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Essaouira, not Marrakech

A little over a month later, I am writing about my first great Moroccan adventure of the spring semester. I’ve been putting this off for so long because I tend to write a lot in my chronicles, but I will try and keep this short, sweet, and to the point, since I have to be up in six hours to go to class (don’t worry, I only have one and I actually go right back to sleep afterward). This trip to the south of Morocco included two cities, Marrakech and Essaouira, but we spent a little more time in Essaouira and I enjoyed it much more, so I will focus on that. Furthermore, I was traveling with five other girls, my friends Rachael, Angie, Aya, Emily, and Dania, all of whom I will be referencing throughout this post.

After spending the majority of a Thursday riding a train from Fez to Marrakech, then waiting around in Jamaa Fnaa for a few hours, we boarded a bus to Essaouira in the late afternoon. By the time two and a half hours had gone by, the sun had set and we were dropped off in the front of one of the entrances to the medina. Thankfully Angie had befriended a nice British lady named Louise who knew her way around Essaouira. She helped us to find a guide to our hostel and made sure that we got there safely.

Our 2 am train ride from Fez to Marrakech, photo credit Rachael.

Our 2 am train ride from Fez to Marrakech, photo credit Rachael.

Hostel Essaouira is where we stayed, and it was a pretty great place for being so cheap. The owner was extremely nice and gave us maps of the city. An employee also showed us to a restaurant that had live music that night. We stayed there for over two hours, eating couscous and salads and pizza while listening to a jam session with a couple of other tourists in a small room. It was a great atmosphere and just the thing we wanted to kick off the weekend. We returned to the hostel quite late, but the streets of the medina were well-lit (albeit deserted), so it wasn’t too unsafe to be out.

The entrance to one of the bedrooms in the hostel, photo credit Dania.

The entrance to one of the bedrooms in the hostel, photo credit Dania.

The next day, Rachael, Dania, and I woke up around 9 and went out to explore the city as the other girls slept until noon. We first went to the north-western medina walls and walked along the ancient ramparts until we reached the large square that opened to the port. We walked along the port, photographing fishing boats, seafood stalls, and eventually picked a restaurant at which to eat. Dania and I split a plate full of cheap seafood, such as calamari, shrimp, sardines, and various other types of fish that I can’t recall the name of. We even got to try a sea urchin, which is pretty good when doused in lemon juice.

A delicious medley of seafood that only cost about $5

A delicious medley of seafood that only cost about $5!

Sea urchin... great with lemon!

Sea urchin… great with lemon!

After we had our fill of great seafood, we headed back into the medina and let ourselves get lost. Literally. We had a map, but for about half an hour, we toured the city without its guidance, which actually led us into the residential and full-fledged Moroccan half of the medina. We figured out quickly that one half of the main road contained shops that sold practical household things, while the other side sold touristy things like scarves and jewelry. It was so interesting to feel the different atmospheres that were merely separated by an open archway.

It was in this touristy part of town that we went to buy Rachael a scarf. She wanted to have a dark colored one to bring back to Ifrane, so we looked around for one at a decent price. As you may have read in my previous post about being a woman in North Africa, the harassment western women get from Moroccan men is frustrating, and the men in Essaouira are no exception. After a while, we would refuse to even look in a shop if a man called out to us, choosing instead to enter shops where the owner didn’t bother us. So we entered one shop upon this principle to buy Rachael a scarf. Soon enough, a man not much older than us came up and started talking to us in fairly good English about the scarves. Dania, who is Palestinian, refused to speak to him in English and kept speaking to him in Arabic, which he found amusing. This led to a conversation about how he had been to the UK with his friend on business and how he was going to the US in March to work at Disney World. Rachael eventually bought two scarves (snagging quite a good deal), and the guy (Otmane) invited us to have tea with him and his friend.

So we went to his friend’s shop to have tea. His friend, Talib, sold spices and was excited to tell us in English all about the kinds he sold. This was the friend with whom Otmane had gone to the UK. So we talked and had tea and eventually planned to have dinner with them that night, along with the other girls.

