Watch, Listen and Ask Questions

There are many ways to travel. You can take everything with you and leave nothing behind, or you can leave little pieces of yourself as you go, add new things, and find yourself in a new place at the end.

Foro was left in Marrakech. My friend who is organizing our trek has arranged for him to be picked up at the hotel where he was left and brought to us (they’re going through there on their way), but it is a sad loss. I’ve been prepared for this, which is why I have a stuffed cow in any place I spend any time, and he is just a stuffed cow. He means something to me, but many things that have meant something to me have been left behind in my life, and in the end I’ll leave everything behind anyway (although I’ve tendered the hope that Foro might be cremated with me!) We’ll see. I hope to see him again.

My partner is angry at the moment. He angry with the people who haven’t been kind to us during our travels (some touristy places we’ve been have taken advantage of us). It doesn’t make me angry, but it’s not like it’s a joy, either. I take it as a learning experience. We will learn, and we will pay for our schooling with dribs and drabs of paying too much from time to time. But he is furious. It woke with him in the morning two days ago. It passed the day with us, coming out from time to time. It exploded when we met my friend here in the Todra Gorge. He finds many things about this place outrageous, unfair. He is furious with the country for mismanaging its few resources, for not having solar panels, for wasting water in tourism, and for some of the people who take advantage of tourists.

My friend works here as a hiking guide and has her own team. She tried to explain the poverty here, the corruption, the lack of opportunities for people in some places. I can see it. We bought a pastry yesterday for 3 dirhams. That’s barely a penny. The minimum wage for those who have a job is the equivalent of $340. Of course if they can be clever enough to bleed a bit from an unsuspecting tourist they might try, but just as many are happy that we’ve come to their country, and proud to show it off.

I’m taking a day apart from him because he can climb with my friend today. Hopefully he’ll be happier after the climb. He wants to do something too long and hard for me at the moment. I’ve had a bad cold or flu or something and my chest hurts a bit, and I’ve had some annoying peaks of fever. It’s the same illness I had before we left Switzerland. Back then I did an auto-test and it wasn’t COVID, so I doubt it is now, either. My nose is stuffed up and I cough sometimes. I need to rest. I also need to digest what I’ve been seeing and hearing. It’s been going too fast for my brain to connect, which is why Foro got left in the window after our last photo shoot. My brain can’t keep up.

The interesting thing is to learn that my partner and I have different ways of traveling. He’s a bit older and maybe more sure of himself and his views, and he measures things against what he knows and has learned. This is not wrong for someone who’s sixty-one. I’m an expat, and I have long given up any certitudes of how things should be. Every place has its own “rules” and habits. Switzerland’s rules fit me, so I don’t have many problems there. Morocco’s rules hurt my soul sometimes, and I’ve only been here a few days. It hurts to see so many poor people, so many who are left by the wayside in a country that is trying hard to modernize in some ways.

My friend gave the example of the roads. In many places, the local area has been given money to improve roads. In some places, they do it correctly with a foundation layer and a top layer. In others, they only put the top layer on and the money for the rest is in someone’s pocket.

My mantra is watch, listen and ask questions. I hope that my partner will be happier after climbing today and be able to let things go a bit. And I hope to find Foro again. Inchallah.

Todra Gorge worker in Morocco

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