√Ä 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 ūüôā

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

Love always xo

In the interim: the summer in Morocco

Wow. So yesterday I wrote this whole post about how I was feeling so incredibly lost, and now this morning I woke up and felt so incredibly found. I knew it sounds so cliche, but it really feels like I wasn’t the one doing the work; like something just clicked and it had nothing to do with me. 

I’m back in Asilah, for what, the fourth time? Nothing felt any different when I arrived last night, but this morning I went out to buy bread, and as I’m walking down this quiet tree-lined street, I lean down to pet this cat. And while it may not be an Essaouira cat, it was still pretty cute, and miles ahead of any el jadida cat (they’re the worst). But it was somehow at that moment that I realized that this is where I’m meant to be. I feel like I’m writing something out of EatPrayLove right now, harnessing my inner Liz Gilbert, but it’s true. I just walked around with this stupid grin on my face, falling in love with this town, and now I’m just hoping I can figure out some way to make this all work.

Cause here’s the deal: I had two interviews. And I got two jobs! 

But they start in September. 

So I need to figure out what I’m doing for the summer. And until this morning, that felt like a pretty daunting task.

A quote from yesterday’s writing: 

Options for the summer are both numerous and limited; I could do a variety of things, but most of them all depend on some extra factor, more or less out of my control. For example, I could live basically anywhere in Morocco for the summer, teaching English online, but for that I need to live in an apartment, not a hostel. So I have to be able to find somewhere in a pretty low price range. Which may or may not include finder’s fees for the realtor, even for such a short term stay, making it more or less out of my reach anyway. And then it’s a gamble on whether or not my wifi connection will be good enough, so I should probably have a backup, which could easily be hostel work, though it probably won’t pay enough unless I’m working round the clock (and if I’m doing that, why bother living in Morocco?)

The second option is working in an English summer camp, which could let me save some money, but there’s still probably the months of June and September that would be up in the air. I think this is my best option, and that by the end of next week, I’ll have it sorted out. But man am I feeling sick of this untethered, ungrounded, floating feeling.

So while a lot of those unknowns still apply, Asilah would be a kick ass place to spend the summer. The hostel here is great, so hopefully I could work here. And I could probably even tolerate living here, too, because it’s so chill and well-run (a very welcome change of pace).  Though my own apartment would still be ideal. I have the feeling that prices here won’t be so crazy, as it’s pretty small; it is pretty close to Spain though so there might be a lot of demand here anyway. 

Either way, I’m looking forward to the next few days to see what develops. For now, it’s yoga on the roof, a trip to the hammam, and an afternoon at the beach. Could be worse! ūüôā

On the way: getting to Morocco

I started writing something on the plane, trying to capture all the whirlwind that was landing this job and landing in this country. But I kind of abandoned it and didn’t pick it back up when I got reconnected, and now I’m having trouble finding its flow.

So I’m offering this: it was mayhem. I didn’t know up from down by the time I was finally heading out. And it really didn’t finally sink in until I boarded my flight to Casablanca: an hour delayed boarding, with no explanation; a mad shuffle to board at that time, regardless of what rows were actually being called; and the sounds of crying children heard over the blaring Arabic music on board. Announcements made in Arabic, French, and then (thankfully) English.

(click a photo to view gallery)

So then I arrived (only 2 hours late). “The Man” (who turned out to be just a hired driver, I later found out) was holding a piece of paper with my name on it. The other new teacher, who was also¬†to be my roommate, had arrive before I did, and was waiting with him. We drove to our school only to pick up the keys, and then were dropped off somewhat abruptly at our new apartment. It’s a nice place, but despite the warm colour scheme (our living room and hallways are orange), it’s a lot cooler than I was hoping; it’s all tile and the walls are this glazed stucco kind of stuff, so everything feels very cold and modern. Again, very nice, but a different style than the gypsy-Arabia-mosaic-Bohemian style of most hostels I’m used to; it’ll take some work to warm it up.

There’s a decent sized kitchen with a fridge and stovetop, but it’s not yet hooked up. I’m wondering if I should try to connect the propane bottle myself, but decided against it; I’ll probably blow myself up. There’s a hot water tank, which we plug in, because we both certainly could use a shower. There is a nice living room, and two bedrooms. I am chagrined to find out that there are sheets on the bed; the only thing I had been told explicitly to bring with me (which caused a hurried trip to Ikea the night before I left, and took up a substantial amount of space in my bag!). At least these ones I brought with me are nicer, and luckily match my blue room quite nicely.

