Monday, January 31, 2011

Go figure...

   One would think that living in a desert country, and driving farther INTO the desert (Marrakesh), you wouldn't expect to encounter rain and cold temps when running a half-marathon on January 30th. Well, one would be wrong apparently. Because that's exactly what we had...rain and cold temps. Most would probably say "Oh, but that's great running weather."  Maybe it is, but I hate to be cold. And especially hate to be cold and wet.
Looking down into a reflecting pool
   I was lucky enough to ride to Marrakesh with my training partners Sherry, Amy, and Younes (who is Amy's boyfriend and has a vehicle!), along with coworker Allison who decided to run the full marathon while we were smart enough to opt out at half. We managed to find our riad in the medina of Marrakesh despite the fact that we left the directions here in Casa. Turns out if you pay a man hanging around the square 30dirhams, he will escort you there. :)  The riad was just a door in the middle of seemingly nowhere, and opened up to a cozy little place for us to hang our hat for the night.

Doorway to the 'suite'. We got to look inside. :)
Looking into the little bathroom area of our room
     Our room just had two single beds,  and a small 'not-so-private' bathroom area. But it was cute. They even had breakfast ready for us early before the race and had a cozy fire going in the fireplace Friday night when we arrived after walking back from dinner in the rain. It was a lovely way to wind down for the evening.
    Race morning arrived, and the sound of rain persisted. To give you any indication of how chilly it was,  I could see my breath when we got outside. But, as we walked to the start, the rain tapered off and we warmed up a bit - or as much as we were going to. I 'represented' my homeland, donning a KC Royals hat and my favorite Liberty softball t-shirt. I'm sure the Moroccans were impressed with my fashion choices. Ha!
    In true Moroccan fashion, the race that was scheduled to start at 8:30, began at about 8:45. Thus, I ran. And ran. And ran some more. We passed the person running in a full on easter bunny costume (no joke) and then I was passed by a dude wearing spandex with his name on the butt...Goooo Eric! HaHa.  After much running, some very tight calves, and a cramp in my right butt cheek that resulted in an attempted stretch break, the '20K' sign appeared, meaning one kilometer (less than a mile) to go. It seemed like forever, but eventually, the finish line was there, and I sprinted pushed plodded through it 2 hours and 14 minutes after I started. I didn't necessarily have a 'goal time', but in my mind had hoped to be under 2:15. So I guess I accomplished what I set out to do. And no, I have no desire to do a full marathon. Ever.
Drenched in sweat from head to toe...but look at that medal!! :)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Just another drive home from work

Yes, another story about crazy drivers and traffic in general. It's a daily occurrence. Today, we were almost home. By 'we', I'm referring to friends (Jim & Luann) who regularly give me rides home, allowing me to avoid the Big Blue Bus. I'm forever appreciative. Jim managed to maneuver through the usual traffic headaches of random street construction, cars trying to 'snake him', women in jilabas (who are the worst drivers ever according to Jim), and left turns that are 10-cars wide and 2 or 3 deep (trying to converge into one or two lanes). We were two blocks from their apt. when the car in front of us stopped. In the middle of an intersection. No, wait. HE was partially through the intersection. We were in the middle. Why did this vehicle stop suddenly, blocking traffic on this narrow street you might ask? Apparently it was because his big meathead passenger needed to get out and yell at a guy. But by all means, just stop RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE, and don't attempt to pull over. Feel free to impede the 10 cars behind you who are just trying to get on their way. UGH! Next, meathead saunters over to the man who is in his vehicle perpendicular to us, and they started yelling at each other. About what? No idea. It didn't look like there had been an accident. Maybe the guy honked at him in the wrong way. You really can't explain it, other than to just chalk it up to Morocco...or more specifically, Casablanca. You really have to have an abundance of patience and a great amount of humor to drive every day in this city....

Monday, January 17, 2011

Lost in translation...

One of my new year's resolutions is to try to blog more about day to day life here in Morocco, or more specifically, Casablanca. It's odd though, the things that would have been soooo crazy to me when I first moved here, that are now just part of a 'normal' day. With that said, I'm going to try to take note of things all of you back in the states might find interesting, or funny, or cool. We'll see how this goes.

I'm sort of stealing the first idea for this post from my friend Jenny, as she blogged about our school lunch menu a  week or so ago. Our school menu is printed in English since we are an English-speaking school. But, the menu items are most likely originally written in French. And, even though I know very little about speaking or reading French, I've heard something about the fact that they say their adjectives after the noun rather than before like us. Makes it tough for the kids at times, but we're working on it.

Anywaaaayyyy.  The lunch menu. Today's main item was: Brochettes of butchers w/ratatouille  (how many of you are picturing a little mouse right now? haha). Tomorrow, something called: Nems.  Wednesday, an alternate item is: Sandwich sausage. Thursday: Croquette (isn't that a lawn game?) kefta w/mashed potatoes and an alternate item that day is a Chief sandwich. Up next week we have a couple of interesting ones as well: Nuggets turkey and Lasagna fish.

These are the times that I wish I was a better cook...  :)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

All smiles...

Today, was a pretty darn good day.
Ate lunch outside again, as it was a beautiful, sunny, 70+ degree day. There really is just something about a gorgeous day that can just lift your spirits, isn't there?  Kids did a good job and had a lot of fun studying rivers and erosion as they created and carried out different trials in their 'river trays'. They enjoyed our writing activity. (There was also a facebook soccer/bullying issue that led to a fight at recess...but I'll ignore that for now since my principal is dealing with it.) Luggage arrived, in tact. My Principal let me leave work early to go to airport, so I got home at a decent time. Had interesting conversation with Mohammed, the airport-driver-guy, about the King, his houses, etc. Had a good run. And... tomorrow is Friday. Bring on the weekend!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

On a positive note...

