So I know I have a lot to catch you up on about my stay in Marrakech so far and I definitely will do it, eventually. However, this past Tuesday was different from every other day I’ve had here and I feel like I should share what happened while it’s still fresh in my mind :)
The 25th of October, was not just special because it was my 18th birthday, but because I really felt the love of all the Moroccans and Americans I know here. I’d like to take some time now and back-track to the start of one memorable birthday.
My Moroccan friends and family have shown me so much love, it’s unreal. I think Tuesday night was the first time I genuinely got surprised at my own surprise party. My host sister Z, asked me to ride with her over to a friend’s house to drop off a pair of shoes because she didn’t want to go by herself at night. So I went and by the time we got back, I was expecting to get into pj’s, maybe do some studying, then just go to bed. Little did I know that when I slid the glass door open to the living room, I would be faced with my three other host sisters, host mom, host brother, host brother-in-law, and Z’s friend Sara. They were all gathered around the dinner table, screaming happy birthday to me, and their excited faces glowed in the candlelight beaming from my birthday cake. They decorated the room with a banner and balloons and even dressed in traditional Moroccan tux shetas (what women wear as guests at weddings). Dinner was a strategically planned to remind me of my Afghani dinners back home and I think my host mom achieved her goal with an amazing kabob and rice combo. And for gifts, I got two pairs of adorable earrings, a chic brown leather purse, a hand-made wooden jewlery box, a floral keychain, and a jeweled headband. They completely caught me off guard with every aspect of that night that I’m still blown away.
And as for the NSLI-Y group, I feel so incredibly close to them that it’s weird to think that we’ve only been together for a little over a month now. Tuesday morning at 7am, my roommate Lilly slowly woke up to our alarm and her first words were “Happy birthday, Negina!.” I was even at the point where I forgot myself that it was the 25th. The group also wished me happiness on this incredible day that marks my birth when I got to school. Bridget wrote me an adorable poem; Charlotte got me goodies from the hanut (the fun and convenient shops along the roads); Shannon made me a birthday sign; and the whole group got me a vibrant new journal (which was perfect timing since I was looking to buy one from Acima, the closest supermarket).
I had a delicious lunch at a Seafood eatery with roommate Lilly, Char B, Caleb, Heather, and group leader Melissa. At the end of our meal, Melissa snuck away and got back to our table with delicious cakes from a little pattisserie down the street. Not only was the company good, but the food itself was pretty bomb.
And before we walked home yesterday, Lilly, Caleb, and Sarah got me a beautiful pair of baby blue antique studs and a soft blue leather wallet from Sarah’s shop in Jmaa Al Fnaa. I left with a shiny red gift bag full of presents from people that really made yesterday so incredibly special.
I have to admit though, I was feeling a little homesick Monday night just because it would be my first birthday away from my family, but I think I’ve made a bond with everyone around me that I can confidently refer to them all as my second family. I did get a chance to talk to my actual family back home though. Hearing their voices made me incredibly happy :) When I talked to my mom and dad specifically, I felt so normal and so proud of myself because I didn’t feel this intense urge where I absolutely had to see them right then and there. I think that even though it hasn’t been too long, this experience abroad has made me grow up, mostly in the sense that I can be seven hours ahead of my family and still be OK. Good thing I turned 18; my adultness is starting to expose itself!
This birthday was definitely one for the books (quite litterally, I journalled about it for an hour earlier).
Until next time,