Tag Archives: traveling

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.



Para Español, Oprima 2!


…And THAT’s the extent of my Spanish! ZOP!

Hola, amigos! I’m in Nicaragua, the land of volcanoes and churches and “temperate forests” (aka JUNGLES WOOO) and coconuts and cacao and AMAZING fruit and Waslala and Matagalpa and Managua and León and wait, where am I again?!

My cousin John! And me! Ironically, a lot of our family call him Juan, while his Nicaraguan friends all call him John. Or Johncito, which means little John, which he clearly is. Duh. Anyway, he lives and works in Waslala, Nicaragua. He is an electrical engineer. He is great.

Nicaragua is one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever seen, and we saw plenty of it on the drive from Managua to Waslala! We rattled around like beans in a maraca from Matagalpa onward in our trusty little 4-wheel drive. Woo, dirt/mud/rock roads! It was like a roller coaster, only more life-threatening!

Kiddinnnnggggggg, Juan’s a great driver. And we’re having a BLAST!

These are the family fart machines I’m traveling with: Aunt Mary, a.k.a. Tía Maria, a.k.a. Sharon; my older brother Patrick, a.k.a. Patricio, a.k.a. Furniture; and cousin John, a.k.a. Juan, a.k.a. Johncito, a.k.a. Jambalaya, a.k.a. Juan Beyah en fuego, etc, etc.

I have tales of the jungle, of cipro and fruit juice and GIANT BUGS and HUNDREDS of pictures for you, but don’t feel like typing all that nonsense right now. So for now, here’s a picture of us swimming in our undies by a great big waterfall!


So, friends, I am: not dead yet, only resting, having a blast, drinking vodka (the perks of traveling with the SHARONATOR!), speaking terrible Spanish, alternately bickering and laughing with my older brother, laughing at farts, taking Cipro, meeting people, taking pictures, learning tons, helping out at schools, attending health workshops for rural community leaders, hanging out with mah cuz and aunt and brosky, eating yummy Nicaraguan food, and listening to the wedding party next door.

Oh, I’m in León. I was in Waslala.

Gonna go poop and shower now.


Round is a shape!


That’s what we say when we insist that we’re not out of shape, per se.

Anyway, hola, amigos! I’m not dead yet! I figured it was about time I updated the bloggity blog, since I’m about to go on yet another international adventure. But first, let me update you on my current location: New York, staying with my  cousins. Before that, I was on Long Island, NY, with my grandparents, and before that North Carolina, also with cousins, and before that, California, where I live. With family. And before that Seattle, where I also live. And stuff. That was where we left off with Operation Rosewater, which feels like a thousand years ago.

Anyway, it’s been a pretty tiring three weeks–both tiring and awesome–and I have exactly 5 days to recuperate before I hop on an airplane with my older brother and aunt and head fooooooor (drumroll) NICARAGUA!

Yes, Nicaragua. My cousin John’s been living down there for a year now, doing sustainable engineering stuff. You know, with water and shit. My aunt’s a nurse, and we’ll be helping her out with a clinic and education things, I think. I don’t really know what to expect, actually. It’s all very seat-of-the-pants adventure-y stuff, you know? But still! COOL!

I have no skills whatsoever to contribute to this A+ engineering and nursing combo, particularly since according to my mother, my Spanish accent is awful. Still, I’ve got a Latin American Spanish phrasebook and I’m doing my best to learn at least a little Spanish before I step off the airplane in Managua. Maybe I’ll run into a Moroccan and have an ENORMOUS Darija triumph! THAT SEEMS SO LIKELY, RIGHT?!?!?!

Anyway, this is, I suppose, the capstone blow-off-all-my-savings let’s-do-something-crazy end to my summer of nomadic unemployment, even though my senior year of college won’t start till mid September.
Then what will I write about?! Who knows. Boop.

You’ll notice the newest update to the sidebar of Mr. Blog here–my Twitter account! Woohoo! So you can still see updates even if I’m too lazy to write out an entire blog post! This kind of technology is going to turn me into a narcissistic lunatic. LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ALL THE DIFFERENT PLACES I CAN TALK ABOUT MYSELF ON THE INTERNET!!!!!!

So that’s my update. Here’s a picture for you. This is why I love our family reunions!

Peace out, homiez!



(just kidding, I’m not going to talk about camping. HA! I AM THE MASTER OF DECEPTION! MAYBE I NEED A NAP!)

I love seeing the things people Google, hoping to find something useful and informative, and instead they find this blog.

On the WordPress.com dashboard, my little ego-homepage where I can obsessively check how many people have read my blog today (FOUR VIEWS! I’M INTERNET FAMOUS!), I can see the “top searches” that led to some poor schmuck accidentally reading this blog. Today, it was: mezien, can’t talk memes, morocco meme, arabic mint tea memes, is farting sexual harassment

I read the last one and WHAT?!???!?!! I HOPE not, JEEZ! If so, I’m screwed. I’ve written a personal statement about it and published it on the INTERNET. Wellp, there goes my life. Maybe I’ll get off because it was retaliatory, but probably not.

