Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Moroc and Roll

Well, it's been a good half month since I left the winter wasteland of Calgary....and this is only my second travelblog update. (tsk tsk, I am scolding myself properly, don't worry). I HAVE been writing almost constantly, daily,in my proper paper journal, although the writing there is more scattered and personal than I am eager to transcribe and post here. I have greatly been enjoying my mornings spent in little coffeeshops with Cafe du Creme and Pain au chocolate, writing furiously in the company of old men wearing hats, french cigarettes and wicker chairs on the sidewalk, i will say that much. Complain as you might about the wrongs of colonialism, one can't deny the spoils left behind (cuisine, language, style and most importantly, quality of coffee), are rather marvelous. Regardless, as much as I am writing plenty with pen and paper and pastry in hand, I don't want to completely forsake my online documentation, so, quick, let us write now while the impulse is hot!

The current setting: I am typing this from my quiet little bedroom in the capital city of Rabat, Morocco, where I have found myself working as an Au Pair to an extremely wealthy couple with 2 kids. Amine, 10, and Sarah, 6, are sweet but due to their rather luxurious upbringing, give new creedence to the term "high maintanence" (aka: spoiled brats). I am not sure how much longer this will last, to be honest, as being the primary attention giver to 2 very needy kids with a very absent upper-crusty socialite mother, is hardly how i want to spend my time in this gorgeous country, particularly for the pittance of 500 dirhams (about $50 bucks), a week. My days consist of rising with the sun to prepare hot chocolate for the children, then cooking softly fried eggs (and generally spoon feeding them to fussy Sarah who refuses to eat most times), brushing teeth and putting on shoes...then a few hours of free time until they come home for lunch, where the feeding/washing cycle continues. The evening is the time I fear most, where tears and screams take over the residence Merriam, as little Sarah explains to me how she hates her mom and nobody likes her, usually while screaming my name and to treat her like a "princess" as I try to persuade her to wash her own feet in the tub (lest I truly begin to feel like somebodies slave).

Marrakech feels like my proper home-away-from home at this point, and I have the opportunity to work at a hostel there instead, 2 minutes from the chaos of Djemma El Fnna square; free bed and breakfast in exchange for teaching guitar lessons to the owner, who's pretty orange acoustic is just sitting there, begging to be played! This appeals to me on so many levels, least of all the prospect of NOT working for the next month, and just having time to become a good guitar player again, write, draw, write, suntan on the terrace, write. As well, hostels are such a great chance to meet other travelers and share tales of life on the road...a place to inspire and be inspired. I'm very eager to do this! I think this week will be my last here in Rabat...I am simply not cut out for this Au Pair business and need to do what is right for me, as selfish as that may sound.

Marrakech feeds the absurd chaos of my soul, and I love it; the busy narrow streets of the medina, the markets, the vivid colours... the snakes and monkeys in the square, the street theatre, the cafes, the general noise and banter. I was there, with this Rabat family, visiting last weekend (staying in an absurdly serene,posh hotel, I might add), and was recognized by several people in the streets and cafe's that I had frequented in my first days there. It felt nice to be remembered in a city that surely gets its fair share of backpackers....it felt like a sign saying "come back Julia, come back!"

This is a rather scattered entry, so I think I will cut my losses and make a quick graceful exit....and perhaps write again once I am back in the inspiring city of Marrakech, as the call to prayer echoes from the Koutoubia and street cafes spring to life with tagines bubbling and people dancing dizzily at dusk.

Until then, bonsoir, and massalaama!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

notes from Africa

It is a very early morning here at my hostel in Marrakech. Either 530 or 630 am- I haven’t bothered to check the accuracy of my updated mp3 player’s clock, seeing as time is completely irrelevant while on the road. I have woken up after a blissfully long sleep, passing out early last evening after a particulary large plate of coucous au poulet (and several bueno bars for dessert, of course). It seemed logical now to stay huddled under my heavy wool blankets here on my concrete slab of a bed, and write, seeing as how I am awake anyways and it is still dark outside and Luke, the charismatic hostel owner, would surely kill me if I got up this early asking for a cup of tea. Alone in my little room (the 2 aussies having left yesterday to head to London en route to Laos) headphones on, laying in bed, the birds above the Riad still silent in those special pre-dawn hours…just me, my fingers and these words spilling out.
I awoke in a slight haze, brain whirring with thoughts of of solitude and silence, after having strange dreams of finding full shopping bags on the sidewalks of Canada, in the blazing summer heat. How strange. In my dream I stole one of these paper bags, and inside was an expensive pink polka dot sweater. There was no one around to see me, so I took it quickly, and walked away feeling rather guilty of my theft.
I often find myself thinking about WHY exactly I travel so much, especially upon first meeting other backpackers and they inevitably ask what I “do” and whether im a student etc etc and I basically have to confess that traveling has sort of become my life, and im just a wanderer –writer-gypsy with no real plan. Despite what all this might appear to others, mere tourism, or escapism, it is something much more personal and deeper to me, regardless of what anyone thinks. Certainly, I AM a tourist, I walk the souks and haggle with shopkeepers for cheaper sandals, we laugh and they ask “where are you from?”, and to them, I am no different than anyone else, here for a few days to buy pretty things and take endless photos before going back home to my job, house and tagine-less lifestyle –(all of which are inaccurate mind you, being that I make a mean tagine in the homes of others while I am unemployed). And certainly, my initial impulse to make vagabonding my mode of existence WAS just an escape from the bones of a particularly tumultuous relationship’s dissolution, last spring. Freedoms just another word for nothing left to lose, after all, and desperation can lead to the most amazing things, that much I have learned. I am so grateful to every card i've ever been dealt, So goddamn grateful that everything in my life has lead up to this point, that I have ended up here in this hostel, in Marrakesh, on this early January morning. 

I meet so many different types of people while on the road and I know that I am no better or worse than anyone else, and certainly don't ever want to come across like i've figured it all out.. But I am happy to be me, alone, and to not have a crutch or shoulder to carry me around. I love traveling alone, and finding what I seek mirrored back to me in the funniest ways. It's such a glorious experience I wish I could convince EVERY person to do it. Quit your job! Sell the house! be a vagabond!