Upon my arrival at my apartment via Mohammed-the-driver, I was greeted with a cheery note from my friend Jenny welcoming me back and informing me that she packed me a lunch for school today and that it was in my fridge. How awesome is that? She's a great neighbor and friend. She was also my communication device with Mohammed so that he wasn't waiting for me at the airport.

And then today at school, I was greeted with smiles and hugs from the kids, my assistant, and fellow teachers. One girl brought me back a beautiful seashell from her vacation to some beautiful island and many asked about my family. They want to see pictures of the snow. :)  But the best part was at our morning assembly that we have on Tuesdays. Some of my students were helping our principal on stage with a presentation about New Year's and resolutions. She asked them if they had made any resolutions, and of course they all raised their hands whether they actually had or not. Eventually she asked if any of them wanted to share their resolutions. One of my students volunteered. I'll call him Amir. Because that's actually his name. I doubt he reads my blog and his parents don't speak English, so I doubt they read this either. Anyway, Amir raised his hand to share his resolution. He said that his resolution is to "Work his best and keep his dear teacher happy."  It was priceless, especially coming from Amir. 'Keep your dear teacher happy' is one of our Power Rules in the classroom, and also one of the rules that Amir had a hard time with at the beginning of the year. However, he and I have hit our stride and he was grinning from ear to ear on that stage. Sucking up? Maybe. But, he definitely made me happy.  :)

Traveling horror stories anyone?

Many of you already know, but getting back here to Casablanca was a bit of a challenge for me. I arrived here 33 hours after I was originally scheduled to arrive. All because of some medical emergency on the plane coming TO Kansas City. That flight had to divert and land in Tulsa. And the emergency apparently used up all of the oxygen on the plane that they are required to carry. Since it was New Year's Day, the oxygen company that they contract with was not working. More delay. Three and a half hours later, the plane got to KC. In the meantime, I was given a new itinerary since my original was obviously not going to happen (KC to Newark to Lisbon to Casablanca). The new one had me going KC to Newark to Frankfurt to Brussels to Casablanca. But, the stupid people at KCI should have known I was not going to make that flight to Frankfurt. The Newark airport blows. Period. So, I got to Newark with this carbon copy ticket thing that KCI gave me and of course missed the overnight flight. I shuffled through the ticketing line only to be met by 2 unfriendly women who told me there was nothing they could do tonight because no other flights were going out and that I'd have to come back at 3:30 am when someone would have more time to help me. They were busy checking in ticketed passengers. Grrrr.  I managed to find a nice old man security guard who advised me to use my boarding pass to at least get into the gated area where there was a mc donalds and dunkin' doughnuts. What I actually found was a place to plug in and charge my phone and start calling friends, mom, and continental. Managed to get myself on a flight leaving the next evening and found out Mom took out trip insurance (YAY Mom!) and that I could start a claim and then get reimbursed for hotel, food, etc.  Off to the Ramada Inn I went (it wasn't much, but definitely better than Newark airport) at 1a.m. Flight wasn't leaving on Sunday until 6:25 pm, so I slept in and then watched some football in the hotel bar with an entertaining bartender and another couple who had missed their morning flight to Antigua. A couple of free Blue Moons later, I was a little happier. Got to airport and managed to get a ticket in a row all by myself to fly across the pond. So, I stretched out and managed to read all of Mockingjay (fabulous book series) on the way. Of course, once we got to Brussels (my newest itinerary) was when I got tired. But, I took my carbon copy ticket thing to several people and they said to just present it at the gate and they would issue me a boarding pass. Ha...little did they know. After the initial 4 hour layover, plus another 2 hour delay, the lady at the gate said I was not shown to be on that flight. Fabulous. And while she did try to call some people, she eventually just said "I can't help you. Maybe you should call your agent." Agent? Who the hell has an agent? I had 2 phones on that could call in the states and one that could call in Morocco. So, back to the main entrance/ticketing area I went. Needless to say, I never cried...although a nervous breakdown of sorts seemed on the verge. I found a nice man with Brussels airlines who could obviously see how worn out I was and he just said "We're getting you on the next flight". He walked me over to the ticketing window I needed, talked to some people, and got a guy to issue me a ticket for a flight that was leaving in 2 hours. Oh, but was supposed to leave in 2 hours. But it was delayed 2 more hours. Of course it was. At this point, I pretty much expected that. So, I sat for another 2+ hours, exhausted...waiting for this flight. I was half expecting it to be cancelled. But, alas, I got on the flight and slept to Casablanca. The wonderful airport driver that we use, Mohammed, was there to greet me with a smile and took me home. Of course, none of my luggage made it. Not that I expected it to. When I was filing the missing baggage claim, the man actually laughed at the fact that it was Jan. 3rd and I had started traveling on Jan. 1st. I chuckled a bit myself. All in all, I missed 2 itineraries, or 2 flights, then missed another flight and had 3 delayed flights in the process as well. Lovely, huh?

I just got off the phone with a nice lady from Continental baggage claims department though. And here's the bags stayed on my original itinerary and made it from KC to Newark to Lisbon. Even though the people at KCI told me they went down and retagged my bags themselves. Whatever. So, hopefully a trip out to the airport tomorrow will be well worth it and I'll have my luggage.  I'm not sure there's a moral to this story. I'd probably steer clear of Continental if possible. Although I'm going to try to complain enough to get a voucher of some sort out of this mess.  It is good to be 'home' and back among the familiar. Or, as familiar as things can be here in a foreign land!