Updated: Apr 24, 2019
RABAT, MOROCCO--- Nothing is everything. Everything is nothing.
Welcome to Morocco. Enjoy the fifty pounds of sugar in this mint tea we made you.
I’ve explored the corners and dark alleys of this country, and yet, it’s the people that showed me to these areas that really made all the difference.
I scheduled to meet up with a guy from couch surfing named Soufiane the first week I got here. I met him outside this café and the first thing I said was.
“You’re not a killer are you?”
Turns out, he’s not. He’s just one of the kindest Moroccans that you’ll ever dang meet.
I’m in an empty hotel room. Outside, I hear the clicking of what might be dishes being cleaned in the house that my window overlooks. Old men speak loudly to one another about what men must talk about here. Sports, work, the king? You’d think I’d know by now. But, to be honest, you can spend half a year in a country and not learn the language. If you told me I’d be the same person after coming to Morocco five months ago, I would have maybe agreed with you. It’s not to say I wouldn’t have realized that all experiences impact us, it’s just that I had some weird arrogant idea about my ability to handle change.“I am above culture shock! I once took a bucket shower outside of a house in broad daylight! I regret nothing in life! I played on war bunkers as a kid! Surprise me world. Hit me baby. I can take it! “I screamed out to the metaphysical future.
“I am above culture shock! I once took a bucket shower outside of a house in broad daylight! I regret nothing in life! I played on war bunkers as a kid! Surprise me world. Hit me baby. I can take it! “I screamed out to the metaphysical future.
News flash. Morocco whooped my butt.
This sweet lady land has pushed me in ways I never thought I would be pushed. Let me break it down.
Journalism in Morocco
Imagine uncovering a story so twisted it sounded like it came out of a mystery novel. Bribery. Death. Corruption. Assault. Fighting for land and dignity with your voice and your body.
Now, imagine talking to 20 people about it who are excited to tell you all the juicy details. And then, all of a sudden, they decide they have more pressing matters, like watching Arab Idol. They never speak to you again, or, you get the run around for days until you nail down one of them to speak.
I have never tried to contact so many people and had so many bail in my life. Morocco is a great country. But, it also has its negatives, as every country does. Moroccans, they run on their own time. Sometimes that means getting back to you at some point in this decade, or showing up 2 hours late to an interview, or sometimes that means never speaking to you again.
For this program you spend the first half listening to great lecturers, and learning a bit about basic journalism. But the second half, it is literally a free for all. You are allowed to travel around Morocco and find your story. You get to immerse yourself in being a true backpack journalist/ freelance foreign journalist.
We worked with a Moroccan partner that helped us report and translate interviews. Our partners name was Soukaina and she was not only a beautiful goddess of a women, she was a multi-lingual adventures fashionista with a sharp wit. Dream girl, I know. I also partnered with a rad girl named Kat who did video while I decided to work on a print piece. Kat is a laid back documentary filmmaker in the making with crystal blue eyes and sun kissed freckles. She’s the ultimate partner from the bar to the beach baby! I have no idea why i'm introducing them like we're on some MTV dating show but these descriptions are accurate!
I’m still working on editing my piece and the story that we did stole my heart and made me question everything I learned, from ethics to politics, to economics, to climate change to finally...
“How the hell do I tell this story so a stranger can understand the intricacies of land rights, climate, economics, and personal heartache of these people on a local, but also global scale?”
Journalism is creating a digestible piece for the average reader when we live in a world where people’s attention spans are shortening and they don’t want to believe in experts.
Read 40 pieces of literature from studies, articles, and books. Interview 15 people. Translate 20 hours of interviews. Then condense that info into 3 pages of simple but interesting text.
Our teacher kept saying,
"If you can report in Morocco, you can report anywhere."
That phrase is insanely accurate. Big take away: if done right, journalism is hard but rewarding.
Last Weekend in Morocco
We’re on our way to go back to Rabat from Tangier. We get to the train station and walk up to the window and buy a ticket. The guy says, okay, now you get on a bus and it will take you to the train.
We hesitate... “Wait... what?”
Given, trains in Morocco can be an hour late to get there and arrive two hours late to a destination sometimes. So, we understood that. This was new. After half a year in Morocco, she still likes to keep us on our toes. So, we ran to a bus that then drove us out to the middle of nowhere, down a dirt path and up to a train on the tracks that looks to be stopped at a place that’s not even a station.
We get off and load onto the hot train, no air, and plop down in the seats waiting another hour before moving. We whip out our laptops and look at each other with a befuddled smirk. As we start laughing and Kat says with a shake of her head.
“Welcome to Morocco!”
Where the more you learn, the less you know.
The same place men will say “Welcome!” Even if you've been here for years.
Morocco, the same place where people will invite you into their home for tea and cous cous after meeting you on the street but you could also have your wallet stolen by an old man in a beige jellaba (a long robe like dress with a hood).
I’m going to miss Morocco and all it's taught me, especially about myself. My catch phrase growing up was “I know,” in all the tones I could muster. But, today I leave Morocco knowing that I’ve been pretty blind. I am always learning. We are always learning to be better people to ourselves and to one another. No one gets off scot-free from that, not Gandhi, not mother Teresa, not your mom, and certainly not me.
Here, I could of chosen to be jaded by small bad experience I had, language barriers or challenges, but instead, I’m choosing context. To put it all in this sudoku puzzle that will hopefully add up in the end.
That’s what I feel like Morocco taught me the most, is that context matters. Whether you are having a conversation about the king with a Moroccan or talking to a women about Islam and feminism, everything is always much bigger than it seems.
The world is complex. The more you travel, the more you realize you know absolutely nothing about it and, sometimes, about yourself. It’s easy to lose yourself in travel. The constant adventures that await your path lighting up your nerve endings begging for a taste of something new. But, I think we’re always art in progress, meaning, if you use the wrong paint, or brush too strongly, it can be mended. Create a Jackson Pollock, it’ll work out. And anyway, it’s about what art makes the viewer feel, so whoever chooses to stay around to view the final masterpiece must think you’re pretty beautiful regardless.
Here’s to context; to riad parties in the middle of no where, climbing sand dunes at midnight, and sipping mint tea.
Barak Allah fik Morocco. I’ll be seen you.