About the Author, V. 2.0

I guess it’s about time I update this section. I suppose I still am a recovering workaholic in a sense; I did put in enough hours this summer to count for 2 or more seasons. But, it’s easy enough now to put that aside, and the withdrawals aren’t too bad.

These days, I’m a brand new ESL teacher, living and working in Morocco. This blog was, and still will be, both my outlet for expressing my experience and also a resource for other travellers/new ESL teachers to learn about the process.

As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions, or feedback. My email and all social media contacts are available on the sidebar and I LOVE hearing news of people who have found anything on here useful. And now that I’ve finally figured out the PayPal donation buttons, you can feel free to send your love directly into my account 😉

Thanks and enjoy!

PS: see here for the origins of meganonatrailer 🙂 here’s to 2.5 years of trailer-free living!

Returning to Normal: the final Ftour

So, it’s now Day 2 of Eid al-fitr, the celebratory days at the end of the fast. I made it.

Well, almost.

Last time I wrote, it was Day 14, less than halfway, and I was having serious doubts about how much longer I would last.

Day 18, I caved. I have a client who’s the Secretary General of a government-affiliated organization here in Morocco, so I have to be on top of my game. And this day, I was nowhere even close to the court. Dizzy, nauseous, and headachey all morning. Lethargic and I knew I wouldn’t be able to give even a half-decent class. So I broke the fast; I had coffee, water, some dates, and nuts. Nothing crazy, but it immediately cleared my head and I felt 100% better. God, I love coffee.

Day 23, caved again. Got fed up with the constant fatigue, being light-headed, and generally feeling like garbage. So instead I enjoyed a lovely, lazy, guilt-free morning brunch. Even more seriously considered not continuing the fast, but somehow gathered the resolve to keep going one more day.

Day 25, two days later; I had class again. And again, I knew that I couldn’t provide the quality of service I’m being paid for if I continued fasting, so again, broke fast and hopped myself up on coffee and soup. Rebel!

Day 26, I thought I was going to fast, and was doing a fine job of it, but a non-fasting friend came over after work and we decided just to eat then (about 6) rather than wait the extra hour and a half for sunset. I don’t know why, but it felt good, so…. Oops!

I really felt that my fasting was going down the tube at this point. Next to no resolve and such little return on the efforts, but somehow I powered through and the last 4 days were actually the best ones of the month. Totally clear-headed with moderate amounts of energy; a definitely workable situation.

All in all, I fasted 26 days out of 30. That’s 87%, and at UBC, that’s an A. Pretty darn good for a first (and I hope last) attempt!

Meanwhile, I’m so excited to be back on my regular schedule. I went to bed at 11:30 and got up before 7; had my coffee and breakfast. It’s now 9am and I just finished making Pisto (Spanish ratatouille, which I can eat whenever I damn well please! Ha!).. funny what not waking up at 3am will do for a girl! Go figure 🙂

And here, I’ll leave you with a few more sunsets (and one shot of some boring clouds… you can’t win them all).

Oh, also: I’m going to Spain this weekend, so maybe I might even have some more pictures to post next week! Maybe even one of my face.

Stay tuned.

Breaking Fast: Ramadan in Morocco

Day 14. 1:33pm. Already hungry and I’ve been thirsty since I woke. No headache, though (yet), and I’m not too dizzy, so I’ll take it.

It’s a weird thing, this Ramadan. Everybody talks about it as if it’s this beautiful, enjoyable time… until it actually is Ramadan, and then we just talk about our various states of discomfort, or don’t say anything at all (and presumably suffer in silence).

The first week was really bad. It took me several failed attempts to figure out what the best strategy was for me to eat at night: what, and when, and how much. Because everyone has their own way, and you just kind of have to figure it out for yourself. Or you’ve got a Moroccan family to lean on; you just adopt their ways and hope they work for you.

For me, sans family, I was just trying to glean tips from everyone I could and put them together into something that was manageable for me. However, after listening to this advice and following people I knew, and yet still finding the entire day (and night) extremely unpleasant, I had to improvise. So now I have a bit of a system that seems to work better. My days still suck, but at least I don’t hate my nights, too. If you’re not going to eat all day, you’d better at least get to enjoy what you eat when you do, right?!

