I increase my pace to catch up with my parents, we are with a group of fellow travelers in a single file line, winding through the narrow paths of the medina, or the old part of town. I am easily distracted, taking in all of the new colors, scents, culture, people, into my callow, fourteen year old spirit. It is my first time visiting Tangier, and I have only been here for a few hours. Suddenly, I feel a soft tug on the bottom of my blouse. I look downward to my right and find a boy, of no more than seven years of age, stumbling along my side. He wears only a pair of ragged unwashed shorts. No shirt. No shoes. He looks as if he has not bathed in days. I keep walking, and he walks along with me. ‘Who is this kid, and where is his mother?’ I ask myself. We move on, I stroll as he skips over uneven cobblestones.
I near the tour bus, in less than five minutes, I will be on my way to leave the city. I look down at him to see if he understands. He does. He looks up, stretches out his dirty palm, and gazes at me with his sad eyes. I scramble through my pockets searching for coins, but I have none. I look up and shout to see if my parents have any spare change, but they are already aboard the bus.He knows. ‘I’m sorry!’ I say, even though I am unsure whether he understands English. He stops near the bus and gazes. I board. I sit down and look through a window to see if he’s still there. He is, still gazing. Then I leave him with nothing, far from where I met him, to go back to the home he might not have. Despite all my privileges, the only thing I can do is feel sorry for the boy as I leave the city on an air conditioned bus to go back to my safe, luxurious life in the United States.
Until the day I stepped into Morocco, I thought the whole world functioned similar to the world in which I had grown up — a place I like to refer to as the “Memorial Bubble.” The Memorial Bubble is an area of town consisting of primarily wealthy individuals and families. I call it a bubble because children growing up in this area are generally very sheltered. I was one of those children. Traveling to Morocco deeply altered my perspective on life because it was the first time I had ever witnessed poverty and its effects on the people struggling with it. As I walked through the city, as I viewed the different customs, and as my eyes met the gaze of that poor boy’s, my emotions fluctuated from awe to confusion, from confusion to disbelief, and from disbelief to anger. Something took over my body. I felt as if I had been lied to my whole life, my home was nothing but an illusion, and merely a dream for those suffering on the other side of the world. I was deeply confused and frustrated, but more importantly I was angry with myself.
The vision of those innocent eyes failed to escape my thoughts, and as they did so I felt ashamed for all the displays of materialism and selfishness I had shown in the past. Maybe I didn’t have all the things I wanted, but I most definitely had more than I needed. I wanted to go home and give away all of my silly expensive things I had once valued because of a price label. Morocco taught me to be more grateful for what I have, and less demanding. It taught me that materials are just materials, and in the long run, they don’t matter. The only things that do matter are the relationships you maintain with the ones you love.
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