"Saying Goodbye to Rabat" by Liora Silkes
I’ve been avoiding writing this last blog post because I know that once it’s published, that means I’ve fully and truly finished my semester abroad. But I’m currently on an airplane over the Atlantic Ocean and landing back in North America will be another marker of the fact that I have reached the end of the semester.
And what a semester it was. Over the last four months, I learned a new language, took overnight buses and trains to explore new cities, and ate more types of bread than I could have ever imagined. Studying abroad is more than just exploring, though. I had a routine and a home in Rabat, with daily and weekly events to attend. Some days were filled with adventure and others with writing papers. Sometimes, I spent my afternoons discovering new shops in the medina, and other days I spent the afternoon napping. Most surprisingly, it was somehow already May and now I had to say goodbye to all the friends and places that had defined my time in Rabat.
The AMIDEAST program helped us find closure by hosting reflection sessions to wrap up our classes and dinners to say goodbye to our friends. In many ways, my last week mirrored my first — with visits to many of the same restaurants and tourist spots in Rabat. I even planned to travel to the airport with the same student I shared a taxi with after first arriving at the airport in Casablanca in January. But the best moment of closure came completely by chance.
A week before we left Morocco, a few of my friends and I went to a restaurant. We had a lovely time sitting and chatting while we looked over the river Bou Regreg, and by the time we left, it was too late to walk so we needed to find taxis home. There were four of us, and a petit taxi takes a maximum of three passengers. But it was late and there weren’t too many taxis around, and occasionally the taxi drivers can be convinced to take down their taxi sign and squeeze in a fourth passenger. So when a single taxi finally arrived, the four of us climbed in. The driver initially protested, but quickly sighed, shrugged, and moved the taxi sign off the roof of his car. We ended up having a great conversation with him, teaching each other a few new words in Arabic and English.
A week later, on our very last night in Rabat, the four of us went back to the same restaurant. After enjoying the beautiful view from the deck of the boat, we turned to say our final goodbyes to the restaurant and to each other: most of us were leaving that very night. We walked out to the road, ready to convince a new taxi driver to drive all four of us. Eventually, one taxi stopped, and the four of us climbed in — and we had the same driver as the week before! We were so shocked. I had gone an entire semester of taking taxis to class from the same pickup spot at the same time every weekday morning and never seen the same driver. But there we were, a week later: the same four students and the same taxi driver. He even remembered the route to drive us all home!
I don’t think there is one best way to wrap up a semester abroad — how could I truly say goodbye to the people and places I had lived with for four whole months? Revisiting restaurants and historical sites was wonderful and heartwarming, but that coincidental ride in that same taxi, one last look at the familiar roads of Rabat, felt like the perfect conclusion.