Here’s Looking at You, Kid

by Andrew Stein

While touring southern Morocco, we arrive at a new place, either by train or by bus, and are immediately accosted by many of the local youth. They hand you “gifts” only later to request dirham in return. I try to hand back their present to me, and they refuse. I say no thank you and they shrug. I smile and they smile. With no other option I motion the gift in their direction, and then place the gift neatly on a nearby rock and return their shrug with one of my own. And sometimes, the gift is not tangible, but instead, it is their presumed assistance in helping me find my way. They ask if I know where I am going, and I sometimes lie so that they will not point 100 meters away to the entrance of my destination and then request a tip. I would love to engage on a non-monetary level, but unfortunately, at least in Marrakech, such a wish may have to remain only a wish.