The Past

Je Ne Parle pas Francais

After a long four hours of cramped flight with low-fare airline, Iqbal, Fino and I landed in Marrakech. We arrived midday, and we could hear our stomach growling. Thus after dropping off our luggages at the hotel, or what they called Riyadh, we headed to Jema El-Fna that was two minutes away. Jema El-Fna was the main square of Marrakech where street performers with snakes and flute, fruit stalls, and Moroccan house music CDs stalls were next to one another.
We then settled for a small restaurant by the busy street with grilling hot, saucy meat displayed on the window. Intrigued, or more like hungry and impatient, we looked on the menu and none of the names were in English. Poulet, frittes.
A man, big muscly with tanned skin, who stood nearby holding a pen and small notepad explained briefly before walked off to serve another customer at the terrace. We nodded satisfactorily, having a hint of what it meant. But as we reached the counter to order, the other waitresses responded in French. I probably pronounced the menu wrong, or they wanted to ask whether or not I wanted additional sides, but I had no clue and ended up pointing at the menu and raised my index finger, indicating one portion I wanted. That was the first time in a long while I experienced a language barrier.
Living in England had spoiled me by forgetting the complexity of languages. Foreign language, to be precise. We, human, live in the same world yet we speak different language when we are trying to convey the same meaning of word. It's crazy and beautiful at the same time.
The restaurant encounter was only the beginning. Our camel guide, an old man with the whitest teeth, could not speak proper English. He didn't give up though, his free spirit reflected through when he carried on explaining enthusiastically in French the palm trees and five star hotel around the faux-dessert we were in. I picked up few basic words, like hotel, tres bien. Nearing the end of one and a half hour tour, he said the only complete English sentence I ever heard from him, don't forget the tip for the guide, ended with an ear-to-ear smile across his face. I chuckled. We did end up giving him a good amount of tip just because he was so kind and friendly in the strangest way it could have been with language barrier between us.

On the second day in our three-bed Moroccan hotel room, after mounted frustration pressing the remote control endlessly looking for an English-speaking channel, which after the 100th time pressing the button I found one but it was a white man who talks about bible in the strangest sense I couldn't fathom next to dozen of other channels preaching about something in Arabic, I decided to google French 101. There, in less than half an hour, I learned to say "Je ne parle pas Francais. Anglais?" fluently with the weirdest French accent I could pull as a lifejacket for the next language challenge. So, technically I mastered one sentence in French, for saying that I cannot speak French. Well, of course that, after ca va bien merci et toi and tres bien.
The following day, I understood from the friendliest hotel staff I have ever had the pleasure of meeting, and I also double checked with other tour guides we had, in Morocco their first two languages are Berber and Arabic, while their second or international language is French, then English. For some people, Spanish could go before English as geographically speaking, the country located in the northern part of Africa, right underneath Spain therefore more Spanish tourists come and visit.

Not that our trip was just a series of decoding foreign language, the culture and nature also fascinate me. The beauty lies in small things that might not seem so pretty but interesting. Like, crossing the main street that looked like an ocean of motorcycles and four-wheeled cars without warning signs. All you needed was confidence and the rests of the vehicles would follow your pace. Don't run or speed up your steps, just walk normally but with confidence. Every time I crossed the street, it got my heart racing.
The food, good God, all the unhealthy, greasy, full-fat ingredients were the best part of them all - Lamb Tajine with potatoes was my favourite. We had the chance to dine with the best kind of view of Ourika waterfall two hours away from Marrakech. It was one of the best lunches I have ever had. And next to the riverbed of Atlas Mountains, where all of us climbed all the way to the top of the rocky valley with a breath-taking view. This, to bear in mind, we weren't wearing proper clothing for climbing - I was using weary pair of faded-red converse I bought five years ago, and a hand bag. Nevertheless, we made it! We also had lunch next to the Essaouria beach, gorgeous city I must say. It looked like mini-greece, where wooden-window painted in blue and the walls were all cloud-white. If you walked further deep into the small alleys, it would led you to the traditional market. Last but not least, Marrakech wasn't less pretty than any other cities with its natural features, the salmon-pink colour that dominated the whole buildings in the city added the authenticity of local culture. It could get frustrating at some point, because almost every single of the corner was in salmon-pink, I swear.
Boy, not in a million years I would have thought of visiting Africa, but it was an utmost pleasure and privilege as the trip consisted of little triumphs: learning French, climbing a valley, met one of the kindest strangers, which I was eternally grateful for.

A piece by : Fiya Muiz

The One With the Bike

They said that every writer has to get in touch with their darkest, and also happiest, part of them in order to produce a good writing. I found more fears in me than I anticipated, this time it's ample and louder, which I couldn't tell whether it was a good thing or the opposite. My right arm is hurting at the moment, because I tried to cycle with Marta's bike from my house to university despite the strange fear whispering at the back of my head that something would go wrong. I know, cycling. Simple thing, but I never realised how scared I was cycling in England, even though I have lived here for almost four years. The idea of the street was still strange and unfamiliar that I thought, this wasn't where I grew up, what about the cars, the pedal, the break, the saddle is too high. The first half of the way, I was alright until I got to the road, where I did not realise that it was downhill, and I tried to pull the break, too soon or too hard, I fell off the bike. It was a great fall, to be honest. I flew off the bike, landed knees first and then my arms. I could feel the mild burnt, still now, as soon as I got up. Luckily, my face did not hit the ground. There was a guy that saw me at the end of the road and asked whether or not I was okay, and all I could say with the rudest tone of voice, I'm fine, out of embarrassement and shock. Then he left. You see, all of the above are the result of me, trying to overcome that whispers, which eventually happened regardless. Although, I'd like to think that's not the point -- the point was I rode that bike; the point was I did go and try. For a good half, I was alright, it was just unfortunate that the voices were louder than my faith, or luck for that matter, that eventually I fell anyway.

A piece by : Fiya Muiz