Sunday, September 24, 2017

European Jet Lag

It's the morning after my return from a two-week trip to Europe, and I'm a little jet-lagged and wary of the work inbox that's awaiting me in two hours. My body doesn't understand what time it is, but rather than attempting to gain more sleep, it's time to process through my recent trip.

I'm excited to have made it home with five pieces of luggage, to be reunited with my needy plant collection. I have attempted to unpack some of the past two weeks last night, and now my bedroom/living room floor is covered with seven Moroccan rugs of various shapes and colors.

So what happened? Over the past 14 days, I moved from Barcelona to Morocco, through the desert and onto Lisbon before finally returning to Spain. I nearly missed all of my flights, all for different reasons, and I slowly accumulated more and more luggage as time went on. I rode in a car through Morocco for over 24 hours from Marrakech to Ouarzazate, from Puarzazate to Merzouga, and from Merzouga to Fes, and repeatedly hung my head out the window to watch this unique desert landscape stream by. I rode a camel for the first time up a wave of sand, and attempted to board down the same golden dune in Erg Chebi.

I fell in love with Moroccan cuisine. Now: Give me anything in a tangine, along with a cup of mint tea with sugar, please. We dined in riad gardens and on top of terraces with pet turtles, and we concluded our final night in Fes with a traditional Moroccan meal inside a family home. We sat in community and shared a dish of chicken and vegetable couscous, and then a large plate of lamb. Phrases of Spanish, Moroccan Arabic, French and some English all flew about the room as we attempted to overcome several language barriers. Still, laughter is easily communicated in most every language, as is hospitality and gratitude.

We surprisingly made it out of Morocco after jumping over a couple of barriers–canceled flights, multiple carry-ons, and an early-morning flight change. We arrived in Portugal and dragged said luggage for blocks and blocks, truly testing our strength and love for our Moroccan purchases. We found Lisbon to resemble San Francisco as we hiked hills, drank mojitos atop a parking garage while gazing at a near-familiar red bay bridge, and we found the local foodie spots. We made meals of wine and cheese, much cheaper than in the states, and we longed for more time in the country.

After a short stint, it was time to return to Barcelona. With more favorable weather, clear skies and no sudden showers, we adopted a more local approach to the city. Our hotel was comparable to the Ace Hotel of Palm Springs, but we mostly stayed out in the streets and hydrated with sangria. I turned 26 with ceviche for the bourgeois, a table full of tapas, drinks at Barcelona's oldest bar and a night/early morning of dancing with two close friends. I fell in love with Barcelona on this return visit, and should have stayed.

It will take me many months to come back and write about the joys and wonders and hardships of this trip. As a whole, it was a step out of my comfort zone, a trip of growth and self-reflection, and even had a dose of culture shock. I am tired, but also so full from this experience.

*Please forgive any typos and grammatically errors.