Failing a Pub Crawl

You would think that doing a pub crawl would be pretty easy, especially as a young adult. It’s a simple process of going from one bar to another, buying drink after drink throughout the night. But for me it wasn’t as easy as it sounded. For spring break, my friend Michaela and I decided to travel to Barcelona. And guess what! Saint Patrick’s Day was during our spring break! What other day could be better for a pub crawl? Spain is not Ireland but there are many Irish pubs there.


We started to plan out our route across Barcelona, sitting on our hostel-room floor, maps around us, phones out. We googled to see whether or not the pubs had good reviews and how far we would have to walk to each one, keeping in mind that we might become a bit tipsy during the night. We identified eight pubs, and determined the order in which we would go, starting with the one farthest from our hostel and ending with the one closest. We calculated the estimated travel time and found that if we started at 8:00 p.m., we should end our night around 4:00 a.m., designating one hour to each pub.

Next was outfits. Obviously we needed green incorporated somehow, therefore I chose green pants and Michaela wore a green sweater. Cute comfy shoes were also a must since there would be a lot of walking and, if we planned our outfits right, we could possibly have some guys buy us drinks. Once eight o’clock rolled by, we fastened our Saint Patrick’s Day pins to our jackets and made our way to our first pub: Michael Collins.

Michael Collins was already crowded at 8:00 p.m. People milled about on the sidewalk outside, talking loudly. At the doorway, you could feel the heat radiating from the people inside. From all the activity around the pub, it looked like we had started with the right one. Sadly, there was an entrance fee of 5 euros but hey, we got hats. The moment we stepped through the doors we could tell this was a place for adults in their mid-twenties to forties. We might have been the youngest people there. On top of that, there was absolutely no room to move about. To get to the bar we had to squeeze our way through the crowd, pressing our bodies a little too close for comfort to the people around us. Irish music was bumping and it was obvious that these people had started their night a lot earlier than we had, since more than half of the customers were already drunk.

Now this is where we started to fail. The two of us stood awkwardly by the bar, trying to wave down the bartender. It took at least twenty minutes to squeeze ourselves past the wall of drinkers anchored to the bar and order a Heineken (hint one that the night wasn’t going to go as planned). We then thought it would be a good idea to shuffle deeper into the pub towards the music, but the deeper we got, the more incapable we were of moving. Just when we realized our mistake and tried to turn around, a man stood up from his table and bumped into us, spilling my beer down my shirt (hint two that the night wasn’t going to go well).

Back at the bar, we finally found a safe standing spot off to the side. We both awkwardly sipped our beers as I tried to keep my shirt from sticking to my chest. Conversation was kept to a minimum since the bar was so loud (hint three of the night). We stood there for another ten minutes before determining that we were both too introverted to do a pub crawl by ourselves.

We put our half-finished beers on the bar and made our escape, then decided to take a trip to the market to buy candy, chips, and juice. We ended our night enjoying the quiet of our hostel while browsing through Facebook and laughing at how stupid we had been. One final clue the night was going to be a bust? I don’t even like beer.

—Ashley Tullo

How Far Would You Travel for a Concert?

Story time: imagine you’re in eighth grade and all of a sudden, your life does a 180. You learn to see people in a new light, all sense of judgment seems to fly out the window, you begin to understand your self worth, and start to see that anything you want is within reach if you just take a chance and work for it. You’ve been completely inspired and when you look back you realize that the spark that ignited that inspiration was a 26-year-old stage actor who took a chance and auditioned for a singing show. That was me eight years ago and now that stage actor is a global superstar named Adam Lambert.

Since American Idol, he has sold out hundreds of shows, done two world tours with three amazing albums, and become the new front man for Queen. Because I was younger at the time, I was not allowed to go to his first concert in Washington, DC; that basically killed me, and I’m still salty about it to this day. But since then I have dropped hundreds of dollars on concert tickets and traveled all along the East Coast in order to catch him at various radio shows and on his tour with Queen; I even had the chance to meet him in 2012. But when I literally crossed an ocean to see him, I’m pretty sure I reached a new level of insanity.

Last summer, when Adam dropped his third studio album, The Original High, I had a feeling he would probably start touring just as I left for my study abroad in Morocco—and I was right. But I was determined not to miss another solo tour, so to the Internet I went! Furiously, I searched through the dates and locations of his European leg looking for a show that I could attend during a weekend jaunt. A Thursday evening in London seemed like the perfect show! So I recruited Michelle as a travel buddy and we booked a flight and hostel, and bought floor tickets to the Hammersmith Theater.

On the day of the concert, as we were flying to London, I realized just how far I was traveling for this dude. I was nearly 4,000 miles from my hometown, and only slightly disappointed that my insanity had led me on this amazing adventure! But as I stood in line outside the venue, surrounded by my people, I felt like I was home. Glamberts ranging in age from 5 to 95 were popping champagne and waiting patiently in a long, winding queue. Once the doors opened we all flooded in and found a place on the packed dance floor. After the opening act left the stage, the excitement in the room amped up as a swirling light show of graphics spelled out his first name. When Adam appeared in a red leather outfit, showing off tattooed arms and astounding vocals, the crowd exploded from zero to alone-in-your-bathroom-style belting, as the room collectively sang (screamed?) along.

