Tuesday, December 14, 2010

True Life: I'm a Fulbright Alum

I’m staring at my 2 suitcases in the shambles of my Rabat apartment (how many bags can I check again?), glass of wine empty, crumbs from my birthday cake all over my table. Iron & Wine’s 10-minute song, “The Trapeze Swinger” is playing from somewhere. The song of closure. 

Today’s my 24th birthday. If you haven’t already noticed, I tend to get nostalgic around big life change, and today is no different. I woke up before dawn today and meditated over all this year has been. Remember my 23rd birthday in Fes, the night before my Arabic final exam? Oh, what did I know back then? I can’t believe how much I’ve grown and learned since then…and how much I have left to learn. 

Tomorrow I leave Morocco indefinitely. What an amazing 15 months this has been. And for nostalgia’s sake, here are some highlights. Remember this?:

-living with my host family in Fes
-The multi-colored Moroccan wedding
-The Red Tent, living with Caitlyn
-Fulbright retreat in Azrou, having our boss point out various species of monkeys.
-Camel trek into the desert, sleeping in a Berber tent. The infinite reach of the desert sky.
-Ameoibic dysentery with Tim and Cathy
-Floyd the goiter. Ugh, all the CRAZY medical issues I’ve had in this country.
-ALIF and the friends there
-Becoming a resident of Morocco (temporary, but still)!
-All the holidays, Kibeer, Sagheer, Christian, Muslim, what have you. Each one marked some special occasion across cultures
-Steve and Shi-Hsia’s wedding in Malaysia, Autumn & Mike’s wedding in WI
-Christmas in Dubai. Why yes, I did eat chocolate truffles covered in real gold, thankyouverymuch.
-New Years in Agadir with Edris & Julie. My 2010 New Year’s Resolution was to learn. I think I accomplished this pretty well.
-Team Chessington at the Marrakech ½ marathon
-Cooking. Eating. Conversation. Repeat.
-The AMRVT and the survivors & activists I’ve met. The stories I’ve heard that have made me cry, made me angry, and restored my hope in humanity.
-The June 26th UN Day in Support of Victims of Torture in Casablanca.
-My apartment miracle in Rabat. Breakfasts watching the sunrise over the Atlantic ocean. I will never take this for granted.
-Visiting communal reparations programs around the country
-Surfing & Capoeira, and especially the friends I’ve made via
-Les Celliers de Meknes. The most hashuma wine tour ever.
-hammams. Who knew I could possibly BE that dirty?!
-The Fulbright Symposium: explaining a half-century of human rights abuse and the solutions thereof in 20 minutes.
-Traveling alone, traveling in groups
-Lebanon, Syria, Jordan
-Gnaoua festival in Essaouira. Dinner with the producer of the tv show 24.
-Riding a motorcycle for the first time in my life- through the slums of Casablanca
-Dealing with a real-life stalker and security issues abroad
-Al Hoceima with C and the Womb. 
-Discussing religions. Lent & Ramadan (both times)

These were just the big events. Each day was itself filled with discovery, adventure, failures, and small triumphs. And each of these days add up to a beautiful existential education.

I’ve been reading back through old blogs, and what I wrote previously rings true tonight, on the quiet eve of Something New:

Just as February marks a tough spot for me every year, December is always a very reflective time. Because of the concurrence of my birthday (another year older, yikes!), Christmas (the holiday that started it all for me), and the New Year, I usually take some intentional time to take stock of what was, what is, and what is to come. 2009 was an incredible year. I graduated, moved to Morocco and began to set up a life for myself”
…2010 was also an incredible year. I moved, established a life, dove head-on into research and produced something that I am proud of  [NOTE: If you want to read my final report, please message me with your email address and I’ll send it along. Beware, it’s 52 pages.] And beyond this, I made some beautiful friends, had some great laughs, and have laid my eyes on the most beautiful scenery on earth, hands-down. 

“One year ago at this time, I remember worrying over post-graduation jobs and looking into 2009 as some gigantic uncertain haze. But now I see how all the threads were connecting to bring me exactly where I needed to be.”
…And one year ago at THIS time, I remember worrying about shifting my life from Fes to Rabat, worrying about starting my research and making community. But I should have learned: all the threads ARE connected to weave this tapestry of Growth and Experiences into something priceless. 

Morocco: it’s been real. I’m terrible at goodbyes, so I’ll just say “see you later!” And, indeed, I know deep in my bones that we haven’t seen the last of each other. 

Next post: lessons learned from My Moroccan Life. 

“’How did it go so fast?’
You’ll say as we are looking back.
But then you’ll understand:
We held gold dust in our hands.”