Carolyn Theriault’s move to Morocco thrust her into a situation many expats are familiar with: extreme cultural adjustment during a time of total career transition. Those of us who have been through this understand the punchy sense of humor that arises from the “might as well laugh as cry” phase so typical of international moves.
It’s not that we don’t enjoy travel, or value the cultural integration opportunity. We do. But the fact is, the settling-in phase rarely goes smoothly, resulting in one hilarious research mission after another (grocery shopping, obtaining a driver’s license). While we all go through the same adjustments and attempt to get a good laugh out of them, few actually go the extra mile and commit the experience to paper. Theriault has done dust that with an edgy, honest style born of authentic life experiences.
Two particular incidents stuck out to me. First, the weekend getaway with the coworker and local drivers / guides / “new friends” where Carolyn gets stuck in a continuous loop of struggling to reach her desired destination, regardless of how clearly she tries to communicate her needs. A version of this story happens more frequently than most independent travelers might care to admit. Second, the initial post office visit where Theriault goes to retrieve her package from home. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I have had the exact same experience on numerous occasions, but to me this was just wet-your-pants funny. Ditto with the no bathtub chapter.
As a huge fan of the Middle East in general, I was a bit sad that things hadn’t gone more smoothly for Carolyn during her time in Morocco. Negative accounts from westerners relating to the Middle East region always seem so abundant, and positive ones are unfortunately less prevalent. That being said, her experiences and voice were utterly authentic and I enjoyed her style. Congrats to Theriault on her first title, Stealing Fatima’s Hand. I look forward to reading more of her work in the future.
Photo Credit: Vox Humana