Tuesday, December 16, 2014

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

The truth is, now I am scared to go home. I am worried that all I have experienced and all of that I have grown to be will leave me as soon as I step back into my old life. I have never been away this long from home, but I am so comfortable being on my own now.

This semester has been the best four months of my life. I was forced out of my comfort zone and I adapted to life in Morocco. Though I was completely uncomfortable with the classes I was taking, I learned more than I ever had before. I was constantly being challenged since I was not in my usual science course that I grew so accustomed to back home. I learned about major events impacting the world today, and why they are happening. I was able to become a knowledgeable world citizen, that can work to prevent Orientalist views back at home, and can provide educated insight on the Israeli-Palestine issue, America's influence in the Middle East, and how religion plays into politics all around the globe. My favorite class, Gender and Politics in the Modern Middle East, allowed me to grow stronger in my beliefs as a feminist and to hopefully continue to advocate for the importance of equality between the sexes while still uplifting both men and women. My mind is not just focused on chemical formulas, theories, and equations, but now it is more well-rounded thanks to my social science classes.

This semester was not just about the classroom, though. This semester was also about traveling, exploring the world and different languages and cultures, meeting new people, learning more about myself, and finding out that wherever I am, I am home.

I am so grateful to have had the opportunities to go to Rabat, the Sahara Desert, Amsterdam, Fes, Casablanca, Marrakesh, Rome, and Chefchouen. What made these trips incredible was not destination, but the little things, like when Dakota and I bought 50 coconut cookies from a family in Marrakesh, or when Dakota, Kelsey, and I decided to run a half-marathon without any training, two days before the actual event. Even staying home for the weekend consisted of exploring Ifrane and finding my favorite restaurant, the ladies who make the best m'semn in town, the best smoothie place in the Marche, and hiking through the Source Vittel. Each place opened my eyes more to the world and opened my eyes to see where I fit in it. I am capable of much more than I ever imagined. Life is about taking chances and experiences the world without reservation. Most of the best trips or experiences happened on a whim, or were the result of a mistake. Adapting to situations quickly and always having a positive outlook on things is so important.

I have learned enough French and Darija (the Arabic dialect spoken in Morocco) to make my way around the country for four months. I have learned about unique cultural differences that make Morocco special. I think being thrown into a new country brings out the true character of someone. I have met so many amazing souls here that are all so different, but all compatible with one another as long as we respect each other. I think what I valued the most here is the friendship formed between Dakota, Kelsey, and me. Though we still are having trouble figuring out the exact moment we all "clicked" (it was sometime in Rabat, but we don't really remember each other during that trip), I have spent more time with them than without them here. It's crazy to think that in a couple days, I will be resting my head on my pillow in my house in Ohio and I won't be able to run upstairs and see Kelsey and Dakota watching reruns Grey's Anatomy on Kelso's bed. I won't wake up at 8am every morning to go running with them and then eat breakfast and drink coffee before class. We won't have our weekly homemade mac-and-cheese and a movie night, nor will we be able to have hours long conversations that usually end in us laughing uncontrollably, even if they started out as serious ones. These little things have made this experience amazing.

I am going to miss Kinder Bueno Whites, Tajine, Hrira soup, cheap living and cheap travelling, the community here of International students, the beautiful campus (even if we are not allowed to walk on the grass), the view outside my window, all the little cats and kittens that are everywhere, ordering a kilo of clementines for only 6 dirhams, m'semn, my small classes, and my friends. I am sure I will be missing so much more as soon as I board that plane Saturday.

So goodbye Morocco, and thank you for the amazing memories that will last me a lifetime. This world is more beautiful and more incredible than can be described and I want to see it all. Though my journey in Morocco has ended, my journey through life has just begun.

“The ideal is to feel at home anywhere, everywhere” Geoff Dye

Two weeks ago, Dakota, Kelsey, and I left Ifrane to go visit Chefchouen. We left early Friday morning and took the CTM to the "Blue City." It snowed in Ifrane that night, so we had a tough time finding a grand taxi to get to the CTM station in Fes. We finally got a taxi, and arrived at exactly 10:58 to the bus stop. The bus left at 11:00 so we ran in and bought our tickets and then boarded the bus! The bus ride was about five hours and we slept most of the way. We finally arrived to the town in the afternoon and found our hostel, Riad Baraka, inside the medina. The town really was covered in blue paint... it was so cool!

The first afternoon we walked around the medina. The shops were really cool and most of the shop owners were very hospitable and nice. To my surprise, everything there was extremely cheap when compared to Marrakesh and Fes. Chefchouen is known for their "drug rugs" and their wool products. I ended up buying three hoodies and a few other gifts for my family and friends since the cost of the products were just so cheap. We ate some hrira soup and played with some cats at dinner before heading back to the hostel. The weather the whole weekend was really rainy and Saturday has thunderstorm warnings.

We wanted to go take a hike at a place called "Gods Bridge" the next day, but the weather was too dismal for a hike. We decided to walk around the medina again and find a place for breakfast. Usually, we can find a m'semn stand and get a piece for only 5 dirhams, but the only places we could find breakfast were actual restaurants that had a full course breakfast for 25. We ended up having a huge breakfast and then walked around the medina for the rest of the day. Other than hiking, Chefchouen's medina is the big attraction. The shopping once again was really cheap so we spend all our time going from one stand to another. Dakota got really good at bartering and we always joke that when we head back to the U.S., we are going to be in Target trying to barter. We met a guy in the hostel from Perth, Australia, and hiked up a little to see the sunset on the town. The idea was really good, but we left too late so we missed the sunset part. Still... the view of Chefchouen was really beautiful.

The next day we woke up early to go out of the medina and hike up to the Spanish Mosque. It starting pouring rain and we were all freezing cold as we walked through a cemetery filled with goats and donkeys (yes, it was weird) to get up the hill. It got really muddy and wet but we finally made it to the top. The view was incredible, and we stayed up there for a little while. We joked around and pretended to push each other off the cliff. We also laughed, and talked, and each reflected on our time in Morocco. We are so comfortable here now and now it's time to go. We have become master travelers. We are able to pack a backpack in 5 minutes, and feel comfortable with deciding to go on a trip at the last minute, we are now able to connect with people quicker, we can navigate our way through cities, towns, and rural areas, and we understand that though everyplace might not be familiar, we are home. We have been thinking a lot about how far we have come since the first day off that plane in Morocco and sitting at the top of that hill just made us take a step back and think. After that we made our way to the CTM stop and headed home.

The weekend was great. I am so happy to have found people easy to travel with. We have different roles in traveling, Kelsey talks, I navigate, and Dakota barters, and we can make our way around each city with no problems. It was our last big trip as a trio and we spent a lot of time talking about how we are going to go crazy without each other. I would recommend Chefchouen and Marrakesh to those who just have a couple days in Morocco. These two cities offer a wide range of what Morocco has to offer and I felt comfortable in both of them. Just do not buy anything in Marrakesh because it is so overpriced, buy everything in Chefchouen!

The "Blue City" 

The view from the roof of our hostel

Everything in the medina was beautiful and I could not stop photographing!

A super cool door

Dakota and Kelsey!