If there’s anything that Idol teaches its contestants to do, it’s how to sing live and how to do it well. The Queen guitarist, Brian May, describes Lambert’s voice as a sound that “reaches out with sensitivity, depth, maturity, and awesome range and power which will make jaws drop all around the world,” and he is right! Throughout the 90-minute show Adam sang and danced around the stage, connecting with every member of his audience. He started the set full of energy, then changed into a classy suit and got serious. He got on his soapbox and began to preach about diversity, acceptance, and how music has this amazing power to bring so many different people together. Later, he even name-dropped and pointed out his fellow Queen members, Brian and Rodger, in the audience. (I’m not going to lie: I had almost forgotten we were in London at this point and freaked out a little that they were there.) Then Adam changed again into a black and white tie-dyed ensemble and brought the party back. By selecting his best-loved singles and some fan favorites, all three of his studio albums were represented, with a couple of covers thrown into the mix too. Adam paid homage to his American Idol roots with a cover of Tears for Fears’ “Mad World” (I may have cried for that one), pulled off a great tribute to David Bowie with “Let’s Dance,” and then closed with the Queen classic, “Another One Bites the Dust.”

After the lights went out a slightly deafened Michelle and I headed for the London Underground. We desperately searched for something to drink in order to soothe our sore vocal cords, and watched as other concertgoers sang and danced through the station, darting off in every direction to catch their trains. That night I barely slept; the next day we began to explore London!

—Hannah Debeljak

Irish You Were Niall

Traveling to Ireland for spring break was something that I always wanted to do, but I never imagined that I’d meet the father of my favorite celebrity: Niall Horan of the band, One Direction. I have followed Niall and the rest of the boys for years. I’ve stayed up until midnight to listen to their newly released music, bought all their albums, seen them in concert, and even met them back in 2012. That was one of the highlights of my study-abroad experience and one of the most vivid images in my mind.

It all started with a visit to Niall’s hometown and the craving for my favorite beverage: pulp-less orange juice. Since pulp-less orange juice is not common in Morocco, my day was already made when my orange-juice-deprived-self saw a whole aisle dedicated to it in the local Tesco.

I was making my way to the refrigerated beverage section when I spotted a face that looked too familiar. It didn’t even take me a second to recognize the face of Niall’s father behind the meat counter. Although I usually disregard this section back home, I literally ran to speak with this man who is like God to me. I could not have been more excited to engage in conversation with him. What better person to talk to about my love for Niall Horan than his dad?

“Excuse me. Are you Bobby Horan?” I asked, even though I knew the answer better than the back of my hand. As he formulated a response, I began to sort out what I should and shouldn’t say. After all, Niall does not know me personally. So it would probably be strange to mention certain facts that I know about him to his father. “I love your son,” I said, without waiting for a response.

He laughed, “Well that’s something we have in common.”

Wow, I thought, I love this man. We began to talk about Niall, occasionally bringing in Harry and the other band members as well. Bobby mentioned that he had watched Niall grow up through the media, and that the last time Niall was home was around Christmas. We talked about Niall for an hour straight before Bobby asked me for my name.

I was caught off guard. How could my own father-in-law not know my name? I’ve followed him and Niall for years. Wait, I thought, dumbfounded. What even is my name? Eventually I replied, “Michelle,” in a slightly puzzled voice.

Niall’s dad laughed as he asked me to tell him more about myself. I told him that I was from Connecticut and I was studying abroad in Morocco, which surprised him.

“How do you like that?” he asked. He then cut some ham for a customer. “This is Michelle,” he told her. “She’s studying abroad in Morocco. She loves my son.” The woman laughed in approval.

“Wait here,” Niall’s dad said before I could say anything more. He disappeared into a back room and shortly returned holding a small piece of paper. “This is for you. I had Niall sign some pictures for fans for Christmas. This is the last one left over.”

My eyes became teary at this exciting news. A real-life picture that the real-life Niall Horan touched, for me. “I’m gonna cry,” I stated when the picture was in my possession. I glanced down at my phone and gasped, realizing that I was now a whole hour late to breakfast. “I have to go but can I please get a picture with you first?” I asked. Niall’s dad nodded and I snapped a quick picture, then ran out of the store, toward a taxi, completely forgetting my orange juice but holding onto Niall’s picture for dear life.

After arriving back at our bed and breakfast, I posted the pictures on Twitter as Paxton and I indulged in eggs, bread, tater tots, and bacon. To my surprise, the post blew up almost immediately, resulting in around three thousand retweets and two thousand favorites. Due to the multiplying replies and congratulations, the app would crash after two seconds every time I opened it. In the end, I gained almost two thousand followers on Twitter and a hundred on Instagram.

