Keeping up with friends while abroad
There is so much I wish I could write to you—but where do I even start? I know it’s my fault for not taking the time to write to you more often. I’ve been busy trying to absorb all the tomorrows filled with even more stories than the yesterdays. But as I sit in a rattling bus taking me from Marrakesh deep into the Atlas Mountains—where I plan to wander in Amazigh villages—my thoughts run wild and I feel the need to write to you.
The landscape is truly unbelievable. It’s a mix of infinite mountain peaks and barren valleys. The sun heats up the bus, and I keep exchanging sighs of desperation with others who are clearly more patient and used to this weather. Yet, they’re amused to see me, this young woman traveling alone. It seems as though my every move is meticulously tracked, or maybe I’m just self-absorbed. I stumble through discussions, trying to squeeze in the few words of Morocco’s Arabic dialect, Darija, that I’ve learned here and there. As I travel through the north, I feel as though I only catch a glimpse of people’s lives: men far away guiding their flocks of sheep and kids begging as they reach out to the bus windows. Then the road turns, and the kids are replaced with a view of the imposing ksour, an ancient mud and clay village. While the remaining castles have been wrecked by time, they are architectural masterpieces in my eyes. These images feel surreal, as though from a movie that I will never get to view entirely.
While I’m escaping the calmness of Rabat to take a break from my studies, I can’t help but think about what I’ve learned here. There’s something really overwhelming—and powerful—about witnessing the extent of class disparity, colonial repercussions, and developmental challenges—realities I’ve only encountered surrounded by four walls in an air-conditioned classroom. While on my way to Marrakesh a few days ago, when I looked away from the window, even for a minute, the metallic slums transformed into unblemished, renovated buildings. The two worlds are so disconnected from each other that the bridges—both old and new—connecting them feel strangely simple. The disparity became even clearer to me as I witnessed an old shepherd wearing a brown djellaba—the traditional robe—slowly crossing the road with his sheep, while an expensive-looking sports car zoomed by. Morocco’s inconsistent realities are indisputable. La calèche d’un bord, et le pétrole de l’autre.
I’m starting to see a paradoxical world here in Morocco, where values clash with beliefs and actions. Sometimes, men welcome me, feed me and discuss politics and religion with me, while their own mothers and daughters sit quietly without access to education nor the need for it, according to those same men. I am allowed to do and say as I please, but I’m shown the charming side of a place whose people are secretly choking from the inside out. My foreign naivety is entirely gone now, and I am very grateful for it. I have a feeling this journey will change my stance towards this asymmetric country.
I hope the winter isn’t too harsh on you.
P.S. You know that night…I did get on the back of that stranger’s motorcycle in Marrakesh. Ha!
Feature graphic by @sundaemorningcoffee