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9.09.2009

8/31/09 The Tick-Tock

According to West Wing, the minute-by-minute accounting of the President’s day is routinely distributed to the White House Press Corps, and is known as the Tick-Tock.

Yesterday was quite a day. I won’t give you all 1440 minutes of the day, but here are some highlights, compliments of my memory and the journal I kept close to hand all day. [Update: This got way longer than I'd intended. I'll bold the most interesting bits, for ease of s

5:45 Pop up abruptly. Check time, realize I have 30 minutes till my alarm goes off. Decide to stay up.
6:10 Exit hotel.
6:15 Find petit taxi.
6:16 Petit taxi picks up Korean tourist Ho, who’s also on his way to the train station, to go to the airport, to ride the same flight to Seville. Small world.
6:24 Arrive at train station. Wait (with Ho) for bus to airport, which leaves on the hour…and rumor has it, on the half hour, too.
6:25 Grande taxi driver offers to drive me to airport…for 10x the price of the bus fare.
6:35 Ditto.
6:45 Ditto.
6:50 Bus 16 to the airport arrives!
6:58 Bus 16 departs train station. Good thing I didn’t cut it to-the-minute close!
7:24 Arrive at airport, x-ray bags, walk through metal detector, queue up for RyanAir bag drop*.
7:41 Get to front of line, and am told that I can’t “check in”* yet. Told to wait.
8:00 Check-in for my 9:40 flight opens up.
8:05 Drop off bag, boarding pass gets stamped.
8:06 Queue up for customs.
8:10 Get to front of line, am told I need to fill out “Immigration Card”.
8:11 Fill out Immigration Card.
8:18 Return to customs lady, who waves me through to the line for the passport people.
8:25 Passport people won’t allow me through to the gate area – told to wait.
8:27 Eat breakfast of bread, cheese, and juice.
8:45 Gate area opens for passengers on my flight.
8:51 Passport guy stares at my passport like he thinks he sees a watermark pointing towards buried treasure. Eventually asks if I’m a resident of Morocco. I say I am, and hand over my carte de sejour receipt. After much confusion, he stamps me through. I have now legally departed Morocco.
9:01 Walk through metal detector, x-ray carry-on bags (shrug off déjà vu). Security officer grabs my bulky cargo-pants-pocket and barks, “Do you have a cell phone in here??” I actually had it on the other leg, but after being grabbed at by a strange man, have no urge to confess this. Walk on through.
9:03 Boarding pass (aka crumpled printout) examined for the last time; gate check officials tear off the bottom half and wave me to the tarmac.
9:04 Walk across the tarmac. Reflect that walking up to a giant airplane feels waaaay more satisfying than going through those weird extendable tunnels universally used in American airports. (They have a name I’ve forgotten…jetway?)
9:05 Climb onto plane and survey sea of yellow-and-blue seats. RyanAir has open seating, like Southwest Airlines, so it’s first-come-first-get-the-good-seats.
9:06 Stretch out in the emergency exit row. My seat doesn’t recline, but I have acres of legroom.
9:38 Plane rolls off towards the runway. I turn off my phone and therefore have no more timestamps.
9:45ish I leave Moroccan soil.
9:50ish I gape at the Mediterranean Sea. For a while.
10:25ish I arrive on Spanish soil. Bienvenidos à España, Kauthar!
[Two hours magically vanish, thanks to the miracle of time-zone-change. Morocco hasn’t been on Daylight Savings Time since Ramadan began, but Spain still is, so that’s one hour, plus Spain is one timezone west of Greenwich.]
12:55 Make it through customs. The EU-citizen line flies, but the non-EU-citizen line moves at about 1/10th the speed. It’s also only about 1/20th as long, though, so I still make it through before most passengers from my flight.
1:05 Retrieve my backpack.
1:10 Start to board bus to downtown. See sign saying the fare is 2.30 €, and realize that I have no Euros. Return to airport.
1:20 Find the one lonely ATM in the Seville airport. Which rejects the ATM card from my Peace Corps bank account. I realize I have no idea what the PIN number is for the American bank account that I opened only a few days before leaving the US. Stomach tenses.
1:25 Ask at Information, and learn that there are no official money-changers in the Seville airport, but one of the airlines will do it unofficially.
1:30 Learn that that airline has no desire for Moroccan dirhams. Stomach twists. Abruptly remember the $20 bill I’d found while packing and tucked into a wallet on a whim. Give gratitude for the “whim” that’s saving my tuchus.
