Reaching Out 2 The World

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Destination: Casablanca, Morocco

It kind of stinks having to wake yourself up at 4:30 in the morning and get out of bed when you’re staying at a 5 star luxury hotel. It’s even harder when you know that you’ll be headed to the airport to board a cramped plane for the next 5 hours and you won’t be staying anywhere near as nice as the hotel you’re leaving. It’s all part of the adventure though, and after hitting the snooze once, we were up and ready to go.

Because we were leaving so early we didn’t get the chance to enjoy the buffet breakfast44 but rather waited till we got to the airport before grabbing a bite. It’s interesting how lively airports can be at such odd times in the day. It wasn’t even 6am yet and we saw people everywhere. Some friends were even grabbing a beer at an airport bar (probably Australians haha). Whatever floats your boat. Dan and I went with a tropical smoothie and it was a pretty excellent want to start the morning.

As we all began boarding the plane I started wondering who would be sitting next to me. Of course I was hopeful that the seat would stay open the way it had for Dan on the flight to Dubai, but unfortunately luck wasn’t on my side this morning. The plane started filling up and the seat next to me still remained open. It wasn’t until just before departure that a husband and wife walked down the aisle carrying their small baby. Dan and I both looked at each other as the couple took their seats and the husband joined us in our row. I figured the baby would be with his mother for most of the flight but knew that we’d have to expect at least a little disturbance.

Off the bat, Ryan (the baby), was a bit fussy, but after his mother gave him some sort of medicine he seemed to really quiet down. He actually slept for at least the first half of the flight which we were all very happy about. That’s not to say that later in the flight he had a bit more energy and may have been the reason as to why a drink got spilled on my seat. No worries though…

During this time I watched; The Internship, The Way Way Back, and Wall E. I think I liked these three movies better than the last group I watched on the flight to Dubai. I think it’s easier to enjoy a comedy on a flight rather than a drama or action movie… but maybe that’s just me.

I don’t generally sleep well on flights but when you add in the fact that I had the middle seat it basically cancels out any sleep potential. I wasn’t too concerned with sleeping though because I’ve come to accept the fact that it’s just not going to happen when I’m in flight.

By the time we arrived in Morocco neither Dan nor I had really any idea as to what time it was. There was definitely a time difference from Dubai but we weren’t positive what it was. I changed my iphone to the time zone of Morocco but the next morning we found out that it was still an hour off.

Anyway, our plane landed in Casablanca and our first task was to head through customs before making our way to the baggage claim. The lines at the custom desks were all fairly long and we chose the line that had the slowest employee working. This wasn’t really determined until we were already committed to our line but it was pretty clear as every other line seemed to be moving more than twice as fast as us. When I finally reached the desk the man working looked as if he just plain hated his job. Sorry dude… but you don’t need to slow down everyone’s day.

At this point I was feeling a bit ill and was just trying to make it out of there without getting sick. I’m not positive why I wasn’t feeling well but it was probably a combination of the long day of travel, and the food I ate.

After what felt like forever we finally made it through customs and moved on to baggage claim. We were both thinking that this should be a fairly quick process as they have had more than enough time to get the bags off the plane, but as it turns out we were wrong. We waited and waited before we finally retrieved our one checked bag. Who knows why it took them so long to get them but at least we had ours and could finally leave the airport. I’m pretty sure we spent over 2 hours between landing in Morocco and leaving the airport.

Everything we’ve heard and read about told us to be careful with the taxi drivers outside the airport. They really will try and rip you off and you should never go with the younger guys directly outside of the arrivals area. You don’t fully understand how much you’ll be bombarded by these guys until you experience it for yourself. Every single one of them tried to stop us and ask us if we needed a ride, and every single one of them had a “great” price just for us. We set our price low and continued walking. We weren’t really sure where we were walking to but we knew it was going to be away from them. The moment you start walking away the prices will begin to drop, but these guys still were asking for too much. Finally after passing up everyone that came up to us we found ourselves alone way out in front of the airport. We hadn’t planned on it being so difficult to get a reasonable priced ride to our accommodation. As we were thinking of what to do next a cab pulled up to us to offer us a ride. Surprisingly he was only asking for a fraction of what everyone else was asking and we were quick to hop in.

