Tuesday, November 29, 2016

We went to Spain

...We never went out that night. I played a mindless mobile game and then crashed about 10pm. Chris is having trouble sleeping so he was up listening to his dumb sports talk radio (with headphones) and doing whatever else. I don’t know. With a bed to myself I slept four hours before waking up. He was listening to the Caps game, who were up 3-0 at the time. (Eventually they beat Pussburgh 7-1!) Then I was up, mostly. I guess we aren’t really over our jet lag, and the afternoon naps are not helping. It’s now 7am and I just gave up. We don’t have water again. I feel so gross. The hotel owners say the whole city doesn’t have water, that it has something to do with a lack of rain. I am not sure to rate the hotel on Booking.com, because no water for three days is a pretty big deal breaker, but if the whole city was without water…???

We plan on going to the seaside today, either Ceuta, which belongs to Spain, or a smaller town closer by. Ceuta about 40km from Tetouan and about an hour taxi ride. The closest town is a mere 10km, but I’m interested in going to Spain for the day. I’ll see how Chris feels. We’ll stay in our waterless hotel one more night before moving on to Fes...

…and Ceuta it was! We took a $12 taxi on the forty-five minute ride to the Spanish city of Ceuta. The trip took us past mountains to the Mediterranean coastal resort towns, then onto the Spanish-Moroccan border. The taxi ride had gone so smoothly and the seaside so gorgeous that we were completely taken by surprise by the chaos at the border. It happened immediately. Two men, seeing tourists emerge from a taxi, approached us with customs forms before we even had two feet on the ground. Were they government officials? Customs agents? No. As an experienced female solo traveler, being wary of such men is ingrained in me. I assume scam first, legitimacy second. These men were neither scammers nor legit; they were simply regular citizens unaffiliated with the government, looking to grub money from unsuspecting tourists. There were no signs indicating what we were to do, so I got in a line, but the men would not leave us alone. Where you from where you from? Espanol? Italiano? SHUT UP. I took their forms and would not give them money. The guy was angry, but at least he left me alone.

The same can’t be said for the guy who called us “American pigs” as he went through. In all my travels in the Arab world, I have never experienced this kind of blanket hatred.

As it turns out, the form guys­­­ were providing a sort of service by handing out customs forms that you could have filled out BEFORE arriving at the passport window. The lines were ridiculous because most people filled out the forms when they arrived at the window since no customs agent gave them out beforehand. The lines were also ridiculous because they were separated by men and women. That’s not Islam, that’s just idiocy.

I got through first – there were far more men trying to get in so I had to wait for Chris – and watched the chaos of the border unfold, knowing full well that my passport opens doors that are closed and locked to most of the world. This was never more evident when we finally got to the Spanish side, when customs agents saw our American passports and called to the agent at the gate, “americanos,” while waving us through.

I’ve never felt so welcome.

Meanwhile, the customs agents were having trouble keeping away those without the proper documentation – expired passports, no passports at all, passports without visas, or simply passports from African countries. Ceuta is a port of entry to Europe, you see, and migrants trying to escape the wars, poverty, and lack of opportunity in many African countries have been surrounding the gates trying – some desperately, some successfully – to get into Ceuta so they can get into Europe. The Ceuta newspaper we saw in a tapas place described the situation at the border as caos and said some taxi drivers are refusing to go near it. Spain has had a real problem keeping migrants out of their two enclaves in Africa, having built a 20 foot wall at the border of Melilla to keep out immigrants. The two territories are disputed, with the Moroccan government wanting them back and the Spanish government refusing to return them (while at the same time chastising the British government for not returning Gibraltar to Spain.)

Here's a free clue to racist America and racist Europe – if you don’t want an influx of immigrants, why not stop being hypocritical and start working to make these countries worth living in? How about not buying a new iphone every year so people aren’t fleeing the wars caused by mining the minerals for those phones? How about not demanding cheap ass clothing that is produced in such large quantities that the excess floods the African markets, preventing them from developing their own textile industries that would provide much needed jobs? How about taking some personal responsibility and thinking before you buy buy buy? YOU are causing these problems with your irresponsible consumerism!

It’s easier to be racist, isn’t it?

These enclaves have been under Spanish control for more than 400 years, but when Morocco gained its independence in 1956, Spain refused to give up these cities. It makes no sense, really. The two cities have about 130,000 people combined, with high unemployment rates and most living in poverty. Spain would eliminate headaches for itself and for its government if it just let Morocco have the territory.

Such is the stupidity of borders and land control.

We were there for just a few hours. We got through the border and there was more chaos on the other side – I don’t know what was going on – with people sitting everywhere jabbering about god knows what. We hopped into a taxi to the city center, away from the chaos into something decidedly Mediterranean Spanish. The views were spectacular!

Christmas decorations

City Christmas Tree

Unfortunately, Chris couldn’t walk up to the top of the hill, as it is quite steep! I sent him to look for lunch while I walked all the way around the bend. I was to look for a place to eat at the top of the hill overlooking the water. If I found one, he would take a taxi to it. When I reached the top, however, there was one closed tavern looking place and nothing else. What a missed opportunity! I walked around the bend and then went to meet Chris at a tapas place. He texted me to meet him at the “cathedral,” so I hiked down through the city, past several churches, including the Church of San Francisco, all the way to the cathedral. It was only then he texted me that he was sitting by the Church of San Francisco. I had asked him at least a half hour before about the name of the church and had been trying to find him ever since. He just said cathedral, as if there would be more than one cathedral in a town of 65,000. Ugh.

We ate some tapas and then walked to the water, finding a place on the beach to sit for a while. I had a Spanish beer and watched the sun descend the Mediterranean sky, slowly sinking below the mountains of the Rif and giving an end to the daylight of the Maghreb. It was my favorite moment of the trip so far. Now I've technically been to Spain twice on this passport (my third passport), but still no Spain stamp. Darn it.


the cathedral

my shell haul

Getting back into Morocco was much less of a headache and the taxi driver did not try to rip us off. We set out to find a restaurant to grab a light dinner in Tetouan and had real trouble even finding a restaurant! Plenty of tea houses and cafes were full of men drinking, well, tea and coffee, but no restaurants? We were both wiped out and were in no mood to walk all over the city but that we did, until someone showed us a fast food place where we grabbed some chicken sandwiches before heading to bed.

I slept ten hours.

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