Debating William & Mary, sports and culture since 2011. Updated every Wednesday.

Tangier

In Long form on August 25, 2011 at 11:21 am

I call that trip “The weekend we all became beatniks.” From my hotel window, I could see a cluster of pristine white houses slowly descend along the landscape toward the Strait of Gibraltar.

In the distance, across the Strait, I could see Spain and the mountains. I had just arrived in Tangier, Morocco.

While studying in the country, my friends and I had decided to take a weekend trip. We stayed in El Muniria, the preferred hotel of William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, and Allen Ginsberg. Our room was where Burroughs wrote Naked Lunch.

We didn’t have much money. We knew our destination but had no idea how to get there and no plan for once we got there. We left class early with just some bread and one hardboiled egg to sustain the six of us through our trek to Tangier. It was oppressively hot and the train was leaving in 10 minutes.

With the prospect of catching a cab in Meknes being undeniably low, we enlisted the help of a local to hitch us a ride. Without thinking about the danger of getting in an unmarked car with a stranger, we hopped in and told him to step on it. The sense of escapade to experience the unknown overwhelmed traditional thinking. On this trip, it felt like we were writing our own rules.

Once in Tangier, we quickly realized our map was going to be of no help as there were no street signs in the entire city. Consequently, we had to place our trust entirely in the hands of a local construction worker, with whom I pleaded, in my broken Arabic, to show us the way.

As he led us through tiny alleys, the city seemed to be swallowing us up. The twists and turns led us deeper into the city. The houses were in ill-repair, made of mud and sand from centuries ago. The children playing in the dirty streets stared at us like we were aliens from another world. Luckily, the construction worker did not lead us to an early death but rather to our quaint hotel, concealed in the midst of Tangier’s dizzying, ancient streets.

The city stands at the crossroads of Middle Eastern, Berber, French and Spanish cultural influences. Each influence is distinct and easily identifiable. I took it all in. I danced with locals at the infamous Tanger Inn, where they used to trip on hash and drink beer. The bar was dimly lit and a strange blend of techno and traditional Middle Eastern music was blaring through the speakers. The framed pictures of dead writers were barely visible, and the piano that played during their stay went unnoticed. The locals took us in, showed us their ways and enlightened us to new world perspectives. We danced to a new beat.

I felt like a new person. I had realized my passion for travel, immersing myself in a foreign culture and foreign policy in general. I started my senior year of college not as a student without a plan but as a student with the intention of joining the Foreign Service after college.

Of course, nothing works out as planned. I bounced around, worked on a political campaign for free, worked retail part time. I eventually settled into a government relations job in DC. I stayed there for nine months, and pretty much disliked every second of it. On top of the unhappiness at work, I had my first experience with paying rent, loans, and everything else needed to live. All of these factors drew me further away from my post Morocco-transformation, towards disappointment and disorientation.

As I get ready to attend law school, those memories and that sense of connection seem to have vanished. Over these nine months, I seem to have lost the passion I found after my Morocco experience. I don’t know how it happened, but I don’t have the direction or the certainty I used to. Even as I try to reach back and grab that passion, it does not have the same glimmer.

I hope there will be another experience down the road that will, once again, reveal the passion I am to pursue. But there may not be. Maybe life is about finding different “beat” moments for inspiration at different parts of life’s journey. Whatever the answer, I just hope that somewhere along the line, there will be girls, visions, everything; somewhere along the line the pearl would be handed to me.

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