Morocco is a confusing, magical, & enlightening place! Living & working for a month in this beautiful country taught me more about myself than I have been able to fully understand even months after I left this enchanting country in North Africa.
As a part of a year long program called Remote Year for digital workers, spending 1 month in different countries, I didn’t choose the locations rather experience the ones that are chosen for us. We are provided some basic information, guidelines, social and cultural norms, shared “coworking” space, and an apartment. The rest is up to us.
I know little about the muslim religion other than the bad press. I knew women’s rights here were different than I was accustomed but not fully sure to what extent. I followed the suggestions of wearing long sleeves, pants, and having a scarf ready available to cover my head in those times of preference or courtesy. It was suggested to not walk alone rather use an uber-like service called Careem to come and go to work. It was reiterated several times, my technical crutches may not work as well here as I’m used to due to network inconsistency, and various other factors I’ll discuss below.
I met Salah Eddine in my first 24H in Morocco. It’s a good thing because his friendship changed the course of my experience in this confusing and at times frustrating country. He’s a careem driver, english-speaker, 20-something and wise beyond his years. In the several 25-minute trips to or from work I was impressed with his upbeat personality, knowledge on wide range of conversational subjects, pride in his country, entrepreneurial spirit, and general care for human beings. He offered his personal cell phone if I ever wanted to text him a question or needed help. He’s start each ride asking me how was my day yesterday..perhaps knowing I’d have some still story to share of some mishap I got myself into. He’d listen to the whole story and then explain “the other side” of my misunderstandings.
For example, when I did venture out alone, I was approached on a few occations by arabic men that seemed to be yelling at me. I’d duck into a store until he went away and then went on with my business for it to happen again by someone else. The experience caused me to be scared and react in a way showing my fear, backing up, hand out to create distance etc. Come to find out these were examples of individuals asking where I’m trying to go and offering to redirect me..because surely a woman walking alone must be lost. Nonetheless, it was the first of many learning moments that first acting fearful and distrustful toward someone that come to find out was offering to help, gave us both a negative experience when it could have been a positive one.
On one of our drives to work, he said it might be helpful to download the arabic keyboard on my phone to help with google translate so someone can type a word in arabic and I could translate it into English. What a great idea. He grabbed my (new to me) phone and change some settings while I blissfully looked out the window happy about this new found tool that will make my life easier. So I thought.
Days later, I was in another city and hopped into another Careem/Cab. The driver spoke no English but I knew I was armed with my Google translate harbor with no restaurant in sight. I refused to get of the car and kept pushing the button on my phone in the Google translate app which played the voice of an yelling angry Arab. He was visibly more annoyed so I turned the volume up and played the words again….over & over again. He angrily motioned for me to get out of the car. I refused!
At this point I noticed my Google translate history and realized I was repeated telling the driver “catch a fish” “catch a fish” (vs Casa Fish) and busted out in hysterical uncontrolled laughter to the point of tears! He wasn’t amused! That’s why he took me to the harbor and not a restaurant. He thought I wanted to catch a fish?!
I managed some composure and showed him the train ticket that I bought earlier so he knew to drive me to the station.
Just when I find a little confidence with my surroundings, I get a big reminder that I still don’t “get it” here…but damn it..I’m going to keep trying!