Danish Theater

Danish Theater

One of the most interesting experiences I had in Copenhagen was going to the movie theater. Jill, Ben and I saw Transformers 2. As Jill pointed out, going to the theater in Copenhagen is a marked difference in culture. For one, everyone has assigned seats. You can pay to be in a better seat. The commercials and previews are pretty long, about 30 minutes, so most people know to enter the theater late. But, if you come too late you are denied entry. After the previews and commercials finish, a curtain closes in front of the screen as the lights dim, signifying that the feature presentaion is about to begin. The movie itself if much more interactive. Everyone laughs at the silly jokes and applauds at the momentous moments – no matter how cheesy (and there were a lot of those at T2). It makes the entire experience more enjoyable, its more like theater on a stage than a movie on a screen. I probably liked Transformers 2 more than I should have, but it was a great experience.

Cph Light

The light in Copenhagen is quite amazing.  The sun sets around 10:00, but it stays light until at least 11.

cphlight1The sun rises around 4:00, but it gets light way earlier.  This photo was taken at around 2:30 – thats the sunRISE.  I guess it changes the meaning of “staying out till sunup.” During this time of year, there is never a Copenhagen horizon that goes entirely dark.

Its a little unnerving to go to sleep in the broad daylight.  I’m not entirely sure I like it, but it sure is interesting.

Copenhagen photos (same as last post): http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2323328&id=9128464&l=22500bcec5
Off to Berlin today. Tousin tak Kobenhagen!

Comparisons

Comparisons

Its so interesting to compare all of the different cultures I have experienced over the past few weeks. The cultures in Morocco, Spain and Denmark are all incredibly different, but are still connected at their roots. Wherever I go, I find that the personality of people are generally the same. The differences across contients are cultural. Personality is something that is instilled within your DNA, whereas culture is something that is learned. Both our DNA and our culture is deeply connected to the environment. For example, here in Denmark they eat fatty foods and have a pale complexion. The pale complexion is because the sun isn’t as harsh up north. The fatty foods is because the sun isn’t as harsh up north, and leads to colder climates. We burn more energy when its cold, and therefore it is more appropriate to eat fattier foods. This nature and culture has evolved together, and, along with isolation, produces unique cultures.

Moroccan Colors

I tend to judge a place by its food.

Zac and I stayed within the medina of most of our Moroccan cities.  Medina is another word for the “Old City,” and medinas are often enclosed within fortress-like walls. The medina in Rabat was a maze, it took many minutes of wandering around in order to get our bearings. The medina in Fez was much more manageable.

Medinas are lined with all sorts of vendors, all full of color.  Some vendors stick to dates and figs, whereas versatile vegetable vendors sell eggplant, avocado, tomato, carrots, mint, potatoes, watermelon and all sorts of other delicious goodies.  There are also vendors who sell grains in barrels of burlap, such as cous cous, rice and legumes.  There are also herbalists who sell fresh spices (I couldn’t resist picking up some tumeric and curry spices).  Other vendors sell all sorts of different olives.  Olives in Morocco are given out at just about every restaurant as a free appetizer.  And of course, there are plenty of vendors who sell meat – with the traditional cuts as well goat head and cow intestine.

Walking down the path of the Medina is intense.  Its a sensory overload, filled with powerful smells and color. As tourists in Morocco, we really stuck out.  I can walk down the streets of Spain and not be recognized as an outsider, but there is no possible way to blend into Morocco, especially as a woman.  Most, but not all, of the women wear headscarves.  Much of the Moroccan city economy depends on tourists, and so foreigners are baraded with invitations to enter their store or restaurant.  Zac and I bought a lot of fresh fruit to snack on while traveling, but did very little stuff shopping.  The only place we entered was a self promoted “rug museum,”which was little more than a rug store. (See photo below) There are photos of King Muhammed V everywhere.  The photo in the “rug museum” was the most statesmen of those I saw, most of the photos are more candid.

"Rug Museum"

"Rug Museum"

The rugs in Morocco are beautiful.  Most of them are handmade, reversible adn full of brights colors.

Back to the food: The food at the restaurants was incredible.  Everything was pretty cheap and very fresh.  The Moroccans eat a Mediterranean diet of olive oil, whole grains and vegetables.  Many dishes are eaten out of a two part ceramic serving dish called a “tagine.” The bottom of the tagine is a regular bowl and the top part is a triagular teepee with a hole through the middle. The bowl is filled with food, covered with the teepee and then put on top of a stove and cooked slowly.  Its delicious. We ate lots of garbanzo beans, cous cous, chicken, eggplant and tomatoes.