While aimlessly walking around again, we accidentally ran into Louise, the nice woman who had helped us the following night. Apparently she was waiting for the other girls so that she could show them around the city, but we quickly figured out that they weren’t ready and still wanted to get lunch. So instead, Louise showed us around Essaouira. We entered lots of beautiful riads, discovered a local auction going on, and found out where to buy practical items like shampoo on the cheap. As we left the city walls to find the place where we would catch the bus the next day, we stopped to buy a bag full of sweet peas. We ate them on our way out, and I can say without a doubt that those were the most delicious peas I’ve ever eaten. We said goodbye to Louise as it was approaching sunset, and went to go meet up with the other girls.

One of the many beautiful riads we visited with Louise.

One of the many beautiful riads we visited with Louise.

Rachael, Louise, and Dania as they walk outside the city walls, blissfully eating delicious peas.

Rachael, Louise, and Dania as they walk outside the city walls, blissfully eating delicious peas.

A little while later, we met with Otmane at his shop, gathered Talib and a few of his friends, and then went to a nice little restaurant where they had already gathered and prepared a delicious meal of tagine. We sat around and talked and laughed, then decided to go to a very fancy rooftop café called Terros, where we ordered only drinks. It was great to be able to be in the company of nice Moroccan men who didn’t treat us in the chauvinistic way most others did. We enjoyed good music and lots of laughs, then returned to our hostel for the night.

After many unsuccessful attempts, the little waiter boy was finally able to snap a picture of our great dinner group.

After many unsuccessful attempts, the little waiter boy was finally able to snap a picture of our great dinner group.

The next day we were to leave Essaouira around midday, so Rachael, Dania, and I dragged ourselves out of bed at 8 AM to take full advantage of beach time. On our way there, we bought a box full of sweets that were drizzled in chocolate or honey or both. And as we sat on the windy beach and talked, we ate those delicious pastries with gusto. After a while, we left to explore the city one last time before half-heartedly boarding the bus back to Marrakech.

Nom nom nom on the beach!

Nom nom nom on the beach! Photo credit Rachael

The beach in Essaouira, photo credit Rachael.

The beach in Essaouira, photo credit Rachael

I absolutely loved Essaouira and hope that I have a chance to go back before my time studying here is up. Why, oh why is it so far away from Ifrane?


Spring Break Plans

Well, folks, it’s March and Spring Break is right around the corner. A few weeks ago, some friends and I finally decided on the itinerary of the most awesome, action-packed week of our lives. And I say finally with an air of triumph mostly because it took two meetings that lasted over two hours a piece to decide on the locations and routes, let alone the booking of plane tickets and hostels (the latter which we have yet to do). Anyways, here you go.

Saturday, 9 March; fly from Casablanca to Lisbon
Wednesday, 13 March; fly from Lisbon to Barcelona
Sunday, 17 March, fly from Barcelona to Fez

Simple, right? Well all that simplicity took a lot of work and agreement. At first, we wanted to do a tour of southern Spain (Andalusia). However, my roommate has already been to the south of Spain and my friend Emily and I really would rather go to Portugal (because, you know, I speak Portuguese and not Spanish). So, in order to stay together, my other friends agreed to go with us to Lisbon to spend a few days. It wasn’t hard where to go next, though. Barcelona is a must-see for all of us, plus the ticket from Barcelona to Fez is incredibly cheap (only about 50 USD!), so we decided to visit Barcelona for a few days. There we will be renting an apartment for a few nights (as opposed to staying in a hostel in Lisbon), and two of our other friends will be joining us for the last two nights.

We all bought our tickets a little while ago, but that is basically the extent of our planning. I have been collecting tips from my friends and family on what to do in Lisbon (my dad loves Portugal, I have a friend who did missionary work there, and another friend who studied abroad in the capital), but if any of you readers have suggestions (about either city!), please leave me a comment or message me! I’m extremely excited to be temporarily free from academics.

