Sometimes it takes traumatic events, or circumstances that shake up your self-concept to be able to take a good look at who you are. Unless you are dead, life continues to move on. There are so many lessons that can be derived from circumstances that we did not plan to go our way. One is the realization that there are many things we do not have control over. Another, is that we have a personal responsibility for how we arrive in the world, or don't.
I have been taking a look at my intuition, along with asking myself questions, knowing that things that pop up may still forecast a ground of mystery. I do not have the answers for how things will play out, and I only have the imagination for how diving into things will.
Sometimes life-shattering events don't need to happen for us to be able to take a look at who we are, but an intention of personal inquiry can do that under "normal circumstances", if we choose to do so with honesty. The thing I want to highlight, is that self-work and personal-inquiry, is largely a choice. The state of mind you are in, your attitude, and behaviors, come from a place of responsibility. Sometimes overthinking can cause us to second guess the great amount of power and courage that exists within us. Doing things may seem daunting, but each step that stems from inquiry of your authentic self yields results.
Life moves on, I don't want to be a victim of the past, I want to embrace the present, and contribute to the world in ways that I have only dreamed of. These are wants, and intentions, but I know it is within my power to make the changes that I want in my life. Seems so serious, doesn't it? Well, I don't want to sleep walk my life away, and I don't want for anyone else as well.
Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine. - Anthony J. D'Angelo
Love in London
As I looked out the window of the bus, my expression softened as I saw multiple people helping a biker who had dropped his groceries. His bags had torn, and an elderly woman was holding open a bag she brought for him to put his new groceries in. Another biker stopped in the middle of the road to pick up a lime and a lemon that the man had dropped, and traffic stopped for him to collect his belongings.
This reminded me about when I was sitting next to an elderly woman who was begging in Morocco. She had her hand out, and watched as people walked by. She had a couple of tears that streamed down her blank-expression face. Eventually she asked the man sitting next to me if the food shop would give her something. I went and grabbed her a water. When I gave it to her, her whole face lit up, and she smiled a toothless grin. Her food eventually came, and I felt surprise that she offered me some. This kindness along with the expression on her face really touched my heart.
This quote may seem unrelated, but I really enjoyed how sensual it felt.
Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that crushed it. - Mark Twain
Running along the shore
Side stinging with the reminder
Of too much smoke inhaled
Feels good to move
Soft sand molds under my pull towards gravity
Feel the spray of the sea
The moisture of the mist
Cooling, while my face feels hot
I sit with what is
And allow myself to sit with the ocean too
These are my footsteps. I think I have taken on some sort of genetic mutation ;)
Today, to pull myself out of feeling overwhelmed, I practiced gratitude. A series of events has left me feeling very overwhelmed, while I am in growing acceptance of circumstances, I can choose the way I look at things. It can be easy to become overwhelmed sometimes, responsibilities can seem daunting. There is no doubt that there is a need for change sometimes, and it is good to be honest about what it may be, whether environmental, mental, the tasks at hand, people, etc. However, one of these ways to ease the feeling of being overwhelmed is through the practice of gratitude.
When looking at the chaos in my life, I took a look at one of the things that I felt currently overwhelmed about. I have little structure within my world right now, and it can be difficult to manage sometimes, especially while amounts of pressure are under flux. I am currently finding myself with one week left in Morocco, up towards my next destination: London. This happened 3 weeks earlier than I expected, but there are push and pull factors that went into me making this decision. I have been thinking about how I need to quickly figure out how I will survive in London for the next month on a tight budget. I wonder how I will lighten a heavy heart in the midst of everything, knowing that I need extra self-care right now, and acknowledging that I am moving a little slower than usual. Thinking this way constantly can drain the tasty juice out of a good experience! I intentionally decided to think with gratitude.
I first put myself in the position of being absent of my ability to currently travel. When thinking about taking away the situation I am in, I feel an impeding feeling of gratitude. I imagine myself without the responsibility, freedom, and opportunities for so many things in front of me, and in turn, I analyze the situation a little differently. I have the ability to travel, the financial resources to book a plane ticket to London, the opportunity to be reflective and self-reliant, the opportunity to learn about so many different things, the list goes on. I remember the growing urge to travel that I had for such a long time, the reality that people want the same thing so badly but may be unable to do it, and the reality that it is underneath my feet. I am extremely grateful to be in this situation. To expand that feeling, I said it out loud, with a smile. I believe this is something I will need to be consciously practicing, to form it into a habit. Tough times happen, things can be overwhelming, but feeling a sense of gratitude can help turn a mood into one that encompasses some positivity about one’s circumstances.
The Sahara Desert
First Camel Ride
Well!!! This week took quite the turn. I decided it was time to move on from Marrakesh, and I wanted to head towards one of the beach towns. Agadir looked lovely, but I wasn't wanting to spend the amount on the hostels out there, plus, I made a friend in Marrakesh who was headed to Essaouria. We took the bus to Essaouria, and both stayed at a hostel in the Medina.
