Friday, September 18, 2009

Morocco: 'Exploring the Market', 'Meena Gets a Boyfriend', and 'Another Precarious Situation'

We spent the entire next day wandering through the biggest market in Morocco. Davy, a sas student who leads our morning meditations and preaches 'one love!' from behind is lengthy dreads, skateboarded around us as we made our way to the main square. The locals that this was a strange sight. The market was insanity at it’s finest. The moment we got there Katie got a snake thrown on her, then was hassled for money for touching the snake. I was cursed for getting video of a snake charmer. Farther into the streets of the market, a donkey ran into Meena. I perfected my bartering skills and ended up being able to get most things for 20% of the original price.

A few minutes before we left our riad home, there was a knock on the door. Our landlord said that she came as an interpreter for Mohamed, a local boy. He had fallen in love with the girl in the red shirt earlier in the day. It was Meena! We all had seen him hanging around us on the streets. I guess he had pestered our landlord, Dominique so many times that she believed he was actually in love and agreed to come over and translate. He bought her a pair of sunglasses; he wanted her to join his family for dinner. Meena appreciative of the fact that she now had a 15-year-old Moroccan boyfriend, still had to let him down. She kissed him on the cheek, but he tried to go for more! As we walked out, Mohamed had lined up his friends and they all chatted loudly as we walked past and waved a final goodbye to ‘Read Real.’

Three girls and myself took the late train ride back to Casablanca. No worries, it was serene as a fellow backpacker playing the acoustic guitar serenaded us.
Once we arrived, Meena and I thought we would avoid the pestering taxis by walking a block away and hailing a taxi from there. This attempt to be frugal ended up with us trekking through a ghetto at 2300. Imagine: I am wearing a pink shirt and a pink polo hat with a big backpack and Meena looks equally ridiculous. Please picture us walking down the middle of a street in the bad area of downtown anywhere, we stuck out like a florescent light in a dark hallway! We were thankful when a taxi answered our prayers and took us away from the hoards of shady men that lined the streets eyeing us down

Final Reflections: What I love about Morocco is how everything from the home designs to the markets is designed to allow everyone to be very social. My misconception that women here are discriminated against was burned to the ground. I learned that women choose to wear their traditional attire. I loved my independent experiences and feel like this trip was more of a cultural experience whereas Spain was more of an informative historical tour.

Morocco: Riad Real

Our taxi ride into the heart of Marrakech was a sure foreshadowing of the craziness to come. Moroccans have two-way lined streets. NO ONE CARES ABOUT THE LINES! It is a fast and careful game getting from one place to another. The only rule they abide by is stopping at lights; everything else is a free for all. We took two taxis, both blared Moroccan house music, holding dance-offs between taxis at stop lights, they raced each other weaving in and out of traffic, and we streamed by colorful buildings, souks, and dozens of busy people.

The taxi took us to Dar del Baccho. Following some friendly locals: We walked through the souks, turned under the red brick archway between the leather store and the American snack stand, down the alley past the eclectic collection of doors embedded into the stone wall, turned at the hole-in-the-wall mosque where a legless beggar sat outside and guarded the assortment of worn shoes that had been taken off for prayer. At the end of this alley we read the graffiti ‘REAL’ for real Madrid, the locals favorite futbol team. We affectionately called our home Riad Real (Ree- ahd Ree-ale). Here we found a wooden door with a hand-knocker. Considering the fact that we were essentially in an alley our expectations we low. At the time we ducked through the door our expectations were blown away. We walked into a three-story riad that opened up to the sky. We immediately celebrated on our rooftop terrace that looked out over all of the rooftops with the Atlas Mountains in the background.

Riad Real had a real name, Dar Badra, and was managed by friendly Dominique. I would suggest to anyone to stay here. There were eleven of us, eight stayed in the three story, five bedroom, three bath, retractable roofed villa. The other three of us stayed in a similar smaller apartment directly across the street (one step would take you door-to-door). In the morning, traditional Moroccan breakfast was prepared by Fatima, the housekeeper. I loved the crep’e like food:  a thin airy pancake that we spread jam and honey on, and rolled like a crepe and ate with our hands. It was interesting how resistant Dominique and Fatima were to tips after they were perfectly hospitable.  It cost me less than 20 USD for one night.

