Alas, it’s the last day of Fire & Ice 2014. It’s definitely bittersweet. While I’m looking forward to the comforts of my home, I’m sad to leave Phil, Jen, and the boys. I’ve really missed them and time with them has been precious. I don’t doubt that “missing” feeling will go away any time soon.
Last day in Munich
Phil worked and the boys went to school today, which gave Jeni and I some much-needed time to hang out. Our sunny, crisp spring day started with a run around their neighborhood and also included a great stroll around Munich. We spent a lot of our time around Englischer Garten. We first watched some cute guys surfing the Isar river, where one of them caught me more or less talking about how cute he was. (I stupidly assumed he spoke no English. That’s dumb in Germany, as many of them speak very good English.) The last time I was here, I stumbled on the nudist part of the Garten, and I was happy we didn’t this time, as last time, it was a bunch of old, round men. And I’ve heard not much has changed on nudist Garten demographics since I’ve last been here.
That brings me to German men. I’m a fan. They tend to be on the tall side, and are definitely a tad goofy. So obviously, it jives with me on both fronts. Plus, they dress so darn well. ZZ Top really did say it best, “Cuz every girl crazy ’bout a sharp dressed man.” And they’re everywhere here. My sunglasses have given me freedom to check them out, and it was fun to see how many were checking me out, too. Ha, ha. Maybe a German man is in my future? Who knows! Always fun to imagine, I guess. (I didn’t realize it coming out here, but having location services on my phone meant guys over here have seen me in their feeds as someone to contact. They’ve been pretty funny, but very different compared to American men. I’ll share those experiences another time, for sure.)
It should make sense that there are a lot of BMWs, Mercedes, Audis, and Volkswagens out here. One thing that I thought was funny was the general perception of who buys them. VWs are like the Chevy or Ford. The Mercedes is the Buick of Germany (for older folks), while BMWs are more like the Honda (for hipper folks and families). Audis are like Toyotas. I’ve noticed a lot of Volvos. They’re sportier here.
One thing I absolutely love about Munich is how dog-friendly it is. They can pretty much go where what seems to be everywhere: Museums, trains, trams, busses, salons, shops in the mall, even inside restaurants. Being a “dog mom,” this is a wonderful thing.
Takeaways from Morocco
Morocco was one of the best adventures I’ve been on, to date. If you’re seeking more relaxation, it’s definitely something you can find pretty easily, too. From a Western viewpoint, if you haven’t traveled much, especially outside the U.S., Morocco will likely put you into culture shock. If you’ve traveled a lot, especially places like Southeast Asia or Latin America, Morocco will be a similar experience — and just as much fun once you get the hang of things.
Some of my favorite things about Morocco (that, in some instances, every person going there should know):
Bartering. As one vendor said, “This is our culture. Your price is only a starting point.” (See my earlier post on bartering.) One of the funniest things you’ll be asked to give up is your “best price.” You only give it up when they’re very close to yours, otherwise, you’ll pay more than you ever wanted to. I did a lot of the bartering, and it was funny, because they’d eventually look to my brother with the expression of, “Talk some sense into this woman.” Whenever they’d start talking to him, I’d say, “He’s my brother, I have the money, so talking to him isn’t going to help you.” To that I’d get a surprised look and then, “You strong woman!” and a smile.
Crossing the street. Between mo-peds, donkey carts, cars, and pedestrians, there’s a lot to compete with on the roads. Even though there are crosswalks, crossing the street can be like participating in the the game Frogger. Like, really.
Mo-peds. They’re everywhere. And they get close to both cars and pedestrians. Thanks to “iPhonegate 2012,” I flinched every time I heard one coming up behind me — they get that close. On our way into the medina from the airport, a gal on her mo-ped was following too close. When our cabbie breaked for the mo-ped in front of him, we heard a loud scream followed by a crash. She completely ran into our car. What was funny was she apologized to our cabbie over the affair.
Winter wear. It was in the 50s in the morning and got up to the mid-80s by noon. Regardless, you’d see Moroccans in full winter gear — coats, gloves, hats.
Affection. There isn’t a lot of inter-gender interaction. For example, there are separate security lines at the airport for men and women. There were obviously couples together, but in general, the genders didn’t mix. The men were very affectionate with one another — holding hands, kissing one another on cheeks. It was really neat to see, yet is saddening to realize the stigmas we have in America about what that type of interaction “means.”
No bodily contact. Despite how many people are there, it was weird how you could get around without bumping into one another. When the bumps did happen, it didn’t go over well. No fights ensued, but you’d definitely get looks of disapproval.
Drinking. With 97% of the population being Muslim, it’s hard to come across alcohol since drinking is a faux pas in this religion. Our riad had beer and wine, but it was tough to come across at restaurants.
Aggressive vendors and restaurant guys. You’ll learn quickly that giving eye contact will bring on more harassment than you want. I found I was often looking in an upwards direction to avoid the constant coaxing to either check out their stand or eat at their stall. They get in your face, but never touch you. One thing I heard a more ballsy food vendor say, “You look starving. Our food is finger-licking good. It’s fucking amazing!”
Cats and dogs. Neither dogs nor cats are taken in as pets. We saw a lot of cats and the occasional pack of dogs. Most are feral. But they all seemed to be treated well. We saw a lot of cats hanging out at the foot of meat vendors, waiting for scraps. And they seemed to make friends and get their affection from their local vendors.
Cleanliness. From what Westerners are used to, Morocco seems dirty. Its dusty, and there’s a lot of litter. It’s hard to find places to put your litter, and when you ask for a place to put it, it’s often thrown into a pile on the side of the street that’s picked up by trash guys in a couple days. So the smell can get off-putting at times.
Chivalry. With there being a lot of traffic, you rarely walk anything but side by side in the streets. But when you do, the rule is “walk on the right, with the guy on thhhe left to ensure the woman is safe from cars and mo-peds.” My brother got a stern talking to about this one. I couldn’t help but giggle.
Follow me! What’s disguised as help is often an attempt to get money from you. Often, you’ll hear a guy (or child) saying they can help you, either lead you in the right direction, or something. Once they help you, they’ll ask you for a few dirham. Otherwise, they’ll say something like, “Where you want to go is closed,” or “The road that way is closed because it’s a holiday.” It’s all a ruse so they can “help” you and then get some money out of you. If you just ignore them, you’ll be fine. The key is the ignoring part.
Catcalls. I got a lot of looks. More gawks and staring than just looks. It was often accompanied with a comment. Some were funny, some were kinda flattering, some were frightening. At first, it was easy to ignore, but it got exhausting after a while. Some of the more interesting comments I (or my brother) heard:
- You tall beautiful woman
- Sex, sex, sex, sex, sex
- You lucky man! (To my brother!)
- Big thighs! Yes!
My rating of Morocco: Two very enthusiastic thumbs up. I loved it. It was an amazing adventure, but it’s not a place for everyone.