Tag Archives: Rabat

2013! And…the Welcome Home post.


Well, hello again, Blog! It’s been awhile. Last I posted was a day or two after my little brother’s birthday, which was in September. In the intervening months, I read a whole lot of philosophy (that’s my major. Nice and practical) and did a bunch of other stuff, too. Turned 21. Started baking bread. Considering running away to Japan to study Zen soon as I graduate. Applied to graduate. Applied to graduate!

Remember that one time I studied abroad in Morocco?


Around Thanksgiving, a friend of mine who was studying in Rabat at the time (WASSUP MAMA SAM!!!) asked what the transition back home had been like, because it looked like it was going to be a rough ride.  When I started to reply, I realized that it was the first time I’d really thought about it–about putting that transition into words for another human being to read. I think it turned into a bit of a novel. Oh, well. So as we all kick off the new year, I’m going to tell you about transitioning home. All yous guys coming back from study abroad, this is for you.


In a way I’m still adjusting back from Morocco. I’ve got some pictures and my red blanket hanging on my bedroom wall, I doodle Arabic on my class notes, I make Moroccan tea ALL THE TIME. My experience in Morocco informs the way I think, behave, and interact with the world to this day (or whatever). It’s not as though you get back, endure 3 weeks of shitty culture shock, and then everything’s back to normal.

Nah. It’s way, way better than that.

(Ooh, that was dramatic. Suspense. Suspense. Woo!)

Here’s the thing–you get to Morocco, and what’s it like? HOLY CRAP NEW CITY NEW CULTURE NEW COUNTRY NEW LANGUAGE WHOA WHOA WHOA WHOA and every day brings you new awkward experiences, new laughs, new places you never thought you’d be, new words you never thought you’d say. It’s a constant barrage of discovery, and even when you start forming routines and begin to feel like you have an “everyday life” of some kind, you’re still not done adjusting. It’s a bit like that coming home, except…actually, no, it’s not like that coming home at all. Well, maybe just a bit.

Because let’s be real: studying abroad, particularly in a place like Morocco, is like climbing into a cannon (like the ones at the circus) and blasting yourself straight out of your comfort zone. In fact, the explosion obliterates your comfort zone. You don’t even have one anymore. So for one thing, you’re better equipped to handle the transition back than you think you are–hell, you already handled the transition
there. Possibly the worst thing you’ll face when you come back is your own disillusionment, and maybe some frustration with how little this world has changed compared to how much you’ve changed.

But seriously, you’ve probably only gotten more awesome in your time away. You’ve gained a lot of valuable skills in a lot of areas, you’ve thought new thoughts, you’ve left the bubble, and you’re looking at returning to the bubble, and maybe that weirds you out a bit. It should. It is sort of weird coming back. But it’s also not weird at all, because it’ll be so, so familiar. You’ll eat a bagel or a hot dog and LOVE it. You’ll hear some new Britney song that you don’t know all the words to. You’ll have missed some internet thing like YOLO or Friday or whatever. You’ll have some awesome stories to tell.

You’ll realize that you can answer those questions you’ll get that seem so obvious, even ignorant, to you – “did they make you wear a bourka?” – with patient “no, actually…”s, and you’ll be able to answer that silly old question that everyone knows is ridiculous but asks anyway: “so, how was Morocco?”

It was good. How was your quarter?

Because, well, it was good! Parts of it probably sucked, but at least for me, those parts were worth it–and, in retrospect, necessary for that experience to have been what it was. Sure it was life-changing, or whatever, but epiphanies are rare things, and life is always changing. And maybe, in the grand scheme of things, four months in Morocco isn’t the hugest deal in the world. And that should be a relief. And the transition home won’t be a super massive upheaval, probably. You’ll be okay.

I guess I’d say allow your past experiences to inform the way you shape your outlook on the present, in small ways. I cook dishes my family taught me to make sometimes. I speak darija to myself sometimes when I’m cleaning. Sometimes, I listen to Cheb Khaled while I do my homework. And then again, sometimes I don’t. It’s whatever. I keep in touch with my host family, on and off. They’re still wonderful.

I don’t think culture shock is always as crappy as it’s made out to be, it’s just a handy term for getting-used-to-where-you-suddenly-find-yourself. Going to college is culture shock, in a way, and I imagine graduating college is going to be a kind of culture shock too. I mean, hell, we live our lives in a constant state of evaluating and re-evaluating the way we live them, and we’re always striving to do something good with whatever that might be. Or something.

