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Pass The Barf Bag Please…Wonderings On a Bus

Sunday, July 8th, 2007

chairs I’m feeling a bit reflective. I haven’t felt that way for a while…or maybe it’s just been in my head and I haven’t let it out in a while. I’m on a bus in Morocco traveling between Cefchaouan and Tangier…a 4 hr bus ride from hell. It’s hot, extremely hot, the air conditioning isn’t working, we are on windy mountain passes, the bus is making odd noises, the sun is shining brightly through the windows as if it were superman with xray vision burning a hole in the flimsy curtain fabric. I’ve been in a constant state of sweat all day, I smell bad. I’m wearing pants that I haven’t washed for 2 weeks, rode a camel in, and the zipper broke a week ago so they are held together by a safety pin. There are people puking around me, and I feel reflective. How the hell did I go from a high end apartment in Manhattan, a posh lifestyle, to this? Actually there are tons of thoughts floating through my head as I listen to my “mellow” playlist on my ipod trying to tell my stomach to just hang in there. I’ve already taken Dramamine, but it hasn’t decided if it wants to work yet inside my tummy. I’m not really sure if this typing is helping or hurting.

I think about my family, I wonder if they miss me at all. At times I do feel rather lonely out here, wondering what people are doing, if they think about me or even know where I’m at. I think about my mom and dad, I wonder if they will ever decide to come visit me on this adventure. I think about the fact that they have supported my crazy ideas and am grateful for that. I think about going home, and what that will be like again – taking that ride from the airport back into Manhattan. I think about sleeping in my own bed, seeing my apartment for the first time. I think about the Arabic family next to me knowing that this is just a few weeks of my life, but this is their life…this is normal to them. I wonder how much this bus trip cost them, I wonder if they are in as much pain as I am – and then realize they must be since they are vomiting from motion sickness.

I think about past loves, the ones that broke my heart. I wonder what they are doing. I wonder if I will ever meet anyone that I can feel comfortable with, that will ever understand me –or is that just a silly dream? I mean really, who could understand why I’m riding a hot, vomit –filled bus and living out of a backpack for 10 months now. I wonder what my life would have been like if I had stayed with some of them, or if I had tried harder to make it work, or I had simply said “please, don’t go”. I wonder if I will really be able to love and trust again – if I ever really did love or trust? I think about the last time I saw him.

I think about my future. I wonder if I will try to really follow some of my ideas, or if I will give up and end up in the same rat race. I wonder if I did the right thing….but that’s a fleeting thought as I KNOW I did the right thing. I think about what it’s like to follow your gut. I wonder if I will have enough money to do what I want. I wonder if I will have enough perseverance, enough patience, enough knowledge – or will I be lazy? Will I be able to self start? What does life hold? Will I be able to embrace the ride? I think about how scary it is to think about working again – and not knowing what that will look like. I think about breathing through my mouth and not my nose.

I think about friends. I wonder how they have changed. I wonder if they think of me. I wonder if our friendships will be the same when I get back. I wonder how I will ever, EVER be able to repay some of them for the kindness and assistance they have provided me while traveling. I wonder about the friends that I rarely hear from, but used to be some of my closest friends I had. I wonder why that is, why we have drifted so. I think about some of them that have moved on and started families – who have moved into a traditional life. I wonder if they ever go out anymore and get silly drunk and go dancing until 6AM. I wonder what they will tell their kids about their past single life.

I think about my cat. I wonder if she will still remember my voice…find something familiar in it when I walk in Linda’s door and say ”Hi kit kat!” – or will she run and hide…or more likely…will she bite me and hiss? I remember the last time I held her in my lap, petting her, my tears dripping down on her fur and me telling her that I would always remember her and that I wasn’t leaving her forever. I think of her as my only real piece of responsibility in my life, the only thing that (used to) love me unconditionally. Yet, I wonder if I will take her back, or leave her with Linda. I wonder if I can really let her go.