Due to my new Internet fame, I have been advised to put the signed picture of Niall up for sale so I can make a lot of money. But not even the thought of billions of dollars can compare to the exhilaration I feel whenever I look at my prized picture of Niall. That picture will be something that I will treasure for the rest of my life, even when Niall and I are married.

—Michelle Krasuski

Parting Words

Before I part ways with Tangier, I do not wish to say goodbye. Goodbye marks an end. Instead, I will leave with “See you soon.” I do not consider this last week to be my final encounter with the ever-changing city. I am young, with a wide-open future. “Everything happens for a reason” is a quote I was raised on. Life is a trail, a combination of forks in the road. Although I have the power to influence my direction, I do not have the ability to create the trails. Some paths may lead to the same destination, but they will take you on a different course. There will be some paths that lead you far from where you intended to go, but their purpose is to help you find who you are.

Morocco was the path that led me in what appeared to be, at least at first, that “wrong direction.” Before I finished my first semester in college, I was given the offer to switch my major from psychology to social work. Because the social work program was new, however, I would be forced to graduate later than my original date of May 2019. This meant I now had the opportunity to take a leave of absence, declare a minor, or study abroad. Taking a leave of absence never crossed my mind, so that left me with two options. As I was still unsure whether a career in psychology or social work was in my future, I made the decision to travel to Morocco.

Words can’t explain the anxiety that ran through my body when I received the acceptance letter. The coming of that letter meant that my second semester was going to be spent overseas, in North Africa. I had never left the United States before and wondered if studying in Morocco was going to be a waste of my time. I believed there was no possible way I could better my understanding of psychology in Tangier.

But I couldn’t have been more wrong. The lessons I have learned while in Morocco are unobtainable in a lecture hall. I’ve learned philosophy from those who have so little. I have seen people who have all the reasons to hate everything smile wider than humanly possible. I’ve seen a homeless family give up the food I gave to them because someone else down the street had a baby girl who needed it more. I’ve even been lectured about the meaning of life over a cup of steaming mint tea.

Studying in Tangier has provided lessons that will last a lifetime. No matter my career, no matter my location, I will always remember the place that opened my eyes. I’ve always been thankful for what I have but, after spending four months here, I realize just how fortunate I am. One day I will return and I will learn much, much more.

Boarding the plane at Logan was my first step on the questionable path. Somehow, that path still led me to where I was destined to go.

—Kevin Thibodeau

Slurping Snails

“Just copy me,” Imad said as the vendor placed two steaming bowls of escargot before us. He picked up a snail shell and, using the toothpick, pulled out the little black mollusk. He tipped his head back and gulped it down. Imad proceeded to smile at me when he saw my slightly horrified reaction. “What?” he asked. Although I am an open-minded individual, this was not at all what I had imagined. My only experience eating a shelled creature was one snail from a can, and without the actual shell.

We stood by the side of the wooden cart in the square of the Chefchaouen medina. There were snail shells covering the wood, indicating that this vendor did great business here. Although it was late at night, the medina was alive with lights and the air buzzed with the sound of many voices.

Mimicking my friend, I picked up a snail shell—but dropped it immediately. It was too hot to touch, fresh out of the pot.

“Careful, it’s hot. Let it sit,” he advised.

Stubborn, I pinned the shell against the bowl while I pulled out the snail with a toothpick. Its stringy, long, black body dangled off my toothpick. I didn’t think, I just popped it into my mouth, savored it for a moment, then swallowed. It wasn’t slimy like they were when they’re alive—it had a slight chew with a meaty center, but an odd after-taste of something unique to the species. I looked over at Imad, who picked up another snail shell and, instead of using the toothpick like he’d done previously, slurped the snail from its shell. I followed suit—it was actually easier to eat it that way. I didn’t have to actually see what it was I was eating. I didn’t have to think. And this way, there was also an oddly flavorful liquid inside the shell as well.

Imad was nearly half done while I continued to slowly pick through the snails one by one, dropping empty shells on the wood as so many others had done before me.

“Are you from Portugal?” A young man beside me spoke English.

“No, I’m from the U.S.” I responded.

“In Portugal, we eat snails all the time. They’re usually different, but we get a lot from Morocco.”

“Do you speak Spanish?” Imad chimed in. “¿Hablo espanol?”

The two of them exchanged words in Spanish that I didn’t follow. Instead, I just focused on my snails. One by one, I continued to slurp them. Some of the bigger ones were a bit extra meaty—gooey even. I didn’t like the texture of those.

“Do you want any of these?” I asked Imad.

“No thanks. Come on, you can finish them,” he encouraged.

I stared down the four remaining snails and finished them. I then watched him drink his bowl of mysterious green liquid.

“I drink this?” I eyed it.

“Yes,” he responded.

“Don’t even tell me what this is. I don’t want to know,” I said quickly.

“Okay. I won’t.” He laughed.

I sipped it slowly. It was no longer boiling hot, but was the same flavor as the liquid in the snail shell. I realized it was the broth the snails had been cooking in. Except this was spicier than what was in the shell. It was hot on my tongue.

I finished it, feeling quite triumphant.

