The Return


“Drifting away..slowly drifting. Drifting away, and it feels like I’m drowning, pulling against the stream. Slowly drifting.”

The song playing in the Seattle café as I sit with Gemma so perfectly describes how I am feeling right now, not being in Morocco. I sit here in this nearly empty café sipping on a café o laite messaging all of my Moroccan friends, Soaud, Yahya, Anas, Oussama, and our group message with everyone in Morocco and our whole group feeling like I’m drifting away from all of them. Drifting away from the life changing and fulfilling experience. Drifting away from Morocco.

Being back in Seattle feels like I’m drowning. Yesterday I was browsing in a shop when my alarm went off on my phone telling me that my time on the parking meter had run out and I immediately started feeling so stressed out and in a panic that I would get a ticket. I felt like I was drowning in the American culture that I left for just long enough to become un-used to these day-to-day experiences. Something that would normally be no big deal instead crippled me with stress. I’m drowning.

I run into a girl I lived with last year while walking across campus. She stops me and hugs me and says, “How was Spain?!” I wonder, once again, why do people only care about Spain? “Spain was great but morocco was way better and I was there for longer.” I reply with just a hint of attitude that she doesn’t know me well enough to pick up. She looks confused and says, “Oh was it just like…more beautiful?” Irrational anger has overtaken me at this point and I want to explain to her that it’s the people, the culture, the religion, the things that challenged me, the things I learned, the things that were hard, and the things that were so so rewarding. That’s why it was better. I don’t travel for the beauty of the place! I have no reply. “Sure, I guess.” I reply and walk away. I’m drowning.

In a dinner conversation in Gwinn with my floor and my brother floor, we sit taking up a whole row of tables discussing in one section, the original fairytales and where they came from. The Little Mermaid and Sleeping Beauty are discussed in completion when someone asks, “What about Aladdin?” I start to feel so excited because I know this one! “It actually comes from Ali Baba and the forty thieves, it’s one of Scherezade’s 1001 stories.” “Oh cool,” a few people respond. Taking this as encouragement I continue, “Yeah Scherezade is actually a really amazing historical figure in the Middle East. She was a strong female political figure and an extremely intelligent woman who saved her kingdo….” I drift off because people are no longer listening. My words have moved away from the connection to the familiar that they have and into the realm of ‘Danielle’s trip” or the teasing hashtag that has been thrown around “#doingitlikedanielle”. It’s meant to be in fun but nonetheless makes me feel even more removed, even more liminal. I’m drowning.

Sitting in a café listening to this song that is so fitting in this moment. I am trying to grab hold of anything that reminds me of this experience that seems a world away, desperately trying to make it feel tangible again. Desperately trying to keep it from becoming dream-like and removed from where I am right now.

I ping from my phone draws my attention away from my writing. “Oussama sent a photo to the group Moroccanspu:” it reads on the screen. I open it to find a group photo of all of us at Riad Hiba where we all got henna and tea together. One of the most memorable days of community, friendship, and crossing that took place with these friends in Morocco. Upon seeing it, tears start to flow. Why is this so hard? I’m drowning.


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