The culture at that hostel was intense. There were nightly drumming fests, like there were in Marrakech, but here it was inside the hostel. I could hear the flutes of the snake charmers, and the nightly drumming that came with staying in Jemaa el-Fnaa, the Medina in Marrakesh, and in Essaouria, my nights were filled with the sounds of drumming and cheering.
Sherry and I walked over to the beach, and saw well over 200 locals running into the water and walking along the shore. Here, it felt like I blended in, I wasn't getting looks like I was from somewhere different, it felt like I was just another person walking along the beach, with my new Canadian friend. I looked ahead in the distance and my heart immediately jumped with excitement. Camels!!! Ahh! Sherry!! Camels!! There goes my blending in and not seeming like a total tourist. Haha.
After my initial exclamation, I ran towards the camels and horses that I saw in the distance, and then started to walk so I wouldn't totally ditch Sherry. There were multiple men who were leading these animals around, and we negotiated a price to ride the camel. Riding a camel was way different than I anticipated. I climbed on, trying to find a comfortable spot on top of the hump, and the camel started standing up. It unbuckled its legs and kind of unfolded, which resulted in its distribution of weight shifting back and forth. I grabbed on and laughed as it felt like I was going to be tossed off, in one direction or the other.
I had started school on Monday, and it felt like I had gotten nothing done in comparison to what I needed to get done. The hostel was a fantastic place for socializing, but not so much for getting work done. Music had been blasting for hours too, and I had a headache to go along with my distraction. I sat down at a table, and told this girl from New York that I was probably going to get lunch and head over to a café if she wanted to join. She looked at her computer while sitting at the table, “Yeah, I’ll do that, I’ve come to terms that it is going to be pretty noisy here.
As we walked over to a restaurant nearby, with plates of tagine chicken and couscous costing about 30 dihrams. It amazes me how inexpensive things are here. I dropped a container of salt and she picked it up and tossed salt over her shoulder as we began to eat “At this point I’m fed up. Fed up with people taking advantage of me and my kindness, Sick of being treated like a walking ATM. Usually I cover up a little more, but fuck it, you caught me on my rebel day”. She was wearing a loose fitting tank top and her black bra was visible from the sides. The attention varied, from “Oh shukran, thank you thank you, so sexy”, to “May God save you”.
New York and I decided to get some henna done, and I watched her bargain the price. She ended up paying 15 dihrams less than I did for a black henna tattoo (more expensive than brown), but I let it go because of how inexpensive it was already. I felt like I was pushing too much to go lower, but they were also pushing a lot to go higher. I compared it to a time when I was at the Taste of Colorado festival, and paid $15 for a henna maybe 1/6th of the size of the U.S. equivalent of $6 that I paid in Marrakech. New York also brought it to my attention that I could keep on comparing Moroccan Dihrams and prices to U.S. dollars, but that we were in Morocco, not the United States. Things are cheap here, so we should be paying the cheap prices, which are in fact regular here. Tourists do not get the same prices though.
New York and I sat down for a little bit near the henna artists, and waited for our henna to sit for a little. This was difficult because it was so hot that our arms were sweating, and the henna would slightly bleed. The lady who had done New York’s henna walked over and grabbed an older white lady and brought her over. I wasn’t really paying attention to what was going on with them, but then the lady asked for 600dihrams for her henna work. The woman was livid, which was clearly noticible as she yelled in a frantic English accent, “600 dihrams, this looks horrible! Can you believe it?” To be fair, 600 is ridiculous, and it did look pretty bad. She walked away and from a distance it seemed that she had a 100dihram bill in her hand. The henna lady got in her face and forcefully pulled the bill out of the other lady’s hand.
Walking around with New York that day brought another reference point as to how people handle the haggling. She gave people attention accompanied with an annoyed tone, once they started to haggle her. “No, just no, go away!”, she would emphasize in a drawn out tone. This contrast reminded me of the couple that I had met on my first day in Marrakech. That example of how to be graceful about haggling will stick with me. It is not always a direct personal attack; this is the culture of the Medina. This is what people have been shown how to do through example, and it probably does work in many instances. The Londoners from earlier had responded with shy smiles and some playful laughs, this woman with hysteria.
Fill Your Mind and Heart
I was standing outside of a cinema, peering in at the different posters advertising movies that I assumed were playing inside, who knows, they could have been old. A man standing near the entrance who probably noticed my curiosity said, “It’s a cinema, you can come in, have a look”. He had a phone box in his hand, but I still went ahead because I was genuinely curious about what kinds of movies would be advertised, and he hadn’t completely jumped towards me to sell his products. After I had looked around, I went outside and stood next to the man. He told me said that his name was Moses and he was from Senegal. I told him that I had heard of the country, but I did not know where it was exactly. This brought a twinge of guilt within me, but I quickly told myself, "Hey, Africa has so many different countries, and you're just starting to get exposed, it's okay." He brought up the phone box, pointing to a picture of one of the apps. “See this, this is Maroc (Morocco in French), down is Mauritania, and then Senegal. Only one in between”. “Why did you come to Maroc?”, I asked. “I am a drummer”, he said while taking his hand and wiping his forehead, with drops of sweat falling towards the ground. “There is more work in Maroc, especially during the night when the city square is filled”.
