I don’t feel like I am a part of this city. I feel…out of place, unconnected; not merely because I am a tourist. Even tourists have their place in this city. We are the entertainment, and just as we come to gawk, we too are gawked at as we stumble about the city with our cameras surgically fused to our faces and parlay in clumsy Darija. People seem eternally fascinated here with my Indian background (and Winnie’s Chinese background), so much so that once, our server introduced us to the entire wait staff as “chinoise” and “Heh-indian” (emphasis on the Heh). So no, it is not because I’m not interacting with anyone here. I deal with people, plenty, ranging from the moohl-hanut near where I live who likes to overcharge for digestive biscuits (I’m on to you, Sidi, and if it weren’t for my crippling addiction to the chocolate dipped ones, I would take my custom elsewhere) to just regular people I meet on a day-to-day basis. It’s possible that it is just a case of homesickness, but it doesn’t feel like it. I mean, bien sur, of course, I miss home (predominantly the 24 hour coffee shops and the lightning fast babble of english voices), but no more than I did on any of my other sojourns to the mystical east (and west, and not-so-mystical West Philly). No, my feeling of disconnected-ness, of “otherness”, stems from the more complicated situation of straddling the uncomfortable line of being tourist and yet a bona-fide resident (at least for the next two weeks) of Rabat. Despite the fact that I am attending about 6 hours of school here, wander, and travel within the city, I am still lost, in the sense that after school, the question of and then what? arises. What to do, when you have already been to the Medina, the beach, and the tourist sites more times than fingers on your hand? If this was New York or Philly, I could pick up a newspaper, or look online for what is going on in the city. But here, how can I, when I have difficulty getting the point across that I would like to do laundry to my host family? Speaking a little French helps (on a side note, I am now eternally gratefully to my French professors and have begun ritual sacrifices in their name). But, it isn’t enough. Instead I feel like an island in the stream, watching as life spins and flows around me in the city, eager to get my feet wet, but trapped, helpless to take part in it.
Or you know, maybe it is just a particularly devious case of homesickness.