While recovering from a horrific car crash in Scotland which found me hospitalized in a Socialistic medical system with a broken pelvis and several fractured ribs (another really good post), I decided that no one said my recovery had to happen in the states. So towards the end of my recovery, off I went for a guided tour to Morocco followed by some R&R beach and sun time in the area of Costa del Sol, Spain. My check in bag was packed full of “acceptable” Moroccan wear consisting of long skirts, arm covering tops, and shawls to double as head scarves. I was NOT planning on getting stoned by breaking any Moroccan clothing rules. Also packed in that large suitcase was a Spain appropriate wardrobe including halter dresses, sleeveless tops and several bikinis…the exact opposite of Moroccan Oppressionistic style.
My selected flight path was from Milwaukee to Casablanca via connections in Chicago and Madrid: A long journey for sure but the end result would be well worth it…or so I thought. The carnage began almost immediately as my flight out of Milwaukee sat on the tarmac for a year, thus almost guaranteeing missing my next connection out of Chicago. It was at this point I decided to NEVER again get a Milwaukee to O’Hare connection…I would leave straight from O’Hare in the future. Upon FINALLY landing in the O’Hare Airport with only moments to spare, I made what can only be categorized as a crippled mad dash to my next departure gate. Although I no longer needed to use my special crutches only given to those with cerebral palsy and busted pelvic areas, I could not walk fast, so running was completely out of the question. So I hobbled as fast as I could through that damn O’Hare airport to my departure gate, which of course was located in Ohio.
Now. If anyone has ever been to the O’Hare airport, you know that it is pretty much like stepping into a foreign country as no one speaks English, no one can understand English, and no one cares if a semi-crippled American girl is trying to make her connection. As I shuffled and gimped my way toward that gate, swearing all the way because I was definitely in pain, I could SEE the gate attendant…and it looked like she could see me because she was waving at me….how does she know it’s me trying to catch my plane? I don’t know, but she’s waving at me….and I am waving back and yelling, “I’m here! Please wait for me!” As I got to the desk, all out of breath and sweaty from my painful limp sprint, I said, “Hello! I’m here and my plane has not left yet!”
Well. That stupid gate attendant was NOT waving at me and like all the other people at O’Hare, she could barely speak English yet had an air of superiority about her all the same. She looks at me all calm and clean and non-sweaty and says in her best broken English, “ze plane is here but ze door iz shut. “You mizzed you flight.” WHAT??? But the plane is STILL at the gate! It’s not my fault your stupid connection out of MKE was delayed! I begged her to radio the pilot to open the door….I pleaded with her…I offered her a bribe of $100.00 to open that door and let me on that plane….did she? No. She suggested I rebook the flight and come back tomorrow. Tomorrow?? Tomorrow is not an option! This is not the Wizard of Oz! I will not be coming back tomorrow. I am now a crabby cripple and begin speaking in slow, loud English, so she will understand me and know that my coming back tomorrow will not be possible. I have a flight to catch as I am expected to be on a tour of Morocco that is starting tomorrow. My tour wasn’t really starting tomorrow because I always give myself a travel buffer day, but this bitch certainly didn’t need to know that.
The gate attendant feigns concern (badly) and books me on the next “very best” flight she can find from O’Hare to Casablanca with a connection in Frankfurt. The only caveat is the layover in Frankfurt is 12 hours. This was in the day of no useful cell phones, so I had no way of double checking if this really was the only option, so I just took her word and hoped she was being as truthful and helpful as possible. I was able to make a very short phone call to my travel partner to leave an updated message that I was hopelessly delayed before my crap phone cut out.
So off to Frankfurt I went to spend 12 hours looking at Germans and other people who, like me, are trapped in an airport. I could have found a tour of Frankfurt during that long layover, but why? I was tired and hurting and could care less about what Frankfurt had to offer me. Besides, I don’t eat hot dogs anyway. But I will tell you, 12 hours is a tragically loooooooong time to be sitting in an airport waiting for a connection.
FINALLY I arrive in Casablanca. It’s like 1 million o’clock on I have no idea what day (I am time zone defective), I have no clothes except what I am wearing; all my toiletries are in my suitcase, I am dead tired, I smell like an airline seat, and I feel dirty-grimy from the hours of travel in the same clothes, but I am SO thankful to finally be at my destination. Let the holiday begin!
