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O Fim duma Viagem

Saying Goodbye

MOROCCO | Thursday, 31 July 2014 | Views [350]

When I got back to my house, I gathered up the presents I'd previously gotten for my host family and went upstairs. These presents had been purchased back in Chicago, and I'd meant to give them to my host family when I first arrived. But then Saida was there pretty consistently for the first two weeks, and I didn't have anything for her. And then there were other cousins, and before I knew it I was in Dakar and still hadn't found the chance to give my host family presents. I decided to make it a parting gift instead.

 Consequently, the presents were in bags in my room whenever my host mother came in to straighten up. I wonder what she thought as she looked at the bags that I hadn't yet given away. But now it was finally time.

 I went upstairs with the bags, then sat down and waited about half an hour for her to finish cooking. Then, with a moment to make sure I wasn't mixing them up, I gave my host mother containing the bag with a book of images of Chicago, my host sister a pad of paper and map of Cantigny (Civil war museum and gardens near my house. Also a golf course, though that's less important) and a scarf I'd knit, and my host father a baseball cap from the Chicago Botanical Gardens with a map of that. I tried to say “flowers” in Darija, but apparently that's masculine and not feminine. Megan's Arabic name threw me off.

 My host family seemed to like their presents. They thanked me, and I tried to thank them even more. The past seven weeks simply would not have been possible without them. I was certainly the one with more to be thankful for.

 After that, I needed to go to the farewell dinner with IES. It was being held at a Golden Tulip. Nisrine had told us that we could turn left from the Mdina, or we could get a taxi. Natasha, Erika, and Cynthia caught a taxi together. Megan and I walked there. Nathan walked alone, trying to catch a taxi the entire way.

 Several times, I'd wanted a walk and had ended up leaving through the Sidi Fatah meeting point and walking along the edge of the Mdina until I reached the gate, or vice versa. During those walks, I'd noticed the Golden Tulip. The Golden Tulip was the last notable thing I saw before the entrance Natasha and Cynthia take to get home. They ended up feeling really silly about taking a taxi for only a block or two.

 Megan and I were the first students to arrive. We were looking around confused for a little bit when I noticed Fatima waving at us. So we went in to sit down next to her and waited for everyone else to show up. Nisrine was already there with someone I didn't recognize. Professor Adli was next, then Nathasha, Erika, and Cynthia, then Oussama and his wife, then Nathan and finally Ahmadi. Once everyone had arrived, we could go up to ftour, which was a buffet on the fifth floor. We arrived there at about the same time the horn to signal the end of the fast was blowing. Which was pretty perfect timing.

 The buffet was good, though we weren't quite sure which way to go around. The way that most people were going around would have had us starting with dessert. When the regular part of the meal contains rif with honey and almond-cinnamon-chicken buns, it doesn't really matter how uncertain life is. Dessert can be eaten after protein.

 One of the desserts was, essentially, honey fried honey. Neither Natasha, Cynthia, nor I could finish it, or even finish half of one of them. (They were about the size of a donut, only with more empty space in between.) But they had chocolaty desserts like cake that I was able to finish.

 They had tea, which we all helped ourselves to knowing it would be the last chance we'd get to have real Moroccan tea for a while. At one point we noticed Nathan pouring sugar into his cup and stared at him in horror until he explained that they'd just brought out a new pot, and it hadn't been sweetened. Everyone else thought the tea was pretty sweet, even after they'd been here for seven weeks.

 Near the end of the meal, Oussama got up to give a speech about how we'd learned so much during our study abroad, and we should be sure to put it in our resumes, because study abroad lead to increased maturity, confidence, ability to understand the cultures of us and others, and understanding of the world. He'd told us similar things after Senegal, but it felt truer to be applied to the entire Morocco experience than one week in Senegal.

 Then Ahmadi stood up and talked (in French) about how much we'd all learned, and how we had a much deeper understanding of the issues affecting Morocco and the middle east, and how he hoped we would try and share some of that knowledge back in the United States. He also repeated his earlier offer that if any of us needed letters of recommendation, we should not hesitate to ask him.

 “So we all passed?” Natasha asked.

Ahmadi hit her lightly in the “oh, you” way.

“So we didn't all pass?”

“No. You did.”

We all breathed a slight sigh of relief. Barring anything really weird, if we'd passed politics, we'd passed literature as well. So we could leave Rabat sad but content in all that we'd learned.

 Then we presented the IES staff with a poster of hand-drawn pictures of all of the students, faculty, and other staff. I hadn't been around when it was being created (I missed the Facebook message that people were meeting for it) but I had been around for the first draft on a whiteboard, and voted on it being our present to the staff. And I gave up one of the hair ties on my wrist so that the poster wouldn't unroll, so I contributed something.

 Once we were done eating, we went outside to take pictures. There was a nice view, and this was our last chance to take pictures with any of the staff. So we took a few full pictures, and also a few selfies with Fatima and Ahmadi. Fatima takes the best selfies.

Fatima and the Female IES Students

 Then it was over. We had to be up for a flight in a couple of hours, but none of us were ready to leave the other. (Natasha was a proponent of having no one sleep so we're d be sleep-deprived and delirious on the bus back and it would be hilarious. I never agreed to this plan. I was hoping to get some sleep so that I would be able to recognize and remember the hilarious moments of the other's sleep-deprived deliriousness. But I wasn't about to be the first to go home.

 We walked back alongside the Bouregreg. Then we got into the swings at the carnival. I ended up in the inside seat, which was probably the scariest, since the seats tilted towards the middle, so it was most dramatic difference. I didn't feel that scared, though. Mostly, it was freeing to be spinning around with the wind in my hair and a sight of Rabat.

 Once we were on ground and able to walk in a semi-straight line again, we went to sit down by the edge of the Bouregreg. We talked about the things we'd miss and the things we wouldn't and what we'd been thinking on the flight over and what we were thinking now and a lot of other things in between and beyond. And we enjoyed each other's company, knowing it was the last time together in Rabat.

 A bit after 12, we got up and headed back to our homes. Along the way, we said goodbye to Erika, since she was taking a different flight out of Morocco. (Train to Casablanca, then Casablanca to Barcelona, where she was meeting her parents and a friend. Everyone else was going Rabat to Paris, then Paris to Chicago or Paris to Minneapolis.)

 I walked up the stairs, ready to collapse into bed for my couple of hours of sleep before getting up for the plane. My host mother got my attention to give me a present. I took it out of the bag and found a ceramic babouche and a long bead necklace. As if they needed to get me anything else after the past 7 weeks of care. I admired it and thanked her, then said goodnight, all in Daruja. Not much longer before I wouldn't need have opportunities to use it anymore.

 I carefully wrapped her gift in fabric, trying to send a reminder strong enough that I'd remember it when I was unpacking my suitcase, to be careful with it. Then I got ready for bed and turned on my alarm. The alarm I'd set to leave Dakar worked. “Alarm set for 2 hours and 33 minutes from now.” Sdjsdldjs. I needed some sleep, so I pushed away any anxieties about leaving Morocco or US Passport Control and waited for sleep. It came before my alarm, which is all I could really ask for.

Tags: endings, gifts, river, speeches

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