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Reisverslag Pros and cons of Morocco
6 maart 2016
Pros and cons of Morocco
(Note: some cons and pros and vice versa):
Cons of living in Morocco:
1) Everybody openly judges you on the streets.
As I've probably mentioned before, men here like to express their approval by constantly addressing women. It seems to me that it occurs more with tourists/non-Moroccan women than it does with Moroccan women, but then again, I think it is just a general men thing. Every time I walk on the street, there are twenty “hola’s” (somehow I think everybody here thinks I’m Spanish…) and at least five “beautiful, sexy girl”. I don’t necessarily mind it if somebody wants to greet me, but I have had a few less comfortable encounters with men. For example, a few days ago I was wearing red lipstick and these guys I walked past asked me: “are you wearing sexy red lipstick for me?” Of course, this is not direct sexual harassment, but let me inform you that I took off the lipstick as soon as I could and I hated myself for that. It made me feel uncomfortable and like I was looking indecent – which I was not. Everybody informed me I would compose myself differently while walking on the street after a while, and this is true. I try not to look at people and I look at the ground a lot more than I do at home. Now that I realize that though, I’m trying to change that, but let me tell you that not looking at the floor causes more people to talk to you.
However, on the other side, men also like to express their disapproval by making this clicking sound (in Holland we make this sound when we’re frustrated). I did not recognize this at first and asked around and after asking a few people, I was informed it means “they disapprove”. I am really not sure what they disapprove of and it actually really bothered me, because I hear men make this sound at me at least three times a day. I started to wonder if it was because I look too Western or for other obvious reasons but when I asked a colleague he told me that it had nothing to do with me and that it was just a way for men to get my attention. Let me just tell you – it does not work that way. I am not sure which I dislike more: men addressing me by calling me sexy or men disapproving of me openly.
Women also like to show their disapproval, but more by just staring at you with a look of disapproval without any embarrassment, which I’m still getting used to.
2) Buying certain items.
At first, when I got here, I did not understand the idea of “incha’allah” (if god allows it). I hear Moroccan people say this at least once every two sentences and even though I understand most people here are religious, I asked myself: what do you mean: if god allows it? Just say yes, or no. But, the longer I live here and the more I need to buy items other than bread and water, the more I understand it.
For example: A few weeks ago, I wanted to buy a cookie cutter in the form of a heart. I’d walked past several baking shops before so I knew that if I went to the medina, I would find one. I. Was. Wrong. Somehow, all baking shops were closed and the street vendors I’d seen before all magically disappeared or did not work on Sunday for some reason. I ended up spending 1.5 hours walking around the medina looking for these cookie cutters and I was actually starting to doubt myself; had I really seen baking shops before or was I going insane? At last, I decided to walk to work where I’d seen a baking shop which, thankfully, was open and still existent. I went in and saw dozens of cookie cutters (= Happy Demi). But, I kid you not: they had every cookie cutter form you can think of, even Donald Duck’s head was included, but a heart shaped one? Nah. I asked the vendor and he gave me one the size of a pie and when I asked for one “plus petite” he looked at me like I was insane. I swear I almost burst into tears right there and then.
I’ve had such experiences (not that severe, but still) occur several times and I’m understanding the incha’allah thing more and more. In the Netherlands, if you want something, you’ll just go to the store which is open from 9 to 5 every day and you’ll get it. No need to doubt it. However, here it is possible the shop owner decided to take a day off, or the street vendor has decided to move to a different street entirely and when you finally do find a store, it does not mean they have the things they always sell; it might just have changed entirely or their delivery might not have come in.
I don’t like thinking ahead and I like knowing I can buy something if I need it but that is not always an option here and that frustrates me a lot.
3) Asking for things.
In the Netherlands, if you need something, you’ll look online or you’ll ask your friends. Most people I know order things online and you generally won’t ask random people on the street where to find certain items or places. You use your smartphone to find the address, you’ll use google to find the object you need and you’re not dependent upon others.
And then, there’s Morocco. Here, addresses almost never include house numbers and if they do, the house numbers can hardly ever actually been found on houses, so you’ll just have to ask people. I am not certain why, but I feel the barrier for me to ask people for help is extremely high. I think it has to do with the fact that in the Netherlands I never do it and here suddenly, I’m forced to.
Today, for example, I needed sugar. I’d gone to the Carrefour but they were out of sugar (incha’allah) so I went home but I was dead-set on baking something, so I asked my roommate if I could buy sugar from the street vendors in the Oudayas and she told me probably not, so I had to go into the medina. I walked past three street vendors before I decided to ask somebody (and actually went quite out of my way, telling myself: I’ll ask the next one). Eventually I had to ask and of course I picked the only street vendor not to speak French (only Dharija) but thank god he pointed me in the direction of another street vendor who actually happened to have it.
