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

Heading into Paradise: drifting in Morocco

I think it’s about time I give an update. My last post was pretty dramatic and emotionally-charged (rightfully so; I was fired after all). I won’t go back and re-read it, and I definitely won’t open it up to the public, but if you haven’t read it, you can know that I didn’t exactly find the event entirely fair, nor considerate, and I was most certainly venting those frustrations.

Since then, I’ve been back in my favourite town of Essaouira. It’s a really beautiful and lovely place, and I have been so happy to meet with old friends, make new ones, and try to collect my life. And I’ve since re-framed my experience as one that is much more healthy and level-headed. And truly, though it’s been disruptive and unstable, this entire experience is going to be richer and better in the end because of this opportunity for change.

I started in a place called Atlantic. It’s been around forever and is always one of the top hostels in town (the former rival of my friend’s wonderful place, but he recently sold it and they have now become one; the old hostel now essentially serving as overflow for the other). But you don’t really come for the beds, the rooms, or really, the facilities in general. You come for the ambiance (which can be rather loud at times, but usually exceptionally chill), and you come for the terrace. The view, especially the sunset, is truly spectacular.


But what you don’t come for (at the moment, anyhow) is a place that’s really well run, or even really run at all. It’s a sort of fly-by-night operation that is only keeping itself together by chance. There’s absolutely no oversight of any kind (though there’s someone who does hold the title of manager, there’s very little actual managing done, aside from collecting money and yelling at the staff). However, after a couple weeks of lounging around, brainstorming new plans, my need for organization got the best of me, and I found myself working at the front desk, trying to implement some sort of system before the busy season was under way.

At first, it was actually so fun. It was like all my years of promo collided with my natural tendency to nurture and provide hospitality. I love taking care of people and giving them the best experience possible. I even practiced my mind-reading: “Who do you think you’re kidding? I know you’re staying another night. Now go have your coffee and bring me some money when you come back downstairs.”  Always with a healthy dose of sass.

I could definitely see myself owning a hostel somewhere someday (with a vegan restaurant/bakery, of course!)

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Speaking of baked goods: my favourite essaouira breakfast.

And I do really like creating efficiency (to state the extremely obvious). But I slowly realized that unless I was the one to provide the oversight to keep the system running, it was never going to stick. And I was just exhausting myself for nothing! 10-11 hour shifts for the equivalent of less than $10 a day, with no results, except the occasional bonus implication (from said “manager”) that instead of a mathematical error or any kind of mistake on his part, it was I who was just lying or stealing money (obviously). So after 15 days in a row, I reminded myself that I did not need that kind of negative energy in my life, and I moved on.

For a few days, I stayed with a lovely new friend who has an apartment outside the medina. It was so nice, but I somehow find more space in the anonymity of a hostel (that is, before you’re there long enough to become absorbed into the circus. So I moved to a different one for a few more, and then I headed to Paradise Valley, where some friends I made while working have been building a campsite. It’s a bit of a hike to get in, but it’s a really nice space. There’s no power out there, so I don’t have any pictures of the camp itself, the guys, or the charming pack of valley dogs that drift in and out of camp. Though I did manage to grab a couple of the valley itself.

Camping out in the valley was so peaceful. A hike down to the bottom to swim, collect water, and chat with the locals before heading back up to camp (almost always guided by a handful of aforementioned valley dogs) to cook food, play cards/Kyle’s newly crafted chess board, and alternate between having incredibly deep conversations about life and perfecting the art of doing nothing. Pretty much bliss, if you don’t mind sleeping basically on the ground, a healthy fear of scorpions and Cobras, and a constant itching feeling thanks to the dogs and all of their ticks, fleas, and God-knows-what-else.

The best part though was the opportunity to step back, and properly reflect on exactly where I’m at. I mean, I’m still in Morocco (duh), but so much of this experience has been obscured by the stress of trying to keep my head above water, that I haven’t had the time to process all that I’ve taken in in the past 4.5 months. The fact that it’s even been that long and it’s felt only like the blink of an eye says a lot.

Because there’s a lot about this country that I’m slowly grasping (and I know it’s still only scratching the surface). Like the racism between the Arabs and Berber. Or the often criticized, though clearly accepted lack of work ethic of many Moroccans (Western Workaways are welcomed to work 5-6 hour shifts for basically the same pay as a local working the entire day, simply because our work ethic, attention to detail, and organizational capacity is seen as that much higher).

As always, I’ve also noticed a lot about the men. Getting that well integrated into the hostel let me see a lot of what goes on beyond what you can see in a few days, or even weeks. Everything I learned about trying to date over here has been confirmed by these guys; basically, don’t do it. Not if you want it to mean the same thing to him as it does to you. Because at the end of the day, we’re nothing but a ticket out, and there’s always going to be another naïve tourist to show the stars. Though I should probably mention that this time I’m only learning by observation; for once, I haven’t had my heart crushed. I did lose one friend recently, who tried to cross the line, which is a shame, but highly preferable to a full-on messy Moroccan heartbreak.

I would have stayed longer, but now I’m making my way back to Rabat and Casablanca, where I have interviews with two different schools! They both start in September, which will give me the summer to enjoy Morocco, work on my languages, and hopefully get re-settled. Because, God, do I miss my little French press.