By Larbi Arbaoui
By Larbi Arbaoui
Morocco World News
Taroudant, Morocco, April 12, 2012
MWN has conducted an interview [read part1, part2, part3] with Mr. Ben Pennington who is an American athlete, musician and poet. He served as a Peace Corps volunteer in N’kob, Zagora, Morocco for two years [from 2009-2011].
Since the interview is long enough to be published in one piece, we decided to publish it in a series. The following is part 4 of a 4 part series.
L.A: Two years, I think, is enough to consider Morocco as your second home, right?
B.P: Yes, certainly. And it’s enough time to consider my family there as my real brothers and sisters. I’ve sent some of my first paycheck home to them, so now there’s not much difference between me and the cousins or brothers in the typical Moroccan family that go to Spain and send money home.
L.A: Now as you are in your home, have you ever felt homesickness toward Morocco?
B.P: Yes, quite a lot. The longer I’m here, the more unreal and vague my time in Morocco seems, but it remains a touchstone for half of my waking day, and my internal life. What I miss most is the slow and leisurely pace of life, the strong sense of community and the strong international flavor of the place. My best friends were Germans, Spaniards and Italians, not just the locals, but we all had a passion for Morocco and we’d discuss the country, sharing our thoughts and our Weird Moments that we had during the day. I miss waking up in my bed there, walking towards the café to get my typical 15 dirham blow-out lunch, with half a dozen eggs, bread, olive oil, olives, sauce, tea, a nus-nus (five dirhams extra) plus several pieces of fruit and a large plate of French fries (a $2 meal !). It was enough food that you didn’t have to eat again at all the entire day! And sitting there for 3 hours, either talking with my Moroccan buddies and writing letters home or else reading a book and writing in my journal.
B.P: Yes, I miss it. When I realize my potential as a professional musician, I hope to use that name Addi Arrumi, as my stage name. I’d like to call my Moroccan family more on the telephone, but its difficult because I work in the morning and when I have the chance to call them they are already asleep (it’s a 5-6 hour time difference). Arrumi, by the way, means The Roman, which is the same word they use for foreigner. This is because the first contact they had with foreigners, 2000 years ago, it was the Romans, and it’s amazing that they still use that word when talking about people from elsewhere.
L.A: If you think to visit Morocco again, what places do you want to see specifically?
B.P: If I was going for two weeks, I’d stay one week in the Saghro region with my family. That is a beautiful place to go hiking (see the photo) . The rest of the time I’d visit Essaouira, Taroudant (it has everything that Marrakesh does, but less tourists and less pricey), then go dancing with young people in Casablanca, later visit Sefrou, which is called Le jardin du Maroc where my first host family lives. Sefrou and Nkob are equally fabulous, but for very different reasons, so I was fortunate to live in both of them.
L.A: If you are asked by some of your American friends who want to visit Morocco, what places will you recommend?
B.P: If I was there more time, I’d visit Faguig again, and all the old places around Errachidia that I once knew, especially the beautiful stretch between Rich, Midelt and Azrou, near Fez. If I were to live there, I’d like to live in Tangiers and be able to easily visit South Spain, coastal Morocco, and visit the Moroccan Sahara every now and then. So I’d mention all of these places for them. Though most go just for Marrakesh and then go home, thinking they know Morocco. And Marrakesh is good if you only have one weekend, or if you’re shopping, but to me it is a bit like Epcot Center in Disney World. If you can’t go to France, you can go visit “Paris” in Disneyworld and have a better idea of what it’s like. But time acts differently in Morocco, so if you want to see the desert it takes a week, especially if you are using the national bus system. You don’t want to be stuck on the other side of the mountains and there’s no taxis going to Marrakesh, and then you miss your flight.
There are still a small handful of things I never saw, but I did that on purpose: I believe it’s better to see less, but to see each thing more thoroughly. Also, you’re supposed to always leave something for next time, so that you have a good excuse to come back. I never saw Chefchaouen, El Hoceima, or the area above Marrakesh, the High Atlas communities of Azilal province. And Toubkal of course. That is enough reason to visit several times more!
L.A: Morocco in one phrase?
B.P: In one word: Inshallah. God willing. Morocco in several words: deeper and richer, zanier and more beautiful than you could possibly imagine, at least until you go for yourself