I think about my belongings…my clothes, my shoes, my jackets, my jewelry…my stuff. I think about my ratty, smelly suitcase and I envision burning it when I get home. I wonder how elated I will feel when I got through my boxes that have been in storage. Or will I realize that I can live without that stuff. I think about the fact that this bus is constantly jerking around corners and wonder when it will ever stop. I wonder why we didn’t pay the extra money and just have a private driver.

I think about my adventures to come. I worry about the challenges ahead – especially India. I wonder if I will be tough enough to survive volunteering in India. I wonder if I will feel like I made a difference in this world. I wonder what I will look like in a Sari. I wonder how it will feel to give back. I wonder if I will love it or hate it. I wonder why in the hell this air conditioning doesn’t work!

I think about how much I’ve aged these last 10 months. I think about how bad I look, but then every time I see myself in a picture I realize that I don’t look as bad as my mind has me believe. I think about how your mind is such a powerful thing…and how it can play dirty tricks on you. I think about the last time I had a real shower in which I felt really, really clean. I think about the thrill of a fluffy towel. I wonder why I haven’t met any love interests on this grand adventure. I wonder if I’m just not open to it. I think about the last time I felt sexy…I can’t even remember when that was…which is about as disturbing as the sound of the person vomiting in the seats behind me.

I think about the real travelers…the people I have met that are 10 times tougher than me. The woman I met in Morocco who is working with the peace corps for 2 years on her own in a remote village – and she’s 22 yrs old…she tough…I’m a wimp. I think about Karina, my Intrepid tour leader, who is about 10 yrs younger than me, but I look up to. I think about her apparent ease in dealing with difficult situations, her ease in different cultures, her patience…it is commendable. I wish I could have a bit of what she has. Plus, she doesn’t seem to get car sick at all….another reason to be envious. I think about how this bus is just an oven of puke.

I think about my brother who I’ve only heard from twice on this adventure. I wonder why we have grown apart so much. I wonder if I should have contacted him more. I wonder if his kids will remember me, if they even know what I’m doing out here – or even care. I wonder about all of my nieces, what their lives will be like as adult women, what choices they will make. I wonder if I will have had any influence on them. I wonder if any of them will take care of me in my old, senile age! I wonder what challenges they will face in the world as smart, independent women. I wonder if I should have taken another Dramamine.

I think about being tough….I think about how it doesn’t matter if anyone thinks about me, misses me, remembers me…I just have to be tough…because in the end, it all comes down to me…and no one else. I think about the fact that Karina just asked me for a barf bag (I seem to be the holders of the barf bags on this trip) – not for her – but for the little girl sitting next to Kate on the bus.

I think about the roadtrips that I used to take with my family when I was a kid. I think about how my family used to make fun of me when I would get carsick…they always thought I was weak…and I was….I was a mamma’s girl…afraid to leave her, afraid to go downstairs alone, afraid to stay overnight at a friends house all night, afraid to eat asparagus, afraid of bugs, afraid of snakes, afraid of leaving for college, afraid of being alone.

I think about the fact that this writing is helping my motion sickness…at least it’s taking my mind off the jerking bus, until I just wrote this sentence and became aware of it again.

I wonder if my friends are just being kind about my writing and photography. Are they doing what friends are supposed to be doing…being kind? I wonder how many other millions of people out there are doing what I’m doing. I wonder if I have talent. I wonder why we as human beings doubt ourselves so much. I wonder if any of those people that I have photographed understand how very beautiful they are. I wonder what they think of Americans. I wonder if they know how they have changed my life.

I wonder if I have made a difference in anyone’s life. I wonder if I have made a mark on this world. I wonder why Tangier seems to be so f’ing far from Cefchaouan.

I think about all of my friends who have recently had life changes – got married or had/having kids. I think about social norms. I wonder how all of those things have seemed to escape me. I wonder if they really escaped me or did I push them away. I think about people who have children…and wonder what that would be like. I wonder why the hell the brakes on this bus are so god damn bad!!!!!

Most of all, I wonder what people will think when they read this. This glimpse into my motion sick, sweaty, smelly, tired, mind…but at least I didn’t lose my lunch.

Sand In Every Orifice – The Sahara

Friday, July 6th, 2007

Photo: Sahara Desert

For the ‘best of’ Morocco Photography – click here!

