Moroccan McDonalds

I would like to say that I learn from my mistakes. Actually I think I do. I just like doing some of the same mistakes over and over. I guess they are not really mistakes as much as choices that always lead to an unforeseeable future. I am also coming to terms with the fact that for a period of time I liked to run very minimalist. Short shorts, maybe a shirt, no phone and not enough money for a cab home,
I moved to Casablanca, Morocco after building a new type of school that failed due to lack of payment from the parents in Bali, Indonesia. I had wanted to be closer to my parents and when Google informed me that Casablanca was a top ten surfing city in the world, I neither hemed or hawed in accepting and signing my contract.
When I arrived in Casa, I was met by the principal of the school, given keys to my apartment and ferried off to lunch with him at the city center about 1km from where I lived. We passed a RipCurl surf shop on the way so I put it in my mind as a marker and one of the first shops to visit when I was free. I was given a cell phone and the wifi code for my apartment, a tasty lunch and the first evening left to my own devices.
I moved to Casa to surf. To stay in shape for surfing I run and cycle mostly. All are good for the core. Anyway, I Google mapped my location finding that I was 5km from the Atlantic Ocean. It was about 4pm. I grabbed usd 5, shorts, shirt and a hat and was off. The directions were simple. Go out my front door, around the corner to the main road, make a left turn and 5km later I would be rewarded with the Ocean of my childhood.
I took off running and everything was going pretty well. I got to a weird Y intersection and veered to the right trusting my sense of direction. About 3.5 km later I created a little hill and was rewarded with the sea. I was stoked.
I ran down the hill to the beach road straight into a McDonalds. Easy marker to remember. I decided to go left along the coast for a bit knowing all I had to do was reverse direction back to McDonalds, make a right turn and then I would be home.
Oh boy, oh boy. New places are full of wonderment. Different sites and different people but there is something comforting by the smell of the sea especially when it is windy and wavy enough to send some spray into the air.
I was in paradise and then there was another runner. No matter your age, when you are running and you see another runner, there is a sense of camaraderie and an almost gravitational pull to know more. Don’t remember his name but we had a good run for the next 5 km down the coast road.
When you meet a new runner, there are two types. One, the chatty runner who wants to find out who you are and where you are from. Two, the searching for the Boston Marathon runner. In other words, the competitor.
I start as a number 1 and can easily be pushed to a number 2. He was a 2. After I told him I was new in town, he put on the gas and we started moving. It was fun. I like speed work. It hurts but the feeling of muscle and lung burn is a beautiful thing.
He stopped at the big shopping mall at the end of the beach. That was as far as he was going. We said our goodbyes and I headed back home. It’s now 5:30pm. I have plenty of time. All I need to do is run to McDonalds, go right and in 5km I will be home. Easy enough.
I got to McDonalds and went right and about 2-3 km later realized something was amiss. The road had turned a few more times than I had remembered on the way there. But I was still fine. This must be the Y intersection and I go left here. I don’t remember it being a hard left though.
After another 30 minutes of this I came to the conclusion that I was lost. I ran this way for a bit. Nope. I ran that way for a bit. Nope. I asked for directions. I was given directions in Arabic and French. I don’t speak Arabic or French.
Another hour. 7pm. Dusk. The sun is setting and the heat of the day is retreating. I am starting to get cold and am now thirsty and hungry, lost and a little scared. Walking around a city in jeans and a shirt is one thing. I can blend in pretty well in most places. Exchange that shirt for a tank top and the jeans for short shorts and I start to feel a bit self conscious about myself the slower I move. Standing and stores become uncomfortable at best.
But I needed water, so into a bodega I went and found a clerk that spoke enough English to first laugh at me and then to help me.
He asked me where I lived. I said I don’t know. I just know how to get there which is funny because I was in a strange city in my first few hours of being there and had no idea what I would do next. I had no phone so no contact info, no passport, had no idea where the school was and knew my apartment was somewhere in the city near a mosque and sandwich shop I had seen as I left my house.
But I did think I could get home from the RipCurl store near the city center. So I asked the clerk to help me get a cab to the two big buildings in the city center. A smaller twin tower. He knew where that was and had me in a cab in a jiffy.
The cab had me at the Twin Towers in two more jiffies and I was able to find the RipCurl shop and guide my way home from there. 9pm in the door as the last rays of light disappeared.
Sometimes I think that to win some, lose some idea is wrong. I think we win them all until we lose one and then we are dead.
To this day I still run and explore and only occasionally do I get upside down like that where I have no marker and no clue how to get home.
The next day I decided to walk circles in my neighborhood to get a lay of the land. I made one circle and saw a man standing out of a hardware store with a surfboard. I asked him if he needed help. He said he needed a fin screw. I said lucky him, I have a few spares. He asked if I had a surfboard and my response was hell yeah. He said grab it. Surfs up. Let’s go.
His name was Hicham and we were inseparable friends for a while there in Casablanca. As we drove to the beach, I discovered my mistake the evening before. Capitalism. There was not one McDonalds but two along the beach road.

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