That night when we left the riad there were dozens of children in the street. We danced, sang, played futbol, and celebrated who knows what with them. As we made our way out to the street we ran into a friendly American from Boston. Joy came to Morocco in her twenties, fell in love with someone as well as the country and bought a place similar to ours. She let us tour it. I love the open ceilings of the Moroccan homes. It was surreal staring up at the bright stars through this retired hippie’s hideout. She was graceful and helped us bargain for a cheap taxi fare. Add a riad in Marrakech, Morocco to my list of future real estate locations.

Morocco: A random man predicts my future.

Our third day in Morocco, a large group of us departed for Marrakech by train. It was a three-hour ride across the Saharan desert. We rode second-class this time. This meant we rode in unairconditioned car that had separate cabins that I can only describe as similar to the Hogwarts Express. I wandered into Rachel and Katherine’s cabin and saw them playing with a three month old baby. The mother was very kind to let us all play with her baby ‘shaleem’.

There was also an older man in the cabin. Without prompt, he began to tell my future or rather ‘read’ me. Through his broken English, the woman’s knowledge of four languages, and my patience I received his interpretation of me.  He began by saying that I would have two babies within five years. After five years, I would be very prosperous and have my own home. He also read that I was very kind. He said that generations ago my ancestors visited his ancestors in his home village. He said that my ancestors were good people and helped their village; this was uncommon for people of my race. He said that I would travel just like my ancestors. He said that I had parents that had changed their lives so that I would be a good person. He said that if I didn’t have the parents I have that I wouldn’t be who I am, a person ‘who runs deep.’ He said that I will see many things in my life and will change people in different parts of the world. I will do this because I am motivated to make my parents proud because they are good people.
This was an incredibly random but incredible experience. I don’t know if I will have two kids by the time I am twenty-five. I cannot say how much traveling or service I will be able to do. But, I do know that my parents are my role models and have been amazing guides in determination and grace. Right on, Moulhad the innkeeper from Essaouria!

Morocco: Avacado juice?

That night I made it back for my Moroccan family dinner with not fifteen minutes to spare.

Thanksgiving, birthdays, Christmas Eve, Mother’s Day, whatever holiday it is- to me the meals that surround it are of pivotal importance to its success. Our traditional Moroccan meal was nothing short of a deluxe holiday meal.

Our host family’s house compared to the mosques I had toured in Spain. The obvious Moorish detailed engravings and the lavishness of detail was a visual comparison to the tastes to follow.

Once the sunset and the nearest mosque broadcasted the call to prayer we gathered around the table, pausing for only a moment to admire the feast set before us. Fine china was encompassed by a variety of food.

The food set before us included chick pea soup, small pizzas, pastry sweets dipped in honey, and warm thin bread. Everyone in the family ate the bread simultaneously with the soup- so we followed suit. We filled up on that and then drank mint tea. The mint tea (Morocco’s national drink) was served in the traditional manner, allowing a sufficient amount of oxygen in during the mixing process.

We taught the family how to play American card games like Spoons and Egyptian Ratscrew. It was hilarious!

I loved how every room in their house was set up for relaxing and enjoying company. Couches lined the room that the dining table was in. Our family told us that we should take time for conversation whenever possible. There was plenty of time between courses for conversation and activity. Cousins of the family visited. Dad would have loved how the family flowed through the house, relaxed, enjoying each other, and taking time to socialize.

A third course was served: chicken and beef kabobs in many spices. Along with this course, avocado juice was offered. Blending avocadoes, milk, and sugar made the avocado juice. The juice was surprisingly tasty and reminded me of a milk shake.

The dinner was the best cultural experience I have had yet. They had two sons and a daughter about our age. Ali, our cute translator, is heading to Barcelona for college soon. His family thinks Semester at Sea is in his future. He knows four languages fluently- I am beginning to think that our American education can take a few steps out of the lime light.

