What I did in the holidays (Part II)

Jurriaan Bendien bendien at tomaatnet.nl
Fri Sep 19 10:54:51 MDT 2003

In the morning, I asked Haj over breakfast whether he could play
chess, but he said he did not play. Esdin arrived, and we went to his
taxi cab. I noticed a couple of young girls in the doorway opposite in
the street, who smiled somewhat shyly and invitingly, and a boy with
them asked me more or less, "what are you waiting for", but having
already made a slight faux-pas with the neighbours I exercised
caution. Besides, my erotic interest had already been murdered, and I
wanted to go with Esdin to the market. At the market, crammed with
numerous small stalls, I bought a couple of light pairs of shorts, one
blue, the other beige/red. I had only taken one pair of long trousers
to Morocco, thinking I would buy a gown. I also bought a grayish
sleeveless jacket with lots of pockets, to keep my essentials in. Then
I bought a slim volume of French renaissance poetry in the market, and
an Indonesian classical guitar for Soukaina, which was in good nick
and without scratches. I could find no sports shoes that would fit me,
nobody had size 47. I really wanted to go to the grand Mosque and see
it from the inside, but, having bought the guitar, I thought I would
deliver it straight to Mohammed's home where Soukaina lives. Arriving
at Mohammed's place with Esdin, we met up with a Moroccan guy who had
lived in Amsterdam and understood Dutch quite well, and we all went
upstairs. I explained to Soukaina some basics about tuning the guitar
in standard tuning. She was happy to have it, said she would keep it
for life, and was surprised I would buy her such an expensive gift,
without any further exchange. Then we had a good classic Moroccan meal
with Mohammed's family. The TV was on, some soap opera apparently
about the predicaments of some Jewish people. I explained I wasn't
Jewish, but, around that time, there had been some murders of Jewish
people by islamic fundi's. At that time I started to feel very sick, I
had got some sort of tummy-bug either through drinking contaminated
water or through food poisoning, I do not know which. But the stomach
cramps were severe and diarrhoea set in. At Haj's I watched some more
TV about the local elections, and then collapsed into bed. The belly
cramps grew excruciatingly painful, I had never had physical pain like
that, since I broke my femur in a motorcycle accident a decade ago, I
was rolling around with pain and running to the toilet every half
hour. It was a case of what in New Zealand we used to call "gutrot". I
treated myself with large doses of charcoal tablets and Rennie
tablets. Haj checked on me several times. The plan was to go to
Marrakesh the next day, but I did not know if I would make it. I just
ate nothing, and only drank a bit of mineral water. Finally I drifted
off into sleep for a while.

The next day, I woke at 7.00 am, and had coffee with Haj. He also
offered me cakes but I declined. I climbed up on the roof of the
house, and looked out over Casablanca, seeing an ocean of TV reception
dishes.  Groggily I packed my stuff after that, said goodbye to Haj,
took as taxi to the Casa railway station, and boarded the train to
Marrakesh. The conductors were all dressed in grey uniforms. The train
was clean and spacious. It was an old French train, from the time when
they still knew how to design trains for human comfort, rather than to
give the designers a beautiful orgasm. You could actually sit
comfortably in the seats. If you went into the toilet, there was
actually room to move, and the water tap actually worked well so you
could wash. The toilet bowl however did start to clog after some hours
of travel. I spent a lot of time looking at the barren landscape which
floated past outside, the curiously cubical and unimaginatively
designed buildings, and the passengers, especially a little girl,
about three years old, who was wise well beyond her age, at least from
my point of view. I attentively observed a lot of children in Morocco,
noting both their spirit and their incredible sexual and kinesthetic
sophistication, even at a very young age, filtering this through my
previous knowledge about child development. The brother of the young
girl, who was perhaps 8 years old, stood by me in the aisle for a
while, as I looked outside at a few barren trees, and he said in a
clipped way, "les arbres sont tres jolie, n'est-ce pas".

