The number one thing I feel homesick for when I’m in Casablanca is exercise. I miss how easily I could exercise in Chicago; there were two gyms right near my home, a beautiful running path, and just a mile away was the lakefront path, which I biked down many weekend afternoons on my way downtown. Here in Casa, the running is a little more challenging. Cars block the way, motorbikes speed by, the sidewalks have holes, traffic lights and actual traffic patterns don’t quite match up, and men in cafés stare. I only rarely see other runners, and I think I’ve only once seen a female running by herself…and she was clearly also a foreigner.
Dodging cars is good for increasing your heart rate.
Moroccan society certainly has more divisions between private and public life than American society does. It is perhaps a little strange for a woman to go out in exercise clothing and run in the streets. Unemployed men have the bad habit of staring, particularly at foreigners. And perhaps the idea that exercise is important and is not just something for unskilled laborers is new to Morocco, as the wealthiest of society live in such a way that they rarely have to interact with the outside world. However, I think it is generally accepted that exercise is a good thing for everyone.
There are deceptively few cars in this photo.
Tomorrow I plan to get up and go for a run in the morning. It will probably be hard to get myself to go out knowing that I will have to dodge cars and bumps in the pavement, and that all eyes will be on me as I pass each café. But I’m going to do it anyway, because I love the feeling I get from running, and the way that exercise allows me to think clearly and positively. I’m going to continue doing what I love even if it can be uncomfortable; but I really hope that it starts to catch on!
Last week, I was looking through the photos on my computer in order to find one to use for my last blog entry. I stumbled upon a series of photos from my second year of college of my friends, beautiful fall weather, and us smiling big smiles. A wave of homesickness washed over me. But when I thought about it, I realized that what I missed when I saw that photo wasn’t “home,” but just one situation I have really fond memories of. I do love fall weather, the smell of the wind in the pine trees in the Midwest, and leaves changing colors. I did have really good friends that year, though I haven’t kept in touch with all of them. I also really liked the life of the student, where I could mostly make my own schedule. But I wouldn’t say I really miss any of those things (except for maybe not having to wake up at 5:30am), and even if I were looking at that same photo in Chicago, I would still have felt that longing for the time that it was taken.
The majestic halls and skyscrapers of Chicago, from above and below
Living in Casablanca just feels like life to me, not life away from home. I have good friends here, I have a good job, I exercise regularly, and I cook the foods that I like to cook. I have something to do every weekend, and have people to talk to about anything I’m worried about. So when I feel sad, its not necessarily homesickness; rather, it’s just sadness with the idea that everything could be perfect somewhere else, particularly somewhere where my mom would cook me dinner.
This is my mom. Isn’t she pretty? She’s smart, too.
Last week when I was sick I called my mom and told her, “I’m home sick!” Which she heard as “I’m homesick!” But I know that even when I have problems here, going home wouldn’t solve them, it would just be an escape. I’ve thought about this a lot lately because some of my colleagues have mentioned being homesick. They express a desire to be elsewhere, not always home (although trips back home for the holidays are drawing near for some). It’s too bad that not everyone loves living in the country that I chose to live in (twice!), and that they haven’t discovered things to love about this place yet. But living abroad is hard, and sometimes the things that might have been clear at our “home” might not be clear elsewhere. Some day, we’ll look back on photos of sunny Morocco and feel a wave of “homesickness,” longing for the days we spent here!