Kimani Isaac: Adventures Abroad and At Home

I'm a NYC native, but I've been exiled to NJ for the past 11 years (not literally exiled...just, you know, bored in the suburbs). I'm currently a theatre major at Northwestern, and the thing I love most about this school is the faculty and staff support. I'm also a Questbridge scholar, so NU has been the ride of a lifetime thus far. Mostly, though, I'm just very excited and grateful to have found a way to be productive and resume build during the summer while staying at home with my mom and cat.   If you're wondering whether or not to do a URG, I hope this blog will give you some insight and (hopefully??) wisdom into why or why not you should apply for a URG.*   *(Pssst: Personally, I think you should go for it! Even if you're undecided, at what other time in your life will you get paid to design your own project and research something you deeply care about? Hopefully, tons of times, but this is such a unique and awesome chance!)

The Actual Courses are Good (So I Have That At Least)

You don’t begin to realize the depth of how many preconceived notions you have until you begin to question what someone’s voice is going to sound like. Back in the States, I already know most of the dialects and potential accents of my country. I know the twang of a Spanish speaker as intimately as I know the nasal lilt of someone who comes from East Asia. Further still, I know how those sounds are different from the intonations of Hebrew speakers, or a descendant of a family of Western European immigrants.
All of that is utterly useless here in Paris. Citizens here are truly global, and Sciences Po’s students even more so. In my classes, French students are sometimes few and far between, especially when the course is administered in English. The moment a person begins to speak, it’s often jarringly different from my expectations. I might think someone is American, but when they open their mouth they say they’re from Beijing. I might think someone is Chinese, but when they speak, the twangs of a New Zealander come out. I may think someone is French, or even Spanish, but then they reveal they’re actually from Brazil or Quebec. Maybe for the first time in my life, I understand a little better why people all over the world try so hard to find out my ethnic background. When you have no grasp on a person’s origins, when you have no information, life is disorienting.
It’s also a bit frustrating that in a French university I’m still speaking English about two-thirds of the time. I split my courses half and half in French and English and I almost wish I would have favored more French courses. French is in the “back pocket” of most students’ spoken languages here, but it’s not necessarily always reached for first. English has become ubiquitous. It’s made me consider that perhaps I reap stranger and stranger fruit with every trip out of the United States, but I don’t regret my decision to leave. I accidentally skipped the coldest winter in Chicago history and left a country in the middle of a government shutdown.
For whatever else I might say about Parisian snobbery, I can’t deny, either, that I think I’m having one of the most intellectually enriching moments of my college experience. I feel motivated about my courses, and this has increased my productivity when it comes to readings. However, I’m also experiencing an integration of materials, readings, and authors in my courses that I haven’t gotten before. Three of my courses are overlapping each other in subject matter. I have Sociology of Work, Sociology of Organizations, and Surveillance Studies. These three courses take different approaches to examining the intersections of organizational structure, work modalities, and the effects of those on the human psyche. It’s become almost like an orchestra of different discussions that are all interconnected. My other courses aren’t as well related, but they’re equally as interesting in their own rights. So, even when I’m down about Paris, or further developing my French language skills, I can rest comfortable that my studies (the reason I’m here, after all) have at least worked out alright.

The real #tea on going to school in a different country

So I’m, what, 18 days into my life here in Paris?

Just finished my first week of class.

The illustrious Shirin Vossoughi (prof at NU) once told me that part of the reason why she thinks that babies sleep so much is because they’re learning everything for the first time.

I’m hoping that she’s right and that it will explain why I already feel exhausted.

Broad reassurance here for you: I don’t hate France, or Paris. I have already had some terrible experiences here, but I have, in equal measure, had some lovely ones.

It can all just be very overwhelming.

Here’s some of the bad and then I’ll write about the good:

A couple days after I got here, a guy tried to steal my shopping bag while I was walking home. I had bought mouthwash and toothpaste on the way back to my apartment.  Thankfully, he wasn’t violent and ran away once I started resisting. I filed a police report. The experience just left me with an emotional  burden to deal with, so I’ve put the process in motion to see a therapist while here in France.

