The Final Countdown

The+Final+Countdown

Leah Siegel

Quick note: This was written almost a month ago.  I wasn’t able to upload the photo that I wanted… and for some reason I still can’t.  So please know that I wanted to show you a cool picture of me riding a camel at sunset, but it’s not happening.

I’m writing right now in a van heading from the Sahara back to Marrakech.  My friends and I only have a couple weeks left on the program, so we decided to do a bit of tourism in the south of Morocco, a place I had not yet visited outside of Marrakech and Essaouira.  We’ve been out of classes for the past few weeks conducting research and writing up papers that we’ll be presenting at the end, so we’ve had plenty of “free” time.  For the past couple of days, I have

-driven through the Dades Valley

-gotten a tour of an oasis

-ridden a camel in the Sahara and camped there overnight

-climbed to the peak of the tallest sand dune in the area and watched the moon rise

-visited an old Moroccan kasbah that has been the set for several movies ranging from “Lawrence of Arabia” to “Gladiator”

I have loved Southern Morocco.  The area almost reminds me of the drive from Portland to Walla Walla: the valleys and canyons are very much reminiscent of the Columbia Gorge.  There’s just a lot more sand.

Oh, the mountains.  The Atlas Range, the Anti-Atlas Range.  I could spend all day staring at them.  I wish that I had taken a geology class at Whitman before coming here so I could better appreciate the formations (coming here has made me almost regret not becoming a geology major).  And the color––when the sun is setting, they turn this incredible red-orange.  Most of the buildings down here are the same color as the surrounding sand and rock, so they appear to simply be growing from the ground.  We’ve driven through many villages composed of these small, rectangular buildings that appear all of a sudden because of how they blend in with their surroundings.

But, fun and games aside, it’s business time.  I have a week left to crank out my 30-40 page research paper on political activism in Morocco.  I’ve been meeting with a lot of interesting Rabatis who were involved with the February 20th Movement, so hopefully it’ll all turn out okay.  Wish me luck!

Including the time that I’ll spend with my parents after the program ends, I have less than a month left here.  It’s bizarre.  Morocco has become my reality while my life back in America has turned into a dream.  And as a result, I’ve taken a lot of things for granted, including how much time I have left.  But as the end is in sight, my friends and I have talked about going back: how it’ll be weird to hear English everywhere; how we’ll miss Morocco; how we wish we had more time here. I’ve been trying to remember details of my life here so I’ll be able to recall them when I’m feeling nostalgic––the glitter on the walls of my flat in Oudayas, the smell of the old medina in Rabat, the taste of msemmen with honey and cheese, the omnipresence of Arabic.

Arabic!  How am I going to keep that up?  It’s not offered at Whitman (although, I was happy to see in the care package that Whitman sent me, that the Pio ran a feature article on how the administration is considering the possibility of adding it as a department), and even if it was, I don’t think I’d have time for it in the remaining three semesters I have.  I’m glad that I’ve been able to at least learn the alphabet, but there’s little chance that I’ll get anywhere beyond that.  It might have to remain an unchecked box in my language bucket list.  First I want to achieve fluency in French.  My time spent in Morocco has taught me how valuable having a second language is, and French is the one language I know the best outside of English.  But I would also love to learn Spanish.  (I’m currently listening to my Danish friend speaking to a couple of Argentinians in her flawless Spanish.  It’s really a lovely language.)

In lieu of a well-written concluding paragraph, I’ll leave you all with this:

[insert cool camel picture here]