I almost didn’t catch my flight to Morocco.
Christmas Eve was a lonely one for me. My housemates had all gone back home earlier in the week to be with their families. Most friends I know from university were doing the same. Yet, here I was, still having to clock in at work through a week when others I knew didn’t have to. I somehow braved through that feeling of isolation on Friday by going out for Japanese food and cinema – alone, but still kept me occupied. By Saturday, my isolation felt complete. All I had to look forward to was eating a microwave dinner, alone, at home. Fine, I usually eat microwave dinners anyway simply because of their convenience after coming back from work but doing the same on Christmas hurt. I had a meltdown. Or at least I was on the verge of tears. I don’t remember, it’s all a daze. Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck. All I wanted was to be with people I know and care for. I wanted Maggi noodles. Made by mom.
How did I end up in this situation? I keep coming back to this theme time and again – always wondering how different things would be only if I made different choices. Ah…do you see what’s happening here folks? It’s time for the annual “tiny tendrils of guilt” post already! Yayface! Last year, I spent that wondering how different things would be if I hadn’t chosen to go to Singapore. Whether I should have valued some friendships and relationships more than I did. And yet…and yet…if I hadn’t made the choices I did then I wouldn’t have gained from my time in Singapore! Doors close. Doors open. Doors stay slightly-ajar.
DO YOU HAVE ANY FUCKING IDEA HOW MUCH PAIN THIS CONFLICT CAUSES??? FUCK!!!! DON’T YOU FUCKING DARE SAY THE WORDS ‘DESTINY’ OR ‘FATE’ TO ME!!!
In that daze on Christmas Eve, I looked up flights back to Delhi on Kayak. £600. I’m not hurting for cash this year thanks to my internship and as I fell asleep cold, crying, and hungry (I refused to eat a microwave meal – for the first time – on principle), I vowed to give a serious thought to booking to changing the destination I was flying out to in the morning. You don’t always need a fat Caucasian breaking-and-entering to make a wish come true, I told myself. Sometimes, a NatWest Visa card is enough.
And I did. Surprisingly, for some reason, return flights to Delhi leaving on 26th December were cheaper than if I had bought them weeks in advance! I could even use frequent flier points to push down the price even further. I actually started making a booking right down to the payment page. Here I was, about to make a clear choice for one instead of the other. A choice to meet with friends and family I haven’t seen for months, years, eons.
I stopped. I’d spent about £250 on my flights and visa for Morocco already. More than that, I went through much hassle to get my visa. Indian passport holders have to go through a lot of shit to get visas issued; I think it’s because of bad karma since getting a visa for India is hard for foreign travellers, Sidin thinks it’s because “our soft power shit is not working“. Whatever. I had to provide a dozen documents to the visa, and even then the visa agency I used for convenience (CIBT, lovely people they are – no seriously, I recommend them!) considered mine would be a touch-and-go case.
I felt the Moroccan visa sticker with my fingertips. The grain of paper used for visa stickers differs so much – without being able to lift them off, you can almost gauge the weight of the paper used for each one. Smooth. Matte. Rough. Hologrammed. Watermarked. Signed-upon with a biro. Stamped with UV-reflective ink. Each country’s visa talks, in its own language.
On the other hand… Doors close. Doors open. Doors stay slightly-ajar.
Screw it, let’s do it!
Now if it weren’t for the rest of the blog post that follows – and yeah, the title, perhaps – you’d be left wondering. That line above could swing both ways.
It’s hard to describe that feeling I get when I land in a new country. It begins with a ritual – The Ritual of packing a backpack that metaphorically contains your whole life. The Ritual is invigorating because it gives you the potential for catharsis. You don’t need to return. You can walk away from it all if you are so inclined, now that you have all you need with you. In that moment you feel naive and empowered enough to flip life itself a middle finger. The Feeling builds when the insides of your stomach jolt from you journey beginning – the kick of a bus engine sparking to life, the recoil of a train starting to move, the landing gear of an airplane losing contact with the ground. You reach your destination.
The Feeling hits you. It’s a pure endorphin rush of your body and mind agreeing this is the place and this is the moment that I want to be in right now. The closest thing I can relate that endorphin rush would be the rush you get after sex.
The Feeling wasn’t thing the only thing that hit me when I walked out at noon from Menara International Airport, Marrakech. Flying in from London Gatwick, walk out of the airport’s airconditioned environment felt like walking into a wall of heat. Marrakech is warm and toasty for this time of the year and I’m glad for it.
Marrakech stands at the crossroads of many cultures. It’s in Africa, and yet you won’t find black people. It’s not in the Middle East, and yet there are distinct touches of Arab culture in the city’s architecture and lifestyle. What may surprise you the most, however, is how strong an influence this country having been a French colony has. My goodness there are French cafes, French bakeries, French restaurants, French signs everywhere! For the next few days, calorie count = fucked is a safe prediction I’m making.
My dormmates in the hostel I’m staying in are German, Belgian, English, Spaniard, and Romanian – and yet they all speak French! To be honest, I’m kinda getting pissed off at being excluded from their conversations. I hate it when French-speaking people go all “Oui oui oui!“ Tres jolie my ass, start speaking in English already – it won the lingua franca war hands-down. Then again, the irony of lack of lingua franca isn’t lost on me.
One thing I learnt today: around these parts, people don’t take kindly to people who walk into a pitch-dark dorm room at 4am, accidentally walk to the wrong bed, and drop a netbook on their face.
I spent most of my day sleeping today. From the little time I had walking outside in the streets of Marrakech, there’s no point talking about it yet. Exciting few days up ahead. So until then, salaam walekum to everyone from Marrakech!