I walk past all the homeless Moroccan’s sleeping on their mats in the almost deserted airport to the baggage claim to wait for my big suitcase filled with my nice new clean travel clothes. And I wait. And I wait some more. And pretty soon I am the only person waiting for a bag. Pretty soon that baggage carousal wheel stops going round and round…..never EVER a good sign. The only people left at the airport now are the the homeless mat-sleeping Moroccan’s and a few airport cab drivers. Somehow I managed to find one person who looks like he works for the airport to ask about my bag. He can’t help me. He tells me all the bags have been taken off the airplane, but I should come back tomorrow to see if my bag comes in on the next flight. Tomorrow? Again, tomorrow? So I try to make a phone call to the my travel partner who is already at the hotel. I can’t cuz my stupid National Geographic useless piece of shit cell phone won’t work. By now I’m almost crying from frustration and sleep deprivation and I manage to borrow a cell phone from the airline man to try to call the hotel to make sure I still have a room for tonight….I mean, I have no idea what day it is, maybe my room has been given away. I need to know if I have a room or if I need to start looking for a sleeping mat at the airport until the sun comes up. I get through to the hotel and I still have a room. One ray of light. Now to find a taxi man to take me there.
Because it’s 1 million o’clock, it’s pitch dark out as I walk to the cab stand. All the cabs are lined up along the curb with most of the cabbies asleep inside on their special sleeping-inside-the cab-mats. A few cabbies now notice fresh meat on the sidewalk and like the vultures cabbies tend to be, immediately swoop in and swarm into my personal space with “Do you need ride?” Do you need cab?” Hey! Abeeb! Please back off just a bit as you are a little too close for comfort and I just broke my pelvis, please step back….and geez, what is that smell? Wow. And I thought I smelled bad. I go to the first cabbie in the line and show him the address of my hotel and he quotes me a price which sounds outrageous…of course the price is in Dirhams, so it sounds like all the money in the world because I have lost the ability to convert currency in my bedraggled state. So I firmly tell him, “no that is too much!”, and I walk to the next guy, who tells me the same amount. I think they must all be in cahoots because usually the second person will offer a lower price. By the time I get to the third cabbie to ask the price of cab fare, the first guy comes running over with a chart and points to a sign that has the fares written down. I guess the fare is a flat rate and there is no haggling of cab fares at the Casablanca airport. Who knew? At least I was able to practice the skill of being a no nonsense bartering American woman; even if it was useless at this point. Thank you Mr. Cabbie for your help; please take me to this hotel and I will pay you all the money in the world.
After a shower but no hair wash because the hotel didn’t have conditioner and I didn’t have a comb, and a night of sleep I asked the people at the front desk for help in locating my luggage. They were very nice and gave me dialing instructions from my room (because my crap international phone didn’t work) and the number of the baggage department at the Moroccan airport. Once I was able to speak with a human, I was assured my luggage had not arrived, but more planes were expected at noon and 5pm that day and I should call back at 1pm and 6pm to see if my luggage arrived. Meanwhile, I called American Airlines (who had LOST my bag in the first place) and they assured me my suitcase was indeed on the next flight and should arrive sometime that day in Morocco. Hurray! Well, I put on my clothes from the day before (long sleeved black shirt, long black leggings, ballerina flats….items way to hot for a Moroccan holiday) and headed out with my travel partner for a little site seeing before going back to the hotel to call about my missing suitcase. At 1pm back at the hotel, I called the baggage man and he told me all the luggage was off that incoming plane and my suitcase was not on it. He instructed me to call back at 6pm; which I did…no bags then either. At this point I offered him $100 to find my luggage.
So now I am really feeling despondent about my luggage ever arriving. I mean, I had such long layovers, maybe my suitcase went all the way back to Milwaukee! I decided I needed to do something constructive as my group was meeting the next day and the trip was starting. I decided if I would purchase some emergencies toiletries and an outfit, for SURE my luggage would show up in the evening. If I didn’t buy anything, well then, my luggage would never show up. Makes perfect sense to me. I had to do something: I had begun to hate my hair and the clothes I had been wearing. Plus, remember, the clothes I was (still) wearing weren’t appropriate for the high temps in Morocco and I was already sweating more than Rocky Balboa after the 8th round after just that one day out and about…..plus I hate being sweaty.
Now. Morocco does not have any shopping malls; at least where I was there were no shopping malls. There were no beauty shops either because all the women dress in scarves and bags, so why would they need to get their hair done? That actually sounds like an easy fashion life. So the next morning, the day the tour was actually starting, I asked at the hotel desk where I could find some supplies and they informed me of a place that was at least an hour away by cab….or of course, there is “the very large souk (market) which will have everything you need”. So the Souk it would be.
