I am ashamed as I type this...Why, you ask? You see, I have just finished one Paul Bowles, Magic and Morocco by Dr. Allen Hibbard of a university in Tennessee, and I now have the desire to write a letter to him just as he once did to Paul Bowles. The oddest part? A friend of mine is taking a class with him this coming semester. I'm a bit jealous but at the same time happy to be a part of something else, happy to be here. But as I delve deeper into the mysteries of Bowles and the country in which I'm living, my desire to write grows more and more intense. It's sad to realize that the Great Era is gone...of all of the writers I've idolized since before I was old enough to idolize them (when my peers were reading R.L. Stine), precious few are left. Precious few to harangue, as it were.
Soon I will be a writer. A real one, not the kind I've been for years, the internet-journal and intense-handwritten-letter kind. The kind who publishes her work in underground zines she'd loathe for her parents to discover. Today, perusing the weathered paperbacks of an English-language bookstore, I came across two copies of the book I'm contracted to re-write. It only made me anxious to know that they're as far-reaching as Meknes.
I start work tomorrow; after two weeks of that I'm taking a bit of time to travel. While it's tempting to stalk Inmeuble Itesa, the former residence of Bowles and current of Cherie Nutting, I think I'll stick to the magic of Marrakech, a short visit with a friend in Casa, and the beach of Rabat. Tangier, another time.
I am a mere twelve hours from my one-week anniversary of being here, in Meknes.
So far, I have friends (five or six of them!), an apartment full of wonderful useful things (a beautiful Berber carpet, a cafetera for making coffee, dishes, an ashtray, food!), I have selected the level of course that I will be teaching (beginners!) and I have learned to navigate my city.
I arrived with the thought that I would immediately travel, but Meknes has proved to be more exciting and busy than I expected. I have found a favorite cafe, a pair of wonderful carpet dealers with whom to have tea on visits to the medina, and plenty of little shops that remind me of the bodegas one might encounter in Brooklyn or Queens.
There is an Ikea-type store called Kitea (hmm...), a modern grocery called Label' Vie, a huge department store called Marjane that even a seasoned WalMart shopper like myself could get lost inside. There are numerous cafes which from the outside appear to be the domain of men, as tradition would dictate, however, inside is often another story. Women dress more liberally than I'd ever have expected, and I've already seen several with more ostentatious nose rings than my own.
Of course, there are also men who stare when I'm daring enough to smoke in public, men who follow me from my neighborhood all the way to the medina, and women who scoff at my nowhere-near-tight jeans. There are completely veiled women to complement each in a midriff-baring top.
At the pool the other day, I wore my modest tankini, with relatively full bottoms and a top which only shows a dash of cleavage. The Moroccan girls wore skimpy bikinis tied on the sides and shook their asses. At a cafe with a teacher friend yesterday, he asked why I always wear button-down shirts over my tank tops. I told him I'd rather not get that much attention, and he said it was silly, I cover myself more than most Moroccan women do.
Sometimes, it appears I'm the conservative one.
The excitement never ends, huh?
The number one piece of news is that I've been offered a book deal, which is ultimately insane. Me? A published author? Here's a little-known fact: I write all day long, and all I've ever really wanted in life is to do it for a living. This is all pretty unreal/surreal to me right now, but I suppose it's both a test and a big doorway. A hudud if you will.
The number two piece of news is that I went to a Moroccan restaurant in Montreal the other night. The first Moroccan restaurant I've been to outside of Morocco, to be precise; the decor was incredible, as was the ambience, and my company, of course (my friend Janine from Ottawa). We walked in around 11:00 pm just for tea, and ended up also with a delicious dessert reminiscent of baklava. Quite fantastic, and I'm glad I was able to experience one before actually returning to Morocco.
I'm 23 years old as of three months ago. I'm pretty thrilled, especially in comparison to my "former self," to be able to say that by 25 I will have: graduated from college, lived in a foreign country for a year, written a book, and hopefully started grad school (or at the very least, figured out what it is that I want to do!).
I am crossing the hudud.