A Welcome Note: On Filling the Gaps

Dear Friends and Family:

Although I haven't added any posts since the summer of 2007, this blog continues to be a warehouse of my thoughts and experiences from my time abroad.


Sunday, March 4, 2007

Morocco: Day One

2.23.07 - After shopping on Via del Corso for a new pair of Pumas to replace my old battered and punctured sneakers that had clearly suffered a beating on the streets of Rome, I met up with Brent, Hannah, Mimi, Dianna and Holiday at the Borghese Gardens for a pre-departure picnic. The six of us would be traveling to Morocco together that night. We planned to meet up with Jenny and Rachel, two more members of the Morocco crew who had left Thursday night by the next evening. To protect ourselves against the damp ground, Hannah rolled out the blanket she had bought in Venice the week before that had served us all so well and become the mysterious subject of so many photos. We munched on Italian cookies, gobbled up fresh strawberries and tomatoes and couldn’t get enough of the thinly sliced meats and cheese.
Around 3:00 I left for home to finish packing my bags and book a hostel for three of us via email for that night in Madrid. I managed to stuff everything I had put in my large frame backpack into my regular school bag (so I wouldn’t have to check anything) before hopping into Marina’s compressed car and getting a ride to the Tuscolana train station (only a few minutes away). There I met up with the picnic crew to take the local train to Fiumicinio, Rome’s international airport. We bought and validated our tickets and made it aboard just in time. Thirty six minutes later, in pulled the train and we had concluded the first of many trips together. We proceeded to the Iberia airlines terminal where we checked in and with passports and boarding passes in hand, made our way to the departure gate. At around 7:30PM, we boarded the plane and within a half hour or so had taxied to the runway and taken off for Madrid, the location of our overnight layover.
On the plane, I found myself reading the airline’s magazine in Spanish and was pleasantly surprised to find that I could understand most of the text without even having to peek at the English translation. I tried to refresh myself as much as possible for our sojourn in the Spanish capital but despite my ability to comprehend the text, I was practically hopeless when it came to speaking (in the language I had studied for six years) or deciphering the mess of vowels and consonants spewed from the lungs of the Spaniards we encountered.

Upon arrival in the Madrid airport I was immediately taken aback at the spectacular undulating lines of Terminal four, where Iberia Airlines, Spain’s national carrier, was based. Although the signage was confusing at times, the arabesques of the ceiling and brightly colored Y-shaped beams supporting the structure were enough for me to whip out my camera. A short airport bus ride later, we arrived at Terminal 2, from where were could take the metro to the city center and our hostel. Because I had left Rome prior to receiving a confirmation email, my un-superstitious fingers were crossed as I hoped we did in fact have a place to stay that night. The metro system in Madrid turned out to be fantastic. Although we had to make two interchanges 6-10-5 before arriving at the stop nearest our hostel, the signage was impeccable and certainly made up for this in my mind! On each train there must have been maps every two feet of the whole system and above the seats, one could see detailed routes of every train that connected with the one you were riding at the time. What a difference from Rome! Not only did all the metros come within minutes of each other, but one couldn’t see graffiti anywhere and the cars were extremely clean. Around 11:30, 12:00 we found our hostel and with my very broken Español, checked in with the hostel proprietress who had received my email and set everything up for us. At first, the hostel looked pretty seedy (We shared the elevator up with a prostitute and her client) it turned out to be clean, comfortable, and equipped with incredible views of the city. The other three people were able to get a room at a hostel right across the hall which made coordination very easy.

By the time we finally were ready to eat dinner, everything that resembled Spanish food was closed and we were forced to settle for Döner kebabs and McDonald's (not too much of a concern since I’ll be back of course). Shortly thereafter we set our alarms for the next morning and crashed.

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