“These are not silver,” he says, looking at me.
“We know. They were gifts. We want silver necklaces so we can wear them,” I respond, smiling at his earnest expression.
The young vendor polishes my mom’s charm with a soft cloth until it shines, stringing it on a chain we selected, and hands it to her to try on.
“How much per necklace?” I ask as my mom looks in the mirror.
“120,” he says as he pulls two more from his inventory. An older woman walks into the tiny corner shop and sits behind us, waiting for her turn.
“Dirhams?” I ask while Vivian tries to crawl up my body and into my arms.
As he nods, I convert to dollars in my head while I look closely at the chains. We would pay more than his asking price at a box store in the States for this style and quality of chain. From my newly formed habit, I counter.
“250 for three.”
He glances at his inventory in contemplation. I imagine he is adding the amount per chain and the profit left to him depending on the price he makes from us. He lifts his chocolate eyes, and for a few seconds that stretch to the edge of discomfort we hold eye contact.
“Okay,” he replies.
My right eyebrow twitches upward as I smile in disbelief, “really?”
He laughs and replies, “yes, for you,” before turning back to his task.
I watch the light catch a silver skull on his left ring finger as his lean fingers begin stringing the other two charms and packaging them in jeweler’s bags. What just happened?
I’ve been back from Morocco for just over a week, and I’m struggling to write the final articles about my trip.
I could write about the last two days in Marrakech, full of sights and sounds that made me fall in love with the desert city, despite being pro-mountain-anti-desert my whole life. I could go into detail about Jardin Majorelle, a lush garden that includes a memorial for Yves St. Laurent, or maybe talk about the black and blue purse I almost bought at a price you could not find in the U.S.
Although I do not use purses, my creative side wanders into fashion from time to time. Purses, shoes, and dresses will find their way into my world as my eyes focus on aesthetics for a short time. Only for my eyes to wander away again, leaving my closet full of items that I have no purpose for.
I felt no need for a purse, despite it’s beauty in pattern and construction, so the purse remains in the St. Laurent store next to the Berber museum in the middle of Majorelle.
I could talk about how I grabbed bartering with both hands, gaining confidence in my skills using price estimation that I learned from watching Price is Right.
Our travel companion had a couple spots in her house where she wanted to hang an art item, but she hates bartering. We came up with a plan where she would decide what she wanted, tell me the most she wanted to spend, and I would barter for her. The system worked well, and I gained confidence in my ability to navigate shopping in the souks.
In fact, I started enjoying the game of bartering. Despite reading on other blogs about the aggressive nature of bartering in Marrakech, I never faced any aggression. Of course, my nature is not aggressive, and if I didn’t know how much I was willing to pay for something, I left it in the shop. My objective of the game was not to get basement prices but to reach a comfortable compromise.
Our travel companion now has an antique leather writer’s bag to hang on her wall, a door knocker that she will re-purpose as a nail for the purse, and a few other odds and ends at less than she was willing to spend. I have a new skill and confidence in my adaptability.
My mom’s purchases while she travels are usually limited to magnets and tree ornaments. Though most were at low prices anyway, I still bartered for her. Bartering gave shopping a purpose for me. Normally, I find very little purpose in window shopping or buying knick knacks. In fact, I am not a shopper, unless I know what I want. In which case, I go in (to the store or online), find exactly what I envision, and get out.
I could talk about how my mom, Vivian, and I got a map from the hotel and walked through the streets of Casablanca to the souk in search of necklaces for some khamsa charms we were given in Marrakech. My mom felt they were perfect for us to wear as we face her health issues; instead of waiting to look when we were State side, we decided to see what the vendors of Casablanca had to offer.
I could even talk about how the last few days of our vacation finally satisfied my wandering spirit as we moved freely through Marrakech and Casablanca.
Instead, I’m left wordless at all that I experienced as coming home became a journey back into the cave. Two hours in the customs line at Dulles, surrounded by concrete and glass, made me doubt I was supposed to come home, and this past week my psyche has struggled against the flood of routine stress that awaited me.
Of course, vacations done well are as we intend them to be: an escape from our every day lives. Though, I wish I could say Morocco was a complete escape. The largest source of anxiety right now, my mom’s health, came with us to Morocco. As did my overthinking tendencies.
Despite being on vacation, Morocco changed me. Not in any fundamental way. I did not “find” religion in Morocco. No country or life experience will change my belief system. Nor did Morocco make me not American, less inclined towards overthinking, or ease my generalized anxiety.
What I found in Morocco was a country where people have a general respect for different cultures and backgrounds. The people I came in contact with were genuinely caring, even the “usual suspects” that other blogs warn to stay away from. Also, I found something I’ve searched for my entire life: a rich tableau of the human experience. Eons of history and humanity laid down together in a multi-dimensional sculpture of flavors, colors, sounds, and textures. I found a place where I grew comfortable in my skin, despite being different in almost every way possible.
I’m having a hard time returning home.