For all snapshots of the Sarhara Desert click here!

We had been driving for about 4 hours when we turned off the bumpy road onto the flat expanse of desert. You could see for miles – it was totally flat. There were no roads, just a few tire tracks and a bunch of signs sticking in the sand advertising various hotels that were nowhere to be seen. I was anxious – similar to the feeling I had when I first turned into a game park in Kenya for my first safari. I was entering a world in which I had only previously seen on television and movies. A world that I never thought I would experience in my lifetime. A world that was unthinkable to me. I knew immediately this was going to be an adventure unlike any I had experienced before. We were going into the Sahara Desert via camels for the night to camp. I had never really seen a desert before…at least not one with camels! Sure, I had made the drive from San Diego to Las Vegas before, but it didn’t prepare me for what I was about to see. This was remote. I was so excited I was giddy and my body tingled…much like when I first arrived in Hanoi or when I set my first step in St. Mark’s square – in awe of the moment.

full moon Our truck proceeded very slowly along the bumpy trail of tire tracks. The driver had to continuously move the steering wheel so that we wouldn’t get stuck in the sand. It reminded me of Bo Duke driving the General Lee in the Dukes of Hazzard – moving the steering wheel back and forth to make it look as if he was really driving a car instead of a prop. Every so often the tire tracks would split of into a ‘Y’ shape and we would choose a side and continue driving deeper into the desert. I could start to see the dunes, glowing orange/red in low sun. Every so often we would pass a random camel, wandering around grazing…on what, I have no idea. It honestly looked like no life existed out here. Pretty soon off in the distance you could see a little building or two and another little sign that seemed to be dwarfed by the vast landscape. Eventually we pulled up to our starting point hotel and first set foot on the fine sand. I’ve been on many beaches around the world, however I’ve never experience sand like this. It was so fine like a dust that immediately coated you and everything you were carrying. So imperceptible that you didn’t really realize it was there until you ran a hand over your arm and felt the layer of sand coating your skin. Apparently, they’ve found sand from the Sahara as far away as Greenland on the icebergs.

campsiteWe left our large suitcases at the hotel and took just a small pack with the things we would need for the night. That basically consisted of water, a toothbrush, toothpaste, a long sleeve shirt, a sleep sheet, and my cameras wrapped in bags to try to protect them from the sand. I actually decided to leave my telephoto lens behind at the hotel as I didn’t even want to be temped to change lenses in this environment. The sand particles were so small that there would be no way that I would be able to keep my sensor clean. We met our guide Mubarek all dressed in blue as most of the people in this part of the Sahara wore. The bright blue was a stunning contrast to the orange sand dunes. I was told that they wore blue because it was a bright color that was easy to spot but it didn’t absorb as much sun and heat as black. Mubarek provided us with bright colored turbans and taught us to tie them in order to protect our faces from the sun and the sand. I also dawned my sunglasses since my eyes were already burning from the dry conditions. I had left my vanity behind somewhere on the un-air conditioned local bus ride a few days ago….I knew I looked ridiculous…but I honestly didn’t care. After all, I was about to ride a camel!

camel train Mubarek led us out to our camel train and started to explain how we were to get on and off the camels. The camels were all tied together in a long train so that we didn’t have any control of the reins and they just followed each other ensuring that we didn’t have to think! I do find it amusing that in the last year I haven’t driven a car, but I have been on a camel! I chose a good looking camel…seemed well tempered, and not too smelly. The camels were relatively easy to get on as they sit down on the ground so that you can mount them, but the real trick is to hold on tight and lean back when they stand up – else you may end up doing a header in the sand. Once my camel was standing, I was a bit amazed at how high up you really were, and how uncomfortable they were. Granted, I wasn’t expecting a cush ride, but I immediately knew that I would be saddle sore the next day!

[read on]

It’s a Dry Heat and a Dry Country – Morocco

Wednesday, July 4th, 2007
henna Photo: Getting Henna art done in the High Atlas Mountains For the 'best of' Morocco Photography - click here! For all snapshots of Morocco - Week 1 - click here! For the last week in ... [Continue reading this entry]