As you might have noticed, dear readers, I struggled a bit with my last post. My busy mind kept buzzing with thoughts and I had a hard time figuring out how to handle them in regard to the blog.
Mainly because I wanted to write down all the important things, I ended up stressing a great deal to get ready in time for my deadline – which is each Sunday. Last Sunday I spend eight hours straight in a Pans & Company fast food restaurant beside the Valencian beach working non-stop – only taking short breaks in order to buy coffee or ice cream.
Yet I didn’t even see the ocean before it was already night. The sea looked pitch black and the sand folds were only lit by yellow street lights. Walking on the beach after hours of working I felt dizzy. While observing the black shadows on the sand, I felt the beach appearing to me like some sort of dry fantasy ocean. Like in the Dune movie as well as novels.
To put it bluntly, I worked myself too hard – and why?
Stressing to finish a blog post each week was not part of my ambitions for this creativity travel. Actually the whole point was that I would finally have time to focus on drawing without stress from part time jobs or anything else.
After re-reading my last post it hit me that I had somehow twisted the original ideal for my travel. In the beginning my ambitions were to have drawing as my main focus and the blog as a supplement to document that process. During these first weeks travelling, I had somehow reversed this into the blog being the main focus and the drawings being supplements to the stories in the posts – like illustrations more that the blog illustrating the context of the drawings.
This realization is very valuable; once again I feel thankful for the mazy workings of my mind. Because now that I know that this, I can work to learn not to put so much pressure on myself. By way of making it clear to myself what I’m doing and why, I hope to achieve my actual wishes for this creativity travel. Part of my solution is to try and write more concise blog texts that don’t take me all week and a whole Sunday to finish.
For these reasons I have tried to write the text this week shorter; also because I have actually been very busy making new friends and exploring Fez with them; more about that later.
Travelling to Fez
The day before my departure to Fez I did a sketch for O. after a photo of him and his dog.
It was a gift to say thank you for his kind hospitality. Like the other days he worked until late and seemed very tired but genuinely thankful as I offered him the drawing that evening. As I was about to leave the apartment the next morning, I noticed he had taken the time to hang the sketch on the wall above the television, were he also had family photos. It confirmed to me that he appreciated it and I was glad I could give him at least that, after he had given me shelter for about two weeks with just a trip to Ibiza in between.
After my unlucky trip in a pirate taxi upon my arrival in Tangier, I decided to say yes to a rather expensive airport transfer offered by my hostel in Fez. This way I wouldn’t have to worry so much about arriving safely and once I knew Fez better I would feel more confident to take taxis.
The hostel had told me a driver would wait on the other side of arrivals with my name on a sign. As I walked trough I saw a bunch of men standing with signs, but none of them had my name on it. I was just about to write my hostel, but then I thought I would walk around and search a bit.
Unexpectedly I saw a man with my name on a sign just on the exterior of a doorway leading out of the airport, guarded by a soldier with a machine gun. Like in Tangier the airport had a security check before you came inside and it was generally heavily guarded. I guess the man with my sign didn’t want to go through security, so he just stood in the doorway. As I came closer I saw he also held another sign.
After we had confirmed he was my driver, I asked if we were waiting for the other person. He didn’t speak good English or French but nodded, so I told him I would go and get some cash in the meantime. When I came back he hurried me on and I thought maybe he had found the other person, but instead he passed on my name-sign to another man saying this was my driver. The new driver showed me a text on his phone with my name, asking if that was me. ‘Yes’, I responded, still confused, but I deduced the first guy by the airport exit was maybe just payed to pick up the passengers for the other guy.
As we walked to the car, a young Moroccan man joined us. He was apparently coming with us. Although these aspects were unexpected, it all went well and soon after I was in my hostel.
Meeting New People
Here I met a sweet Japanese woman in my dorm, who was a nurse with a cold that she knew how to treat, she said smiling softly. Soon after two Chinese women arrived. The first was named L and she spoke Arabic because she had lived and worked in Egypt the last three years, the other was named M and she was a graphic designer from Hong Kong. M invited us to join them for dinner, along with their other Chinese friend, an older retired man that only spoke Chinese, whom they called Uncle.
We walked around the narrow Medina streets at night. They seemed endless, like a gigantic version of the one in Tangier. Even though it was late the whole Medina was still full of life. Later we shared five dishes together in a nice restaurant called La Tarbouche Fez. Like my dinner with the couple at café Haffa in Tangier, I really enjoyed sharing the food all at once and I felt very comfortable in their company.
Walking in the Medina: Leather and Weaving
The next day I slept late. The Japanese woman had left early to catch a bus and M had gone out to meet Uncle and L.
For the first time I walked around the Medina alone and I got quite overwhelmed by how many men would shout at me, apparently either to sell something, show me something or just to ‘flirt’ – which meant to say things like ‘oh la la, beautiful, need a Moroccan husband like me?’. It was much more often and much more aggressively than I experienced in Tangier. Also they kept trying and following me for longer – even if I ignored them or said plainly no.
Walking along the endless marked stalls I was looking for a café to seek shelter in, when suddenly I saw Uncle smoking in one of the narrow streets. He seemed to smoke a cigarette every five minutes. As he didn’t speak English we both tried to communicate in sign language which worked alright – he showed me to a Koran School M and L were exploring. This way I had accidentally rejoined my companions from last night, and I was very relieved as I felt instantly more at ease. Even though people were still shouting at us, at least we had each other to ward them of together.
