My brother Jarrod lands in Casablanca today after a long 22-hour flight with a stopover at Dubai to visit us. We are currently in the capital city of Morocco Rabat. He’s staying in a Casablanca hotel for the first two nights and then we meet up. The girls are quite excited about seeing him: it’s another family member, another familiar face to see on our year-long journey around the world and spend some time together. He will certainly have to adjust to the temperature – it will be a shock to his system coming from wintery and freezing cold Melbourne to summer and sunny hot Morocco.
This morning we depart our comfortable Airbnb in Rabat and take another train (574 Dh or A$ 78) to the North African sprawling coastal city of Tanger or Tangier. The train is expected to be four hours, but we’re getting used to Moroccan trains being late or delayed – not as bad as the Indian rail system but temperamental nonetheless. It’s common that the sign on the departure board as we arrive into a train station is shows a red alert of “retard 15 minutes” which usually turns into half an hour and today is no exception.
To read more about our crazy experience in Tangier please read my blog post titled Days 209-210 | Four: Moments of Morocco in Tangier | 15-16 July 2017. Oh it’s full of travel drama!
Back to Berrechid base camp. We pack our things in the broken suitcase again, attempt to dry out the two wet towels that are half-hanging out our fifth floor apartment window trying to catch the warm breeze as we don’t have pegs and we’re ready to depart for our train back to Casablanca. So far our train journeys in Morocco this long weekend have cost:
- Berrechid to Rabat = 302 Dh | A$41
- Rabat to Tangier = 574 Dh | A$78
- Tangier to Casablanca = 750 Dh | A$101
- Casablanca to Berrechid = 108 Dh | A$15
- TOTAL = 1,734 Dh | A$235 or A$39 each
The landscape and view outside the train window is as usual amazing to look at and absorb in a moving carriage. I keep snapping away as my teen daughters roll their eyes and tell me I’ve taken enough photos already.
The train back to Casablanca is on time and with no delays. Yay! We organise a taxi to collect us at the hotel and say our goodbyes to the people who assisted our one day in Tangier stay much more memorable than it might have been considering the situation we found ourselves in.
We arrive to the temporary Tangier train station while the more impressive looking Tangier Station is being built beside it. We grab a coffee and some food at the café and depart at 10:30am and arrive six hours later into Casablanca’s main train station Casa Voyageurs at 4:30pm. That’s where we meet up with my brother.
It’s great seeing Jarrod standing at the train station waiting for us. He looks overwhelmingly hot though. After hugs and greetings it’s down to portable internet business with the man at the Maroc Telecom stand at the train station. We have a brand new USB with 14 GB of data uploaded on it and it’s not working. After a quick conversation it becomes apparent that the USB will not work on the version of operating system we have on our Macs. So the man clips the sim and Charlie puts it into her iPhone. We will try to use the data this way and hope it works for school work. But it’s not looking promising is it.
We wait on the Casa Voyageurs platform to catch the next train back to Berrechid. Unfortunately, we don’t make it onto that train as it was bursting at the seams with peak hour commuters. Billie and Dacey squeeze on board somehow, but the rest of us can’t especially with all of our luggage in tow. So they squirm their way off the train before it departs and since the next train isn’t for another 50 minutes or so we head out of the station to grab a pizza at a café across the road. We are starving.
The pizzas take a little longer than expected, so we ask the café to put them in takeaway boxes and we walk back to the station in readiness to board another over crowded train back to Berrechid carrying pizza boxes. The train arrives – a double decker which is the newer Moroccan train. We hadn’t yet travelled on these new trains before so we’re a little excited. We board without fuss and without crowds of people and sit comfortably downstairs in an air-conditioned carriage.
Little did we know that we were sitting in a first class carriage eating pizzas! Oh well…
Yesterday was the start of Term 3. So today is all about catching up and getting a week’s worth of school work complete in three days as we are heading to Marrakech on Friday morning with Jarrod to go on a tour into The Sahara and Atlas Mountains. We will return the following Tuesday some time.