Morocco: Bonjour Rabat!

On the morning of September 11, a group of people took the hour and a half train ride to Rabat, the capital city. The contrast between the two cities was audible. Rabat was much calmer, there was a much more organized flow of people. We were warned and were testament to the fact that the military men that were scattered throughout the city would not allow photos or video. I managed to sneak some in despite the occasional protest or scolding.

How could I not try to document the scene? The three of us were eating pastries on the beach of the Atlantic Ocean. The booming call to afternoon prayer and the response of pedestrian traffic towards the Kasbah that sat atop the hill behind us. The space between the Kasbah and us was a cluttered array of tombstones. There was a fisherman on the ocean break before us. The bright red Moroccan flag waved in contrast against a white government building that jutted out into the water beside us. To the other side, as far as we could see there were mismatched housing projects lining up facing the beach. A busy highway separated us and the tranquility of the beach from the chaotic hustle of the city on the other side. So here we sat, while a whole country fasted for Ramadan, eating our delicious pastries and talking about the reoccurring theme of how big the world was with an ocean behind us and a country before us.

We spent a sweaty grueling two hours searching for the King’s main palace. We were laughed at several times as we asked in French for the palace. ‘pah-lah’ means palace, ‘pah-ley’ means can you say. Within these two hours we saw many other beautiful government buildings, not that we knew what they were since they were marked in Arabic. We walked into what we thought was the palace, but it was actually a university. That should say something about the magnitude and beauty of their school- step it up Miami. Here I was scolded again for trying to take a photo of two professors debating in a gateway between the city and the university. I got the photo through a technique I learned in the medina: open the shutter, place the camera at your hip, and tilt it up, snap.

Finally. (And I mean FINALLY, I cannot relate to you the discomfort of 90 degrees, rolling hills, and an attempt to adapt to the culture by wearing jeans and a conservative top) So finally, we found the palace. The guards made us relinquish our passports before we went in. This made us uneasy, especially when we ran into some French tourists that said they didn’t have to dole out their precious identification. I would say the palace was average. It was massive- but not the most impressive building I have seen. The trek there was what made finding it so worth it. I have navigated my way solo through Chicago, I have gotten lost on a school trip in Italy, I have found addresses in downtown Milwaukee, and I have directed taxi drivers that didn’t speak English. But, never have I roamed with two other girls in an African country’s capital city that speaks French and Arabic and successfully found a palace tucked away behind walls at the edge of the city and made it back to the hidden train station in time for departure.

Morocco: flirting with danger

Again, I was lucky to be in the group that was first allowed off the ship. We took a tour of the Mosque of Hassan II. It is the only mosque in Morocco that allows tours, and even then there are only three hours of the day you can take a tour. This billion-dollar Mosque was built in the early 90’s. It only took 6 years to build this elaborate place of worship, but there were 10,000 workers who literally worked 24-7. This massive mosque is located right on the water and can accommodate 100,000 worshippers.  It even has a retractable roof. There are windows in the floor looking down into the basement bath area. There are dozens and dozens of fountain-like baths in the basement. Our guide explained the methodic way that Muslims cleanse themselves before they pray.

One of the oddest sights we saw on our panoramic (basically a narrated bus ride) tour of Casablanca was a middle-aged man angrily throwing bricks at a crumbling infrastructure. We weren’t sure if it was a normal thing to see or if we should be startled and stay away from the windows of our bus.

The whole morning was filled with unusual events that gave me mixed feelings towards Casablanca. For example, while we were walking through some narrow streets on our way to one of the King’s six palaces I noticed two men dressed all in untraditional black garb. When we stopped, they stopped. When we crossed a road, one would cross and the other would stay stationary but they would both start communicating on their walkie-talkies. Turns out, they were just police officers watching out for us. I am not sure if that made me feel better or not..

I met some people on our tour that were interested on exploring the city on their own. So we ventured out in the dreary raining weather to the old medina. A medina is an old fortified city within the city. The weather added to the excitement of exploring the medina. The vendors were very pushy, following us around offering different things to us. They would shout out in English to get our attention: ‘California!’ ‘ Your Welcome!’ or ‘Heyy America!’