Moroccan Arabic, or, Darija

I love the Arabic that is spoken here in Morocco, which is interesting because not very many people do. I remember when I was here over the summer that many of my friends did not like the darija class that we took for an hour a day in June. Some complained that it was too hard; others, that it was useless (indeed, native speakers of Egyptian or Levantine Arabic usually find it impossible to understand Moroccan Arabic). But not me. I loved that class because I found it not only easier than Modern Standard Arabic (MSA, fusHa), but also useful. The other dialects are closer to fusHa, so if I were to go to Egypt or Syria or Lebanon, many people would be able to understand me if I spoke in MSA. In Morocco, however, there are few similarities with the classical Arabic, and so it is in a sense its very own language.

I will be the first to say that initially, darija is not a pretty language. It’s difficult to understand because of the lack of vowel pronunciation, the difference in verb conjugation, and the frequent use of the harsh consonant “ق” that is absent in most other dialects. But after being in Morocco for a total of 3.5 months already (non-consecutive, of course), my ear has slowly been fine-tuning itself to understanding more and more of this language. And the more that I understand, the more beautiful it becomes to me.

I have grown to appreciate the way that Moroccans speak, as well. Last semester, I took an Egyptian Colloquial Arabic class that greatly improved my overall speaking skills. I noticed that the manner in which we were trained to speak is very different from the Moroccan style. For example, the word “يعني” (yaa-nee) is frequently used in Egyptian to indicate the common English word “like” (as in, the “like” that teenagers often use as a sentence filler); however, I have barely noticed this word being used in the Moroccan dialect. I recently asked my roommate what the Moroccan equivalent would be, and she said that it was “زعمة” (zaa-ma). And although they both have the same purpose, I hear زعمة used much less frequently than my Egyptian Colloquial professor used يعني. Of course, this is only one of the many, many differences between the dialects.

As for my own speaking and understanding, I think that by now I have a basic grasp of Moroccan Arabic. I can get around pretty easily by myself without relying on French (indeed, my grasp of French pretty much boils down to, je ne comprends pas français.). I can order food, buy bus or train tickets, converse with hostel owners about myself and what I would like from the hostel, among other vital things that are important to know for everyday life (for example, whenever I’m asked if I know Arabic, my automatic response is “شوية” (shwii-ya), or, “a little”). As for understanding, I can understand a lot of what shopkeepers say to me regarding price and their wares, and I can pick up bits and pieces of everyday conversation. But the most useful tool in understanding something in a language that you don’t know well is body language.

There have been many a time where I have had to rely mostly on the point of a finger or a gesture of a hand. For example, when my friends and I went to Meknes and stayed in a hostel deep in the heart of the medina, I had to continuously stop and ask for directions to Bab Mansour, a well-known gate that faces the main entrance to the souq. In order to understand what these temporary guides were saying, I had to piece together my knowledge of darija with their hand movements. The great thing about asking for directions is that it is universal to respond with hand motions, meaning that when someone says that you must turn left, they usually give you a signal pointing left. So as I watched their body language and listened carefully for words I knew (i.e. take the SECOND left after the green door, not the first), I was able to lead us out of the maze that is the medina of Meknes.

Although I will be in Morocco for four months this semester, I know that I will not be going back to the United States fluent in either fusHa or darija. I will, however, become more familiar with the dialect here and (inshallah) be able to hold some type of conversation for a good amount of time. And of course, having a Moroccan boyfriend is a great advantage in this area. (:

On Being a Woman in North Africa, Part I

There aren’t many things that bother me in Morocco. Of course I get annoyed when a business opens a half hour later than their hours state, or when there is so much bureaucracy to do one simple task (AUI is notorious for this). But these are minor things that can be understandable. However, the one thing that does bother me a lot in this country is the men.

Of course, I am generalizing here. There are tons and tons of Moroccan guys who are nice and sweet and aren’t rude in the least; however, my general experience of the attitude that men have toward women–specifically foreign women–is appalling. Let me explain.