The internet is on the blink in a major way. It just drops in and then out. Charlie is really struggling to download her YouTube videos for her subjects. Mr Harim was good enough to get the technician out to fix it, but it’s not. I think we can put it down to African internet: not much we can do about it. Also the sim in Charlie’s phone doesn’t work that well out here in Berrechid either, so we make the decision that we will leave Morocco earlier than anticipated as the girls are unable to get their work downloaded nor uploaded consistently and it’s getting frustrating. Charlie is starting to get stressed as this term is quite a busy one for her Year 11 and Year 12 subjects with a few important SAC tests and final assessments due throughout the first half of this term.
Making the decision to leave Morocco is one thing. The next challenge is to actually work out where we are traveling to. Cyprus had been mentioned previously. So too had a visit back to England to catch up with our English friends. Then again we mentioned that it would be a wonderful intrepid journey of catching a train to the Spanish port town of Melilla at the top of north Africa and catching a ferry across the Straits of Gibraltar to Almeria and then journeying via bus to Barcelona for a few nights. First world problems – where to travel to next! But we need to settle somewhere with good quality internet speeds that will allow the girls to complete their work throughout the term. The intrepid ferry journey over to Spain unfortunately will not be a possible route as Charlie cannot afford to take any more time off from school right now.
The next issue, once we decide where we’re going, is to actually get onto the internet here in Berrechid to research flights available and costs and then book them. It’s peak season in Europe and finding cheap, more or less direct flights to anywhere here is proving hard to find.
My brother Jarrod is introduced to all the volunteers, students and teachers that is the international community here at the British Language Academy. He’s already been involved in two classrooms conversations today and is thoroughly enjoying it. I think the weather is way too hot for him here – considering he came from very cold and icy Melbourne to hot and non-air conditioned Berredchid dorm house – he’s going exceptionally well. Even so, he’s planning on going down the coast for a couple of nights to take advantage of the couple of days that we’re preoccupied with school and flights to cool off down the Atlantic coast of Morocco.
Our return to the dorm house from our Rabat-Tangier weekend last night was like a homecoming with hugs and smiles from everyone. It’s so lovely to feel missed. This place has certainly given us a new perspective and wonderful experience on travelling communities. It’s been a lucky stroke of luck meeting and getting to know these young, and not so young volunteers, from all over the world. We’ve had discussions around anything from slang, accents, international relations, politics and travel. It’s been an amazing experience and exposure for my impressionable girls to be thrown in to this community of people and to form a sense of what’s possible when travel is combined with living, learning and volunteering overseas.
Tonight the volunteers go out to enjoy mint or Louisa tea at a local café in Berrechid after classes are complete at 10pm. The streets are alive mainly with young men, and there’s a fight between a group of youths on the street in front of the café. There’s never any fists involved with Moroccan fights, just lots of pulling, pushing and restraining from friends and plenty of intense language exchange. It subsides after a couple of minutes and we enjoy our tea and being out of the dorm house together.
Today marks 7 months travelling around the world; 5 to go! This is Billie our at the local Berrechid cafe late last night on the stroke of midnight. She’s certainly counting down the days until we’re home! She misses her friends.
It’s another proactive day with the school books and plane booking. We have printed out various workbooks for Charlie to work off as she cannot access anything online. Her teachers have been very understanding at Distance Education and have forwarded her some of the online materials and we have been able to print them out. And her upcoming Health and Human Development SAC has been postponed until next week. So with all that sorted, she’s feeling a little more at ease.
I’m working closely with Dacey to get her work complete this week. She’s doing really well and we are working in between the times that the internet is actually working. When it’s down, she can work on the printed worksheets.
Jarrod is taking a trip down south along the coast to El Jadida where he’s booked a couple of nights in an arty Airbnb. He found it a little too hot in the dorm house. And since he has only got 12 days in Morocco it doesn’t give him much time to explore the country so it’s great he’s able to get there this week while we are preoccupied getting school complete before taking off on Friday morning and meeting Jarrod in Marrakech for our tour.
Steve can’t find seats on flights for the six of us to many places. It’s peak time here in Europe and with the internet going in and out he’s about to go crazy inputting six people’s names and passport numbers into the systems only to be told that no flights exist. Grrr…
But this afternoon, Steve booked six plane tickets with Royal Air Morocco and APG Airlines (who the hell are they?) to Cyprus with a 3-hour stopover in Brussels. They’re booked! Phew. We are leaving this magical country of Morocco on Thursday 27 July. Earlier than anticipated but we are grateful that we have been able to stay and travel in Morocco for a month now and we have vowed that we will return one day.