A small group of us continued to explore despite the increase in wind and rain. Observing the medina was incredible. A boy with leprosy passed us, there were whole horses skinned and hanging in store windows, there were all ages of people cooking, selling, and buying. We winded through the streets and eventually ended up in a precarious situation. One of us literally ran into an official with a rifle. At that point, we realized we had come into the wrong alley of the medina. There was an impenetrable produce section to one side, a dark alley to the other side, a brick wall in front of us with a cluster of armed officials and two Moroccan gangs standing around us. We walked down the dark alley of course and I watched some men gamble and a drug deal go down.

That night, I donned my rain jacket and headed out with a group for some authentic Moroccan nightlife. This did not include any raves or clubs. First of all, crossing the streets in Casablanca is a game of life and death. Secondly, shishah (hookah) bars are plentiful and are ten times more potent than the sketchy places in downtown Milwaukee. In these bars they did not serve alcohol nor did they watch football- we watched a bull fight. Thirdly, upon looking for some late night munchies we found two places: a café with only Moroccan men only drinking coffee outside and McDonalds. We ate at McDonalds, where they served the McArabia, shrimp sandwiches, and steak fries.

Preport: Code Red & Fasting

Preport- n. (etymology: sas)- meeting the night before the MV Explorer docks in a new country. Two types: logistical and cultural. Reason for meetings: to brief voyagers on safety and cultural awareness. A. Gosh that preport was scary, I feel like I can’t leave the ship without being mugged or raped. B. The interport lecturer was really funny; do Moroccans really stereotype us that way?

At the Moroccan preport we were told that our security level was red, the highest. We were told not to do anything with our left hand unless you want to deeply insult someone and their family, their ancestors, their dog. We were told to dress as if we were going to a Muslim mosque: nothing above the ankles or the wrists showing, nothing below the collarbone, cover your hair if you can, etc. We were told to travel in large groups and always have a male.

The stories, the personal experiences, the lists of emergency contacts scared us all into precisely following the rules. Please gather these details and form a laughable image in your mind: groups (no smaller than twenty), clad ultra conservative clothing (some girls even taking to wrapping traditional scarves around their head), walking tightly together (to protect and watch out for each other), in 80 degree humid weather, walking through the tight and busy streets of the medinas. I cannot imagine anyway that we could have stood out more.

Upon reading World Party: a rough guide to the globes best festivals, I realized that most cultural celebrations happened in the spring. The only notable festival we would run into on our voyage was Ramadan in Morocco. In my classes, I was intrigued but disappointed to learn that Ramadan is in fact a holy month dedicated to a cleansing of the spiritual body of Muslims. This includes fasting from sunrise to sunset. Festival? I’m hoping for nonstop activity in the streets, intoxicated friendliness towards tourists, and participating in deep and meticulous traditions. Nope. Morocco lagged in the hot sun as they nobly forwent food, drink, sex, smoking, and other things of the sort. Respectfully, we tried our best to keep those practices out of the public eye until sundown. This was easy to do considering most restaurants were closed and the water wasn’t potable.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Olé España

Our arrival into Cadiz, Spain was a memorable experience. Not only because it was our first sight of land in over a week, but also because a group of us took full advantage of the activities surrounding our docking. We woke up early for yoga and meditation. During meditation we focused on how small we were in the realm of this world. This is a pretty easy thing to imagine after sailing across the Atlantic for eight days. After breakfast, which is easily the best meal offered on the ship, we gathered on the front of the ship to watch the boat dock and the sunrise over the port of Cadiz. A truly gorgeous sight: the bright colors of the sun against the dark colors of the water with the white buildings in the skyline were a beautiful combination.