I also found out that the French consulate in DC in the US didn’t give me the visa I needed in order to be able to work. I can’t receive any social benefits while here in France, nor can I change my visa at all if I decide that I would like to stay here longer.

One of my French professors said the n-word in class. It was in an academic context, but it was jarring, and not even really necessary for the class. I’ve been brainstorming how to bring it up at the end of the next class.

On a much more personal note, someone I was seeing while in Chicago, who actually was a French exchange student, decided that they just wanted to be friends, and I had to deal with the emotional fallout from that.

All of this is to say, my transition to Paris hasn’t been the smoothest it could have been, and I don’t want to hide how messy life can be when you do study abroad.

But what has made it worth it to be here has been the incredible friends and mentors I have who are cheering me on. All of the friends, family, and loved ones who are continually checking in with me and making sure that I feel loved and supported while here in Paris make even the more painful experiences feel less impactful. My roommate recently surprised me with a pastry as a way to usher in my two week anniversary of arriving in this city. Her small thoughtfulness reminds me that as hard as it is to transition into a new place, I don’t have to feel alone.

So here’s some more things that have been lovely to experience here in Paris:

The Louvre is so beautiful that it made me cry. All the museums are free with my student ID and when I went to the Louvre I was so overwhelmed with all the incredible art that I teared up.

The pastries here are incredible. You don’t realize how poorly dessert is made in the US until you come to France and have your first pain au chocolat. It’s something else.

The. metro. is. amazing. Have you ever sat in the cold waiting for the L train, silently cursing public transportation? Well look no further than Paris, because the trains come every 2 and 5 minutes. It’s. So. Nice. I’m getting spoiled. In the same vein, traveling is much less expensive. There are cheap thirty euro buses to Italy and Germany whenever I feel like going. It’s easy to understand how people backpack around Europe.

My classes, besides that incident with one of my professors, have been really fascinating. I don’t feel any intellectual burn out like I sometimes do back at Northwestern. It’s been lovely to take classes here on a variety of topics like biodiversity, the history of homosexuality, and sociology. It makes me excited to learn, and that’s a feeling I’ve been missing a little bit of back in the States.

 

 

Hello Paris AKA Trying not to Break Anything (Most of All Myself)

I’m going to call this the 24 hour anniversary of my arrival in Paris.
I landed yesterday at 5 in the morning. After waiting in line to go through customs, grabbing my luggage and getting in an Uber, the first thing I really noticed about Paris was that even at 7 in the morning, the sun still hadn’t risen, nor was the sky lightening with any pre-dawn sunlight.
It kinda weirded me out, and it’s this detail I remember most as I write this blog post now (because it’s almost 7 in the morning and looks like the pitch-black orange of 3am back home, when all the best writing gets done).

So, I guess I should take a moment to back everything up and explain myself. Like, why am I writing this post? Am I going to tie up loose ends from old posts? What does Paris have to do with anything?

My Undergraduate Language Grant was always meant to better prepare me for my study abroad (which Paris is) and I’m writing this because while it may no longer be strictly Office of Undergraduate Research money putting me on a different continent this time, it’s nice to have a little follow-up to see that, yes, these crazy projects we take part in do lead somewhere.

(Plus, I didn’t want to start a whole new blog elsewhere, and blogging at this point is practically obligatory. Otherwise, how would I satisfy my crazed-millennial desires to divulge details about my life into the void of the internet?)

As for tying up loose-ends from old posts…

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Let’s just say writing is hard and I make no promises.

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But before I go: Here’s a list of the crazy goings-on in the world, so that you have a frame of reference for how arriving in Paris made me a puddle of anxiety the whole time.

  1. 1. My flight was scheduled for the day when all TSA officers were scheduled to get their first paychecks of the year. This didn’t happen because of the government shutdown. I got to the airport 4+ hours before my flight because I didn’t know what was going to happen.

2. A month or two ago, the yellow vest protests began to happen in Paris. I kept my eye on the travel alerts because if France is moved to a level 3, Northwestern would have most likely cancelled all study abroad plans for France.

