Christmas in Africa

This post was originally published on Beacon Reader, an experiment in crowdsourced publishing that has subsequently ceased to exist. RIP Beacon Reader.

Overview: While you make a last-minute dash for the crowded shopping center and elbow your way through hordes of people scrambling to buy whatever useless goods manufactured in China are left on the shelves so that someone you barely know won’t have leverage to complain about you because they didn’t get to rip apart some paper on a package and store its contents in the bottom of their closet until next year when they pretend they wear it every day, I’m in Africa working on my Arabic, and my tan. Suckers.

I’m spending Christmas in North Africa this year. I decided this while waiting to check into a hostel in Geneva with as much consideration as I gave to deciding what I’d have lunch that day. Maybe less. This is how I live these days.

Sometimes, during long conversations with soul-mate strangers in dark bars or freezing beaches, the conversation turns to why I choose to live a life in perpetual motion. If I want to be dismissive, I say it’s because I can. Why wouldn’t I? But the real answer is that I’m a huntress by nature. I’m always looking for something, even if I don’t know what. But whatever it was I needed, I knew it was something I couldn’t find in New York City.

One thing I’ve found through a life on the road is the ability to make fast decisions. Just about every single day for the past seven years, I would glance at a sign given to me by my academic adviser in college, tacked to the wall of my living space. Declaring to me, in at least 74 point font, it read:

It’s one thing to exercise foresight; it’s another to belabour counterfactuals to the point of torpidity. (AKA the paralysis of analysis) -Chalmers Knight

When you travel and you don’t know what roof will be over your head the following night, there is no time to belabour counterfactuals; you must simply decide.

So as I was sitting there at 9am, mind finally run down enough from traveling for the previous 10 hours to be peaceful, I decided that, for once in my life, I wanted to spend Christmas in a place where Christmas wasn’t celebrated. I wanted to get away from the holiday jingles forcing their way into helpless psyches and external pressure to give. I enjoy giving because I am able and because I am considerate, but Christmas cheapens the process. I don’t want to be rushed into giving simply because it is an arbitrary day of the year.

So here I am in Morocco, brushing up my Arabic language skills and hanging out with other expats. The only commercialism I’m exposed to is from the charmingly aggressive street merchants, but I’m finding all kinds of things that I couldn’t buy if I tried. Like appreciation for my knowledge of the English language and understanding the true value of a smile. I can’t complain.

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