I was lucky to be in a group that was allowed first off the ship. We departed for the rock of Gibraltar. I signed up for this trip because ‘rock of Gibraltar’ is a place that I have learned about since lower school: the closest distance between Europe and Africa. I imagined a big rock that we would hike up and then ooh and ahh at the sight of Tangier, Morocco. I wore hiking shoes and athletic gear. The trip was nothing that I expected.
1) it was a mighty long drive about three hours through rural Spain. I felt like we were in the desert (this would become a familiar feeling as I traveled around southern Spain). One on stretch we would see the proof of progress towards sustainability. In the middle of nowhere there were hundreds of windmills and solar panels. Little towns would pop up, complete with high schools, colleges, and discothèques. On the next stretch there would be an assortment of cows and goats wandering, unfenced along the road. Farther down, two men each were carrying a shotgun presumably hunting within 50km of our bus. A sight of roman ruins, an aqueduct, standing unattended in a stream, followed this. 2) Gibraltar is a part of the UK, therefore we had to use our passports and of course eat fish n chips for lunch 3) Rock Apes are native to Gibraltar, monkeys? Who knew!

Gibraltar was my first time to really put my new camera to travel photography use, how exciting. Brad, my quiet, trying-to-find-his-way, sarcastic friend, ‘reluctantly’ posed for my photos. Brad also became used to my curiosity on our long bus ride. I would ask questions like ‘what’s that?’ ‘Why is this here?’ ‘How do you think that works?’ He would reply the best he could but eventually just relied on ‘*sigh * I don’t know Kate’ probably just to quiet me.

That night Molly Megan and I went to flamenco night and an amateur bull fight.

Later we went to a local tapas bar. Thirty-five drunken men and a wait staff that spoke no English greeted us. Confident in my Spanish skills, I ordered us drinks and ice cream. We got three of each drink I ordered, ‘the house special’ which was multiple tapas, and a little bit of ice cream. I asked the men what they are celebrating: a bachelor party! Using my finest Spanish skills we joined our fiestas together. Eventually the three of us found ourselves new members of the fiesta soltero. Want to experience a city’s culture? Go out on the town with locals for a bachelor party!

I went on a guided tour of Seville, Cordoba, and Granada. I was so happy to find out that my Santa Clara walkie-talkie crew was also going on this expedition.

In Seville we saw la plaza de Espana, la alcazar, el cathedral, and el barrio Santos.
The detail, inspired by the Moors and Arab influence, was incredible. Imagine a palace, hundreds of rooms, each room is intricately decorated: walls painted with bright colors and stuccod with eggs whites and molding, floors arithmetically tiled and interrupted with fountains in every other room, and ceilings- dios mio! The ceilings! Wood carvings or stucco with light pouring into the room through beautiful windows.

Nick, my funny, caring, observant friend, laughs when he realizes that I feel the need to touch EVERYTHING. Who wouldn’t want to? It’s hard to believe that someone took the time to carve each detail. I touch everything in the streets, the stores, and the gardens too. This gets me in trouble, especially in the garden when I grab a thorn vine and in the streets when I wander off. Nick watches out for me though- he heard from Brad that I almost got dock time in Gibraltar for being late to the bus.

Kalatrava ( not sure if that is spelled correctly but I am meaning to say the designer of the Milwaukee art museum) is from Seville. When we climbed the thirty-five flights to the top of el cathedral, it was easy to spot his designs, large, white bridges that look like they could fly away. The view from the top was breath taking. It reminded me of the view of Florence from el duomo. The walk to the top was worth every hot and chafing step. El Cathedral is the final resting spot of Christopher Columbus.
The city of Seville was much cleaner and modern than Cadiz.

The streets in Spain are crazy. Wandering the streets is my favorite thing to do. We walked down a winding alley, pressed ourselves up against a wall, and heard our guide tells us that we are infect on a two way street. As we walked through the ‘streets’ we felt like we left the main area far behind, only to come upon a huge open square with historical monuments encircling us, breaking the skyline.

We ate at an amazing restaurant located off of one of these winding streets. The tapas were traditional Spanish cuisine: jamon (their most popular dish), garlic potatoes, mushrooms, papas fritas, chorizo, and limitless wine.