The journey seemed to take ages, with occasional pauses at some or
other station - often passengers would open the train doors before the
train had actually stopped, and this was possible. We arrived at
Marrakesh at noon, but I felt sick as a dog. I made some halfhearted
attempts at some conversation with a few girls, but canned it. A
station attendant suggested I book into the Ibis Hotel next to the
station, which was reasonably priced, and I walked in that
direction. But for a while I just sat down by the trottoir, watching
the scene, noticing for example a veiled woman in a grey gown jumping
on the back of a guy's moped. Moroccan women get quite crafty with
their clothes these days, you can get veils in all sorts of colours
and patterns, likewise with gowns, and some wear gowns with pointy
head capes that make them look like witches or alternatively members
of the Klu-Klux-Klan. All of a sudden a Chinese guy walked by, I
wonder where he came from, he looked a bit like Mao. The traffic
whirled and whizzed and I grew tired of it. I was booked into the
Ibis, room 018, by a sexy-looking Moroccan woman in a red top and a
grey skirt. The Hotel protocol aimed to satisfy me in 15 minutes, all
I had to do was strike a yoga pose in my room or something. The room
was okay but there was still a dirty towel lying on the bed, and I
didn't like the line drawing of a guy seeking to hypnotise a snake
with a trumpet or horn, so I took it off the wall. A little later on,
the maid entered the room and talked to me in rapid French, but I
could not make out what the deal was - either she would do me for a
fee, or she would get clean towels for a fee, I don't know exactly
what it was and to stuffed to work it out. I turned the lights off and
went to sleep for a few hours.  After that I did get clean towels. I
got up and had a beer from the bar, and went outside to sit on the
patio, looking at the small swimming pool. After that, I took a taxi
into the centre of Marrakesh, wearing my blue pants, and walked over
the square. I could have picked up some girls along the way, but
didn't.  I bought myself some Morrocan aspirin. Out of nowhere
appeared a couple of pretty tough Japanese girls, and I had a brief
chat, but moved on, looking at the shops and the craftspeople. I
wandered into Ichibilia restaurant, ordered yoghurt, and chatted a bit
with a girl sitting there.  She explained it was okay to talk, but she
already had a boyfriend, and I said fine, I wasn't up to anything. Her
boyfriend subsequently appeared, sat politely waiting at the next
table along. I invited him to sit with us, but animated conversation
wasn't really happening. I wandered out again, and as I walked back
into the square, I saw an unveiled young woman on a blue bike with a
pink child seat on the back, sitting motionlessly on her bike, gazing
expectantly into the distance. But I moved on. I returned to the
hotel, changed into different shorts, and threw the blue trousers
under the seat next to the bed. The diahrroea continued and I had some
aspirin.  Nevertheless I dragged myself out for a gin and tonic and
then a meal in the hotel restaurant. I wanted steak, but no good steak
was available, and the meat was so dry, that I fed most of it to the
kittens, which were playing under the table I was sitting at. I wrote
in my cahier, "Tomorrow I am heading North". I felt negative about my
holiday again, and saw nothing pleasant about sex anymore at all. I
felt a bit paranoid, as if the whole of Morocco was poking its nose
into my holiday in a superreactive culture, and I didn't like it

