So my chickens, back on the blog again. Must mean the muse has seized me as I explore somewhere new and exciting.
It is true. I have a new job and it has taken me across the pond to what is known as the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa). I am going to blog for work purposes eventually, but for now, let’s keep this light and personal as you follow my first days here in Morocco!
Yup! Today marks my first 24 hours in Morocco’s national capital Rabat. And after seeing Facebook and news reports if 20 cms of snow in Ottawa overnight, I couldn’t be happier to escape this year’s never ending winter.
The path that has led me here has been both extremely short and agonizingly long. I applied for my current job for the first time in 2010. The interview process took me through multiple phone and email exchanges, at that point culminated in a week-long visit to Erbil, Iraq for a “trial” stint as a volunteer trainer in media relations for newly elected Members of Parliament. I am pretty sure I passed the test, but while I was there I got news from my old employer that the job I thought I didn’t get in Afghanistan was mine if I wanted it.
So yes, that means that 4 years ago I chose Kabul over Rabat and as some might say, the rest is history.
“When an armoured door closes, sometimes the gates to the Medina open”
After returning from Afghanistan in 2011, I stayed in touch with this organization and I have been lucky enough to work with my new employer on a short term basis in Kenya and South Sudan since then and recently this opportunity in Morocco came back on the table.
Needless to say, I was in there like a dirty shirt even after 4 years. The short road was the timeline between being asked to consider this post and my arrival here in Rabat yesterday.
That took, ummmm, 5 weeks at the most. But, here I am and loving every second if it.
Work hasn’t started yet and that will be a tough row to hoe.
The view from here
From a purely selfish point of view, I am blessed. Rabat is a sleepy Oceanside capital that may lack the fictional allure of Casablanca or the overwhelming draw of Marrakesh, but as I sit here in a beachside restaurant with a glass of wine in the warm embrace of a setting sun I say: that’ll do pig, that’ll do!
After arriving yesterday afternoon I was taxied to my guesthouse. Apparently Secretary John Kerry is arriving in town next week and there wasn’t a hotel room to be found in the city except for the dodgy one by the train station that I declined politely. So, me, my two bags the size of Volkswagen Beetles, and two carry on bags walked in through the north gate to the Medina (old city/marketplace) over cobblestone alleys into my guesthouse.
Guesthouses known as Riads in Morocco are old, grand houses that reflect traditional Moroccan elite culture. Ornate tiles and fountains in the interior courtyards are complimented by soaring carved archways and rooftop terraces that overlook the Medina.
By no means is this a reflection of how I will live while in Rabat. I will soon start the process of finding and securing a very pedestrian concrete box apartment in the appropriate part of town. My only hope is that after living here for a while, I will be able to swap my concrete box of convenience for something a little more interesting down the road.
After arriving and performing the traditional “burning of the stinky, travel socks” ceremony, I showered, went walkabout and secured basic provisions for the next 48 hours: potato chips, a delightful discovery of Bounty Bar miniatures and roasted corn nuts for my room. And luckily I had packed two bottles of wine in my Volkswagon beetles, one thanks to a British sister-in-arms!
Upon return, I ate up the Riad’s generous wifi bandwidth to catch up with the world, especially my parents who are equally torn with words of encouragement and desire to join me. A true power base if one ever needs it.
Not my first time at the rodeo
I was lucky enough to have been in Rabat a few weeks ago (bizarrely not with my current employer) and I had the great fortune to be introduced to a few folks living here. After only one evening together, they have been generous with their time and advice while I was back home and last night I was invited out to join one friend, let’s call her E, to another friend’s apartment for apperatifs. I wasn’t entirely sure what that meant but I was keen to go out while I was still conscious and not hammered by jetlag.
I could not have been more delightfully surprised. Both French nationals, I was embraced into the family home of the friend for an evening of wine, baguette, cheese, sausage and good conversation. For those who know me, this is my happy place.
We chatted for a few hours but eventually the lack of sleep caught up with me and it was time to head home.
Aside from a taxi driver who spoke no French at all (the second/business language of Morocco) and tried to take me to Salé – the Gatineau equivalent of Rabat, across the river, I got home and promptly showed myself to bed.
12 hours later, let’s call it late morning to be generous, I woke up in my ornate, Harry Potter under the stairs closet sized room.
Blog posts should be short, full if images and leave you wanting more. So I will leave this here and let you join me next time for the continuing saga of Gingersnaptraveller in a brave new world next entry.
Thank you for following along with me, bonne journee á tous!!!