I am sitting on my open rooftop, soaking in the sun for the first time in months. I can barely remember the changing of the seasons last year – one thing ran into the next and time whizzed by. But not this year. Just four or five days ago the days suddenly turned warm. When I would certainly need a warm jacket and layers in the evening, I can now leave my windows open well past dark. Before long the oppressive heat of a Moroccan summer will be here.
But right now, it’s my favorite time of year.
I don’t even mind trips to the roof to hang freshly washed laundry – last year I loathed it. I take a few minutes to linger and listen to the sounds of the birds and on the street below. I open the windows of my room as I write to let in the fresh air. (We have an open courtyard in the middle of the house – like many Marrakechi homes). Tonight after school but before dark I’ll walk with the children to the souk to buy a few things for dinner.
Yes, this year is much different from last.
I moved here full of optimism and excitement and I haven’t been let down but it has taken me time to adjust. I look back on some of the things I’ve written – some published and some just for myself – and I see a process.
The wide eyed excitement, followed by a very real hardening and anger, and now a sense of embracing Morocco for what it is and what it isn’t. I’ve gotten cynical about things, and I’ve also gotten protective of my adopted country.
While visitors criticize I argue they don’t understand. Morocco is like an onion (thank you Shrek) and it takes a lot of time to peel back the layers. Some are tough and fiberous, others flimsy like paper, some bruised while others are opaque – and you never know what’s under the next one.
I’ve made plenty of realizations it’s changed how I live.
I’ll always be a foreigner here but I straddle a unique position that even expats who have lived here for years don’t have. I live with a Moroccan family and am embedded into Moroccan life. I used to fault expats and visitors for failing to understand the Moroccan side but I now know, there’s no way for them TO understand, it’s a world outside of them.
So to you all, I’m sorry. I also was hard on myself. I didn’t want to be a foreigner, I wanted to be seen and treated as a Moroccan (or do I??) I would whisper in English or just avoid interactions with people. No more.
I accept the challenge to talk with strangers who know I’m foreign but often are in awe that I speak even some darija. I can almost hold a conversation about a variety of topics. I can do my shopping, ask questions, and get by. Let’s face it sometimes being foreign comes in handy too.
The man who owns our neighborhood bakery, he lived in Scotland and smiles and we exchange pleasantries in English whenever I see him on the street. Or the man at the mukata (an office for legalizing paperwork) who looked at my passport and a huge grin came across his face as he exclaimed how wonderful his American neighbor is.
It’s not all roses but those early immigrant hiccups are becoming few and farther between. The sun is shining and warm. The snow is glistening on the mountains and life in Marrakech is good.
Alhamdulilah. (Thanks to God).
What else is new?
My mom just spent two weeks visiting us. Time flies when you’re with the ones you love. Sometimes it’s harder to be together and have to say good-bye again than it is to not be together. My hearts a little broken today.
I’ve been published on GOOD Magazine’s website as a part of their #ProjectLiteracy column. I share about literacy initiatives in Morocco in this piece; Solving the Literacy Gender Gap in Morocco.
That’s all from my corner in Morocco. Sending rays of sunshine to whatever corner of the world you’re in today.