I started this little blog one year ago today to chronicle a trip to Morocco. And what a trip that turned out to be eh? (I had to add the “eh” to assure you I am still as Canadian as the Rocky Mountains and maple syrup).
I am sitting in a cafe on Mohammed V, very near my home. It’s Sunday afternoon and around 35 degrees. I came here to enjoy the energy of this gorgeous, crazy, loud and often surprising city I now call home. It’s amazing to me what can happen in the blink of an eye. I am happy to be living proof that if you are open to change, change will come. As someone on the “cyber” once said, “you are only one decision away from a completely different life.”
Decision made. Life in progress. And oh what a life it is. (Hamdullah)
I can still recall with vivid detail seeing Laura, my intrepid travel mate, coming through the airport in Toronto and knowing it was going to be good. That first long travel day that climaxed at “where is the war?” spoken in confident grade 9 Canadian French to soldier in the customs hall in Casablanca. I can still hear him clearly laughing out loud and pointing Laura to the train station downstairs. Thanks to Mustapha for pointing out weeks later that “gare” and “guerre” have clearly different pronunciation. But then he’s alway had a good African position so….you know…..
We met up with my friend Jen that same day. She was here only a month and so homesick. She is happily back in Casa for her second year of teaching. I haven’t seen her since we shipped our luggage back in August (or the luggage for that matter) but it’s comforting to know she is in the country still. (And so is the luggage – reportedly).
And then we embarked on what would be the beginning of my Berber love affair. I wrote in my very first post “let’s face it, I have no idea what’s about to happen” and I am so thankful that it all turned out the way it did. Now I live here. I am on my second apartment and waiting to move into the one that will be my long term address (inshallah). As soon as business settles down (sadly) I will be unpacking like I mean it.
Here are some random thoughts on the past year :
I have not lost my deep admiration and love for Berbers. That continues to grow daily.
I have travelled thoroughly around this country twice and many more times on short trips hither and yawn. Down to the desert a few times, Roses Valley, Chefchaouen again, Fes again, Casablanca again and again, Sidi Ifni, Safi, Tiznit, Agadir. I can’t wait for my next trip to do it all again. (3 weeks and counting!)
I’ve learned and forgotten and learned again some pretty passable Darija, some decent Berber and my French listening skills are good while my accent remains offensive to most French speakers here.
I can find my way through Marrakech and the medina pretty much without a map.
I have come to appreciate a business and social landscape where you can do literally anything you want if you just have the will and a good idea. Morocco is an entrepeneurs heaven. Truly.
I’ve been back to Canada twice and while I appreciated the commerce opporuntities and catching up with loved ones, I’d rather be in Morocco right now.
I have no regrets. I returned to my old home and met the people who live there now and enjoyed their wonderful company all summer long. I don’t miss that house. Not a bit. Nor do I have regrets about Daisy. The universe delivered us the gift of her new family and I could not be happier for how that turned out for all of us. I do miss my wee family on Arcadian Circle of course. But my life is here and they have 3 kids so…… I will see them again and again in this life. I have no fear of that.
I have started to make friends here. I’ve made and lost a few already. (That’s the life of an expat though) and I am starting to unpeel the onion of the expat scene in this very, very small town.
I’ve learned some really good lessons on who to trust and who not to trust and I’ve gained a much deeper appreciation for the ones who guide me here.
I’ve learned a lot about how Berbers think and how to work in harmony with that. I have slowly and in time learned how to be me, in this country. It was awkward at first, and there were some rough patches, but I think we have found a rhythm that suits everyone.
I have learned a lot about respect, compromise, and the different natures that exist around me.
I have learned to not go out and buy things in Morocco. I just “put in a request” and the item will show up one day, purchased at the best price from the exact right place where it was made by the best people.
I have gained a lovely Berber family that has welcomed me with open arms and love. They look out for me and me them, help me when I need it and sometimes when I don’t and are never far away. Even the language barrier with mum has not stopped the love I feel for this magnificent woman.
I can walk down the street and see familiar faces who are happy to wave and say hello. (Salam, ca va, le bas, b’heil) (Honestly, greeting here is so delicious and heartwarming I could live on that alone)
While it is in fact my genetic responsibility to be the friendlist person in the room, I have finally found the dial on that and can turn my back on those not deserving of this smile. I was told there was a line here, and slowly, very slowly, I have found it and I’m able to stay on my side of it.
We have birthed two businesses and a sideline. All in good time these will grow and flourish. The first focus is on the tour business which is booming, falling beautifully into place, finding a rhythm, and working like a well oiled machine. (Inshallah). The next business is coming along after a lot of legwork over the summer and now apparently a few more trips back to the men in the room with the stamps. (Boom, boom). The sideline? More on that later.
I thought I knew a lot about business, and I do, but I have come to appreciate every single day that my initial decision to partner the way I did was one of the smartest choices I’ve made to date.
I know how I like to work and I am starting to thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to apply those practices. The 9-5 was so engrained in me by so many years of corporate indoctrination. I am learning that if the ideas come at 10pm, then spark up the laptop and get to it. There is no such thing as a weekend in this land of tourism. Just 7 days. They can be filled with travel, work, connections, or rest. My choice. And sometimes travel is business and rest is connection and a little day trip can open a whole new business opportunity.
I know without any question that you can maintain long distance friendships with some well placed phone calls, texts, and chats. Your friends are your friends are your friends. Distance does not make a dent in that.
I am oft ridiculed for my time on social media but I have met a lot of people in this life and I have never more appreciated that people weave their way in and out of your life over the grand space of time. It’s important to stay visible. The people you need will come to you at the funniest times in the weirdest places. I am happy to be in touch with so many people and I am so thankful for the random messages I receive and the connections that people are helping me make at this new stage of my life. I worked very hard to build a website but as any good web strategist knows the website is a brochure. It’s your connections that make the business hum.
I don’t bat an eye now when I’m walking down the street and a really hot sports car catches my eye in the same instant that I am wondering at how quickly the donkeys move along through traffic.
I have broken my initial western resistance to people begging on the street and I have embraced the Muslim way. One of the 5 pillars of Islam is to give alms. It is very common to see Moroccans stop and give change to people who ask for it. Today as I sat in the cafe I watched an old Berber lady, pushing an old man in a wheelchair. She stopped in front of the cafe and asked the server to fill a bottle with water. When he returned he brought them the water bottle, a bag of food, and some change that I slipped him on his way over. It’s how it is. You take care of people who need to be taken care of.
I have learned that everything is available here. You just have to know where to look. I thought the little “hanout” (small depeneur) on the corner had little to offer. It is a typical corner market where the space for customers to stand measures about 2 sq m and the goods rise up about 23 ft on all 4 sides, reached only by ladder. When I told people I found a place where the mosque and the church are they always replied “oh yes and you have a little super marche”. After a few visits and some keen observation, I realized that this store offers everything I need in a super marche. It’s just vertical. No carts required. You need the right words and have a good pointing finger. That’s it.
Mostly I’ve learned that all you need to do is make decisions based on your gut. Align with the right people and hold those people as close to your heart as you can. Be kind to people and be open to new things and anything…..anything at all …..its possible.
Oh. And absolutely look both ways when you are crossing the street.