IMG_6007Once in the cab and I was confident we were on the right path I closed my eyes and fell asleep. I knew Dan had things under control and I was still not feeling well from the long day of travel. It was probably about a half hour or so later that we were dropped off outside the front of Hotel Central. We were only here for one night before heading to Marrakech and had heard there wasn’t much to do in Casablanca.

Upon arrival we both relaxed and laid down for a bit. A bed is so welcoming after spending the day in taxis and airplanes.

After another quick nap (with the time differenceIMG_6032 it was only about 3:30 local time) we strolled out into town to find a place to eat. McDonalds was an easy choice because they offered free Wi-Fi and familiar food. On the way back to our hotel we stopped at a few shops to check out the local market. That’s where I bought my head wrap for when we venture out into the Sahara and Dan bought a traditional shirt that had been custom made.

IMG_6028Back at our hotel we visited our rooftop, because they often offer the best views, and were greeted with a phenomenal scene. It almost looked as if we were looking into a video game or something. The buildings were so close together that it seemed you could just leap from one to the other. I immediately thought back to my parkour friends in England and how much they would love to run this town. Any free runners reading this really ought to consider a visit to Morocco!

Before I called it a night I went back out to a corner café where a group of locals were gathered watching a soccer game. I ordered a drink looked around for a place to sit. I guess a few of them noticed I was by myself because they gestured for me to come over and join them. Their names were Awtife and Arpi and they spoke French and Arabic. One thing for sure was that a lot less people spoke English in Morocco than anywhere else I’ve ever been. We sat and talked for a while but our conversations were slow due to the language barrier. I told them how I had just arrived and would be headed to Marrakech the following morning. They gave me different tips on where to go and how to do things. When I told them about the Sahara trip I was doing they began telling me of a great place we should go and that when we get there to have them phone them. I guess they were saying they could help us get cheaper prices but to be honest I was having a pretty difficult time following the directions they were supplying. On the back of a piece of paper they actually drew me out a map of where I should go when I get to Marrakech!  I thought these guys were really nice and I appreciated even if I wasn’t positive exactly what they were telling me. After the game ended I went back up to our room and easily fell asleep. IMG_6029IMG_6034IMG_6049



My Final Days in England

After three very long days of travel we decided to not plan anything for Thursday. We had thrown around the idea of going to Brighton for the day but that would have required us all to wake up early and do another long commute. We were really all pretty wiped from the walked we had done over the past three days. We thought hanging out and watching the final Harry Potter movies sounded like a much better way to spend our day off anyways.

Koren’s sister, Meghan, was going to be having friends over that night which meant we had to evacuate the room which we had been crashing in. The deal was that Sean and I would stay in Meghan’s room but we were in charge of dinner. So between Harry Potter movies we went to work on a huge lasagna.

I’d say that almost everything I’ve ate while traveling has been at least a little different than the way it tastes back home. I’m sure that just has to do with the difference in where the food is coming from, how it’s prepared, and each country’s FDA laws. I’ve really started to become the kind of person that will eat anything, and usually like everything as well. There have been no issues or complaints on my end.  I’m also a firm believer in there’s no wrong way to prepare a dish, as long as you like it and eat it.

So this lasagna we made was pretty untraditional to me. We cooked up some minced lamb and added loads of veggies, herbs, and tomato sauce to it. We also added chicken broth which was something I’ve never used in my lasagna. The dish was still layered with a white creamy lasagna sauce, still topped with cheese, and still backed. I guess it was mostly just the innards that were different. It smelt great in the oven and tasted just as great when it came out.

We thought about going out to a pub for the evening and looked into playing bar trivia at places but there didn’t seem to be anywhere near by that had it going on. Instead we had some friends over for an epic game night! We played Charades, Catch Phrase, Pictionary, Taboo, and a game called Things. It was David’s birthday, one of the guys we trained with back on Monday, so we also celebrated that. If you’ve never played the game Things I suggest giving it a try. Basically one person reads a statement, ex; Things you shouldn’t throw in public. Then everyone writes down their answer, folds it up, and gives it to the person who read the statement. After reading all the answers aloud you go around the group guessing who wrote what. If you guess right you keep guessing, if you’re wrong the next person gets to guess, and if someone guesses what you wrote then you’re out. It’s a great game for a group of people and its harder than you’d think. By the second round everyone’s changing their handwriting and coming up with answers that may or may not fool everyone else.