When I awoke the next day I had breakfast at the Ibis, taking care
only to eat some neutral things, dodging table company. I cleared the
room and opened the curtains to look out the window through the
grill. What did I see ? The stem of a palmtree, a large red flower and
a small orange flower. I looked down to the foot of the palm tree, and
noticed some cigarette butts and a few dirty tissues on the ground. I
checked out of the hotel, and took a taxi to the airport. As I walked
into the airport, I encountered another Japanese woman, with a big
moonface in a grey top, without any luggage, who asked me in good
English how she could get into town. "Take a taxi", I said, and moved
on. I didn't really want to escort her into town, I just wanted to get
the hell out of where I was. I tried to get a flight to Tangiers, but
there wasn't any that day, and I was advised to take a train
anyhow. There was a woman in pink sitting there too, ostentatiously
flapping around a big wad of Dirham bills. But I took another taxi to
the train station. The taxi driver claimed he liked me, and would
drive me in his taxi to Tangiers for 2,000 Dirham. I was astonished at
his proposal, and had to laugh. It seemed such a whacky idea that I
accepted his offer initially. However, he then took me to an upmarket
hotel, where I was transferred to a Merc and got another taxi driver
whom, the first taxi driver said, would take me to Tangiers. But I was
having none of it, and told him to drive me to the station in his own
taxi, which he did. I paid him a little compensation for the
misunderstanding. At the station, I bought myself a bunch of
newspapers, the IHT, FT, the Canard, L'Opinion, etc. and I had more
yoghurt and mineral water in the station cafe. A classy Moroccan dame
also sitting there got up, gave me a contemptuous, snobby look, and
walked out. After my refreshments, it was off to the loo again, where
a soldier with a green beret was washing his face. I asked him what
regiment he belonged to. He did not understand, and the toilet
attendant asked me, "are you in the army ?". I said no, and he said
"then you are not supposed to ask such questions". I said "why not
?". A little later, the toilet attendant explained the soldiers was in
the munitions brigade, I don't know if it was true. Anyway, after
helping a caterer get his catering cart onto the train to Casa, I
boarded the train. I had bought a first-class ticket, but initially
couldn't find the first-class coupe, lounging in an air-cooled second
class coupe all by myself. But then I found out that the first-class
coupe was right at the back of the train, and I got in there. There
were four other people in the coupe, one pretty girl dressed
completely in white, and three men. I would have been better off
staying where I was in the second-class coupe, there was no real
difference except the colour of the seats. With one of the guys I had
a conversation. He claimed to be a military commando on leave, and he
told me about his parachute jumping exercises. He said that the
Moroccan army was now getting training from American and English
advisers, which he felt was a good thing. Lateron, after reading my
newspapers, I had a brief chat with the girl in white, but my French
conversation wasn't very smooth, and quickly she turned to
conversation with the commando guy, in Arabic. I asked him, "what did
she say" but he got very annoyed, and said that he thought I was rude
and that the conversation was between him and her, consequently
private and personal - even though he was sitting right opposite me in
the same coupe, and privacy was not to be had there. I replied that I
thought it was okay to ask the question, but also okay if he did not
want to answer it.  I returned to my newspapers, and turning to the
IHT, I was shocked to find out about the assassination of Anna Lindh
in Sweden and the jailing of a senior Al Jazeera reporter, Tayssir
Alouni, in Spain. There was a sharp article in the IHT by Maureen
Dowd, "A frightening lesson in the dangers of hubris" (IHT, 12
September 2003, p. 7). The Morrocan student newspaper Etudiant Media
(no. 2, September 2003, p. 13) contained a lovely poem called "Espoir"
by Aziza Benjelloun, which went like this:

Nous avons perdu le bout
La vie se rit de nous
Nous avons perdu le nord
Nous pleurons sur notre sort
Nous parlons que du passe
Et oublions le pot casse
Cést une nostalgie amere
Sans aucune action sincere
Le present cést le present
Sommes-nous absents ou presents ?
Il faut tourner la page
Et voir avec un oeil sage
Le present et lávenir
La realite et le devenir
Rien nést impossible
Tout est clair est visible
Il suffit de commencer
Et de ne jamais nenoncer
Tels sont nos principes
Qui hautent nos tripes
La vie est une spectacle
Elle cache des miracles
Mais il faut la concevoir
Pour former un savoir
Qui donnera acces,
Au bonheur et au progres.

The L'Opinion newspaper (13 Sept 2003, p. 5) also contained a poem I liked
by Ouafae Alaoui:

je cherche et je cherche encore
Je cherche dans tous les lieux
Et parmi tous les aiuls
Je fouille dans toutes les archives
Et entre tous les espeaces
Je marche a pas certains
Chassant le malheur et le desespoir
Je vis avec l'éspoir d'un jour ou le soleil brillera

A chaque bourdonnement d'une abeille
A chaque sifflement du vent
Au debut de láurore
Au premier rayon de soleil
Au premier fil de lumiere qui separe le jour
De l'obscurite de la nuit: je nais de nouveau
Et il nait en moi l'espoir du monde
Ou tout est bon et sincere

