In the end, when it’s over, all that matters is what you’ve done

With COVID gaining steam and looking like it was trending towards becoming a global pandemic, I thought to myself “where is a chill place I can wait this out?” And while the proximity certainly had something to do with it, I thought of my time on the Moroccan coast and decided I’d just go there “until it blew over.”

note: The (few) photos I took are on my old phone, so I’ll upload them when I get it again.

So I didn’t mess around. Landed in Marrakesh and went straight to the small beach village of Taghazout.

At this point, the world was still pretty normal still. No masks, people weren’t very worried. Of course that would change in a few weeks.

I booked a nice apartment right on the beach for a month and figured I’d take it from there. The town is very expat-friendly, famously attracting surfers from all over. So the first week or two were pretty normal.

Before things closed down, I had one of the best Eggplant Parmesan’s at the Italian restaurant in town. While traditional Moroccan food is delicious, there isn’t a ton of variety to it (if you’re a vegetarian especially). Couscous, bread, veggies, olives. So the Eggplant place was a well-timed treat, allowing me to dream about it for the next few months.

And then Morocco pretty much shut down. Most ex-pats, of course, left. They were shutting the airports down, so it was a “now or never” situation. I opted to stay – but I was certainly in the minority there – as I figured it was as a good a place as any to hunker down for a bit. It’s why I came in the first place.

So for a couple months, life passed in pretty much the same way. We were locked in except to go to the nearest supermarket for food, which I’d go to every day or two just to get out. Goats did not have the same restrictions, as they seemed to be wandering around the town at their leisure. But after buying my beans, eggs, vegetables, and couscous (and that’s just about it), I’d wander back to my lovely little prison, scanning headlines and watching the craziness from my little corner of the world.

Before the pandemic started, every day there was a little girl – maybe 5 years old – who would play on the little secluded beach cove in front of my apartment. Her mother watched her from above, a couple stories up. Astonishingly she never seemed to bet bored of the edge of the tide as it crept of the beach, sitting in the sand, and just entertaining herself until it started to get dark and she was called home. Sometimes I’d feel sad thinking about her a couple floors up. What she was doing, how confused she must be that she’s stuck inside.

Sadly, I moved mid-pandemic, so I wasn’t able to witness the triumphant moment where she’d return to the sea. As much as I enjoyed watching the water come in and out every day (if I were writing this during that time or shortly thereafter instead of two years later, I’m sure I’d have something more poetic or nostalgic to say about the calm of it all), I knew I could easily negotiate a better price somewhere else. But mainly, my back hurt. The apartment didn’t have a proper chair, and I was tired of working from a couch. And for about half the price, I found a 2 BR one town over with space, sunlight, and desk space to spare.

It wasn’t on the water, but the new apartment was much more comfortable. It was arranged by a Dutch woman who had retired to Tamraght, and she drove me to the big Carrefour supermarket in the city (20 minutes away) a couple times to buy some proper food, as opposed to the convenience-store style food I was now accustomed to.

As the severity of the pandemic lightened a bit, they reopened the local vegetable market, which I would visit every week. I learned enough French to complete basic transactions. Although a young, local woman helped me shop once in English. After being cooped up for so long, I bet she was happy to finally feel the sun on her, well, hands, and the bit of skin between her eyes, again.

Finally, after a few months of only being allowed out for food, things started to open up again (with restrictions of course). So despite it being nearly 100 degrees, I was able to go for runs, make trips to the boulangerie for some fancy breads and pastries, and wander to the cafes that overlook the ocean for a coffee and work session. But given the heat, I was ready to get out.

When I arrived in Marrakesh for my flight, it was a ghost town. The famously vibrant, shop-lined medina was all but closed down. I had booked a Riad in the old town area anyway, which I unsurprisingly pretty much had to myself. When the woman running the Riad realized I was alone, she made up what seemed like a single child’s bed for me instead of the proper queen bed. Which, I found funny more than anything.

I took a flight back to Tallinn, where there hadn’t been a huge outbreak of Covid and even then, it was in the lull between the first and second spike. So there were no restrictions anywhere, and it was like nothing serious at all was happening (I think there were only a couple cases in the whole country each day).

Even though I stayed quite some time, I remember it as being a pretty uneventful period. There was some expectation, since I knew people there, that perhaps I’d be able to return to some sense of community, but that didn’t really end up being the case. In reality, my isolation more or less continued but without the excuse of bureaucratic restrictions.

I was able to stay in really cool building (covid rental accommodation was pretty affordable) and did my typical cafe-hopping, but otherwise there wasn’t much to report. In the end, I had decided that I wouldn’t attempt to make a home there.

This building doesn’t skip leg day

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