Oh, there's no place like home for the holidays!

11:12 PM Posted In , , , , Edit This 1 Comment »
No matter how far away you roam...
My sister Alexandra is coming home from the Middle East tomorrow for Christmas break (we're all basically peeing our pants in excitement) and my brother and his wife are coming in a little over a week from Boston, so I've been thinking about my most exciting journey home. It's too good a story not to tell.
In 2005 I spent 2 months in Senegal, West Africa on a BYU Study Abroad with the French department. I could write a book about the experience, like how to turn down marriage proposals politely (especially when they're asking you to be the second or third wife...) but one of the most adventurous parts of the whole trip was trying to get home. After the 2 months, a lot of my fellow students and I planned a 3-day stopover in Morocco, kind of a last hoorah before leaving the motherland for the good old USA. We flew from Dakar, Senegal to Casablanca, and then took a 3-hour train ride to Marrakech. Marrakech, by the way, is a very fun place to visit for a few days. We spent lazy hours by the pool of our hotel in the nice weather, walked to some cool mosques and other buildings, and spent a good chunk of our time in the souq (marketplace commonly found in Arab countries) drowning ourselves in the most delicious fresh-squeezed orange juice known to man, narrowly escaping death by crazed henna artist, and even being assaulted by domesticated monkeys (that's a whole new story for another day.) Well, after our pleasant sojourn to transition from third-world conditions in the villages of Senegal to iPods and malls, we had to get from Marrakech to Casablanca to catch our flight home. No problem. Our plane left some time in the mid-morning... maybe 9 or 10:00 am? so we took the earliest train out of Marrakech (around 4 or 5:00 am) to make it to the airport with enough time to check in and board. With a 3 hour train ride and then the hour minimum for international flights, we were cutting in close, and there was no room for egregious errors. But we had no choice, the trains didn't run all night.
So... we got our butts on the train with our 2 months worth of Africa-smelling laundry and souvenirs. No problem there. We had to switch to another train line in the middle of Casablanca to get to the airport, so the train stops, and we all start getting off the train. Here's where the fun starts: half of our group is off the train, half is still on. We're trying to negotiate baggage. The train starts moving, leaving the station. Panic. Our connecting train comes into view, further panic. After the last of us jump off of a moving train, we realize that we have to go down a flight of stairs, under the track, and up another flight of stairs to get to the other platform. Our connecting train is already at the station... we have seconds to make these trips, which would have been a feat with ourselves alone, forget about our baggage! Luckily, Africa is full of friendly, helpful people that contradict our inherently chaotic way of looking at things. A bunch of guys just jumped off the train, looked both ways before crossing the tracks, picked up our bags and walked across the tracks (totally illegal, I'm sure) and got us on the train. Thanks guys! You saved us!
(this says never get on or off the train until it's made a complete stop...)
For some of the travelers, the excitement ends there. Chrissie Tsaturyan can tell you the story of being detained in Salt Lake with a sword herself... as for me, I got to JFK and split from the group continuing West to Mecca (aka SLC) and I just had a short hop to Boston. Funny thing was, it was raining. My flight was canceled. So here I am in JFK, smelling like mother Africa (sweat, dirt, body odor, fruit...) and completely out of money in anything but obscure African "francs CFA" with no cell phone and no way to get home. Hilarious. So, I eavesdrop into what the other passengers are doing. Before I continue, I should note that I'm the person who gets really really stressed out about little things, but things that should worry me don't bother me a bit. So I walk straight up to a group of young professionals, and say "hi, I couldn't help but overhear that you're going to rent a car. Do you think you could drive me to Boston too? You could drop me off anywhere, if I can just use someone's cell phone I'll arrange a pick up." I'm sure I looked like hell, all haggard and unkempt. Luckily for me, someone who looked even more like hell also wanted to solicit a ride (the guy was freaky, I'm telling you) so they took me as the lesser of two creepy evils. Yay! I heard "Holla-back girl" for the first time on that car ride--these accountants on a business trip were amazed at how culturally behind I was. Bah. They dropped me off at the car rental place at Logan, daddy picked me up, (I saw his Jag for the first time) and I got home and took a serious shower.

Mucking around in a spice stall in Marrakech


Chrissie said...

Ahhhh...memories. I never heard your post-arrival story! It almost rivals mine. Nothing like being held up at the security checkpoint for attempting to bring a sword on the plane. That incident at the Moroccan train station cracks me up...I still remember poor Charlotte jumping off the moving train! It was like straight out of an action movie!