sitting in the Casablanca airport for another epic journey – casablanca to Frankfurt through JFK to Cancun to Tulum. luckily I love this part of it as much as being any one place. sometimes I think my earliest memories are of being in transit, urban nomad, opt-in gypsy.
I want to share some thoughts before I go.
I didn’t cry coming in to Africa, but as I left Fes I found myself very emotional, crying and full of dueling emotions. it will take a long while to process…
first, the overwhelming beauty of the people and the place can’t be overstated – it was just kindness and sweetness and being surprised by the generous way people received my ignorance, my questions, my needs.
but in and around and under that there was so much that was in the way of being able to authentically connect.
first, the legacy of colonization. I’d mis-remembered my sister autumn as having a dream that we were from morocco…it was actually an ancestral reading she got, which said we were Moroccan royalty.
maybe yes, maybe no, but it’s Africa, and I definitely come from somewhere here, right?
I was aiming to have no expectations, but of course underneath that was a surprising great massive shuddering pulsing longing which would not be denied – are you my motherland?
then here I was surrounded by men and women who looked like me. not kind of like me, or like my cousins, but exactly exactly like me, and my father, and my sisters. I took pictures of children that I sent to my sisters because they could be our childhood photos.
but here I am, in this place, and I am so ignorant!
I can’t speak Arabic, can’t speak to the lovely Berber woman caring for my hosts’ children (who could be my sister), can barely speak the colonizers language of French to my host’s gorgeous childish young Moroccan wife.
I am not prodigal here, I am a tourist and an outsider.
the work of slavery and colonization which separated my ancestors from this place was so thorough…the wound is cauterized on both sides, if that makes sense.
the other piece, same but different, is capitalism.
no matter what I said, what my work is in the world, how I experience my own class and privilege, however self aware I may be? here, I am a wealthy American. because wealth is very very relative. and as a woman alone, I was a wealthy American woman traveling alone.
the power dynamics were subtle to me at first, and when they became clear it was painful. there was incredible kindness partnered deeply with incredible need, sprinkled with class assumptions. i was scolded for cleaning up after myself, and served hand and foot even after I demurred…oh no no no…they think I’m rich!?!
and, yes, I had some of the most powerful talks with those who definitely needed me to buy something from them.
a few times I purposely hung far back behind my guide, testing the waters of how it would feel to walk around alone. each time I was immediately inundated with compliments on my beauty followed by invitations to see some wares.
how could I believe anything I was told, when it was all part of a sale?
me being me, I felt bitter in the first stage of awakening to reality, and i kept trying to connect without buying.
then I remembered – I am relatively wealthy, I can get a small carpet and a mosaic and some oil and a jelaba and some shoes, it’s all for less than I make in a day’s work. and this is what I want – to redistribute wealth to those who need it, based on real assessments of who has what, the work we contribute, and our needs.
so I shifted my approach. I had fun with it, said what i could spend up front and honored the skill of the sale of these ancient handmade crafts…and i bought quickly so I could then linger and truly talk. or at least a little more truly. this led to a different connection – gifts, sister gifts, invitations, endless tea, massive cheek kisses. and everyone claiming me…I must be Berber, Fesi, from the Rif mountains, am i sure I don’t live here? I was hungry, and fed.
I connected most deeply with the young children, who are not yet active parts of the economic constant of tourism as a primary industry. we laughed and played and giggled and sang and were equals.
before i go back I want to be fluent in French and functional in Arabic, and I want to go for a while, so I have more time to get lost, as that led to the most magical experiences of my trip.
and fuck France for colonizing these beautiful people, and goddamnit but slavery is a beast of a legacy. but I have had my first taste of ‘home’, bitter, sweet – I will need more, and soon.