A Journey of 1,000 Miles Begins at the Bus Station

I came to Marrakech to look for opportunity. I have some ideas. Some work is being done. When the time comes all will be revealed. But in the meantime, when you are looking for opportunity, you can’t sit in your apartment waiting for a knock on the door. You have to go out and look around and see what you find. So we are going to travel. For 10 days or so. But 10 days at least. We have a route planned out and our stops picked out. How long we stay in various places will depend on what we find there.

My job this week, my first task on my own really, was to buy a bus ticket. This turned out to be a great lesson in listening and not making assumptions. This is a foreign land and my ideas of what is, are not aligned with reality. Not even close apparently.

I was given very specific directions the other day. Leave the apartment and turn to the right. Head towards Bab Doukala, don’t cross the street, just stay on this side facing towards the park. Blah blah blah blah blah. I stopped listening. Got distracted. In my head I pictured the bus station from two different angles. I’ve passed it before. It’s right over there. I know exactly where it is.

So on Monday I set out to buy my ticket for Wednesday. I’m going to meet my travel companion in Ouarzazate. (Pronounced war-za-ZAT) (“Where you at? Ouarzazate?) This is a large town in the south about a 4 hour bus trip for 100 dh ($13) and I will go there, then we will meet up and spend the night in Ait Ben Haddou. More on that later.

So I head out to grab lunch first, and that puts me on a different route than straight out of my place. No problem. I know my way around and I know how to get to the bus station from where I’m going so no big deal. I eat, head off and find the bus station in short order. A bit of a walk but its a nice day.

Now in my head I’m thinking “bus station” and my mind goes to Union Station in Toronto – don’t ask me why. So as I approach and the streets become more and more “local” shall we say, I readjust my mindset and think of the Greyhound bus station downtown, and the one in Calgary. Seedy is a good word. Then consider this is a bus station in a developing country. So……I march right in. Into the bus station I go. Seedy is a word. Immediately, despite no eye contact, a man is all over me to buy tickets or something. I am standing in the middle of this giant room, with people milling about, staring at me, the affluent white woman, and I’m looking around trying to look all casual and in control when in fact I haven’t got a clue what’s going on. Or where to go. So of course I choose the “phone a friend” option. “What are you doing IN the bus station. No no no. Go out and to the left, it will be right in front of you, a little office. Go there.” Ok. No problem. I exit with my passport and my dignity firmly in tact. I turn to the left. Walk as far as I can until I can’t and think – NO. Walk back around and go ALLLL the way around the station. NO. Go back to the entrance door. Phone a friend. “Ok, so I’m standing in front of the bus station…” Go left he says. Go left and you will see a bunch of little cafes.

OH……go WAY left. Go left, around the park, past the Bab, across the street, across the other street, and THEN to the little group of cafes. Ohhhhhhh. And then I will see the office. Well, “there is no sign on it but you will know it because of the people with all the luggages around there.” Oh right. The luggages. And the people. So I set off to get on the right track, walk a good 6 minutes, find the cafes and eventually find the office. (It was right there the whole time – right where he told me to go I realize in retrospect when I rerun the end of the conversation where I got distracted. Two blocks from my house. JESUS)

Marched right in and bought my ticket. For the 3:00 bus. “But” the man says,  “from here it leaves at 3:30. The train station at 3:00, from here at 3:30. Be here at 3:15”. Yah I remember hearing that too.

So there you go. Big brave girl in the new city. Lessons learned? Listen and do not improvise. Never improvise. Not a good idea.


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