I left Morocco on Friday and 26 hours later I finally set foot on the US. Upon my arrival I realized that it had been 6 months since I left the US. In those 6 months I had been to the Dominican Republic, South Africa, Guatemala, Morocco, Spain, and England (if you count layovers).
It was during my 12 hour layover in Spain that I came to realize just how lucky I was. The thought came to me this way: I just spent 7 weeks in Morocco, now I am having dinner in Spain and tomorrow I will have lunch in London just before having dinner in the US. Since I technically lived in Morocco, I could now also claim that I lived in 7 countries: Argentina, Guatemala, Brazil, Peru, The Dominican Republic, The US, and Morocco. In a previous post I briefly mentioned that I felt like I was in a sort of limbo, that I am a “citizen of the world,” or a “third culture kid.” I guess you could see why I make that claim.
Being raised in many countries is great, except for the part where you move and you basically lose all your friends and have to start over again. This not like the “start over” that you get to do when you go to college where you decided to make all these changes to your life. No, this is something that you don’t really want to do. Specially after the second or third time and even more so when you start getting older and true friends are harder to come by. On the good side, you get to experience many different cultures and places and the effects of that don’t really become evident until you have the opportunity of living in another country with someone who has never left his own country.
In this trip I met many people who had just gotten their first passport. In comparison, I traveled for the first time when I was about 6 months old. I went to Chicago where my dad was receiving part of his training as Master Brewer and Manager. I’ve held a passport ever since. I don’t think I ever filled one, and the 6 blank pages that I have mean that I still need to travel a lot more before I can fill it.
The point is flying around the world has been almost second nature to me and I began to take it for granted. The truth is I had not met many people who had not left their country until I came to the US. I think that being around those who had not left the country before, and that actually looked to make the most out of the experience (there were several who didn’t), was refreshing. It made me appreciate the places that we visited in Morocco even more.
But travelling so much did make me blind to some aspects of this trip. I was already used to living in different cultures and adapting to their ways so I found it hard to say that I was shocked or that I had a hard time getting used to living there. I was able to easily adapt to the food, the living space (it was quite the disappointment), the customs and the difference in language. I guess that may be one of the qualities of the “citizen of the world” and I think that this allowed me to concentrate on other aspects of the experience and to draw comparisons with other places I had visited before. The resemblance in landscape between Morocco and the dry regions of Peru, the streets in Kenitra that had a distinctive look that brought me back to Argentina and the white-washed coastline of Greece and the similarly looking coast of Tangier.
A few months back I finally grew enough to begin to actively appreciate the places that I visited. I promised to myself that from that point on I would always look to make the most out of my time travelling. I felt sad when I realized that I could not remember much of the places I visited in France, Greece and Italy after a tour around Europe with my family. We had such a great time and among the things that I remember most clearly is complaining that my legs hurt and that I did not want to walk anymore while we were in Versaille – I barely remember Versaille. So before going to Morocco, I promised that even if I did get tired, even if I was bored, even if I did not want to go, I would go and make the most out of each visit.
And so I did. I must say that I am glad that Kris did not let us get away from travelling to Sidi Ifni because looking back Sidi Ifni is among the best places that I went to during the trip. I was more interested in the North, but I think I did not know what I was talking about. Getting to meet the Dar Si Hmad team and talking to poor Amazigh villagers really changed my perspective of Morocco. The fact that the poor Amazigh villager was so aware and concerned about the world economy caught off guard and proved to me that poverty and isolation mean little nowadays.
This trip also made me reflect on some poor decisions that I had made in high school. I never put too much effort into my French classes and so I never reached a good level of proficiency. In Morocco, I wanted to go back in time and slap the **** out of my younger self. Oh how much I would have been able to share with the Moroccans!!! I missed so many opportunities to learn because of that stupid mistake from years ago. I looked at Rey with envy every time he spoke in French because I could not get my message across as clearly as he could. Seriously, whoever thinks that learning a second or third language is not worth his time needs to sit down and get his, sorry for the word, shit straight. If the ability to share and learn with people from around the world is not enough to convince you then think of the doors that will open before you career-wise when you speak multiple languages. As a result of my extreme frustration, I have set myself a new goal: Learn French. And Portuguese, but French first. Now I can hear the voice of my French teacher: “Alan, now that you are leaving Peru don’t stop learning French. Go to the Alliance Française if you need to, but don’t let all this time you spent go to waste.” – I’m sorry. I did.
On the academic side of things, writing this paper showed me that I need to really work on my organization, my writing and my confidence. I was easily swayed by other people’s opinions and failed to develop strong, informed opinions of my own. I’m not sure how I will work to resolve this issue, but I have to figure something out.
In the end being back to the US doesn’t feel like a relief, but I have a much different perspective of Worcester than I did before thanks to Shady. I left WPI thinking that I was stuck in the middle of nowhere and returned knowing how little I actually knew about both the University and the City. Among my plans for this year is to get out of the cave and get to know both better. Although I think I had an excuse for my wrong impressions: I had some strong culture shock and I dedicated all of my time to studying – My work/life balance was unbalanced.
I think this sums it up quite well. I’m sure that in the coming weeks I’ll notice other changes to my personality that resulted from this trip, but these are the ones that are most obvious to me at the moment. Oh, by the way, I miss the call to prayer. The students who went to Morocco last year said they missed it and I didn’t believe them. It’s true. Every now and then I will hear a faint distant noise that resembles the voice of the muezzin and I will instinctively check the time to see if it actually is the call.