At first, I was eating three mini meals a night, and hating them all. 8 hours just isn’t enough time for all that eating. I’m still full pretty much immediately after breaking fast (a meal called Ftour or Iftar), but I was trying to eat a balanced meal. But now, while I still eat three times, for Ftour, I have nothing but fruit and fluid. No carbs, no protein. Just something to kickstart the system and not make me feel (so much) like a blimp. Then a few hours later, when I’m almost actually hungry again, I eat something real. Salad, soup, bread, nuts… but not too much. Then I go to bed and get up again at 3 to eat one last time.

2017-05-29 19.36.34

In the first days of Ftour, I was having beautiful, but totally overloaded meals!

2017-06-09 19.38.37

Truly a thing of beauty.

Enter: overnight oats. An old and forgotten friend up until a few nights ago when I thought to give it a shot. Turns out, it’s a lifesaver at the best of times, and miracle-worker now. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it earlier. What could be easier than stumbling into the kitchen in the dark, with half-open eyes, and just grabbing a jar and a spoon. You barely even have to chew. Perfect.

And in between all of that, I drink 3L of water. And yet, I’m still thirsty…

I honestly don’t know if I’ll last the whole month. There have been many times when I have seriously considered giving up. Without the family, the support network, and most importantly, the faith, to motivate you in this, I think I can fairly say that I’ve “experienced” about as much of this as I need to in two weeks, and that I’m not going to feel much different about it at the end of another two. But we’ll see. I’m my own worst critic (as usual) and I know I’d be disappointed in myself if I didn’t do the whole thing.

However, on a positive note, we’re having Ftour on the beach tomorrow night and that sounds fun! So I’ll be holding out at least one more day 🙂

Another plus is that I get to pay attention to all these beautiful sunsets! (There’s only 12 here – one day was just cloudy so it’s not really a sunset! And another day I went to a friend’s 🙂 )

Aside from that, my apologies for the severe lack of content lately. Obviously I haven’t written in a long time, but please know that no news is good news. I write when I’m stressed or challenged (ie, now), but let the last many months of silence be an indicator of my overall wellbeing. In a good place, feeling stable and content.

So here’s hoping that the creative juices are now flowing again. I’ve opened many drafts; my second experience teaching, whether or not to date, general thoughts on living in this country. Basically, thinking I should write (or being told by one of many people that I should), and never getting through it. Oddly enough, the longer I teach ESL, the less in touch I am with how I natively speak the language, and thus, the farther I am away from my voice in my writing. So I always stall out. But here we have it, a full (albeit short) post. And cross your fingers that I will come back to those drafts and give them another shot.

Kept in Guantanamo: The case of Omar Khadr

Most days, I am so grateful for the technology that allows me to stay in touch while I’m living abroad.

However, some mornings, I still feel the distance. I feel the 8 hours time difference, when I need to talk to somebody, but I know my friends and family won’t be awake for another 6 hours, at least. And even then they’re getting up and going to work, so not even fully available to talk.

Like this morning, I got up and picked up the book I’m reading: Power Systems by Noam Chomsky. It’s not exactly light material, but hasn’t so far sparked strong emotions, until today, page 73:

“One of the most remarkable examples [of the dismissal of the Magna Carta, which governs a person’s right to fair trial, innocence until proven guilty.. etc.] is of Omar Khadr, the first Guantanamo case to come to a military commission – not a court – under Obama. The charge was that he had tried to resist an attack on his village by American soldiers when he was a fifteen-year-old boy. That’s the crime. A fifteen-year-old tries to defend his village from an invading army. So he’s a terrorist. Khadr had been kept in Guantanamo and, before that, Bagram in Afghanistan for eight years. I don’t have to tell you what Guantanamo is like. He finally came to a military commission, where he was given a choice: either plead not guilty and stay here forever or plead guilty and just spend another eight years in detention. This violates every international convention that you can think of, including laws on treatment of juveniles. Of course, it grossly violates any principle. He was fifteen. But there was no public outcry.

In fact, particularly striking in some ways is that Khadr is a Canadian citizen. Canada could extradite him and free him if it wanted to, but they didn’t want to step on the master’s toes.

