It was our first long daytime bus ride - well really long, because before this trip we had only gone from Fez to Taza. Heading into the desert was a trek.
This was the bus trip that set a tone for future bus trips. Well, maybe that was Taza, with the Five Sleeping Beauties of Taza and all. We fell into a groove for travel. I sat in front of Azeb and Jelani was just behind her. To my right was Ben, and Joel was in front of me. I was feeling a lot of love for my fellow Fulbrighters. What's not to love, they're clever, each and every one has a good sense of humor - not always the case in a group, and the anticipation of heading into the desert was palpable. We assembled our gear: scarves, hats, sunscreen, plastic bags for delicate items, long sleeves, snacks - on the seats around us. The sprawl begins. This was the first day of leaving things around. Before today, we tended to take our stuff with us when we left. One of the most amusing recurring incidents occurred after this day, but I believe this was Day 0 for clutter. Ben amassed several items (let me clarify that he was by no means the only one, we are all guilty) that he couldn't contain in the seat next to him nor in the overhead compartment nor under the seats. He would slink, well no, he was brave about it, maybe even brazen, to the back row to claim a space, but Azeb was reserving that row for the infirm. He would take a seat, and Azeb, inevitably, would say, "Are you serious?" Ben would attempt negotiations, but always ended up with his goodies around him in his regular seat.
Lots of laughing on this trip - this could be the single most important thing to keep me going in most situations - have to laugh, and the group was generating this important daily element. This group is funny, no doubt.
Jelani and I traded southern sayings throughout the trip. Youness, who had rejoined us in Meknes, sat in the back with us for a large part of the trip. We taught him all about camel toe, hoe cakes, and Vaginal Creme Davis. We laughed a lot.
The terrain was incredible. Amazigh tents pitched here and there on the hillsides. The hillsides were red and sandy and rocky with a Moroccan chaparral growing here and there. Donkeys were here and there grazing and standing and staring in fields and by the side of the road. We stopped for teas and coffees, and lingered in chairs scattered around, getting to know one another, trying to read some Arabic - not yet worried about homework for class, that would come next week, closer to Fez.
The thing I remember best though is this incredible happiness. I would listen to music and look at the Moroccan desert, all that fine red sand soon to be trapped in every bodily crevice, and feel ecstatically happy.