Correspondent in times of corona

When I moved to Morocco, I planned on writing a blog post every month to share my experiences. Five months later I started writing my second blog. Then I procrastinated finishing that story for so long that a pandemic broke out and the content of that blog post became completely irrelevant.

Until last month, people often asked me about the difference between Morocco and Israel, the country I lived in before I moved to Morocco. To me it didn’t always make sense to compare the two countries. Morocco is a country in a different region, with different languages, different religions, different food and different people. Of course it’d be possible to find some similarities, but the main thing the two have in common is that both countries piqued my interest to the extent of me wanting to move there.

But now nearly the entire world is on lockdown, we’re all quarantined and you all couldn’t care less about the difference between Morocco and Israel, except perhaps the difference in how the two countries are trying to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

That’s why I won’t write a blog post on how I never thought I’d miss Israel, and somehow ended up missing it anyway. Or on how weird it is being a journalist in Morocco, where you can’t just call a ministry for a comment and where I always make sure my VPN is on, so the authorities can’t track my internet activity. Just like everyone else, I’ll write about how COVID-19 has affected me.

Two weeks ago I decided to hop on one of the last repatriation flights back to the Netherlands. My family is there and Morocco was going on lockdown. The idea of someone getting really sick and me not being able to get to them, was the main reason for me to leave. The quality of Morocco’s health care was a side issue.

So now I’m a correspondent looking for my place in my home country. Projects are on hold, my entire career seems to be on hold and that’s hard.

Seven years ago, when I was 18, I did an internship at a local newspaper in my hometown Rotterdam. During that internship I wrote a blog post in which I discovered local news isn’t my shtick and in which I wondered if the journalism of writers such as Hunter S. Thompson and Truman Capote still existed. Even back then I was careful when comparing myself with these two journalists. It’s the 21st century, obviously journalism has changed and besides, I don’t care much for all the boozing and drug use that contributed to the work of these two writers.

At the end of that blog post I fantasized about where I’d be at 22. Which is funny, since I’m 25 now and already know where I was at 22. After my internship at that local newspaper I did another internship at the foreign desk of a national newspaper, I graduated with stories on the Palestinian territories and a thesis on journalism in Syria, I got my Master’s degree in Jerusalem (that’s where I was at 22), worked as a producer in Tel Aviv and moved to Morocco to work as a correspondent.

I don’t know whether 18-year-old me would be satisfied with this resume and with who I am today. The coronacrisis offers spare time, and that leads to self-reflection. But I’m healthy, my family is healthy and I’m not (yet) in any financial distress. So: it sucks, that forced self-reflection, but if that’s my biggest problem in times of corona, I’ll consider myself pretty damn lucky.

In a couple of months I’ll hopefully be sitting on the couch of my new, slightly too luxurious apartment in Morocco. I’ll complain about that VPN always being on and about the Marjane not selling my favorite veggie meats, IPA’s and Dutch holiday candy. Then I’ll write another blog post, and I’ll tell you exactly what I miss about Israel, how I struggle with the switch from Palestinian Arabic to Moroccan Arabic and what I expect from 29-year-old Kaja.

Quarantine in the Netherlands

2 thoughts on “Correspondent in times of corona

  • I’m so glad you and your family are doing ok and that you were able to get home to be with them during this pandemic. It’s such a bizarre and surreal time; I wonder how history will look back on this. No doubt, your honest reporting and personal blogs will keep it all in perspective. Your writing is greatly appreciated! Take care and groetjes, Gayla~ 🙂

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