3. Yesterday there was a gas explosion in a bakery in the 9th arrondissement. It was a gas leak, but three people died and many more were injured. I was luckily nowhere near the blast, but it’s upsetting and eerie to have it happen on my first day in Paris.

4. The yellow vest protests turned violent today. A friend of mine went and was shot in the leg with a rubber bullet (thankfully, they’re okay). I stayed at my Airbnb all day, but I will think for a long time about my arrival here. When you’re a tourist in a new place, you have to find a balance between understanding what is happening where you are, staying safe, and also following your beliefs. If I had been in the U.S., I would have been at those protests, but I have to decide what my limitations are while I’m here. (And dying here is not an option, so I’d rather not aggravate my chances).

5. Did I mention we’re 13 days into a new year?

Happy 2019!

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We approach the end

Lankey, my host program, gave me the opportunity to do a week-long internship where I teach students about the SAT.

I decided to take it.

While I’m here in Morocco practicing and studying French, I wanted to give back to the community I’m a part of. Plus, while I’m here I can speak French as a way to clarify to students a concept they don’t understand.

So, on the way to Casa this afternoon, while I was watching the Moroccan countryside fly by my window, I felt content, at peace, and ready to take on the world in a way I haven’t felt in a long time.

I have almost 5 days left in Morocco, and for the past two months, I’ve been recovering from the stressful academic year and getting ready to face my junior year. I needed this time to recuperate. While I’ve been here, I’ve realized that traveling is integral to how I function as a person. Northwestern is 800 miles away from where I was born and where I grew up. When I was in high school in New Jersey, I spent every Tuesday commuting an hour each way to New York City for a theater internship. Even when I was in middle school and had nowhere in particular to go, I would walk for miles out of my neighborhood, trying to find something new to see, something to do. No matter what I do in life, I need to keep myself interested in the world around me. Even if I end up at a job where everything is the same day after day, I need to take time to take a different route to work, or spend time trying new things. Adventure is only impossible if you give up on finding it.

Just to recap a little, I went to Tangiers this past weekend. It’s a city built on the cliffs. I think I fell in love a little with it. There are caves where legend has it that Hercules rested after the completion of one of his labors. They’re called Les Grottes D’Hercules and it’s one of the most breathtaking places I’ve ever encountered. I promise I’ll do a long post soon with photos and things to tie up loose ends soon.

I also witnessed where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Mediterranean at an overlook called Cap Spartel.

I also revisited Chefchaouen. Here’s me, in the midst of a truly blue city.

I finished my French course this morning. When I left my class today, I left knowing that it would be the last time I was there as a student. My certificate says I’m at a B2 level, which is exactly where I need to be language-wise to do the Paris study abroad at Sciences Po that I want.

Tomorrow is my flight out of Rabat, on one of the biggest holidays of the year, Eid Mubarak. The agenda is: have breakfast, watch a sheep get slaughtered, have lunch, fly home. (I might rethink breakfast, but we’ll see).

I just got off a video call with my mom who just pulled off one of the best surprises of my life. She called me, said, “Wait a minute,” turned the phone around, and there was my Grandma, who, after watching my face stick into a smile for a minute because I was unable to speak, naturally starts cracking jokes about how I, who always has something to say, am completely quiet. There was a time during this summer that my mom told me my Grandma was yelling that I needed to come home finally and see my mother. Now, on the video call, when I was expecting my Grandma to yell at me for traveling so far and not coming home to see my family for longer than a couple weeks, starts a speech about how proud she is of me, how blessed she feels to be my Grandma, and how lucky she feels that I am an example of someone she helped raise.

To the random forces of the universe that routinely make life awful, hectic, demanding, and provide the coincidences and chances of fate: thank you for this gift. On a random night at the end of one of the most amazing trips I’ve ever taken, I happened to catch my mom’s random video call, and was treated to a spectacular surprise rendezvous with my family.

I’ve been sitting here smiling like an idiot as I write this. To all the lonely travelers of the world, here’s to you. I hope you get to feel as good as I do going home.

I’ll post more soon, since I still have to tie up loose ends from other posts, but here I am, at the end of two months in North Africa, still alive, maybe marginally less healthy due to traveler’s diarrhea, wholly satisfied.

