Essaouira was nice. Warm, sunny, beachy. I spent three days and $82.78 getting there, being there, and getting back to Casablanca. The trip itself was uneventful, and not nearly as entertaining as the bus ride back to Casablanca became.
It all started, I think, when I went to the bus station and was convinced to but a ticket for a no-name bus company, despite repeated online warnings by other travelers to take only CMT or Supratours busses. But the salesman said it was less expensive, and would get me there quicker since it didn’t make any stops along the way. Direct to Casablanca he said.
Well, promptly at 2:00 pm, after waiting in a bus station that reeked of vomit, I stowed my backpack beneath and boarded the bus. We left Essaouira on the main road, which we just as promptly left. For the next six hours we traveled along a country highway; past fields of Argan trees, roadside markets, towns with more donkeys than cars, and hovels (homes?)- some of which showed no sign of electricity, plumbing, or even complete roofs. While we didn’t make any scheduled stops, per-se, we did make frequent stops at unmarked points along the highway for country travelers to quickly hop on the bus. As we slowed again and again for robed men and veiled women, my aggravation at being mislead by the ticket salesman quickly turned to amusement.
How the Hell, I asked myself, do I get myself INTO these situations?
Well, I answered myself, this bus left at a more convenient time, and it was a whopping 40 dirham cheaper. At least you’ll get to learn how the locals really travel, I rationed. Settle in and enjoy the ride.
And the ride really was enjoyable, once you got over the vicious side to side sway of the bus just barely maintaining it’s position in the road, and being very liberal with its use of the lanes.
Looking out the window at the passing fields and setting sun, I let my mind wander. I started out wondering at the motivation for travel some of the passengers had. They looked like they carried their whole world with them, shoved into a few twine-tied boxes. One came on board with a hamper full of tomatoes at their feet. The only thing missing were chickens in the overhead shelf.
Not for the first time, I cringed at the things most Americans complain about. The “horrible”, “unfair” conditions of our country. A country where every child has access to a school, a school that will probably feed them most of their meals if necessary. I thought about the little beggar kids I’d seen in the desert and at the beach. Where was their school? I’d willingly pay taxes to maintain the system we have. That’s what a community is for. To work together to make things better for everyone. The US is just one big community. Sometimes, in search of our American Dreams and individual aspirations I think we forget that. But then of course the next argument is, “Well, we wouldn’t have to pay so many taxes if we quit blowing people up.” And thats true too. If our army expenses were smaller, we would have more room in the budget for community building. Thinking about communities made me again think of the recent protests, protests for more and more things for the people. Perhaps what we need to protest isn’t for more, but for less. To use less resources, to stop using resources so wastefully, so that there are some to share with other people. People who still don’t know the comfort of constantly available water, steady heat, or a light in the dark.
I think about the way some people have to live, and I think, “Now, THEY would have something to complain about.” And I’ve never even been to a third world country! Second world at “best” and even those can be considered on the cusp of becoming a first world nation.
Sometimes I talk like a fairy, to disassociate myself and give an unbiased perspective. But today, I can’t remove myself from the culture and community I’ve been fated to represent.
All these things were swirling in my head as I disembarked from the bus in Casablanca. Before my bag could be pulled from beneath the bus, I saw trash bags, plastic laundry bags (you know the plaid square kind with a zipper), and- yes- live chickens being removed. So there were chickens on the bus, I thought with absentminded amusement. Before I’d even gotten my bag I had cabbies shouting at me, offering to take me to my final destination. I admit I was a bit overwhelmed. Unlike the Casablanca train station, the bus stop was not well lit, well signed, or comforting to a lone traveler. Then, out of the blue, another travel angel saved my day. She was a quiet girl with a leopard print scarf wound tightly around her head. She spoke perfect English. She had an entourage of several other scarf bedecked women, probably sisters or aunts. She asked if I was traveling alone, and took control (much like my previous travel angel) when I replied yes. She helped me to a fair cabbie, helped me call my host, and gave me her number- should anything happen on the way. This much confidence and love for a stranger from a woman suppressed by her nation. Just think how strong these women would be, were they allowed to stand up for themselves!
I was so grateful for her help, and somehow humbled I almost cried in the cab.
I don’t have any more answers for the world than I did before my bus ride. I wish I did. Or maybe all I can wish for is to be as confident and loving as that leopard print lady had been.
And the rest will follow.