capn_n_pye: (Pye)
[personal profile] capn_n_pye
Does anyone remember the time in 2011 when Pye was called upon at the last minute to go on a World Challenge expedition? WELL IT HAPPENED AGAIN.

Expeditions always take place at the end of November and go for about a month, so any plans of a gentle build up to Christmas was put away as a wistful, naïve dream. Almost as soon as the Year 12s had their final exam, three teams of wide-eyed and eager lil’ challengers and their stoic teachers were jumping on a bus from school to enjoy 33 travel-hours to Casablanca – fabled largest city of Morocco.

At this point, the author pauses to warn the reader that in this epistle Pye will most likely be very liberal with her use of the word ‘fluff’ – although, she will probably phrase it pretty fucking differently. Not because she’s angry or anything, but a month of controlling a potty mouth tends to leave some residue.

Upon arrival, the other two teams got on buses to wherever their itinerary started, but blessedly, Pye’s team (swiftly renamed ‘The Squad’) stayed put in Casablanca for a couple of nights. Not that Casablanca is all that salubrious, but Pye just didn’t want to sit on any sort of goddamn transport any more right at that moment. There was no sign of any camels, but Moose waved at a donkey pulling a cart, and Pye was pleased to discover that, as the only female teacher, she was entitled to a room to herself – an unprecedentedly wonderful trend that continued for the entire expedition. Pye was only in the room for about 30 minutes before she’d clocked up about 28 minutes of No Pants Wearing Time and promptly ruined the hotel towel by drying her freshly coloured hair on it after a shower (seriously, it looked like a murder had taken place).

The students sourced an agreeable enough restaurant for dinner – although it was lucky that no one wanted dessert (ammirite?!) – and everything seemed to be going according to plan.
However, merely an hour after going to bed, there was a knock on the door! Pye womanfully struggled into a pair of pants and opened the door to reveal Leader David. He had just received a call from the World Challenge Emergency Operations Centre to say that a mother had called to tell them that her daughter had messaged her and was locked out of her room! What the fuck was one of them doing out of their room and where was she?! They stared open-mouthed at each at the idiocy of this revelation and swung into action (literally – when Pye opted for pants it was at the expense of a bra). After some detective work, it was deduced which room was The Girl’s and the door was knocked upon. She was in there, unrepentant and not at all concerned about being locked out – in fact, she was very confused about what the problem was, since she’d messaged her mother with a picture of the combination lock on her suitcase and said she was locked out of her BAG. Why her mother felt that necessitated a panicked call to the Ops Centre we don’t know! It was still a better call to the Ops Centre than the one a couple of weeks later that our principal made (while we were on project) on account of some parents who had been complaining that one of the teams wasn’t posting on Facebook enough. Yep, good one, that’s the sort of thing a principal needs to keep an eye on, finger on the pulse, keep up the good work, sir!

Bright and fresh the next morning we ventured out to see if a kid could manage to get run over by an ambulance or something. They did all their admin tasks (like changing thousands of pounds to dirham) relatively efficiently, and decided they would walk across town to visit the Hassan II Mosque. The hustle and bustle of the Casablanca blew their impressionable little minds (even though they didn’t notice that we walked right past Rick’s Café – but most of them haven’t seen ‘Casablanca’, so they probably wouldn’t’ve cared anyway) and at least one of them filled up his camera card within half an hour. Pye didn’t have the heart to tell them that if you didn’t know you were in Casablanca, it was so generic you could be forgiven for thinking you were in KL, or Dar es Salaam, or Siem Reap, or any other modern city. In that sense, it was the perfect place to start an expedition, because it would have been a crushing anticlimax at the end.

