If you are reading this right now it means that I have survived my return trip to Morocco from my first trip to America in 22 months, at least the first two stages. The flight out of San Francisco was fine, and the TV's on the back of the seats were even working, though the program that shows you were you are in regards to your final destination and flight time had been disabled. The flight ended up running a bit late, but only about 10 minutes and that wasn't even much of a problem as the flight to Casablanca was delayed an hour. But the actual flight itself was fine, though I got a reminder where I was going when upon a successful landing a good number of the passengers clapped in honor of a successful landing and released a heartfelt "hamdullilah". At that point everything slowed down a bit.
Upon exiting the plane in the terminal their was a photographic exhibition to the life of John F. Kennedy that I just couldn't understand the point of, but which served as a welcoming sight upon reentering Morocco as a PCV, because in a way I am one of "Kennedy's Kids" even if I am one nearly 50 years after he began the program. The next step was the customs line, which I was saved from by a mounting need to use the bathroom after 30 nearly unmoving minutes in line, upon leaving the line and visiting the closest bathroom while I did receive the necessary relief I was worried I would be forced to spend even more time in line after losing my place in line. But, god be praised, upon exiting the local facilities I saw a whole row of nearly empty passport control lines, that by dint of their distance from the entry point for the room were being ignored by all of the incoming arrivals. So by lucky circumstance and an irate bowel, I cut my passport control line time at least in half - and then following a short interrogation by a passport control officer, who was sure I was a Moroccan National who spoke bad arabic, I was through the line!
I then ran to baggage claim, grabbed my delightfully unmolested bag - repacked slightly and was off running to catch the 5pm train - which I made by no more then a hair. I then made my way to the main Casablanca train station where I was to catch a connection to Rabat - a connection that kept on being delayed. First 15 minutes, then 40 minutes, followed by 50 minutes and finally by a whopping hour and fifteen minutes - this of course resulted in three separate trains all being condensed into one massive train. Now by three trains being condensed I don't mean that three regular size trains were put together, but rather that three scheduled trains worth of passengers were all fit on one train. But, in a homage to the give and take of Morocco - I was so relieved that it had arrived that I didn't care, because just moments before the train had pulled up the Moroccan Monsoon had decided to make an appearance and was threatening to quickly submerge both myself and my bags under five feet of water. The ride to Rabat from Casablanca then became the most overcrowded ride of my life - and most difficult to fight my way onto with my oh so petite bag. But eventually I got my bag into the train car, or at least the train bathroom where I sat propped up on the counter with another person sitting on the toilet, one person trapped in the corner and another person deep into my personal space sharing the counter with me. It wasn't so bad though, because between the four of us we had more room then the other 45 people sharing the space between the two train cars - furthermore the women who was sitting on the toilet had a labtop and spoke good english, as did the other passenger sharing the bathroom counter with me, so we listened to music and chatted the roughly hour long trip from Casablanca to Rabat.
I eventually arrived in Rabat a little before nine o'clock and closing in one 24 straight hours of travel from the moment I had said goodbye to Gregg and my Mom at the San Francisco Airports International Terminal curb. Furthermore I was worried, because what with delays I was arriving in Rabat, without a hotel reservation, 4 hours later then I was originally planning on arriving. But that concern turned out to be unjustified - as when I appeared at the reception desk of the hotel I normally stay at - after the five story ride in the worlds smallest elevator - they had just one room left. A room with my name on it, allowing me to just crawl into bed, place earplugs in my ears and a sleep mask over my face and pass out by 9:15PM. At least until the happy new years calls started at 12:15....but thats a story for another day....
The next morning I arose at 8:30 am or 12:30 am America time and made my way to the Peace Corps office for a quick email update to the family and review of the train schedule to plan the perfect, issue free, trip back to the village from the capital. After encountering a new security guard at the Peace Corps office who was unclear on the concept of volunteers being allowed in the office I accomplished all necessary tasks and made my way to the nicest or "zwinest" train station in Morocco. The Agdal station, which happens to be the section of Rabat where both the Peace Corps office and the majority of government ministries and a large number of embassies are located . After the previous nights interesting trip from Casablanca to Rabat I decided to really treat myself and to spare no expense, so I paid the extra 25 dirhams for a first class ticket from Rabat to Meknes. The first time I had ever treated myself to such an extravagance, and decidedly not the last. The first class cabin was air conditioned and the seats more roomy, cleaner and more comfortable, not to mention that it had its own steward and that for the equivalent of 4 dollars more I got at least ten times the rest and relaxation that I would have in my normal 2nd class recommendations - especially considering the 29.7 kilo bag I was lugging around.
Soon enough though my train ride was at an end, so I caught a petite taxi from the train station to the grand taxi station and easily acquired a taxi to Zeida, though the driver did demand an extra 20 dirhams for my bag, a normally outragious demand but one that didn't seem so out of line at the time and still doesn't now. From Zeida, "meat" capital of the known world it was a simple 30 km and one hour long trip to my lovely rock filled village. Where soon after arrival I feel into a well deserved coma, which I enjoyed very much for the 5 minutes I got to have it before my host family and neighbors began to come a calling...I was back.
1 year ago