A Moroccan journey

I didn’t want to ever leave Merzouga, but I had limited time left in Morocco and I needed to see some other cities. Rachel had to leave earlier, so I paired up with a British guy from our hostel for an overnight journey across the country.

We left Merzouga by taxi and headed to a nearby hub for transportation, where we had a bus connection booked to Marrakesh. When the guy who owned our hostel recommended booking the taxi for 2:30 to catch a 5:30 bus, even though the town was less than an hour away, we didn’t understand. However, when the taxi arrived about an hour late and then the driver had to do a bunch of errands on his way out of town, I understood why we needed those buffer hours.

What we didn’t realize is that we had unknowingly booked a local bus (i.e. not the tourist buses that are more reliable and only slightly more expensive) to Marrakesh. Thus, our bus journey started with an hour of standing in the cold, watching every male person in the vicinity try to fix our bus, which showed no signs of starting.

IMG_7818Men attempting to fix the bus

There were giant jumper cables and there were people climbing inside the bus engine and it seemed that everyone had an opinion. Finally, much to my surprise, the bus started and we got on.

In Morocco, they have a two-tiered system for public transit: one for tourists and one for locals. The tourist buses are well-organized, well-maintained, air-conditioned, sell official tickets with assigned seats, and have a schedule for stops they will make. The local buses are quite the opposite, and the price difference is very small, so I had mostly been taking the tourist buses. I admit I was a bit concerned that this particular local bus was going to break down in the middle of the Atlas Mountains, which we had to cross, but it made the journey without any problems.

It was, however, absolutely freezing and also chaos. Paul and I quietly occupied a pair of seats and tried to sleep. However, each time the bus stopped, people filled the aisles (whether they were getting on or off I couldn’t tell) and shouted at each other in Arabic until eventually the conductor made some decisive gestures and everyone either took a seat or got off the bus.

People were getting on and off the bus all night at various small villages along the route, and each time the doors opened (one was right next to our seats), cold air blew into the non-heated bus. You might think that Morocco is a warm place – and mostly you are right – but winter does exist, it gets cold at night, and high in the mountains there is even snow at this time of year. By the time we disembarked the bus around 6:30am in Marrakesh, my feet were numb from the cold!

What an experience that bus ride was. I used to ride local buses like this all the time in Benin, but it had been a while and I had forgotten what they were like. At least there were no livestock on this bus. In Benin that was not always the case.

Once we arrived, I decided to board another bus, bound for the coastal town of Essaouira, instead of finding accommodation in Marrakesh. After the calm and perfection of Merzouga, I just wasn’t ready to jump into life in a big, overwhelming city, and other travelers had told me that Marrakesh was just that. (I have also heard that it is a rich, vibrant city, and I thought I would be able to visit it on my way back north through Morocco but I ended up missing it.)

What I did see of Marrakesh seemed quite nice – I walked through some of the new part of the city on the way from one bus station to another. Modern, tall buildings and palm trees line the wide streets. I walked past a Burger King and some other restaurants I recognized from the US (I was hoping for a Starbucks but didn’t spot one). There was a lot of traffic on the road in the morning – mostly professional people headed to work in nice cars. But alongside that, there was also the occasional donkey-drawn cart and motorcycles like this pulling loads of stuff. Such an interesting mix.


The ride to Essaouira on the tourist bus was far shorter and less eventful than the overnight ride, but by the time I arrived, I had been traveling for more than 18 hours and was pretty exhausted.

As I stumbled off the bus in Essaouira, I immediately smelled the fresh air blowing in from the ocean and knew I had made the right choice.


I ended up spending 10 days in this chilled-out place, which I’ll tell you about in the next post:)

Best books of 2017

One of my new year’s resolutions last year was to read more and watch less TV. I accomplished this one (yes, quitting my job and spending 3 months in Morocco did help) and rediscovered the love of reading I used to have, which university education beat out of me with the sheer volume of reading that was required of us. I discovered some amazing books this year and thought I would share my favorites.