“It’s only 2 dirhams.” Imad dug into his pocket for change.

I did the same with my purse, pulling out a two-dirham coin and thanking the vendor.

—Michaella Wiss

A Night in the Desert

The sand in the Sahara reminded me of the magic carpets that are sold in the rug shops of Moroccan medinas: the color was always changing. When the sun was high in the sky, the sand was bright orange; when the sun went down, it became a pale tan color. When I stood in the dunes, the sand seemed to go on forever. After climbing the 500-foot sand dune that towered over our desert camp, I got the feeling that I was just a speck of life living between the ripples of sand at the bottom of the sea. I was standing in a waterless ocean, where the only way out was up.

During the day, the air was hot and I prayed for the relief that would come as the sun began its descent in the sky. At night, the cold air slowly crept into the desert. When I woke up, I was colder than I had ever been before. My eyes shot open. I was freezing. (I knew I should have worn my fleece pants to bed.) Closing my eyes again, I reached a hand out from under the heavy camel-fur blanket. I tapped the ground next to me, in search of my phone. The blinding light from the screen illuminated my face. It was 3:30 a.m. Only two more hours until I had to wake up (again) to mount my trusty camel, Shaun—I’d given him that name on the trek from Merzouga—in order to leave our carpeted oasis and head for town.


As I packed up my backpack to leave, it was still dark out. The moon was full, however, which eliminated the need for a flashlight. We were leaving early so that we could trek out of the desert during the sunrise. Enticed by the sound of camels in distress, I decided to see what was going on. Our camp was constructed of a series of provisional carpet forts arranged in a square, with a fire pit at the center. As I walked out, I was intercepted by two camels running away from their trainer, who quickly followed in pursuit. The pair didn’t get very far before the man caught them and tied them back down to a post in the sand. Joined by the rest of my friends, we approached our caravan and hoped that we wouldn’t experience any more camel revolts on the trek out of the desert.

We rode beneath the glowing moon for the first section of our journey, then greeted the sun as it reluctantly climbed into the sky. Slowly, the sky began to brighten and pigments of pink and yellow splashed across the horizon, painting it with cotton-candy streamers until the golden rays of the sun pierced the atmosphere. The rising sun turned the dunes a reddish hue as the grains of sand continued to give way under the weight of our caravan. Merzouga was in sight, and it was time to leave the Sahara behind.

—Hannah Buckley

Letters to Dad

Dear Dad,

I thought of you today. Today I am in Morocco, three days ago I was in Spain, and tomorrow I am headed off to Italy. With all of the traveling I have been doing these last few weeks, I remembered how you used to tell me about the places you traveled to during your time in the air force. In all those years and all those countries, you never landed in Morocco.

It is impossible for me to picture your facial expressions or the reaction you would have if you were ever to experience Tangier. So many people have told me that there is something different about Tangier, some sort of special charm that entices people to become immersed in its culture. It is so difficult for me to decide whether or not you would give in to that charm, and allow yourself to see Tangier as it really is, or if you would simply pack up and leave—crushed by its overpowering intimidation. Would you roam the streets, curious about what you would find? Or would you remain sheltered behind the gates of the university, avoiding the copious stares directed toward your bluntly white skin? Would you have the willpower to avoid eye contact with the incessant beggars on every sidewalk? Could you figure out how to communicate without using words?

Throughout my last few months here, I have learned that Tangier is a place that has to be seen, explored, and experienced by diving in headfirst, without hesitation. If I ever get the chance to come back to this amazing place, I am taking you with me, and that is exactly what we will do. I will lead you through the winding whitewashed walls of the medina, where I will show you how to bargain with the local shopkeepers to ensure you don’t get ripped off. Once we are finished playing mind games with the tireless shopkeepers, we will hop in a little blue and yellow taxi and head to Café Hafa for some cliffside mint tea.

I know how much you love your Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, but I’m sure once you taste this tea you will understand why I am always going on and on about how delicious it is. By the way, don’t be surprised when the two men at the table next to us start rolling a joint, it’s only hashish. We will toss fourteen dirham on the table then make our way to Plaza Pool. I can picture your eyes lighting up as we walk down the stairs that open to a sea of pool tables. I can imagine the look of confusion on your face when you see the wrong kind of “football” playing on every television screen around the room. Please go easy on me for the first few rounds of pool—I haven’t had that much practice.

Dad, there is way too much to show you here in Tangier; I can’t even begin to explain it all in one letter. In fact, no matter how many letters I write to you, you will never fully understand or appreciate this incredible city unless you experience it for yourself. Sometimes I wish you were here with me so you could see what I’ve seen, so you can explore with me, and have crazy new adventures every day. I can’t wait to see you and tell you absolutely everything when I get home! I love and miss you.