So How is the French Going?

It is now the middle of Week 6, so it’s time for a recap.

I’ve intentionally made this blog much more about my experiences in Morocco than exactly about my experiences here learning French, but that’s because language progress is slow. Plus, as riveting as it might be on my end to practice my conjugations and learn new grammar, I thought it probably wouldn’t make for a riveting read.

I’m just joking. This was just a good gif for the post, you know?

But I do want to recount how my language skills are growing here. When I first came to Morocco, my French was definitely worse. I stuttered more, and it took longer for me to be able to say what I wanted. My French is still not perfect, but after five weeks it’s become easier to speak, listen, and understand French both when it’s spoken and when I read it. I’ve also finally felt like French has become less of a barrier to my understanding and more of just another way of achieving it. I hope that makes sense. It’s also been really nice to hear my progress echoed back from those around me. I’ve really cherished moments where people say that I don’t have an accent, or where people haven’t spoken to me for a couple weeks and they can tell I’ve improved.

At the very least I definitely feel more confident in my French. It’s more a part of me now, and I don’t want to let go of it. It’s become as much mine as anyone else’s. It doesn’t matter that it’s a language I didn’t grow up with. It’s a language I’m choosing to live with, and weave into my life. That’s what matters.  I also feel more ownership of my progress. I’ve technically been learning French words since I was really little. I’ve been trying to learn with games and things since I was maybe in the second grade. But now, after two years of intensive grammar study at Northwestern, I’ve moved to regarding the language as a tool rather than a bauble. I learned more at school than I’d realized. I even feel like a stronger writer because of French. It’s a more formal language. Every word is specific and precise. That sort of necessary utility has been reverberating into my blog posts, because I can workshop here, in a new context, what I have been using and learning everyday.

One final thing before I move on to a small recap:

The truly important thing about learning a language is that you get to decide for yourself how big you want your world to be. English covers a wide range. That is my privilege. But French has allowed me to explore other contexts in a way that just isn’t possible if I’d only ever studied English. I get to even learn more about English as I study French, because I learn weird English grammar rules that don’t exist in French. I also get to hear others’ opinions about the language I’ve been speaking my whole life. I get to know where my language stands in terms of difficulty to learn, in what contexts that holds true, and why. You don’t need to learn a language just cause. But even if you learn a language and it’s just something that you and a friend speak when you get to be together, it’s another layer of closeness and amusement that isn’t always possible in our day to day. For each day I am here in Morocco where there is a moment that I speak French, I get to turn an imaginary dial and see my life in another light.  That’s the true wonder and amazement of learning another language. It’s a chance to escape the humdrum.

That last paragraph is for all the kids who made fun of me choosing to learn French growing up, or who said that learning another language was pointless.

Finally, to recap a little:  I went to the desert last week, and honestly I didn’t enjoy it. I mainly wanted to go into the desert to see the stars. When I got there, it was after two days of hard traveling in a bus. It was beautiful, but the moon was nearly full, and so bright that everything else in the night sky was blotted out. Then, it got cloudy.

It was just not my time to be wowed by stars.

We also rode into the desert on camels, which is not that fun because you get sore after 2 hours of riding. Then you wake up at 5 in the morning to leave the desert, after staying up until midnight.

I really didn’t enjoy it, and I wouldn’t even necessarily recommend it to anyone unless they were sure they could see a night sky full of stars. I don’t regret the experience. I’m glad I did it, but I’m not going to do it again anytime soon.

Negative things aside, I did find the desert beautiful. I am also really happy to be back in Rabat, back near the ocean and a temperate climate. I recommenced my classes this week, and am going to Tangiers this weekend. I’m going to get led around by a student in Tangiers, but I’ll get to plan the itinerary!

Wish me luck.

 

I went clubbing. I took an L.

A ton happened last week.

Okay, to catch everyone up: I went on a trip to Chefchaouen last weekend. On Wednesday, I changed my host families, and then just last night was the clubbing experience.

This post is about the clubbing experience. I’m going to make another post later on about the Blue City and the host family change.

First, clubbing was an L.

