Well, I’m officially no longer a resident of Morocco. My Carte de Sejour expired. I would’ve asked my Gendarmes to renew the document, but since it took them nine months to get it to me in the first place (you know, cause processing a few pieces of paper is so difficult), I told Peace Corps that under no circumstances would I go through that bureaucratic catastrophe again. They agreed. I had a few options on the table, one of which was having Peace Corps write me some paperwork that extended my permission to stay in the country by a few weeks, but it didn’t give me enough time, since I’m here until November. A passport visa in Morocco is good for three months, so what’s the next best option? Leave the country.
And so, Peace Corps dispatched me to Spain. I was given three options: Melilla, Ceuta, or crossing by Ferry in Tangier. Work leave for one night in “Spain”? Yes, please. I chose Melilla, because it’s only five hours away. Ciudad Autónoma de Melilla is a Spanish exclave that’s actually connected to Morocco and borders the Mediterranean. So, while it’s technically a city “in” Morocco, you have to cross a border with a stamp, and the little oasis in the desert is culturally Spanish with nice cars that stop for pedestrians, streets with no holes in them, Spanish tapas, pork, people drinking alcohol anywhere. You name it: it’s Spain.
But it’s not just Spain. It’s Spain with a particularly Moroccan influence. Its history is hardly “Spanish.” A large portion of the population has Berber roots, and while Spanish is the language of choice, Arabic and Tamazight are pretty common, making it easy to get around if you know Arabic but not Spanish.
So, what to do when you’re sent on leave to Spain? How about a bull fight? I say “bull fight” but the actual fight was apparently the two nights before I arrived. Instead, there was a, uhm, bull show. Here, this is what I mean:
Or, maybe, when you’re in Spain, you should devour a whole pig wrapped up in cheese and tomato sauce.
Or, perhaps, you should hang out in an empty old medina of sorts, overlooking the Mediterranean?
Or, better yet, why not sit by the ocean side with a beach all to yourself?
I won’t lie, crossing the border was a little depressing. When I got to Guercif, my taxi left pretty quickly, but then we stopped to fill for gas, and this foreigner (she looked French) comes walking up in a short skirt, and in the middle of the street, she bends over, pulls up her skirt and exposes herself for all the world to see, no underwear whatsoever. I can’t quite explain how bizarre this was to see in a country where no one even wears skirts, and I was mortified, for her, thinking her life may be in danger or that she was being trafficked somehow. This little old man in my taxi starts yelling at the driver, “Go, go, move, we have to get away from here now!” But then no one talked about it the rest of the way, which I thought was bizarre. Apparently, she was the talk of the town, because the moment I showed up at the taxi stand, I heard some guys chatting about “the Spanish girls who came down from Nador,” and I thought the whole thing was weird but ignored it until I saw the girl for myself. Even in hindsight, I’m not sure what, if anything, I should have done about it, but she was a Westerner, clearly, and so was I, and somehow I felt connected to her or felt as if everyone assumed I should know her because hey, there’s the only other Westerner in this entire part of Morocco. It made me feel ashamed but worried all at the same time.
One thing’s for sure – I’ll never forget that little old man with the raspy voice yelling at the taxi driver, “Run away, run away! Go now! We must escape!” Or, at least, that’s how I translated it in my head.
So, I made it back safe-and-sound and with €12 to spare! And with the recent package from my parents, there was macaroni to be had, as well. Ran all the way home, in fact.