We stood there in the dry heat next to the city square in Marrakech. The sounds of flute-like instruments used to charm snakes and the occasional kick up of dust filled the air, as people passed through the road, selling watches and sunglasses. I had been checking the weather in Celsius instead of Fahrenheit to become accustomed to the unit of measure, and it was 42 degrees, which is roughly 107 degrees Fahrenheit. Moses turned towards me. He told me, "In this life, you fill your mind, and your heart. I come from Senegal, and I am filled with what I know there. I meet people, and whatever I bring is of my mind and heart, and for them, the same. We share, and now part of them is me, and part of me is them. You fill up your mind with experiences here, go back to the United States, and tell them”. “Marroc is different than Senegal”, he said. “I bring my mind here and interact with others".
We had been standing in silence for about a minute, when a small boy with a bucket of nuts came up to me and said “Madam, merci”, and tried to hand me a nut. “Laa, shukran (No thank you)” I said. I suppose since he talked to me in French it would have been better for me to respond in French, but I had been excited to use some of my Arabic, and was on autopilot with what had been working so far. He looked at me with big sad eyes and put on a pouting face, and proceeded to stand there and beg. Moses said something to the boy and the boy went away after a couple of minutes. “See this is not a good life for the boy. Not good for his mind. But I think it is his parents, this situation. Listen, see? His parents save the money send him to school, where he can get an education. This, see this? This is no way to live.” I asked if it was similar in Senegal. Moses said, “This, this is similar across Africa”. I did take a humbleness and a pensive nature from that talk with Moses. I carry pieces of Moses's heart and mind, along with the influences that he has been exposed to, and the spirals of exposures that have collided within every life. A blended patchwork of individuality, is what I am, carrying myself and the products of my environment, folded onto itself.
Arriving in Marrakech, Morocco
I was walking in the market, weaving my way through a crowd of people which consisted of mostly of men, with some women peppered in. I was trying to scurry through the crowd, wearing my sunglasses to avoid noticeable eye contact while also keeping my eyes towards the ground half the time, looking out for my step along the dirt path. I was inhaling the aroma of spices which I could not name, while listening for motor bikes and comments directed towards me in general. When someone would yell something my way, I would pretend that I didn't hear them and then would proceed to continue swiftly walking. It was my first couple of hours in Morocco, my first time in a non-western type culture, and I was feeling overwhelmed with figuring out how to navigate it. I was too excited to stay in the hostel and relax after travelling here, knowing that I would be here for months.
I made my way through the busy part of the medina, and one older man had called out to me, ”Espanol? Frances? English?", he said. I thought to myself, “Are the people prepared to communicate in all those languages?” He spoke brilliant English, and asked where I was from. By this point, I started saying "America" more commonly than I did the "United States", which is a term I adopted to delineate an ethnocentric vernacular that the United States took on when only being one country in North and South "America". Using the term America to describe the United States seems to be more recognized on this side of the hemisphere, however. Some people look puzzled whenever I say the United States. I do not really have the energy to explain why I would say the United States instead of America, though I have a feeling a may get in somewhat of a habit of saying “America” on this side of the hemisphere. When I say America, people then usually proceed to ask where in America, as took place in this conversation with the older man. When I say Colorado and people respond with a nod and a, "Ah, oh, COLORADO...", it takes me by surprise how people are familiar with the many states in the U.S. Now, however, or at least here in Marrakesh, I have a growing skepticism that surrounds whether if people are actually familiar with what Colorado is. It doesn't seem like such well known place that I would expect, like New York or California. It seems that many of the hagglers are aiming to connect or draw you in as well, so I feel a little distrusting from the start.
After talking with the man for a little bit, he brought up the leather market. I had read about this online, how the Berbers hand-made leather goods in big basins. He called out towards a guy and probably said something to the effect of "Bring her there, no charge". The guy and I walked towards the leather basins, and along the way we stopped by a mosque and he showed me different buildings, calling me sister as we weaved through the many passageways and random turns that this city held. I wonder what it would be like to grow up here, learning the maze of the lines of walls and shops as a child. I looked over at the man next to me, he looked incredibly skinny, and didn't look like a teenager but if he was closer to my age I wouldn't have noticed given his tiny frame and weight. He started to tell me about the leather basins, how the people are from the Atlas Mountains and they come from the city to I started to grow suspicious that this was a guide who was going to ask for money, and I said, "No cost right?" "No, no cost sister."
Day 37- Bergamo, Italy
Day 30 - Bonassola, Italy
Thank you for visiting! This is my personal blog, where I write about social justice, geography, culture, and my own encounters and reflections from around the world.