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Looking Up

By: Michelle

Centuries ago, lost travelers looked up to the night sky for guidance from the stars. Now, many still like to believe that a shooting star can make a wish come true. It is easy to walk the paths of our lives looking straight ahead, but we often forget the many answers that await us if only we look up.

I arrived in Morocco a lost traveler. First off, I have a horrible sense of direction. Without my trusty travel pal, Google Maps, it was like I couldn’t tell left from right. In Azrou, I used an olive tree as a landmark. Did I have any idea how many olive trees there are in Morocco? Besides that, I was lost because suddenly I found myself in a foreign country doing things I have never done before, learning to speak languages I have never even heard before, and staying in the homes of people I have never met before. As I struggled to find my bearings again, I was surprised that in many of my moments of clarity, the first step was to just look up.

If you have been keeping up with the Yak board, you may have seen mention of my interest in rooftops. In Morocco, I have been lucky to have been on many. I still remember the magic of one evening during orientation, when I felt lost and confused and decided to sit on the rooftop of our hotel. Peace washed over me as I looked over the beautiful city of Moullay Idriss. It was just before sunset and the pigeons circled the rooftop in the golden light. I decided not to worry as much and let Morocco take me where it would.

Looking up, I was lucky to find another rooftop at my Azrou homestay. One of my most cherished memories of Azrou was an evening on this rooftop when clouds of sand began to roll over distant mountains and twenty minutes before it began raining, my host mother grabbed a volleyball. Her, my homestay sister, and I played a spontaneous game of volleyball. What we lacked in language, we found in laughter. That was one of the first moments when Azrou began to feel like home.

Though I haven’t been spending as much time on rooftops in Ait Bougamez, I find myself looking up a lot more. The sky of the valley is dynamic and home to shape-shifting clouds. Arriving here and beginning my second homestay experience, I lost my compass again as I immersed in the vastly different lifestyle and language of this homestay family. Despite the challenges of a new place, I soon found myself letting go of my worries, as I took off my shoes to lay down beside my ten year old host sister Fatima and helping my host mother cut grass to feed the sheep. Blue sky and rays of sunlight peaked through large clouds when I gazed up. Fatima and I spent the rest of the afternoon playing games, braiding our hair, and examining our reflections in each other’s eyes. In moments like this, I stopped feeling lost and became more comfortable with finding myself in places I never thought I would be.

At night, stars shine bright over Bougamez and the milky is visible against a clear sky. My host cousin Mohamed always makes fun of me as I gawk at the night sky here, but I’ll continue to do it anyway because I never know what I will find when I look up. Perhaps a shooting star or an answer to guide when I feel lost again.