I went with some friends to a club because it’s legal at age 18 here to drink. However, the music at the club wasn’t good and the crowd that was there fluctuated between forty somethings and teenagers???Seriously, I never wanted to know what a middle school dance looked like on adults, and yet I do. However, before I even got to the club, the night began on a downhill spiral.

I got harassed on the street.

The plan was to all meet up at the Pizza Hut near Myriam’s apartment. I live really close to the Pizza Hut.  I thought, “Okay, I’m gonna get dressed up, I’m gonna look really cute for the club, and I’ll walk to the Pizza Hut to wait for my friends.”

So I get dressed up, and as soon as I walk out of the door, I am harassed by almost every car, man, and group of men that walks by. About 7/10 men I passed harassed me.

Walking from my apartment to the Pizza Hut, I round a corner, and some guy on his balcony catcalls me from directly above. I walk down the street, and as I’m walking, guys in their car are driving slowly next to me to call out from the window. Even taxis honk as I pass. Guys that I pass in the street whistle. Someone walks next to me and he tries to make conversation in French. I don’t respond and eventually he stops. I cross the street to get away from the cars, and some random dude who happened to be across the street asks me if I crossed the street for him. He then starts trying to walk with me, saying that he sees that I’ve been getting harassed a lot, but then he propositions me for sex. At this point, I was near the Pizza Hut, but I could see that waiting there wasn’t going to be an option. I needed to go Myriam’s apartment, and I didn’t want this guy to follow me there. I tell this man to stop. I yell at him in French, cross the street, and go into Myriam’s building, shutting the door really fast with the hopes that no one tries to follow me in. Across the street, someone loiters, watching me. I call the elevator to go up.

I want to say something for the record: I wasn’t scared until I was near Myriam’s apartment. It was all the same old annoying BS and street harassment I’ve experienced in the States, until I realized that I was trying to enter a building where someone could try to follow me inside.

Beyond making me a public spectacle in a way I had never been before, street harassment is an example of how male-identifying people feel entitled to access women’s lives.

For what? Some lipstick? Some heeled sandals? A skirt two inches above my knees?

After I finally made it to Myriam’s apartment, I had a safe haven and some friends to wait with me for Rita and her friend who was driving all of us to the club. When I finally got in the car, there were hugs for me. I’m lucky I have that here. I took the next day to recover. The only thing worse than experiencing harassment is to let it break you. I was intentional the next day and am still trying to be intentional now to heal from this incident.

This experience hasn’t ruined my experience here in Morocco. Not even close, but it does remind me that the sexism I’ve faced back in the States is global.

Still alive, still safe.

 

(CW) Helpful Advice About Pooping Abroad: The Greatest Adventure of All (CW)

That’s right. This blog is about to get really real.

SO!

In favor of being completely transparent with everyone out there who wants to travel, and who reads our blogs dreaming that someday they’ll be helping to write them, I am making a post about my bowel movements.

I find it important to make this post because when I read about people traveling, I always feel like I’m missing out on the nitty gritty details.

So here’s my nitty gritty.

I have not had a satisfying poop since coming to Morocco. I did a ton of reading and research before I got here. I have a water bottle that can purify water from anywhere in the world.

But I got cocky my first night. I ate some salad and I think it did me in. All the articles you read say that you shouldn’t eat anything that isn’t hot. Don’t eat anything that someone prepared that wasn’t clean. It’s just that my first night here, I felt really confident. For spring break earlier this year, I traveled to Rio, Brazil with NUHillel, and the water there was fine for my system. It made me think, “Morocco? Psh. I can take it.”

Moroccan bacteria are kicking my ass.

And now I’ve been here, had diarrhea consistently, went to the hospital a couple weeks ago probably because of some bacteria in the water that the tomatoes in my salad were washed with or something. And now I am voluntarily undergoing the very public and hilarious embarrassment of documenting my poop online for the masses, where it will remain to most likely haunt me forever and forever.

Don’t be like me, please.

I need you to be better than I was. Okay? Okay. So here’s what you’re gonna do.

