Thursday, February 12, 2009

Rockin Like a Moroccan Part II

In my previous post I left off with DBH having a seizure in the bathroom of my friend Karim's house the evening before we are supposed to board the train for a cross-country trip in Morocco. I was able to squeeze part of my upper body through the slight opening we had created by pushing the door and his body forward and see that he was not in the best of condition.

I was able to see that DBH was still having his seizure but not as severe as when he first fell out. He was completely dressed and it was obvious he was about to leave the toilet area when he was overcome. He had somehow fallen so that his back was against the door and his legs were straight out in front of him facing towards the toilet. His eyes were still rolled back in his head and his jaw was clenched incredibly tight while the air coming from his nose was incredibly exaggerated.

I was trying to comfort him by telling him to relax and that everything would be all right and after maybe 3 minutes the seizure appeared to end. Using the left arm I had managed to initially squeeze through I forced him to slouch forward taking his body weight off the door. After that Karim and I were able to push the door forward enough so that we could get inside the bathroom and lift him up.

We carried him about 20 feet (6 meters) to a sofa in Karim's living room and left him to rest. Karim and I looked at each other in disbelief at what had just transpired in his apartment. He then asked me why DBH or myself had not informed him of DBH's condition to which I informed him that I knew nothing about it.

Karim explained to me that if DBH had needed medical attention or had died in his house just how severe the consequences would have been to him and his family. He said that the police would have basically arrested everyone and figured out the story at the station. He said that DBH and myself would have been okay as we had traveled together to Morocco but him being a resident and his wife a citizen they would have had it much worse.

About an hour or two later DBH came through from his sleep and looked around the room then at me. I asked him if he knew what day it was to which he answered incorrectly. I then asked him if he knew where he was. He looked around the room again and then back at me while revealing that he thought we were in England.

I informed him that we were in Morocco at Karim's house. He laid back down and went returned to sleeping.

He woke up again a few hours later and seemed to be a little clearer on where he was but was not too sure as to what had happened to him. He said that he had not had an episode like this one for well over 5 years and had no idea what had brought it on. He said he was very tired and did not think he would be able to travel the next day so Karim insisted that we stay until DBH felt well enough to leave.

By the next day DBH was just as active as he was before his seizure. We caught a taxi to the train station and each purchased a first class one-way ticket to Oujda with a delay in Rabat to visit friends and drop off some belongings. The train was modern and similar to ones I have traveled on in Europe. The cars had a corridor the length of the car with perhaps 6 separate cabins. Second class cabins consisted of a hard bench on each end of the cabin with a normal train window. First class cabins had 6 cushioned seats in a cabin and operated off of an assigned seating number printed on your ticket. We had each paid 450 Moroccan dirhams (about $45USD) for our seat in first class for an almost 16 hour ride from one end of Morocco to the opposite end.

The ride from Marrakesh to Rabat was about 3 hours and we sat by the windows watching the scenery go past. After a while we could tell we were entering into an urban area and all of a sudden the man came on the intercom calling out in French that we were about to stop at Rabat Agdal station. DBH and I quickly grabbed our belongings and exited the train onto the platform and hot humid air. As the train was departing we walked towards the station and then out to the parking area in front of the main entrance. I immediately knew that we had gotten off at the wrong station as the area was to suburban looking. We grabbed a taxi outside the station and told him to take us to the address we provided.

The taxi driver explained to me that he would only be able to take me to the edge of Rabat where I would have to catch another taxi, as petit (small) taxis can only operate within their district. So after switching taxis I gave the new taxi driver the address to the villa and after some confusion we arrived and were welcomed inside. We sat with them for a few hours had some mint tea and dropped off the diapers that were the majority of my luggage. We caught a taxi to the main train station Rabat and awaited the 11PM train to Oujda.

As it was late at night some men were cleaning the platform with hoses and other materials when it started to rain. The 20 or so of us on the platform all headed to the same overhang trying to keep ourselves and luggage dry and the train pulled in not too long after the rain had started. We found our assigned car and cabin and put our luggage on the racks above the seats and tried to get comfortable before the train pulled off.

We got some sleep on the trip but were typically awakened at every stop as people were embarking and disembarking the train. At the city of Fes we seemed to have stopped for longer than scheduled and had a man and woman enter our cabin for the remainder of the trip.

We arrived at our destination around 9AM and were greeted by a friend who lived in the same community with me in Germany for a time. Abdur Rahman is American and married to a Moroccan woman who is originally from the city we were visiting on the Algerian border.

We stayed with Abdur Rahman and his family for about 5 days. It was cool to have a window into the frustrations and happiness of his daily life. We typically ended up going to the market every day for groceries and other needs but stopped off for lunch and coffee occasionally. Oujda being so far from the main cities of Morocco and not having any tourist attractions of any sort people tend to wonder what westerners are doing all the way out there. Hence I felt like a curiosity to the people.

We did manage to walk out towards the Algerian border one afternoon. It was about a 20 minute walk and I would have loved to cross the border but unlike Morocco, Algeria requires visas to be arranged prior to traveling. Moroccan can cross the border with no problems but Algerians are not allowed to cross into Morocco without a visa or some official paperwork.

The day before our flight back to London we caught the long train ride back to Marrakesh with a change in Casablanca. Once in Marrakesh we caught a taxi back to Karim's house and spent the night. Our flight was around 7AM and that meant we would have to leave Karim's house around 5AM for an uneventful flight back to London.

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