The mosque, proudly bearing the tallest minaret in the universe (210 metres) was very pretty and featured all the best bits of Moroccan architecture.
Moose’s appreciation for architecture is sadly limited, so he got distracted by a cat stalking a pigeon out the front – he wouldn’t have noticed, but there were at least 7 Moroccan men equally fascinated by the hunt (spoilers: the bird got away).
The delights of Casablanca exhausted, the next morning we boarded our private, pre-booked transport (what is this, World Challenge or an Intrepid tour?) and headed towards Fes. En route, we zipped by one of the only places on the itinerary where Pye had yet to visit – the Roman ruins at Volubilis.

It’s located 5 kilometres from the town of Moulay Idriss-Zerhoun, a town spread over two hills at the base of Mount Zerhoun. It’s a holy town because Moulay Idriss I (grandson of Mohommad) arrived there in 789, brought some Islam, started a dynasty (and the Kingdom of Morocco), then started building Fes. He’s buried there and if you can’t make the Haj to Mecca, it’s a pretty good place to try and make up for it. Moose just liked the way the town looks like a camel, lol.
Most of the students continued the grand tradition started in Pompeii of not giving a shit about fallen-down Roman buildings (and Moose was sceptical about how much had been rebuilt and reconstructed) but it was pretty cool to explore a piece of Rome plonked down in north Africa.
In other news, if you don’t zoom in on the people in this picture, you are wasting everyone’s time.
Moose had googled Volubulis before we left, and knew that the Romans had left some smut behind, so was pretty keen to rub his bum on it – tsk, you know what disgusting baggage that moose is, what can I say? However, we got to the end of the tour without any sign of an ancient stone wang, and on the way out, Moose was getting really shitty. Pye was determined not to leave him in a snit, so casually asked the guide whether there was a red light district in this town. The guide was immediately all like, “Hurr hurr hurr yes it’s just over there but we don’t show it to teenage girls cos we get in trouble hurr hurr!” ACHK! Pye on the point of shouting, “WHAT’S THE POINT OF EVEN BEING HERE THEN??” and smashing his face into a heavily-reconstructed mosaic, when one kid was like, “Oh how I wish I could look around for half an hour more while the others source us a convenient place for lunch!” Well, Pye’s head whipped around and she shouted, “YOUR HERO IS HERE HEY DO YOU WANT TO COME TO THIS PARTICULAR SPOT FOR NO SPECIFIC REASON BECAUSE I WOULD LIKE TO SUPPORT YOUR SPIRIT OF ADVENTURE AND INTEREST IN HISTORICAL SITES!!” (as you can see, it was an epic serious of events).
As we went back, Pye made a decision to be honest, and said, “Full disclosure, what we are really looking for a huge stone carving of dick and balls.” The boy gave a huge sigh and said, “Thank God, that’s what I came here looking for, high five!!” On the sketchy directions provided by the reluctant smut-monger, it was hard to find (no pun intended), and it must be admitted that we almost gave up, when suddenly…
Moose satisfied himself as only a stuffed moose can do, but had some interesting points to make. When Moose draws dick and balls on things he is a ‘disgusting vandal’, but when ye olde Romans do it it’s ‘UNESCO World Heritage worthy’… hardly seems fair, but as Moose is the only one of us with even the most remotely likely chance of being around in 2000 years to defend the validity of his work, we will leave it to him to worry about.

Once ‘ancient stone phallus’ was ticked off the list, we were free to move on, and carried on our journey to the ancient town of Fes. Meanwhile, the Powder Monkey – whose nickname is Camel, and henceforth shall be known as such – had read his auntie’s email informing him of her arrival in Casablanca, and in return had sent this desperate plea:

From: Camel PowderMonkey
Sent: Thursday 26 November 8:48 am
Subject: Re: Arrival!

Help me! If I do not see a picture of a camel I will die! xxxooo from 🐪 [camel emoji that might not display]

Well, Pye was immediately very concerned for Camel’s health and well-being!! But she was also in a bit of a bind – Morocco is rife with camels, and they would certainly see some very photogenic camels very soon, but there was only one photo of a camel that Pye had had the opportunity to take at this point, and everyone she asked said that she should under no circumstances send that picture to a boy not yet aged 8. Luckily for Camel’s health, Pye is not very good at taking advice!