A Canadian citizen. What the fuck?

Naturally I googled him to find out more, and I am sure that I’ve heard of the case before, likely through the advocacy work of Romeo Dallaire. But I’m looking at it today with fresh eyes, and by fresh, I actually mean blurry because I can hardly see through the tears. Cause this shit is fucked up.

It’s obvious from just the wiki page the whole thing is shady business. The reports of the time are contradictory, changing, and biased. For example:

February also saw the accidental release of a five-page “OC-1” witness report to reporters, which revealed that Khadr had not been the only survivor in the compound, as previously claimed, and that nobody had seen him throw the grenade. Officials insisted that the reporters all had to return their copies of the document or face expulsion from the hearings, but after a 90-minute standoff between reporters and military officials, it was agreed that they could retain their copies of the report, but had to redact three names from the report.

This is such clear evidence of cover up and tailoring what is said to indict this kid, who either a) did nothing, or b) defended himself when his compound was attacked on the ground with guns and grenades, and from the air with bombs! In what world would ANY act of self-preservation be viewed as “murder in violation of the laws of war”?!

And the sad answer is our world. In our world a 15 year old kid can be imprisoned and tortured for 10 years, being accused of throwing a grenade causing the death of an American soldier, while no records are given of the number of innocent civilians who were killed by the same American troops’ guns, grenades, and bombs.

The article continues to comment on the Canadian government’s unwillingness to repatriate Khadr, conducting many interrogations in his time in Bagram and Guantanamo, serving the US needs, instead of aiding Khadr in any way. The accounts of his treatment are beyond words.

Thankfully though, since the writing of Power Systems, Khadr has been successfully repatriated back to Canada, largely thanks to non-governmental advocacy groups, and what looks to be a lot of work done by Hillary Clinton and her staff (go HC!). In 2015, he was actually released on bail. He’s engaged. When you google his name, images pop up of this gentle-looking smiling man.

So at the end of the day, we can look at this as a happy ending. But half of this man’s life has been spent being tortured and terrorized, for US political games. He was diagnosed with PTSD while in Guantanamo, with high risk of suicide.

So this is what humanity does to people. What’s wrong with us? How can we call ourselves civilized, if this is what we do? How can the Western world dare to point fingers at the “backwards” ways of any other community, when this is what we keep hiding in our own backyard?

I feel so sad and frustrated right now. Only 5 more hours until somebody wakes up…

À la Capitale: my move to Rabat

It’s just after 9am, and here is a list of some of the things I’ve already done this morning:

*Watched the moon set and the sun rise – somehow I fell asleep at 8:30 last night, so I was up crazy early!

*Read a handful of articles on the UNHCR’s recent work in the Western Sahara. I’ve realized that while this whole teaching English thing is really good experience, I have the capacity to take on more and I would hate to waste the opportunity I have to get involved. So I’m looking for ways to contribute on a volunteer basis with an agency doing aid work in the region, and I’m thinking this might be a good area to explore.

*Drank some amazing coffee, made in my little tiny French Press (thank you, Ikea)!

*Went out to the local outdoor produce market and bought my veggies for the next few days, and grabbed some freshly made flatbread on the way!

*Unfortunately, saw a dead kitten on the road, but fortunately saw plenty of lively ones frolicking about the market, and pet a cute one on the way home.

*Meditated for half an hour. I fell asleep so early last night because I could hardly stay awake during my last night’s meditation, so I went to bed vowing to practice again in the morning, which I did, with much greater success!
I followed a guided meditation by Michael Stone (which I access through the Insight Timer App on my ipad) and it’s the first guided practice I’ve done in what feels like a long time. It was nice to have some structure, instead of this free-floating whirlwind that typically takes over my brain as soon as I sit down. This reinforces my desire to take part in a silent retreat! I could use the energy of a collective effort, and a space to really experience my mind. It would also be really nice to have a teacher, because there are a few things I’m really struggling with in my practice, such as “letting go of thoughts” while at the same time “letting things arise naturally.” If anyone has any recommendations for retreats on a super-tight budget, or good books to read in the meantime, let me know!