Sincerely (your favorite daughter),


Before I Leave

Before I leave Tangier, I want to discover something more. I want the feeling paleontologists get when they uncover bones that prove something existed on this planet millions of years ago. The feeling of something being always there but never noticed, because no one ever took the time to see it or to understand its purpose. I want to find the hidden treasure of Tangier. It could be a particular mint tea in which the sugar perfectly evens out the bitterness, creating the definition of yin and yang. The café view where you forget where you are: you just feel overwhelming beauty that you can only describe as tranquility. An alley of the medina where you’re transported back to a time long before even your grandparents’ births, where the colors create such a vibrant rainbow you wonder if you’re staring into the sky. Rugs upon rugs, tapestries with patterns and color collaborations you couldn’t have dreamed of, vegetables and fruits in dynamic shades that you couldn’t find in the States no matter how hard you tried.

Before I leave Tangier I want to find a way to capture everything I’ve seen and wrap it in a little bow. So I can give it to my family, allowing them to live through this experience too. I want to witness tradition more—I was given a glimpse purely by fate when adventuring with Kevin one night, following the trail of music to a wedding and seeing how Moroccans celebrate the sanctity of marriage right outside the UNE gates. I didn’t realize the influence of traditional Moroccan culture in a modern-day city until then. We Americans always claim that our heritage will remain a part of us but Moroccans do it. They practice what they preach and think nothing of it; culture is tradition and tradition is life, something they were raised in and don’t question. The most I can say about my culture is I’m a fan of wine and I can roll a mean meatball.

Photo 1 [1098719]

Before I leave Tangier I want to thank every Moroccan I’ve met. Starting with Douaa who I have become amazing friends with, a friendship I know will continue after I leave. And ending with the old man in a green djellaba I saw sitting in the Chefchaouen medina, looking like a piece of seaweed floating within the blue pearl. Everyone in between made this experience a little sweeter and more memorable. From the loud nights surrounded by music and alcohol in Régine, to the quiet evenings sitting at our secret garden café, enjoying mint tea and conversation accompanied by an acoustic melody.

—Natalie Tremblay







A Day in Tangier on 200 Dirhams

Tangier, Morocco, is a city known for its unique culture, ability to attract famous musicians and writers, and its affordability. With only three weeks left in my new home, I decided that it would be interesting to see just how easy it is to spend a full day in the city with only 200 Dh—about $20 USD or enough to buy a large pizza and 2L coke in the United States.

Leave Campus 9:00 a.m.
After repeatedly ignoring my alarms for several hours, I work up the strength to break free from the grasp of my warm bed. Now that I’m awake, showered, and dressed, my next order of business is breakfast.

Remaining: 200.00 Dh

Eric Kayser Bakery 9:15 a.m.
The smell of fresh croissants wafts in a 100-foot radius of the café’s modern glass walls, leading my still half-asleep body through the front entrance. In the inner portion of the café there is an arrangement of breakfast food ranging from chocolate pastries and quiche to macarons of every color—all of which have both an eat-in and a take-out price, with the latter being cheaper. With my limited funds in mind, I select one Plié au Chocolat to go (7.50 Dh) and leave in search of somewhere to enjoy my breakfast for free.

Remaining: 192.50 Dh

“Lazy Wall” (Sour Al Meêgazine) 9:30 a.m.
No seating is available in the upper region of wall by the cannons. Instead I find a vacated bench several flights down, amongst the scattered groups of sleeping homeless men. My chocolate pastry is rich and sweet, its crispy golden-brown exterior crumbles with every bite I take—contrasting with its interior that is still warm and chewy. Other than the blanket forts from my homeless companions, the landscape in front of me is clean and colorfully green—reminding me of a local dog park near my home back in the States.

Remaining: 192.50 Dh


Le Salon Bleu 11:50 a.m.
The secluded rooftop terrace is a nice change of scenery from the waves of French cruise passengers that fill the streets of the Kasbah. The entrance blends in perfectly with the surrounding residences: only a small blue sign and a framed menu reveal the actual identity of the tall whitewashed walls. I order an expensive cup of mint tea (20.00 Dh) and Kasbah Croq’ (12.50 Dh) to share with my companion, Alyssa. The tea is sugary and hot, the croq’ is smoky and sweet from its combination of roasted turkey and melted brie, and the complementary straw hat effectively protects my eyes from the glaring sun.

Remaining: 160.00 Dh

American Legation 1:00 p.m.
Despite being my second time through the legation, it is more memorable after reading the stories of American author Paul Bowles (there’s a whole room dedicated to his work)—it’s well worth the affordable entrance fee (20.00 Dh). The large rooms are empty of any other visitors—apparently French vacationers are not interested in the U.S.’s history with Morocco.

Remaining: 140.00 Dh

Unknown Nut Stand—Medina 2:30 p.m.
This undistinguished, closet-sized shop attracts my attention for one reason: the man is selling the caramelized peanuts that I’ve been searching for since I first had them in Jamaa El Fna Square in Marrakech. I ask for two servings (10 Dh), and receive a paper cone filled with the sweet and salty nuts—making for a perfect snack while traversing the medina.

