"Travel, Leisure, and Learning in Europe" by Mallory Mrozinski
Spring break is here! It’s very nice to be off from classes, but I’m still learning a lot. Transportation in and around Rabat has a lot of options - there are petit taxis that run around the city that run on a counter, and grand taxis that run on a specific route, where you pay a flat rate for your seat. The tramway is safe and clean, and with my monthly pass I can ride it an unlimited amount of times. For our trip to the airport, my friends and I rented grand taxis (with the help of AMIDEAST, of course). While traveling usually makes me nervous, Rabat feels like my home and is pretty easy for me to navigate.
Traveling with a large group of friends was fun, and since we all present as very American the airport staff was highly amused when we used Darija to speak both to them and each other. This also proved useful on the plane from Rabat to Barcelona, where most of the passengers were either Moroccan or Spanish. Luckily I’m getting the experience of both large-group and smaller-group travel, since everyone exploring outside Rabat means we sometimes end up in the same city. I even ended up in the same hostel as some of my AMIDEAST friends by coincidence!
Once we landed in Barcelona, I immediately experienced culture shock for the very Westernized city. People wearing shorts! Public display of affection! All these things I hadn’t actively seen in months came as a great surprise. In the grocery store, I was expecting a mass crowd in front of the register as is done in Rabat. Instead I encountered one orderly line and was met with disdain when I inched around some people as I would have done at home. The level of formality between strangers was much less - no one asked me “how are you” for five minutes before starting a conversation!
Being a huge fan of food, the contrast between Moroccan sharing and Spanish sharing is stark and surprising. The Spanish also love long and leisurely meals, but in a different way. Every restaurant offers tapas, which are small plates meant to share. They consist of everything imaginable, including spicy potatoes, raw fish, cheese and herb plates and best of all - toasted fresh bread with tomato purée spread. In Morocco meals are also communal, but in a much different way. Almost all of the time there is one large dish that everyone is to eat from together, but tapas culture means lots of small plates where everyone gets one small portion of each.
Being immersed in a place where Spanish is spoken rather than a language I have any knowledge of made me realize how much I have learned this semester. Meeting people from all around the world, I can share lots of fun facts about Morocco’s rich history and culture, as well as tell about my experience as a student there. Aside from all I’ve studied in class, I can communicate my own ideas in three languages, I can navigate a new city with my new friends, and I got through airport security without being stopped for the first time!
It wasn’t until I left Morocco for Europe that I discovered how comfortable I had become in the environment of Rabat. While I still sometimes feel like a stranger in a strange land, traveling reminds me of how small and interconnected the world can be. I’m eager to return to Morocco at the end of this trip and have new experiences to compare.