Ok- last Morocco entry!

Right now I’m on a plane somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean headed to New York City from Casablanca. It’s been an exhausting few days, and I’m completely emotionally drained at this point. Saying goodbye to all my friends was really hard; probably harder than I expected it to be. But I’ll start with Thursday.
Thursday, all the girls woke up early and Iman met us at the apartment to take us to the hammam. As always, somehow getting scrubbed by an old cranky woman who smelled bad made me feel wonderful! Sufficiently cleansed, we headed back home, got ready, and Julia, Lauren, and I went back to the medina for one last day of shopping. I spent a lot of money in a short amount of time- no surprise there. We also had the world’s most amazing omelette fromage sandwiches, and got our last fix of freshly squeezed Moroccan orange juice. Wow, am I ever gonna miss that!
At 4:30, we took our last taxi to Moulay Ismail, where we finished our oral Arabic exam and had the closing ceremony. It was filled with tons of delicious Moroccan snacks that would rot my teeth completely if I stayed here, and mint tea. All of the professors talked, and we had a kind of roast where the students imitated our professors and vice versa. Towards the end, Daniel said something akin to, “Know that you will always have a home in Meknes,” and it finally hit me that we were really leaving and I just felt this overwhelming wave of sadness. How is it possible that in two months we had created a whole new life in a whole new country on a whole new continent, and formed a family out of 14 strangers? We had made new friends, found new hangouts, attended a new school, learned a new language; it was like trying on a different life for two months. That night, I was really quiet and kept to myself, just thinking about returning to reality, to my real life waiting on me in Tuscaloosa. I know things will fit differently, and I’m a little nervous to see how. But I also know that it is home, and no matter how much I have loved Morocco, there’s no feeling like going home. Grades were also handed out at the ceremony, along with a diploma-type certificate in both Arabic and English. I ended up with a B in Arabic, which isn’t bad considering it was Intermediate Arabic taught by a man who barely speaks English. I know I learned a lot, and I’m satisfied with that.
Later that evening [much later- around 11:30], Iman brought the henna lady over to give us some fresh henna for the journey home. This time, most of us opted for black henna on our feet. It looks really beautiful, and I felt like it would be a good souvenir to take home and have for a few weeks.
Then, at 2am, Ben, Jared, Daniel, Julia and I took Jennifer to the train station because her flight left Friday morning. It was really sad, realizing that we were all beginning to go our separate ways. Watching her train pull away, I realized things will never be the same again. This summer will eventually become a memory, something I tell my kids about, or think of when I pull out my Berber rug…but it will never happen again. The way things were in Meknes, the dynamic between all of us and the relationships we shared – good and bad- will never be the same. And that’s sad. But it’s life, I suppose.
Friday was kind of a lazy day. We all woke up late- I woke up at 11:30,the latest I’ve ever woken up in Morocco! Then something cool happened: we all sat in the living room and watched the opening ceremonies of the Olympics for three hours. It was such appropriate timing for us. It was almost like closure. We sat, awestruck, through the first hour, and then patiently waited as the countries’ teams paraded out, waiting to see our two countries. America was the first, and seeing the red, white, and blue, seeing our athletes, and the President and First Lady made us all really excited about coming back to the US. No matter how much we love Morocco, America is our country and our home and there is no place I’d rather call home. We were all so moved by the feeling that swept across the living room that we [I know, this sounds gay, but you really wouldn’t be able to understand unless you had been through what we had this summer] all broke out into “America the Beautiful”. Completely serious. Not in jest, or in a silly way; we were dead serious and sang it all the way through as we watched the American flag cross that stadium, and even though now it sounds stupid, it was beautiful. There we were, eight kids in an apartment in the middle of Meknes, Morocco, watching the Olympics and singing “America the Beautiful”. I loved it.
