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Friday, April 30, 2010

Chaoen


So walking through Tangier was much like walking through any other port city apart form the fact that everything was written in Arabic and French and that the women wore headscarves and the men wore a combination of traditional clothes and western attire. We both felt like foreigners that first day and decided that we would try harder to blend in. To make a long story short we took a taxi to a neighboring pueblo called Chefchaoen for the night- we had looked it up on the web and found a great little guest house called Dar Meziana which was quaint and situated in the center of the little mountain town. Watching the scenery was breathtaking and we saw everything from lakes and mountains to sheep and horses and even huge evergreen trees next to palm trees! 

Arriving in Chaoen was as though we had dropped onto another planet-as the taximan opened the door to let us out we were met with the sounds of donkeys and bells carrying loads of straw and artesania to sell in the local souqs, and a cacophony of conversation in a mixture of Berber (high atlas), Arabic, and French.  Everywhere you looked were little pueblo style clay houses painted periwinkle blue with curiously shaped doorframes and flowers growing wherever they could find space to put down roots.

It was a charming place proud of its berber heritage and happy to welcome new visitors. After being led through the winding streets and stone steps of Chaoen to our guesthouse we were welcomed with a traditional Moroccan custom. We were seated on couches with satin cushions and were surrounded by pillows of all colors and sizes in the parlor, which was in fact an open courtyard and were then served Moroccan mint tea with some traditional sweets made of nuts and filo dough. It was delicious and very much needed after a long day of travelling. 

Next we were shown our rooms which was on the 3rd floor leading out to the terrace from which you could see all the winding little streets below and could hear the call to prayer which would be chanted from the tops of the local mosques 5 times a day. It was a beautiful place full of new textures and colors and I couldn’t stop looking around marveling at the intricate design of the rought iron trellace or the rows of fresh mint growing by the window.

I promise to add pictures between postings because words can only describe so much and the rest you will have to see for yourselves.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Planes Trains and...Ferries?


As we lugged ourselves and our equipaje onto the 9:30am bus to Algeciras, Justin and I considered the journey that was about to begin- neither of us had ever been to an Arabic speaking country much less one that also spoke French (a language neither of us had studied) we were exited and a bit anxious to get moving because the trek we had chosen was not exactly direct but in fact was travel as it was meant to be-a journey across space and time to see and experience another culture and its people for oneself.
And that was exactly what we were prepared to do-soak in as much as we could and take in the vibrant personality of Morocco…

Once we reached Algeciras we had to catch a ferry to take us across the Mediterranean to the tip of Africa ie Tangier. Apparently, this was a very big business because when we arrived and eventually made it to the port there was what looked like airplane hangers with counters offering ferries at various prices and speeds of travel as well as combinations of destinations and purchasing options. Thankfully our choice was relatively simple-just get us to Tangier ;)

The ferry was huge and we saw many Moroccans and several French families aboard on their way back to Morocco. It was exciting to receive my very first passport stamp in Arabic.  As we disembarked there were people asking in various languages if we wanted a “tahksi” for “very good price!’ or if we needed a tour guide or even a guy pretending to be some kind of ‘minister of tourism’ Thankfully both of us have travelled enough to know that if we just kept weaving through all these people we could just be on our way. 

Moroccan Adventure


Dear blog followers:

Prepare to embark on a Moroccan adventure full of colorful cuisine, rich textures, and vibrant characters…
In a land in a far away across the salty turquoise water of the Mediterranean Sea and bordering along the rolling red dunes of the Sahara Desert lies a country of cultural fusion and linguistic confusion- a place of red clay and elegant art which fills the soul with fresh air thin and full of history…this country that brings together the customs of Europe and Africa is a very unique and beautiful mosaic of colors, cultures, and cuisines.

Morocco

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

La Feria!!

La Feria!!

Fuimos anoche a la Feria!! It was a blast!  The official opening of the festivities was at 12 midnight, the ceremony is called the "Alumbrado". Once inside we saw the casetas and the carnival rides including mini rollercoasters and ferris wheels ;) And there were stands selling everything from chocolate and churros to cotton candy, noisemakers and much much more. As it was the night of 'pescaitos' (fried fish with an andalucian twist) big companies and families held dinners in their casetas to celebrate the begining of la feria.

Each caseta is unique and is decorated with traditional spanish flare. It reminded me of looking at the rooms of a dollhouse: there was wood flooring, wallpaper and real furniture but the only funny thing was that the casetas all are missing one wall so that everyone can hear the music and see the dancing.

Today we are planning to go check out the festivities and wear our trajes de flamenco :) cant wait!!

mas mañana!!