Shopping in the souqs are wonderful. You can find everything in there from western clothing and silverware to keftans and Moroccan tea sets. Each city’s souq has its own flavor, too: in Marrakech everything is brightly colored, relatively clean, and caters to tourists; whereas in Meknes the souq is darker, dirtier, and a one-stop shop for Moroccans. Funny enough, I would pick the Meknes souq over the Marrakech souq any day–the reason being the level of harassment I get in each city.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt uncomfortable in Marrakech. Passing by three shops warrants five men to try to engage you in conversation. Usually, they will start out with a simple “Hola” or “Bonjour” or “Hello” in hopes that their knowledge of foreign languages will entice you to come look at their wares. Some are more aggressive, in that they will physically come up to you and start speaking in English about why you should buy their tagines or rugs or jewelery. And yes, while annoying, most of it is tolerable. But the most obnoxious and unavoidable part of the passage through the souq is what the men call out to you from behind.

When you’ve made it clear that you are not interested in what they have to sell, some will start making comments about you and your appearance. While walking though the medina in Essaouira with a blonde friend, men would call out to her “Barbie!” or “Lady Gaga!”, warranting her to cover her hair with a black scarf. I myself have been harassed by men shouting “nice ass!” or making lewd noises as I walked by. As soon as the shop owners stop seeing you as a potential customer, they feel as if they have the right to objectify you for everyone to hear.

And of course, this is not limited to the shopkeepers in the souqs and medinas. Men everywhere will try to get your attention with this verbal harassment, and I’m not sure exactly what they are trying to accomplish. Do they want me to turn around and introduce myself? Or do they want me to turn around and punch them in the face? Perhaps it’s something that men with low self-esteem issues do to make themselves look bigger; after all, most of the harassers on the street are usually in a group of guys. Regardless, it is rude and ugly and chauvinistic. To think, many of these men have mothers and sisters whom they would fight for if anyone were to verbally harass them!

This is to say nothing of the café culture around here. It is the norm for men to sit outside cafés with a tea on the table and a cigarette in their hand as they watch the world go by; and when I say the world, I mean women. The staring gets uncomfortable, especially for a westerner. Many Moroccan women wear a traditional garment called a kaftan. It is a type of closed, full-length robe that comes in various patterns and styles, all of which are meant to be worn loosely. Many women who chose to wear the kaftan also wear the hijaab, which means that really the only thing uncovered are their hands and face. Of course, this is a very different style of dress than western women. Pants are generally tight-fitting and many kinds of shirts are as well. So even if you were to walk through a city with jeans and a long-sleeve t-shirt, it would still be considered more provocative than the keftan and you would therefore merit more attention than a traditionally dressed Moroccan woman.

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to walk around Marrakech or even Meknes in a keftan and a hijaab. Undoubtedly I would be stared-at less, and the cat calls and chauvinistic comments would probably stop. I wonder if I would even be spoken to in English (because although I don’t quite look Moroccan, I don’t look American either). Someday, I want to try this experiment. But until then, I will wear what I want and keep ignoring the men here.

Marhaba ila al-Maghreb!

Welcome to Morocco! Apologies for not updating in a while. It has been a hectic first couple of weeks! I will, however, be writing multiple posts about my time here thus far. So to start off, let’s begin with my arrival to Al Akhawayn University.

I left BWI airport on a Tuesday afternoon: I tearfully said goodbye to my parents before the security check-point. Even though I’ve done this numerous times, it never gets any easier. Interestingly, the TSA officer asked me if I was going home, oblivious to my red eyes and sniffles. I responded, no, that I was actually leaving home; I then accepted my passport and boarding pass and walked through security–all the while waving back at my parents who were waiting for me to be out of eyesight. After a few deep breaths and a final air-kiss, I set off to find my gate. Luckily it wasn’t too far away and it was already boarding. So I got in line and waited to get on the first plane that would take me to New York.

On the plane, I sat next to a girl who looked to be my age. We quickly got into a conversation about where we were going (she back to school in California), where we were from (both from Maryland), but interestingly enough, I don’t think we ever exchanged names. All I remember is that she was blonde, majoring in nutrition, and going to Italy over the summer (it would be her first time abroad). We talked and talked before the plane departed 15 minutes behind schedule, and half way through the two hour flight, the conversation tapered off and we both tried to sleep. It seemed that I instantaneously woke up to hear the captain saying, “Flight attendants, please prepare the cabin for landing.” And before I knew it, we were on the ground at JFK International Airport. The blonde girl and I said our goodbyes and wished each other luck on a successful semester, and we departed ways as she set out to find food and I to find my gate.

