In Rabat, a few students and I decided to purchase a data plan on our phones. I mean, how can you say no to 10GB of data plus unlimited texting for 100dH (equivalent of around $15CAD)? As someone who never had more than 150mb of data per month in Canada, I sure couldn’t. During the first three weeks in Morocco, I Snapchat-ed to my heart’s content, Instagram-ed daily, checked my emails, and updated my friends and family back at home. Even though I was in Africa, I felt like home was right at my fingertips.
Having lived in the comfort of my extensive data plan for the first three weeks, one could only imagine my horror as the connection bars slowly started to decrease, dwindling down to “E” (for poor connection) as we started driving up the mountain to Zawiya Ahansal. Even though I had been living continents apart from my family and friends back in Canada, I only really realized how far away I was from home at the moment my phone signified “No Service”. Little did I know that this was a blessing in disguise.
My internet-addicted self was very worried throughout the rest of the ride to the village. I had paperwork I needed to complete for school next year, as well as a slew of other responsibilities I had to tend to, which could only be done through the internet. However, all of these worries quickly subsided when I saw the village. The warm welcome from the local people, the laughter of the children, the incredible architecture, the mooing of cows, and the clucking of chickens made me forget about all of my worries. Being the city girl I was, I had been dreading this week in the mountains, but that first day changed everything. All it took was this one day for me to fall in love with the beautiful village and dread the day when I’d have to say goodbye.
Throughout the week, as we hiked to other villages, camped outside under a sky full of stars, played cards in the Sheikh’s house, interviewed the local people, and led activities with the children, I felt the happiest I’ve ever been in a very long time. At the back of my mind, I was still worried about everything I’d have to catch up on when I gained access to internet again, but since I was helpless to do anything about it, I was able to let myself relax. Just like the local people, I didn’t concern myself with what would happen on Wednesday at 5pm or worry about what was scheduled for next Saturday. All I really knew was yesterday, today, and tomorrow and this was the most liberating feeling. It took a trip to the mountains and faulty internet access for me to learn this simple but important concept of appreciating the present.
On our last day, as we said our goodbyes and made our way down the mountains, I saw my phone switch from “No Service” to “E” then slowly climb up to full bars of service. In the midst of my excitement, I couldn’t help but check every form of social media to get caught up on everything I had missed throughout the week. Only a few minutes in, I realized that I didn’t miss much. What I really missed in that moment were the welcoming locals of Zawiya Ahansal, the laugher of the children, the incredible architecture, the mooing of cows, and yes, even the clucking of chickens. So, I turned off my WiFi, put my phone on airplane mode, and started to look through all the pictures I had taken in the village from day 1.