Today, Nabila, the other English Language Fellow, and I were given a security briefing by the U.S. Security Officer from the Embassy, and we met various other people who work in the Public Affairs Office. All of them were very outgoing and helpful, so I think the support I’ll have here will be second to none. It sounds like Morocco is very safe, except for the usual assortment of pickpockets and thieves. Not much to worry about as far as terrorists and their ilk are concerned–just be aware of what’s going on.
We also bought cell phones at the Marjane supermart, sort of the Wal-Mart of Morocco. We paid 449 dirham ($1 = 8.9 dirham) for the phone and another 100 (Nabila) and 200 (me) for a SIM card. There’s a special going on now by the local telecom giant, Maroc Telecom, whereby you get double the time for the card you buy; thus, a 200 MAD card is actually worth 400 MAD (MAD = Moroccan dirham, real mad money!!) My new cellphone number is 212-77-002404. Go ahead, call me. Since I’ve never, ever had or used a cell phone before, I may not answer, because I’m not sure I know how to use the darn thing! I have instructions, but they’re in French. Remember, though, that I am 6 hours ahead of Mountain Time.
By the way, I’ve had lots of opportunities to use my unpracticed, poor knowledge of French today. Nabila and I took a walk to Grill 23, a local eatery at which Hakim and I ate last night. Of course we got lost, so I asked strangers and shopkeepers directions going to and coming from the cafe. I didn’t fare too bad and I think, with a lot of practice and a good French lesson book, I should be able to pick it up ok.
I also found out how much the hotel charges for rooms today. A standard, like mine, runs $289 a night!!!! No kidding. They give a 25% reduction for foreigners, but that still makes it very expensive. We do get reimbursed for hotel stays while we’re waiting to go to our posts, so I assume the program will pick up the tab, since they selected the place. It’s a gorgeous hotel, though, reeking with Moroccan ambience. I’ve taken a few photos, so I’ll post some when I get the chance.
La Tour Hassan
After my diatribe about the airlines yesterday, I found out that Nabila’s most important piece of luggage was lost by . . . Air France. She’s quite distraught that they haven’t found it yet, but hopefully she’ll have it returned to her soon.
Tomorrow morning we go to our cities, Nabila to Tangiers, I to Meknes. Everyone here tells me how fabulous Meknes is, so I’m really looking forward to living and working there. I’ll have to choose an apartment on Saturday, hopefully. One of them under consideration, Hakim tells me, has two bedrooms, a large salon, a nice balcony, and is completely furnished, a nice change from the small studio apartment I had in Korea (though it was paid for by the university).
Rabat is quite a lovely city and I’m very impressed with the country so far. The people are very friendly and everyone was quite willing to put up with my broken French. Oh, yeah, Mom, they have a BEAUTIFUL golf course, as does Meknes, I’m told.
We ate lunch today at Pizza Hut. Go figure. More later.