At Casa Voyageur I got out of the train, and had to wait for the
connection to Tanger. After mucking around a bit at the station, I
approached a young woman who was sitting on a bench on the platform
with a high resolution scanner in a box, and struck up a conversation
in French. If she had been a popsinger, she would have beat the hell
out of of Madonna, with her looks and waist-length red-blond Rapunzel
hair, but really she was more gentile really.  It turned out she had
bought the scanner cheap from a factory in Casa for her brother in
Tetouan, who had just got a new PC with Microsoft Software and an
internet connection. As regards her hair, she said she would prefer it
cut short, but her Dad would not let her. We boarded our train, and
sat ourselves down in the first-class coupe. Her name was Mary Arab,
but in Arabic Mary sounds like Marryam. I said humorously, "et je
m'appelle Jesus" which she thought was reasonably funny. She indicated
she wasn't by any means a traditional Moroccan girl. She said, when
you're twenty or so here, there is big pressure for a girl to marry,
but she hadn't done it, she had watched the whole relationship scene
around her, and didn't like it much. She referred to a lot of petty
jealousies and incestuousness among the people she knew, saying she
preferred to stay a bit aloof from it all. But she also confessed to
having problems with "confiance". She had done diploma's in business
administration and accountancy, and said she was currently enrolled
for a two-year course in obstetrics and gynacology, which I found
impressive. I showed her my Moroccan book on auditing techniques, and
told her about myself and my trip in Morocco. She kept getting calls
on her mobile every twenty minutes or half hour, and I asked who in
God's name was ringing her up so often, was it her boyfriend ? No she
laughed, she didn't have a boyfriend now, it was her father, who
turned out to be a retired policeman, who owned a second house with
four storeys, and kept a close watch on his 27-year-old daughter. I
asked her how she felt about that, about having her father exercising
such controls on her and so on, and she said she didn't like it much,
but what could she do ? In general, she gave me the impression that
she felt a bit stultified, cooped up and imprisoned in her life,
because she was so restricted in her independence, and had to manage
life in the sophisticated information society of Morocco on the basis
of a restrictive patriarchal morality, without having many
opportunities for advancing her life in a free way. She said that she
would prefer to study in France, where she liked the culture better,
and a more libertarian environment existed for women. But things being
what they were, she could as a student not even get her own visa for
overseas travel, which I thought ridiculous - hadn't they heard of
student visa's in Morocco ?  Well, she said, the procedures are strict
because of the tendency of Moroccans to elope and live illegally in
Europe, and also there was a lot of paranoia subsequent to the
terrorist attacks in Casa, with police and army keeping a high
profile. I had noticed that already. We discussed aspects of Moroccan
culture, and after that about the sexual development of Moroccan
children. She talked quite frankly and openly about it, it was no
problem for her. She said three main reasons why young Moroccan
children were so savvy about sex were (1) they watched porno at a
young age, (2) often they did not have separate sleeping quarters in
the house, (3) by mixing with the poorer kids in their neighbourhoods,
they lost all illusions about sexuality and its place in the adult
world. As we were discussing, the conductor came past, and said we
were both sitting in the wrong coupe, I had to move to the number 1
coupe in the first class, and Mary had to move to the second class.  I
said, "this is stupid" since we were alone in the coupe anyhow, but we
obliged, and Mary said, if I came to her seat, we would exchange
numbers. I went to Mary's new seat, and asked if there was not a
better way to solve this problem, I would just buy her the difference
of a first-class ticket.  Yes, this was possible, and I arranged with
the conductor for Mary to sit with me, and with a small tip he was
most happy about the change. Our journey continued, and we chatted
along about all sorts of things. She asked me if I would like to go to
Tetouan, and I said yes. She had to start College again on Monday, she
said, but she had some free time on Sunday. I showed her the
photograph with me at the mosque, and she said should would like to
have it, so I gave it to her, keeping the other one. I also gave her
the book with French renaissance poetry. As we had got to know each
other a bit better, we had become a little interested in each
other. However this was not unproblematic either, because generally in
Morocco, if you say you are going to a place and buy a ticket, then
they expect you to go there, and not somewhere else. But the train
staff allowed it, and somewhere near Souk-Tnine de Sidi-el-Yamani, we
got off the train, and boarded a bus for a long ride to Tetouan. We
sat separately on opposite sides of the aisle, and did not talk to
each other. Her father kept calling her on the mobile though, and we
looked at each other, and had a laugh about that. In Tetouan, her
brother picked her up, and I went in another car with a friendly
gentleman, who looked a little like a (now deceased) relative of mine
in New Zealand, to a fairly classy hotel called "Cham" where they
booked me into a nice room for 30 euro's or so. There was a wedding
reception going on at the hotel. I called Mary on her mobile to say
where I was, and went out to the petrol station up the road, for a
bite to eat and mint tea. It was late at night, and everything in the
hotel was closed. Walking along on the left, I saw a blue car waiting
on the other side of the road, but gave that a miss.  A guy in a car
at the petrol station also flashed his headlights, but gave that a
miss as well, feeling stuffed, and the diahrroea was continuing.
After a bite in the lounge, I returned to the hotel, and chatted
briefly with some guys reposing at the hotel entrance, one of whom
gave me his number. I felt in a Bob Geldof mood and thought of his
song "Nothing happened today" and a few other FAOS tracks. Out the
window I saw a black Cherokee pick-up truck with a TV dish mounted on
top of it. I couldn't sleep and watched TV a while, they had Al
Jazeera (I'm a bit in love with one of the Jazeera presenters) and an
American movie which started off with a group of American soldiers who
get ambushed and slaughtered by hooded men dressed in black. But I did
not continue watching, masturbated a bit ostentatiously and
halfheartedly with a lame arm, and went to sleep anyhow.

