Wednesday, September 30, 2009

On Marriage, Mountains, “Musculation” and Life’s Other Important business...

Besides funerals, births, and weddings, life in Fes has been nonstop hiphop. The only thing Im required to do is my Arabic, but I find each day full and exhausting. For example, I wanted to be sure to keep up with world news by buying Le Monde newspaper in French every morning, but I haven’t even had time to read the one I bought 2 weeks ago. This is unfortunate because there is an article about France’s 430 types of cheeses that looks interesting. Leave it to the French to find all the news that’s fit to print.

All cheese aside, last weekend I climbed a mountain.
Like, a legit mountain. And a legit climb.

The excursion began with 8 of us FBers meeting at Bab Guissa on the outskirts of the old Medina, around 10 am. We saw Mount Zalagh in the distance, with its radio towers on top, and were pumped about having lunch on the summit. The first hour was a walk through villages at the base. The second hour saw us trying to find and re-find “trails” up the side of the mountain and avoid wild dogs. We kept wandering through brush, but were helped by a friendly berber woman who showed us an invisible path, as well as her swollen ankle from slipping on the loose rocks. As we climbed higher, the ridge got much steeper, and for the last hour, I was literally using my hands to pull myself into footholds in the rock. This was when I was beginning to have second thoughts about our expedition, without a guide, armed only with the advice of past Americans who had made a similar climb. Not gonna lie, I began to wonder if it had been a good idea to go at all, and mostly if we were going to have a way down, aside from the ‘ol “Fling and Tumble”. All we knew was that we were headed for the radio towers. I haven’t climbed anything that tough in a long while, but I felt powerful and just kept thinking “It’s just me versus the mountain, me versus the mountain…” in some Navy SEAL mantra of courage.

When we finally climbed over the top, the view was incredible, of course. Made more incredible by the adrenaline that explodes from having conquered such a beast. None of my photos do it justice. We could see all of the valley of Fes, and the Sidi Harazem hot springs and all the mountains surrounding.

As we all sat down to our picnic lunches, we were met by Hamsa and Mohammed, the “security guards” of the radio towers. We offered them food and they offered us hash (to which we all politely refused). They took us on a tour of the radio facilities. I have to say, one of the most trippy experiences of my life was stepping inside from that beautiful vista, only to find myself inside a massive super computer: the control room of Maroc Telecom, the largest cell and internet company in the country. Wires and lights and buttons galore. From one awe to another.

Hamsa and Mohammed were kind, but we couldn’t stay. After all, would we have to go back down the mountain the way we came? Our new friends were kind enough to show us a small road down, which wound through villages which indeed looked just like The Shire, on the other side of the mountain, and connected to a paved road. Because of a time crunch, we eventually caught cabs going down, after walking a few kilometers.

About 6 hours from our original optimistic beginnings at Bab Guissa, we arrived home, a little worse for wear, but pumped by the experience. I mean, we had not just hiked a steep hill. We had climbed up AND over the largest mountain in Fes.
So, these have been full weeks, to say the least, full of milestone experiences. Next on the agenda: move into my own apartment, apply for my residency, and negotiate the enigma that is: The Moroccan Aerobics Class (ie. “Musculation”).

To be continued…

PS, Photos for this blog and the previous will be available soon, so stay tuned!

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