Expat Magazine

Wait, Are You Serious?

By Quinninmorocco

It was Sunday, April 15th, 2012, and I remember the conversation quite well, albeit with a slight cringe. I was just coming off of a week of Spring Camp in Ben Guerir and literally hours away from beginning another in Marrakech– so not in the most negotiating of moods. We were sitting at a cafe in Jemaa El Fna and had reached a tipping point in a back-and-forth, one that (I thought) had been going on for a few weeks, but one that (he knew) had sustained longer than that.

The question was whether or not I’d be his girlfriend, and the answer was, well, nothing, so far. I was a little torn– Peace Corps was a dream of mine….a dream that didn’t include the complications of romantic entanglement, the Sex and the City theme music, or anything else slightly resembling a chick flick set in an exotic location. More seriously, I had reached a point in my service where I was comfortable with my town and my work, and committing to a relationship in a culture that (in general) doesn’t condone pre-engagement dating seemed a little reckless. At the same time, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little intrigued. This was a guy who talked to me about politics and philosophy, but still had the cajones to joke about inviting me to his (26 year old) friend’s circumcision. After sitting in a chair and making a pros and cons list in my head, my response was a very assertive “Okay. But.” And then I laid down a slightly dramatic, independent woman schpeel about what it means to date an American woman. He nodded and listened intently as I droned on and on (quite passionately) about my freedom and my will and the importance of my work. I ended with the most important point of all: dating an America, unlike dating a Moroccan, does not mean we will be getting married.

14 days shy of 1 year later, in a different cafe in Jemaa El Fna, this same man asked me to marry him. No speeches, just 19 odd “Wait, are you serious?!!!??”s before saying “YES!

???????????????????????????????Anyone who has been even sort-of following my blog has simultaneously been watching the unfolding of an epic, life-changing romance.

We met maybe a month or so prior to the Sunday afternoon in the cafe, on one of those mornings in the dar chabab that us PCVs know so well– only one kid shows up to a class and you end up kinda dancing around for awhile because your oh-so-carefully planned lesson was designed for 15 kids, not 1. Because it was more than slightly obvious that the class wasn’t a class in any sense of the word, him and his friend strolled in and started asking Eric and myself about possibly setting up an English class. First impression? Hey, this guy’s English is pretty good! Not exactly soul-crushing love, just amazement that someone, somewhere in the world made it seem like learning a second/third language wasn’t the equivalent of climbing Mt. Everest. Classes were set up eventually, and somehow, we started hanging out in that casual way that Moroccans are so good at initiating.

After we started dating, a lot of nothing happened. Sure, we liked each other, but how serious can a relationship get when it’s supposed to be secret? I will give 110% of the credit to my sitemate for giving us an opportunity to actually be a couple.

Peace Corps sponsors a lot of counterpart-focused trainings in Rabat. One in May 2012 piqued both my and Eric’s interest: how to build a library. I invited one of my counterparts to join me; meanwhile, Eric was going back and forth about who he wanted to work with. I finally suggested this guy, as he is very involved in community development and would probably enjoy something like a library training. Eric asked, and, as is the theme of this blog entry, he got a yes.

We (separately) had decided to go to Rabat early; me, because I needed a vaccination from Peace Corps, and him, just to “change the weather”, as they say in Darija. After realizing this, we coordinated our plans and ended up having two days to ourselves in the capital of Morocco, a city that I had previously cast aside as a little bland and nondescriptly European (and yet not quite). It turns out all you need is the right tour guide. We explored the beaches, the neighboring city of Sale, wandered through the old medina, discovered delicious food carts, took boats across the river, watched a protest surging to its height…and held hands the whole way through. It was our first time together outside of “tbergig” (the ever-present, watchful eyes) of Tameslouht. I fell in love with the city, and I fell in love with Mustapha.

rabat rabat1 rabat2

From that cafe in Marrakech to Rabat, then adventures in Essaouria, El Jadida, Casablanca, Orika, Ouzoud, Tizlt, Tahanoute, Ifrane, Agadir, a fantastically successful interfaith dialogue that we pulled off together, and meeting my parents and my sister, we made it all the way back to Marrakech in the early afternoon of April 1, 2013– also known as my 25th birthday. My friend Catherine was visiting and we were looking forward to a birthday lunch that Mustapha had wanted to take us to. In true Moroccan fashion, we needed a coffee break before getting anything accomplished, so we stopped at Cafe France for a drink and a view.

Mustapha asked me if I wanted to open my birthday present (another resounding “yes”). I unwrapped what turned out to be a gorgeous wooden box, crafted by Moroccan artisans. When I went to open it, I found that I, in fact, couldn’t. There was a lock but no key. Mustapha gave  me a key and I opened up the box to find….a beautiful jewelry tray. Empty, of course. Without even thinking, I lifted it up to find a smaller wooden box. And inside that box…literally the most beautiful ring I’ve ever seen.

When people told me that Peace Corps would change my life, I thought they meant I would learn a cool, obscure dialect and become a translator or contract a rare disease that colored my skin purple permanently. While still a Peace Corps trainee, I remember purposely zoning out during the session about “If you marry a Host Country National, this is all of the bureaucratic protocol…” Never, in my inception within an inception of a dream, did I think I would find the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with (or that I could write that sentence and actually mean it/ not puke on my keyboard while typing it). My parents joke around that I always choose the most difficult path, and this is no exception– hollah at yo girl if “visa” is a four letter word for you too. But if I’ve learned anything in the last year minus 14 days, it’s that the path of most resistance sometimes leads to the rest of your life.

And yes, we’re extremely serious!

Wait, Are You Serious?2 hours into the engagement and already ready to kill each other over foodWait, Are You Serious?Catherine and meWait, Are You Serious?Wait, Are You Serious?Wait, Are You Serious?Wait, Are You Serious?Fucking awesome.Wait, Are You Serious?Opening up the locked box. Mustapha’s face says it all. Wait, Are You Serious?Excited about what I thought was my birthday present. Wait, Are You Serious?My beautiful birthday present!Wait, Are You Serious?Mustapha making fun of me.Wait, Are You Serious?Candid shots by Catherine, walking to the Cafe.Wait, Are You Serious?Making Mustapha stop to take touristy pictures.

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