“Well… we don’t really do lines here…”
As my aunt and I peered into a crowded bus station terminal, I found myself nonchalantly explaining the chaos within with this offhand remark. And then I too joined the masses, elbows out, and worked my way to the front, ignoring the other people who I knew had been waiting longer than me.
It wasn’t until I had my first visitor to Morocco that I was truly confronted by how much I have changed here. Before my aunt’s visit, I imagined days of adventure and exploring the vast medinas Morocco has to offer. I imagined introducing her to the country that I now live in and having her fall in love with its little quirks too. What I hadn’t imagined, however, was coming face-to-face with the realization that I had acclimated so powerfully.
And it wasn’t just about the lack of orderly lines. I found myself trying to explain the unknowns, both large and small, that have gradually become part of my daily life – things that don’t necessitate a second thought to me now, but baffled my mind in those initial weeks after I stepped off the plane. Trying to create a sense of order and understanding for her. I tried to explain the intricacies of Moroccan Arabic, how I rarely frequent stores larger than a parking space, the history of the Amizigh (Berber) people, and that I can count on two hands the number of hot showers I’ve taken in country. I explained the regional differences in dress, why Moroccans believe eating cactus fruit is good for your health, and the difference between a ryal and a dirham.
I found myself explaining all the time.
When did all of these things become so natural? I guess somewhere along the way – amongst practicing my Arabic, memorizing community member’s names, surviving the summer heat, and writing lesson plans – I started making sense of this place.
I will always be a foreigner in Morocco. Sometimes this idea – this fact, really – is overwhelming. Sometimes I wish I could have one day, just one day, where I wasn’t seen as “the foreigner.” The Other. Someone Different.
But this month I realized: I’m not the same wide-eyed girl who stepped off the plane eight months ago and could barely greet another person in Arabic. Now I’m the girl who embarrasses her aunt in restaurants because she eats couscous with her hands and has whole conversations in Arabic and forgets to translate it back.
I will never be able to explain everything. But with my aunt’s visit I saw for the first time – this place is starting to feel like home. It’s starting to make sense.
This place feels normal (most days). It’s a place that infuriates me and exasperates me, and yet it’s still a place that fills me with a joy that I want to share with everyone that I love. A place where I can’t help but grin every time the bus slows to a halt and I’m back in the streets of my town.
Maybe this place is finally making sense of me, too.