Chefchaouen

After a long stretch of working with no breaks, we finally got a week off from school to travel or rest, and my mom came back again to visit me.  And after several instances of nearly getting run over by cars and motorcycles, we were happy to spend five days up in the quiet of the mountains.

We went to Chefchaouen, which is in the north of Morocco, up in the Rif mountains. It is known for it’s blue walls, beautiful scenery, and expansive reefer plantations. My mom and I thoroughly enjoyed the two former aspects of the town, taking lots of pictures and getting daily calf workouts.

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I never knew how many shades of blue there are.

Coming from a very flat place (Illinois), I’ve always loved trips to the mountains. Every time I visit a mountainous area I start to make plans for how I can live in the mountains in the future.  However, we quickly found that mountains are beautiful but inconvenient. In Chefchaouen, produce is brought in from across the mountains and sold only on market days, Monday and Thursday. To buy produce, you must go down to the lowest part of the old city, and then lug it back up to your home. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a big fan of the fruit and vegetable carts in Casablanca, and that kind of convenient fresh produce was not available in Chefchaouen.

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A beautiful yet strenuous hike between mountain villages

Finally, I decided to return to my life in Casablanca in lieu of setting up in the mountains and going on long hikes every day for the rest of my life. I missed the melon man, the whole-wheat bread seller, the Philadelphia cream cheese corner store, and the daily vegetable truck.  I also thought it might be a good idea to go to work on Monday.  But it was a wonderful and restful week, and fun to see the countryside of Morocco.  The ocean breeze welcomed us back to Casablanca, and I feel just a little bit more confident about dodging motorcycles on the way to the vegetable cart than I did before.

Pretty view, pretty windows.

Pretty view, pretty windows.



Just Do It

The number one thing I feel homesick for when I’m in Casablanca is exercise.  I miss how easily I could exercise in Chicago; there were two gyms right near my home, a beautiful running path, and just a mile away was the lakefront path, which I biked down many weekend afternoons on my way downtown.  Here in Casa, the running is a little more challenging.  Cars block the way, motorbikes speed by, the sidewalks have holes, traffic lights and actual traffic patterns don’t quite match up, and men in cafés stare.  I only rarely see other runners, and I think I’ve only once seen a female running by herself…and she was clearly also a foreigner.

Dodging cars is good for increasing your heart rate.

Dodging cars is good for increasing your heart rate.

Moroccan society certainly has more divisions between private and public life than American society does.  It is perhaps a little strange for a woman to go out in exercise clothing and run in the streets.  Unemployed men have the bad habit of staring, particularly at foreigners.  And perhaps the idea that exercise is important and is not just something for unskilled laborers is new to Morocco, as the wealthiest of society live in such a way that they rarely have to interact with the outside world.  However, I think it is generally accepted that exercise is a good thing for everyone.

There are deceptively few cars in this photo.

There are deceptively few cars in this photo.

Tomorrow I plan to get up and go for a run in the morning.  It will probably be hard to get myself to go out knowing that I will have to dodge cars and bumps in the pavement, and that all eyes will be on me as I pass each café.  But I’m going to do it anyway, because I love the feeling I get from running, and the way that exercise allows me to think clearly and positively.  I’m going to continue doing what I love even if it can be uncomfortable; but I really hope that it starts to catch on!