Another of my favorites was (I had to go back and find this in the draft of a post I never published) March 28: the 10 scary seconds when u trapped in the shower with the cold water running

Terrifies me too, those 10 scary seconds when u trapped in the shower with the cold water running

Anyway, I figured (since now more people are following this blog – OH HI WELCOME! – ) that I should continue to write and update you on bringing the Morocco experience back home. Well, here’s how it’s going: remember how I said that Morocco was hard to talk about because it was in a different universe? Not emotionally difficult or anything, just that Morocco resided in a separate sphere of existence that simply didn’t translate into life in the U.S.?  It was as though Morocco, Arabic, French, tea, and all of that just dropped out of my life all at once–oh, wait. It did. Well, that train of thought just derailed.

Well, anyway, Morocco has begun to turn from a cynical internal monologue (about the meaningless materialism of life in the U.S. and all that stuff) into stories. Anecdotes to pop into conversation here and there: an interesting factoid about something, an I-can-relate-to-your-stomach-problems-and-by-that-I-mean-one-up-them-HAHA story, stories that I keep short to avoid those awkward moments when everyone remembers that they don’t really care about Morocco. No, that’s a good thing. My friends doze off while I tell my usual stories, and there’s never even a good punch line. They call them Katie stories. Oop, derailed again.

Well, ANYWAY, long story long, it’s been great. I have fun facts to share. I wear poofy pants. This lack of Struggle and Emotional Journeys and all that stuff that I spent January through March writing about PROBABLY makes for much boring-er reading, but oh well. You’ve read nearly 487 words of derailed thought-trains heading for those poor schmucks googling stuff like “do cats in morocco understand french”

(DO they?)

I’m off to go invent some arabic mint tea memes, while hoping that farting isn’t sexual harassment. Peace out.

(bows to tumultuous applause)


THIS WEEK I would like to thank and shout out to Elise Blalock, whose blog is as awesome as SHE is! It’s called Global From Home, and it’s great. It’s also sort of ironic that I’m mentioning her now, since many of you seeing my blog today will have been directed here from hers! Today, Elise featured this silly little blog on her “Study Abroad Blog of the Week” series! AAH! (I’m still squealing with excitement). She also nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award, and I’m going to pay it forward as soon as I get home from the Griswold Family Camping Trip (it’s Christmas, Clark. We’re ALL suffering), for which my raucous aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, and parents are leaving today. I’m eating pop’ems at the kitchen table. Anyway, EEE! I’m still all a dither from all of this excitement.

So, most importantly: thank you Elise! Yaaaaay! Yaaaaay! I’m honored and excited and grateful for everything. Woo!

And, to all you new readers, welcome! Welcome to these silly tales of study abroad, snacking, and, well, farting. That’s the post that started it all. Have fun! Feel free to e-mail me, I’ll reply as soon as I get home (in a few days): sweenums@gmail.com.

To my old readers, guess what?! PEOPLE THINK I’M FUNNY!!!!! I know, right!?!?!? For an exclusive interview with ME (as if you people haven’t read ENOUGH of what I have to say about myself), and, more importantly, because Elise’s blog is awesome, check out Global From Home!

Okay, everyone. I’m still in my jammies and the family is rumbling out to the cars. Time to start packing, I guess!

Thanks again, Elise! Welcome again, everyone! Have a lovely day, see you in a bit!

Pax in internetta, y’all,






Here’s a bit of pop culture from North Africa! Cheb Khaled is an Algerian singer, and everyone loves him. Me included. Definitely beats “Call Me Maybe,” which was topping the charts when I got back to the US. (Call me maybe? Really?)

This song topped OUR charts o’er yonder, and we all know the words. I listen to it and am transported back to our home sweet van, singing and dancing to this as we trundle through the Moroccan countryside.

Since we’re all feeling wistful





(I was going to post this the day after I got home from Morocco because I thought I’d be funny and ironic, but then I forgot. I just remembered, and it made me giggle. No, I don’t have any self control. NONE.)

This may also be one of my favorite songs to sing in the shower, but that’s neither here nor there. (It just seems appropriate in the shower, right? It’s almost like you’re standing in the rain–no, I’m stopping there. I’m already running low on shame. And dignity.)

But seriously. Thanks for the views and thoughtful comments, I really appreciate it!

(Now play the song again. Sing along. Dance like you’re kelp. DO IT.)

EDIT: this song also ALWAYS reminds me of my cousin Elizabeth, trololol. She’d love that, so I’m going to go post this on her Facebook wall. HI BETHIE WHAT’S UP THIS IS ME SHOUTING OUT TO YOU ON MY BLOOOOOOOOOOGGGGGG ALSO YOU MET ANDY DICK?!?!?!? (She met Andy Dick. I saw pictures. WHAT) THAT IS SO COOOOOL ALSO WHEN ARE WE HANGING OUT NEXT!??!?! YOU SHOULD COME CAMPING IN TAHOE THIS YEAR.