Today we say goodbye to our beautiful volunteer British friend Julish who is traveling back home. We are all quite sad as she departs out the gates of the language school but we are all staying in touch with her via social media.
It’s a normal 30 odd-degrees day today but the heat is trapped inside the dorm house again although all of the doors and windows are open. There’s a cooler change coming in tomorrow and Friday which will be very welcome. In the meantime, it’s just take it slow around the dorm house and get up to the roof top in the evening to enjoy the cool air.
I sit up on the rooftop of the dorm house this afternoon to take advantage of the cooler conditions and to write up more of my blog. But I don’t get far as American volunteer Biafra joins me and we have an amazing discussion about his life as a black youth in America and the horrible situation he and his family live with just because they’re black. Then Mr Harim ventures upstairs. He’s been fixing leaking taps and broken shower nozzles today at the dorm house. He sits down with us and we talk about the Moroccan experience and life as a Moroccan. I listen more about Mr Harim’s life and how he came to start and open these language schools.
Back in his youth, Mr Harim trained as a school teacher. But it was extremely hard for Moroccans to get a job. He was involved in protesting against the government to create more jobs for Moroccan people and he was beaten up and ended up going on hunger strikes to make his point along with others that were also concerned about jobs and the livelihood of Moroccan people. He said he remembers seeing a man with his wife holding their baby being beaten too and it was this that caused him to rise up to his vision of making a difference to his people. He had a vision of being the person to do something that would help these people. As he says, “who else will?”
His vision of opening and operating English language schools around Morocco was born. He’s been doing this for five years now and although he’s a busy man, he’s still holds his vision of opening up more schools and offering more people the chance to make something of their lives and help others. He’s truly an inspiration.
So not much writing is done, but lots of sharing of ideas about countries and life in different cultures. Mr Harim loves nothing more than seeing young people come to Morocco and experience the real Morocco without the fear and prejudices and loathing that sometimes automatically accompanies this part of the world. He talks about how well the girls are going in the English language classes and believes that it’s amazing for young people, the earlier the better, to travel and explore different cultures and countries. Of course I agree with him wholeheartedly and share with him that since being here at the dorm house the girls have really had their perceptions challenged about the value of travel and learning. Just being in the conversation with the volunteers from all parts of the world is an amazing crucible of perception-changing thinking and action.
It ends up being a late night on the roof top – 2:30am to be exact. I think I’ll write up a special ‘Seven Month Rooftop Chat’ post that shares what I so love about traveling and living this way. So stay tuned.
Another late start to our day due to staying up late with the volunteers talking and sharing ideas about the world. But we wake to a cool change in Berrechid that lifts our heavy eyes.
We set ourselves up in the teacher’s room on the top floor with the windows open and the cool breeze flowing in. It’s lovely. We are getting the rest of the school week work done today as we are leaving at 9am tomorrow morning for a train journey to Marrakech.
We have told the teachers that we are leaving next week. So they have arranged to have Australia as the topic for conversation in class tonight which is really nice.
Today we say farewell to the two French girls – Fanny and Nella. They are heading to Rabat for a couple of days then back home to France. We get a group shot on the steps of the language academy just before we wave goodbye to them through the gates.
After the classrooms lessons we organise the books and study materials we need to pack for our trip to Cyprus. It’s ridiculous the amount of study items we’re carrying for a so called Distance Education learning environment. Since it’s the start of another semester many workbooks arrived at my parent’s address for Charlie, Ash and Billie. We never received anything for Ash or Billie in Semester one! Luckily Jarrod was able to bring a load of English and Maths workbooks over – the rest have stayed back in Australia.
We leave the dorm house in Berrechid at 9am with our one suitcase for six to catch the 9:30am train to Marrakech. We catch a beat up blue petit taxi to the train station. We are travelling 190km to the city of Marrakech where we will meet Jarrod and start our Camel Safari Tour for 3 nights/4 days at 800 Dirham each (A$110).