Scarf- gift from my friend Hamza a few years ago, a souvenir from Jordan. Dress– the one I wore to the wedding of Katie, my bff-since-middle-school, last November. Sunglasses– 25 dirhams, bargained down from 50 d’s on a Meknes road, with the help of badass friends Abderrahmane and Jennan. Hair tie– probably from Target. Always trustworthy. Henna– a farewell gift on the eve of our departure from the Mid-North.
When we moved to Morocco, I knew I would miss my friends and family back home. That was a given. That’s just part of the deal. I knew I would miss my dad—making fun of people together, laughing about silly stuff. And my mom—her food, her financial advice, the way she rolls her eyes whenever I hug her. And my baby sister, who will be all grown up when I come home. And my bro, and all our talks on literature and art and social justice and best buffet plate-stacking strategies. I knew I would miss my Seattle buddies—shooting the breeze in bars, spontaneous road trip adventures, book club hang outs.
I was prepared to miss Seattle. It never occurred to me that I would be homesick for Morocco while I was still in Morocco.
For the past three months, we’ve been living in the Mid-North region of Morocco. Near the capital of Rabat, near Fes and Meknes. For the next two years (at least), we will be living in the Mid-West region of Morocco. If you have a map handy, that’s the area between Casablanca and Marrakesh.
In our little Mid-North town, we have a true family and a true home. When we walked down the street, we would be greeted by everyone we knew, from students to shopowners. It felt really spectacular to amble through a neighborhood where everyone knew my name. I miss that. I miss my favorite neighborhood kids running up to kiss my cheeks. I miss running into friends while buying Milka bars at the hanut. I miss the hammam lady. I miss everyone I passed on my commutes—the tailor, the butcher, the wedding shop owner. I miss the elderly couple who ran the corner hanut—the woman with the blue Amazigh face tattoos and the man who always wore the same grey tarbush—and how they’d always encourage us to keep studying Arabic. I miss my language training group, despite all our grumpy fights all those freezing mornings. I miss our teacher, Khalid, because I miss having an expert to turn to whenever I needed help translating or understanding something, but mostly because he became a true friend. I miss shouting “salamu alaykum! labas!” from the roof and the windows at anyone I knew walking past. I miss all the warm, familiar greetings.
On our last night in town, my Mama Fadila and my sisters insisted on us all getting henna done, which was a follow-up to our wedding. A week before, they had also thrown me and Robert a wedding party, seriously the sweetest thing in the whole world. Our sign-some-papers-at-city-hall wedding story was insufficient, apparently.
They are our family, but their culture isn’t ours, so their choice to share their culture with us is the most amazing gift ever. Let me be clear: I don’t believe that I have any right to “use” any aspect of Moroccan culture unless my Moroccan friends and family actively decide to share it with me. That is why I’m treasuring these memories so much. They come from the warmest love. I’m not a crier, but I bawled when it came time to get on the bus and leave. We all cried. I feel their absence achingly deeply because it was so unexpected. I came with armor in preparation against homesickness for one home. I didn’t know I’d feel this much for another home. This is the problem with leaving pieces of your heart everywhere.
We still have so much of our journey ahead though. I’m so grateful to this beautiful country for inviting us and welcoming us. And I’m already prepping to book trips back to our family’s town for Ramadan and Eid Kabir. For now… onward, onward, onward.