I wanted to write today because tomorrow our program is going on a 10-day excursion to the south. We will travel to Marrakech, Essaouira, Merzouga, and some other towns, and we will also stop overnight in the desert to ride camels! We’re all very excited to have a chance to get out of Rabat and see some more of Morocco. My next post, which will have to be a little late due to traveling without my computer, will definitely describe this trip!
For me, a great deal of my excitement for the excursion comes from the fact that I have some of the awe I had upon first arriving. The country is still astoundingly beautiful, and I am most certainly still in danger of getting lost in the medina if I am not always careful to watch my surroundings, but it is also starting to feel much more familiar. I recognize the faces of the men who run the stalls along the market and Mohammad V Avenue on my way to and from school. I have tried many of the unfamiliar foods that are being sold. I think I have even started to adjust to the meal times–an early breakfast, a big lunch, teatime at 7, and dinner at 10–though that certainly has been difficult.
In one sense, I am glad to feel more at home and more comfortable. I am sure the awkwardness is nowhere near done, but I know my host family now well enough to be comfortable around even the aunts and uncles and cousins who drop by regularly, and I feel comfortable with the other students on my program. These are all good things.
But on the other hand, losing some awe means losing a kind of buffer between me and what is difficult. Being in a different family with different rules and expectations of private space. Being constantly harassed on the street in a language I don’t understand. Eating so much bread it becomes difficult to swallow. Trying to adjust to a program’s teaching and advising style that is vastly different from Lafayette’s. These are the challenges, and I found myself suddenly confronted by them earlier this week. I started to realize how long three and a half months can be. And when a handful of small irritations fell one right after the other, I had a moment of panic.
But the best thing to do in that situation is to get out of what is familiar–to reclaim that sense of awe that I had momentarily lost. So I tried some new things. I went last weekend to Chellah, a beautiful set of Roman and medieval ruins about 30 miles from Rabat. As a History major who prefers “the history before guns,” I felt excited again, like I was breathing fresh air.
I went to two musical performances at my center. The first was my favorite, consisting of an overview of traditional musical genres from the different areas of Morocco.
With heavy beats and a scratchy violin and the repetitive, swooping melodies, it was unfamiliar–and beautiful. The second performance was of Andalusian music, which was recognizable but accompanied by beautiful Arabic poetry.
And finally, I went to a belly dancing lesson last night! To be honest, I was nervous. I am not much of a dancer, and belly dancing is a whole separate category of dancing from anything I’ve tried. But probably about 15 girls in our program went to the gym, where one girl’s host sister taught us some basic steps. And it was a lot of fun! It is good when feeling a bit mentally off to get some exercise, even if you feel like an awkward goofball–but at least we all felt the same way.
In all, I am feeling excited again. I am eager to explore more of Morocco this week (and to ride a camel), and to attempt to organize a trip after our planned excursion ends, hopefully to visit another city or to take a hike. The worst of culture shock and homesickness is certainly not over, but I got through this wave, and if each down is followed by an up, then this seems doable.