Tag Archives: transition

2013! And…the Welcome Home post.

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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?

Wait WHUUUUT I REMEMBER THAT.

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.

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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?

Oh, and EVERYONE LOVES YOU AND MISSES YOU A LOT AND WILL BE SO SO SO HAPPY TO HAVE YOU BACK.

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

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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.

AND!

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

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THINGS I HAVE DONE TODAY:

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  1. READ BOOKS
  2. RUN INTO OLD FRIENDS WHO WERE ALSO ABROAD OTHER PLACES LIKE COSTA RICA (NOT LIKE I’M TALKING ABOUT KATELEN OR ANYTHING I MEAN WHATEVS)
  3. GONE DONATION BIN-DIVING FOR CLOTHES AT ALL THE RESIDENCE HALLS WITH AFOREMENTIONED FRIENDS
  4. AM CURRENTLY WEARING THE FRUIT – I MEAN PANTS – OF MY LABOR.

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!

 

Book Club: Episode 4!

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Somehow, I feel as though now I’m not halfway across the world, I’ll be doing more Book Clubs in a desperate attempt to infuse my new (old?) daily life in California with the Excitement and Exoticism that characterized my life in Morocco. Nope, I haven’t learned anything, especially not that the whole Exoticism thing is stupid and shallow. Why not? I dunno, I’m too busy distracting myself with BOOKS like

Lamb
The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s childhood pal

by Christopher Moore.

(The title looks awesome when it’s Centered.)

Anyone who knows me knows that I was raised so Catholic that I practically farted incense (and I’m hell-bound for that one), except that from a tender young age I believed most Churchgoers were trapped reciting the Nicene Creed by alien mind-control and that the infallibility of the Pope had to be some kind of dogmatic mistake (I let transubstantiation go, though, so give me a break).

I generally pinpoint my break with being Officially Catholic around the time of my Confirmation at the end of 8th grade (I find this fabulously ironic, but that only boosts my ego), which coincided with a Newfound Freedom from my parochial school’s clutches (8th grade graduation), the end of forced confessions and penances (though I found 7 rosaries in my bedroom yesterday, there must be some symbolism in that), and the many opportunities for wanton sinning in the Dionysian pits normally referred to as High School (SINbolism? No. Embolism? Causing many, probably. I really hate excessive use of parentheses, don’t you?). I generally regard religion from a safe, comic distance, and I’m a sucker for a comedic rendering of all things Biblical.

So you can imagine my delight reading Moore’s book, Lamb, in which the Messiah’s best friend Biff, resurrected from the dead 2,000 years later, writes his own story from a hotel room, with a TV-watching angel and a Bible in the bathroom for company.  You know, I’ve always suspected that Jesus was pals with the Abominable Snowman. It’s funny, it’s poignant, there are crazy people and lepers and Chinese concubines, and it’s a great story.

Christopher Moore wrote some other books, too, but I haven’t read them yet. Am going to, probably.

You’re welcome for the plug, Christopher Moore.

Anyway, apart from Books, how am I doing with the whole transition thing? Great, I’m pretty sure. I’ve been eating bagels and chocolate chips compulsively, just got so sunburned that I radiate heat to the entire neighborhood, and am giving away piles of Clothing and Other Shit that’s just been buried in my closet for centuries. That’s how I found those 7 rosaries. Seven. I was going to run a 10k with my mom this morning, but my legs were so sunburned it hurt to walk, so screw that. I found a place to live for next year and am moving in around June 16, so if you live in Seattle and want to help move my only piece of furniture (a couch), hit me up!

I’m chatting with some friends and stuff, though I haven’t quite grasped the idea of inserting myself back into the School and Social Life bubbles yet. That’s fine, because I’m really not too worried about it anyway. I’m too busy cleaning, watching John Hughes movies, and trying to get over Judd Nelson’s nostrils.

PEACE OUT, ADVENTURE SCOUT.