It was a pleasure seeing you naked … tales from a Hammam

This weekend I was very naked.  I went to a Public Hammam and to quote my friend Clare, “I wish I could have been even MORE naked.”

A Hammam is similar to a steam room (think Turkish bath house) where Moroccans go habitually to cleanse themselves.  I’ve since done a bit of reading on the subject (probably should have done that before going) and am super into the culture of the experience and am so glad I did it.

Note that if you have a Hammam at a spa or hotel, know that you are A. probably overpaying and B. potentially not getting an authentic Hammam.  But not everyone wants this type of experience or has access to it,  so you do you.

Now, the Hammam ritual is a series of cleansing and relaxing and socializing.  Black soap (which can really be a shade of dark green) is used to soap and prep the skin, and a rough glove is used to exfoliate.  Suds and scrub.  And chat and catch up with your friends and family, for a Hammam is also a social gathering.

I went to the Hammam Marassa in Rabat with three of my Remote  Year friends: Sam, Sara, and Immaculate.  We entered a room that was tiled floor-to-ceiling with blue and white tiles, and after a few starts and stalls with my French skills, we paid, got our gloves and soap, and looked at each other shrugging, Well I guess we get naked now.  

Inside the bath house was two more completely tiled rooms, and the ladies who worked at the Hammam (I’ll call them our scrub ladies, who were mostly naked themselves) led us to the room in the back.  It was hot and steamy, and walking naked through the first room we notice that we could have definitely kept our underwear on if we wanted.  But mentioning this to Sara, she was all hey, we’re here, this is it.  And I agreed – Let’s do the thing right.  So there are 20 people in this Hammam of all age ranges who are naked or mostly-naked.

I was shy for about 12 seconds.  I’ve gone through multiple stages of hating my body and loving my body and scrutinizing my body and hiding my body and parading my body and working out a lot and not working out enough and eating too much and not eating enough, and currently I’m in a “I’m a little soft but whatever because I like pastries for breakfast” phase.  Which means in those 12 seconds, I was self conscious in front of my friends, in front of the locals, and in front of our scrub ladies.  And then Immaculate started naked dancing and our scrub lady started naked dancing and really, it was all okay.  As a reminder, everyone is naked.

And so, we sat down on the tiled floors and got sudsed-up with black soap and then scrubbed down so that mounds of dead skin were coming off.  I wasn’t too surprised since I’ve been living in dusty Rabat for a month and have been to the Sahara and back, and I really needed a good scrub-down.  The exfoliation was painful in the ‘hurts so good’ way.  My arms, stomach, back, feet, chest, legs — everywhere visible was cleansed (again, we’re naked).  Then we were rinsed with buckets of cool water dumped over our heads and I walked away (holding hands with my scrub lady) feeling brand-spanking new.

 

So I’m sitting here now, typing this, rubbing my baby-smooth arms and am again, so grateful for these experiences.  Grateful that I say yes even when it sounds weird, grateful also that I have friends who say yes, and when I’m lying on my side with my leg up getting scrubbed on my inner thigh, I’m grateful for my friend Sam who looks at me from a similar position and says “Just maintain eye contact,” making me burst out laughing.  So ladies, it was a pleasure seeing you naked.  I wouldn’t have wanted to do that with anyone else ❤

 

Sam, Sara, Immaculate, and Me

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You Don’t See Camel Poop in Pictures

What You See:

 


What Actually Happened:

4 hour train ride from Rabat to Marrakech.  A sandwich for lunch on the train that’s a roll with a few slices of cheese.  A Parisian riad manager named Laurent who describes the Marrakech market and square environment as a theater performance.  Mint tea.  A dip in the pool of the riad with a cool glass of white wine.  Being shouted at from various market stalls in the square, asking if I’m American and do I want to look at this or guess what spice this is pretty lady?  Dinner at a local food stall that says it’s beef but I’m not so sure.

Spending a full 10 hours riding in a car before we even arrive at the camels.  Stopping for lunch – cous cous and tajine.  Taking 112 naps in three hours, drowsy on anti-nausea medication.  Sitting in the middle seat and physically leaning on my friends as we go through the switchbacks up and down the mountain.  Hopping onto the camel, assessing its health and if it is being treated properly.  Smiling and naming my camel Henry.  Realizing immediately that the way camels walk is not convenient for riding.  In a moderate amount of pain.  Laughing out loud the entire ride because it’s so bumpy and everyone is laughing and trying to hold on and I can’t believe this is my life.  Trying to take pictures of everyone while they aren’t taking pictures of everyone else.

