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‘What is he saying?’
‘It’s closed.’
‘Wakha. Fermé. No ferry.’
‘Closed? Why?’
‘I think he said there’s a strike… Huelga? Uh… grève? Est-ce qu’ils ne travaillent pas aujourd-hui?’
‘Ah! No lanchan ferry! Wakha, sadiqii, wakha!’
‘Pero, en serio Ben, tu te has enterado?’
‘A mí me gustaría mucho enterarme…’

You know what I was saying a couple of posts back about loving the multilingual melange that is Tangier? Well, I guess I got my comeuppance this afternoon. After a long shopping trip in the medina, loaded down with suitcases and food for the return journey, we hailed down a grand taxi for the harbour. But for the photography hiccup in Chaouen (and Booking.com refusing to refund me for a bungled payment), our four-day trip to Morocco had gone without a hitch.

So it’s only natural that the taxi driver would leave it until we got to the harbour to tell us that, due to exceptionally strong winds, the port was closed. This was swiftly backed up by both the police and the FRS office, as if we weren’t already doing a bad job of playing the trust card. If we wanted to get home, there was only really one viable option: we’d have to catch the big FRS ferry from Tanger Med near Ksar Es-Seghir, some forty kilometres up the coast.

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We should have seen this coming just looking out from the hotel, really…

That’s how I found myself still in the same taxi some twenty minutes later, rounding the bends of the twisting coast road for the port and trying to make one intelligible sentence out of the five-language jumble of our taxi driver. His Classical Arabic, French, Spanish and English were all perfectly reasonable, but his mixing-up of all four of them mid-sentence with his native Dārija made it nigh-on impossible to understand a word of what he was saying. Speaking four languages is one thing, but trying to make sense of them all at once is a step too far for me.

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So green – but how much longer will it last?

By some streak of luck we made it to the docks in time, and for a fair price, too; 180MAD for the car from Tangier, for the record, and not quite the 2500MAD that was his first offer (trumping even the villainous Oulad Berhil cabbie in greed). Predictably enough, we weren’t the only ones caught with our pants down by the closure of the Tangier port: at least two other boatloads turned up for the 14.00h, which was necessarily shunted back to 15.00h, and then 16.00h. Passport control was, for the once, the least of our concerns; a succession of connecting buses came and went, none of them bound for the FRS service. I don’t suppose I minded too much. I spent the last hour playing Peep-O and making silly faces at a little girl who seemed only too pleased at the diversion. By the time the FRS shuttle pulled in it was coming on to five minutes to four and tempers were running short. Mufasa would have been all too familiar with the stampede that followed.

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God, I’m so evil

Despite repeated warnings from the bridge, I spent almost the entire journey out on deck in the hopes of seeing a shearwater (I’d seen a few dusky shapes in the gloom on the way out, but I needed to be sure). The Strait is also a very good place to look for whales and dolphins, so I had an eye out for them, too… whenever it wasn’t shut tight in a wince in the game-force winds, that is. The sea was choppier than I’ve ever seen it, making whale-watching a no-go and rendering photography difficult. At its worst, the ferry was tilting at a twenty-five degree angle from side to side, giving spectacular views down the deck into the ocean or the open sky at any given moment.

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Not the healthiest angle for a ferry

A sensible mind would have given up the ghost and retreated. But I’m not all that sensible, and I was rewarded for my obstinacy just short of the bay of Gibraltar by a single, chocolate-coloured seabird gliding effortlessly between the waves and a far-off but recognisable vertical jet of steam. Stubbornness has its rewards.

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The Bay of Gibraltar (plus very distant shearwaters)

Let’s just take a step back for a moment. This is now the third extracurricular adventure I’ve had with my colleagues, following Andorra and the Romanian exchange. Before Meléndez Valdés I’d never imagined life as a teacher to be anything like this. I’m completely and utterly sold on this way of life. This is my life, opening up before me: traveling Extremadura as a qualified English teacher until I have enough experience under my belt to settle for good. The oposiciones sound tough, but my colleagues here are encouraging me to come back and go for it, which makes it all the more worthwhile. Spain, you just keep winning me over. How I love you with all of my heart and more…

It’s coming up to ten o’clock, Spanish time. The sun set an hour or so ago. Eight o’clock start tomorrow morning. Ive had worse. On the whole it’s been a very good weekend, and my appetite for the summer is more than whetted. Only next time, I think I’ll catch the plane. BB x

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