And yeah, the first few weeks do suck, or can suck, or might suck, but it gets better. And try not to presuppose that it definitely will suck, because maybe it won’t. Who knows?


That’s all I can think of to say, at least out of my own experiences. You’ll be great.


I always feel fancy when I do the above three-centered-asterisks-subject-change thing.

I’ve heard some people, bloggers, teachers, say they wish study abroad-ers would come back and write a bit more in their blogs after coming home. Updates on the transition, and all. So here it is, blog-sphere! Here I am!

Though the transition back to normal college life was a lot harder than I expected it to be, I’m doing really well, everyone. Hello, world! I’m still alive! Probably going to graduate on time, too! Definitely want to go back to Morocco sometime!

And wasn’t it just a wild ride?

I’ll probably come back to this blog, sometime. When I travel. When something cool happens. When I learn something cool or read a new Morocco-book. When I feel like it. You stay cool, gentle reader. Catch ya on the flip side.


MOROCCO SIBLINGS AND ROOMIE!!!! SMILES!!! Boy, how I miss these kids. Pax in terra, everyone.




New pants! Thanks, Bellarmine Hall donation bin. Whoever in Bell that wears my size pants and donated them. I needed pants. (badly.)

Here is the current transition situation: this whole thing is a big pile of awesomeness and headaches. Figuring out leases, being unemployed, sleeping on couches, reading books, exclaiming enthusiastically upon meeting someone I haven’t seen in five months, getting sometimes frustrated or overwhelmed or headachey until I go to some quirky Seattle café and get some dark, black, AMERICAN HAHAHAHA I LOVE IT coffee and chat with personable baristas that I remember from back when and read books by Milan Kundera or Slavoj Žižek (I’m really smart, didn’t you know?) (actually, he just published 1,000 pages on Hegel in a weighty tome called Less Than Nothing, which is funny because it’s 1,000 friggin pages of a lot more than nothing. No, I’m on page 12. I’m not that smart. I just like to appear smart in cafés) and that always raises my spirits.

This is my third café of the day, and do you know what it isn’t? A MAN CAFÉ. HEMDULLILAH.

Funny story, I’d typed all the “café”s in this entry without the ´ over the E, because I thought now that I’m in the U.S. the accent looks pretentious, but then when I read it over I pronounced it cafe as incapewith an F instead of a P and it sounded pretty dumb in my head so I replaced them all with És.

Here’s what I find myself doing: randomly writing stuff in Arabic all over the place, saying stuff like “oh. mushkil,” in my head, and scrolling through our cohort’s facebook page every time I’m on the computer. All my girls and boys have become so…so…cyber-real now that we’re not together in Morocco anymore, whereas all my home-friends have become real real, and DUH KATIE OF COURSE THEY DID but I didn’t realize just how polarized these worlds would be. Morocco feels like another universe: though I can recall every detail as soon as I close my eyes, I can’t seem to finds the words or pictures or anything that brings it to life for my old friends, who seem both excited and unsure about what I’m doing here. Well, I’m excited and unsure about what I’m doing here, too, so we’re on the same page.

And then there’s the whole realization that nobody really cares about Morocco, which is also sort of funny. It doesn’t bother me, it’s just kind of funny–that what happened over there really only matters to 1) my friends, or 2) the very small minority of people who know about Morocco. Then I remember that we all have our bubbles, and that Morocco is a new bubble that I inhabit alone here, and that’s okay.  The French in France people will have their France bubbles, the IDIPers have their IDIP bubbles, the SUers who stuck around had their Winter-Spring 2012 bubble, I have my Morocco bubble. The fun part will be blowing our bubbles at each other–if we can find the words, if we can find the pictures. I’m still working on that.

(blowing our bubbles at each other? I think I need an editor.)

I swear, though, if I hear one more “Arabic! Wow. Squiggles and dots, right?!” I WILL SQUIGGLE YOU. Arabic is a LANGUAGE with LETTERS THAT ARE CONNECTED. Okay, I’m not being fair, because I’d have said the same thing before I learned anything about it. In fact, I probably did. In fact fact, I think the only reason that it bothers me is because I don’t like to be reminded that I’m not in Morocco anymore. Which is also unfair because I’m not in Morocco anymore, and simply by virtue of their not-being-in-Morocco-either, other people constantly remind me of it. Squiggles and dots. Ha.