Bus rides are exciting, but the scenery is monotonous. We all spend the first half hour sleeping or staring out the window. When those daydreaming realize that the landscape is as follows: cactuses, windmills, a deserted building, a coca cola billboard, cactuses, windmills.. They begin to chat; this wakes those that are sleeping. We have no problem entertaining ourselves.  George, the most abrupt, in-your-face, takes-it-a-little-too-far, intelligent guy, reads excerpts from “I hope they serve beer in hell” by Tucker Max. Harlan, a sensitive little man and an aspiring actor from down south, reads us his impromptu poetry- we snap for him. We play “hotseat”: 5 min, rapid-fire questions, and honest answers. There is never a dull conversation. Everyone is eager to talk. I don’t think the excitement of our travels or the enthusiasm of the people we are traveling with will have ware away.

Seville is advertised as one of the most hopping places in Andalusia for nightlife. So why oh why did we spend the night in Cordoba?

We stayed in the Tryp hotel: Los Gallos. The name reminded me of Vince’s build-a-bear. Taylor, my enthusiastic, kind, ambitious, amazingg friend, and I ended up being roommates. The hotel was located a short walk from the main square, yet we had to walk up and down the streets looking for an open and lively place. Granted, it was a Monday night. But this is Spain- nightlife is supposed to be hoppin’ until 6am. We found a nightclub and took it over- it was only semester at sea kids in it. They were charging really high prices so Taylor and I scouted out other locations. We found an Irish pub down the street and relocated there. Eventually, many others followed suit. I loved sitting at a table on the sidewalk watching the city life continue from the sidelines. Nick ended up talking to an international businessman (IBM) for a while- they exchanged business cards and Nick was offered a job- international networking at its finest, eh?

Our guide the next day only talked about gypsies. Refer to my gypsy journal in the post below this.

We toured the Mesquita- this was awe-inspiring. The red and white striped arches piled up in our line of sight as we walked through the mosque-turned-cathedral. In one of the rooms there was a ton of gold on display. I heard a guide (not ours, we had already ditched that crazy lady) explain that the cathedrals would parade their valuables around the town as a form of competition- the more wealth the better the church. It is interesting that money and wealth have been so intricately combined with the success of a religion for so long.

A group of us walked across an ancient Roman bridge for a panoramic view of the city. We then walked through the winding streets back towards the main square. Taylor, Nick and I went to a tapas restaurant for lunch. I had broken eggs with potatoes and chorizo- translation: scrambled eggs, French fries, and spicy sausage in a skillet. It tasted like it sounded a lot of oil over a random combination of food. Taylor and I were determined to get some fine European clothing- we ventured out in downtown Cordoba in search of fashion. While shopping I ran into a glass wall- we, along with the locals, got a great laugh out of that. All we came back with was ice cream. At least it was delicious Kinder flavored ice cream.

As we drove to Granada I felt bad for Rogo and Smiley who are studying abroad there this semester. It felt like even more desert upon desert. ALAS! As we drove into the city I was taken aback. This city was beautiful and much unlike the others we had visited in southern Spain. It was built at the base of the Sierra Mountains, so all of the buildings looked stacked upon each other. It was such a bustling city- my empathy for rogo had turned to jealousy- what a cool place to stay for a few months! Our hotel was directly across from the massive Alhambra. After our exhaustingly hot journey around Cordoba we were ecstatic to find that we had a pool at our new hotel. We played in it for hours.

We enjoyed some fine Spanish wine then ventured into the city by taxi. I enjoyed speaking Spanish with the taxi driver and the other locals we met at ‘Club Amsterdam’. Club Amsterdam was more of a sports bar than anything- except we watched bullfights and futbol rather than baseball and college football.

Our tour of the Alhambra was phenomenal. We spent about two hours touring- the Alhambra is essentially a city built for King Fernindad the fifth. Over the centuries it was used for all different purposes, therefore it was built upon and expanded for different reasons. It was interesting to see the harems and the different additions made throughout the years. Finally, we got an explanation as to why there are so many fountains in all of the Moorish influenced buildings. The ancestors of the moors came from the desert so water was scarce therefore it was a sign of prestige to have water and fountains. Also, Muslims cleanse themselves before prayer and they pray five times a day according to their five pillars- so it is nice to have the water readily available.