From: AuntiePye
Sent: Friday 27 November 11:11 am
Subject: Re: Arrival!

Hello 🐪 [camel emoji that might not display]!
I am a helpful auntie who wants you to be healthy and definitely not die. We're going to the desert tomorrow to ride camels, then to a village for a week, but in both places we won't have WiFi. I assume you can't wait that long, so please find attached a picture of a camel we saw today in the Medina at Fes. I hope you don't have nightmares and that the photo helps to keep you alive.
Be safe, and be good!
xxx Auntie Pye


Camel survived and Pye stands by her actions.

Fes was just as fabulous as Pye recalled, and was a very nice place to celebrate the birthday of one of the Squad. Pye remained unsure how the medina/shopping tour and a parade of three-course meals was adequately preparing the Squad for the imminent trek, but it was price we all seemed willing to pay. Then, because this version of World Challenge was structured a lot more like an private tour than an expedition, there was a pre-booked day tour of Fes for us to enjoy. The students had asked what they might expect from a day tour, and Pye had tried to describe her experiences from two years ago. When the guide arrived and started making Pye’s description come true, Pye was pleased, as she had enjoyed what was covered last time. Before long, though, she was squinting her eyes at Aziz the guide and thinking that he kind of looked like Denzel Washington, which, in turn stirred a dim memory that our last guide also looked kinda like Denzel Washington… holy shit, it was the same guy! What are the odds?! Fairly high, if Stinky’s theory that all the Fes tour guides look the same because they are robots…

We started out the front of the Royal Palace, then headed up the hill to the Borj Nord military fort…
… stopped by a pottery co-op to have our wallets milked (phew, it’s about time!), before plunging into the Medina to feast our eyes and noses on Fes’ iconic and stunning Chouwara Tannery. Last time it looked like this…
… and the smell was unforgettable. This time they lead us into a leather shop that looked the same as last time, only now the view looked like this:
Major refurbishment?? Neighbouring development?? Fuck you, tannery, I didn’t come here to look at a building site!! They still showed us a couple of fermenting tanning pots (so the vegetarians could almost vomit) and wanted us to buy leather products, but it was very disappointing. We had to cloak our disappointment in deception for those at home.
While some things were very different, other things were almost exactly the same. For instance, these donkeys we found this time:
… were in precisely the same spot as these donkeys at the end of 2013:
And we’re pretty sure the black one from this trip’s picture is the one from the back in 2013. Poor thing hasn’t got very far!

We also revisited the Attarin Medersa (a religious school established in the 14th century), and Moose was delighted to commemorate the point where Captain Obvious farted on one of last trip’s cohort. Pye did not fart on any young women, although Moose tried to insist that she should.
There were other milking stations to hit up, including a weaving stop for us all to invest in headscarves so we could pretend to be real Berbers when we rode camels in the desert. This was the greatest challenge the Squad was about to face – with camel trek preceding the project, this made a potential eleven days in a row without WiFi. Prayers were sought on Facebook and obviously helped, because after gearing ourselves up to spend a shivery night in a tent in a dusty, rocky shithole and wiping our dusty selves down with wet wipes, our next pre-booked accommodation turned out to be a very cool kasbah-style place, that even had WiFi! Again, not very World Challengey, but as a staff member, Pye didn’t mind in the slightest (she even sat on the roof and pretended it was to watch the sunrise, but really it was because she could access the common-area WiFi without being seen – the kids didn’t figure that out, which was surprising, since they can sense WiFi in their cells).

