One of my most basic joys have been the moments after a wave crashes, when I’ve dove under the whitewash and resurface in a turbulent water full of sand, air, and currents. Instead of immediately lifting my head to breath and swim out of the post-wave mess, I’m beginning to rest within this chaos and enjoy getting tossed around on the surface. It feels like a million fingers moving all over my body, and there are times when I get the sensation of being tickled. Other times it feels like hands pushing me around, even pushing violently for a moment or two, but eventually settling down to a deep massage. It’s because of the way the waves break here. The lip of each wave breaks slowly, leaving a trail of whitewash , so that even when you dive under and swim to the surface, there is still a large swath of churned water behind. I feel like this heals my body.
I’m basically a beach bum, but because I am so conscious of this, it somehow feels perfect. I wake up and go to the beach in the morning for one of two reasons. Either to harvest mussels and other mollusks with the newfound friends, or to run and swim and stretch on the sand. I return to the beach each afternoon, experiencing the water at a different tide and viewing the soft sand as a warm and welcoming retreat from the waves. Coming out of the water I run straight towards the sand to burry myself in its warmth, a familiar feeling to the California experience, but I’ve felt so relaxed these days that I often find myself falling asleep for a minute two, waking up with a sanded face and a smile.
I played a really interesting game the other day, that simply involved the feather of a seagull and some sand. As we were lying down in the sand towards the back of the beach, Bashir built a small mound and then buried a seagull feather within in, covering what had been left exposed with more soft sand. We then proceeded to take small drags of the sand with our fingers, slowly revealing the feather within. This continued, and you weren’t allowed to slow the movement of your fingers, until the feather fell to one side. If it fell towards your side, you lost, and were made to do something really funny and crazy at the beach, like climb to the top of a rock and yell “Allah al Akbar”, or go mess with some tourists, or simply run to the end of the beach and back. I found the game extremely delicate and awesome.
Language, or the use of language, has developed beautifully within my life during these travels to the south of Morocco. In most any other traveling experience, the acquisition of another language has been very important for me, and I’ve always attempted to restrict my use of language to that which I was learning. While I would like to continue to work on my language skills, I realize that this is not my project for the year, and that I can instead focus on using language for what it should be used for: to communicate and get things done. This is especially true in Mirleft, where everybody is essentially tetra lingual, speaking as a first language Berber (otherwise known as Amazigh), as a second dialectal Arabic, as a third French, and Classical Arabic as a fourth language. I usually speak in French, and randomly in the Classical Arabic that I know, which is always funny because it sounds so formal and stuck-up. I am, more importantly, extremely open to speaking in any language that I know, including mixes of them all, or helping people with their developing language skills. I’ve also come to enjoy simply listening to the locals speak in Berber. I love the way the language sounds, its full of Z’s and Ch’s and Mm’s, and how I can pick out a random word or two in Arabic or French. Really, I feel totally free with language, as if its only rule were that of utility.
Our French language skills are usually the same, and I feel like we both speak the same post-colonial French, a language that I learned in Martinique and Tunisia. I remember a time when my friend Selena, who is basically French-American, came to Tunisia and spoke with her very proper Parisian French. Many people didn’t understand, and from time to time I found myself “translating” into this post-colonial French. We always thought this was funny. Here in Morocco, the same thing has happened with a few French Canadians that I’ve met, who, even when they tone-down their accent quebequois, still find it hard to make themselves understood by the Moroccans.