There’s a moment, when you’re on a plane, just before you take off, where the world seems to pause. It happens just as the wheels leave the tarmac, when you’re pressed against your seat, moving at an unfathomable speed and that pit forms in the bottom of your stomach. The plane leaps into the air and just for that moment it seems as though the world reconsiders itself—it reconsiders this massive object, with hundreds of souls aboard, its displacement in the universe and how to respond. The plane is suspended in the air, willing itself forward and praying that the air around it catches it and propels it toward its destination. That pause, it happens every time.
But just for a moment.
Sitting in the Frankfurt Airport, staring down an 8-hour layover, that moment of uncertainty in the air seemed more poignant than usual. This flight was hard on me I must confess, having a cold on an 8-hour flight is an experience I truly wish upon nobody. I exited the flight on another continent, unable to hear aside from an atrocious ringing in my ears and the growling of my stomach (the in-flight meal was a choice between chicken and pasta, God help me I couldn’t tell the difference).
Having been awake for more than 27 hours, I stretched out across a few seats in the terminal, a few rows away from my group, looped the straps of my bags into my arms, and fell asleep.
I awoke an hour later to a very lively Chinese couple laughing and taking a photo of me (I’m pretty sure I caught the phrase ‘American’ thrown around a few times).
Not exactly the glamorous start I was anticipating.
The thing about that moment on the plane, however, is that every time I’ve been aboard (knock on wood), that plane has caught itself and continued pushing forward. Even thought the odds seem insurmountable, a giant metal beast that has no business defying the laws of gravity taking to the air with ease, it happens.
So despite these low moments, where I do confess some malaise crept into my excited demeanor, I found a grin firmly affixed to my face as we were given a brief tour of the city this morning. A 5-hour jaunt in a hotel gave me some much needed and well-used rest time and so I set out with a much more positive outlook and a sprig in my step.
The city was beautiful, with paintings and carvings painstakingly done by hand shown on the most prominent of buildings. The weather was warm but not too hot, with a nice sea breeze kicking up from the coast. With blue skies and such beautiful sights, the place felt a bit like paradise.
Paradise, however, can be overwhelming and certainly the medina qualifies as that. People swarm in and out of makeshift stalls and the crowd is a constantly moving, thickly populated mess. Its easy to become carried away or cut off, which is intimidating.
With this though comes an air of excitement at the constant activity. Fortunately for my group, another trip consisting of 28 other Americans from all around the country have been here for the last semester, and one of them happens to share a residence with me and another girl in our group. Thus, I found myself on an unofficial tour of Rabat with tips and tricks to help us grow more accustomed. We met 5 other students who are studying with the same organization as us and we caught up with them after to grab juice at a local place.
The juice was incredible and the company enjoyable, it’s nice to have some friendly (English-speaking) faces around. The language barrier is proving to be a challenge as the Moroccan dialect varies immensely from the Arabic I have spent the last two years learning. French and a combination of French and dialect seem to be the languages of choice and unfortunately for me I find myself lacking knowledge of either.
I’m confident it’s something that can be overcome, however, and I have been informed my Arabic skills are to be put to the test by an adviser at the center we study at. The challenges presented by this trip honestly just make me more excited. Communicating with my host family is the current objective, but thus far we’ve been able to get by. The food here is exquisite and the mint tea is everything that was promised. Tomorrow we start our first lesson and I can’t wait to actually learn some of the history of this incredible place. In the meantime, it’s about 9:30 p.m. here and I am anxiously awaiting the opportunity to try some of that aforementioned food for dinnertime, as dinner is later here to accommodate evening prayer. If it’s anything like lunch, I’m in for a treat just as if the rest of this trip is anything like today, I’m incredibly fortunate. This leap of faith has proven true thus far and the world has un-paused for what I hope will be an awesome experience.