STEP ONE: You’re going to get yourself a water purifying bottle.  Mine is called Grayl. It looks like this:

There’s other ones out there. But what’s important is that you’re going to search for a water PURIFYING bottle. And you’re going to make sure it says that it removes 99.999% of protozoa, viruses, and bacteria. If you buy the Grayl, pay attention to make sure you buy the orange purifying filter for the bottom.

Okay, step two: Pay attention to what you eat. Eat only hot foods if you can, and drink hot liquids. If you drink bottled water, that’s okay. Brush your teeth with bottled water.

Step Three: Make sure all your vaccinations and shots are up to date for the country you’re traveling to and that you will meet the proper vaccination requirements upon entry. Schedule an appointment with your doctor before you go. See if the country you are visiting has malaria or yellow fever requirements for visitors.

And while you’re at that appointment with your doctor, make sure that you stock up on any medications you regularly take everyday so that you will have them for your trip.

And ask for the thing that I’m hoping will save me here in Morocco: an antibiotic for traveler’s diarrhea.

That’s right.

I may have gotten cocky but thankfully I didn’t get stupid. I brought some antibiotics with me.

They can give you an antibiotic in case you catch a digestive bug. Pack immodium. At the first sign of diarrhea, take the immodium for a couple days. If it doesn’t work, start the antibiotics and also take some probiotics so that you can keep reintroducing good flora and fauna to your gut. Eat yogurt without added sugar. You can add honey if you want, but don’t buy the yogurt unless it’s unsweetened because processed sugars feed the bad bacteria in your gut. This includes the bacteria that are probably giving you diarrhea.

Finally:

Don’t get there and think you’re invincible because you’re fucking not and you’ll be praying to the porcelain throne before you even hear your first call to prayer.

Don’t be like me. I was that guy. I thought I was invincible and I’m fucking not so I need you to do better, okay? Okay.

Finally, I know this post was probably either really funny or really gross for you to read (or both). So I just wanna say:

This post is really hard to put out there. But I’m doing it because I care that you have safe, happy, and healthy travels. Now, keep your fingers crossed and send me good vibes to stop having watery poops.

#SOLIDPOOPS2K18

#Prayformypoopz

Cultural Appropriation and Continuity at Home: I have questions

It’s the end of a new day.

Here I am again, World.

I went to the Old Medina today and went into just about every jewelry shop there, but I didn’t find anything I wanted. I realized that I may have gone in wanting to get something modern in maybe silver or gold, but I kept getting drawn to the antiques and the beaded necklaces and bracelets that weren’t exactly valuable in a “precious metal” sense of the word.

And I guess today, not even I appreciated my own tastes.

Today is kind of a tiring, mellow kinda day. I’m thinking about history and continuity.

I feel a sense of conflict because I’m in a really modern, liberal country and city, but I’m getting drawn to these really old, historically and culturally relevant pieces. This is cultural appropriation, no?

But here in Morocco, I’m in context. Anything I buy here helps support the income of a local artisan, and I’m actually in a place where, if I wear it, I’m not infringing on the local culture because I’m in the place where it came from, where it makes sense to dress this way.

But it’s not my culture. So while I’m here, it’s assimilation. But I am still a tourist, so no matter what, when I leave, it’s still appropriation, right? And there’s also a whole other question of respect. If I know exactly which Amazigh tribe I’d be buying from, and I am aware that the jewelry isn’t ceremonial or anything that would infringe on someone’s religion or something like that, is it still cultural appropriation?

And to somebody reading this, they may have the following reactions if I buy traditional Amazigh jewelry:

And you would totally within your right to do that and I support you in your decision.

This is an awkward conversation for me, too!!

BUT!

I am a fallible human who likes shiny, pretty things.

And I would like to retain my right to like shiny, pretty jewelry that is purely cosmetic and not traditionally necessary for ceremonies or taboo for me to wear. So I see a way going forward in which it is okay for me to buy and own such things. But I want to make sure that I am responsible about it. I don’t want to just buy anything because it’s pretty if it’s coming from a specific milieu.

You know what this means?

TIME TO GO DO SOME RESEARCH!!

I’m gonna look up some info about Amazigh jewelry and get back to this.

