Sunday, June 27, 2010

London and a Baby!

Tanie and I went on a small trip to London England a few weeks back. I have been before but this was Tanie's first time to see the great city. I love London. Honestly if there is one place I would like to live after Peace Corps it would be there. Something about the diversity of people and the amount of things to do, the public transportation, and so much more that makes it (in my mind) the greatest city in the world!

What can I was amazing. I love the city more now then ever. Tanie and I explored the city so much! We got into town at 6 in the morning and nothing was open on the first day. We couldn't find a coffee shop that was open at 6! Starbucks opened at 7:30 so we went to Hyde park and walked around. It was peaceful and cold. I wasn't expecting that. Coming from Africa I think I am used to hotter weather now. Anyways, we spent that first day doing the Original Bus Tour. It was a great way for Tanie to get adjusted to the city. We got on and got off the bus all day seeing the big sites: St. Stevens Tower, Westminster Abbie, Parliament, etc.

Needless to say she loved the city as much as I do. Speaking of Hyde park, we ended up going to speakers corner, something I wanted to check out. It was pretty cool. There was not as many speakers there but it was still early summer still but there were little crowds. We ate in so many different places: Japanese, three different pubs, Italian, curry house, sandwich shop and not to mention the breakfast at the hotel. With Starbucks, we wanted to go there as much as possible so we went twice a day. I am glad we did because we miss it so much.

The second day we visited museums and churches and we booked a twilight flight in the London Eye. It was awesome! I was a little scared in the air but since we traveled I have gotten over my fear of heights mostly. Their were specials with the Eye and we got it for 10 pounds a piece. It was well worth it but I don't know if it is worth 23 pounds.

The third day we went explored the city more and saw some things that Tanie wanted to check out like Brick Lane and then we went to a concert at night. The concert was amazing and so much fun. We saw Tanie's favorite band and one of my favorites Switchfoot. They are a rock band from San Diego California. It was just random chance we got to see them. The next day we had to travel back pretty early but we still had a little bit of time to explore a little more. It was only a 4 day trip but it was awesome!

Next summer Tanie and I might go back but we are planning a Europe trip that we will see at least 5 European countries. I am so excited about that opportunity. So overall London was amazing. I can't wait to go back! Actually it was really tough to come back to our site. I felt like I got culture shock coming back and feeling the weight of confusion all over again. If I fell like that now just wait until next yet when we take our other planned vacation. We might not make it back :)

By the way some other awesome news, my sister gave birth the other day! Eean Eugene is so cute! I am excited that is a boy! My other sister was with us here at our site when it happened. We got to Skype with my sister and my brother in law before and after the birth. I am happy for the both of them. They will make great parents! Congrats to them!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Marrakesh - I Am So Over It

Marrakesh is my least favorite city in Morocco. Why? Because it seems that every taxi driver is completely ridiculous. That is not the only reason I have many which I will go into later but for now let’s discuss this.

There a few ways to get into the city. If you are coming out of country you would fly in, or you might take a taxi or bus in. There are issues with all of these when you get there. Outside the airport, bus station, and/or taxi station there are petite taxi’s which are all waiting on the same thing: people which they can over charge. The problem is that the city is way to big to walk around without getting a small taxi. You have to have one to get from the airport to the square or where ever you are coming from.

Conversations with taxi drivers are typically is something like this:

Back story: I am coming from the CTM bus station and it should be 10-15 DH to get to the square where my hotel is.

Taxi Driver: Do you need a taxi?

Me: Yes but how much?

Taxi Driver: Where do you want to go?

Me: To the square?

Taxi Driver: 120 DH

Me: That is very expensive! Why is it so expensive? Use the counter(meter).

Taxi Driver: It doesn’t work….. okay 70 DH.

Me: No seriously, I know the price. 15 DH is a good price.

Taxi Driver: (laughing at this point) You will never get a taxi for that.

Me: I did yesterday coming from the same place.

Taxi Driver: Well there is a lot of sun today. My last price is 50 DH.

Me: Bye

Then I choose to walk out to the street get a better price, which I almost always do. What I don’t understand is how they can do this. Every time I have ever asked if their meter works it never does. I have even told the taxi driver to try to make it work and they pushed every button on the meter but the power button acting like I am a gullible foreigner.

Yesterday I was in Agadir, probably one of my favorite towns in country (they always use their meters), I was talking to a taxi driver there and he said the next time that someone tries to pull that stuff again that I should tell the police about the situation because they could get their license taken away for trying to do that to someone.

I know they don’t do this to everyone. I am obviously foreign but the fact that I am getting ripped off just because I am is not right. I have never on first try had a taxi driver in the city use their meter.  Just because of this it puts a big sour taste in my mouth and I will try hard not to go back.

It’s not just that but it other things there that bother me as well. I have seen too many fake touristy things that I can’t stand any more: snake charmers, men in Berber dress dancing around for no reason, monkeys, henna women, etc. This stuff isn’t real Morocco, not even close. It bothers me to think that people believe that this is genuine people of Morocco living their day to day lives trying to share their culture with others. Actually it is quite the opposite, these men and women are playing on stereotypes that most foreigners believe is real: people wear fezes, people charm snakes for fun, etc.

People who are trying to supply a product in Marrakesh are so pushy. Try walking in the square for a few feet and you will hear things like “Hello come to my shop I have something beautiful to show you.” Or I have heard people walking in the square and the next thing they know a monkey has jumped on their shoulder and the owner now demands 100 DH. Two times in two nights I had two different people say f-you after they didn’t get what they want. One was a beggar like the age of 9 and I refused many times to give him money and the other was a man touching my sister on the back and then started touching my wife and I stepped in the middle and then he put his fingers up like a gun to my forehead and said that I was a bad man and that I needed to f-off then he acted like he pulled the trigger to blow me away.

This is a lot to say that I just don’t feel welcome there. I don’t say this after one visit. I say this after over 5-6 visits. I wanted to give Marrakesh a chance but I am over it now. If you come here don’t spend more than 1 day in the city. I don’t think it’s worth your time or money.I speak Arabic and still get bad prices and people acting like I am a fool.

Remember this is only my opinion about Marrakesh and not my site or any other city. These are some pretty hefty generalizations which someone might disagree.That's fine. I am sure that there are many people in the city that are honest and trustworthy but most of the people which I have dealt with there have not been. There are many cities in Morocco that are beautiful and have wonderful people and I am glad for that. If it were like this everywhere I have went I don't know if I could take it. I could write more but it is already a long post and I think you get the idea.

Thanks for reading my ramblings.