Remaining: 130.00 Dh


Café Hafa 3:00 p.m.
As a renowned destination in Tangier, Hafa’s multileveled whitewashed terraces have been attracting locals, tourists, and famous artists—including Paul Bowles and the Rolling Stones—for over a century. As a result of such timeless popularity, the café’s numerous mosaic tables are often fully occupied by groups of Tangerines relaxing in brown plastic garden chairs. Today is no exception, forcing Alyssa and I to sit at the last remaining table on the second lowest balcony. I order a cup of the best mint tea in Tangier (7.50 Dh) and enjoy the views of the bustling blue waterway separating Europe from Africa.

Remaining: 122.50 Dh

Medina 4:30 p.m.
I finally find the Moroccan flag I’ve been searching for, completing my collection of flags from every country I’ve visited. The shopkeeper’s initial price is unrealistically high, claiming that the material is the finest in all of Morocco. I barter down to a more reasonable price (50.00 Dh), less than half of what he was asking.

Remaining: 72.50 Dh


Tanger Nord 6:00 p.m.
This is the only restaurant I have found near Avenue Mexico—a long bustling street that contains everything from counterfeit Nike apparel to kitchen utilities—that actually serves traditional Moroccan food. I order a sizzling chicken tajine served with bread and fries (40.00 Dh) and a 0.5L bottle of Sidi Ali water (12.00 Dh) to help quench my thirst from walking all day.

Remaining: 20.50 Dh

Le Gelateria—Iberia 7:30 p.m.
The air-conditioned rooms are crowded and full of cigarette smoke, as is traditional for cafés in Morocco when soccer games are being broadcast. After selecting a table with minimal exposure to the cancerous clouds, I wave my arms frantically to catch the attention of one of the waiters—who always seem to be preoccupied with something more important than their customers. I order one scoop of chocolate gelato (15.00 Dh) and sit back to watch as the final groups of French vacationers migrate back towards their docked home.

Remaining: 5.50 Dh.

After spending 10.5 hours navigating through bustling streets, dodging the never-ending supply of wild felines, fighting off unrealistic sale offers, and consuming lots of traditional cuisine—my day is finished. In the end, I have walked 13.42 miles shopping, eating, and finding amazing views while only spending 194.50 Dh—confirming that a full day in Tangier can be had for less than a pizza combo in the United States.

—Aidan McGowan


Address list:

Erik Kayser
Rue Des Amoureux
+212 05 39 33 1683

“Lazy Wall” (Sour Al Meêgazine)
Avenue Pasteur

Le Salon Bleu
Rue de la Kasbah
+212 06 62 11 2724

Café Hafa
Avenue Hadj Mohamed Tazi

American Legation
8 Rue d’Amerique
+212 05 39 93 5317

Tanger Nord
Rue Ibn Zaidoun
+212 05 39 33 1264

Le Gelateria
Place Quiete (Iberia)
+212 05 39 37 990 04


The Treacherous Trench

We came to a halt at the rotary in front of the Grand Mosque of Tangier. This roundabout is encircled with popular cafés and restaurants and was especially crowded at rush hour, with blaring horns from the congested traffic. Our group crossed the street halfway and waited in the median, stranded by the flashing red lights on the other side. Just then I heard something behind me and to my right.

I turned to see a Moroccan man in a tan djellaba, accented with a slightly darker shade of brown. He began to cross the street about twenty feet away from where I stood in the crosswalk. He wore an off-white taqiyah, a traditional Moroccan cap worn by Muslim men, and walked with a cane, tapping it casually on the pavement with each step. My initial thoughts were that he was blind, but he seemed to have no trouble navigating the street. I began to wonder if his cane was to assist him in walking, rather than to scan the ground in front of him.

This particular stretch of road was under construction. To my right, part of the median had been replaced with a trench 10 meters long and just shy of waist deep. The trench was completely open to its surroundings, without warnings or barricades, not even a street cone. Scooters raced by the pit with their tires a mere six inches from the edge, treading a dangerous line. The floor of the trench was littered with chunks of cement and rocks. Some were blunt, but many were jagged and rough.

The man continued forward, crossing the street with ease before approaching the trench. He tapped his cane and slowed with the recognition that there was a step down. I watched attentively as he began to lower one foot, with his body continuing forward. At this moment, time seemed to slow to a standstill. Led by his cane, and then his arms, the man fell into the rock-filled pit. The top half of his body arched downward and his legs sprawled above his head. His face was overcome with a look of surprise and fright as he let out a brief shriek. Then his head met with the jagged edge of a block of cement. The wooden cane landed a couple of feet away from him in the trench.

“Oh, God,” I said.

I rushed toward him and lowered myself into the trench. The gravel crunched beneath my feet. The man was surprisingly alert as I handed him his cane and helped him to his feet. I stood with one hand on his left arm and the other across his back. He began feeling his way up the rough inner edge of the trench, then pulled himself out as I gently supported him from behind. Once out, he repeatedly touched his left hand to his head before holding it in front of his face, as if he was inspecting it.

From beneath his taqiyah, a single trail of blood began to fall down the side of his face and neck. Each time he brought his hand to his head, it became more and more covered in blood. The blood was the most intense red color I have ever seen; it was vibrant, almost neon. A small stream now dribbled down his head, dividing itself into two red trails.