La Feria

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Mi Projecto Creativo "La Cascada"


je ne sais pas...

Bonjour!

So I was in a café this afternoon reading a bit about fonologia and enjoying some cafe con leche ;) descafeinado of course and in came a group of french folks. They sat nearby and I couldnt help but notice the adorable kids who were all decked out for the occasion-the little girl in a ruffly flamenco dress shoes and all and the little brother in a little suite.

The mom went to order leaving the kids to explore and play around- or rather to come over and begin speaking to me in rapid french to which i quickly responded "je ne sais pa" (I dont know) but somehow this assured her that yes in fact i did! lol it was very cute how she asked me questions which i understood at times but could only respond with "oui" or "no"

I wished that I could dig up some more vocabulary words to tell her that I likes the colors of her dress but unfortunately my french is limited to an assortment of ballet frases and tid bits from Madeline...

well mas mañana!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Perro Cara Abajo

So a few weeks ago I decided to join the gym near my school...they offer many exercise classes which can be taken for FREE once you sign up so I thought what the heck Ill try some of them out...On Monday I walked in at 15:30 and began streching while I waited for the yoga teacher to arrive. Once all the mats had been layed out and the lights turned off and the music set our teacher had us start the class by focusing on our breathing...she said that deep breathing helps calm the mind-especially when the 'expiracion' is longer than the 'inspiracion'. It is a phisiological phenomenon that slows the heart rate and lowers blood pressure and stress levels as well as focusses the mind on the task at hand which in this case is being centered for yoga class.

After the breathing we began the "saludos al sol" :) And let me just say that in whatever language you take Yoga class the chaturanga does not get easier except with practice...ouch!

And then she gave us a talk about protecting the curvature of the spine with proper posture discussing different muscle groups etc...and then came my favorite part....PERRO CARA ABAJO lol I had to remind myself not to giggle...it was just so literal that it made me smile.

Anyways the class was very helpful both for streching and getting focussed. And I am excited for next week!

...Mas mañana!!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

SEMANA santa

I was very impressed by the staggering lengths to which the city of Sevilla went in order to host its annual Semana Santa festivities. The preparations began more than 3 weeks prior to the start of Holy week and everything from the construction of new newsstand to stadium seating to restuccoing and restocking was all in expectaion of a massive influx of people into the center of the city throughout the week. and come they did from across Europs and South America from Morocco and the States, and believe me Sevilla was ready... the funny thing was that many sevillanos as well as most of the students actually left the city for the week to escape the crowds and enjoy a weeks vacation at the beach or in their hometowns.


The Calle Principal as it is called here actually runs about five minutes from my dorm-which would seem like a great convenience, except that people practically camp out to get a spot on the road to watch the hermandades pass by ...making it impossible to reach our dorm by any direct route. Although a bit frustrating at times, I did manage to learn about 100 other ways to get home ;)


Los Pasos were exciting- especially the ones with music!...the nazarenos (members of the hermandades themselves) are usually are stoic and silent, carrying 1.5 meter tall candles that look more like thick walking sticks.They are dressed in special outfits called an "antifaz" which is the cover worn over the head with a pointed "capriote" inside. These outfits are meant to disguise identity and to emfasize their penitence.


Then come the clergymen dressed in ornate attire remeniscent of early 19th century formalwear...then come the children who most always carry little baskets and bags filled with 'caramelos' (in spain this refers to basically any type of sweet in a little wrapper) and with estampitas (small pictures of the statues in each procession that many people collect) that they hand out to the crowd.  Finally comes the paso which is a giant wooden structure featuring a scenes from Jesus' life depicted by large carved statues dressed in velvet cloaks and leather sandals. And all this atop an ancient wooden strucute which is covered also by fresh flowers, roses or violets (as in the pic below) as well as heavy candleabras which are filled with more candles and are made of gold and or silver. (needless to say these things weigh a ton!!) 


Each paso is a sight to see with decorative carvings covering every inch...and some were originally built in the 15th century. And as they have been for centuries, each paso is manually carried through Sevilla upon the heads of 50+ men who stand 5 across and more than 10 deep shoulder to shoulder !


(All the crowd can hope to see of these costaleros however is perhaps a tiny glimpses of their feet as they march in perfect rhythm along with the drums of the band behind them...


Being surrounded literally with spaniards of all ages waiting sometimes more than 3 hours just to see the paso is a great albeit tiring experience...The waiting time is filled with card games talking and getting to know the people around you so that by the time the paso gets within eye distance or sometimes ear distance (the drums are quite dramatic) you are ready!