Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Once Upon a time

Local Entertainers in Place Mohammad V

It’s often been said, though I’m not sure by whom, that time is a funny thing.   Wise men and women have in turns described time as an illusion, as the only inevitable, as a human’s most valuable asset, and as a human’s most assured downfall.  Time defines our daily lives, affects our perceptions, changes our priorities, and compels us to act.  It’s something that we cannot afford to forget for very long, but it’s also incredibly hard to define.

Especially in my own head right now.

I landed in Morocco 5 days ago.  In the short time since, I’ve gotten lost (twice) in the Casablanca Medina, broke the proverbial “ice” with dozens of people I’ve never met from all over the world, eaten more food (and types of meat) than I care to admit, attended meetings with IBM and client executives, generated an entire project plan and analytical framework, translated a 20 page French document,  and taken 150 pictures.  I’ve started bonding with 10 awesome IBMers from all over the world whose faces I’d never seen and said hello to an old colleague. 

Sarah (Canada), Sami (Brazil), and Jane (Ireland/Bulgaria)
Until I arrived in Morocco time felt like it was crawling to February 27.  In some ways, time still feels slow.  We’ve had several 2-3 hour meals where conversation runs easily and things seem to move leisurely, and I keep forgetting to check my watch to monitor the time so I’m constantly in this state of the present to the extent that I’m not really aware of where I am in the day.  The team is still really just getting to know each other and we’ve barely scratched the surface on who anyone really is when they aren’t here in Casablanca.

My lunch after I landed in Casa - and Jane in the background!
Most of the time, though, it seems to me like Father Time has hit the gas pedal in a serious way since my plane touched down.  I feel like I’ve been here for ages already because we’ve been able to fit so much into 5 days.  Neighborhood tours, orientations, kickoff meetings, weekend travel planning, long hours of work, wandering searches for Tagines. In a lot of ways, the team already feels like a group of old friends; we laugh easily and have developed the kind of rapport you can only build in 5 days if you’re effectively living under the same roof.   

The nature of Morocco itself seems to support this duality.  Incredibly modern amenities, buildings, and cars exist alongside buildings that have stood for decades on foundations that stretch back centuries.  There are some corridors that look like they are straight out of a Hollywood set from a glamorous romance of the 1940s and some that are plastered with colorful ultramodern posters.  Dusty, haphazard and chaotic markets yield some of the largest and tastiest produce I've seen.  People either stare openly or offer warm welcomes and helpful information. 

This phenomenon is also aided by the incredible amount of interesting work that we’ve already done and which remains to be done with our Moroccan client.  ANAPEC is a public organization established by the Moroccan government to provide employment services to the national public.  Just under 15 years old, ANAPEC is an incredibly motivated organization that is organized, data-oriented, goal driven.  It provides vital services linking job seekers, employers, and policy makers in this country.  The project is interesting, timely, and extremely ambitious.  We know we are complete newcomers but can’t shake the sense that we’re already behind.  But the schedules are coming together and we’re paving a path to the finish line, 3 work days and nearly 25% of the way into our little adventure.  It’s extremely real but still feels a little bit like fiction.

Hassan II Mosque from across the tide pool
Once upon a time, I was a woman who had never been to Morocco.  It’s hard to believe that time was less than one week ago.

#ibmcsc morocco6

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