I’m writing this from the desk of my new apartment in Amman, having just arrived earlier this day. The desk isn’t really much of a desk, more like a slab of wood on top of two seesaw support units. For the most part, I am unpacked, with a few items still strewn on top of my new bed and nightstand. Some of the hats I bought in Morocco have journeyed with me and are hanging off the hooks behind the door. It’s only been a week since I flew out from Rabat-Salé airport and I’m already on the move again.
My last days in Rabat passed by in a haze. I remember attending the AMIDEAST farewell dinner with my classmates, and I remember the last goodbyes we said to each other. Despite all the warnings I received about reverse culture shock, arriving back in the United States felt eerily normal to me. It wasn’t until I visited my university and college friends that I began to notice things that made me anxious. I couldn’t believe I was sitting on the same couch, with the same people, doing the same things, pretending as if I had not been away for four months. Internally, I felt like my understanding of the world had been altered in a dramatic way, but it was (and still is) difficult to vocalize this understanding. It made me feel a little secluded from everybody else.
It probably also didn’t help that I was wearing a full-length jallaba.
I didn’t really give myself time to readjust after Morocco, flying out to Jordan just one week after the end of the program. I’m finding it difficult to let go of Morocco already. During my long, stumbling conversation I held with my cab driver, I kept introducing Darija words into my speech. Jordanians say “shoo” instead of “shnu” to indicate “what.” I told my driver point-blank that I don’t think I’ll ever stop saying “shnu.”
But what I learned from my time in Morocco wasn’t just colloquial words, or how to traverse the countryside, or where to buy the best lentils. It wasn’t just how to bargain for a tunic, or how to avoid street harassment, or when to let myself go with the flow. What I learned, I think, was how to see the world with a different set of cultural lenses. Now, wherever I go, I see things from a new point of view. Not from a Moroccan perspective, as I am not truly Moroccan, but neither am I wholly whatever I was before.
One of my close friends from Morocco sent an article explaining that study abroad is the process of turning into a Triangle. You begin as a Circle, living among other Circles, in a Circular land, until you leave and go spend significant time with the Squares. You eat Square food, sleep on Square beds and learn Square customs. Over time, your curves sharpen as you become more Square-like. You eventually transform into a Triangle, neither a part of the world you came from, nor part of the world you live in, but something different. I don’t know what kind of shape I’m going to be when this summer is all over, but I’m betting it’ll be a particularly interesting one. I’ve learned what I can from Morocco for the time being, but now it is time to take the next step into a different world, with different people and different adventures.
Luckily, I haven’t lost my debit card yet.