It is because issues like this (see previous post) come up that I am loving my language classes. These discussions are not necessarily linguistically productive, because we often lapse into English – Ilyas will often even initiate this. But they are productive in a different way, because I am being given a view of society that is incredibly useful to my research. And in general, I very much enjoy listening to Ilyas talk about Morocco. I get the sense that he is a quiet analyst, like I am. He is an observer and a theorist,* but not a generalist. He has a subtle view of things that makes him attentive to the more unspoken, deeper dynamics that underlie Moroccan culture. He sees beauty in little aspects of his country without being a general apologist or ambassador, and criticizes things without denouncing them. I think that what it comes down to is that he does not try to sell a rose-colored view of Morocco to me as one would to a tourist, but takes off his gloves and gives me what he sees, in all its reality and beauty.
And that, I think, is the other main reason why this time around, my feelings about Morocco are so different – the first reason being this Moroccan family that has let me into its life. Both Ilyas and this family are allowing me a glimpse into the reality of Moroccan life. This is something I always felt eluded me; during previous visits to this country my endless intrigue with its culture and practices was never able to penetrate the façade that is shown to visitors. In addition to that I have always felt incredibly restricted here, unable to freely explore, in the way that I wanted to, or go everywhere I wished. That combination led to endless frustration, and the slight fear that I would never become comfortable in Morocco.
This time around everything is so different. I feel a certain unprecedented freedom – in part maybe because Rabat seems more spacious and open than Fes did and I feel much less observed – but also because, with women to take me places, I am able to do much more than before. In combination with the ‘real’ Morocco I am finally experiencing, I feel as though Morocco and I are finally getting to know each other on a personal level. It is letting me in, and so in turn I am letting it in. I feel comfortable, unfrustrated (though I don’t think I am capable of ever being completely free of frustration about something), and happy.
* In the way that all people become, perhaps, once they have lived in more than one country (Ilyas has spent four years in France). Once you see that there is more than one way to live your life, more than one way to believe, you are doomed in a sense to become a perpetual observer, wherever you go. Never fully, obliviously ‘inside’ or ‘part of’ a culture anymore, nor ever fully outside anywhere, either.