Its interesting to see a culture with such a totally different connection to food.  Women cook the food while men work.  The unemployed men hang out in the cafes (but no alcohol, the country isn’t entirely dry but it is difficult to get alcohol).  According to unofficial sources, many people in the Moroccan are unemployed, but few are malnourished. Business are usually family run, and the children work just as much as the parents.

Despite friendly warnings, I was drinking the tap water in Morocco the whole time. I was entirely fine until Tangier, but got a little ill from .  Tangier sucks.  Its pretty touristy, more unsafe and expensive and poorer quality of food.  Its interesting, and difficult, to judge the quality of food.  I couldn’t say how the food in Tangier was worse, but it just was.  The food wasn’t as fresh and the collaboration of spices was off.  In Rabat, Fez and Chefshouen the food was just incredible.

Photos of Morocco: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2322255&id=9128464&l=b50c2cf598

Morocco: Casa, Rabat & Fez

Morocco: Casa, Rabat & Fez

I finally arrived in Morocco yesterday. Zac met me at the Casablanca airport where  we took a crowded train from the airport to Rabat, the capitol of Morocco.  Our hotel was in the center of the Medina, the Old City.  Medinas are labyrinths, and at it took a while to find our hotel.  Most people we asked (we asked about a dozen) had no idea where our hotel was. Zac and I ate delicious street food for dinner, fried fish and eggplant with tomato sauce and chopped onions in a panaera (type) bread.  For postre, we had fresh orange juice, almond milk and a fruit parfait. 

Zac and I loaded up our stuff this morning with the intention to wander around Rabat and then catch a train to Fez.  We were walking along the palace wall when some sort of clear liquid was thrown over the wall and showed upon us.  We decided to hop on the train to Fez and relax in the hotel here.  The trains here are very easy and the countryside is beautiful.

We’re sitting in our hotel room drinking mint tea and snacking on olive oil cookies.  The walls and floors of the hotel are decorated with a beautiful white and blue mosaic, and the windows are ornately designed in abstract form.  I learned in my Intro to Islam class at Georgetown that Islamic art is abstract because the design evoke the feeling of God.  Allah and Muhammad should not be pictured in any form, because a visual representation would bind them to this lowly and material world.  In Islam, there is a complete separation between the material world and the spiritual world.  Art, therefore, can evoke, but not represent God.

There are so many delicious fruits and foods here.  We had fresh figs and dried dates for lunch on the train.  Zac, who is coming from Mali where he mostly eats millet and peanut butter, is enthralled with the brightly colored fruits and the steel infrastructure. I’ve been staying away from unwashed and uncooked food, but I’ve been drinking the tap water and feel just fine.  I figure its good to get my stomach used to the unfamiliar Moroccan bacteria early.

Zac is a great traveling companion.  He is proficient in French and knows enough Arabic. People here speak a mix of French and Arabic, but mostly Arabic.  I can catch a few French words, but I know exactly two words in Arabic.  “Lugj” means “no” and “Shokren” which means “thank you.” Beyond that, Zac is my translator.

 There are much more tourists in Fez than in Rabat, and therefore many more faux guides.  We’ve found good and friendly people wherever we go.

Missing Connections

Missing Connections

I missed my connection from Madrid to Casablanca.  Oops. It was partly my fault and partly the fault of the Madrid airport.  By the time I got to Madrid I was tired from traveling and was confused by a similar flight leaving for Casablanca on a different airline.  No one in the airport could find the flight number of my reservation and kept pointing me to the wrong flight. By the time I realized I was in the wrong terminal it was too late to get there. The next flight that I could get was two days later, on Friday. 

I’m actually glad I missed my connection, being stuck in Madrid was fun and it was a simple reminder that this is a vacation, and I just have to work with what comes at me.  The only downside was that I cut Zac and my time together from 9 days to 7 days.

As I mentioned before, I’ve been working full time and going to school for the past two years.  The only way that I could possibly juggle both of my lives was to have a schedule.  I had plenty of free time over the past few years, but it was space allotted within the schedule.  I am travelling instead of taking the summer to work on my thesis to be free from a schedule.  I never totally had the college experience where I was completely free, and so these six weeks are dedicated to that freedom.   My missed flight reminded me that I have a structure to my vacation, but I’m ultimately free from a schedule.

I happened to have a friend from high school doing a Fulbright scholarship in Madrid, and he took care of me during my extended layover.  We walked to beautiful parks and ate yummy empanadillas (tuna with tomato/red pepper paste wrapped in dough and fried).  It takes a while for me to recall Spanish, but I have two more opportunities to practice – Malaga and Barcelona.