August 3, 2014

"The Consequences"

Dear Reader,

"While you are free to choose your course of action, you are not free to choose the consequences. Whether for good or bad, consequences follow as a natural result of the choices you make." -FTSOY

I made a big decision on July 9th, 2014. I handed my razor over to Shunhe Wang and pledged to commit to growing a raggedy, nasty, tasteless "beard". The first few days were just fantastic. It was Christmas morning every day. I would wake up early and run to the mirror, excited to see some incremental progress. I would write a little update in my journal every day, commenting on how things were growing.  

Later on in my journey, I found myself having to lean heavily on my contract and accountabilibuddy for support. The first signs of trouble appeared on Day 12. Here's an excerpt from my journal:

"Committing to this facial hair experiment is a lot harder than I thought it might be...WOW. I can't imagine a facial hair future where I want to keep what's currently growing on the sides of my face."

By Day 16, things were looking bleak.

"My logic at the beginning of this endeavor was infallible....'I can't grow a beard in the future! Why not now?'...Now my thoughts are more like 'Thank goodness razors exist on planet Earth.'"

It was really hard for me around that time. When I saw advertisements for Gillette razors, I wanted to run into the store, buy one, and shave immediately. I had to keep reminding myself that I knew that this process was going to be hard. Suddenly (and to my great joy) I realized that there was a loop-hole in my contract. I said that I would commit to growing a "beard", but by putting "beard" in quotation marks, I unintentionally gave myself a lot of room for interpretation. As I looked in the mirror at the sides of my face and considered this loophole, I knew what I was going to do. On our weekend excursion to Fes, I had an informal, but incredibly important meeting with the majority of the guys on the program with me. We discussed and deliberated if shaving the scraggly nastiness off my cheeks would violate my contract. The definition of "beard" was Googled. Tempers flared. Friendships were ended on the spot.

Actually, we just chatted about it and determined that it was my flipping face, and that I could do what I wanted. With Shunhe's permission, I took the razor to my shameful cheeks and made them smooth again. Cleaning things up was a great idea, and I have no regrets about that night. With renewed confidence, I continued growing my facial hair out. On Day 22, something strange happened.

I felt for the first time that I actually wanted to keep my whiskers. I broke the news to my parents in an email. I told them flat out that I'd fallen in love with my raggedy lip rug and awkward chin beard. Then, humbly, I asked for their blessing to continue my personal journey after August 5th, 2014. The next day, my dad replied.

"Yes, you have my permission. Keep it growing.  (I'd write more but my PC is wigging out)...
Love Dad"

I was ecstatic. The journey could CONTINUE! Nothing was going to stop me fro-...

But wait. My mom didn't reply. She didn't reply for days. After a while, I sent her a series of Facebook messages, begging for the smallest amount of approval. The tension as I waited for her response was incredible. Reluctantly, she said yes, but that she didn't like it.

Well..............a yes is a yes. 

I've come to terms with my awkward facial hair. I feel like it's become a part of me. This whole process has been incredibly educational. I've learned that with proper support and resolve, hard things become bearable. The unattainable somehow comes within reach. The impossible becomes reality.

 This journey will continue past my original target date of August 5th. Wish me luck. NM

Here's a photo of Day 26.

(Also, my chin beard is coming in red. Isn't that bizarre?! Genetics, man. Genetics.)

July 30, 2014

"Get. Out. Now."

Dear Reader,

We beat the system, man. We beat it.

Karin, Andrew, and I started our day off by working on our project about the call to prayer. As we thought of great places to film, Andrew suggested that we go to a look-out point that the locals love. Barricaded and guarded to prevent tourists from spoiling the spot, there was no way we were going to get in. At least not.........conventionally.

With a plan in mind, we walked down and around the fortress to the sea. Taking the lead, Andrew started to slowly work his way across a wall above the ocean. He picked his way across the flat surface carefully and almost slipped into the water only twice. After some effort, he made it to a place where he could stand. I removed my shoes, rolled up my jeans, and walked through the shallows to get to where he was. Karin, sporting water shoes, did the same.

Andrew led the way across the sharp rocks and through the surf. We reached another point where we had to pause and think. "Should we turn back? NO. Swim?...Again, no. Cling to this sketchy wall and shuffle to the other side?...Sure, let's go." It took awhile, but we made it across that gap mostly dry. After hopping around tidal pools, we ducked through a large hole that had been carved out by the ocean and started to move along a cliff face. Unprotected, my feet were rubbed raw by the rough rocks. (Fun fact...the sewage from the city runs down part of the cliff we were on.) It was a difficult, painful, slow process for me.

Eventually, we saw some Moroccan kids that were diving into the sea off of the tall rocks and they acknowledged us. When they saw us trying to move across another wall above the sea, they cried out and said that that way was not a good idea. One of them swam over to where we were to help us out. (What a bro!) Andrew went first, walking in the most shallow parts of the ocean. When he hit the deeper part, the Moroccan guy motioned for him to take a piggy back ride over to the other side. So, Andrew climbed on and was ferried safely across the water. Karin and I repeated the same process as the rest of the young Moroccans looked on and laughed at us. Our friendly helper didn't ask for anything in return for his service, and he welcomed us to the location. He pointed up to some stairs near the fortress and we climbed up.

As we relaxed and took photos, we realized that there was a reason the locals guarded the place so well. The views there were absolutely incredible. After finishing up, we decided to walk up to the upper level where the unofficial guard was stationed. His face when he saw us was priceless. Furious, he started angrily clapping and calling at us like we were animals. To make him more angry, we pretended not to see or hear him. He kept clapping as he moved towards us. What did he think we were going to do? Scurry away from him? "No way, man." I thought to myself. "I got my jeans all squidgy for this, and I ain't leavin' just yet." Andrew started talking to him in the local Arabic dialect and asked what he wanted. The guy said something like "This place is off limits!!!"....but then Andrew motioned to the few Moroccans milling around the place and commented "What about them?" Owned, the guy started clapping and barking at the others as well. After waiting just a little bit longer to make him angry, we moved to the exit and walked past the barriers. As we strolled away, I couldn't help but laugh. We beat the system, man. We snuck around back, scurried across cliffs, and rode on the shoulders of a stranger to get there, but we beat the flipping system. It was great.

Especially that guy's face, man. That was the best.