Now across the street and away from the treachery of Moroccan road work, we stopped in front of the Grand Mosque. I asked our group if anyone had a phone and could call for help, but nobody knew who to call. Other bystanders began rushing to the man’s aid; soon he and I were completely surrounded. Women selling tissues stopped their routines and used their merchandise to clean his face and head. One man removed his cap to reveal the wound: a one-inch gash across the parietal region of his skull. I remained as people began to clean him and help him, holding his hand.

I looked around at the people who had come to his aid. Men and women spoke to him while others tended to his wound. All of their faces blurred together. It seemed people were jostling for position to help the man. I was surrounded and overwhelmed with the crowd around me. So many voices, so many hands, so many people. I rubbed his back in parting before hesitantly weaving my way out of the crowd. Just then a woman turned and spoke to me with a hand over her heart.

“Shukran,” she said. Thank you.

Despite the large, public audience for the man’s fall, there were no actions taken to change the construction site. The trench remained for almost two weeks, slowly being filled but still otherwise exposed and prone to accidents of a similar nature.

—Nicholas Bolognia


5 Reasons to Experience a Moroccan Home Stay

Until recently, I was never entertained by the idea of a home stay—regardless of the country. However, after putting my shy personality aside and spending two nights in a Moroccan home in Chefchaouen, I now understand why home stays are an experience many people choose to seek out. As I saw in Chefchaouen, Moroccans go above and beyond expectations as hosts. Here are five reasons why you should experience a Moroccan home stay:

1. You’ll Never Go Hungry
After arriving at our hosts’ humble abode, we were greeted with cups of steaming mint tea that were magically refilled every two minutes, and a plate of lemon cake that was shockingly replenished every time a piece was consumed. Dinner and breakfast the following two days were no different. There were three or four large plates everyone shared that contained a limitless amount of delicious food; this is perfect if you have a bottomless stomach.

2. You’ll Feel Like Family
After a long day of hiking the Akchour Waterfall in the Rif Valley, I came back to our hosts’ home exhausted, sore, and ready to curl up in bed. My neck was extremely rigid and swollen, to the point where I could barely turn it—this had become a regular occurrence since a group excursion in February, where it was mysteriously injured. My host mom noticed my discomfort and immediately brought out Voltarène, an anti-inflammatory gel with a strong rubbing alcohol odor. She sat there and massaged it into my neck as I drank my bottomless tea; this is the kind of treatment I would receive at home from my own mother.

3. Your Foreign Language Skills Will Improve
Our host family spoke several languages, but the host mom was a French teacher so she frequently spoke to us in French, testing the limits of our knowledge. What little Arabic we knew was also implemented in our speech; we were corrected when mistaken, praised when we were right, and taught some useful new phrases like bgit makla (I want food) and ma-fhmt-sh (I don’t understand).

4. You’ll Have A Real Moroccan Experience
After spending two days in the footsteps of our host, we had an inside look at the ordinary life of a Moroccan: an afternoon spent sipping tea in a café, a stroll through the medina, a grueling evening engaged in yelling matches about soccer. Be aware that some households turn their water off at night, so make sure to brush your teeth before 10:00 p.m., otherwise you might be out of luck; or in this case, out of water.

5. You’ll Cherish Your Memories Forever
Tangier is unlike anything I have ever experienced before, but staying in a dorm in the city can’t be compared to staying with a Moroccan family. You’ll always remember the warmth and kindness of your hosts, the sweet aroma of pumpkin wafting off the mountain of fluffy couscous, and the vibrant colors of mosaic tiles lining the walls and floors. Besides, how could you forget a home where you are immediately greeted with endless amounts of tea, and welcomed into the family as if it was your own?

—Alyssa White

Letter to a Young Nephew

Dear James,

Happy half-birthday! I can’t believe that it’s already been six months since you came into this world. I have been apart from you for over three months now, and I’ve missed being around you for every second of it. Despite being over 3,000 miles away in North Africa, I still feel as though I’ve been right there with you—living vicariously through Aunt Margo’s constant Snapchat selfies with you and Gramber’s notoriously poor-quality photos of you playing with the dogs.

As a way to help satisfy my godfatherly desire for interaction with you, I have taken to volunteering some of my free time at a local orphanage, where I can hold and play with little boys and girls your age. Whenever I’m brought into the small sunlit room—furnished only with twelve full cribs, a large red carpet, and a small arrangement of used toys—I remember how fortunate we are to have been born into such a caring and loving family. My time away from you and our family has changed me as a person, opening my eyes to the realities of the world and the different cultures that it contains. Now, as you pass the first milestone of your life and quickly approach the next (one year old), I want to pass along some lessons that I’ve learned during my time in Morocco!

photo by Paxton Arsenault

photo by Paxton Arsenault

1. Be Adventurous. As you will hear your grandpa say countless times in your lifetime, “Maine is a small state that contains only a small fragment of the world.” Advice that I never truly heeded until I decided to venture across the world for a semester. During my time in Morocco, I have hiked a windy mountain trail leading to the mystical Akchour waterfall, wondered along the rolling seaside in Rabat, and explored a few of Europe’s most famous cities. Cappy is right: the world is full of amazing places and unique people—all you have to do is look. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone and explore the unknown!

