Though leaving Morocco was difficult, I was looking forward to seeing some of my old friends again. I flew from Casablanca (CMN) to Malaga, Spain (AGP) to catch a bus to Granada to visit my roommate from UCSD.
Granada is one of my favorite cities in Spain and it’s well-known mix of Moorish and European cultures made it the perfect place to ease my way from life in Morocco back into the Western World. The fact that my orientation for Morocco had occurred in the same city, just nine months before, emphasized the fact that my time abroad had come full circle. I was back where I had started on this grand adventure, but my perspective was completely different.
I now knew so much more about both the Spanish and Islamic cultures that had fused into this beautiful city that I could pick out more of the details and actually see that history reflected in the buildings and people around me. Having already visited all the touristy parts of town, I worried less about seeing the sights and focused more on enjoying my time, soaking up the atmosphere, and giving myself time to relax and process my experiences a little bit before moving on to the next grand adventure. I only had a couple of days to spend in Granada before I had to meet another friend in Germany, but I made the most of it.
My roommate Judy met me at the bus station and, after stopping by her place for a quick shower, rest, and dumping of the ridiculous monstrosity of my suitcase, we headed out for some Tapas.
After living so long in Morocco, where the streets are almost deserted by ten o’clock and alcohol is technically illegal, it was a little weird to see so many people out and about, visiting and drinking, going from one tapas bar to another, but the freedom of being out at night in such a relaxed, friendly atmosphere was refreshing and we easily slipped into the crowd at one of Judy’s favorite places and began sampling the tasty snacks Granada is so famous for [In Granada, every drink you buy comes with a free tapa].
After going to a few different places for Tapas, we met some of Judy’s friends and went out dancing. I hadn’t slept much in the days leading up to my departure from Morocco, the last night of which was spent swatting mosquitos and trying to catch some Z’s on the airport floor in Casablanca, so by the time we left the club around 5:30am (which is decent but still relatively early by Spanish standards), I was more than ready to crash and slept gloriously soundly until 2:30 the next afternoon.
The following days were spent at a more relaxed pace. My friend and I wandered aimlessly through the town, she showed me some of her favorite places to eat, to run, to view the Alhambra. We traded stories, hardly believing it had been almost a whole year since we saw each other last.
On Monday, Judy had class and an internship she had to go to, so I had a few hours to wander on my own. I headed back up to one of my favorite neighborhoods, the Albaizin, or Arab Quarter. Within a few minutes of entering the winding streets that set this quarter apart from the rest of the city, I was surrounded by shops that would blend perfectly into any Moroccan medina and could hear Darija spoken around every corner. I could once again hold a conversation and barter for my purchases in Darija, the language that had surrounded me and become part of “home” for the past nine months. It was a glorious relief to know that I hadn’t left all of Morocco behind, but it was also sad to know this would probably be the last time I could converse with people in Darija for a long time to come.
I traded some of my left-over Dirhams for some gifts and Euros in change from my newfound friends, and continued up the street. Everyone was amazed that I spoke Arabic, especially Darija and I was thrilled at the opportunity to practice. I made another Moroccan friend who spoke FosHa (Modern Standard Arabic) and he showed me around more of the city. We spoke mostly FosHa, using occasional Spanish for clarification, and he was amazed that I had only studied Arabic for one year. [Truth be told it was a little bit more than that, as I started learning the alphabet in January and it was now the following May, but it was close enough.] His incredulousness at my apparent language acquiring skills was a bit hard to shake off, but it did make me realize just how much I had learned. Usually I spend so much time frustrated by my lack of knowledge and the gaps in my understanding that I forget to appreciate just how much I do know.
Learning another language is a complicated business, one that takes effort and practice but above all, one that takes time and exposure. Living for nine months in an Arabic-speaking country did wonders for my speaking and comprehension skills (not to mention reading and writing – those letters don’t look like little scribbles and dots to me anymore!) but it was a long road to get to where I am now. I remember the frustrations of learning a new alphabet, feeling like I had been sent back to pre-school as I laboriously sounded out each word, reading about one sentence every five minutes. When I first arrived in Morocco I thought talking to people was great as long as they stuck to “hello, how are you?” or talked only about school and the weather. Past that, all I could do was smile apologetically at my lack of comprehension. I still have to sound out words I don’t know, but my vocabulary is continuously growing and I am actually able to converse and communicate with people. In all honesty, I don’t think I realized how much I was able to do so until this Moroccan I met in Granada pointed it out to me. Because most Moroccans speak Darija, this was the first time in a long while that I spent a long period of time conversing in FosHa outside of an educational context; it was nice to realize just how far I had come.
I left my Moroccan friend to wander the rest of the city, taking pictures and searching out more of El Niño’s work. “El Niño” is a famous artist, but not the traditional art-gallery type. He specializes in street art, or graffiti, and Granada is decorated with various masterpieces done by him and many others.
I met my friend back at Plaza Nueva that evening and we went out for one last round of Tapas, visiting an entirely different part of the city once again. My time in Granada had come to a close. I left early the next morning, taking a taxi to the bus station to early enough to make it back to Malaga in time for my flight to Germany. After some time to relax and reflect, it was time to move forward, on to the next adventure.