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I Find Contentment in Friends of the Road (and laughter in bad jokes)

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The GAME- A horrible, horrible Dutch game that, yes, is bound to confuse you.

So after I dodged the lunatic and befriended Meikal, I ran back to the Youth Hostel so I could get in before they locked the gate at 10 PM. Once safe inside, I attempted to sit at a little table in the courtyard to do a little writing. But work was not to be done on this night, as a load of travellers began pouring in through the door just to sit down and disrupt my concentration by talking of all the glories of Fes (actually there was way more talk of hassles than glory). I did not mind at all, as real people tend to be a slightly more receptive to conversation than the screen of a computer. I also felt like talking. So I left the computer screen and joined in an odd game that a couple of Belgian girls were playing. This game was to become my nemesis for the next three nights.

It was a Dutch game called Confusion. The title sums it up perfected. There is nothing more that I wish to say about it, as I think that I hate it as an enemy.

But this game did provide me with the impetus to befriend the two Belgian girls- whose names were Evelyn and Iris pronounced in a funny Flemish way- and a Japanese beachcomber named Masa. From here on out we joked away the next few days as clouds gently blow across a spring sky. Our conversation was natural, our grins were stuck to our faces, and we all seemed to be travelling for the simple joy of it.

Masa the Japanese Beachcomber.
The next day I was again kicked out of the Youth Hostel at 4PM. My plan was to just spend this time working in an internet café that was suppose to be open until 10PM. It was closed when I got there. I guess they are open until 10PM in jest only. So I again walked through the quickly emptying streets of Fes, alone, with no place to go.

I then rounded a corner and happened to look behind me to find Masa striding off in the direction from which I just came. “Masa ” I excitedly yelled, “Masa ” He then turned around to find me running towards him carting a big shit eating grin across my face. I was happy to have found him.

“Where are you going?” I asked.

“I don’t know, Youth Hostel door was locked, so I just wander in the streets.”

We then began our aimless four hour journey together.

“Have you eaten today?” I asked him.

“Mmm, no,” he replied.

Ramadan makes even infidels from across the seas a little more pious. Not because we exactly wish to be, but because it is difficult to find anything to eat. Some foreigners here try to join in on the “festivities” and fast until the required hour of 6:30 PM, but they tend to not wake up at 4 AM to eat a big breakfast like the Muslims, and therefore have a really difficult time with it. But I wonder how much this is an attempt at participating in a local holiday or if it is just a walk down the route of least resistance- as it takes a slight amount of planning to keep yourself well feed during the day of the Ramadan season.

I have taken a kind of “scavenger” approach to keeping myself well fed. As I am walking down the streets I perpetually step into every little amenities shop and market that I pass by. These places are usually not very complete or well stocked; I have found that it is difficult to find a shop that has everything that you need. One place may have oranges, another bananas; one shop could have milk, and another could have muesli; I bought tuna fish in one little market place, but had to find a can of peas at another. You just have to pick up whatever you can get, whenever you can get it, wherever you are (I suppose this could be a Traveller’s Mantra of sorts). It is an interesting way of going about your day- always thinking about keeping your food stores well stocked. But it works. I am now well fed, taking in enough nutrients (I think), and am pretty content. I just ate a can of tuna salad and a thermos cap of muesli with boxed milk. I now like the feel in my belly.

Nut sellers on the streets of Fes.

So, after being turned away from a couple of cafes, Masa and I eventually found our way to a place that would serve us tea. So I bought us a couple of pots and we settled in to our seats on the side walk of the city’s main drag to watch the evening repast hours pass. Over our little silver cast iron teapots (whose handles were so hot that they were wrapped in old magazines) Masa and I talked of Japan. . . and the Japanese poets that I love so much. After getting really excited about the fact that Masa also likes Taneda Santoka’s haiku, Masa finally broke down and started laughing. He was really amused that I knew anything about Japanese poetry.

“You are Japanese,” he said between fits of laughter.

“Someday I will go back to Japan,” I told him, “I just have to get back to Japan.”

A slinky, extremely thin, bearded and long haired wanderer then slowly began walking by us. He was completely dressed in black: his black hair hung down into his face and gave way to his black beard that ran into his black t-shirt which met up with his tight black jeans that ended at his black Converse sneakers. He looked up at us and seemed to be open to some company, so I called out to him, and he took up a seat next to us.

He was from Spain and I did not even bother to ask his name (names are just about as useful as blenders in the traveller world). He was bold, queer, and had an extremely slinky way of moving that made me unable to stop looking at him- for fear, perhaps, that he may slip down off of his chair, spill through the sewer drain, and be gone for good. I think he was full of tapioca balls, now that I think of it.

Well, this Spanish traveller was a lunatic in that rascally Zen sense, and we made mad talk out of that little Moroccan sidewalk café. He had a vein of confidence that was all his own and seemed to be amused by his own routines. Our humor was compatible and we talked like a couple of raging sociopaths.