There’s food in the fridge, and pasta on the shelves, but again, we have no way to cook them. So we head out. I’ve never been to this town before, let alone this neighbourhood, but thankfully the main road is around the corner, and we easily locate the lunch spots. However, it’s an awkward time of day to be eating, around 3 pm, so most real food is already gone. There’s no wifi at the house yet, and I definitely want to get connected, so we decide to brave the city centre and wave down a cab.

My french is surprisingly good; I mean, not¬†good good. But totally functional. I’m impressed; I didn’t think I was getting by that well. So, off we go. We still don’t really find a solid lunch, but I’m happy because I did manage to get my hands on some red¬†mzemen; a flakey flatbread kind of thing, with cooked onions and peppers inside. Soooo good. We have some tea, and my roommate¬†(first time¬†in Morocco) orders some cow’s bone with chickpeas (obviously not what she was expecting, but I thought she would get the drift when I said that I didn’t want it, and she should look at it again to make sure she was on board). She picked, I ate. We left.

I got my phone hooked up at INWI with a Zen International plan, but we held off on getting a modem until we found out how the reception is at our place (turns out, it’s great. However, our boss suggests we go with Maroc Telecom for wifi, but as that process is going to take a while, I’m using my phone as a hotspot for now).

We headed home, and ended up skipping dinner since we ate so late for lunch. But when we get there, we are¬†surprised to find that our place was¬†freezing. I mean, there was snow on the ground when I left, and I’m complaining about the +10 in Morocco, but seriously, life without central heating is not a life worth living. I don’t know how people do this. It took us two days to get space heaters, and let me tell you, those were a long two days.

 

Celebratory Christmas Couscous

So, things around here have been fairly quiet. For more than a year, I have struggled to find my path – trying for months to get something, anything, with an international NGO. Then – in desperation – I decided to enroll into a 10-month postgraduate program at Humber College in Toronto. I moved to the big city, worked back at my old agency for the summer, but¬†ultimately decided that the back-to-school plan still wasn’t actually¬†the right fit. Toronto wasn’t for me, and neither was the idea of spending $10k on something that really had no guarantees – there is nothing that says it would be the ticket into the development world.

But still, I needed out. I needed a plan to make this happen – I need out of this Western lifestyle, and I can’t¬†afford to keep jaunting around on my own dime. I need this to be sustainable. And believe it or not, part of me does crave some stability.

Enter: TEFL. Teaching English as a Foreign Language.

Brilliant. Why haven’t I thought of this sooner? Teaching English doesn’t have to be just a way for young kids to fund their SE Asian party-tour. It can also be a way to get somewhere I want to be, afford to live there, learn new skills, and maybe actually contribute something! And immediately, I knew I wanted to go to Morocco; the climate, the culture, the language, the food, the beaches, and the hammam – oh god, the hammam.

So I bought an online package, and started studying.

It took me about¬†2 months to complete (longer than anticipated) and honestly (& ironically), it didn’t teach me all that much about how to teach. Really, I¬†learned more about how¬†not to teach, but I suppose that’s nearly just as good.

Then I found a job posting that I really wanted. A well known institution with a good reputation in a great little coastal town that I’ve heard only amazing¬†things about.

On December 9, I applied.
On Dec. 10, I heard back.
Dec. 11, I had my first interview.
Dec. 13, a request to submit references and a sample lesson plan.
Dec. 16, second interview.
Dec. 17, contract in hand.
Jan. 3, I fly to Casablanca.

8 days. Just 8 little days to go from “Oh man, I hope this works out. I really want this to work out. I need this to work out. I can’t spend another 7 months stuck here.” to “Holy sh*t, it’s happening. It’s actually happening. It worked out. I’m really going!”

And 15 days later, I’ll be off.

So in the meantime, not only is it Christmas, when everyone and everywhere is hectic and busy, but now I’m scrambling to see everyone and get everything I might need (which oddly includes a set of sheets. Why I can’t get them there, I’m not sure, but¬†it’s been suggested to me twice by my director, so I’ll be damned if I’m not bringing them with me.) Criminal record checks, translations of my degree into French, booking flights,¬†stocking up on my favourite products, baking treats for my dad – all things I’m getting done in the days before and after Christmas. Feeling a bit frantic.

And also, my heart is heavy with these goodbyes. I’m hopping around, trying to see everyone I can in this ultra-busy time. I welcome anyone and everyone to come visit, but I know that it’ll be a while until I see some of these faces again. I’m obviously thrilled about this next step, but it does always come at a cost.

So for now,¬†as I put that aside, it does call for some celebratory couscous. My favourite. And soon to be my staple. I can’t wait.