Grown Woman

By: Nancy Smith

Ok so yes this blog is dedicated predominantly to my research, but I’m going to allow for a narcissistic post CAUSE IT’S MY BIRTHDAY Y’ALL.

Yep, ya girl just turned 21 in the grand land of Morocco. But before we get there, let me give you a brief synopsis of my arrival because it was glorious and a little terrifying.

With an uneventful trip into Madrid – you know, watched twelve episode of the Simpsons, read a brilliant book called “Jacksonland” by NPR’s Steve Inskeep, discovered J. Cole’s new album(LOVE, by the way) – I expected nothing less on the next flight. However, I woke up on the Casablanca tarmac to discover that a fellow passenger had suffered an in-flight medical emergency and the plane was swarmed with Moroccan equivalents of EMTs . . . proving that apparently I am capable of sleeping through almost anything

(and, for the record, the other passenger was fine).

Aside from that, I proceeded through the airport unimpeded. I talked to a nice Canadian lady as we navigated customs, panicked a little in baggage claim (doesn’t everyone?), and briefly wallowed in my own loneliness as I passed all the exciting reunions at the exit.

The real fun started on the train, when my backpack – complete with wallet, passport, computer, camera, Beat, Ray Bans – decided to take a solo trip to the Casa Port train station. We won’t get into the details capable of disturbing my mother’s delicate constitution, but I effectively used my fluency in “Frarabenglish” (French/Arabic/English) to communicate the predicament to Casa Voy security. They called Casa Port, who had indeed found my bag intact – and the accidental thief very apologetic. I traveled to Casa Port, collected my things and attempted to convey my relief to the security chief with the French phrase “I cry with joy.” Instead, I told him that “I rain with joy.” He then escorted me out with a bemused-why-is-this-girl-traveling-alone expression on his face.

I grabbed a late train to Fez, upon which I crowded into a cabin with six other Moroccan men (one of whom proposed, exciting!) Later during the ride, I met a really cute guy, but he was three so his Arabic was a little advanced for me. We did spend the rest of the trip making faces at each other and sharing candy, so it was basically true love.

All this running around had me arriving in Fez around midnight, arguing fruitlessly with a cab driver over his fare, and crashing into bed close to 1:00 AM.

When I woke up, it was my birthday and I had no idea where I was. Internal dialogue went something like this: “Oh right, Fez. Food. I need food. Shower first probably. Is there WIFI here? How can I ask that in Arabic?” etc.

Once I got my bearings, I took off into the old medina in search of Cafe Clock, a western restaurant with killer mint lemonade. I retreated into the comfort of the internet, assuring family that I wasn’t dead and working on my ethical research training. When I realized that the girl next to me spoke English, we struck up a conversation. Turns out she’s a recent graduate of George Washington University, also travelling Morocco solo, and kind of a badass to boot. Kelsey majored in French (minors in anthropology and sustainability) and is spending a few months travelling before she starts her job in Ohio as a manager on an organic farm. We went by her host family’s home in the Ziate neighborhood, where I discovered that I knew them; they had hosted friends of mine last summer. The daughter, Majda, is very sweet, an excellent cook, and somehow remembered me as well. With all that in mind, she seems like a useful thread to pull in my research and I may ask her for an interview.

After exploring the rest of the medina under an overcast sky, I took Kelsey to visit my host family from last summer: Fatima Zahra, her husband Abdel Rahim, and all five of her wonderful boys (Mohammed, Mourad, Mehdi, Nordine, and Wadiya). It was a truly joyous reunion, though it required an Arabic activation of which I was not quite capable (fortunately, Frarabenglish came to the rescue). We talked long and late, and Mama Bear insisted on feeding us an array of desserts (halowiat in Arabic), breads, and Moroccan coffee (80% sweetened milk, 20% actual coffee). This summer is going to require a lot of crunches and push-ups.

Then, as I was about to walk Kelsey home and return to my hotel, Mama Bear broke out the big guns: a birthday cake complete with 21 candles and sparklers. Everyone burst into a round of “Happy Birthday” first in French, then in Arabic (see the YouTube video here!) It was awesome, even with the climactic scene of the American classic film “Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid” playing in the background (think “Sharknado” and then go down a level in quality).

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Birthday shenanigans with Nordine, Wadiya (host brothers), and Iman (host niece).

So despite being thousands of miles from my closest family and friends, I ended up having one of the best birthdays ever, surrounded by some amazing people.

Moral of the story: I’m a grown woman now, just go ask Beyonce.

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