Wednesday, September 16, 2009

"Never Forget"

The call to prayer about a half hour before sunrise was how I woke up on September 11, 2009.  I gave God my thanks and prepared myself not only for the 9 hour bus ride but for the experience of a lifetime.  However throughout the day my mind was ever present on the date.  I refused to turn on the television so as not to see it relived; certain memories are hard to erase. 

A 9 hour bus ride may sound boring and uneventful but I assure you this bus ride was like being on the Superman ride at Six Flags, our bus driver took us high through the winding roads in the Atlas Mountains, taking hairpin turns, and blind curves like he was driving a straight way on route 95.  There were times I held on to the hand grip in front of me until my knuckles turned white and other times I just closed my eyes and prayed.  And it’s not that he was driving wreck less, but just that the well paved roads were taking us through some high narrow terrain.  We arrived to our next lunch spot where I was ever present of the time, 1300 (9:00 EST) by the time 170 of us had taken our seats for lunch and the servers were prepared to begin their ballet of delivering a delicious three course meal it was 1317 (9:17am) I turned to the student at my left and asked if he thought we should have a moment of silence since it was almost time, he responded “today is 9/11, yes we should” another of my colleagues agreed, and then I stood up and as I was about to speak I realized that though we (The Semester At Sea group) dominated the group, we were not alone there were other diners there.  I breathed deeply and called for everyone’s attention and then stated that the time was approximately 1320 local and 9:20 est, a hush immediately fell over the room as I asked everyone to take a moment to be silent and remember those that were no longer with us, and those of us that were affected.  I could feel my voice crack and my heart race.  I waited a couple of minutes and then thanked everyone for participating.  We then had a scrumptious meal and returned to our buses.  As I was about to get on the bus, a student approached me and thanked me for doing the moment of silence, she said it really meant a lot to her.  I thanked her and we both boarded our bus to continue our trek into the desert.

Some of the sights in the desert were breathtaking, the valleys and roads we had passed as we saw them from various heights were massive.  When we arrived to our destination we could see our dromedaries waiting for us.  We slowly boarded our shared transportation and continued our trek into the desert.  This was my first time on a camel, so I was a little nervous but quickly got the hang of it, we only trekked about a mile to our camp and it was great fun.  Or camp was set up by some Berber tribe/nomadic people.  This camp was a mixture of 3 large dining tents and 30 smaller sleeping tents.  The sleeping tents slept 6 people.  It was literally a small village for about 200 people.  They even set up a bathroom/shower area right outside the camp.  As we arrived to the camp we were met by nomads dressed in white tribal outfits singing and dancing.  Though it was all staged it looked very authentic to us.  We settled in to our tents and then came out to the open area between the dining tents and sleeping tents and started to chat, just then we realized the sun was setting and many of us ventured outside of the camp to witness the sunset over the Sahara which was truly a sight to behold as we watched the sky glow bright then slowly succumb to beautiful indigo with hints of orange and red trying to hold on until the indigo finally won over.  We rejoined our group for more conversation and then another fabulous meal.  Many of us opted to sleep in the dining tents and even dragged our sleeping beds into the main area to sleep under the Saharan sky.  I woke up at about 330 to find that the temperature had dropped significantly and that I was freezing, I walked over to my tent taking a minute to peek up to the sky to see what looked like a million stars winking back at me, I stood there and smiled taking it all in then quickly grabbed a wool blanket out of my tent and ran back to the dining tent and laid back down until my alarm roused me right before sunrise.

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