Early Friday morning, my flight landed in Mohammed V airport, Casablanca. As soon as G and I walked off the plane, the differences between Morocco and the United States were immediately apparent. It’s been a whirlwind of action since then, which is why I’m only getting to posting now. Unfortunately, my camera battery died on the plane ride there, so you’ll have to settle for descriptions.
When we arrived at the airport, we first went through customs. This was my first experience with a completely non-English speaker. While I was expecting this frequently on this trip, it was nerve-racking trying to explain your way through customs when you don’t understand the officer and vice versa. Fortunately, my paperwork was in order, so I passed through without too many issues. As I said in my last post, watching your passport get stamped is an amazing feeling!
From there we walked downstairs to the baggage claim. There, we discovered G’s luggage had been left in New York. Now, Sunday night, she still does not have it. But she’s been told it will be in by tomorrow, insha’allah. (God willing.) However, we were told that it would be in by Friday night, so I don’t have much faith in the Moroccan airways. I can only imagine what poor G is going through.
While G talked with baggage claim, I tried to find the ISA (International Studies Abroad) group. Since I’m traveling within a program, I have nearly 30 new American classmates. Of this group, 4 were on my flight from Paris. Between G and myself, we had half of that number. ISA told us that they would meet us at the airport. However, that was all they told us. Without a rendevous point or time, we went hunting for the other 2 students and/or an ISA member.
Like with any other airport, there is the “point of no return,” where you exit through a door and cannot reenter. Scared that we would accidentally go through the door and discover our group was looking for us on the other side, we searched our half thoroughly. When we didn’t see them, we broke down and used my phone to call the director of the program where we were meeting (This is were I discovered the international plan I supposedly set up before I left doesn’t exist. $2.99 a minute-ouch!) But when I was on the phone, I was told to just hang out at the coffee shop for another 40 minutes, since another plane carrying ISA students landed then, and ISA would pick us all up in one fell swoop.
When I hung up, I realized I was in the same exact spot I was before, having no idea which side of the door the coffee shop was on. So G and I dusted off our Arabic vocabulary, and asked a cleaning lady, “Ayna qahwa?” (Which translates literally to- Where coffee?) Though it was rudimentary, it got the job done, and we soon learned that the coffee shop was on the other side of the doors.
Once we exited through the doors, we soon found the other two students. The cliche is true- American accents will find each other. Both of the other students are really cool. (I would tell you more about them, but this is the internet after all.) I’m really looking forward to getting to know them these next 5 weeks!
Shortly after that, a man approached us saying, “Taxi? Taxi?” We waved him off with adamant statements of “La, non, no!” (A little clarification on this- money scams are very big here. People love to sell you things, especially when the target is foreign, as we clearly are.) Smirking a little to himself, the man opens the folder he was holding, showing us the large claim sign spelling out, “ISA” This was our first experience with Mouhsine, one of our program directors. We soon realized Mouhsine is an incorrigible prankster, and a blast to be around. He spoke with us for the next half hour as we waited for the other two students. Once everyone had been found, we gathered our things and headed off to our hotel in Casablanca.
All in all, the airport was an interesting way to start my trip. While it was a little nerve-wracking at the beginning, I soon became more comfortable, and I can’t wait to begin my program. The people, both students and staff alike, are amazing, and I’m really looking forward to the next 5 weeks!