Transnational Similarities

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Stepping onto the ferry, Spain felt like a distant memory. That morning, waiting for a taxi outside of our homestay, the streets of Granada reminded me of Seattle before she wakes up. A faint aroma of city smell, a combination of lingering exhaust and the presence of people, along with the stillness of the 5:30 am air, reminded me of home. I had grown accustomed to reading Spanish on billboards and street signs; it felt as familiar to my eyes as English did, although perhaps that was partially due to my Southern California upbringing. Europe was an ocean away from home, however, after spending a month in France the year before, a week in Spain almost felt natural, like reuniting with an old acquaintance whom you always wish you had known better. People seemed familiar, in their mannerisms and mingling, in their clothes and eye color. I left Spain with a sense that distant lands are not as distant as America often makes us believe they are.

The wheels of my suitcase made loud, metallic noises against the ramp leading up to the ferry. After setting my bags down, I walked outside, and looking across into the marine layer, imagining Africa waiting patiently for our arrival, Europe suddenly felt very far away. Already on the ferry people looked and spoke differently. I could hear murmurs of French behind me, and later, Arabic below me on a lower part of the boat. I felt exposed as my white skin caught attention that it didn’t attract in Spain and my face blush as I didn’t know how to react to new eyes upon me.

The Straight of Gibraltar. I could feel salt whip through my hair and a millennia of stories in the water beneath me. It was humbling, and I grew quiet.

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Tangier smelled of olives and body odor and spices I had never encountered before. Every corner I turned I found myself confronted with rows of men sitting on the curbside, fixated upon my exotic Western appearance. Traffic didn’t seem to have any real order to it and conversation seemed to be as natural to strangers as ignorance was to Americans. I suddenly felt as though I had been thrust into a story that was alive and active, yet simultaneously, a story where I very obviously didn’t belong. Satellite dishes lined balconies and clothes hung between buildings; everything seemed to be connected and weave between itself, whether it was the people, the cars, or the language. There wasn’t a beginning or an end to an interaction or instance, life continued without stopping, and I was overwhelmed.

Yet, simultaneously, beneath my spinning thoughts, I couldn’t help but feel the similarities between my home and this city that felt so far from anything familiar. Children still let out cries of joy, a sound that transcends all language barriers, and taxi cabs still ignored the presence of humans in the street. Life continued on regardless of culture, architecture, or language. This brought me unexpected peace, and slugging my backpack over my shoulder, I entered our hotel.

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