At long last, I am in Casablanca!
I got in “last night”–time is a little slippery these days, what with travel, time changes, and Ramadan on top of it all. I was cranky and disoriented from my short nap on the plane when we landed in very dense fog in Casablanca around 11:30 PM. By the time I was in the car on the way to Casa with my friend Ibtissam, her mom, her aunt, her sister, and her niece I was giddy from the waves of relief I got when a) I saw my suitcase on the baggage carousel, and b) I heard Ibtissam call out my name. In my nervous and sleep-deprived state that she was like a hijabi vision.
I’m staying with a friend and her wonderful family, though I don’t yet know for how long. My favorite is Ibtissam’s three year old niece, who I’ve nicknamed Batata. On the car ride from the airport, she was chattering about something or other and the only words I could make our were ‘batata,’ potato, and ‘mateisha,’ tomato. Batata is a goofy kid, and really lets loose around me, something she doesn’t normally do in front of adults. Of course with my limited derija I may as well be three years old, so I don’t blame her for the confusion.
It’s funny, five years ago when I first arrived in Rabat I experienced homesickness maybe once. I was well into my semester, and I felt much better after watching 40-Year Old Virgin with my host sister. Of course I had flown over with my American peers, and everything was taken care of for me. Still, I should have felt more disoriented then, when I had never stepped foot outside of the U.S. or France.
Although I’m well taken care of my first day has been difficult, emotionally. I feel much better now, sitting in front of a computer with access to the portal to the world that is the internet. Last night, though, when I should have passed out immediately after my travels, I stewed in my homesickness and tried to stay calm like an claustrophobic person tries not to lose it in a crowded bus. One minute at a time.
I am intimidated by this city. In other words the object of my studies, my general academic and professional interest, ‘the city.’ Today I took an overstimulating stroll in the neighborhood today with Ibtissam’s mom and sister and niece. We only walked around the neighborhood and visited the market, for maybe thirty minutes. I kept thinking of something I’ve pictured my Dad saying as a kid when his family was driving through the South Side of Chicago, where they were moving from Idaho: “This is where we’re going to live?”