So it's happened. I have fallen in love, wholly and completely, with Marrakech. I cannot pinpoint the moment for you when it happened, but I am smitten. It is a good thing I will have an empty savings account at the end of this whirlwind trip, otherwise I would be looking at apartments. I still might peruse the listings . . . just to see.
Yesterday was day two of Arabic class. More vocab, more verbs . . . more struggle. I am shocked at how difficult this is for me. My little adult brain, which normally functions at a respectable level, has not had to do academics since . . . well let's just say centuries turned after the last time. Hayat is as patient and kind as ever, even posing for a picture between the words I am destroying.
After class, I met Rachid, Bahija and Hamid for lunch. If you know an Arabic family, then you know "meeting for lunch" means "spending the next many hours together". They are amazing. They took me to a restaurant tucked in a basement where more than a few strange looks were cast my way, which I relished. What is about me that LOVES to be the only white guy in the room?
Over the course of the next four hours, there was food, laughter, I think an argument, some new words were learned, and Hamid's car was almost towed. I was invited again to Casa Blanca, and when they buy an apartment in Marrakech next year I am to come, use it and bring my mother. "C'est a toi, aussi, Adam" -- "It is also your apartment, Adam." We went on Facebook (where many of you ladies were accused by Hamid of secretly being my girlfriend . . . and where Cherif is my "best friend") I did have a slight panic attack over what might come up (remember I had converted only the night before), but my last 100 or so tagged pictures are thankfully tame.
After a nap (English to French to Arabic to French to gesture can make for an exhausting afternoon), I met a fellow New Yorker for dinner. We found a lovely rooftop restaurant within both of our backpacker budgets, then met a Brit for coffee. I will say, it was quite nice to be able to speak without thinking so much. There have been several times when I tried to speak French, or Arabic and accidentally came out with Spanish (another language I barely know). So an evening of my native tongue, as they say, was much needed. It was also nice to hear Phillip's recounting of how overwhelming he found everything as a new arrival. The recognition of those feelings (and the realization that mine had somewhat dissipated) led me to realize I have found my rhythm here in Morocco. Or, I suppose, it would be more accurate to say that I have found their rhythm.
This morning I woke up early to meet Yahya to pick up the keys and drop off some of my things on my way to class. I was able to re-find the apartment again without problems, so I was early and had time for breakfast and some studying before hopping the bus to class.
And that's when it hit me - I had fallen in love. It was not the moment of falling, it was the feeling of having already fallen and landed, painlessly and perfectly, in the middle of this strange and noisy and wonderful place. The mopeds and the con-artists, the market and the square and the frustration with the language; the busses and the friends and the snakes and the monkeys and the juice and the incredible bread; and the coffee and the bread and the coffee and the coffee . . . I love it here.
Settling the rest of my belongings into my apartment this afternoon only served to deepen my love, just removed from the square and having it all to myself, I feel like I am home.
If you turn left instead of right when you leave my building (toward the center of the Medina and away from the square) life is somehow what I've always wanted. Little stands of fruit, pasta, coffee, spices and grains alternate with the shops for gifts and knick knacks. And there are fewer people, less tourists and therefore less pressure. And less mayhem.
It turns out, outside of New York City, I am actually quite easy to please. Some Arabica coffee, some yogurt, a couple round loaves of delicious bread and some fruit - each bought from a different vendor - and my day is complete. Tomorrow morning I will get up for class and I will walk out the door fed and caffeinated and knowing I am right where I am supposed to be. For now.
- - Adam