Sunday, April 19, 2009


I have seen almost every square inch of the Alhambra that is open to the general public. Of the past 24 hours, I have spent about 10 of them wandering the grounds. In the dark. During mid-day. At twilight.

My body is aching from the walking and the looking. So, I´m signed up to go to a hotspring outside of town that´s on offer as the excursion of the evening. There´s a woman in the bunk below me who is also going. We´re glad of the company because both of us had the same thought that we might get dumped in the woods. Don´t know why that is a universal reaction to being taken in a vehicle somewhere by a stranger, but there it is. Might explain my dislike of cabs.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


It's been a very nice day and really I haven't done much of anything.

I got up while it was still dark to wander down to the Mezquita church in the center of Cordoba and take another walk around when it first opened. I was the only person on the street for a long time. It was eerie and beautiful.

When I needed to walk back to my hostal to pack up and get to the bus station, I couldn't find my street. It totally disappeared. I did go up the wrong street which turned out to have an alley I'd been looking for the past two days. Turn around and there is the bell tower of the cathedral framed by buildings covered in flowers.

Again looking for the road back to the hostal, I ran into a dormitory bunkmate who also needed to go to the bus station and we found our way back to the hostal and then to the bus station. It was nice to have some company for a little while. I have only had fleeting conversations with people since Kim left. Most people I've encountered are traveling in groups and have not been up for socializing much with a solo traveler.

The bus ride from Cordoba to Granada was gorgeous, passing through olive grove after olive grove. There are snow capped mountains just outside of Granada, hovering over the cityscape.

I'm staying in a friendly place with lots of interesting people and seem to have sealed on person's decision to apply to Japan's JET Program. Now I'm going to go out in search of falafal, my favorite thing to do. Tonight the Alambra by dark. It's a good day. A nice way to be finishing up travel before heading back to New York in a couple of days.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The View from Over Here

I´ve been so busy these past several months that it often comes as a surprise to me that Obama is President and not just someone that I really, really want to be President.

When it hits me that it´s real and he is the President, my arms flap in an impromtu dance. I manage to forget and then remember several times a week.

It is interesting talking with people in Morocco, and in Spain about US politics. People are interested in how things are going with Obama. And they congratulate us on no longer having "a stupid person for a President."

The general hope seems to be for the new administration understand that what the US does affects nearly everyone else in the world, for good or for bad. People want the arrogance and disaffection for the concerns of the rest of the world of the last 8 years to be a thing of the past.

I just read in Obama´s op-ed to Latin America that he says the United States government wants to listen and learn as well as to lead when appropriate. Respect for others. That´s a good sign.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Birthday Adventure

Last week Kim and I had an "adventure" on my birthday.
Dear M,
I am writing for Kim who made a reservation for tonight and tomorrow. The ferry to Tangier left hours late. We are on a bus from Tangier to Meknes. We left Tangier at 18:00. I have a mobile phone that sends email but cannot call. We think we will arrive at the bus station around 23:00. If someone from the Riad can meet us that would be great. I will try to access email again when we are closer to see if you have sent a response. In any case, please hold on to our room. We are coming. Thank you!
~ Jennifer

Dear Kim and Jennifer,
We are sorry for the inconvenience caused by the ferry. Please could you tell me which bus station are you arriving at? Is the bus company a CTM or another one?Let me know as soon as possible to facilitate the pick up.

Dear M,
Hello! The name of the bus company on our ticket is Nejme Chamal. If we stop somewhere we will ask the driver or ticket taker the name of the station the bus is going to. Thank you for your quick reply. You made our day!
~Jennifer and Kim

Dear Jennifer and Kim,
I think that the bus station is Sidi Said. When you get the name of the station give it to me and tell me when the bus arrives.

Dear M,
We have been told the name of the place where the bus will stop is Hamriya. The time it is expected to arrive is 10:30. If you need more information we will ask more questions.

Dear Jennifer and Kim,
Hamriya is the new city part of Meknes; it is quite big. Try to get the exact name of the place where the bus stops and i will be waiting for you there. Could you give me your phone number.

Dear M,
We can't find out more specific information. I'm sorry. There was a big fight happening outside the bus. The police came and now we are moving again. Is it possible to take a taxi to your hotel? If not maybe we should take a taxi to the train station and meet you there. Because of the fight the bus will probably not arrive before 23 or 23:30. My phone number is +1 504... We are so sorry that this has become so difficult.

