At the age of 23, Monika Mizinska made a decision to live in another country far away from her native Poland, and as an adult, she chose the historical and majestic country of Morocco. But it was not because she was short on love for her life in Poland.
Mizinska grew up in the 90’s which according to her, was the best time for kids, before technology took over. “I was born a year after communism was knocked down, which basically meant more imported products, and an overall easier way of life – as my parents say,” she fondly recalls. “I can’t complain about my childhood, it was really beautiful, my mom made sure I studied the English language [which wasn’t very common back then], and we would always travel around Poland during the summer and winter months.”
So what was her draw to a jet setting life of adventure? “Things changed as I grew older, I didn’t feel like I fit in one country for a long time; I was curious and eager to see the world and interact with different cultures and nationalities, which made me a bit of an outsider.”
And while she has traveled around the world, it was the power of attraction that drew her to Morocco. “I initially visited Morocco in 2010 for a week and I just couldn’t get enough of the country. Deep inside, I was hoping the whole time that one day, I’d come back here for a longer period of time.”
An opportunity presented itself in 2013 when she was supposed to volunteer in an orphanage in Algeria. Due to unforeseen circumstances, the project was eventually cancelled, and she had to choose another country. “My choices were narrow – it was either a French-speaking country in Africa or a country in the Middle East. I got contacted by a member of AIESEC, the organization that was supposed to send me to Algeria, and they told me that my profile was what they were looking for. I was matched with an ESL (English as a Second Language) assignment in Casablanca.”
During her time in Morocco, she has discovered a few of her favorite things and has learned that while she has fallen absolutely in love with it, adapting to the nuances of life in the country remains a huge adjustment for many.
“I like the fact that it is not the easiest country to live in. It constantly gets you out of your comfort zone. It teaches a lot —- how to negotiate, how to be patient and how to survive. Having grown up in a organized country, Morocco is a school of life for me (which can be tiring at times)! The European expats here who I know are divided into two groups — those who love Morocco and don’t want to leave, and the ones who hate it, but are forced to stay for work or family reasons.”
She shares some examples of personal development and life lessons that she has picked up. “There are many things I had to learn to live with or accept. I have learned to slow down. I am a punctual person; I honor deadlines and I expect people to keep their promises. Morocco has taught me not to stick so strictly to schedules, and to understand that rules can be very, hmm, flexible,” she acknowledges.
With an extensive background as a traveler, Mizinska combined her passions for writing and Morocco, and created the travel blog Bewildered in Morocco, which provides content on how to travel within Morocco, as well as an authentic perspective on life as a foreigner in the country.
“I had to share my observations, experiences and tips with someone. I couldn’t hold all these interesting things in just for myself! So I had two inspirations — the first was to remember my adventures and secondly, to help people understand and explore Morocco.”
While the site has also helped her to meet other bloggers, artists, entrepreneurs, photographers, writers as well as interesting Moroccan and foreign individuals, she is also using it as an opportunity to show a different perspective and ban stereotypes.
“There are many negative stereotypes about Africans, Arabs and Muslims – just switch on a television. I can’t speak on behalf of the African continent, but in regards to Moroccans, I’d say that many of them have bigger values and expectations towards life than one could even imagine. I have also heard some negative stereotypes about Moroccan girls – that they are oppressed and don’t know what they want out of life. I have to shatter that one as well! Most of the Moroccan ladies of my generation who I know, around 18-28 years of age, do know what they want and can fight for it.”
Mizinska currently lives in Casablanca, which is recognized as a business or commercial city in Morocco. “All the big multinational and local companies have their branches here. When you’re a student, the first city you think of to search for an internship is Casablanca.”
She shares with us that most expats live in Maarif, which is close to the center. “This district is modern and safe; people are also more open minded and tolerant here than in other areas. There is also Gauthier, eagerly chosen by foreigners, and it’s a bit cheaper than Maarif. For individuals who don’t have to worry about money and want peace and a nice house to boot, I’d recommend Californie. But to live in Californie you’ll need a lot of money.”
The things she misses most about Poland are her family and food. “I am a global citizen, and not a patriot, but when it comes to food… I am a patriot! I also miss the places I used to spend my holidays in!”
She offers her advice to other visitors, foreign nationals and non-Africans who wish to explore Morocco. “Forget what you’ve heard about the country and just discover it for yourself. You will see that some stereotypes you’ve had drilled into your head may be true, but some others will turn out to be a total misunderstanding.”
Images: Courtesy Monika Mizinska
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