Arriving at our tents and realizing how sweaty and dirty I am and how much camel poop I’ve stepped in.  Eating dinner (tajine again but this time it’s wonderful).  Seeing some stray cats and trying to feed them the tajine.  Getting to know our tour guide, Said, over wine and hookah.  Telling riddles around an unlit campfire.

Lying on a dirty outdoor couch, looking up at the moon with drums playing in my ears trying to soak in every moment.

Falling asleep on said dirty outdoor couch and waking up while it’s still dark.  Walking up a huge dune to watch the sunrise but realizing there’s too much haze and fog and all of a sudden it was light and we missed it.  Agonizing over our soreness and chafing and whatever else was going on down there.  Discussing the proper undergarments for camel riding and how that is definitely NOT a thong.  Riding a camel again that morning anyway.  Back in the car for the entire day.  Trying to locate a restaurant in Marrakech that doesn’t serve Moroccan food because all we’ve had the past two weeks is cous cous, tajine, and pizza.  Getting a private room at an Italian restaurant and devouring wine and linguine and more wine.  Sitting in a thick cotton hotel robe and discussing  how much we’ve seen and how much we could continue to see.  Talking about what the hell we were gonna do when this year is over.  Having no answers but acknowledging that that’s okay.

 

You don’t see this in pictures.  You see me smile, you see a camel.  I’m okay with that.  Just know: behind my smile is always a backstory – sometimes joy, sometimes pain, and sometimes a little camel poop.

Sometimes I like working in a cubical

Confession time: Sometimes I really like working in a cubical.

 

Silly huh?  I break free from the confines of a structured corporate job, have the ability to work from a variety of different places every month, and yet: cube.

In the two and a half months I’ve been traveling with Remote Year, I’ve worked from a dorm room, several cafes, my living room, an airplane, a terrace, a rooftop, the beach, a park, a Gothic castle, and three different coworking spaces.  And yet, in my current coworking space called 7AY, I have chosen a cubical over the long communal tables of the first floor or the highly coveted couches and cushions underneath a berber tent on the roof.

 

I’ll give you that it’s a nice cubical.  Not 3 solid walls blocking all light.  I picked one by a window.  It’s clean.

 

So I have to conclude that the stigma against working a ‘desk job’ isn’t about the desk itself.

So what is it?  What makes a ‘desk job’ a desk job?  Plenty of jobs physically have a desk.  CEOs have a desk but I don’t think they’d ever refer to their work as a desk job.  Teachers have desks, though they rarely sit at them.  So it must imply something else.  A ‘desk job’ seems to symbolizes grunt work, isolation, and a lack of independence, but I don’t think that’s necessarily true.  We should rename them to be Jobs-that-are-physically-performed-while-sitting-at-a-desk-but-have-nothing-to-do-with-said-desk.

I admit that, unlike some of the other Remotes, it wouldn’t kill me to go back and work an office job again after this.  The act of ‘going to the office’ isn’t what bothers me.  A commute doesn’t bother me.  Waking up early doesn’t bother me.  Repetitive conversations with coworkers about weekend plans don’t bother me .  Actually I really like those conversations.  The community of colleagues and interaction with others is what draws me to a job – me working in isolation on my couch would never work out.

I hear people say they hate all desk jobs.  Do you?  Do you really?  Have you tried them all?  What’s with the generalization?  The desk job isn’t about the desk.  It’s about THE JOB.  It’s about the tasks you perform; it’s about independence or collaboration or both.  It’s about getting satisfaction and pride from your work.  It’s about your boss and your coworkers and your work/life balance and feeling appreciated and respected and treated as a professional.  That’s what you’re looking for, that’s what you should prioritize, and that’s how you find a job you love.

What drew me to this remote lifestyle – and what would bother me about going back to an office job – isn’t the ‘lack of desk’ remote-ness of it all.  Apart from the travel, I joined Remote Year for the push to find professional freedom — the opportunity to be my own boss, set my own hours, and directly impact my own income.  And not just the ‘opportunity’ do to so – I am forcing myself to be successful only because I have no other option.  Make it work, or go home.  Get in or get out.  If I want to stay with RY I have to hustle.  This week I launched my own business in addition to working on several other projects.  It’s a resume review business with a service-minded approach: for every resume I review for a fee, I will turn around and provide the same service to a military vet for free.  This idea has been floating around in my head for THREE YEARS.  I created the website a year ago, and still it just sat.  Sat and sat and sat and made me feel guilty every day for not having the time (MAKING THE TIME) to roll it out.  And now, I’ve launched it.  Now the hustle really begins.

Just because I’m not tied to a desk doesn’t mean I don’t play by the rules.  I work, sometimes on weekends, sometimes from a desk, and sometimes doing work I don’t particularly feel inspired to do at the moment.  But my boss is a hardass, and she says I better get moving.  I’d tell her to go jump in a lake, but then I’d have a back and forth conversation with myself and for everyone’s sake it’s best to avoid that.