It’s just more of a social exercise for me to buy something and this is one of the things that is actually a con and a pro because it is good for me to communicate more with my community but it is so hard from time to time. Sometimes you just want to go somewhere in peace and quiet and just finish your grocery list without talking to people, and that is not an option here.
Before I left to live in Morocco, my mom was scared for me. She was scared I would be harassed (or worse) in the streets and she felt I might not be safe here. She insisted I’d take the taxi and I completely understand. I kind of felt like that was necessary too, but now that I’ve lived here for a while, I can guarantee my safety when it comes to other people. Sure, I will be addressed by random men, but I have never felt unsafe here on account of other people.
However, the traffic here is horrific. I am very excited to show my mom how safe it is around other people, but I’m a bit scared to show her the streets. Cars do not take pedestrians into consideration and zebra paths are not really a thing here. I mean, they’re there, but nobody cares. Crossing a road is seriously terrifying half the time and although of course I’m very cautious, every now and then there is nothing to do other than just cross the road and ignore all the cars and pray they stop (which so far, they’ve done). However, I miss traffic lights and having zebra paths.
Pros of living in Morocco:
1) Getting constant confirmation.
Okay, I’m contradicting con number 1 here, but from time to time, random compliments on the street make me smile. Don’t get me wrong, if a creepy guy walks up to me and whispers: “sexy girl, smile for me” to me, it doesn’t make me smile. But when a nice, normal-looking guy says: “Vous êtes très jolie”, while I’m walking in my chill clothes with no make-up on, and the guy in question seems to have no weird intentions, it actually makes me feel good about myself and it makes me smile. I can already guarantee that I will feel very ignored when I go back to the Netherlands.
2) The kindness of people.
Moroccan people are generally extremely kind. It has occurred more than once that I got lost and three people went out of their way to help me find my destination. In the Netherlands, if you’re lost, somebody will point you in the direction. They will, however, not walk with you. Here, people do, to make sure you find your destination.
The first time Ithis happened, I got creeped out because I needed to find a house and this guy told me he’d show me where it was. After going into a few small streets, he went into this dark corner and told me “c’est ici!” and I was like: …. If you think I’m going to go into this dark corner with you, think again. However, it actually turned out to be the place I had to be but I’m just very distrusting.
In general though, no matter what you need, everybody is willing to help you and everybody is in for a talk. Contradicting con number 3, I sometimes do like to socialize. It is a hard exercise for me but I like it. Slowly but surely I’m starting to get to know people in the Oudayas and I’m making “friends” with some street vendors. There is a man who sells me orange juice and he teaches me a little bit of Arab every day. He’s very interested and kind and it is just nice to see people are so open and in for a chat. It took me some time to open up to this concept but the more I do, the more I get in return. It is really nice walking to work every day and having people wish me “bon courage” on my way; it makes me feel at home.
3) The prices of certain things.
All right, this one does not apply to everything, but for certain things, prices are insanely cheap. Imagine: an orange juice for only 60 cents. A kilo of strawberries for one euro. A bell pepper (paprika); 15 cents. A taxi drive of 3 km: 1 euro. A soup which counts as a meal in a restaurant: 50 cents. Seriously. If it comes to everything that is NOT imported, life is super cheap here and I love it. I’m sure I’ll be shocked when I go back to the Netherlands and I have to pay €3.50 for a small orange juice or when I want to have a coffee and it’ll cost me €2.50 instead of 50 cents.
However, to be fair: everything imported costs insanely much. I kid you not if I tell you that smoked salmon is 15€ for 200 grams and that a little jar of pesto costs 4€. However, I can live without salmon, but fruit and vegetables are kind of essential, so I’m happy.
4) The country.
Morocco is so beautiful and full of culture; I love that. There are deserts, mountains, forests, and I just feel so drenched in the Moroccan culture every time I walk somewhere. I love the fact that the buildings look Moroccan, the streets look Moroccan, it’s just everywhere. I am constantly reminded of the country I am in and I like that. I like the tajine pots, the carpets, the decorations and the palm trees. It’s gorgeous and it’s so different from the Netherlands.
To be honest, there are a lot more things I could write down in both lists, right now. I just don’t want to make this blog too long, though (although it kind of already is). In general, my view of Morocco is still super positive and I feel blessed living here. Today, for the very first time, I walked through the medina and I realized: this could be a place I could actually love. It is an adjustment and I’m sure I’ll appreciate the convenience and privacy of the Netherlands when I’m back, but it’s actually quite lovely here. (No worries mom, I won’t move here).
Anyway, I'm doing fine and still adjusting but I'm loving it here.
7 maart 2016 06:14 | Door: Carmen
Altijd leuk wakker worden in de trein met een blog van jou! Geniet ervan xxx
7 maart 2016 18:20 | Door: Sander van Hove
Adembenemend verslag. Ik ben trots op jouw levens= en literaire schrijfstijl. I still did not make it as a writer yet, but you will.
20 mei 2018 06:50 | Door: Abdur Rehman
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