I am being eaten alive by flies. It’s 10 a.m. and I am sitting on the train tracks at Casa Voyageurs train station in Casablanca, waiting for my 8:50 a.m. train to arrive and save me. They swarm around my head and legs, attacking my exposed, sweaty flesh wherever they can. Their fuzzy legs and bulbous eyes are pushing me to the very edge of my tolerance. I engage in multiple enthusiastic, yet entirely ineffective manners to dissuade them. Wild arm swings, angry swats and smacks do little to stop the onslaught. Yet, every time I crush one, it is a small victory.
I decide that if I can keep moving they will leave me alone. I begin to shake my legs in a manner reminiscent of Elvis Presley, and while this shakes off the bugs, it draws a few peculiar stares. My self-consciousness eventually gets the better of me, and I decide that embarrassment is a worse torture then the flies, who quickly return. In an attempt to ignore the flies, I keep chatting with friends and locals, but to no avail. Suddenly there is a rattling of tracks. I rush aboard the train and take shelter inside. No matter that I am now crammed shoulder-to-shoulder with dozens of others in a minuscule and vastly overcrowded corridor. I am finally safe from the flies.
As the scenery of Morocco rushes by through the window, I am utterly taken aback by what I see. It stands in stark contrast to Spain, and it reminds me of the time I spent two-and-a-half weeks working on a ranch in rural Colorado. Dusty, barren fields, barbed wire, rusted and corrugated fences tie-dyed with trash, abandoned houses, a man hauling pails of water, a sagging and elderly mule, random oases of deep and lush green fields are a harsh reminder that there are people making a hard and honest living in places that most other people consider the middle of nowhere.
I turn my attention to what is inside the train: a small boy in a soccer jersey, smiling brightly with his crooked teeth; the sounds of Arabic and French rushing into my ears; a ringtone of thumping Arabic music, an ignored phone call by a seeming affluent businessman; a shawl in vivid colors of yellow, green, purple, and red, giving it the complexion of Mardi-Gras. It brings back feelings of home, of good times with friends, music, and late summer nights.
A family leaves their first-class car as the train stops at the first station. No one makes a move toward it, so my friend and I hurriedly duck inside. We exchange simple pleasantries with the locals, then bask in the soft seats and breezy comfort of air conditioning. I think about how just over an hour ago I was at the mercy of the flies. They seem so distant and so insignificant to what I just experienced. A drop of sweat buries itself in the pages of my journal and smudges the ink. A smile slowly creeps its way across my lips. My trip to Morocco is off to a fantastic start.