On our ride back to the ship we stopped at the most peculiar rest stop. There was deli, a candy store, a pottery shop, and a mechanical bullfighting ring. What an odd combination. We drove four hours back to Cadiz and we ended up being about an hour late for ‘dock time.’ Taylor and I were officially the last two people on the ship before we set off. It was incredibly windy as we set sail.

We anchored off of the familiar rock of Gibraltar. How many people can say they did crunches on the deck of a ship while looking at three different countries: the UK (Gibraltar), Spain, and Africa? Everyday I am so thankful for this experience and most definitely live each day to it’s fullest because I am always asking myself rhetorical questions like that. How am I so blessed to get to go on adventures like this?

Gypsy Discrimination

An journal entry about social hierarchy I did for my Intercultural Communications class:

While traveling in Spain I visited Cordoba in Andalusia. Our tour guide took us on a walking tour of the city. We passed the Jewish Medina. This is an area that was confined behind fortified walls. Centuries ago, a city sprung up within these walls within the bustling city of Cordoba. Our guide was very open about the fact that the traditionally Catholic Spaniards were once discriminating against Jewish citizens.
    Now as we passed through the medina, she focused on a modern discrimination: the gypsies. She went on and on about the gypsies. She warned us to stay away from them. She explained different ways they would attempt to con us. She told us to never give them money. We all nodded our heads consenting, most of us unknowingly, to a modern form of discrimination. I think it is easy to look back on history, to the slaves in the south, to the Jews in WWII, to anything, and think, “I wouldn’t ever treat someone that way.”
    What we lose sight of is the fact that when we are in the moment, we do not realize that we are discriminating. It is the way of our society. Our culture is learned through socialization. Therefore, what is known to be right or wrong in learned through what those who know more, our parents, our elders, our teachers… our tour guides. In Spanish culture, there is a social hierarchy. They do not believe that acknowledging gypsies is good. They believe that those that chose to live their lives differently have more power. It is a hardly recognized hierarchy of many cultures. In the US a tour guide would say the same thing about the homeless or beggars.
    The difference between our culture and the Spanish culture in this situation is the way our society confronts the issue. In Spain, gypsies are looked down upon, scoffed at, discriminated against, everyone is taught that gypsies are not people deserving of acknowledgement. In contrast, there is a large movement in the United States to help people in similar situations. Homeless shelters and government funded organizations are set up to assist these struggling humans live their life. Granted, we are attempting to force our form of gypsies to assimilate to our culture. So the question arises: Is it better to not acknowledge the cultural sect of gypsies and let them live their lives? Or is it better to acknowledge the beggars but force them to live the typical American life?
    Our tour guide was discriminative and practicing social hierarchy. But I did not realize this until I reflected on all of the things she told us. Siphoning through all of the new information, the comments about gypsies resounded in my head. Laying in my bed in Cordoba, Spain I realized that I was subject to enculturation in a negative way. I learned that it is important to step back and take any opinion we are subjected to with a grain of salt. Our generation is so practiced in taking what we learn or are told, filing it away in our mind as true, and putting it to practice.
    In order to be a progressive nation, to not get caught up in the repetition of history, to not be looked at as a generation that followed suit in discrimination, we must observe and experience things for ourselves. Now, I know that I do not want to help a gypsy that has stolen a wallet or a gypsy that harms her baby for sympathy change. But, I do want to take the time to step back and ask myself if the gypsy is also subject to enculturation. Has she been taught since she was young that tourists are merely a means to change? That local Spaniards that walk to work everyday are not living their life to the fullest? That their child will also by a gypsy because it is the best social class?
    Social hierarchy will continue for the rest of time until communication builds a bridge between the classes. We cannot continue to take what we learn and accept it as true. We must understand that there are cultures within cultures that deserve to be studied and understood.
    I never gave change to a gypsy while I was in Spain. On my tour the following day another guide told me to ignore the gypsies, they were bad people. And so the social hierarchy continued. And so the misunderstanding continued?