In short, it’s been a productive morning. In continuing with the trend of the last month, I’m feeling really good about things. I’m loving Rabat, loving Berlitz, and loving life! I’m so glad I stuck it out when things got tough in the spring, because it’s proving to be 100% worth it. I worried that those experiences were reflective of an ongoing pattern that would continue, but I was worried for nothing.

You’ll be happy to hear that I’ve even reconciled with the Hammam: we are together once again. My neighbourhood hammam is small but friendly and relaxed. Unfortunately it’s not a “turk” style, which is my favourite – a mix between fancy spa style and low-key local – the best of both worlds! But, this one will do the trick for now 🙂

And now, 3 hours later, I’m finally posting, because my internet is as slow as molasses today 😉

Love always xo

Back in the Kingdom: Returning to Maroc

So after some mishaps in transportation to the airport, I managed to make it out of France and back to Morocco (oddly, no questions asked about my new passport!)

My unintended yet remarkably comfortable sleeping spot in the Aix-en-Provence train station (normally closed at night, so I had the place to myself!)

My unintended yet remarkably comfortable sleeping spot in the Aix-en-Provence train station (normally closed at night, so I had the place to myself!)

So far, I’m not nearly as anxious as I thought I might have been. Though, I’ve yet to make the transition to Rabat, where I’ll actually be living and working.

It’s a weird space though, this one. As I said I would be, I’m in Asilah at MIA Hostel (one of my favourite places to be!) but this time, I’m helping out. I’m doing a more-or-less official workaway, but it’s definitely less defined than the last one. Yet it’s still double the hours! Which isn’t a very relaxing way to get ready for this next step.

But it’s okay. It’s my spare time that I’m struggling with, actually. The things I need to do are: look for apartments (if I find one online, then I can save myself some money on a real estate agent!) and complete some online courses before my face-to-face training on Monday. Things I want to do include: practice yoga and meditation, go to the beach, and study French, Arabic, and now Spanish! (the north of Morocco is predominately Spanish, so why not?)

However, what I end up doing is spending a lot of time at the hostel (undefined shifts don’t help… I feel like I need to stick around all the time just in case someone needs something.. a sign that I may never fully let go of my workaholic tendencies), and a lot of time thinking about how to strategize how to make time for everything. In the end, I always know that I need to get these courses done, and that needs to be top priority. But it’s also the most boring! And I have to been tethered to the wall, to the internet, to my computer to do so. And instead of just getting it done, I keep bargaining with myself, saying “I’ll just do ___ for a bit first, and then I’ll sit down and get it done”, but never end up doing that thing, and then never end up doing the course.

I mean, I have done some of it. I’m about 75% finished the modules, but I know I won’t give myself any time for fun until it’s done. Cause I’ve been here a week now and have yet to see the beach. And I can count the number of times I’ve left the hostel on one hand. It’s pathetic.

So why don’t I just do it?! Turns out, I’m just procrastinating.

I know this may seem like such a simple (and obvious) answer, but procrastination is something I thought I had left behind. I like to think that I get things done when they need to be done. I have had a lot of responsibility in the last few years, where procrastination wasn’t part of my vocabulary.

But I just caught myself procrasti-cleaning.

You know, that thing you do when you have something important that needs to be done, but you find yourself scrubbing out the fridge instead? Or vacuuming under the couch, because it hasn’t been done in so long, right now is clearly the time! 

Anyone who’s completed a degree will be familiar with this concept. There are endless things you would rather clean than finish that report that’s due first thing in the morning. Your place becomes spotless at 2 in the morning, as spotless as your paper.

“I can’t really focus with this mess; I’m just going to clean my room before I sit down and study…”

But I really haven’t noticed myself doing that in years. Note the key word: noticed. I suspect I have been still doing this, but not realizing it. I just thought I was adulting and keeping a tidy space.. but maybe I’ve just been putting off and avoiding responsibilities!

Such as today: I turned down an offer to go to a nice beach with my friends, saying “I really need to finish this course” and 20 minutes later found myself up to my elbows in the sink full of soapy water, thinking “the kitchen is a disaster. I should clean it before I do anything else. What if guests come?” 

What if they do? Sure, it’s nice of me to think of them, and to be proactive, but I’m not working today! It’s not my job right now. My job is to get this shit done and then I can clean the kitchen all I want to. Or not.

