Despite the struggle of moving apartments after a massive outbreak of mold (water-damage finally did its work, lesson learned), things are improving steadily.

This might be attributable to the much-needed break I had with family in Namibia, followed by a week in London. It was so strange to be back in regions where English was a widespread language. I realized I just wasn’t used to it anymore. I got pulled over in the airport in Paris and questioned, likely for a combination of having re-entered Morocco multiple times, for wearing a pretty stand-out, woolen poncho from Tangier and for repeatedly saying ‘shukran bzeff’ and ‘labas?’ to everyone out of habit. Or maybe they just thought I was weird. Regardless, being out of Rabat for a prolonged period gave me breathing space and some wonderful memories with family to hold on to for the next few months.

Although I didn’t get to see much of the more touristic sights in London, I did get to see a quirky pantomime-style play at the Shakespeare Globe Theater, wander through the ivy-devoured markers of Brompton Cemetery, explore Portobello Road (“street where the riches of ages are sold” – Bedknobs and Broomsticks, anyone?) while eating one of the best donuts I’ve ever had, and traverse several different pubs.

In Namibia I spent a week camping and travelling with my family through some of the largest nature reserves on the continent and down the coastline where sizeable populations of seals frequent the beaches. Kayaking, with seals popping up inches away to peer curiously at us, sneeze on us and generally mess with the strange, hairless beasts we must have appeared to be, was one of the highlights of my life so far. Even with a few misadventures, by the end of the break I felt lighter.

I was reminded that it’s vital to do things that bring you joy and not lose sight of what you value in the world, even when stress bogs you down. In a city that I don’t quite savor all that much, this is even more important for my mental and emotional health. I enjoy exercising and I’m going to try to make a more concerted effort to run in Hilton Park this semester. It’s the nicest – the only – park I’ve found and one that people of all ages and all walks of life frequent. Going to the hamam with my friends is always a welcome respite; a chance to scrub away the physical as well as the metaphorical dirt that builds up. I enjoy going to get couscous on Fridays, and I love frequenting the English-language bookstore nearby. In short, this semester I’m going to refocus my thoughts onto my work, the people I care about and the activities that keep me sane.

Hopefully, with a move to a new apartment I will have a space to return to after long days that feels safe and warm. A quiet space to focus and study in. A place to wake up in, drink my tea and watch the sun gently illuminate trees instead of dirty buildings. Hopefully, I’ll be surrounded less with sounds of constant construction, the angry shouting of neighbors and the shrieks of massive cat orgies/gladiator-style fights/you know we’re still not sure why they’re yowling that loudly right outside our window at 2 am.

So, fingers crossed, inshallah and all that jazz.