I have just graduated from Sonoma State University with a BA in Sociology. I have absolutely loved my time in wine country- it really doesn't get more beautiful than vineyards and endless green, but I am ready for the next adventure!

I am from the Bay Area and as much as I want to travel, I want to end up here later in life. I love that someone can go out for a different kind of ethnic food everyday of the week and still have endless options!

In July/August, I will be visiting one of my great friends in England where we will tour multiple castles, London, Paris, Paris Disneyland (we did meet at the Disney College Program anyway), and will be attending the 2012 LONDON OLYMPICS!

Click here for the official website for Edelweiss Lodge and Resort

In September, I will be working as a civilian employee for an American military base in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. I will be in the hotel indusutry working for Edelweiss Lodge and Resort. They say my backyard will be the Alps. I have my hiking boots packed already.

Click here for the official website for the Disney College Program and Professional Internships

About two years ago I participated in the Disney College Program, working and living at Walt Disney World, Florida. It really started my love for traveling and throwing myself outside of my comfort zone. I highly recommend it to anyone who respects the Disney Company and wants to get their foot in the door or just wants a break from life- it was definitely both for me.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Sensory Overload in Morocco

The Five Senses. 

Smell- The endless food tents with fried fish, beef kebabs (brouschettes), and spices throughout the Souks.
Feel-The soreness after riding a camel and having to ride them the next day (not quite as fun).
Hear- The microphone voice of prayers throughout the day for the people within the city of Marrakech.
Sight. The bright orange sand of the Sahara Desert against a bluebird sky day.
Taste- The avocado shake that you would think would be gross but it was goooddd.

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone and after going to Marrakech and the Sahara Desert, Morocco all I can say to everyone is that is unlike anything you have/will ever see, so go! I am a worrisome traveler and to throw me into a third world country, the desert, ride on the back of a camel,  lets just assume this adventure was all about the outside of my comfort zone. And I loved it.

We went with a tour guide group called Moroccan Nature Trails and they were phenomenal! They took great care of us, were great company, and informed us on so much on the culture, history, and landscapes- I learned more in those few days than probably all my history lessons combined. Go to Trip Advisory and look them up- their beyond awesome!

So coming from Germany, the main plan was to never step out of the sun and when I say never I really, truly, absolutely mean never. At first my body was in shock but my inner California girl came out and soaked up every second and at

some times a little too much but my Moroccan
 sunburn is quite the authentic souvenir  We decided to go to the Souks (one of the most famous world markets) and just walk around. Well one cannot simply just walk around Souks- I found myself darting around the snake charmers with their cobras (drugged i believe), running towards all the natural orange juice stands, and repeatedly saying "no thank you" to all the merchants. To say that it is a crazy environment is an understatement, but to say its crazy fun is just right. Lets break this down: it is incredibly easy to feel overwhelmed by everyone pestering you to
buy something at their price. You will at  first
gasp, but then mentally divide that by three and that's your haggling price. I was a pushover the first day, but on our last day I was out for revenge and impressed myself with my debating skills.. but more on that later. In the night there will be countless food tents,with everyone reassuring you their food is indeed the best. Play along because well that's half the fun. I even had a guy say that theirs was the best because he assured me I would not get diarrhea from the food. It being my first night in Morocco and not knowing what to expect I have to admit this was intriguing. We settled on another and ate... and ate... and ate. So much food for such little amount of money. Again, I love it. After there was carnival games, street performers, luckily the snakes were gone after sunset, and the craziness only grew. A great way to start our first day.

So to the desert we go! It turned out to be quite a drive to the desert, but some Bob Marley in the background I was just fine with looking out the window. And that's when I realized I wasn't in Kansas anymore. Huts with sheets for doors, simple wood for roofs, and all spread out along the Atlas Mountains, this was no longer the world I knew, but one that will never be forgotten. By the way when traveling through any part of Africa, one simply must listen to "Hakuna Matata" and "Circle of Life." It is a necessity and I apologize the Disney references do not stop there for this blog post.

We stopped at a city that was a movie set for Indiana Jones, Gladiator, and my personal favorite- The Mummy, Ait Ben Haddou Kasbah.  It now only had five remaining families, we were fortunate to see one of the families houses, which of course had a cave that was also used for movie sets. Who knew?

There a few more stops along the way enjoying the atmosphere and landscapes and we finally get to the desert. Now they tell us we are riding camels. This was definitely what I was looking forward the most. Well they certainly didn't waste any time, our camel tour guide looked at me, pointed to the camel, and said "okay." I said okay back and started inching my way to the camel. Well I am no Usain Bolt with my long strides, but I was getting there... apparently not fast enough. The man basically picks me up and drops me right on the camel. I'm not sure this was the best way to meet my camel for the first time. Then I thought I was waiting for the rest of my group, but no I was to be the first, the man says to the camel   a few words, and up the camel stands. Now I realize I did the whole Disney thing, so I'm a little spoiled, but I kid you not I thought I was gettin some kind of seat belt or strap to attach me to this camel. For future reference for you all you don't get a seat belt its just you, the camel, and the ground which is a lonnnng ways away.

