Morocco, Week Thirteen

I began this post on Sunday morning, sitting in my underwear typing it up. Because, really, being able to lounge around the house in your underwear is one of the nicest perks of living alone. I had woken up an hour earlier, with early-morning sunlight glinting in through my window.1

Partially because I was rejuvenated from a relaxing weekend in Chefchaouen, and partially because my work week was only four days long, my week started out great. Got lots done in the library, and even managed to begin the planning stages of a new, exciting project in the community. More on that later.2 I cooked yummy Ethiopian food,3 had a couple of delicious dinners with friends, and enjoyed the city at night.4

Most of Friday was fantastic. For the hour before school started, I played Metropolis in the library for whoever felt like walking in and taking a look. A few of the students asked me what it was, and were impressed when I told them the film was made in 1927! They thought that was very cool. Later on, several teachers decided that they wanted to show their kids videos in the library as a special Friday treat. The Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten One classes got really into the Tom & Jerry cartoons I showed them, dancing along to the music and calling out the names of animals they recognized.5 One of the high school students was in the library doing work, and I caught him looking over at the video and grinning a few times. Proves my theory that there’s no age limit to good cartoons.

The afternoon, like many Friday afternoons in the library, was a bit (well, a lot) more stressful. Made it through the day, barely, and then spent the night unwinding at home with Loki on my lap and pasta in my belly. Went to bed early with a book.

I woke up on Saturday morning, still in a funk, and hopped into (well, trudged over and slouched into) a car with a friend, and we were off to M’diq, a seaside town about 45 minutes from Tangier. It was overcast and windy, with patches of blue sky peeking through like they were painted on. We pulled up to a windswept beach, where men dressed in somber colors were pacing along the water’s edge, lost in thought. I pulled out my seashell-collecting bag and started off down the beach.6

I was immediately amazed at how perfectly shaped and colorful the shells were. Each time I picked one up, I’d find an even prettier shell just a few paces away. White, yellow, purple, blue, pink, red, brown… colors I don’t even know how to describe, combined like watercolors over each ruffled surface.7 I searched the beach for two hours, unaware of anything but the sand and shells underfoot, the deafening crash of wind-whipped waves, and my own thoughts.8

Finally, looking up, I noticed other things. Each wave rolling in behind the next, tall like soldiers constantly battling the sand. The patterns of clouds, dark then light then dark again, stretching out to the horizon. Fishermen reeling in their lines, watching me curiously as I stooped to pick up bits of sea glass.9 Leaning in to take a photo that I hoped would capture the windy violence of the waves, one took me by surprise and I ended up with ocean all over my ankles and feet. Turned around to see that I had an audience of one, an old man leaning against the beach wall. I scampered back out of the surf and laughed at myself for a long time. I think he was laughing with me.

Once my seashell bag became too heavy to carry comfortably, I retrieved my friend and we set off for another part of town. Met some new friends (one Moroccan and two Czechs) for a fresh seafood lunch on the dock10 Then home again, home again jiggity jig, as the rhyme goes. Just in time for sunset, dinner, cat.

And we’re back to Sunday, with the sunlight in my window. Possibly for the first time in years, I stayed in bed to read a book. (The Help by Kathryn Stockett.) I adored it. It may sound odd coming from someone who is currently making a living working with books, but this book continually reminded me of how much literature can enrich lives. Since I moved to Morocco, I’ve made a conscious effort to reclaim my identity as a ravenous reader, something that I left behind back in middle school when academic reading became my primary focus. I think it’s probably true, too, that I’m inspired by some of my students. The ones who come into the library to return books they’ve taken only the day before, gushing about how much they loved every page. That used to be me, and–in my heart–it’s still me. The rigors of adult working life aside, I’m still that little girl who begged to be taken to the public library,11 who checked out twenty books at a time and read them all in the first four days, who hid under the covers with a flashlight because reading was more important than rules about bedtime.

Arranged all of my new shells in a beautiful but wholly unnecessary manner, then took photographs. Went for the second run of my adult life and survived.12 It was a gorgeous autumn day in Tangier, with constantly shifting light and a slightly wilder-than-usual sea breeze. Ran into town along the ocean, then up through the medina and back home via my favorite bakery, where I picked up two loaves of warm, freshly baked bread.

  1. Sunrise arrives later here each day. On the days I go to work early–which is most days–I sometimes arrive at school before the sun does. On a related note, if someone can tell me why I’ve been going to work an hour early, making my workdays at least ten hours long, I’ll give ’em 20 dirhams and a cat treat. Yes, it’s because I have lots of work to do, but doesn’t everyone? []
  2. I know, I promise that every time. []
  3. Recipe in a subsequent post. []
  4. That’s all I seem to manage these days, since I go to work just after sunrise and sometimes stay till after dark. It’s a good thing Tangier is such a nocturnal town… there’s always something to see/do/eat at any hour of the night. []
  5. In one of the Tom & Jerry cartoons, Tom is serenading a lovely female cat with his upright bass, singing a song with the lyrics “Is you is, or is you ain’t my baby?” Kathy, the assistant librarian, pointed out that at the end of the day these kids will probably go home and sing that for their parents, bad grammar and all. Watch the video here: []
  6. I sent my friend in the other direction, since we were both collecting shells and I tend to be intensely competitive. []
  7. Luckily, I don’t have to describe them because I took photos. This was, hands down, the best beach for shell collecting that I’ve ever visited. []
  8. I like the idea that, when shell-hunting, you only see the product of other beachcombers. Maybe one has picked only orange and white shells, or another wanted ones small enough to put on a necklace. So you arrive and see a beach made of everyone’s extras, constantly shifting. Sorted by both tides and people. []
  9. Hoping these will become jewelry in the near future. []
  10. Yes, I know you’re shocked. I ate baysara, a delicious soup made primarily of puréed lentils, a salad, and some bread. Everyone else ate bug-eyed sardines and upset-looking shrimp. Less shocked now, right? []
  11. And eventually volunteered there, just to spend more time with the books. []
  12. I want you, dear readers, to picture the looks I get when I go for a run. First of all, I’m running for exercise, which, apparently, isn’t done much here. Second, I’m wearing shorts and a tank top, something I wouldn’t normally wear out. Third, I’m a girl. Fourth, I’ve got on those ridiculous looking Vibram FiveFingers shoes and they’re bright blue. Just imagine the reaction. Puzzled looks galore. []

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