Wow… I can’t believe it’s been exactly two months since I last posted. I also can’t say that I have an excuse. What I can say, is that these lazy weeks (months?) of quarantine are the perfect time to get back into writing, since I have no mandatory coursework or responsibilities, and pretty much haven’t left my house except for solitary walks… so I think it’s time that I finally start doing something.
As I think about leaving Morocco, it seems really long ago. Everything happened so quickly. Just a week or two before we left, we were in Ceuta renewing our visas for three more months. The hour before we were notified of our program being ended, I was watching the sunset by the ocean not knowing that it would be one of my last evenings in Rabat. It’s been a month since all of this happened, and in many ways, Morocco often feels like a dream. As I look through my Google Docs blog folder for 2020, it’s weird to read the two blog post drafts that I never even came around to publishing– things ended so abruptly. It’s unbelievable to think that today I would have been experiencing and learning about Ramadan traditions with my host family, if none of this had happened. (Ramadan Kareem to friends who are observing!)
When I came back to America, I had expected so much to have “changed.” After NSLI-Y Jordan, I was thrown straight into the school year– academic stress, old friends, and the height of American and Western cultural immersion. The post-study abroad struggle had been real, from reverse culture shock, to the sense that “everything was so perfect in Jordan,” even though my experience undoubtedly had significant challenges.
When I was leaving Morocco, I braced myself for a difficult transition back to life in the US, considering that I had been away for seven months. Surprisingly, and other students may or may not feel this way, my transition has felt really simple and natural. One of the biggest factors that typically contributes to reverse culture shock is the process of adjusting to stark cultural differences in one’s home community. My transition was not from Moroccan society to American society, but rather from Moroccan society to my Indian-American household. As a result, I did not encounter any significant cultural differences, since the values in my home are so similar to what I experienced in Morocco. Most importantly, my post-program discomfort, if any, has definitely been put into perspective by the fact that we are in a global pandemic where people are losing their lives and loved ones, so while it’s valid to be upset about the two months I wasn’t able to spend in Morocco, I’m incredibly blessed and it’s so crucial to always keep my privilege in mind.
Do I miss Morocco? Without doubt. I miss the hilarious, inspiring, and controversial conversations in my all-female classroom. I miss the small, proud moments when I would understand my university professor’s lecture in my “Didactic Arabic Language” class. I miss Dabke class on Saturday mornings. I miss my host mom’s baghrir with La Vache Qui Rit cheese and honey. I miss my NSLI-Y friends who became family.
I think that over the course of seven months I developed a relationship with a city, and it’s no exaggeration to say that I know Rabat better than my own neighborhood in Round Rock. I’ve been going on lots of walks during these quarantine times, but I miss walking with somewhere to go. Step outside and there’s a vegetable stand. Take a 15 minute stroll and you’re face to face with the Atlantic Ocean. I miss the sights, the sounds, of the places that made my city a home. I miss lunches with friends at Abtal al Cham, my favorite Syrian restaurant. I miss the busy microcosm of the Rabat medina. I miss the sound of the Call to Prayer from the mosque next to my house every morning. I miss watching the waves crash and the sun set fire to the sky. I miss paying in dirhams. I miss buying fruits by the kilo. I miss jam packed weekly tram rides to my university campus. I miss the Palestinian Embassy and the American Language Center. I miss walking past parliament in Centre Ville. I miss snail vendors. I do miss Rabat a lot.
But also, it’s alright. I’m incredibly lucky to be home with my family at this time, and I’m so privileged to be safe and healthy. I’m trying to make the most of my circumstances by taking a break, relaxing, spending time with family, cooking, reading, and just enjoying these moments. With that, I plan to get back to writing in the coming weeks, and hopefully I’ll have some reflections and thoughts to share soon! ❤