Laura Hilty – Alicante, Spain
USAC met with students on Monday, April 13th at midnight and started our trip…
When my brother and I traveled when we were young, my dad would always tell us how “the journey was all part of the adventure”. By this, he meant something will always go wrong with travel plans, but you just have to accept it and enjoy the trip for what it is. This was quite clever of him, since with 4 and 6 year olds just the word “adventure” is enough to fix all problems. Still, it is easy to forget that the act of traveling is just as important as the trip itself. Not only does it make the trip more memorable, it adds a new element to the entire experience.
USAC’s trip to Morocco began with an eight-hour overnight bus ride. Once we reached the southern city of Tarifa, we waited at the port to take the ferry to Tangier, Morocco. Unfortunately, the windy conditions made it impossible to leave from that specific port. Lucky for us there was another port 20 kilometers away, so we hopped back on the bus and drove to our new destination. Though this port did have a ferry leaving for Morocco, it took an extremely long time to board the ship and we did not end up leaving until around 2:00pm. With a bus not being the ideal sleeping situation, you can imagine the fantastic moods the students were in when we finally got on the ship. The process to check passports also took a considerable amount of time after we docked in Morocco. Then came two more buses until we finally arrived at our hotel by around 6 or 7pm.
All in all, the trip took around 18 hours. Regardless of the long trip there, it was interesting to see the blatant change in organization from Spain to Morocco. Though it wasn’t the most exciting thing to sit in a line for a long time waiting to get our passports stamped, it gave us a slight introduction to the country we were about to enter.
As for the trip home, the buses and ferry all went very smoothly, though there were still interesting parts of our adventure home. On the bus trip to the port of Tangier, we passed the beautiful Spanish city of Ceuta. Though it shares a border with Morocco, Ceuta belongs to Spain and therefore is a part of the European Union. Once someone is within the borders of the EU, it is nearly impossible to send them back if they do not have proper ID, since no one knows what country they came from. For this reason, there are high numbers of citizens from Sub-Saharan Africa that live in the forests bordering Ceuta, mainly on Monte Gurugú. Though we were told all of this before, actually seeing so many people camped out on the side of the road was incredible. It is very easy to take for granted the ease at which we can travel between countries. Suddenly the 8-hour bus ride seemed a lot less terrible.
Even if we did experience minor delays in our travels to Morocco, the trip was a huge success. If anything, the issues that we had actually fit quite well into the whole Moroccan experience. This trip was not meant to be a sunny beach vacation; it was meant to teach us the culture of Morocco and to show us the clear differences that exist there, especially in comparison to more westernized countries. Because of this, I do not consider any small travel problems to be a negative, but rather, a part of the whole adventure of such an interesting and unique country.
Written by Laura Hilty from Clemson University