To recap my immediate dilemma: I had no hair products; no shampoo, no conditioner, no hair gel…not even a comb or a brush…because it was all in my packed bag. This really is a big deal because I do not have normal hair that is pretty and silky and behaves and always looks good….no, my hair is difficult; it’s frizzy, kinky, and coarse, and requires a lot of product to make it behave. The hotel did not supply conditioner either so it was imperative I find basic hygiene items. A toothbrush and toothpaste would be good too…I had some toothpaste I was borrowing from my travel partner, but no toothbrush…yes, I know; gross. We walked the short distance from our hotel to the very large Souk which would have “everything I needed”…so would this then be the Soukermarket?
The souks are similar to our indoor flea markets but there is way more stuff all crammed together. And somewhat like our flea markets, the vendors call out to you to shop their stand because they “give you vetty good price, better than Primmark!” Because I was an American, and all Americans are blonde and look the same, we then must all have the same name….so the souk vendors would call out to me to try to get my attention….”Suzy”…….”Oh SUUUUUUZY!!!” Well, of course my name isn’t Suzy, but isn’t yours Abeeb or Hassheesh or Julisibab or something equally similar? I just spoke with your twin or I mean triplet brother or cousin or some close relative at the spice stand two doors down….I’m looking some hair supplies….oh, you are looking for another wife? Well, I’ll just move along then, sorry, no can help you.
Finally I found what looked remotely like a place that sold some hair items. But guess what? NO conditioner! Are you kidding me? And the shampoo looked like it was made of petrol by the looks of the bottle. Fine. I will take this and a comb and move on to find some clothes. The comb….well, not a nice ladies wide toothed comb. No. One of those black plastic cheap combs that guys carry around in their back pocket. I bought the comb anyway knowing full well I would never get it through my hair unless I cut out every 4th tine of the comb….so maybe now I should look for a scissors to augment my comb into a useful hair tool? No. I need to find clothes. Stat.
Now. I am not built like a Moroccan; I am built like a woman with curves and I cannot wear things made for people without butts, hips, and boobs. So the clothes in the souks were less than useful. Maybe I could just go to the Burkas ‘R Us booth and buy a large cloth sack to wear. Although I did not find the burka booth, I WAS able to find a stand with some very nice eye liner to give myself the famous Moroccan Eye…good to know in case I need that added touch!
Finally, after much wandering through the many spice stands, chicken stands, goat stands, baby turtle stands (seriously), and the dates crawling with flies stands, I found a stand with some clothes. I was able to not only find a pair of sandals in an obscure bin that I’m sure was there for El Jabeeb the mutant Moroccan Tranny (Moroccan’s must have tiny feet, not like the Sasquatch’s of the USA), AND I found a somewhat presentable dress. At least I thought it was presentable. It’s hard to tell with only a small hand held mirror to check. I think hand held mirrors are the only mirrors in Morocco because the women only have to do their eyes; and besides, who needs a full length mirror to check out their burka? “Hey Geeha, does this burka make me look fat? Um….no, your eyes and toes look awesome”. “What?!! Geeha! Why are you looking at my wife’s ass? I will kill you.” “I will kill you too, wife, for asking Geeha that question.”
So I bought what looked like a decent dress and pair of sandals which would at least get me through the next few days if needed. Ha! If only I knew I looked like a pin up poster of Marilyn Monroe gone bad! We hurried back to the hotel so I could don my new Souk-wear and still make it in time for the Mosque tour which was our first tour of the day. At the Mosque, all was well until I actually tried to enter Mosque, then there was a ruckus as our guide came running over to stop me from entering the Mosque because he could see my knees! By this time many of the Moroccan villagers had come by with rocks, sticks, gravel, and chunks of concrete as they hadn’t stoned a white American woman for quite awhile and were looking forward to this opportunity! Well. The guide showed me a nice place by the shore to wait while the others who were “appropriately dressed” could visit the Mosque. Ok then Meine Generaloberst Mosque Nazi: No Mosque for me!!
So to finish this story, after several days of tri-daily calls to the Moroccan airlines and offering the man on the other end of the phone $100 with each phone call to find my bag, my bag FINALLY showed up on the third day. I had to get to the airport with my passport to show I was really the American blonde who had outrageously attempted to enter a Mosque in a risqué costume. I found the man I had spoken to on the phone at least 10 times over the last three days and thanked him profusely for finding my bag. I did offer him that $100 dollars I had promised with each of those 10 phone calls (hoping I wouldn’t now be owing $1000 dollars), but he politely refused and thanked my for my patience. YAY! Clean clothes! Hair products! Make up! Good Bye Marilyn…Hello Mosque!