This is my first blog as a moldy oldie 22 year old. I realize that it’s not, but that sounds sooo old to me! I feel especially old after I realize that my favorite birthday ever, my 11th, was HALF of my life ago. Depressing! (I'm not sure what's more depressing... that I'm already 22 or that my favorite birthday was when I was in 5th grade)
However, I was distracted from my depression on my birthday because of the exciting weekend that was ahead of me. I have celebrated my birthday/bday weekend in places cooler than Dubuque a few times before: Orlando FL, the Dells, NYC and Waverly, IA (just kidding about that one- haha). BUT, the location I was heading off to right after my 22nd birthday puts the other places to shame: Morocco!
My birthday was Thursday (the 11th), and it started off amazingly. I woke up that morning to a wonderful birthday surprise!
The table in our living room was full of birthday stuff. My roommates Chloe and Danielle got me a delicious cake that Chloe made. It was topped with fruit and a perfect “FELIZ CUMPLEAÑOS” candle (which is now on display on my desk). The bananas even said “22”! There were also some notes (that I will save forever!) and my cards/package that had arrived throughout the week. Plus, the sea shells and rose that are randomly on our bookshelf were thrown on for a nice touch.
I went off to class, and when I arrived home that evening there were MORE surprises! My birthday card from my grandparents had arrived and there was MORE stuff on the table. My Señora made me ANOTHER cake, there was a card from Danielle and some Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Yummm. After packing for our trip, we were off for a birthday dinner at a really great Mexican place right around the corner from our apartment. It was soooo good. Going out to eat was a treat this year especially since I NEVER go to restaurants here. We are officially addicted to their Guacamole.
Since our flight to Morocco was so early in the morning (6:30) and we had to get there a few hours before, we decided we would just go to the airport before the metro closed, so we wouldn’t have to pay for a taxi in the morning. Soooo, at about midnight we left for the airport and were able to “sleep” there for a couple hours. Just like at the Gerona airport (winter break), it was difficult to actually sleep! It was freezing, loud and uncomfortable. But, I guess it was worth saving the money.
Just a couple hours after we boarded our flight, we were in Morocco! We flew into the Marrakesh airport but were staying in Taghazhut (by Agadir). The place we were staying at arranged for a driver to come pick us up at the airport. After going through customs, we saw the guy holding a sign saying “Hines, Dove, Rust”. RUST. This has been like the 4th time here that people have had my last name down as “Rust”. It’s funny because I rarely get that at home. And, “Kelsey” has also been really difficult for professors and other Spanish people to pronounce. Anyway, we got in with this crazy driver and made the 3 hr drive to Taghazhut, a quaint beach town. It was exactly as I imagined Morocco to be (which is good… because I had high hopes!). We stayed in a surf house through Stoke Travel that was only about a 5 minute walk to the beach. The house is run by some surfer guys, and we joined a small group of people from all over the world. There were two Italian guys, a guy from Germany and a girl originally from Las Vegas, working as an Au Pair in Paris. This experience was quite different than any of our stays in hostels. There was less independence, but I liked it. We all traveled around as a group (for the most part) and it was great having real live Moroccans with us who knew the area and who I felt safe with.
When we first got there on Friday, the three of us explored the town for a while and made our way down to the beach. I knew that riding a camel was a MUST DO thing for me while in Morocco- so when I saw people walking them along the beach I got so excited! We all took a turn riding one and it was sooo scary. They are VERY high up off of the ground. They are laying down when you first get onto them, and don’t stand up smoothly at all. I thought I was going to fall off of it! We walked along the beach for a while and it was a bumpy ride… and getting down was just as scary as getting up. My heart was racing the whole time (and even for a while after) but I’m so happy that I did it. It was SUCH a fun experience. I can now cross “ride a camel in Africa” off of my bucket list (not that it was ever actually on it). Haha. Now, when I go to another part the continent someday, I want to ride an Elephant! :)
The weather was so beautiful on the beach that we decided to run back to the house to put our swimsuits on. Of course, about 5 minutes after we got situated on the rocks the clouds rolled it. And it was freeeeeezing! So, we got some mint tea and coffee, and walked around the town some more. There were many vendors selling the most beautiful Moroccan things. Danielle, Chloe and I all got similar bracelets with Fatima’s hand on them, as a sort of roommate friendship bracelet to remember this trip, and all of our other adventures together.
We ate dinner on our rooftop terrace with everyone else from the house, and then I went to be before midnight since I was so tired and I would need all the energy I could get for surfing the next day!
On Saturday we woke but bright and early due to the rooster that lived next door. At the time I was hating it, but now I think it’s hilarious that I have actually been woken up by a rooster. It has never happened to me before! We ate breakfast than got our wetsuits on. We carried our boards down to the beach and after about a 30 second “lesson” got right into the water. It was cold at first but I got used to it right away- the sun was shining and it was really warm out. Such an upgrade from dreary Madrid!
It turns out, I am not a surfer. At all! It took me forever to “catch” a wave, and I couldn’t even ever get up onto my knees on the board. I was completely fine with it though… I had just as much fun riding them out on my stomach. I loved just being in the water, enjoying the sun and taking in Morocco. After over an hour or more of “surfing” I decided to go in and lay on the beach. I have never had a beach experience like It before. I opened up my eyes and there would be camels walking around and dogs laying around me… I got a kick out of the camels- the dogs, not so much! We laid out for a while and then went back to the house for lunch. I’m happy we didn’t stay any longer because I was completely unaware of how burnt I was getting! I was a little crispy, but not bad enough to interfere with my fun. (yes mom, I was wearing sunscreen… just obviously not enough)
After lunch, one of the guys who works at the surf house drove us to Agadir, the biggest town by Taghazhut. We went to the market which was full of so many spices, nuts, dried fruits, lanterns, jewelry and everything else Moroccan that you can think of and then went to the grocery store to pick up some stuff for that night. We were going to go to a Moroccan bath, but didn’t have enough time. Maybe on my next trip :)
After we had our traditional Moroccan dinner (on the roof top terrace, of course) we all just sat around visiting and listening to music. After a while, we decided to get some henna tattoos. One of the guys said that the Cook, Fatima, knew how to do it and we could go with her to get it done. Sooo, we walked up the street to her house and she and a friend gave them to us. They kind of cheated (they used a stencil) but the ink was freshly made, and it was such neat experience to be in a random house in Morocco, sitting on the floor getting tatted by these random ladies who we couldn’t communicate with. I got mine on my foot, and I’m happy I got it in a place I could cover up since it didn’t really work out. The ink smeared and it looks disgusting!
We went back to the house, smoked a little hookah and played some card games. Later in the night I was surprised with my THIRD birthday cake! The guys at the beach house bought me one when we were at the grocery store. It was SUCH a surprise and just like the others, delicious.
Our flight back to Madrid was leaving around 8:00am on Sunday and we needed to get to the airport at 6ish. And with the 3hr+ drive to Marrakesh from Taghazhut, we left the house at 2am! I tried to take a ½ hr nap before we left, but that didn’t work out. We all said our goodbyes and were on our way. We got back to Madrid around noon, and naps were definitely in order!
I know that my trip to Morocco will be something I’ll always remember, and the fact that it happened right after my 22nd birthday makes it all the more special :)