Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Casablanca! Fun like a root canal.

Greetings from Casablanca! An ancient oasis in northern Africa's deserts; this is a land rich with history, culture, ancient buildings, modern luxuries and so much more. Which makes me wonder why my time here so far has been about fighting with computer software.

While still in the airport in Amsterdam I started to get "bad vibes" about this trip. It might have been the flight attendant who emphatically told me to watch my wallet and where I was after dark. Or perhaps it was the dutch lady working security at the airport who, in response to "I'm going to Casablanca", laughed and said "Better you than me!" It probably had nothing to do with my roommate's story of how two Dutch tourists were murdered here last week.

Of all the things I was told to expect (having my passport confiscated, having customs officers demand bribes, and more) my only real problem was getting charged dramatically over the usual taxi fare from the airport to the hotel. The moment the man in the airport walked up and said "You need taxi?" I knew what was going to happen.

Strangely enough, the customer I'm here to work with was also standing at the airport waiting to drive me to the hotel. He emailed as such about the time my plane was taking off.
Within minutes of arriving at the hotel, the customer did to. I literally had no time at all before I was in their small office working away through the evening.

But while I'm happy to work nights, my laptop apparently is not.

I'm here to demonstrate software. We sat down, discussed how the demonstration should go, and I started working. But something was funny with the software. So I started again. Then things got really weird with the software. So I started again, and then the software don't run AT ALL! Hmmm, not a good sales demo if I can only produce error messages.

I returned to their offices this morning and tried again. No better. A flurry of mobile phone calls from Morocco to Holland and England produced no happy results. Our software troubleshooters simply recognized the problems I was describing as "serious".

We had a three hour demonstration/meeting scheduled for 2pm this afternoon. We cancelled the meeting around 1pm.

And it gets worse. I have exactly one working day in Holland to have my laptop hard drive backed-up, re-imaged, install Oracle, have the software reloaded, and so much more before I catch a plane Monday morning to do "another" customer demo in Croatia. Yeah flippin right!!! Any one of those steps is a half day to a day.

But while the business purpose of this trip has been a TOTAL write off, it hasn't been a total loss. For example, I've now been to Africa, I've experienced a bit of French (a long lost language to me), and have tried a wide variety of truly terrible foods. (At least I tried.)

Tonight (it's around 5pm now) I think I'll watch CNN all night. I can't justify an expensive dinner out, or a long taxi trip to the centre of the old city. Not when the business purpose was such a failure. And frankly, after riding a few local taxi cabs, I'm not sure the idea of a one-hour trip into town would be physically tolerable. My cab this morning had windows that didn't roll down, and no seat belts. On the bright side, the 15 minute trip cost roughly $1.40 for which I paid the driver $2 out of pity. (The ride from the airport cost me $30... oops.)

Oh, and perhaps a bit of email and blogging tonight? This blog has been pre-written offline to save time on my 60 minutes of WiFi access.

How is it that $20 worth of taxi costs $1.40 but normally-free hotel internet is over $10 per hour?

Thankfully, in about 12 hours, it's time to wake up (5am) and head to the airport for my 7:50am flight home. Sure, I have to go into the office and start "fixing" my laptop, but right now any where in Holland would feel like home. Wish me luck.

One last note: From my current vantage (through my hotel room window) I've been watching people get on and off the city buses. But I haven't seen a bus come to a stop yet. The bus slows to a crawl and people run along and jump into the bus while it's moving. This observation feels some how analogous to my whole experience in Morocco.


narcosis in paradise said...

Holy Crap !!!! Thank God you're ok, Don't think I ever want to go there. Murder, crappy food, getting ripped off, book me on the next flight, I don't think so !!!! Going diving tomorrow :-)

Irene said...

I loved the part about the murdering and the mugging... your mother must have been happy with that too !! Thanks for letting me know earlier that you're back in the country safely, as I said in my sms I still feel slightly responsible for finding you a job that makes you hop onto planes all the time......

I Dive At Night said...

Greatings all! As Irene says, I'm "home". Well, I'm in Holland. Close enough!!!

I'm waiting for my work computer's new hard drive to be installed. I didn't plan/intend to be in the office today, but circumstances require it if I'm to make next week's trip.

Irene, FYI, the job is perfect! It was work exactly when I needed it (after my planned 3 month rest) and I'll be done my contract in just 7 more months. :-)

Irene said...

Thanks, I feel a little better now !! Have a great weekend, and don't forget to try to see a little of the country while you're in Croatia next week. I don't know about the surroundings of Zagreb, but the coastal area is really beautiful.

Theresa said...

I was at your mother's blog and saw she's giving up blogging; please tell her I'll miss her, I had a lot of fun with her blog, even though it was only for a short time.

I've been wanting to visit Morocco, but it scares me a little, especially hearing about crimes against tourists. Sorry to hear your trip didn't go so well, but in any case I'm sure it was an unforgettable experience.

quilly said...

Morgan on a recent business trip OC was housed in a hotel that charges over $600.00 per night (not out of his pocket!) and he refused to use the internet, even though his host would have paid the tab. Why? Because they wanted an additional $10.00 per day. He thought it seemed a bit greedy.

Doug said...

Shocked! I am shocked to find corruption going on in Morocco.

Sorry for the trip, good luck on the return.

Farida said...

Casablanca is one of the biggest cities in Morocco. It is to be quite frank, a city, nothing special about it. As all cities it offers its western comforts, McDonalds and other fast food chains can be found.
Morocco property is famous thanks to this city.
It is a business centre, and reflects appropriately the living standards of Moroccans, the out skirts of the city is lined with make shift shacks, plastic bags and other rubbish surrounds the squats, as does the scent of death.
All in all Casablanca was an experience, I don't think I will return. It's a shame because the surrounding areas are quite special, beaches that line the coast are very clean, warm water and great surf, up to 5m in winter.
Keep your wits when traveling in Casablanca, I would not recommend single girls traveling alone, or in groups of girls, it is also advised to dress appropriately and wear a wedding band.

I Dive At Night said...

Hi Farida, thanks for the comment! Alas, my short business trip only showed me the sqauts and shacks beside the shiny modern offices. So strange.

If I'm ever back I hope it's for the beaches and the surf!