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Friday, October 15, 2010

The Dark Continent

On day two of our visit with Mike and Ang, we decided to go to Africa.  Now, Africa is only 14 miles away, but it is another continent and for me, who has never traveled off the North American continent before this trip, it was an exciting moment.  Mike began the preparations by reminding me of the general dislike of Americans in Morocco.  The general advice was, “keep your mouth shut.”  Those of you who know me understand the challenge placed before me.

Next, we received a small lesson in Arabic.  I managed to learn one phrase, which roughly translates to:  later, by the grace of god.  Apparently, this is how you dismiss persistent street vendors.  Being a Caucasian American, I am rarely exposed to uncomfortable surroundings.  On occasion, I have found myself amongst a group consisting exclusively of African Americans.  I am relatively comfortable with this as I understand how these people live and their basic customs.  Even in Spain, where most people speak Spanish exclusively, I found people to be friendly and forgiving of my minute Spanish vocabulary.

In Tangier, I quickly realized that I was surrounded by people who speak a different language, have very different customs and are intolerant of mine.  Keeping my mouth shut quickly became very easy.  My traveling companions were quite shocked.  Mike has numerous friends in Tangier.  His doctor is there and he has several trading partners.  We met several of these people.  They were very friendly towards us and I am told that they are now my friends too.  One thing seems to hold true around the planet – it’s not what you know, rather who you know which counts.

We stopped for a bite to eat at an outdoor cafĂ©, where I used a bathroom which was more primitive than Mike’s.  It was essentially a porcelain hole in the floor.  I was unable to find a flushing mechanism or a bucket.

Another stop took us to a spot where we enjoyed Moroccan mint tea.  I am told that if you visit a Moroccan home, you can be expected to be served this beverage early in your stay.  It was very sweet and tasty.

Our final stop took us to the shop of Aziz. Mike and Ang have arranged rock bottom prices on the goods which Aziz sells.  Rock bottom pricing in Tangier makes the outlet mall in the U.S. look like 5th Avenue.  I immediately hatched an idea for a business, which I will be launching shortly.  I’ll let you guess the details, but it does involve Aziz.

The ferry back to Spain was populated largely by Gibraltarians, Spaniards and other assorted tourists.  I’m told I said more in the first five minutes of our journey than the entire stay in Africa.  It is a very exciting place.  I would like to go back.

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