It has been a long time— a very long time. I had it in mind when moving to Morocco that I would be posting like crazy with the same enthusiasm I had had when I moved to Istanbul, but things were different. Much different. When I left San Francisco for the city on two continents, I was going home. I was returning to the tulip-shaped tea glasses and simits of my childhood, the smell of coal in the snow, the deep blue of the Bosphorus on sunny days; it was familiar. I knew the rhythm of the city, I understood.
Moving to Rabat, I hoped for adventure and the excitement of discovery, but what I found was a difficult job and an unwelcoming environment, made more so since I am female— a foreign female. Whereas in Turkey I could visually pass as a Turk, here I am the obvious yabancı; I stand out, which brings on a whole set of interesting situations. Prices are immediately higher, I am quite often dismissed, and I am harassed by men nearly on the daily. As a result of the incessant "pssspssspssshing", grunts and comments, I found myself changing the way I dress and resorting to a constant "resting bitch face" while in public. At times I worried that my expression would become permanent. I developed a feeling of anxiety while being out alone, which is something I have never felt in the past. I didn't draw. I didn't write. I surrendered to a routine of getting up, going to work, getting through the day, coming home, and staying home. I felt like hiding.
When sharing stories on the internet, there's a desire to portray things in rosier tones. Everything is fabulous and lovely— you are not a traveller but an adventurer! A cup of coffee is transformed into something instagram-worthy with a meaningful quote about mindfulness or whatever. The mundane becomes a pretty picture. My palette was not rosy at all; pessimism and homesickness crept in, but news from my beloved Istanbul kept getting worse. The pretty picture in my mind faded with the bombs, shootings, "attempted coups", lies, and more oppression. It has been heartbreaking, and I haven't known what to say.
Naturally, these feelings could not continue. I needed to find joy and appreciation in my life again. I am living in an interesting, vibrant part of the world, with a loving and supportive partner. I have wonderful family and friends. I have patient stacks of paper, paint, and pencils awaiting me. I have a nice little apartment that is often invaded by cheeky buntings. My work life is improving, I am making progress, and I am enjoying it.
Every so often, Pedro and I have taken to the road to get to know Morocco a bit better. We have been to the High Atlas, the ocean, the orange Sahara, and the bleak, rocky plateau. We have met all sorts of people with all sorts of traditions, dined on sardines, questionable keftas and savoury tajines. I rode a camel who tried to kill me, and chased down a man on a mountainside in ceremonial goatskins for a sketch— and I have photographs of all of this. Upon the last couple of travels outside of the country, I have returned with a feeling of happiness for being home. Little by little, the wonder has come back.
As I sit here with a fragrant glass of lemongrass tea in my sun-filled living room, I look forward to 2017 with a renewed hope and optimism. I am excited to explore more of Morocco, and to leave my insecurities behind. I have my brushes and palettes assembled, ready to take to a clean, white page.
I have a lot to show you.