The Great Melting Pot
So I’ve been home for a week. I’m sitting in my living room listening to a little Tinariwen on a Saturday morning. I have had a week to reflect back and look forward. I’ve talked to some people about some things. The future is bright. Well, the future is clear. Bright sometimes. Not so bright other times I’m sure. I am learning to look forward and carry the good parts of the past right next to my heart.
As I reflect back on my time in Morocco it has become clear to me why I love it so much. Its the anti-Christ to Toronto. I have lived in Toronto twice now. From 1999-2005 and then 2007 to now. That’s a lot of time to spend in a city that I don’t exactly “embrace”. At all. I’ve never had an affection for Toronto. That’s no secret. I’ve only ever lived here because my parents were close by and there were jobs in the city. It worked. And then it didn’t. But then you get stuck in a place don’t you?
I am watcher of people. If I had a single math skill, my degree would have been in Sociology. I am fascinated by what motivates people. By behaviour. Some call it nosy. Some call it overly curious. Whatever. It is what it is. So it hasn’t escaped my notice, that in Toronto there is little to observe. What? “Its a self proclaimed world class city”, “its a melting pot of cultures”, “its an international city”. Ok settle the hell down. Yes, it is all those things. To the point of oblivion.
Toronto has no identity of its own. If it did we would not be naming developments after places in London and New York. We would be naming them to match our identity. We have cultures coming together from all over the world. Yes, we do. To the point where every single person you meet is from somewhere else. Those people all blend together in a melting pot that is oozing over the side. Want to learn about different cultures? You can go to the Danforth and pick up a little Greek. (I mean the lagnuage, not a small Greek person. Cause – illegal) You can go to Little Italy and get pizza. You can go to Chinatown and get….mugged. You can go to Yorkville and watch wealth. But you can’t immerse in anything. We are SO multicultural that you can’t make eye contact with anyone lest you offend and you can’t engage with anyone because who knows what their perspective is. Eyes down, don’t speak to strangers, carry on with your business. As you were.
In Morocco, I found a melting pot of a different kind. A meaty, sink your teeth into the culture, centuries old melting pot. The Berbers are a combination of North African, French, Spanish and Arab influence. A wonderful, lovely mixture of things that all came together at one point or another and added up to something you can see and hear and understand.
The country is 99% Muslim. 1% Jewish. 1% Christian. You know where you stand. The call to prayer rings in your ears 5 times a day and reminds you that, “Hey, whether you are in or you’re out, time marches on and consistency reigns”. You can speak to a Berber, or read a book, or another book, or speak to another Berber, or 6 and you will always come back to a basic understanding of how the culture works and what you can expect. You can take it or leave it. Your choice. But at least you know what you’re up against. You know that whether you like it or not, you need to check the cafe before you sit down, if you are a woman. That’s the way it is. You know that Berbers will go out of their way to protect you and help you. You know that they are a very humble, simple, family oriented people. You know that many of them live with their mothers. Happily. You know that their are things that will set them off, just like anywhere else. You know what you can and can not do in public. And in private. Its all very clear. Conduct yourself accordingly.
I’ve had a number of jobs in Canada. I’ve had bosses that come with preconcieved cultural notions of how a woman should or should not behave. In their culture. And those notions have been imposed on me, to profound effect. And I guess that one at a time, as you learn to deal with neighbours, and colleagues and cab drivers and public officials, you eventually learn what THAT person is about. What offends them and what lifts them up. But I like the opportunity to exist in a culture that is a bit more homogenous for awhile. I like to learn and understand and observe and admire and berate without the target moving. I like to immerse. To know. To settle into an understanding. I like that. Thanks Morocco for being so darn fascinating.