How Marrakech Made Me Cry (In A Good Way)
MARRAKECH (MOROCCO) - Where I learned vulnerability can be a strength.
You might remember from my last entry that Bangkok was my tipping point. It stirred up the question of: what does one do with this privilege? Marrakech sought the beginning of an answer.
I grew up an only child. People would often ask if I wish things were different. The truth is, I prefer it. Solitude teaches you many things, but most importantly it teaches self-reliance and independence. It makes you an extrovert by nature. New faces, new places -- all of it came easily to me and I chased it.
But I’ve long learned all that extroversion is just a wall. Give people something sparkly to look at so they’ll never have to look for the real you. For years, I prided myself on the perfect poker face in life. I could be the calmest person in an emergency. You’d never catch me crying in public. I could’ve been a surgeon; my hands never shake.
In Marrakech, I stayed at the Peacock Pavilion Hotel (along with the 14 other women on this trip); which supports Project Soar -- a non-profit organization that empowers local girls by helping them understand their value, voice, body, rights, and path. We were even fortunate enough to meet the girls.
Upon our arrival, I was immediately struck by the sincerity of the room. When the instructor introduced us -- to say our reception was warm -- was an understatement. The girls were visibly excited to have us there. We each took turns speaking on behalf of our professions. Amongst us, we had: women who worked in tech, women who were founders of companies, women in healthcare, and a few of us were artists. The point of this was to show the girls the wide array of paths they could take -- that they could choose to pursue their education, their dreams.
Then they split us off into groups and we talked with our girls. One of the girls in my group told me she wanted to travel -- she wanted to see beyond Morocco. I asked her where would be her first destination. Paris, she says. I told her it was my favorite city and showed her a video on my phone. It was the Eiffel Tower sparkling at night.
She took the phone from my hand and stared at it -- transfixed. She played it again. Then again. The other girls crowded around her to watch. I’ve been to Paris many times. I studied abroad there in college. Paris has seen me become the woman I am. But to them, Paris was a dream. In a country where female education isn’t being prioritized, where the internet moves at a glacial speed at best, where access to information isn’t equal for everyone, where power lies in the hands of those in possession of a Y chromosome -- Paris was almost intangible.
I remember being that young and seeing a photo in a history book. I’m going to go, I had told myself. When I’m older and I’ve saved enough money -- I’m going to Paris. But isn’t it easy, I reminded myself, to be who you are and make those choices. And again, I was confronted with my own privilege.
Opportunity. There again it was. Luck and opportunity separated us and more importantly, the confidence that came with the support of those things.
“You can go to Paris,” I nodded. She began to shake her head, “No, you can go.” I told her again, “One day. It’s scary -- I know. I went by myself the first time. It can be scary. But you can be brave.”
She still looked hesitant. “You can always ask me if you have questions,” I reaffirmed, “We can be Facebook friends and that way you can always ask...about anything.”
“Really?” she held out her phone.
“Really,” I typed in my name.
When it came time to leave, the girls were crying. The instructor told us they had really enjoyed our visit. Not only did my own girls hug me, all the girls from the center started queuing up to hug everyone. Small arms held on tightly to each of us. We were pressed so closely together, I forget where one person started and another ended. Kisses were exchanged. Contacts were swapped. Hands were held. It struck me how unbridled they were with their emotions.Their love was authentic and unconditional. Gentle, kind, and unwavering -- it pushed past the walls I spent years fortifying. And that day I cried in public for the first time in a long time.
Being an only child makes you a very self-sufficient human; but it also creates the illusion that you never need anyone. And maybe it’s not even about needing someone -- maybe it’s about allowing yourself to feel vulnerable. Maybe it’s about being there for someone else. What do you do with your privilege, I had asked. Well maybe you share it.
For most of my life I had considered myself a mountain -- steady, sure, unmoveable. But in Morocco, I learned -- even the earth shakes sometimes.
TO BE CONTINUED IN PART 3 (BALI).