I finally did find the gate on my boarding pass, but after about half an hour of waiting (read: unsuccessfully trying to put a screen protector on my iPad), I heard a girl answer a phone call and say that our gate had been changed. I looked up at the gate screen and, indeed, my gate had been moved all the way back to where I had arrived. So I packed up all my stuff to retrace my steps. As I was walking toward the correct gate, I stopped into a tech store and asked about screen protectors for the iPad. The store employees wouldn’t put on a cheap protector (for fear of messing it up and having bubbles), so I paid for a more expensive protector that was “bubble-free” and that they put on right then and there. In retrospect, it was well worth it. I continued on my quest to find the right gate number and finally found it with two hours to spare. Even with so much time left, there was a surprising number of people already waiting. It was difficult to find an empty spot for three people. I was waiting for two other girls, Angie and Rachael, who were on the same exchange program as me. We had been in contact all morning and I knew that Angie was coming straight from the city while Rachael was coming from the airport in Buffalo. Both of them called/texted me when they had trouble checking in (I had the same trouble myself–our tickets say that we are staying for four months, but you are only allowed to stay in Morocco for up to three months without a visa; this was resolved by showing the attendant the official letter from Al Akhawayn saying that they would help us apply for residency while we are here). Shortly after I sat down, I met Angie for the first time in-person and we sat for a bit, talking to each other. I ended up having to go use a charging station for my phone and go to the bathroom. By the time I came back, people were boarding the plane and it was almost Angie’s turn (she was in section 3, and I was in section 4). When my section finally got called, I went to stand in line–but where was Rachael? I tried calling her but there was no answer. Thankfully I saw her a few seconds later walking up to the line while talking on the phone. She told me all about how she had already had luggage and check-in problems, but she had finally made it (alhamdulilah). We were almost the last ones to board, and by the time we were about to enter the plane, the flight attendants were calling for passengers to check-in their carry-ons due to lack of overhead space. So Rachael and I checked-in our carry-ons, but I kept my backpack to put under the seat.

When I finally got to my window seat (the only place that I can ever fall asleep on a plane) in the very back, I let out a sigh of relief. I was on my way out of the US and into Morocco, via Spain. The American Airlines aircraft was extremely small: only two sides of three seats each with one aisle down the middle. I was used to international carriers having two aisles, with each side having two seats and the middle row having three. I had never been in such a cramped plane! My leg room was minimal and as I said before, there wasn’t enough room for carry-ons to be placed overhead. But no matter, the nice lady sitting next to me struck up a conversation on my exact thoughts: how small and cramped the plane was. She looked to be in her late sixties, and she was sitting next to a man about her age, who I initially took to be her husband. We got along quite well and quickly found out that we were both from western Maryland: she from Garrett county and I from Washington. Her and husband were both retired teachers who had taught in the public school system, and now they spent a lot of their time traveling the world and seeing lots of historical European cities. This was their first time to Madrid, and they were going with their neighbors (one of whom she was sitting beside). I asked her lots of questions about her travels and her son, who she was very proud of. It turns out that Budapest and Prague were her favorite cities and she told me of how she and her husband surprised their son at his graduation at the University of Hawaii–their flight was delayed and they got to the venue with only ten minutes to spare! It was only after a good hour after take-off that she introduced herself to me as Mary. It’s funny how traveling strips any necessity of introducing yourself to a travel companion. I wonder why. Is it that we feel it unnecessary to give our names to people who we will almost certainly never see again? Or is it that it is just easier to talk to people without having to force yourself to remember their name? Whatever the case, I kind of like it.

