Africa

Triumphant Return, Tearful Goodbye

There are some things that never change, and where I am in the globe certainly isn’t one of them!  Somehow, after a long plane ride over the Atlantic, I ended up in the U.S.  How did that happen?  I’m back to the land of wide-open spaces, huge malls, and, of course, the birthplace of fast food!  Again, when did this happen?

I began my surreal excursion back home around 4:30 in the morning three Saturdays ago.  Since I felt it completely unnecessary to try to go to sleep at what I considered the ungodly early hour of 9pm to try to get a good night’s sleep before the quick succession of long plane rides, I decided to stay up all night watching movies and generally craving random Moroccan foods and pastries until the bus our program arranged for us came to take us to the airport.  I couldn’t have asked for a better last night in Morocco.  The day before all of this travel, I had visited my host family for the last time, and against my best efforts to restrain myself, I began to cry as I tried to leave.  My host mom was the only one left to say goodbye to me on my last full day in Morocco; my sister had retreated to her room because she hates goodbyes, my host dad was asleep, and the rest of my siblings had left for school.  This arrangement was, in all likelihood, the best because I’m sure in such a large household, there would have been hysteria otherwise.

So at 4:30am I boarded the bus after staying up for all but 30 minutes of 24 hours, and made my way to the airport.  First, when we arrived at the airport at 5:30 am, we found the airport completely dark, and with not one employee in sight.  Luckily, after about an hour, several security officers opened the doors for the waiting group of us and what appeared to be a Chinese tour group.  However, then there was the unfortunate agony of having an overweight bag, which I’m sure is every Go Girl’s worst nightmare, and was definitely mine as I attempted to sort through my random assortment of clothes and Moroccan presents I had bought for my family back in the US.  As I was sorting through my things trying to figure out just how much more I could stuff into my backpacking backpack to make my other suitcase lighter, a German woman pulled her suitcase up next to mine and we commiserated over the exact same problem.  Three kilos of stuffing and trashing various disposable items later, I was walking through the showy security in the Rabat airport, onto the tarmac, and onto my little plane heading for Paris.  It was a liberating experience.  The problems with my bags coupled with a general lack of sleep made me feel more than happy to be leaving, but just as the plane was charging down the runway for takeoff, I was overcome with sadness at leaving the place and people I had come to know for the past three months.  I wouldn’t say it was regret for leaving, but sadness that I was leaving so soon.  I had just begun to explore the wondrous Moroccan Mediterranean coast, and there was so much more to see and experience! So, I have a feeling that despite my tendency to want to visit other places (and there are so many other places in the world I should and need to visit!) I think I will make my way back to Morocco at some point.

Unlike my trip to Morocco, I was lucky to be traveling with friends this time.  Unfortunately, none of them were taking the same flight back to the US from Paris, but I had a couple extra fun-filled hours with them as we inched through security in Charles de Gualle airport.  We gazed longingly at the relatively gourmet dishes and pastries, and felt personally insulted by the outrageous prices.  Then it was off to Philadelphia!  I boarded my packed flight filled with Americans from what sounded like across the country as they attempted to use their French for the last time to the French attendants who spoke English.  As I saw this, the experience of the past three and a half months of speaking French came flooding back to me and it seemed so funny to me that some of the people around me couldn’t understand French.  It was an odd feeling to suddenly be in the linguistic majority.  This feeling doubled as our six-hour flight, which was for me filled with several movies, finally landed in Philadelphia airport.

I almost began crying when I saw the city from above.  It seemed like an eternity since I had been there last.  I composed myself in one of the bathrooms in the airport, made it to customs in one piece, and prepared myself for the long wait in the baggage claim area.  However, one thing I was definitely not expecting was to speak French again, but that’s exactly what happened!  As I was dutifully waiting for my bags at the carousel, an airport employee, who was helping an older French woman in a wheelchair and her husband collect their bags, came up right next to me.  I could immediately see there was some trouble with communication happening since she and her husband only spoke French and the employee only spoke English, so I interjected and helped both sides figure out what was going on.  Afterward, the employee thanked me for helping me out and asked me where I learned to speak French like that.  After telling him I had spent the past three months abroad, he told me he wished he could learn some more languages, particularly French and Spanish, and told me he wanted to go to a language center.  My mind immediately turned to my host sister, and I was proud that same feeling didn’t just exist on one side of the world.

Jessica
Jessie was born into a traveling family. After going on vacations across Europe with her family growing up, she has always had the desire to travel. So when she got the opportunity to travel to Thailand and Cambodia with the non-profit group, Teachers Across Borders, she discovered her love of studying other cultures and hasn’t been able to let it go. From her experiences in Cambodia, she became involved in the non-profit organization, Cambodia’s Children Education Fund, and has followed her interest in education to Morocco. She’s. She’s currently studying culture, Arabic, and education in Morocco, and has been fortunate to become a sister in a large family of 9 living in the Medina of Rabat. You can follow along as she discovers Moroccan family life, culture, and a little bit about herself as she reflects upon her experiences.

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