In the morning, the TV dish had vanished from the black Cherokee
pick-up truck, and a guy drove the thing out of the gate.  I called
Mary again, and she would come to the hotel and we would go for a walk
on the beach and to a restaurant. Meantime I jotted some notes on my
recent experiences, and watched what appeared to be a military general
walk out of the hotel lobby. As Mary did not turn up at 12 as agreed,
I tried to phone her again at the reception, with the assistance of a
woman who looked like a Rice clone, but I saw Mary approaching after a
while anyhow, so I did not need to call. She was chewing chewing gum,
which was a turn-off. She said King Mohammed VI was in town to open
some ceremony, and I joked "I hope he isn't following me around". We
went off in a taxi into town - there were certainly a lot of police
and military around - walking around a bit and I booked myself into a
cheaper hotel called something like Oumema or something, getting rid
of my pack. We sat down for a meal, and I wanted steak again, rather
than fish which was the speciality there, but steak was just not a
Morrocan thing, and we wound up with a miserable bit of dry
Schnitzel. After that Mary didn't want to go to the beach, and instead
we took a taxi along the coast from Martil to cabo Negro, Mdiq, the
Smir-Ristinga bay and ended up in Sebta. Mary seemed to like shopping,
as many women do, and we were first in an antique shop by the sea
shore, must have been near Mdiq, where I bought her a few red coral
necklaces, including one with red teeth (she was dressed in a red top
on the day). I saw a lovely large Ammonite fossil, but I thought I'd
better not, even although I love beautiful fossils (an ideosyncrasy of
mine). I also saw some lovely old rucksacks made of genuine Camel
leather, but thought I'd better not.  Then later, in Sebta area we
went to the markets and other shops, and I bought Mary a bunch of
stuff, jewellery, clothes, lingerie, shoes, stationery and a
watch. She had told me about the importance of respect and trust, and
I thought that with a few goodies, she might actually feel more
self-respect and be more confident. I also bought myself some jerseys
and watches. It was fun going shopping with Mary, and I learnt a lot
from watching her shop, and discussing the merits and demerits of
various clothes. It was also devilish fun, because I pushed her
incessantly to buy whatever she wanted regardless of price, which she
found difficult to do, being very discerning, weighing up different
possibilities and worrying about the money. I left the haggling with
the shop owners to her, as she was better at it than me. But she
enjoyed modelling some stuff for me as well, displaying the classic
feminine preoccupation with adornment quite adequately. I wanted to
buy her a cream-coloured coat, which looked absolutely smashing on
her, but unfortunately it was too tight on her, a great pity.  In the
end, we had seen a lot of wares, but she still actually hadn't bought
what I would call a lot. But she was happy with her stuff. After that
we went back to her place in Tetouan by taxi. When we arrived, she got
into a panic, because I wanted to meet her folks, and put pressure on
her to arrange it. Initially, she said this was out of the question,
later she relented, and said she would ask, and I waited out there on
the pavement. She returned, and said it would be okay, she had
permission, and we went into her place to meet her parents and two
brothers, one of whom was busy on the new PC connecting it to on-line
TV. They were all pretty friendly really. I had a conversation with
her Dad in French, the retired police officer, who said that in King
Mohammed VI's procession, a military general in a jeep had actually
fallen of the road and killed himself. I do not know if it was true,
or whether it was a reference to me, I couldn't find anything about
such incident on the Net. I also commented on the fact that it was
ridiculous that Moroccan students could not travel freely
internationally on a student visa, and the whole immigration issue
came up again. Papa invited me for a tour the next day, but I
declined. They all wondered about my travel plans and motives, but I
was feeling pretty burnt-out, and didn't know anymore what to say
anyhow. I went back to my hotel in a taxi, but the taxi driver let me
off somewhere near, and I lost my way. I wandered into a CD store and
asked the assistant for some suitable Arab music for me, but he
shrugged me off, suggesting it wasn't a good idea. I went back to my
hotel, but out again for a bottle of mineral water, cigarette papers,
Genie chocolate and Angel chewing gum. In the end, however I did get
to sleep.

