The last weekend in Paris was a mix of finishing my final essays and trying to fit in some last minute visits. I barely saw anyone from the program over the weekend because we were all in the same boat–scrambling to finish our assignments while enjoying our favorite parts of Paris for the last time. I made a list of things I wanted to do on Saturday, and tried to hit as many as possible with a friend that I made in the city. Our first stop was Metiers Art Museum, which had great reviews online. However as a humanities person, I personally found the exhibits in the museum a little too technical. After the museum visit, we tried to find the entrance to the catacombs and got very lost. We ended up walking around the Notre Dame and took a short stroll along the Seine (a must in Paris!). After asking around, we finally arrived at the correct location, but had to wait in line for about an hour. In my opinion, it was totally worth it! It was another great October activity, even though it was slightly off-putting to see hundreds of skulls arranged in specific patterns. I had been to the catacombs in Rome, and I have to say that I prefer the one in Paris. After the catacombs, we had dinner then tried to hit one more museum–the Palais de Tokyo, but unfortunately it was closed due to renovations. However, the Eiffel tower was right across the street, so we walked over and just enjoyed the view of the tower at night. Every hour, it sparkled and it was the perfect end to my stay in Paris. I spent most of Sunday finishing up my final paper, but managed to squeeze in a quick walk around the Louvre and a nutella crêpe.
End of an Era and Reflections on Paris
My last meal with my host family felt very emotional. Eating dinner with my host parents while talking about a range of topics had become part of a routine. It was something that I looked forward to each day, and made me feel like I was really part of their family. Even though French food tends to be less seasoned, everything my host family made (except for pâté, which I did not like at all) was delicious. My host dad usually went to bed early while my host mom was a complete night owl, so I usually stayed up with her to talk and do my work. We became friends, and I really enjoyed the fact that we had a family group chat. We even binged a French show together over the course of a week.
The last night was also when I gave my host family their presents that I brought from the States. I bought them a tote bag that had all the neighborhoods of DC and also a box of Swedish fish. I was able to show them on the bag the two neighborhoods that I’ve lived in, where the Capitol is, and where my high school was. They really liked the gift and told me that I would be welcome at their apartment if I ever visited Paris again. Leaving them was harder than I expected, and I had all sorts of emotions swirling around my head the morning I left.
On the plane from Paris to Morocco, all I did was update my journal because I was two weeks behind. While I was writing, I realized just how much we accomplished in such a short amount of time. Not only did I gain a lot from the academic side of things, I really got to know the city of Paris and French culture and history. I had really grown to love the city and its people. Whenever I’ve started a new journey it has always been either exciting or scary, this time there was a little sadness mixed in. However, I was very ready to start a completely new adventure in a different continent.
Arrival in Rabat
We got to Rabat in the afternoon, and started our orientation almost immediately. The change was so fast that my brain barely had time to process everything. I was wide-eyed in the taxi from the airport to our hotel, and was mostly filled with dissbelief. Paris seemed so far away. On Wednesday, our orientation included introductions, a safety briefing, and a small tour of the city on some taxi verts, which are basically rickshaws. The most shocking part of orientation was the warning we got about harassment and the social hierarchy in families, where women are at the very bottom. It quickly became evident that the place that women have in Moroccan society is different than what we are used to at home. Our professor told us that sex before marriage is illegal, as is homosexuality and forms of PDA such as kissing. As a group of all women, I think it will be interesting to see how we navigate this new space and find our place in society.
A more light-hearted activity was an introduction to bargaining in Rabat. We each had to find something to buy with 10 dirham. I paired up with another girl in the program and with 20 dirham (which is roughly $2) and a few Arabic phrases we were able to buy 4 bracelets, a container of hair bands, and a bag of nougats. Granted, two of the bracelets were gifts, but we still felt like winners.
I was most excited about the food in Morocco, and it has lived up to the hype. The dinners for the first two days of orientation have been Tagine, and it has been absolutely delicious. I have yet to have couscous, but I know that the day will come. We also had the chance to try this very fluffy cheese (I did not get a chance to ask for the name) that tastes like heaven. Of course, we have also had many cups of mint tea with Moroccan cookies.
To sum it up, the change to another country has been bittersweet, and we are all slightly overwhelmed but looking forward to what lies ahead!
Until next time!