You know, I even feel a little guilty typing that. Who do I think I am, judging people like that? SHUT UP, KATIE. It’s just so surreal to not be complaining about Al-Kitaab to the English-speaking Arabic students around me (a sure-fire way to start a conversation with any student in Morocco), and instead have English-speaking Normal People look impressed by my practically nonexistent Arabic skills. Bizarre. Also, hearing English everywhere: bizarre. The flow of traffic: bizarre. The price of bread/fruit/anything: BIZARRE. The coffee: INCREDIBLE.

However, let me counter this withjust how muchI’ve felt welcomed in the past few days: people who, even though we’re barely even acquaintances, remembered that I’d been in Morocco and looked excited to see me home. People who squeal in excitement and make sure I know that they’re interested in my experience there, who want to grab coffee and catch up, who can’t wait to catch me up on news of home, who want to cook Moroccan food with me sometime. As isolated as I’ve been from this community, I’m reminded upon my return of why I missed it so much.

I’m still nervous about coming back for senior year, though. I feel so done with college, and the concept of a whole ‘nother year is a bit daunting at the moment. Nervous about choir, which is very different from what it’s been in the past. Nervous about math class and houses. Living in this weird couchsurfey limbo, till I figure out whether my summer sublet (in the house I’ll be living in come fall) fell through or not (I’ll be temporarily homeless if so, how sad).

So, now that I’m rambling, let me wrap this up with a life-summary: my current existence is as comically disoriented and disorganized as my brain, which plans no farther than 5 days in advance (and even that’s a stretch) and has been reading books and drinking coffee rather than doing anything constructive for my life or future. I’m living by the seat of my new donation-bin pants, both happy and frustrated to be back in Seattle. I am going to try to start writing more stories about things. Maybe I’ll take a writing stories class or something. I am going to keep updating this blog, probly, because what else will I do in my 3rd café of the day?

Okay, this is enough. Peace out, y’all!


Absence makes the heart grow farter


It’s funny the things that I think of, now that I’m – what – 2 weeks gone from Morocco? Oddball memories occur to me every so often, of classmates and Moroccans and funny stuff that we did.

For example: yesterday, I thought of my tiny, devious revenge on catcallers in the street.

Now, YOU all know how much intestinal distress I had in Morocco. I’d be walking along, minding my own business, when (of course), I’d need to relieve some of that gaseous pressure building up down there. One time in February or March, this sudden need to pass wind coincided with a particularly explicit catcall by a passing male.

So, obviously, I farted as he walked by.

…And cackled maniacally!

Some of these catcallers do what I call The Swoop: he’ll swoop in waaaayyyyyy too close to an unsuspecting woman’s face, whisper something filthy, and then swoop out again before she has a chance to react. It’s a really unsettling experience, even after you get used to it; nobody wants to feel a strange man’s breath on her ear, whispering something dirty, before he swoops out again and goes back to his wife and grandkids (no, I’m not kidding. Gross, huh?). So I began to fart whenever they did it, and it always gave me this sort of goofy satisfaction: take THAT, I’d think, with (probably unwarranted) vindictive pleasure. Smell my FARTS, you STUPID CATCALLING MAN!

This became my own silent (but deadly) retaliation against any sexual harassment I encountered during my time in Morocco. If someone followed me, I farted. If someone grabbed me, I farted. If someone catcalled me, I FARTED. I could only hope that after I passed, supremely ignoring them, they’d catch a whiff of Intestinal Distress and wrinkle their noses in disgust. It was, as I recall, the only upside to having tummy issues during their time there: I had an inexhaustible supply of farts to aim in the direction of people yelling at me.

And then I’d giggle. I remember chatting about this with some other girls in my cohort, a few of whom had taken up the same silent battle against catcalling: harassment vs. gas. How else could we fight, when middle fingers and harsh words won’t work, but ignoring them wasn’t enough to satisfy us? Farts.

I am a dignified and mature woman.

Coming up soon: How to Cruciate Catcallers (another of my altogether useless but entirely satisfying methods of fighting the eternally losing battle against sexual harassment: the Cruciatus Curse). Stay tuned!

Or I could make my OWN meme…


It’d be something like “study abroad student comes home,” probably featuring a confused-looking college student wearing vaguely ethnic clothing (christ, doesn’t this girl realize how hollow words like “ethnic” are when used in that context? How insensitive. Culture Shock is no laughing matter, nor is the Inappropriate Use of Cultural Symbols Like Clothing. Jeez).  There would be captions like, “LOOKS AT FACEBOOK/WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE!?” or “/BAGELS” or “WTF IS THIS SHIT / $ ”

I suppose that last meme would apply to anyone who didn’t go to a Euro country, for whom the dollar would be a blessed relief. I, however, have found myself far less rich than I was in Morocco, where a kilo of fresh oranges cost me 6 dirhams (remember that exchange rate? Actually, the dollar’s struggling; it’s up to 8.8956 MAD to one US dollar).