Dear Jennifer and Kim,
Your trip seems to start in a very exotic way. When you arrive to Meknes take a taxi and tell the driver to drop you at Bab Mansour; that is the biggest touristic attraction in the medina and that is the place where we can't miss each other.It is just five minutes walk from the riad As soon as you arrive to Meknes send me an email ; a member of the riad staff will be waiting for you there.

Dear M,
That sounds like a wonderful plan. We will email you when the bus arrives. Hopefully we will have no more exotic stories to tell.
~Jennifer and Kim

Dear Jennifer and Kim,
Fine. Have a safe trip.

This is the point in which the woman sitting in the middle of the aisle (next to me) begins to vomit. Copiously. The bus pulls over by the side of the road at a restaurant and the ticket taker procedes to flood the bus with several buckets of water.

About half an hour later we get told by some passengers that we´re in Meknes. The bus pulls over at the side of the road on the outskirts of town. The driver gets off and helps explain to a taxi driver where we want to go in the city. The taxi gets to the city center faster than my thumb can text a message to M. With creative gesturing, we beg the non-English/French/Spanish speaking taxi driver to let us wait in the taxi with the meter running until someone can come find us.

Dear M,
We are at the Bab. We are waiting with the taxi until someone can come.
~Jennifer and Kim

Dear Jennifer and Kim,
He is coming right now; three minutes.

Dear M,
Great! We are in a taxi next to the open plaza.
~Jennifer and Kim

Dear Jennifer and Kim,

Omar and Abdul found us. I don´t know if I´ve ever been so happy to see two men in my whole life. They took us to the guest house which could have been mistaken for a palace. It was gorgeous. There was even a midnight feast waiting. It was a fairy tale ending to an unexpectedly dramatic day.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Glorious Geometry

Today I was in geometry heaven. Tiles tiles and more tiles, tesselating in the way that circles, squares, and hexagons do.

The Alcázar in Seville was decorated by the same craftspeople who worked on the Alhambra so it´s good. Very good. I took a ridiculous number of photos. Photos which I hope to get on-line sooner than the photos from last summer´s trip to Ireland and England.

No. You haven´t seen those photos.

This evening I went on-line and reserved tickets to get into the Alhambra in Grenada this weekend. There are 6000 tickets available a day, some sold in advance, and to get a ticket the day of, people tend to get in line at 6am. I´m not doing that. I could, but thanks to internet magic, it´s unnecessary. Saturday night I´ll be there under moonlight as the ticket lets me in at 10pm. Sunday, I´m going back for some daylight viewing. More tiles. More geometry.

Today I was reading up on how to use the radius of a circle to create a hexagon for repeating tile patterns. Sexy stuff.

I wish I had a drafting compass.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

From Morocco

It took us about 16 hours to get from where we were in Spain to where we were going in Morocco when it should have taken about 7. We are on a day trip to Fez and late for getting lost in the Medina.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Holy Monday

Ohhh, it been a long journey to get here.


I love Spain. I love Europe. I´m hoping to love Morocco too.

I´m with my friend Kim and we are not tired but we have to wake up in a couple of hours to get on the road to take a bus to the ferry to Morocco.

We spent the evening in one of Malaga´s central plazas, eating roasted eggplant and drinking several glasses of delicious 2 Euro wine. And eating chocolate cake with hot chocolate sauce with chocolate chips and chocolate ice cream.

What thesis?

It´s Holy Monday so in the plaza around midnight, the purple people showed up. With candles. And hoods. They carried a ¨trono¨float with Jesus on it. In the distance we saw another trono that looked like a giant wedding cake with candles on it. We think it was Mary. There was a kind of showdown between the two tronos when they reached an intersection of two streets at the same time. Lots of heaving and hefting. I thought one trono was going to ram the other. There was no jousting, but Jesus definitely won.

Every day different tronos get carried around the city while dirges play. We´re tempted to stick around... But there´s a Sufi music festival in Fez and that´s an even greater pull. It´s impossible to pass up whirling dervishes. And I want to ride a camel.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Heading off...

I'm about to walk to the subway to take three trains to the airport. Then I'll take three planes (London-Madrid-Malaga) to catch a bus to a ferry to cross over to the continent of Africa and once in Morocco, catch a train to go to the city of Meknes.