Tomorrow I might go with the floor cushions, but in the end I have work to do and it doesn’t matter if it gets done on a floor or a desk or in the middle of the Sahara.

Today, I chose a cube.

 

 

***With 7 years of Human Resources recruiting experience, I’ve launched http://www.JumpStartResume.com in order to provide professional resume review services while at the same time giving back to those who’ve served our country.

Get Inside my Head: Moroccan Edition

I decided to let you be privy to some of the thoughts bouncing around my head this week.  No psychoanalysis please.

-Is the customs line really that long?
-Hey I’m in Morocco.
-Hey I’m in AFRICA.
-I bless the rains down in Aaaaafricaaaaaa (I BLESS THE RAINS)
-Who could possibly be ringing my doorbell at 1:30am?
-I need to just launch my new business already. Stop procrastinating.
-Woah this coworking space is crazy awesome.
-Did I just say ‘Si’ instead of ‘Oui’? That was stupid.
-What if I set up a Berber tent in my next apartment? I don’t think it would match my current IKEA furniture.  I should get some new furniture.
-If I could eat 12 plums a day, I would.
-Mental note: look up what happens if you have more than the recommended serving of plums.
-Do I want a glass of wine? Yes. But it’s Monday and you’re in Morocco and that’s not a thing. Plus you should really cut back on wine until we’re in Argentina.  Hmm that’s not realistic. Wait until happy hour on Thursday.  Good plan, way to go Case.
-IT’S THURSDAY AND THIS ROOFTOP BAR IS NOT A BAR.
-Is this cab driver going to … yep he is. Okay where’s that seatbelt?
-Does that little fuzzy kitty look hungry? He does. Let’s feed him.  Don’t pet him though. Fleas.
-I can buy flea killer.  He’s so FUZZY!
-Did you know you’re in Morocco? Cuz ya are.
-Do I want to do a camel ride out of Fez or Marrakesh?
-How many side trips out of Rabat am I doing this month?  How many is too much? How many is not enough?
-Do I really need to watch all of the Remotes snapchat stories? This is getting ridiculous.
-Do I love it here?
-I love it here.
IMG_3657

THE PLUMS!

Today I woke up in Africa

Travel days.  I love to travel, in the sense of actually being somewhere not my home, somewhere new, somewhere different.  So I suppose I love the noun travel.  But the actual verb TO TRAVEL makes me want to rip my arm off and beat myself over the head with it, while gouging out my eyes with my red plastic spork.

I’m not even joking.  Ask the poor souls who had to sit with me at the food court or at the gate or in the customs line(s).  I wasn’t as grumpy as I can get when I travel with my family (sorry guys), and I wasn’t as hangry as I was when we flew above Aruba in circles for hours because a different plane had a flat tire (true story), but I admit I’m not the most relaxed traveler.  I’d love to travel like my grandparents would, the Carrs wearing khakis and white tee shirts to board a cruise ship, or the Joneses loading up the RV for yet another cross country adventure, carefree attitudes in tow.  Maybe someday I’ll get to that point.

At least I don’t throw up on planes anymore.

Except that one time last year.

…..

So we made it to the Casablanca airport unscathed.  After getting into the wrong van (don’t ask), having an address change fiasco (don’t ask) and watching a guy high on something drop trou in the middle of the street (REALLY don’t ask), I’m in Rabat, Morocco.

My apartment is, let’s say vintage.  We have a huge common room with couches surrounding the perimeter so I can host about 20 people, although our butts would go numb in half an hour because a couch here is apparently thin padding on top of a rock.  I’m in a 3BR apartment with two lovely ladies in a great little neighborhood called Agdal.  It’s more of an urban community, and there are plenty of shops and restaurants and ice cream and fellow Remotes around to keep me busy.  Some other Remotes live in the Rabat city center in the Medina, which is a big market.  People are spread out with stalls and big blankets stretched out selling anything from fruit to tea kettles to leather to rugs and clothing.  The volume of people there would make any claustrophobic or agoraphobic person run in the opposite direction, but I like it.

The coworking space is, in a word, awesome.  First floor is open and airy, with long communal tables and some great catered food options for lunch.  Second floor has meeting rooms and modern styled cubicals.  The roof, which is obviously my favorite thing ever, is a traditional berber tent with rugs, couches, tables, and fans.  A grown up Moroccan pillow fort.  I’m feeling inspired already.  BRING IT ON, MUSE!

Rooftop tent of 7AY, our coworking space

All 3 floors of 7AY