We got almost as excited when we saw the Moroccan flag come out into the stadium, and I felt so much pride even though I’m not Moroccan. Imad said that we’ve lived here and made a life here and in a sense, we are Moroccans now. I agree. I will always feel a special attachment and a sting of nostalgia whenever I see the flag or hear the country mentioned. We were a little disappointed that the King wasn’t there; we were waiting to see him. Finally, the ceremony was over, and we all spent the next hour or so packing up our Moroccan life into our tidy American suitcases. It was amazing and sad how simply this entire new life of ours folded up into tiny suitcases, because it had all seemed so much bigger than that, like something that couldn’t be contained. But it was, and it was bittersweet.
After I had finished packing, I went downstairs to the boys’ apartment and watched Ben pack. Sitting on his bed, under his cowboy sheets, and watching his slightly unorthodox technique, I realized how much I would miss him. There are three people from this group [you know who you are- Merzouga forever!] who I will miss so much. Ben has been half dad, half best friend to me on this trip. He watches out for me in every situation- making sure I don’t pay too much while shopping, watching to be certain I don’t get lost in a crowd at a festival, holding me back from crossing the street when he doesn’t deem it safe; it’s so funny and adorable. I will miss that. [Ben, I will also miss being able to say, “Yeah, I’ve heard that one already”, every time you begin a story. Get some new ones before I see you again!]
Then, Ben, Imad, Issam, Jared, Patrick, Michael, and I went to the medina for a huge free concert in the Jawla series in front of the Bab Mansour. It was ridiculously crowded; you could barely move! But it was so much fun! It was such a great ending to our Moroccan adventure. I spent all night dancing and laughing. It was a crazy scene though: people being thrown in the air, amateur cheerleading stunts three and four people tall going up all over the audience, people whipping their shirts around their heads, and wild dancing. At one point, a group of Moroccan men surrounded me and Michael and began dancing. Standing in the middle of that wild circle, I was a little nervous, but finally I just went with it and danced like mad. By the time we found our way out of the crowd, I was sweaty and exhausted and disgusting, but thoroughly happy. It was a beautiful end to our stay in Meknes.
At 1am, the bus came to pick us up. All of our Moroccan friends were there to say goodbye, and that was hard, but I was holding up pretty well. But then, when I went to hug Moha [he had decided not to come to Casa with us] for the millionth time, I felt something wet on my neck and realized that he was sobbing. That’s when I lost it. Watching Moha cry broke my heart. He has been so wonderful and I will miss him so much.
There were only nine of us on the bus, and four out of those nine were crying. It was all really sad, but eventually, one by one, we fell asleep. We arrived in Casablanca at 4:30am and dragged our stuff upstairs, and laid down in the exact spot where we spent five hours waiting the day that we arrived in Morocco. There I was, sitting in the same place I had only two months earlier, but I felt like a completely different person. It was a strange sensation, being back there again, but so different. Addison, Michael and I curled up and fell asleep, and I was out until 9am. Lauren and Megan left, and soon, it was Addison, Julia and my time to leave. Alexa, Michael, and Ben took the shuttle over to Terminal 3 with us, where we all said tearful goodbyes. It was hard saying goodbye to Alexa, even harder saying goodbye to Ben [he’s no good at goodbyes-that was the hard part!], and hardest of all saying goodbye to Michael. He and I stood there hugging and crying for a few minutes, and then suddenly, the three of them were gone.
Crying, the three of us going to New York went to check in. There was a considerable amount of drama then, with Royal Air Maroc saying that there were no seats left of the plane for Julia. We waited at the check-in counter trying to sort things out until 15 minutes before our plane was supposed to leave. When she was finally handed her boarding pass, we made a mad dash through Customs, security, and out onto the tarmac, barely making the plane. I think we’re something like halfway to New York now. I’m really tired, but I doubt I can sleep. I’m gonna make a quick little list, and then try to get some rest.

-my ISA family
- khubz arabiyy
-Marackchiya, milfay, and labonny
- constant heckling from guys [let’s be honest, it’s an esteem booster]
-mint tea and fresh orange juice
-the music
-the Medina
-air conditioner pants
-call to prayer

-the heat
-three hour classes
-the little kids begging for spare change
-that smell you get a whiff of when the wind blows; you know the one
-explosive diarrhea [overshare? Nah]
-constant heckling from guys

-Taco Bell
-Dr Pepper
-laying out by the pool
-wearing cute clothes
-my new house in Tuscaloosa!

More to come later…
Salaam wa hubb,

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