When I awoke, I decided to go to Gibraltar, packed up and caught a
taxi, who took me all the way to Ceuta. The taxi-driver was
good-humoured, he had a Spanish magazine in his car with stories about
military technology. He was critical of the Bush administration and
its effect on culture. However he didn't speak much French and I
didn't speak Spanish, so I didn't get much conversation. At Ceuta, I
bought a ticket to Alcegiras and an icecream for a Euro, and went
through the passport check. One of the many guards advised me to go to
the fourth booth - at the first booth, a pretty girl in a bright blue
top was posing, but okay I went for the fourth booth, whatever. After
that I made by way by bus to the boat, where I had to wait in the
lobby for quite a while. An old guy with glasses and crutches sat in
front of me. By this stage, I was feeling ill and irritable, and I
snubbed him and snubbed a couple Moroccan women trying to sell
ornaments. I was a bit tired of all the haggling really. Queueing up
for the ferry, I got another come on, from an attractive woman with a
child, who reminded me of the smooth wooden bowl I had bought in
Agadir, but I didn't respond. On the boat itself another woman who
looked a little like Rosa Luxemburg gave me a look, but I didn't
respond. Walking out of the terminal at Alcegiras, there was a greying
guy polishing his red BMW somewhat ostentatiously, but I walked past
it. I picked up some money, asked for directions at the information
counter, and went to Portillo's bus company, buying myself a ticket to
Malaga. I was feel ing pretty depressed and angry, and ignored the
Spanish Mary clone and the Rosa clone, and shouted "no" at the
beggars. When the bus arrived, the driver would not let me on, I gave
him the fingers, and took a taxi van to Malaga, throwing the bus
ticket out the window. The taxi driver pulled out a magazine with the
lastest Spanish sexbomb on the cover, and sure enough, a minute later
I saw a Spanish girl standing on the road with her erect finger
pointed upwards in front of her mouth, but we didn't stop. At Malaga
airport, I got a Basiq Air flight justabout straightaway thanks to a
speedy ticket-seller, flew back to Amsterdam, and took the train from
Schiphol to CS. Arriving in Amsterdam after a day's travel, I headed
into the red Light district, and found myself a Thai sex worker who
deftly jacked me off while I lay prostrate and totally fatigued on my
back, and an Indonesian sex worker with whom I had a conversation
rather than a penetration. Apart from that, I had no comment. I went
home, and gave Youssef some presents: the Moroccan tray, a Moroccan
football shirt, a carved box with five dice in it, and a long red
cloth with five green Moroccan stars on it. We talked a while, and I
played "Some girls" by the Rolling Stones and "No Love" by Joan
Armatrading on the ghetto blaster for a bit of nostalgia. After that I
went to sleep. I slept for a long, long time.


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