Well-rested and clean, we headed out to change all that by sitting on smelly ungulates and getting sand everywhere. It is so, so, sooooo touristy to drive to a start point, ride a camel for an hour, sleep in a ‘Berber tent’, wake up, use the PLUMBED TOILET, then ride the camels back again, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun! Pye insisted that all the students give their camel a name and a backstory, so it felt very community-oriented, as well.
Moose always likes to hang out on a sand dune or two, even if he was scornful of how he could see a road from the camp, not like last time where it was the real desert.
Nonetheless, he was kind enough to allow Pye to use her newly-learned scarf-tying skills to make him look more authentically deserty.
erg_chebbi_scarf_selfie.jpg erg_chebbi_scarf_selfie_moose.jpg
The evening stars were diminished by a shiny, gibbous moon, but the sunrise was worth crawling out of the tent for.
Meanwhile, Moose had somehow found himself some WiFi and had got in a fight with Stinky on Facebook…
While he wasn’t trying to start a flame war with humans, Moose was also sending messages to the Cabin Girl and Camel…

Date: Thu, 3 Dec 2015 16:43:26 +0000
To: PowderMonkey, CabinGirl
Subject: Message from Moose

Dear smallish humans,
How are you, I am fine. Here are some photos of me hanging out in Morocco. I have met a lot of camels. After that one in Fes who was all brains, there was the small one who doesn't breathe, he was very standoffish and didn't like to talk. The breathing one I rode on is named Butch, but he said he wishes he was a little grey donkey named Daisy, so I called him Daisy.
The one in Pye's selfie is called Piddle McGee, and oh boy you should see him wee! It is a lot of fun to watch camels do little round poos, especially at the top if a sand dune, because then they roll and race all the way down to the bottom.
Pye says I am disgusting and that I have to go now pffft SHE is the one who is disgusting, you should smell her socks.

I heard you are going to Geelong soon. I hope you have fun, but don't touch my stuff, I will know if you do.
xx Mooseidiot, esquire

What a scamp!

Just when it was all seeming so luxurious that it was likely we’d all be taken for massages and mocktails at any moment, we entered the Project Phase of the expedition. However, there was no end to the extravagance, for instead of a week of camping in someone’s backyard (as Pye feared), we were provided with a house! Pye got her own room, the two male World Challenge leaders got a huge chamber to share, the three boys had heaps of space… and the eight girls had the other room all to themselves (amazingly, their nest remained tidier than the boys’ room). There was only one bathroom, but it had the best shower in Morocco (with hot, hot water!), and it featured a Western toilet that was very much in demand. The kids faced their first real challenge in discovering they were not allowed to flush used toilet paper down the toilet, and Pye faced the challenge of not verbally abusing all of them for how they’d leave their paper in the bin (you don’t need major origami skills to not leave it chocolate side up and wander off, for fuck’s sake). Pye also formed the suspicion that they eat the clean toilet paper – one time we went back to the house for like five minutes and they legit smashed through a whole roll of paper, what the hell else could have been happening?!

The project, based at the only secondary school in Goulmima, was soon in full swing, with everyone in the Squad quickly becoming an expert at mixing and spreading cement to repair the handball courts, and the painting crew attempting to not permanently damage their lungs by sanding a bunch of rooms. Pye was not positive, but we think all the girls all obtained fiancés by the end of the first lunch break. The Squad also funded the employment of actually-skilled labourers, and while not directing the Squad, Abdul-the-somewhat-racist-foreman was fascinated to learn about Indonesian’s Arabic loan words, so Pye had to screen-shot the lengthy list from Wikipedia to stop him just shouting the days of the week at her in Indonesian/Arabic.

