Tangier swarmed and swelled. Winds raced through the crowded city streets, men ogled and catcalled, making us glad we heeded the advice to dress conservatively–despite the humid heat. To the north, we could see Spain. To the south, unknown. We came to Tangier first; as if in order to understand our journey and ourselves we’d have to carry the torch that we unknowingly lit on prior trips to Europe, watch how the flame flickered as it ferried across the Mediterranean and then blaze when we added the fuel of Morocco’s African, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and Berber influence. All of our prior worlds converged in Tangier; and now our journey could begin.
I wanted to visit Tangier for its literary history–a city once called home by William Burroughs, Paul Bowles, and Jack Kerouac, among others–and simultaneously, it served as the ideal entry point into a land and culture that started with a hint of familiarity, yet, as we headed south, quickly dissolved into complete exoticism. Now, I find myself longing for the night we first arrived in Tangier. The start of any journey is temporary; a fleeting moment when there’s so much unknown, and so much naivety. Expectations like: surely the speckled French we knew would be enough for us to get by (no). At the beginning, Morocco wasn’t what I expected. Then again, I wasn’t who I expected. On the brink of a new continent, I was also on the brink of a new me. And in the short span of ten days, I was going to be asked “what do you do?” more times cumulatively than I had in the past year. Following my return from Morocco, I would be bidding adieu to almost ten years of a career with a company I’d worked for since I graduated college. Suddenly the countless years I spent craving to turn the page and become someone else flashed by and the day to be ‘the new me’ had finally come–but I wasn’t sure who that new me would be yet.
So, what do you do?
“I’m a writer,” I’d respond. “Do you write books?” would be the immediate reply. My answer went from ‘no’ to ‘not yet’ to ‘I’m working on one, but right now I write for clients and blogs’. Hearing myself explain to strangers the evolution of my life as a writer, often prompted by a gentle nudge from Gwen, reinforced my conviction in the leap I was making. Moroccans responded warmly to hearing ‘writer’, perhaps in part because many foreigners had come to their country to seek literary inspiration. Maybe it was because the idea of being a writer is a romantic notion; of someone who makes observations, lets ideas stew, fosters connections, and creates a world with her words in order for another person to feel what she felt, see what she saw. Or maybe, the warmth I felt was the genuine Moroccan hospitality we’d consistently experience during the length of our trip–but it was too soon to know that in Tangier.
In Tangier, it was too soon to know who I’d become, too. This is the first post in a multi-part series about Morocco. Stay tuned.