2. Be Grateful. It is easy to take everything around you for granted, as it can be hard to recognize how fortunate you are to have something until it’s gone—something that I have learned first-hand during my time living in a developing country, submerged in a foreign culture. The streets of Tangier are full of young children who have dropped out of school because their families need them to help keep food on the table by begging. I can remember a specific time when a young boy—who wore tattered forest-green shorts and a dirty brown shirt that appeared as though it were originally light blue—approached me asking for food because he was hungry. Luckily I had just purchased a small bag of tangerines and was able to give him a few pieces. Wake up grateful to be born into a family that loves you unconditionally, in a place of opportunity where you can become whatever you want.

photo by Paxton Arsenault

photo by Paxton Arsenault

3. Be Open Minded. When I first left the United States, I brought with me a narrow-minded attitude that nothing in Africa could ever compare to my homeland. However, now as I prepare to leave, I return with the realization that being different doesn’t make something bad or lesser in any way. Rather, it is better to welcome differences with open arms and a willingness to learn. Everything about Moroccan culture—whether it is the weekly consumption of freshly prepared couscous or waking up early every morning to the call to prayer—has surprised me in new and enjoyable ways, helping me become more self-aware and accepting of other cultures. Living life with an open-minded mentality will allow you to better understand and interact with any person or culture you come into contact with, making your horizons endless.

Morocco has forever changed me as a person, and I hope these three pieces of advice will someday prove to be helpful. Have a happy half-birthday Babyman, I’ll see you soon!

Love you lots,
Uncle Aidan

Sushi in Tangier?

Dear Dad,

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been here in Morocco for four months, but it’s even harder to believe that you haven’t been here with me. This is the first time that you and Kayla have not accompanied me on a significant trip. When I miss you, I think back to all our other adventures: clutching a cup of Timmy’s hot chocolate while blazing our way through the icy Montréal wind; exploring the vast Jasper Mountains by horseback; walking through the thick mist of Niagara Falls; cracking freshly cooked lobsters on the beaches of Shediac. Thinking back to all of these adventures makes me wish you were here even more.

One of the things that I’ve missed most while going new places without you is sushi. I’m disappointed that you can’t make it out to Tangier, and that we can’t continue our tradition of trying sushi in whatever new place we’re in, but I understand that work is an obligation. So I decided to carry on and try sushi here.

On Sunday—with a recommendation from UNE’s area coordinator, Doua—Aidan, Ashley, Hannah, and I went to one of the few sushi restaurants in Tangier for lunch. Otori Sushi was set off the busy roads of town. Soft music played inside, and if you had dropped a loonie on the hardwood floor, it would have been heard on the other side of the room; we were the only customers. The modern dining room contained mahogany tables and chairs that were lined with purple velvet. It was so clean and chic I forgot I was in Morocco—until I went to the washroom to wash my hands. The sink inside sputtered with great effort—a characteristic of Tangier’s sometimes unreliable plumbing.

The menu included a salmon cream-cheese roll, which reminded me of the first time we tried this type of roll, at Sense of Tokyo in Saint John (I think they called it a Philadelphia roll there). I remember taking shelter in that restaurant from the bitter winter, sipping our steaming hot bowls of miso soup while reading the menu. We both spotted the Philadelphia roll because it looked unique, yet we both questioned the combination of salmon and cheese. Once we tried it, however, we fell in love with the complementary tastes of the creamy mild cheese and the tender smoky salmon. I contemplated ordering Otori Sushi’s version, but decided to hold off because the only cream cheese I have seen in Morocco is the Laughing Cow triangles.

I ordered my usual—something with salmon—but instead of cream cheese as an accompaniment, I opted for smooth thick avocado. For my second roll I decided to try something new, as you always do. I was worried about getting food poisoning, so I stuck with something that sounded safe: a crab and avocado roll.

photo by Alyssa White

photo by Alyssa White

When our sushi was finally brought out, I was taken aback. I didn’t realize that my “safe choice” would be topped with tobiko, which is flying fish roe. Instead of scraping it off like I usually would, I decided to try it. The best part? I liked it—you would have been so proud. The sushi itself was impeccably made; there was ginger and wasabi—although the wasabi was not as strong as I would have liked—and the fish tasted fresh. It wasn’t the best sushi I have ever had, but it was definitely not the worst. I don’t really know why I had been so skeptical; after all, we’re right next to the ocean.

I walked away satisfied with the sushi, and satisfied with continuing our tradition of trying sushi in new places—even though this time it was just me. Despite enjoying my meal, I think I am going to wait until we are reunited to eat more sushi, because it is 100 times more special with you.

There are only a few weeks left Daddio, and I can’t wait.

Miss and love you lots, Lyss