Friday, December 17, 2010


The last ten days have been marked by the arrival of the Islamic new year (Muharram) and the ever-progressing arrival of Ashura, which is the 10th day after Muharram (ahsura means ‘10’).

On the eve of Ashura, bands of children from every neighborhood gather together to play music. They beat drums and tambourines and blow into long horns that make a single, bleating note. Sometimes they sing. If you are lucky enough to live in a neighborhood where some of the older boys lead the children in learning rhythms, you are treated to some great sounds. Of course the kids ‘practice’ all week long and parade up and down the derbs in raucous good humor.

My street has tons of children and their numbers steadily increased as they banded together the other night to symbolically mourn the end of a year and celebrate the beginning of a new year. They probably don’t know that is what they were doing, but the idea of drumming out the old and heralding in the new gave me the wherewithal to deal with their learning curve and a great appreciation for the steady progress they made in producing the traditional rhythms.

I thoroughly enjoyed Ashura this year … perhaps it’s because I took the time to learn what it’s all about.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Still Searching

A friend just sent me an email asking me why don’t I sell my house and come home to California. I’d like to, but the reality of life stops me. It would be difficult to sell right now and although I could conceivably get enough money to purchase a home in Northern California, what would I do for income after that? For truth be told, my skills and years of experience are highly valued here in Fes, but rather worthless back home.

I make a lot more money teaching English here than I would in the States. Believe it or not, the pay is a mere $12-15 per hour for a qualified ESL teacher in the Bay Area. How could I survive on that???? Here is Fes, I teach belly dance to tourists and people love my classes. But back in San Francisco, I am one of thousands and there are dancers there who highlight the fact that I am strictly an amateur at the game. To bill myself as a belly dance teacher in San Francisco would be laughable.

I also have some marketing skills that I’ve been able to put to good use here and even get paid for. But in the competitive, youth-oriented California market I am sadly out of touch with the search engine optimization approach of today’s marketing gurus. Alas, the sad truth is I am out of touch, out of date and just too old to make a living at home anymore. But here in Fes, I find myself wearing five different hats some weeks, collecting fees and earning income from the myriad of skills I’ve gathered throughout my life and I’ve made a comfortable situation for myself in a world where money seems to be increasingly hard to come by.

I do miss home though and some days I fervently wish to transport myself back to the green, open spaces of California and the orderly life I grew up in. Chaos, confusion and conflict often pepper my days here and sometimes I just get tired of the effort that is required to keep going. But I think I am here for a purpose … a purpose I haven’t fully grasped yet … and so I carry on. I dry the tears of frustration off my face, put on a smile, pull back my shoulders and try anew every day.

Next month it will be 4 years since I arrived in Fes. I originally wanted to come here because of a documentary I saw about the Sacred Music Festival. This film talked about Fes as the Spiritual Capital of Morocco and I thought to myself that living in a so-called spiritual city would be great for my personal growth. Indeed it has been. But looking back I realize I had the naïve impression that a spiritual journey would be much lighter than what I’ve experienced thus far. I somehow thought a calm, wise and peaceful energy would envelope me just because I put myself on this path. But this has definitely not been the case. For life in Morocco is real life with capital letters and I find I am constantly derailed by the unexpected, the unfamiliar and the unexplainable.

So here I am, with all the trappings of a successful life but still missing an essential element. It’s called ‘acceptance’. And even though I am much better at this than I used to be, it seems I still have a way to go. They say life presents you with the same lesson until you have fully learned it. I haven’t passed my exam just yet. So perhaps when I truly accept and appreciate all of what life has offered me, I will be able to return home with the wisdom and peace I have been searching for all these years.

And who knows? When I finally do find what I’ve been looking for, maybe I won’t want to leave.