I have not travelled much compared to many. But I still feel very honoured to have seen some of this world. To know that it is so much more than what we are familiar and comfortable with. I have travelled all-inclusive style when it made sense for multi-generational ease, airbnb, b&b, with tours, solo, and have become a local householder when the time allowed. All of these ways of travelling offer different experiences. And, most importantly, levels of exposure if you are willing to stretch your boundaries. McResorts could be anywhere. Same pool, buffet, tours, trinkets, different beach, different airport.
When I first arrived in Morocco, i expected it to feel like India. Architecturally, I find it closer to Puerto Vallarta except clay-colored, not white. Dress is definitely Muslim – not familiar at all. Few full burkas, but not the shalwar kameez or saris I’m used to. Mostly, though, the difference is in the air. The weight and texture of it – and the smell. It is unlike anywhere I’ve been. There is history here, in the horizon that is made up of rooftops until there aren’t any and then it is like being on a waveless ocean of dirt. Not sand. Not by Marrakech. Sand is in the desert. Here it’s a fine powder that covers and dulls everything. It is what makes the tangines, the buildings, the roads, the city walls…the earth becomes the world here when mixed with some water, molded and left to dry in the scorching sun. Any bright color that shines through catches the eye and seems out of place, and it’s like that powder in the air absorbs odor. In India the first assault on the senses for me is smell. Good, bad, permeating all pores until i think whatever that smell is must be me! Until it’s a really bed smell. And you know it’s really bad because it breaks through that which you’ve gotten used to and you know you must walk in the opposite direction. It is like a survival mechanism in India. Here, while there are smells, they are localized and surprising. They don’t waft after you and although I can’t say it smells fresh here, it is something I’m surprised to find lacking – happily so.
The second assault on my senses in India is noise. You are immersed in it until it becomes the background environment and you wake up if it becomes quiet. Here, it is noisy to be sure, but because of the high walls and maze of alley ways, like the smells, sounds become localized. My room in the Riad is the only one with a window to the street. All other rooms have their windows facing into the courtyard of the 3+ story building. For safety I assume, but also because the thickness of the walls and the height of the buildings dull the magnification factor the narrow alley ways have on loud noises. And they LIKE loud noises here! Drums, clapping, wind instruments, symbols, voices… all coming together in the speaker system of the alleys. Fading and amplifying with each new corner turned. Last night at 11:30 I was woken abruptly by the celebratory parade of joy when a young couple became engaged and they were joined by many in announcing the news! This morning just after the 5am call to prayer I was lulled by the rhythm of an elderly blind man walking around and around and around the small cul de sac outside my window. His hand softly scraping the sides of the building to guide him safely home and me back to sleep.
With each new experience travel brings me – no matter what my initial reaction to the sights and sounds – I am opened, and my tolerance and humility expand with that opening. My way is not the only way. Canada, as I know it – as wonderful, colourful, fresh, safe and real as it is can lull me into a kind of white wonderbread way of being. Familiarity breeds habit and, as Mr. Iyenger says, habit breeds disease. I can feel that disease creeping in at home with the hateful messages and ditch/ditch rhetoric of politicians tricking down to the people who actually have to work in those ditches. Making intolerance an acceptable tone. Making us/them a way of life.
Because of that, more than anything, I am so incredibly grateful for this opportunity to step away from the narrow way of thinking that becomes a way of being into a space that challenges and expands me. To be reminded that difference is not only ok, it is essential. Here I am welcomed by people who know a different way of life than mine and they remind me that this world is magnificent because of that difference. I am reminded that no matter how loud or stinky, bright or flat, no matter how different, we are all walking this Earth together.