The Squad was only compelled to work until lunchtime each day, leaving the afternoons free to do things like go on excursions or not wash their clothes. We had a project coordinator named Tarik, (‘tarik’ means ‘pull’ or ‘draw’ in Indonesian, which was appropriate, because we eventually came to realise he was controlling and increasingly annoying), who offered the opportunity to pay a visit to some nomads who had popped up nearby. Who wouldn’t want to chill with some Berber nomads, cuddle their baby goats and eat bread cooked on hot rocks?
Here is a rare moment when the kid was not clutched lovingly to a chest. The students agreed the cuddling was totally worth being pooed and widdled on – although Moose was outraged, because when he poos and wees on humans it is ‘disgusting’ and he gets a smack…
While not distracted by baby ungulates cuter than him, Moose was distracted by a small tent set several metres away from the main tent:
He was terribly curious, and assumed it was for the human nomads to do their poos and wees. But, no! It turned out, the small tent is for when a Mummy Nomad and a Daddy Nomad want to make more Baby Nomads. So now we know what a Nomad Sex Tent looks like, but no one could tell us how nomads go about finding wives, maybe they usually just wait for a project coordinator to bring them a fresh selection every couple of years.
Actually, Pye did start to wonder how long it would be to get the Squad back home. We thought the visit was going to last an hour or so, but before we knew it the sun had set, the camels and goats had all come home, and our mini bus driver had to pretend he knew the way out of the desert all on his own. We only got bogged in sand once and definitely drove in the wrong direction for at least eight minutes, but eventually achieved the road and path back to civilisation, hurrah!

This was lucky, because the Squad had plenty of work to do, even if Moose wanted to force them to admit that it was he who was leading the way.
project_moose_smooths.jpg project_moose_roller.jpg
project_moose_rake.jpg project_moose_hose.jpg project_moose_barrow.jpg
Perhaps he didn’t count as work the effort that goes into being polite to somewhat creepy alumni who are in their early 20s, don’t have jobs and generally sleep till midday before turning up to help with the work, because meese are notoriously uncharitable and troublesome.

Speaking of troublesome, half way through the project, some dickhead student announced to the group, “Isn’t it good how no one’s been sick?” Pye slammed her fork down to the table and screeched, “You fucking idiot what have you done?!” (though she phrased it differently), for we all know there is no better way that to cause a plague in a group than to make such a thoughtless comment. The boy - henceforth known as Pissboy - was all like, “No, that’s stupid, I don’t believe in it!” but the very next day, two kids were spewing and one had the squirts. Pye was as charitable as she felt able, telling Pissboy, “I’m not saying this is your fault – but you are responsible!” True story.

When not working, hanging out with nomads, or causing their Squad-mates to fall ill, the kids enjoyed wandering around the town, drinking gallons of soft drinks in order to access cafes’ WiFi, and, under a bit a duress, having cultural experiences by exploring Goulmima’s kasbah. Speaking strictly, architecturally it is not a kasbah (because it has too many towers and is owned by the community, not one rich family), but in practice, it was like walking through a scene from Aladdin. Moose liked the house these strange dogs lived in…
… and there are no photos of the best scenes, on account of how the locals prefer to not be photographed going about their daily business (Pye had no time to take photos, anyway, she was too busy slapping the camera out of Pissboy’s hands every time he tried to take a photo of a lady washing her knickers or some such).

The week of manual labour and cultural delights was a very good project, but it was also definitely long enough and no one was too sorry when it finally came to an end. The finish of the project coincided with the conclusion of the school’s advanced English ‘Access Group’ American-sponsored course, and we were invited to attend their graduation ceremony. The evening comprised of presentations by the Access students (plays, poems, multimedia presentations), and kicked off with the Ritual Singing of the National Anthem. They politely asked if we wanted to do ours first, and we obliged, even though three-quarters of the way through Advance Australia Dirge, it became rather too obvious that Pye and the hippy girl were bravely shouting louder to drown out the mumbling majority who had forgotten the words. The Moroccan anthem was so much more rousing and passionately presented that Pye would have gladly gone into battle against whomever they pointed a sword towards the end.  The presentations were all very good, but amazingly, it was the Squad and their attendant adults who were presented with certificates (AND medals!) at the end of the performances.
This triggered the Selfie Olympics in which the Squad and their Moroccan friends all competed fiercely and to great effect.

We finished the project without throttling Tarik (which is worthy of mention because it was a very challenging achievement, don’t even get Pye started), and headed off to the wilds of Todra Gorge and the trek. Leader David promised faithfully that the mules would have satellite WiFi, and Moose chortled in the corner because hah, humans will believe anything!

July 2017


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