Two thank yous are in order – one to my grandmother, who gave me my first Kindle last year, and one to the Longmont Public Library, which has a great e-book selection that I can access from all over the world. These two things have made it so easy to read and get new books while traveling.

Have you discovered any good books lately? Anything you think I would like? Please share any recommendations in the comments below!

Best overall book:

Homegoing Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

I cannot stop talking or thinking about this book – it is a masterful work of historical fiction which tells a compelling story and also illustrates the painful history of slavery and its later evolutions. It begins in a small village in Ghana and spans seven generations and two countries (Ghana and the United States) as it follows the stories of two sisters whose paths diverge. The reader gets a snapshot of what life looks like for each generation as the sisters children grow up and have their own children. Absolutely incredible book.


Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist

Full disclosure: This book broke my heart, but it was a beautiful reflection of life and it deserves its spot here. The author weaves a fascinating web of interconnecting stories centered around a cast of characters who are each in their own way trying to improve the world. It is a book about humanity, raw, confusing and heartbreaking, and it resonated with me and my world view.

Americanah Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche

Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche is a female Nigerian author whose writing I admire greatly. She does a remarkable job of weaving together many different experiences of identity, coming of age, race, love, and the idea of “home” in this compelling novel. The story spans Nigeria, the US, and the UK and sheds light on the experience of immigrants, as well as highlighting issues of race as central to the characters’ experiences in the US and the UK. At a time when there is so much global discussion about immigration and refugees, and when race is still such a massive issue in the US, I found it a timely book to read and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in any of these issues.


The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

This book is dense and not a quick or an easy read, but it is painstakingly researched and the facts it presented blew my mind. Its premise is that the criminal justice system is simply the most recent in a series of systems to control black people in the United States – first slavery, then Jim Crow, now mass incarceration. The author is a lawyer and it is discusses some fairly complicated legal subjects, but can definitely be understood by the average person. I don’t have a copy with me now to cite some of the facts that I found most compelling, but I do highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in understanding more about how race still plays a huge role in American lives or how the criminal justice system exploits certain groups of people.

Feminist reading:

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

My experience as a woman in Morocco really increased my feminist leanings and made me hungry to read more feminist works. This book is a few years old but I really enjoyed it. Sandberg focuses on American women in this book and presents data about the current limitations for women in the workplace and advice for anyone who wants to make things more equal for women. Excellent read.

The Handmaid's Tale The Handmaid’s Tale

This is a dystopian novel about a potential future (and of course is now also a popular TV series, which I have yet to watch) where an effort to improve life for women has gone horribly wrong. It’s an interesting premise and a cautionary tale. It has feminist leanings but is not strictly a feminist book – I could have also put it under a fiction or sci-fi category.


Honorable mentions – some other good books:

Half of a Yellow Sun Half of a Yellow Sun  A Simple Heart A Simple Heart  A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories

The Book Thief The Book Thief  The Alchemist The Alchemist  This Is How You Lose Her This Is How You Lose Her

So Long a Letter So Long a Letter  Still Life with Bread Crumbs Still Life with Bread Crumbs  Rising Strong Rising Strong 

 Behold the Dreamers Behold the Dreamers   Interpreter of Maladies Interpreter of Maladies  Animal's People Animal’s People

Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam, #1) Oryx and Crake  Outcasts United: A Refugee Team, an American Town Outcasts United: A Refugee Team, an American Town

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

Charity Case: How the Nonprofit Community Can Stand Up for Itself and Really Change the World Charity Case: How the Nonprofit Community Can Stand Up for Itself and Really Change the World 

Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

Bonobo Handshake: A Memoir of Love and Adventure in the Congo Bonobo Handshake: A Memoir of Love and Adventure in the Congo

The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan


So leave your recommendations in the comments below! More chapters from Morocco coming soon:)

Happy New Year everyone!