Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Beginning

Salam. Greetings to all from room 301 of the Majestic Hotel, Avenue Hassan II. It is my fourth day of life here in Rabat and the sixth day of this semester abroad. Before we get underway, I would like to apologize about the title of this little internet publication. I was going for something clever that gives off a ‘read-my-blog-because-the-title-is-interesting’ feel. I was unable to fit the bill, so I fell back on the trusty and slightly mediocre alliteration that you see above. I would appreciate suggestions for new names.

I will also explain the background of how I came to be in Rabat for those who do not know. I decided to apply to BU’s International Development Program in Niamey, Niger over a year ago, and since then I have been looking forward to my time there with great anticipation. I was fortunate enough to spend more than 2 years of my life in different countries in West Africa, and the prospect of returning, this time independently, was very exciting. In preparation, I studied Hausa with my father this fall. After being accepted to the Niger program and while I was busy with the end of the semester, as well as gearing up physically and mentally for my trip, the program was cancelled by BU because of security concerns in the country.

This was very disappointing, and it threw my spring semester into limbo. After a couple of weeks, I eventually decided to enroll in the Rabat Language & Liberal Arts Program. The program had not initially piqued my interest, I had no burning desire to study Arabic, and the classes would not count towards my human geography and environmental studies. But I had the chance to live and learn in another country, and I felt confident in my ability to adapt to whatever would come my way in Morocco. Waiting until next year to study abroad was also out because of my planned living arrangements (12 Verndale #2, here I come). Basically, this was my chance and I took it, and I can now say with confidence that I am very happy with my decision!

This week has been hectic and crazy in many ways. It started with packing and some sad goodbyes to family, loved ones, and friends. But everyone in my life understands why I am here, and they are very supportive of me. For that I am grateful. Then came 2 days of travelling, which I generally enjoy. The highlight was the flight from Newark to Paris when I watched three movies I have been meaning to see: Away We Go (with ‘fuckups’ John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph), Julie & Julia (food and love, what more do you need in life), and Up. I thoroughly enjoyed them all, and I especially recommend the first two. Air France’s food and wine is also better than you might think.

The longest layover in history followed in Charles de Gaulle airport, though the fact that it was my birthday helped a bit. I can proudly say that I spent part of my 21st birthday sleeping under a bench in Paris! The ‘thrill’ of discovering how to spend all my money going out to bars and buying booze legally in the U.S. will have to wait until May, although I am sure I will figure out how to do that here.

After a 2 hour and 50 minute flight we touched down at the Rabat-Sale Airport. Finally Morocco! In true fashion, we walked giddily across the tarmac from our plane. I could sense immediately that I was back in Africa, though it was not the stifling embrace that I remember from Guinea or the hot blast of Burkina Faso. Despite my fatigue I was smiling wide. Smells are very important for me, and my nose told me that this was the same continent that I have known in the past. It is hard to describe, but I think those who have had similar experiences can relate.

Yet this trip is different in two key ways. With the guidance of the Center for Cross-Cultural Learning (hereafter the CCCL or the Center), and of course within the framework of BU study abroad, I will be figuring things out for myself. This is the first time that I have lived abroad independent of my family, especially my father. I know it will be good for me, but at the same time it is sort of scary. He has always been there as guide, interpreter, guard, authority, storyteller and all the other roles a loving father can play, but now it is all on me. I relish the opportunity, but I will very much be missing him. I only hope that I can become confident enough to bargain for purchases as well as he does.

The second main difference is the newness of the country and the city I will be living in until the beginning of May. What a place Morocco is, such an amazing country. I visited Casablanca in 2008 while on a layover with Royal Air Maroc, but that was limited to the western-style and somewhat sterile airline hotel and a whirlwind tour of a few of the city’s sites. I was grateful for the chance to get a taste of Morocco, especially the orange juice, but I could not have foreseen the events that would bring me to live here a year and a half later.

1 comment:

  1. Hi John David!
    I will read your Musings with interest (I like the alliteration!) Not least because I'm hoping to take a trip to Morocco with the fam next fall. A quick thought on the Sob'a - could the word have been an Arabic translation of sopa, the Spanish word for soup? It sounds like a ratatouille a bit.
    Yours culinarily,
    Martha McManamy