That’s still around 67 cents for a kilo of oranges, though, so no complaints here.

Anyway, we’re cooking Chinese food for dinner tonight. SWEET. Holy crap, this blog is getting pretty boring now that I’m spending my days folding clothes. HERE IS A COOL PICTURE THAT FORREST TOOK!!!!! Forrest is Angela’s pal, who studied with her in France and came to visit us in Morocco during our last few days there. She takes awesome pictures.

Goodbye Henna


Um, I just packed my bags. Holy crap. I depart my beloved Oudaya at 8:30am tomorrow. I’m pretty sure my 2 bags are overweight. Oh, well. It’s probably the 20,000 hand of Fatima keychains that I’m bringing home to throw at people like free candy from a parade.

As I packed, I had the startling realization that most of my friends from this program are sitting on airplanes right now. Then I finished packing, which took me less than an hour.

Yesterday, to celebrate our last days in Morocco, we gathered at Madiha’s for tea, henna, some last bites of millwi, and some tearful goodbyes. To avoid getting all sentimental, I’m going to show you what traditional Moroccan henna designs look like!



The henna you are looking at is black henna, which is not as scary as google makes it sound. This is natural henna with a dye mixed in it that makes it black, and it’s awesome. It stays on longer, which is SWEET.

Tomorrow, I fly to Washington D.C. Saturday morning, I attend my older brother’s graduation. Talk about a cultural shift!

Now, here’s another thing. Blog. I’m going to keep writing, about Morocco and about other things too, probably, even after my return; I have a feeling that retrospective Morocco stories will surface, as well as interesting tales of transition and What I’ve Missed in America. So, stay tuned, one and all!





I’m not an Arabic scholar. I’m still in the single-digit chapters in Book 1 of Al-Kitaab. However, I know enough Arabic to say things like, “My paternal uncle is a translator at the United Nations in New York,” or “I have 8 sisters and 4 brothers who live in Cairo and study English Literature at the university there.”

However, I DO know enough Arabic to feel validated when complaining about it, or making fun of it, or making memes out of it. So, to all of you who don’t study Arabic, I’m sorry. These won’t be funny. Well, maybe they will! I’ll try to be both entertaining and instructive.

I think this meme perfectly (PERFECTLY) embodies what studying Arabic, both Fousha and spoken dialects, is like:

There is nothing simple in Arabic. One does not simply doanythingin Arabic.

For example, at its most basic level:

Arabic. That’s the one written right to left with the pretty connected letters, right? Well, yes. But there are several rules about how to write the letters, which are simple once you learn them but also objectively hilarious. There are four ways to write each one: its independent symbol, its starting position, its middle-of-the-word position, and its ending position. Don’t even get me started on calligraphy, of which there are 6 main types (and probably a bajillion other kinds too), and in which the shapes of the letters change even MORE.

Anyway, several letters never connect to the left butdoconnect to the right, while others always connect both ways. There are also some half-letters or non-letters that may or may not connect, that serve different grammatical or stupid purposes. You know, like hamzas and tamarbutas, which aren’t letters. Tamarbutas are just one of the Hs (there are 2 Hs) with the two dots from the taa (there are 2 Ts) on top, and they’re sometimes pronounced like the taa and sometimes pronounced like ah and are ridiculous. Hamzas – just – don’t ask.

This is the alphabet! I got the image from Wikipedia. Hamzas, Tamarbutas, and other stuff not included. This is just the alphabet, woo! 25 consonants and 3 long vowels.

ا    ب    ت    ث    ج    ح
خ    د    ذ    ر    ز    س
ش    ص    ض    ط    ظ    ع
غ    ف    ق    ك    ل
م    ن    ه    و    ي

Now you’ve learned the alphabet. Good for you!

There are also short vowels and other diacritical markings in Arabic that aren’t written in formal Arabic (in fact, they’re only written in textbooks and children’s books). They tell you how to pronounce the word, which is essential because one short vowel can differentiate completely different words. This makes reading Arabic tricky, because you’ve got to already know the words before you read them. Trickyyyyyyy. However, every so often in Al-Kitaab (our textbook), you’ll come across a passage written with the short vowels included. It’s weird.

That is how I feel whenever this happens, sort of a combination of joy and confusion.

In Arabic,

Plurals are a mushkil. That’s all I’m going to say.