Anyways, after a six-hour flight, complete with mediocre food and minimal sleep (although I did manage to get a bit of shut-eye!), we landed in Madrid International Airport early Wednesday morning. The three of us (Angie, Rachael, and I) set out to find a place to sit for the next few hours until our connecting flight, and we settled for a side booth of a small café. There, we talked for a good hour and a half before attempting to 1) exchange money and 2) use the computer lounge a few yards away. I unsuccessfully tried to find a charger for my little black Russian Samsung phone that I’ve had for the past few years for travel, but I was able to get on the computers for about half an hour (for the equivalent of $10!) to send emails to my family, update Facebook, and even post a blog update here! After we had all had our fill of technology for the time being, we went to go look for our gate. We sat down among many Spanish businessmen and Moroccan nationals and began talking more; or rather, Angie and Rachael started asking me a bunch of questions relating to Morocco and what to expect. I wracked my brain to remember small details that would help in adjusting to the lifestyle and culture of the maghreb, and before we knew it, our plane started to board.

We flew Iberia, and it was definitely more comfortable than American Airlines. The plane was a little more than half full, so there was an empty seat in between me and the other man sitting in my row. Everything was in Spanish, which I appreciated. The last time I flew to Morocco, I took Royal Air Maroc, and everything was in French or Arabic. This time, I could at least understand most of what they were saying. It was a short one hour ride (during which I slept!), and when we finally landed in Casablanca, my heart skipped a beat. I was back in my second favorite country (the first, of course, being Brasil)! I never would have dreamed that I would be back here so soon after the summer. I knew that I wanted to come back after my wonderful experience in June and July, but to be here in January was definitely unexpected. Regardless, I stepped off the plane with happiness.

But that happiness was very short-lived. After passing swiftly through customs, Angie, Rachael, and I went to the currency exchange, then to the baggage carousel to collect our luggage. I spotted my big blue bag right away; Angie got her largest suitcase, and Rachael also retrieved her first checked bag. However, after a few minutes of no new bags coming through, a baggage attendant told us that there were no other bags coming out of our flight. So, each one of us had lost a piece of luggage on the transfer from Madrid to Casa! I was furious! Never had I lost a bag on a flight, and to make matters worse, I should never have had to check in my carry-on! We waited in line to make a baggage claim, which took forever for the three of us. Thankfully, the employees spoke english well and were very nice about the whole thing. They even let us use their phone to call the University to ask what to do. After we all had our claims forms in hand, I went to go buy a cheap mobile phone and sim card with some minutes and tried calling the “emergency number” for AUI (a.k.a. the cell phone number of the representative at the Office of International Programs, Meryem). She instructed us to get on the train to Fez and that she would work to get our bags to Ifrane. Tired, exasperated, and generally in bad moods, we all boarded the first train from the airport to the heart of Casablanca. We bought snacks from the food cart: water and cheese sandwiches. It was actually the best food that I had eaten since the start of my journey!

At Casa Voyegeurs about 30 minutes later, we got off and waited to board the next train to Fez. Angie and I paid two station employees to carry our luggage to the right platform (up and down so many steps!), and we stood at the platform for a while. A train came up and people boarded, but it was on the wrong track and ours didn’t leave for another 45 minutes. Eventually, a nice man came by and asked us where we were going and instructed us to board that train. Indeed, that was the train to Fez: to think that we would have missed it had not that man come along! So we struggled to get our luggage onto the elevated train wagon and eventually hauled all of our baggage into a first-class compartment. There was no way that we would be able to put our suitcases in the overhead compartment, so we settled for all of it blocking our leg room. The compartments have six seats, two rows of three seats facing each other (think of the compartments of the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter movies), so the three of us were able to spread out and fall asleep easily. It was after we had settled into our compartment that I was actually kind of thankful that I didn’t have my carry-on with me… it would have been extremely difficult to get that everywhere with my large suitcase as well!

I don’t know how long we slept, but the next thing I knew was that it was dark outside and there were two men entering our cabin who wanted to sit there. The other compartments must have been full, so we sleepily agreed to have them sit closest to the door. They struck up a conversation with us and, unsurprisingly, started flirting with us. We learned that they were finance students who lived in Meknes and worked in Khenifra. Their english was pretty good, so it was easy to communicate. Aside from the flirting, they were very nice and offered for us to visit them in the north, where they would be working next month (insert sarcastic laugh here). The best part of the conversation was when we were teaching each other phrases in our native languages: so they taught us some darija and we taught them some english slang (e.g. Rachael taught them what YOLO means).