Our original plan was to visit Harry Potter World on my last day. It’s on the way to the airport and we were going to spend the entire day there. That’s actually why we had been watching all the movies this week to lead up to it. Unfortunately when we went online to book the tickets we found out the hard way that you need a lot more than a one day’s notice. We were all pretty bummed but we decided it would just give us something to do the next time I came to visit.

Since Sean would be catching a train to Liverpool today around 3 and I’d be heading to the airport around 5 we decided to stay close and head over to a pub that had pool. It also had several other types of pool that I wasn’t familiar with. Some tables were smaller, and some games were just called something different. There were probably over 50 tables in this place. Sean and I teamed up against Koren and her brother Zach. Zach was the best of us at pool but the games ended up being relatively even. We ended up playing a best of 9 where Sean and I miraculously came out on top. To be fair I think they lost more games than we won. Meaning all they had left was the 8 ball and somehow or other botched their shot. It all worked out pretty well me Sean and I though. In the end we won but we clearly weren’t the better team haha.

After our many games of pool we had a drink and said our goodbyes to Sean. Koren, Zach, and I went back to their house and I began to pack all my belongings up. We were a bit concerned we may hit traffic on the way to the airport so we left around 5:30. The roads were mostly uncongested and I didn’t have any issues making it to my boarding gate. Since I had a couple of hours before my flight I finished a game of Catan Sean and I had started. Sean won, but more importantly… Hilary lost (Hilary is our computer foe). Once onboard I watched the movie 42, while enjoying a nice airline meal.  I didn’t sleep very well but I don’t usually while flying.

We landed in Johannesburg around 9:30 in the morning which would prove troublesome because my next flight to Cape Town was to leave at 10:10. It wasn’t even until about 10 that I finally made it through passport control and I had to run across the entire airport. I wasn’t alone though as there was half a flight of people that seemed to be in the same predicament as me. I felt bad running ahead of them when my checked bag was the first to come through the carousal but at this point it really was every man for themselves. I still had to recheck my bag, head through security check, find my boarding gate, and get on the plane in two minutes. Once I got there I noticed a long line outside my gate and it looked as if they had delayed the take off. Thank goodness! I hope everyone else made it alright!

Sorry this post doesn’t have pictures attached. Since I’ve touched down in SA it’s been hard to get proper internet. Hopefully that will get better.

I’ll write about my Saturday and Sunday and post that on Monday. Thanks for the patience!


And So It Begins…

I woke up on Wednesday and was ready to go. I had been packed for days at this point and didn’t have anything left to do. The only issue was that my flight was not until 10:00 pm, so I had almost the whole day ahead of me. In the early afternoon I left Larchwood, saying farewell to the comforts of my room and bed. It’s harder than you think to say goodbye to such a thing like a bed, because I knew it would be nearly three months till I would be back.

Once I arrived at my dad’s, it was back to waiting around for me. The plan was to leave a bit after 5, grab some dinner on the way to the airport, and aim to arrive by 7. Flying internationally they suggest getting to the airport 2-3 hours ahead of time. On the way to the airport we talked about the trip I would be setting off on. Besides my iPhone, I wasn’t bringing a camera with me, and we both concluded that this was a bit silly. Dan (the other half of ReachingOut2TheWorld) has a great camera, so I never really felt too much concern in the camera department… Regardless, we decided to stop at BestBuy before getting dinner, quickly looking through the most affordable cameras. Lucky for me there was a deal on a small Canon PowerShot that would seemingly fit all my needs. The purchase was definitely uncharacteristic of my dad, as he typically likes to do a bit more research before making any buys. But, since time was not on our side, we didn’t have many options.