What a great topic to write about! The Arabic script above is pronouncedmushkil, which means problem. However, the word no longer directly translates into English because it’s become a more meaningful term among those of us studying here.

It’s like the difference between the word “home” and “my house” in English: mushkil is a specific term that encompasses an entire spectrum of sentiments and contexts, and the English word problem just doesn’t have the same effect. Therefore, some things are mushkils that aren’t problems, and some things are problems that aren’t mushkils. Mushkils (this is funny because the plural of مشكل is المشكلات or مشاكل, not “mushkils,” which is adding an English plural onto an Arabic word, and this whole thing is funny because plurals are mushkils ANYWAY HAHA IRONY) are a perfect example of what makes wonder if I’ll ever be able to effectively relate my experiences in Morocco to the people I love at home. Oh, let’s talk about that.

I fear sometimes that the enormity of everything I’ve experienced here will stay trapped in my heart, unreachable by my loved ones simply by virtue of the fact that they weren’t here to experience it. It’s a 4-month-long inside joke that nobody at home will get but me, which is bound to be lonely.

I also know that this is one of those “duh that happens to everybody” feelings, so what are we going to do about it? Keep in touch, that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to maintain our connections to those who DO get it, and tell crazy stories to let everyone else in on it best we can and you know what? Whatever, dude. This is going to be great.

I’ve been thinking more and more about those little things that define our everyday life lately: mushkils, tea, mosquitoes, Darija, our concrete bunker classroom, medina life, Temara days, the ridiculous Qalam administration, french fries, dirhams, blankets, old walls, street food. Bees. Men peeing all the time. Avocado juice. Grody Eye and Fidget, two of the Qalam cats I named. The walk from the Fac to Qalam, the walk from the tram to Oudaiya, the walking all over Rabat. Cafés in Agdal, buying phone recharges, pickup soccer games, eucalyptus trees. So much comes to mind when I think about what life is made of here, and I’m realizing more and more how much I’m going to miss it all!

I’m having those goodbye thoughts, as of course I would: thoughts about how in four days, my way of life is completely changing. How, even though I’ve spent so much time missing home, I really don’t want to leave the home I’ve found here. Holy crap, I don’t want to leave! I KNOW. WHAT? Who’d have thought?!

Yet, won’t the little things that I’ve forgotten about at home be just as wonderful to rediscover, even while missing those little things I’ve grown to love here? Probly. I’ll let you know.

You know what else is funny? I said in some post awhile ago that I’d probably tell you all about these mixed feelings when I was feeling emotional or hungry, and I’m STARVING. I got hungrier and hungrier as this post went on, and it’s funny because now you can reread this and observe my descent into NEED FOOD the more emotional and philosophical I get.





My buddy Olivia is going to walk into this café and we are going to HANG OUT.

This will be a quick post.

“Hanging out” is a concept very foreign to Moroccans. It’s quite difficult to explain, because one can hang out without doing anything or meeting anyone. One can also hang out with a bunch of people doing lots of things, or go to a popular hangout, or (you know) just…hang out. It’s a surprisingly nuanced concept, and I just googled it to justify my inability to adequately explain it to the Moroccan youth who are so curious about English.

(insert a few hours of hanging out with Olivia, who is awesome).

I’m sitting in one of the cafés in the Rabat train station, which is pretty much the only source of reliable internet in this entire city. They’re playing a Lenny Kravitz/Jack Johnson mix turned up to drown out the trains. I’m attempting to write things (coherent academic things), but it’s about 9,984 degrees CELSIUS and humid and I keep getting distracted by the Internet and just how many colors you can use in Paint. THERE ARE SO MANY COLORS. So I picked red.

This is what I see going home, or leaving home if I turn around. That is my door. That is the view. That is where I live.

The arrow pointing to “Rabat” was going to say “mausoleum where Mohammed V is buried” but I realized I didn’t want to write all that out in Paint, so I just said Rabat. But everything to the right of it is also Rabat.

If I walk out of my Kasbah, down along the outer wall, cross some dangerous traffic, walk down the boardwalk, and then turn around, this is what I see. Cooool.

OKAY so here’s the sitch. I leave this country Friday morning.

You’d think that I’d be getting emotional about leaving, but all I can think about is eating a bagel. A real bagel. A real bagel.

And running around in as little clothing as possible and having it not be weird. YEAH.

We’ve cycled back to Lenny Kravitz on this playlist.

They sell iced tea here.

I’m having trouble with coherent thought and compound sentences right now, so let’s have another dance party!