After they got off at Meknes, another man, who had passed by us several times, came to sit in our cabin. He had darker skin and immediately started to talk to us in rapid-fire darija (Moroccan colloquial arabic). I barely caught anything of what he said, and he then figured out that we couldn’t speak to him in arabic or french. His english was much poorer than the other two men’s, and I took an intense disliking to him after he laughed when I said that I study philosophy in college (the topic of philosophy in Morocco is something that I shall write about later). When he learned that we were students at Al Akhawayn, he told us that his friend taught there and even called him up on his cell phone and gave it to me! I was extremely confused as to why anyone would do this, and awkwardly held a short conversation with the man on the phone. Apparently he teaches computer science here, so I will actually never meet him in person, thankfully. Anyways, the man helped us off the train when we got to Fez and promptly left us after we said that someone was already at the station waiting to pick us up.

It took another phone call to Meryem to tell her that we were in Fez and waiting to find the representative. She called the “student ambassador” and he eventually found us–we had walked right past him! After about ten minutes waiting in the train station café with some other students who had just arrived, we finally got into the AUI van and set off for the last hour of our trip. It was already around 9 or 10 at night, so it was dark and reminded me of my first trip from Fez to Ifrane in the school van at 1 AM.

It was a seemingly quick trip up to campus, and I was relieved to be dropped off in Building 38 again. After signing some papers and lugging my suitcase and backpack up three flights of stairs, I collapsed onto my bed and let out a long sigh. I had finally made it back to Al Akhawayn.

Bienvenido a España

Don´t make fun of my middle-school spanish. Just checking in and wanted to say I´ll be boarding a flight to Casablanca in the next hour. Wish me luck, and see you on the other side!

How to say Goodbye (for now)

I am currently on the train back to Princeton and I am wracking my brain as to how I’m going to accomplish everything before I leave on Thursday. It seems like so much! Finish my jp draft, see everyone, pack, get all that last-minute stuff done. I’ve already done one post on how I’m going to tackle my academics before my flight next Tuesday (oh my goodness!) so this post will be geared towards the more social aspect, and how I’ll be able to keep sane these next two days.

A few days ago, I was sending (and receiving) many of the same message: “are you back on campus yet?” Thankfully, all of the responses were positive and I was trying to make a mental note of those who I needed to see. Instead of taking any chances on my poor memory (okay it’s really not that bad, but I want to be sure I do everything right!), I came up with a list of people to meet with within these net two days. This list consists not only my friends, but also other important people like my boss at work, a few of my favorite professors, and administrators who know that I’ll be leaving the country. After I was done, the list turned out to be around 15 people, and although I really wanted to cut it down (how am I supposed to see everyone in such a short time?), I knew that this would be the last time I would see them in five months at least, and I really wanted to say goodbye because of how important they are to me. Of course I’ll be keeping in contact with most of them via the internet while I’m in al Maghreb, but nothing beats the good ol’ face to face..

This lead me to the question of timing. There must be a better way than just an individual goodbye. So I came up with the plan of killing many birds with one stone (for lack of a better metaphor): I could set up group activities (i.e. watching a movie, having dinner) that would allow me to see everyone that I want quickly and efficiently. Thankfully it’s the first week of reading period and people haven’t started panicking just yet about their work (except for my junior friends, everyone’s rushing to get their jps finished). So I’m sure that people would be up for a long dinner or coffee chat or even a movie.

I was going to write a section of this post on what to do if you miss someone to say goodbye, but only if I did. Unfortunately that’s already happened because my best friend from high school won’t be in Maryland anymore after I come home from Princeton. We were scrambling yesterday to try and make something work, but it ended up that neither of us could meet, and so that was it until May. Although I won’t be able to see her before I go, I plan on skyping her as soon as I get to AUI. So I’ll just see her a little after I go. Technology is wonderful these days and lets us keep in touch much easier, so I must take full advantage of it.

I don’t think it’s fully hit me yet that I won’t be seeing these people for the next five months. I’m sure it will, though, when I get to and settle in to Al Akhawayn.