Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A More Direct and Literal Comment on Expatriaton: a discourse on conspicuousness and invisibility through which the yo-yo effect is illustrated

The other day we had to go to the doctor.  J had to have a series of blood tests to determine whether pregnancy has inspired diabetes in her system, as per instructions from our doctor in Casablanca.
As Casablanca is a three hour drive and full of potential hazards (reference the “tout” series of posts), not to mention the discernible perils of urbanity, we researched and settled on an Essaouira institution to jab J in the vein. The clinic is on the “outside,” town proper (locals-only), and I took time to assess and take stock of my general level of comfort as we made our way towards the medina walls:
I generally oscillate between the sensations of feeling invisible and feeling conspicuous in foreign countries.  Rarely am I totally relaxed.  I’m not blended in.  I’m not absorbed. I’m not intermingling.  I’m on the outside. I have to always contend with my “presence.”  And that often makes me feel invisible or conspicuous – polarized.
Invisibility and conspicuousness are two sides of the same coin, only the coin is spinning so fast, purely positive or negative connotations get blurred.  It’s mish-mash.  My brain.  Six weeks ago there were far fewer tourists in the medina; it just wasn’t high season yet.  We got way too much attention: merchants, stall owners, beggars, drug dealers and restaurateurs were funneling desperation and aggression down our throats like a stale and heavy flow of cascading Old Milwaukee beer through a three-story beer bong. We were turning heads.  We were being overly-noticed. We were choking on our own brand.  It was suffocating.  I started making excuses to stay in.  I questioned my choices.  Decisions were debated. The light at the end of this tunnel was dim.  Muted. This is conspicuousness in its worst form. 
After all this time, I still haven’t learned how to lay the needle in a groove of proactive mood resuscitation.  I just have to skip for a while, warped and undulating.  I don’t make a conscious effort because I always do recover.  I trust my instincts.  It’s learned apathy; I let my frame of mind right itself – “Weebles wobble, but they don’t fall down” - they always right themselves.  It doesn’t take much: a kind word or act from a local, a great meal, an adventure, a stunning visual, a random thought, a look, a moment – it only takes a moment.  And it always comes.  Chemicals shift, and then I am high, and happy to be conspicuous. I am getting off on the uniqueness of my situation, relishing in the same headspace that was eating me alive only seconds before.  I’m hovering weightless above the status quo.  I’m the fucking King of the World, transforming these exotic circumstances into my plaything – a child’s toy.
Invisibility is just as dizzying.  I crave it in moments of conspicuousness.  I want to be unremarkable.  Typical.  I have that now.  If I go out to buy a liter of milk, I won’t draw that much attention as there are other tourists to dilute my presence.  I can focus on the actual doing or experiencing of something rather than theories or ideas (lifted from dictionary definition of practicality - fittingly).   Anxiety dissipates in the wind, the current of company blowing gale force.  Power in numbers.  Repetition soothes nerves as well.  We get less and less visible when we wind well-trod paths.  As I don the same long sleeve oxford shirt yet again for night-time medina carousing, I contemplate this reflex as premeditated, as to become more recognizable and therefore more invisible.  I bought this Chinese-made shirt of glorious nondescript nature to further supplement my disappearance ($2).  But then, I hate being invisible too.  It’s not that a “tipping point” gets reached, like I become so invisible that I crave attention and want to be “special” again.  It’s a whole other thing:  I am out of place here = not local with a long-term investment in the place, so I become invisible.  I am a “mark” at best, not to be fully considered by people living real lives all around me.  This is not being seen, different from invisible, but the same.  I’m a ghost.  And far from home.

The walk to the clinic is depressing.  Outside of the medina is less traditional, newer, filthier, filled with the exhaust of traffic and honking taxis.  It’s slum-like.  I’m low.  We’re sized up, curiosity intense, yet stand-offish.  Polarized.  Fear is present as well – health and the well-being of an unborn is at stake.  Are we crazy?  It’s apparent when we step into the bare-bones clinic that our white faces are not an everyday occurrence, and I’m awash with doubts – I’ll bet I was mildly shaking my head to the evil rhythm of dark thoughts.  Their conspicuous stares were a shamanic guide, directing me inwards to forcibly explore this massive feat of irresponsibility and decadence. 
And then everything worked out fine.  Better than fine.  Like it always does. 
We rule.

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