Friday, March 8, 2013

Dancing Through Morocco

I don’t need to preach to you guys how traveling will change you and show you new things about yourself and blah blah blah. You probably know this and are sick of hearing it. But I’ve been thinking about what exactly I’ve learned about myself from each place and came up with the 5 major things that Tangier has taught me. It's time to get personal.

1. I am incapable of settling. This is something traveling in general has shown me. No matter how much I love a place, after a little while there I am always ready to move on to something and somewhere new. There's too much to see in this world and I want to take in as much as I possibly can until I explode. Oh, and this realization doesn't just apply to places, either. It has been a very long time since my last real relationship. Not that this is a problem, but sometimes I end up feeling like I left behind some wonderful possibilities in various cities...

2. To be taken seriously, you just have to act like you know what you’re doing. Even if you don’t have a clue. People I meet are generally impressed that I'm doing everything I'm doing with so much confidence and I'm only 20 years old. Here's the thing. Sometimes I'm terrified. Sometimes I am incredibly insecure. Sometimes I wonder what the hell I'm doing with my life. But when I start to feel like that, I just put on a smile and my power boots and tell myself "You will be fine. You can do this." And usually I can. I had no idea what I was doing in Morocco. Now I do.

3. Sometimes showing vulnerability is a really good thing. This one was harder for me to learn than the one above. When I came to Morocco I tried to act super confident and like I wasn't afraid of anything. Culture shock? Psh, never heard of it. The truth is I was falling apart on the inside. I felt totally lost and alone in a place where the language and culture is so different from everything I'm used to. When I finally opened up and confessed this to a couple people here, my life became so much easier. They were sympathetic and helpful and I ended up making some amazing friends, just by letting my guard down.

4. A language barrier is not the end of the world. Smiles and hand gestures go a long way. So does learning the basics in any language. I can now say "hello," "thank you," "goodbye," and count to 7 in arabic which has helped tremendously. Oh and I can say "half a kilo of mint, please." How else would I make my tea every day?

5. It is actually possible to create a 45 minute long dance performance in 3 weeks with 7 dancers, 4 of whom don’t speak English and most of them with little to no background in contemporary dance.  That is what I did here. Seriously. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that I could do something like this, especially with no degree and only 3 years of choreography experience. But I was so bored with doing French-to-English translations at my internship here that I put together a proposal, the directors of the Cinematheque agreed, I found 7 young performers in the community here, we had 7 rehearsals and by the end we had a contemporary dance show complete with music, lights, and projections. I know for a fact it wasn't the best thing I have ever choreographed, technically, but considering the time limit I think it ended up pretty amazing. The piece was about personal vs. group identity and was followed by an audience discussion, which can be terrifying if nobody has anything to ask. Luckily that was not the case. My dancers were such hard workers. They really embraced the new style of movement and even if not everyone in the audience really "got" modern dance, it introduced a new art form to a lot of people in Tangier and sparked discussions and thought. You'll never know what you are capable of until you try. I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to inspire and create something in this beautiful city.

Photo credits: Abdel-Mochine Nakari


  1. I have enjoyed reading your blog. You seem to be having the most wonderful adventures, and your photos and food are incredible! I just have one question, and forgive me (seriously) if it's not appropriate or you don't want to answer it. I have often wanted to do the same thing as what you're doing, but I can't figure out how in the world I would possibly fund it. Do you have financial support? Are you living incredibly cheap? Are you getting work visas in each place and getting paid to work? Details aren't necessary, I'm just wondering how I could ever get to do something as awesome as what you're doing.
    -Elena (from Oberlin)

    1. Hey Elena! Don't worry- it's not inappropriate at all and I don't mind answering. Most of the money for this trip I saved up for the past 3-4 years, working part-time while I was at Oberlin and various jobs over the summer. I also am incredibly lucky in that I also have a little bit of financial padding from my family to back me up if necessary, but most of it is my own money. That being said, I still live and travel on a super tight budget- I cook a lot for myself when I can, stay only in hostels or crash on friends couches, and fly through cheap airlines or take buses. Because of my internships, I've gotten free housing and meals in various places which can also be a lifesaver.
      Basically, it is totally doable as long as you have the money to get yourself overseas! You can look into WOOFFing and to find free housing and food in exchange for work, and there's always couchsurfing too, which some people rave about (though I haven't tried it yet). I think anyone who has the motivation has the ability to travel, it's just about figuring out your own way to do it.
      I hope that wasn't too long-winded and that it was helpful!
      Best wishes :)

  2. I'm paying for a year in Spain by teaching English for 10 hours a week. And I know a lot of people here who are au pairs or came to work on organic farms. It's so true--f you can get overseas, you can travel!
    If you'd like to study, tuition at most public universities in Europe is very reasonable. My tuition bill this year came out to about 300 US dollars, and most student visas to the EU let you work a bit as well.

  3. I think it's really amazing how you face all these challenges beautifully and gracefully. You're very brave--most people would never attempt to do what you have accomplished so far! I get inspired by people like you who are afraid of doing things but do it anyway. Tip of the hat to you ;)

    1. Thank you, seriously- you have no idea how much it means to hear this! I am honored to be a source of inspiration for other travelers and wanderers :)