So, in the meantime, there’s another side to this, which is continuity at home.

Why am I drawn to the old antique jewelry here and not at home in the States? It’s amazing the things we don’t realize that we take for granted.

Why did I never want old things from back home before?

Morocco has a rich history, and it’s reminding me that when I’m back in the US, I never even think about continuity. I never really think about the material history of things like jewelry. I think about the history of lots of other things, but not the things I wear everyday.

When I go back home I want to change that.

Rabat: A Capital in Repose

Rabat grows more beautiful to me by the day. Maybe I’m just sentimental, but the lush palms are open to the sun and line every major boulevard. The manicured lawns are a healthy green. My logical side says that it’s because there’s tons of embassies around and just about everything important is a government building. Any self-respecting city based around governmental structures will want to look beautiful, but I hope that the rest of the country has this same beauty. There’s also something nice in knowing that I am in a small city that doesn’t receive as many tourists, comparatively, as the rest of Morocco. It feels like I get to actually know the city, rather than speed date it and simply add more mementos to my photo collection.

My host family is lovely, but I forgot what it was like to be a teenager and a preteen. It’s full of yelling, parental guidance, and moods that are only ever punctuated with a door slam. It’s weird to be an outsider in this framework, where I am both part of their lives and yet still a guest. How do I make them and myself feel comfortable when they have loud disagreements? Or when I get caught in the middle? Take this example: My host brother is moody with me. He was so sweet before yesterday, but last night he was incredibly rude, kicking a ball around the house even when I asked him not to. It was loud and I was tired. He just kept doing it, though, so I closed my door. I have a key in my door so I can lock it, and I did because he was making so much noise. I didn’t want to be bothered. I went to the bathroom, and when I came back, the key wasn’t in the door. I asked him about it, and he said he didn’t have it, but then he started to crack a smile and tried to stop his impulse. I was tired, upset, and I just closed the door right then and there with him on the other side.

It reminds me why I don’t want to have kids.

We went to Chellah today as part of our activity. It was lovely to go back. I had my camera this time, so watch out for the photos I will try to post later. I’m also deciding whether or not to make a Wix or a Tumblr for my photos. It would be SO much easier.

I don’t like rereading books, but it turns out I do kinda like revisiting places. There’s always something new that you notice. Plus, Chellah has these verdant garden walkways with hibiscuses and all sorts of plants. One of the guides told us there’s more than 20 different varieties. It’s beautiful.

Tomorrow is my last day of classes for the week and then I’m off to Chefchaouen for the weekend. It feels like I’ve been here longer than two weeks. The U.S. feels like a lifetime away. Different, and yet the same.

More things to come soon!

I’m Tired

Quick Rundown of Events Today:

Class in the Morning, then lunch, then our planned activity was to go to the Old Medina, but we were tired. We decided to rest instead.

So I went to get my nails done (it’s only $20 to get your nails done with gel polish here. Crazy. It’s 30 or $40 back home) and then I came home and finished my laundry.

It’s common for people to use clotheslines to dry their things here, so that’s what I did. The clotheslines are on the roof, and the view is beautiful. While I took down my clothes, the breeze blew in from the direction of the ocean and I took in all of Salé and Rabat. The sun was setting, and I could hear boys in the next lot over playing football.

I didn’t get enough sleep last night, and I don’t think I’ll get enough sleep tonight. My host brother is being kinda grumpy. By grumpy, I mean that he’s being a normal, mildly annoying eleven year old.

Yesterday he tried to teach me some grammar. It was really cute how he took charge and made sure I did a bunch of work. It’s weird to think that in just a couple of weeks I’ll be with another host family. I still have to decide if I want that. Part of me says yes, I do. It will be a new experience, a new place, maybe more convenient for me. The other part of me says no in favor of strengthening the bonds and rapport that I have here.

I think I will end up changing anyway, though. Just for the sake of something different.

I think I’m starting to get the hang of things, though. The routine is making more sense. When I first got here, there was so much excitement, so much to do and see. Even for Rabat, it was one of the busiest times of the year. Now that things are calmer, I’m trying to get that peace into my system, too. I’m honestly just glad to be feeling better.