Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Visiting versus Living

Ok, when it comes to abroad/traveling experiences, one thing you should know about me is that I am a snob. I have been fortunate and blessed enough to have been able to live in West Africa for an extensive amount of time, on top of being exposed to my parent’s childhood experiences in the rural areas of Mexico.

My time in Morocco, North Africa has been an incredible experience. Throughout this entire trip, however, I couldn’t help but feel unsatisfied. You see to me visiting a place and living in a place are almost entirely different; almost polar opposites. I loved that I got to experience Morocco for a whopping 5 weeks! But this is still not enough…for me! I kept fantasizing about what it would be like to speak conversational Darija (which is the Moroccan dialect of Arabic) with the locals. How would locals view me as result of speaking their language?

In Niger I learned to speak Zarma/Djerma which is dialect of Songhai. Zarma was my language for 2 years. I bargained, haggled, greeted, joked, cheered, expressed condolences, excitement, sadness, had intellectual conversations, and in some cases flirted and cursed in Zarma. I was almost, literally fluent. I also began to THINK in Zarma, once you begin to think in another language that is not your original 2 languages, you know you are truly living in this place and adapting and assimilating pretty well. Even Nigeriens would get confused about my origins. On a consistent basis Nigeriens would think I was Arabic, Lebanese, or Taureg, whom are closely related to the Tamazighr people of Morocco. In fact, the biggest compliment I ever received in Niger was being told by Nigeriens that I myself was Nigerien! They said this because of the level I had reached speaking Zarma. What a compliment right? I never knew how to respond to that compliment, it always humbled me, and I would simply respond with… fofo… thank you.

Living abroad has been by far one of the most life changing & powerful experiences of my life, and visiting foreign places provided that desire. This brings me to the next topic:

This has always been my gripe with Americans and Angelinos who say, feel, and believe that America is the only place for them. How would individuals know this to be a fact when they haven’t even gone outside their comfort zone to see and experience other places that they actually might like? Plus many, who do decide to move, move to another state, which is obviously still within the US, so I cannot count that as an abroad experience.

How can we be certain that life in the US is better? I guess it comes down to what you value personally. Personally I do not value the fast pace living where social life is limited to just your immediate family. Seeing your close friends 2 or 3 times a month because of our hectic lifestyles seems like an injustice. We have given our selves-up to the grind or money in order to pay off the bills, make ends meet, and as a result humanity is lost within all these growth industries and the supply and demand side of economics/capitalism.

This is our lifestyle here in America the Beautiful. Go into debt for College (not including Grad school). Purchase various vehicles and pay them off in the incoming years. Get a loan for the ‘dream home’, and further inundate yourself with debt. Maybe, perhaps you get sick, now start paying those bills, and if you didn’t have insurance, sell your home because getting sick in America can be one of the most expensive things you purchase (forget all the hard work throughout your life).

Walk into the grocery store and pick from an abundance of ‘choices,’ various cereals, cheeses, wines, snacks, etc, but yet we as Americans, we can still only ‘choose’ from 2 political party systems; Cheech and Chong… oops! I meant to say Republicans and Democrats. Plus there is all the bureaucracy for the most trivial things, and not to mention a political system that wants us to vote for candidates who will get into office so they can keep raising money for the next campaign! It is always about getting re-elected, and beginning their next campaign (raise-money, campaign, win, and perpetuate this cycle); meanwhile nothing gets done for the common folk (especially minorities).

It is tough to swallow all of this. Still not sure if I want this for my life.

Transitioning back to Morocco, sorry for the rant. It was those moments outside of the group where I felt the need to live in another place again. On a random night when Ben, Joel, and I wanted to go out and see the night life, Joel asked a pretty well dressed looking dude where we could go to just enjoy a drink or 2 (I dared Joel to ask him). His name was Moulay and he responded with, “I’ll take you guys to a great spot.” We got in his car, and it was a great lounge with nothing but Moroccans! On another occasion we visited a small town market which was different from all the medina’s we had visited. There I got lost with Ben and found Abderrahim chillin’ having some meat and tea. He asked us to join him, we did. Just sitting there watching men preparing the meat, tea, wetting the dirt so the dust would not fly up and get on their product, that in itself was very tranquilizing and a great break from the constant moving around with our group. Lastly, our day visit with a host family! Abdul hosted us, he was great, he fed us like Kings, we met his kind and friendly family, and then we walked around his neighborhood and met his friends. I also got to use the Turkish style toilet again, which convinced me to design my own restroom once I have a home; a bidet with a Turkish style toilet! Awesome can only do so much to that experience, but it also stirred memories from living in Niger. Those experiences that were unplanned and spontaneous were perhaps the most memorable for me, and provided glimpses of what it could be like to live in Morocco.

Once again, visiting another place in this beautiful earth has inspired me to strongly consider leaving America again, and live in place where the lifestyle isn’t so fast pace, money is not glorified as much, and hopefully I get to spend the majority of my time with those I love...

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