There was an Olive Garden next door which would prove to be the best decision of the night. It was crowded so we opted to sit at the bar. Any other restaurant this might have made for quicker service, but at Olive Garden, it just means you get to sit on higher chairs and be forgotten about. We didn’t actually get our soup and salad till closer to 7 and when we mentioned I had a flight to catch they returned with our food in to-go containers and compensated our entire meal! I really wasn’t expecting that, but it was certainly a pleasant surprise after just spending a chunk of money on the camera. Having actually filled up on the soup and salad (because that’s what we all do), I figured I would just bring my chicken parm with me on the plane. I wasn’t sure if this would be an issue or not, but it proved to be no hassle at all.

Even with the delays to the airport, I still arrived with plenty of time, and there was really no wait at all to get to the gate. Once on the plane, I decided I would wait till they took off and served drinks before digging into my pasta feast. Upon doing so I definitely received some jealous looks. It wasn’t even the slightest bit warm at this point, and I almost asked the flight attendant if they would heat it up for me, but with it being so early into the flight I didn’t want to be “that guy.” Just about the time I was finishing up my meal, which was still awesome despite the temperature, the crew came around with meals for everyone. I’ll have to admit I was a bit shocked. It was quarter to 11 at night and I really wasn’t thinking they’d be serving a full dinner. You know I can’t turn down a free meal, and I happen to really like plane food. I was really in it for the cheesecake slice that I noticed was on the platter. While eating, I had my choice of nearly 100 inflight movies. They actually had the movie I was hoping they would have, The Place Beyond the Pines. It’s a movie starring Bradley Cooper and Ryan Gosling. If you haven’t seen it, I’d recommend renting it.

With the movie ending around 12:30 am, I had hopes of getting some sleep. I knew with the time difference I was going to be losing about 5 hours, and if I didn’t sleep now my entire day would be difficult. With that being said…I couldn’t sleep at all! Blame it on the upright position, the lady behind me that just had to keep hitting my seat, or the man in front of me that kept figuring out ways to recline his chair further and further into my lap. All in all, I wasn’t able to sleep.

The plane arrived into London around 9 am local time (4 am NY) and my next task was navigating the airport, through customs, and onto the baggage claim. For those of you that are wondering, my huge duffel bag was not charged extra! The timing also worked out great; just as I got to the baggage claim, my huge, overweight, blue, monster of a bag was rounding the corner. I grabbed it and threw it onto my cart and started heading for the exit. This is the part of my journey that I truly began to regret bringing such a big bag. Having 3 bags total: a backpack that held my laptop and other personals, a small carry-on which basically just held the board game of Catan, and the 60+ pound Blue Monster, I made my way to the first rail station in Heathrow. I had to get to Victoria Station to catch a train to Nottingham, which was due to leave at 2:08 pm. I just had to figure out how to get to Victoria Station. After a few wrong turns, asking several people for help, and 3 trains later,  I finally made it to Victoria. Just as I got there, my strap ripped on the Blue Monster. It was embarrassing, but also very problematic. I still had a decent way to go, wasn’t exactly sure what my next move was going to be, and was midway up a flight of steps with the Blue Monster at my feet. I quickly dragged it to the side to get out of the way. At this point my only option was to forget the shoulder strap and just carry it as hand luggage. Mind you, this is a very heavy bag and I’m just approaching the 24 hour period of no sleep. A bit lost in Victoria Station, I figured out where I had to go to retrieve my train tickets to Nottingham… Only they were not directly to Nottingham. First, I had to take a train to Kings Cross Station, then a train to Grantham, before finally taking a train to Nottingham. Luckily, even with all the trains and some minor delays, Sean was waiting for me right when I arrived. Unluckily, I still had the longest walking commute of my journey ahead of me and my body was just about ready to shut down. Sean was a huge help by taking on my other two bags, but I wasn’t about to let him struggle with Big Blue. We hiked across Nottingham until we could catch the bus that would take us to Sean’s home. Sean, being awesome, had dinner already underway.

The rest of the evening was spent meeting Sean’s family, taking a walk to a local pub, and teaching his sister, Cassie, how to play Catan. I believe we stayed up till about 1 in the morning before it was finally time for me to sleep. I very well could have gone to sleep much earlier in the evening, but my thought process was that if I could hold off until midnight or so, I may be able to dodge the jet lag I’d be feeling the following morning. All in all, it had been nearly 39 hours without sleep. Sleep never felt so good that night.