Tetouan is a city in Northern Morocco, which was the former capital of the Spanish protectorate in North Africa. As such, there’s a lot of Spanish influence – you can hear it in the street, and see it in the architecture. The city is all painted white – a stark contrast with Chefchaouen, the Blue Pearl, just an hour’s drive south.
My good friend and climbing partner Meg was in a serious mountaineering accident last week. She was struck in the head by falling rock while attempting to climb Martha’s Couloir on Long’s Peak, a mixed ice and snow route. Her helmet saved her life, but by all accounts from those back home, she faces a long journey to recovery. Meg’s a strong person; the strongest I know, probably. But a traumatic brain injury is not a small thing.
When I saw the news on Facebook, I felt powerless. Here I was, halfway across the world in Morocco, while a good friend lay in the hospital on the verge of death. Had I been in Colorado, I might even have been on that mountain with her. I felt guilty.
My first instinct was to see how I could help.
I have a platform here, an audience that cares about what I have to say. I dashed off a post about the accident; imploring people to donate to the GoFundMe her family had started to pay for the sure-to-be-staggering medical bills. It felt good to be doing something. I was even going to send a message to my neglected e-mail list. I might lose some subscribers, but someone would probably donate. I wanted to help. I almost pulled the trigger.
But then I hesitated. Something didn’t feel right.
I went for a walk in the mountains. Here in Chefchaouen, mountains rise right outside of the town—their powerful presence is a big part of why I have lingered in this sleepy Moroccan pueblo for so long. Mountains have always been where I find my peace; where I find my best self. Meg, I know, is similar.
I walked out of town, accompanied by a new friend from the hostel, doing her best to distract me from my morbid state of mind. Admirable effort, but I still found myself thinking about the times Meg and I had shared together as climbing partners. I thought about the reasons we go into the mountains. I thought about why we do these things which we know could kill us. And I thought about what Meg would want.
Here it became clear to me, the story of a broken person in need of help wasn’t the story she would want told. That’s not Meg’s story. I wouldn’t dare to write it.
Instead, I want to tell the story of the day we climbed Long’s Peak.
One month has passed here in Chefchaouen.
I remember when a month felt like a long time.
You would not believe how quickly time elapses on the road.
If you are a traveler, perhaps you know.
Women’s issues are inescapable in Morocco.
A moderate Islamic society, Morocco isn’t so severe as some places in the world; it is no Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, or Mauritania. But nonetheless, a Westerner cannot walk here without feeling it, without seeing it, without experiencing it every day.
And as a man, of course, I do not experience the worst of things. My sister, my traveling partner for this jaunt, wrote a good blog post about her thoughts on the gender gap, here.
Speaking on this subject as a man is a difficult needle to thread. So I won’t try. Not yet, anyways. But I would be lying if I said it hasn’t been in my thoughts, a lot.
Instead of writing on this subject, I’ve distracted myself by reading on this subject.
The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood. Recently, The Handmaid’s Tale has reached a new audience, through the Emmy Award-winning Hulu series. I haven’t seen the series yet, but I knew the basic premise of the book. What better place to read about a dystopian patriarchy than in Morocco?