We explored the Tanneries were the locals treat leather with an ancient technique using dove shit and cow piss in the processes – which made the area smell nasty. Luckily the gatekeeper in front of the staircase leading to the roof terrace with a view of the Tanneries, handed out some fresh mint that we could sniff while looking at the workers. Later we saw a place where they were weaving shinny fabrics and we also looked into a bakery after that.
All these discoveries into the crafts of Fez and how they made things by hand, were very interesting. Also in Valencia I enjoyed exploring the Ceramic museum and the Silk museum and learning about the craft and materials there.
One of the things I love about drawing and painting is also exploring different materials to paint with and paint on. I would also like to learn to do more work in clay and other mediums. I met a graphic designer in Copenhagen once that kept telling me, that if I wanted to work in his field I simply had to get a digital drawing board – that was the only way to get the highest quality pictures.
However drawing digital really turns me off, because I can’t sense the material at all. There is an adventure in figuring out, for example, how to tip the brush, coal or pen on a specific type of surface – maybe paper, wood or ceramics?
All the items can do different things, but with a screen I can’t play with the material qualities. The other day, while playing backgammon on my phone, I saw a commercial for a ‘paint by numbers app’. It work by you choosing a color and then you would just tap an empty space to fill it. I thought the whole challenge in paint by numbers was to keep the colors inside the lines. To me it really is a nightmarish vision of the future, an art dystopia, if all drawing and painting had to be digital.
To come back to my walk around the medina with M, L and Uncle – on our way we made two new friends. A Chinese man who was a chef looking to open a restaurant in Fez, visiting a friend already having opened a restaurant in Fez. Later we also met a kind young Japanese man named S. In the end we all went to eat early dinner at the Chinese cook’s friend’s restaurant. We shared five dishes and a mountain of rice and it was wonderful.
The married couple having the restaurant thought it was fantastic how even though their chef friend was travelling alone, he managed to bring five people to eat with him. We explained how each and every one of us where actually travelling alone, but just happened to meet along the way. After dinner the couple having the restaurant took a photo of all of us standing in a line.
During dinner I told Japanese S and graphic designer M about a graveyard, two American girls had told me about at breakfast that morning, which was supposed to have a magnificent view of the medina. We decided to all meet at 10:30 the next morning and go there together, before they both needed to take a bus later that day. S was going on to the blue city of Chefchaouen and M was spending one night in the nearby city of Meknes and then she would return to Fez for some days.
The Tombs of Merinides
Initially we walked together to the wrong graveyard beside a synagogue. We did however walk through a small charming neighborhood with children playing with chicks and we tried a metal slide while some local women laughed and waved at us from a nearby window.
Later we took a taxi to the graveyard that had the view. It was called the Tombs of Merinides and was located on the other side of the medina on a cliff with a ruin from what seemed like an ancient town wall. The view was magnificent. On the one side we could see just how huge the Fez medina was as it stretched out before us; on the other side of the ruins, mountains unfolded towards the horizon.
Being Social and Being Alone
It was so nice to walk around with kind people. All the socializing was a big contrast to all my time alone while in Valencia.
Honestly I am quite the introvert at times. Maybe this can be traced back to me being a weird teenager that enjoyed school and learning, which was uncool. I spend a lot of my teenage years alone reading, writing and listening to music or singing and drawing.
I think these formative years, although painful at times as my only friends were at my music school were I took singing lessons and sang in a choir, also taught me valuable lessons about creativity and about enjoying being alone while being creative.
Even today I feel the most relaxed alone or with very close friends. The need to be social is something I choose to do when I want to; unlike maybe a more extroverted person, who feel most comfortable with people, and then when they feel like being alone, they choose to go do that.
So during my explorations of Fez with my new friends, every now and then I still felt more like sitting quietly alone to draw, than walk around with nice people. Once I did sketch a few turtles in a street while we were walking together and M and L were doing some shopping.
Other times I sneaked away for some moments sometimes to do a sketch or two by myself. For example I did a few sketches after a photo of K in Tangier.
I also enjoy sitting and drawing with people. After M had left for her bus, S and I sat and sketched together in a nice café with a cool terrace called Café Smile. He kept saying his drawing was bad, but I thought it was really cool.
Epilog: Wrapping up
I like Fez so far and I’m grateful to have met some wonderful people and spending nice moments with them. M is coming back to fez for a few days and then we have agreed to spend time walking around and drawing together – maybe even do some water color painting.
Although I find the salespeople and hustlers a lot more aggressive than in Tangier, and it is especially overwhelming to walk around alone even with my scarf on, I hope I just need to get used to ignoring them, walking on and not letting them get to me. Right now I still feel uncomfortable when they follow me and keep shouting things for whatever reason – although the most unpleasant is the ‘flirting’ to be certain.
It’s necessary that I learn to deal with it, since I’ve planned to stay two weeks here. I’ll have to find a way to get comfortable also alone, in order to enjoy drawing and painting. I have already found some cafés and restaurants were I feel good and like to draw; so now the only real problem is transporting myself there while feeling comfortable.
Next week I’ll be able to tell you more about how I’m getting on with feeling at ease in Fez – and hopefully I will be able to share a bunch of new art!