afterwards. Sam was just staring at me in disbelief, like "what made you think that was a good idea?!" You'd think these oranges were winning lottery tickets. Little girls were being trampled underfoot; it was like a soccer riot. It was positively surreal.

2 - Colin Powell, the geography whiz from whom I bought some masks and stuff, stopped by Crystal Hostel and had a few beers with us. That's very Ghanaian. People are just instafriends. It's wonderful.

3 - Headed down to Labadi beach in Accra for Reggae night. Bonfires, live Ghanaian music and dancers (how good are African dancers?!) and wading in the dark African surf. It was a blast.

4 - The sink in Labadi beach's bathroom didn't work, so a worker was there ladling water from a bucket for you to wash your hands. The worker told me the bathroom was 50 cents -- it's common for public bathrooms to cost money; in Egypt some had admission tickets, like it was a train -- and I only had a $1 note. He said thank you, and I said no, I need change. So okay, let's go to the bar and get change. I start walking and he half-follows, then slinks back. This is very not Ghanaian. I say, aloud, "Hey, you owe me change." Suddenly one of the other workers gets angry with him, "If you owe him money, give him his money!" and a middle-aged woman starts hitting him over the head with a stick, furiously reprimanding, "Kofi, you know that bathroom is free! Give him his money back! It is not right to cheat people! Give him his money!" Wow.

5 - Folks told me a cab to the airport should cost about $7. In most poor countries, a cabbie would see that I'm white and going to the airport, and demand $20 and it'd be a 5-minute ordeal. In Ghana:

"To the airport, how much?"

Honesty makes me so happy. I gave him seven. At the airport, my $2.50 snack became $2 when there was no correct change. Thanks Ghana. You get an A-.

Why the minus? Ghana's bugs are pretty unbelievable. The flies are irridescent yellow and green and blue. They're the most gorgeous flies I've ever seen. I took pictures of them. But wait, that's a plus, not a minus! No, the minus comes from the the deet-resistant biowarfare mosquitocopters. The bites are enormous; I looked like a smallpox victim. Even with anti-malarials, one person at the hostel got malaria. And the poor sap who didn't bother with anti-malaria medication? She made it about 3 days before the inevitable.

Despite that somewhat serious health hazard, I'd go back in a heartbeat. Never did I think I'd see such an amazing marriage of poverty and happiness. It's absolutely inspiring.

On to Morocco.

After a red-eye to Morocco, I found a hotel and spent the day in Casablanca. The weather in Ghana, Egypt, Dubai... actually, this whole trip!, well, comparatively, the breezy 82-degree Moroccan air was absolute heaven. But street-side cafes and friendly locals just weren't able to compensate for Casablanca's concrete aesthetic, so I took a very 1st-world train to Fez, which is where I am right now. I damn near cried when the train doors opened and I was blasted with 104-degree air -- why can't I escape this extreme heat?! -- but the old medina in Fez is AH-MAZE-ING. It's lauded as the largest car-free area in any city in the world. Why no cars? They simply don't fit. The old medina is 1200 years old, with cobbled streets and markets and the tiniest alleyways all winding tortuously around like exploring ants. It's gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous. And while Hotel Cascades was sorta full, you can sleep on a mat on the roof terrace for 50 dirham ($7) a night, which is just too cool for words (though I'm not a fan of the "ALLAH AKBAAAAAAAAAAAR MUHAMMAD RESULU ALLAAAAAAAAAAAAAH" calls to prayer ringing out in the worst hours of the night). Last night I used a small melon as a pillow. I figure I'll spend the rest of my trip right here.

And they have vegetarian food!!! Oh how I miss you, rare variety!

Today is the 4th. Assuming my flight issue gets worked out (shifting flights have shortened my NYC layover from 3 hours to negative 1 hour), I get home on the 8th. Oh America, with your hot showers and potable tap water and sit-down toilets and bearable heat, how I miss you so! But I love love LOVE traveling, and I don't want this to end. I know I won't be home 3 days before I wish I were exploring again.

But wait, right now, I'm in the ancient walled medina of Fez, with alleyways pulsing with culture and history and a million lives, and I'm sitting here at a computer?! No no no, this is all wrong.

I gotta go explore.


Anonymous said...

Whenever I need a smile, I re-read your blog. And when I need a laugh, I look at the "I'm tired, too, donkey." Always works!

Can't wait to see you!!!


pop said...

you actually make me want to travel there and do the things you've done

i know that i'm not gonna, but you do make me want to

the beach at night and juggling for the kids sounded especially cool

Tracy said...

Have a safe trip home, Jake. This is Tracy from India. Turkey was amazing (I definitely will have to return) and Egypt was a whirlwind of sights. I gave the Egyptian Museum a miss, but will definitely go to the British Museum. Then, after 11 months on the road, back to the US, which honestly never looked so good. So glad I came across your blog, and have a safe, journey home!

Anonymous said...

jake, i miss you and I'm going to miss your blogs soon! cam and I are having a dinner party tomorrow (friday) night! you should stop by. you know where we live.

p.s. please post more pics when you get home to reliable computer connections! i don't know if i like your pictures or the commentary accompanying the pictures more.

Betty said...

Hi, Jake -

Maybe you are on a flight home as I write this. Your chronicles of your travels has been very enjoyable reading, so thank you. I liked Moroccan food so much I brought back a tagine to cook authentic coucous. As soon as you open your email, you will see a list of CR dive shifts that I've pencilled you in for, so you need to let me know right away if you can or cannot do them. Thanks again, world traveler!