“I don’t want to go back to Spain,” he said with a cross of his legs and a flick of his wrist.

“Why are you going then?” I replied.

“One reason- MONEY.”

“Work while travelling,” I said matter of factly. “Teach Spanish or English or something.”

“Teach,” he said and then pause to think about it for a few moments. “I have never thought about teaching,” he continued with a far away look on his face, “because . . . I have never learned anything.” He then turned his glare upon me and asked seriously, “How can somebody teach . . . when then have never learned anything themselves? I am like a donkey, I can’t learn anything.”

That was that then. We rolled around in laugher. “I am serious,” he added.

We then began talking about culture. “The culture is so strong here,” he said. “It is not like this where I come from.”

“It is not like this in America either,” I said. “Our families have degenerated down to such small units that nobody really talks to each other, let alone share traditional knowledge.”

“I think that is good,” spoke the Spaniard. “I think that people should be able to choose their family. It is not fair to be born into a family and be expected to like them just because they are your family. I think that we should be able to choose our family.”

I looked at him with an extremely amused look.

He continued: “I chose my family. I did not like the one that I was born into, so I left when I was fifteen and chose a different one.”

He was serious.

We then returned to talking about Japan with Masa and the Spaniard soon broke in with: “Up until recently I thought that Japan and China were the same country.” Turning to Masa, he asked, “So you mean that you speak a different language and have a different culture than the Chinese?” Masa confirmed that it was true with a laugh. The Spaniard was amusing every body at the table . . . including himself.
“I once ask that to a Japanese girl in Spain and she got really mad and started yelling at me,” the Spaniard continued. “That is how I now know that they are different countries. But I don’t think that they should be. It is just like how Canada thinks that they are a different country than the United States. They are really the same place.”

I agreed and made a jest at how Canadian travellers put silly little Canadian flags on their rucksacks so that they will not be mistaken for big bad Americans.
“What ” the Spaniard exclaimed. “wow, so you mean that they put those little flags on their bags themselves? I just always thought that all bags in Canada came like that from the store.”

We all laughed. Then, with a sudden shriek, the Spaniard jumped to the sky with a knife and fork clutched in each hand and almost knocked over the table. Masa and I prepared for an onslaght. But it was only the wind, which blew up his place-mat and made him think that it was a street cat making way on his territory. He was a little looney.

It was a good pot of tea. But it was time for Masa and I to be returning to the Youth Hostel. The Spaniard said that he would follow us in an hour. We awaited his arrival, but he never came. Oh well, you have to enjoy every moment that you can have with someone on the road, because in a few moments they could be gone for good (as with everything in life).

Meikal, the “curly afro-headed traveller” from the last post.

Masa and I returned to the Youth Hostel for another night of funny talk. A big group of travellers assembled around a plastic lawn table. There was an Englishman, a Kiwi, a Jap (Masa), the two Belgian gals, an American (me), a different Spaniard, his mut girlfriend (some kind of Asian/ European hybrid), and a Soggy Biscuit Old Irish Man.

Talk went well at first. Well, after everybody said where they are from, where they are going, how much of this, a little of that . . . Youth Hostel talk. Then we got into some good digging and really began talking to each other. We were all teetering on the verge of realizing that we were really enjoying each other’s company when the Soggy Biscuit Old Irish Man began making soggy biscuit talk over the entire ensemble. We were assaulted with a barrage of talk about European politics and immigration and all that newspaper nonsense that people travel to get away from. To be blunt, talk about European immigration policy sucks. It is talk like this that can ruin a person. I did not want to be ruined.

NOBODY WANTS TO TALK ABOUT EUROPEAN IMMIGRATION POLICY IN MOROCCO

Why is it that this Soggy Biscuit Old Irish Man sought to ruin a raging night of round the world conversation with soggy biscuit talk about politics? I lived in Ireland for a while and had to run away because I was turning into a soggy biscuit. I went to Spain to dry out.

Maybe that was why the Soggy Biscuit Old Irish Man was in Morocco? Maybe he was just ringing out his soggy biscuit over all of us? Poor guy was probably just trying to dry out a little. But I did not want to take on his soggy biscuit load though, and I realized that I was going to have to do something quick before we all went to bed feeling like stale old soggy biscuits. So I reached for THE GAME (a horrible Dutch game called confusion), opened up the top, and force fed its contents to everyone at the table. We then began telling bad jokes and everything suddenly became A-OK. The Soggy Biscuit Old Irish Man went away to have soggy biscuit talk somewhere else, and we were free to laugh and enjoy ourselves and NOT TALK ABOUT EUROPEAN IMMIGRATION POLICY IN MOROCCO.

Night falls on Fes, Morocco.

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Filed under: Morocco, Other Travelers

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3048 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Wade Shepard is currently in: Polis, Republic of CyprusMap