I have never really liked reggae. I remember being seventeen and watching as my friends drove out of the high school parking lot, windows down, playing reggae at a not disrespectful volume but still loud enough for passers-by to hear the echoes of the drums and twang of the guitar.

Reggae, I decided back then, was for stoned people, or people who have smoked so much weed that they’re perpetually stoned. No value judgements here; I’m just saying it’s not really my thing. I wasn’t about to tell someone off for liking reggae, but I admit that I would make some basic assumptions about that person.

Luckily reggae is like soccer: it’s there if you want it, but it won’t interfere with your day-to-day life. This notion held true for my life back home, but it has not been true for life spent traveling, especially in hostels. At the hostel I stayed at in India reggae was basically unavoidable. It wasn’t just your classic Bob Marley, although good old Bob was there of course, but he was mixed in with the abominations that are reggae covers of popular songs. Not that anyone needed a reggae cover of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here,” mind you, but we discovered back in India that someone had indeed taken the piss out of that famous song. The laid-back reggae grove somehow cheapens the content of that song and robs it of all its strange sorrow. I was glad to leave many things behind in India, the reggae certainly being one of them.

Cut to two months later: Billy and I are sitting playing cards in the lounge of a hostel in Marrakech. Above the hum of activity cuts those famous opening notes. We look up. Maybe it’s the actual song? You can’t tell from just those first notes. But then the echoing drums and twanging guitar crash in, more jarring and inappropriate than the Kool-aid man stoned out of his mind smashing through a wall into a funeral parlor.

“Oh how I wish you were here,” goes the song, but I wish I were anywhere else.

New Years in Marrakech 

I left Taroudant on December 27th bound for Marrakech. Walking to my class on that last night I asked the other volunteers if they had any New Year’s resolutions. None of us had any. One volunteer said it would be nice to maybe get buff, but he conceded that it would be unlikely that he would make any effort towards realizing that goal.

The main gripe we had with New Year’s resolutions was that they encouraged people to put off bettering themselves until the new year. You have at all times the ability to start changing your life; you don’t have to wait for the new year to start getting healthy.

It may come as no surprise then that I have never made a New Year’s resolution. I have ideas and plans about what I want to accomplish in the coming months, but these aren’t resolutions in the sense that they are set out to be realized. If, for example, I don’t finish reading that dense book over the next few weeks I will be none the worse because I never made a resolution to finish it in the first place. Whereas if, for example, you make a resolution to get fit and 2019 rolls around and you’re still a couch potato then you’re probably going to feel pretty bad about yourself.

Sometimes New Year’s resolutions don’t feel like resolutions at all but rather wishes. People who have never written a page in their life suddenly resolving to write a novel seem more to be relying on the will of some errant wish-granting fairy than on their own ability.

But who can blame people for wishing? For my part I found myself desperately wishing that somewhere in the Quran there was some kind of clause allowing Muslims to drink on New Years. It was the soberest New Years past the age of twenty-one I have ever experienced in my life, because what better way to ring in the New Year than with a dreadful hangover?