Postcard from Morocco - 2023
I’m greeting you from a Boeing Dreamliner, in that funky time-travel stupor when your body has no idea what day or time it is. Staring at the blank page on my laptop screen glowing in the dark cabin, it’s hard to know where to start. I want to share what I’ve seen, heard, and felt this week while it’s still fresh; before I hit the ground running at home and the details of daily life take over again. I’m sharing with you the raw, un-edited iPhone photos straight from my cameral roll instead of waiting to get everything perfect. Excuse me if I wax poetic— I have 8 hours to kill.
This week was incredibly inspiring. Of course we took care of business— I sat in the workshop with Abdou and Zara two different days. We went over designs for a year’s worth of new items that I had (mostly) prepped beforehand. Working out designs in-person in the shop is 1000% more efficient than via FaceTime from my translator’s home office. We always make it work, but this was a very welcome change of pace! Nothing compares to being there, we all know this, but when you layer on language and cultural differences, spending time in the same context together is absolutely priceless.
After the first day in the workshop, we went home with Abdou to have homemade couscous with his wife and kids. Across cultures, many things are the same— children are adorable, teenagers are planning for the future, husbands and wives make jokes about each other. We have close friends with us translating all along the way, but so many things need no translation. These intimate moments are why I make the journey. It takes so much time and money, but the bonds made, the body language understood, the love shown— that doesn’t happen virtually.
In the shop we also talked about current and hoped-for impact. Abdou and Zara, his assistant, work in the shop together and they enjoy so much more stability now because of Jubilee Trading Co. than the entire 20+ years Abdou has been in the leather business. Zara is able to help support her extended family that she lives with, and Abdou provides for his own family and generously shares to meet needs within his community. There is no health insurance in Morocco, so any medical surprises are difficult. I have heard now so many examples of how he helps members of his community when issues arise— it’s extremely humbling to hear how my selling leather bags on the internet has ripple effects, helping people I’ve now met. That’s your purchases at work! This isn’t charity; this is conscious consumerism, paid employment, and earned wages trickling into a community and making the world a better place.
It’s also nice to see improved creature comforts— Abdou’s simple house now has an air conditioner to take the edge off the 115-degree summers, and more a bit more furniture than when I visited in 2021.
When our orders are more than what Abdou and Zara can quickly make, they send out work in the community. They currently partner with three men who make our goods, and I got to meet one of them as he dropped in for payday while we worked. In an often distrustful marketplace, we do business differently by maintaining consistent standards, building authentic relationships, and paying on time and fairly. Abdou is happy for our business to continue to grow so that these and more can have consistent employment through our work.
Beyond business, we got to visit Berber friends I met in 2021 up in the Atlas Mountains and have lunch in their home with their extended family. I saw water and construction projects that were in part supported by us. A simple well is maintained and traditional farming irrigation improved through non-profit partners we have there. In the last year, this partner helped buy supplies so locals could build a better wall around their village cemetery to keep animals out and have a more dignified area for their deceased family members.
And then we played! My husband was able to join me on this trip and we got to enjoy a touristy day and night in Marrakech rug shopping, getting tastes of the city, and being spoiled in a dreamy tucked-away riad before heading home. My heart is full from the love and beauty I’ve seen, and my mind is racing with where to start again on Monday morning. Thank you for your support that enables this work. Your intentional purchasing is actively changing lives, and I’m honored to be that bridge.