So I decided to write a blog post about it instead…

In a BlaBlaCar: en route to Marseilles 

I cannot believe how quickly these past two months have gone by. It’s incredible how content I’ve been; I feel like it’s flown by, as if I’ve just arrived. But now I’m preparing to head back to Morocco, and I’m still a mixture of both super excited and super anxious.

Livable even when you're having a week-long dental emergency, where you once slept on the office desk, just to stay close to the icepacks...

Livable even when you’re having a week-long dental emergency, where you once slept on the office desk, just to stay close to the icepacks…

On one hand, it’s so comfortable here. It’s so liveable and easy, and aside from being a little bit expensive, there are very few challenges. The work is really fun, the people are fantastic, and the area is beautiful. So I’m feeling very sad to be leaving it at this point; it’s becoming fall, which I can imagine being an absolutely stunning time of year here. And I can’t remember the last time in which I felt like this – a desire to stay. I’ve been on the move for years… I think the only move I’ve made in the last 5 years where I felt even the slightest bit sad was when I left the beautiful 1565 – that gorgeous little basement apartment at 14th and Granville in Vancouver. But even then, I was packing up and moving onto a huge and exciting trip across West Africa! So I had plenty to look forward to.

2016-09-05 12.31.03

Never been happier to see those lions!

But right now I’m just feeling on edge, like I truly just don’t want to leave the comfort of this place. Not to mention the stress of my pending pain in the ass passport situation, which has finally arrived this morning! Without it, I was just sitting in limbo – flight booked, but unable to check in without my new passport number; unwilling to book transportation to get to the airport, just in case; and just a general feeling of being stuck.

But honestly, that’s not what this step was all about. It wasn’t about getting cosy and wanting to stay.

I came here to practice my French, and while I wouldn’t say I’m perfectly fluent (not even close, to be honest), I can definitely see some improvement, which is enough to get me started when I move to Rabat. I can at least comfortably start and hold a conversation, even if I do frequently struggle to find the proper words and constructions. So unfortunately, this little detour is just about through. It’s time to get back on track.

2016-09-03 13.49.16

Found some new scissors in the office, so at least I have new hair for the move! 😉

However, I went to Morocco in part for the challenge, and challenges are certainly what I found. So I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t a little bit nervous about what lies ahead in the next step; there are a lot of unknowns in this new school and new city. I’ve had about all I can take of micromanagers and power trips, so I’m crossing my fingers hard that I can carry this good energy with me and that I’m going to find some more open-hearted and creative people with healthy perspectives.

2016-09-05 15.25.52

Can’t complain about that weather either!

And thankfully, I’m getting back with a couple weeks to spare before I start work, so I’m heading to the beautiful and lovely Asilah, where I’ll hang out with my friends at my favourite MIA Hostel and recalibrate.

Speaking of which, as usual, I’m anticipating another crisis of diet… what am I going to eat now? What’s acceptable, what’s not? Where do I draw the line? My body just feels so much better on a vegan diet, and I would really prefer to keep it up this time, despite how difficult (slash boring) it is in Morocco. Though I have been stockpiling curry, black beans, and red lentils… and with moving to the capital, I’m hoping that maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to find some tofu!

Anyhow, with my passport now in hand, things are coming together for this move, and I’ve got to get my head in the game! I’m preparing to leave Annecy tomorrow, taking a BlaBlaCar (an awesome car-sharing site, which I don’t think I’ve previously mentioned) to Marseille for my flight, which is early Wednesday morning. I think I’ll just spend the night in the airport though, because the airport isn’t exactly in the city, and I can neither afford to pay for the night when I don’t intend on seeing the city, nor can I be bothered to figure out the early-morning transiting that would surely be involved!

So folks, this wraps up the French portion of my adventure! See you in Morocco 🙂

In the French Alps: le deuxième workaway

Oh man, I have been dying to write this post. But I’ve been too busy enjoying myself to sit down on my computer and do it! And honestly, I tend to only write when I’m confronted with extremely challenging things that I need to deconstruct a bit. And there’s finally been none of that! But the absence is worth noting…

For example: I had this thought the other day; I was walking down the road and I thought to myself, “I’m happy today.”

