Sunday, April 25, 2010
Not Your Typical Tour
A couple of my good friends made it to Fes after 3½ years of following the ups and downs of my life on this blog and listening to my stories during the two visits I’ve managed to make back to California. Despite the volcano and with great determination, they managed to get across the U.S. and arrive in Fes a mere 12 hours after their planned arrival time. Their plane was diverted to Marrakech on the final leg of their journey and they were boarded onto a bus for a 9-hour drive to Fes. But they made it and, oh boy, was I glad to see them!
About halfway through their visit to Fes, it was necessary for me to spend some time on my work and prepare for the upcoming week of classes at school. I had papers to grade and lessons to plan. So my husband agreed to walk with them through the medina and show them the city he is so proud of while I stayed at Café Clock to read my students’ writing and grade their quizzes from the previous week.
An hour into my work I received a phone call from one of my visitors … “Evelyn, we’re at the police station and we need to you come with your marriage papers.” I rushed home, grabbed my marriage act and implored one of the workers at the cafe to take me to the police station, for it was deep in the bowels of the medina and I had no idea how to get there. I arrived about 15 minutes after I had received the phone call only to find my friends shunted off into a corner of the room and my husband behind the partitioned counter with several policemen around him. I waved my marriage act around and tried to ascertain what I needed to do to get my husband released.
I was told by the head honcho at the station that the arrest had been ordered by the Chief of Police and only he could rescind the order. I was told I must go to the main police station in the Ville Nouvelle to speak to the Chief. My husband was trying to downplay the whole thing for the sake of our visitors, but he implored me to go as quickly as I could.
It was important for me to take my friends with me so they could attest to the fact that they are family members and not some random tourists that my husband decided to squire around the medina to shop. Alas, they did not have their passports on them so it was necessary for them to return to my house before proceeding to the main Police Station.
Feeling a great sense of urgency to get to this Chief of Police, I instructed my sisters to follow the guy who had brought me to the police station back to my house where they should pick up their passports and get in a taxi. I would meet up with them at the main police station. Understand that the young Moroccan man they were following was now at great risk of being arrested by the police for being a faux guide … but he didn’t hesitate to help.
All this time I was in full adrenaline mode and charging up the steep incline of the medina. With each step I was leaving them further behind. My mind was racing, trying to figure out how I would communicate with the officials at the main police station. I was nearly at the top of the medina when I saw a former student of mine standing against a wall. I beckoned to him and asked if he had a half hour to spare so he could help me. He readily agreed and stayed with me through our travails for the next three hours! He, too, was putting himself at risk but did nothing more than call his mother to ask her to check in with him periodically to make sure he wasn’t arrested as he acted as my interpreter.
When I arrived at the police station and I was dripping wet from the heat of the day and the charge up the medina. We went to the main door, were directed to a side door, and then directed to yet another entrance. Inside there was no evidence of the Chief. In fact, after a phone call was made, we were told to return to where we had come from for the Chief was actually still in the medina.
I met up with my friends as I was leaving and we ordered two taxis to take us back. Of course when we arrived, my husband was now gone for the police had taken advantage of our absence and had processed him through the system (of course). We were told he was now in jail in Batha where he would remain until a judge saw him the following morning.
The four of us jumped in a gypsy taxi (petit taxis can only take 3 people) and drove off to Batha. Once there, the guards outside were not about to let us enter. But we persevered and eventually got to see the superintendent of the jail. He kindly and calmly listened to our story and made every attempt to help. But it was all to no avail. My husband was in jail for the night for it was too late in the process to go back. I had been duped from the very start and shouldn’t have left the medina police station in the first place.
Feeling defeated and embarrassed and powerless, I made arrangements with my interpreter to buy food, water and cigarettes for my husband as he waited out the night with 30 other’s incarcerated in a small, dirty, foul-smelling room. As I was handing money to my student to make these purchases, a passing undercover policeman saw us and stopped to question my good-intentioned helper. It turned out this was one of the policemen who had just arrested my husband. A few words of explanation satisfied him that another arrest was not warranted and my student was permitted to make the purchases and reward the guards for passing the goods onto my husband.
Word about the arrest quickly spread throughout the neighborhood and throughout the afternoon and evening, many deliveries of warm clothes, food and drink were passed through the guards’ hands and handed over to my husband to help him get through the night. The following morning he was released after paying 1,000 DH and being told the next time they arrested him he would spend a month in jail and the arrest would go on his record.
I am reluctant to go into details about what happened next, but in the end it was eminently clear to me that my husband’s arrest was a foregone conclusion. The Chief of Police disavowed all knowledge of the reason for the arrest, as did the arresting officers. Some believe a jealous Guide put in a phone call to arrange the arrest. Others say it was so-and-so who had been laying in wait for the past three years for my husband to make a misstep. But it’s very clear to me that someone, somewhere, decided it was time to put him in his place and there was no way to stop what happened.
Of course, if I had been with them, nothing would have happened. If we had gone to the main police station and officially registered my visitors (heretofore, I never knew about this procedure), nothing would have happened. If we had hired an official guide my husband could have accompanied them and nothing would have happened.
Could of, would of, should of!
And now that my friends are gone and my husband is free, I am left with the thought that this incident was an enlightening example of the realities of life here. It actually served to give my family (and yours truly) an incredible insight into how things work. And following the arrest, you wouldn’t believe how kind and supportive everyone was and how concerned they were to leave my visitors with a good impression of their country. Everyone pulled out the stops to show their renowned hospitality and generosity. Of course I also got more than my fill of conflicting advice about what I should have done which I patiently listened to and will selectively heed.
But all is well that ends well and I am content to let all the experiences and impressions sit with my visitors for the next 6 weeks so they can process them and give me the benefit of their insights into the life I have created here. I am looking forward to having a thoughtful discussion with them about my own future in Fes when I arrive in California for the summer.
Posted by Water Dragon at 2:05 AM