1:35 Am sad to discover that US$20 is only worth €13.20. I need to pay my hostel €17 to stay the night, so … mushkil.
1:40 Wait for next bus to downtown. Spot lots of folks from my flight – figures that if they’re taking a budget airline like RyanAir, they’re taking the bus instead of a taxi to town.
2:00 Bus arrives. Climb onboard. Only about half of those waiting get on; I hope another bus will come soon, for everyone else.
2:25 Get to downtown Seville. Note for other people taking the Seville Airport Bus: the final stop is officially the Prado San Sebastian, but when you get there, you won’t see anything telling you it’s the Prado San Sebastian. On the side of the bus stop you’re pulled up to, you’ll see Av. El Cid in big letters. I asked folks on the bus, who mostly shrugged. One guy told me – in Spanish – that it was the ultimo stop, which I’m pretty sure means the last one. Since the Prado San Sebastian is the airport bus’s last stop, I went ahead and climbed off. There’s also a city map stuck to every Seville bus stop, just like in DC, so I was able to study it for a minute, reassure myself I was in the right place, lhumdullah, and then start walking the mile or so to my hostel.
2:30 Pass time-and-temperature sign telling me it’s 41°C. Plus, it’s humid here.
2:35 Pass internet café. I stop in with the €11 left in my pocket, and start digging through emails to find the PIN number that I know Mom emailed me a year and a half ago.
2:45 Give up and Skype-call Mom, who comes to the rescue.
3:00 Pull €100 out of my American bank account. Heave giant sign of relief.
3:33 Check in at Friends Backpackers Hostel in Seville. The location is amazing – just steps from the breathtaking Cathedral of Seville – but the hostel’s services are pretty rudimentary.
3:40 Stash my stuff in the in-room locker, change my Moroccan-modest-long-sleeved-shirt for a tank top, and hit the streets of Seville.
3:46 Ogle Cathedral…take lots of pictures.
3:59 Buy ham sandwich (pork! I can eat pork here!) and banana smoothie (not nearly as good as the ones I get for 6Dh in SouqTown).
4:15 No internet café in sight, so I stop into a “WorkStation” and email Mom & Dad that yes, I found an ATM, yes, the PIN number worked, so I’m OK. Also shoot out a couple of work-related emails.
4:45 Begin wandering Seville.
4:50 Wander through park, watch pigeons.
5:10 Wander back towards Cathedral.
5:17 I’m a sucker for Gothic architecture. In I go.
5:18 Browse the gift shop. I’m a sucker for museum gift shops, too.
5:35 Wince, but pay the €8 admission.
5:36 It’s worth it.
5:49 Figure out the camera setting that will let me take pictures of stained-glass windows.
5:51 Sit on floor, lean head backwards against fluted column, look up it at awe-inspiring ceiling. I do this with massive trees – look backwards up the trunk – so why not do it with redwood-sized columns?
5:52 Oh, right, because cathedral docents are as inflexible as art museum docents. Whoops.
6:00 Discover the sign pointing to the Giralda Tower. I start up the gently inclined (fully wheelchair and stroller accessible!) walkway. Each stretch is numbered, so halls 1-4 take me on a full lap around the tower. Halls 5-8 repeat this, higher up.
6:06 Hall 15. How many halls are there, anyway?
6:13 After the 36th hall, I reach the top. It’s worth it. So worth it.
6:25 Return to the main body of the cathedral. Try to ignore the docents shooing me out.
6:35 Wander the orange tree grove, enclosed by this largest of cathedrals. Ignore docents.
6:45 Buy another souvenir or two in yet another cathedral gift shop, then accede to requests to leave.
6:55 Find and purchase a flamenco dress for my little sister. :)
7:00 Wander Sevilla for a while...
7:45 Perch on the corner of a public fountain and begin writing in the journal I acquired at 6:45.
8:15 Walk the entire perimeter of the Cathedral twice, once standing back to look at it, then back around, running my fingers over it. Because it's not real till you touch it.
9:00 Tapas!
10:30 Listen to street music for half an hour or more.
11:30 Wander back to my hostel.
11:35 Chat in my nonexistent Spanish with Sevilla native.
12:00 Sigh with contentment over one fantabulous day.

* RyanAir requires passengers to check-in online and print their own boarding passes. REQUIRES. If you fail to do this, they levy a stiff fine at the airport. I now know why: they don’t use computers at the airport. No computers! I gaped at them in shock. When you “check in” at the airport, they just scan a printed list of passengers’ names and passport numbers, then cross you off and issue bag tags.

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