And then I realized that in fact, I’m happy most days here. And I have no actual idea why; why here, why now, and not anywhere else lately. Because it’s been a while.

I haven’t truly been at peace and happy since… who knows when. Everywhere I’ve been recently, I’ve always been missing something, in transition to something else, or just not feeling satisfied with where I’ve been at. And it’s not all that different here, nothing much has changed.. yet I still feel 1000% better about everything that’s happening.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s a beautiful place with great people and a wonderful atmosphere.. but it’s certainly not the only place that I’ve found this combination! Just somehow it’s finally working. Despite the headaches (and they are plentiful) of a recently-stolen wallet and passport, I’m having a great time.

It’s a seriously gorgeous place to wander around. Click on a photo to view as a gallery!

So, what exactly am I doing?

As I had hoped, this Workaway is super straightforward; a weekly schedule with just 20 hours per week, tons of opportunity to speak French, and a really laid back atmosphere – no hovering, no nit-picking… just a trusting bunch of people who let you do your thing (my current thing being the receptionist and general common area cleaner – totally my jam).

I found this abandoned pair of glasses in the office, and obviously had to try them on. Damn, I wish I had vision problems! Move over, librarians of the world.

I found this abandoned pair of glasses in the office, and obviously had to try them on. Damn, I wish I had vision problems! Move over, librarians of the world.

I share a room with another workaway in an apartment across the street, which is still under renovation (how that doesn’t drive me nuts, I have no idea), but still gives me a nice space to practice yoga and do my own thing.

There were a lot of us at first, and we spent a lot of time hanging out as a group. It was really fun, but also exhausting for my introverted self 😉 So I’m enjoying a bit more solo-time, with a group dinner here and there, whenever someone else leaves us!

Again, click the photos for a gallery/to read the captions!

It’s a very mountainous place and a lot of people do a lot of hiking. A lot of people who aren’t me. I’m just not really a hiker. But I did do one. And it was lovely, though far too long for my taste!

So pretty much, when I’m not working, I just go to the lake and study French. I have managed to stay fairly motivated to do that, so it’s slowly coming along. At the moment I’m using a PDF of Assimil’s New French with Ease, which is fantastic for my reading comprehension; and Michel Thomas’ French audio course, which is excessively annoying at times, but largely pretty good! I’m about 75% of the way through both of those programs, and I think I’ll be quite close to finished by the time I leave, and also quite close to where I want to be in terms of language ability by then as well. It’s definitely not perfect, but it’s not bad, and I certainly think it’s passible for an aid worker!

What’s not working, on the other hand, is Assimil’s Moroccan Arabic. Every single day that I open the book, I put it back down at the end of the lesson, thinking “I understood NOTHING.” And that might have something to do with the fact that the book is actually written in French, but I doubt it. They say that learning multiple languages at once can actually be easier, since your brain is already in language-learning mode, and that learning a third language via your second can also be really successful – it challenges you to really use it! So I’m not convinced that the French is the limiting factor.

But speaking of Morocco.. I just have one month left here before I head back. I have a year-long contract lined up in September, so as long as my passport arrives before then, I’ll be moving to Rabat in the fall. It’s with a new school in a new city, so I’m really hopeful that it’s going to be the fresh start I need. I was getting nervous before I came to Annecy that I was no longer actually capable of enjoying myself anywhere! I’d been so dissatisfied in all sorts of situations and it’s really relieving to know that I’m not broken! So cross your fingers that I carry this energy with me back to Maroc!

I’m definitely looking forward to it – there are a lot of really great things about the country that I miss. But I’m really not looking forward to the harassment that is surely coming as soon as I arrive. It’s been so nice walking down the street without worrying that someone is going to follow me! And no cat-calling. I can wear whatever I want! It’s a shame that it’s not a luxury afforded throughout the world.

So, folks, after a month of contentment, this is your update. Not terribly exciting, but lots of pretty pictures! 🙂

And as a final note, I’ve finally added a Paypal donation button, so if anyone happens to find this blog helpful or interesting enough to buy a girl a drink, feel free to bouge ton souris (move your mouse!) in that direction 😉

Until next time! xo