Then we all start to move onto the sand dunes part of the Sahara Desert, which did you know the Sahara Desert is 900 square kilometers wide, but only 20% is actually sand dunes? Take that 7th grade geography class. Anyways I am the last of my group, we are crossing a little two lane road, and what happens should you ask? A truck starts coming down the road. Well my camel and myself are still on the road, is my camel moving? Of course not? Am I moving? Of course not I'm on the bloody camel! I just have this look of terror on my face and I know the driver was a tourist cause he had a look of confusion and terror all wrapped into one facial expression. Well finally the truck stops about 2 feet from my camel, my camel decides to start walking across, and I was thankful there wasn't any seat belts cause I was already planning the easiest exit plan off that damn camel.

And now let me tell you about camel riding- its fun when its straight on the sand, but they don't call them sand dunes cause its a flat path. Going up and down sand dunes on a camel is like a rollercoaster that is fine for 90% of the time, but that 10% going up and down (with no seatbelt!) is bumpier and scarier than Space Mountain. My camel's name was Chewie but during these up and downs, if he went too fast I was not afraid to call him Chewbacca. I already broke my pinky once on my European Adventure I was not thinking of "one upping" that with a camel involved. And they tell you to move with the camel. Now let me tell you- that's impossible. I felt like a bowl of jello just moving all over the place, jiggling, bobbing, whatever you want to call it. However, graceful would not be a word you could call it.

We got to our tents, watched the sunset (I won't even bother trying to describe it, it was beyond words beautiful), put our stuff down and did the most logical thing to do in the Sahara Desert....sand dune boarding! Now making it very clear. I have never been on a snowboard before. I stood on a skateboard once, tried to push it forward, tripped on my own foot, and had a bruised elbow for my first week of college. Balance is not my strong suit (referring back to the unknown pinky accident of course . But there I was sand boarding on the Sahara Desert and it was fun. Did I fall? Yes. Oh well. Does this make me want to snowboard? A little and then the voice inside me tells me I've pushed my luck far enough for the time being.

On a more serious note, one of the most interesting aspects of this trip was the stars. I have never seen the Milkey Way like I did on this trip, never seen so many shooting starts before (my wishes have not come true yet thanks for asking), and the constellations were in a completely different place. I felt that I could reach up and grab the big dipper from where I was laying in the sand. We then had a dinner (you will have tagine upon tagine, with couscous, veggies, and chicken). For desert it was usually oranges with cinnamon.  A delightful thing I may say but when you've been to Peaches in Garmisch, you nearly want to vomit everywhere because you are instantly reminded of all the tequila that is usually accompanying those other two ingredients. After we had a stupendous drum show, talked to the musicians (I met my very first nomad), and learned about a culture almost opposite of our own. Some of us went up to the dunes after and just sat, maybe contemplated life every now and then, at times realized how scary close we were to Algeria, or just simply played with the sand (me).

We came back from the desert and had a day around Marrakech. What does that mean for us girls? About two hours of history and walking around and then shopping! My biggest accomplishment was I wanted some things and the man said 1800 durham (that would be 180 euros), I said 350 (35 euros). He looked at me like I was crazy and started talking/negotiating. I simply said no thank you and kept walking. Lets just say walking away is your golden ticket- just walk away. After more walking, talking, and more walking he said he realized my price was okay and we got our stuff for 35 euros. Maybe you had to be there, but I had the biggest smile for the rest of the night. Debra, Debra can indeed haggle. I'm all ready to haggle in Garmisch, but I don't think it will go my way.

Our last day was rounded up with a beach trip, Essaouira. I have never felt so close to home and so far away from it at the same time. When I was younger my mom told me there are beach people and mountain people. I didn't understand this or the magnitude it would play on my life in the future. I completely understand it now. I am and will forever be a beach person. I can go to the mountains for a little, but I will always need the ocean by my side. It was calming, beautiful (but cold and windy), and a perfect place for a cappuccino and creme brulee. This trip was the eye opener I needed. Later in life I want to be a social worker and with all the poverty that surrounded this trip it was exactly the drive I needed to reassure myself that I am heading down the right work path. It was a great trip. Breathtaking landscape. Exotic atmosphere. Phenomenal company.  Unforgettable adventure.

I hope that I can call myself a good storyteller by the end of this adventure. I have to say there is a time to be serious and talk about our differences throughout the world and then there is a time to laugh about how you were almost run over by a truck because of a camel.