January 3, 2013

Hellos and Goodbyes: Final Post

Today I am leaving for Kenya on a three week interim trip entitled Religion, Society, and Change in East Africa. This means that, for the third time in about a year–and the fourth time overall–I will be returning to the African continent. Each time, I have experienced something entirely different from the last, and I am excited to see what this new trip brings.

But I also wanted to take the chance today, before flying back over Morocco, to write about what I have been thinking since my return home about three weeks ago.

My home for the past four months: the medina of Rabat

My home for the past four months: the medina of Rabat

I have already talked to plenty of friends and family about my trip, and, as usual, I have also started to hit my rhythm on both the long and short versions of it. I know the best stories and how to tell them–changing host families, the Feast of the Sacrifice, trying to communicate with our village host family that we needed someplace to use as a toilet, the man on the coast who told me “Yes, and then we have babies!” when I told him I wasn’t in love with him (we’d met that day), the disastrous monkey stop, the three American girls who made me cringe when they ate out of my couscous zone, my 45-page Independent Study. Those are certainly the events that jumped out at me during the program, and they offer a glimpse into my experiences with Moroccans, with gender relations and religion and space and cultural expectations.


But those are also the extreme stories, and although I have no need to exaggerate them (they are perfectly exaggerated on their own), I know they do not represent the whole of my experience. There is a part of me that is worried about leaving again so soon, for what almost certainly will be another trip of extremes, in case these new stories begin to push out the smaller memories from my head too quickly. Because, in truth, the majority of my experiences were the endless struggles with my host families about how much I would eat, and the walks through the medina, juggling harassment and heat and the dirty water that sprang up if you stepped on a loose stone, and the chocolate runs and hours of watching TV with my host sister and the trips to the internet cafe with my friends.

Amina, the best host sister I could have asked for

Those are the moments that made my semester what it was, and I’m afraid that those will be the first experiences that I forget. I know that even if I had had the discipline to write in my journal every day, these are the moments I would have skipped over, thinking them redundant after repeating them each day.

In writing this, I realize how much I miss Morocco. I don’t think I was ever as happy as I was this entire semester, struggling and finding out that I am positive and optimistic and could handle anything thrown my way. And I know that I can keep that knowledge with me when I return to school, although, ironically, I think it will take more effort. That’s the strange thing–to know that I am happier and more positive the more I am challenged. I guess being bored has always gotten me down. And there is more that will stick with me. After a semester of writing very little, I can feel the experiences in my fingers, ready to find their way into my world now that I can begin to process them. At least I know that my experiences will find a way into a tangible form in some way or another.

Yes, I am sad that my experience is over. I am sad to leave my friends, and to say goodbye to my host family, and to know that the next time I walk through the Rabat medina I might get lost.


But I’m glad to know that I will miss it. It only means I will keep it closer to me, and that I will continue to learn from it longer.

So hello, Kenya. Meet Morocco. You’ll be spending a lot of time together in my head for the next few weeks.


posted in Madeline Gambino

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