Monday, January 9, 2012

B’Sslama Maghrib

Musicians (and music fan) at a Rabat restaurant.

Yesterday was a day of packing and repacking. It’s become quite an art. Mainly I just like taking the time to spread everything out and (impossibly) try to prepare myself as best I can for what lies ahead. These transitions in and of themselves are becoming oddly comforting and I’ve realized that I’m happy to take an afternoon to ready my blue suitcase. I don’t’ even need that much time, but at this point, it’s become a ritual.

I said goodbye to my sister and Travis yesterday morning and then took a long walk around Casablanca. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time in Morocco, and I think because I had the good fortune of sharing an apartment here and being thrown into a group of wonderful people around my age (Moroccans and expats), of all the places I’ve gone so far, it feels the most like I was living here. I was able to meet repeatedly with certain research contacts and have certain opportunities, like guest speaking at the Rabat American School, that have been hard to come by in other place. It’s a hard thing to give up, but it also means that I feel ready for some new adventure.

Taken by my mom.

Similar to my experiences in India, I found Morocco to be a place of coexisting extremes. In Rabat itself, there are parts of the city that feel like Europe and parts of the city that feel entirely different than anywhere I’ve been in before. People seamlessly switch from Arabic to French (often using words of both in the same sentence) . Couscous with 7 vegetables and cheeseburgers are often listed side by side on menus. It is not uncommon, while people-watching at cafés on Rabat’s Avenue Mohammed V, to see teenage girls wearing both headscarves and miniskirts. You can drive through Morocco and find snowy mountains, the dry desert, and oceanside marinas not too far from each other. There are cabdrivers with Ph.Ds , dinners that begin at 10pm, and constant protests for change and reform coupled with an overwhelming love for the current King. (I might hazard a guess that Morocco might be the only country with a King who is married to a computer engineer).

Kids playing in the Oudayas.

In Morocco, I have been the recipient of an enormous amount of hospitality and I am so grateful for that—from my language teacher who insisted on serving homemade pastries and tea at every lesson, to a family living in the medina who opened their doors to me and some friends for henna and dancing, to the small theater group of expats who included me in their meetings during my first few weeks in Rabat. I’ve also been lucky during these past two months, to have some visitors from home and share my experiences of Morocco (and of this year) with them.

These eight weeks have gone fast and it is hard to envision what awaits me tomorrow. I’ll be landing in Europe for the first time this year. It will be my first taste of real winter cold, and also the first place in over five months where I’ll be surrounded by people who mainly look like me. (Side note: Two German girls at the Taj Mahal asked me if I was German because they said they’d never met an American girl who didn’t straighten her hair).

My plans for Germany have slowly morphed over the past few weeks as a result of travel plans and contacts and schedules. I’ll be starting out in a rural part of East Germany with a family friend, her husband and daughters (the newest addition was born just a month ago). I’ll be there for about two weeks before possibly going to Copenhagen for a week, then returning to Berlin for more work in Germany. I’ll be in Berlin for the rest of my time in Germany before taking a (somewhat spontaneous) birthday trip to Istanbul for a week in February.

For now, I’m going into another day (or two) of shifting time zones and in-flight movies and new currency to figure out. More planes, more trains, more taxis. Same blue bag.

My mom took these “shots about a week ago when I was packing up to leave the Riad we were staying at in Salé. Here we go again...

My dear friend, the illustrious Isa St. Clair, sent the following along to me the other day. She apologized for the morbidity, but said she liked it so much and it seemed so fitting that she had to send it along anyway. I entirely agree. Here’s to safe travels. (Like you always say).

(Thank you dear Isa).

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