What am I doing here? – Flights of Fancy

Vago Damitio. What am I doing here?

May 30, 2012
Sefrou, Morocco

Did you ever see Fiddler on the Roof? I love that song, “If I were a rich man…” and like Faisel, I sometimes engage in flights of fancy which may not be ” …all night long I’d biddy biddy bum, if I were a wealthy man!” but which , none the less are flights of fancy.

After all, for the moment, I live in the town of Sefrou and even if I could open up a breakfast diner called ‘Toast’ where vintage toasters sat on every table and patrons were free to buy twenty types of fresh baked bread and then toast it at their own tables – plus have coffee and order a variety of cheeses, vegetables, spreads and meats to go with their toast – no one would come.

Sure, I know the idea sounds cool to you and you would come, but let’s be honest – you probably won’t come to Sefrou. Not many people do. Still, ‘Toast’ has been a small fantasy of mine for years. The problem is that Moroccans woudn’t come because they don’t really go to restaurants and even if they did come, Moroccans in Sefrou wouldn’t pay more than a quarter dollar for toasting their own bread.  They don’t really care about concepts like hip, fun, or different. People in Sefrou are practical.

That’s why my other flight of fancy would never work here either. A tea shop called ‘Paradigm Sans’ where cultural speakers and puppet shows happen daily and patrons gather in tight salon circles to discuss idea of the metaphysical, spiritual and revolutionary would never work here either.  Still, imagine it – calligraphy courses, invited intellects, sufis, great thinkers, puppet shows, kabuki theatre – all taking place on a central stage while patrons drank tea from all over the world until 9 pm when a very limited wine list became available.  No coffee and no beer – tea and wine only – along with ideas served up as the main course. Of course, a wine bar in conservative little Muslim Sefrou would never do and no one here would order anything but Moroccan tea and they wouldn’t order it from a foreigner…

And then there is the writer’s retreat – a place where writers could come and take up residence while they worked on their masterpiece for a month at a time.  A four bedroom house with four writers in residence at any given time.  The cost? Only productivity- while there, they would need to contribute to an annual literary collection about the place. 48 Stories in a year by 48 writers working on 48 different projects but all about just one place.  That one might work – but the problem is funding it and finding 48 writers who are willing to come to Sefrou for a month at a time. Let alone writing about Sefrou…there are stories here, but they are beneath the surface and most take more than a month to reach.

I used to dream of owning a used book store but that dream has gone along with my dream of owning a hostel or guesthouse – I’ve managed both hostel and hotel and found that unfortunately, mostly I just want the people who come there to leave.  For every wonderful guest that you wish would stay on and on – there are five that you only want to leave as soon as possible.  Then there are the twenty guests that you don’t care about one way or the other. They are who the business is built around – the people you are indifferent about.  Still, those five guests that are a pain in the ass are so exhausting and suck so much energy out of you that you more than likely miss out on enjoying time with that one extraordinary guest or couple – the 1 in 26 and when it comes time to say goodbye, you have to wonder – Did that extraordinary person enjoy themselves here? They probably did – because that is what extraordinary people do, but they may not come back to your place again.

Morocco is a funny place for me to live.  Sefrou is a funny place for me to live.  The bookshops are filled with the same religious book and commentaries on that same religious book. The cafes are places where conversations don’t happen and if there is entertainment, it is a football match on the television. In terms of cuisine you have a choice of sandwich with egg and meat or sandwich with meat and egg – you can drink coffee or Moroccan tea or soda. If you are looking for something to do, the people here probably wonder why you have enough free time to look for something to do – and anyway,  why don’t you go to the cafe and stare at the football match with the other men while drinking a coffee?

Actually, if I could build something in Sefrou, I would want to build something that would change the mentality- but my imagination reaches the brick wall when I try to imagine what that would be.


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Damitio  (@vagodamitio) is the Editor-in-Chief for Vagobond. Life is good. You can also find him on Google+ and at Facebook