I have less than two weeks left.

This [somewhat] sudden realization means about a billion and one things to me right now, but, the most important of which is that my return to the states is now “imminent” in status. So frighteningly close that I’m afraid if I blink I might miss out on the time I have left.

And that feeling has me reminiscing…I still remember my two-week countdown before LEAVING last summer. I remember how stressed I was, trying to get everything done and fit everyone in to my schedule…I was leaving my home, my family, and all things familiar, for the complete unknown…and now, I’m back in those same shoes. I’m not ready to leave my “family” or my “home” here, and I’m not sure things back in Wisconsin will be as familiar to me now-or rather, in two weeks when I arrive-as they used to be. It’s an interesting concept, realizing that I’ve finally come full circle. Should make for quite the re-adjustment period? Good thing I’m getting so good at taking on any challenges life throws at me 🙂

Luckily, I haven’t had much time to dwell on what will or will not be or come to pass in my very near future-I’ve been way too busy! Our academic schedules at ALIF are keeping on the go just as much as ever, and the amount of work looming between me and the end of my semester is enough to give me nightmares, but…somehow I’ve found a way to throw some fun in there too!

Last week, or…maybe it was the week before now?  Anyway, ALIF put on a wonderful little Gnawa music concert for us all! Gnawa is a mix of sub-Saharan, Berber (Amazigh) and Sufi religious songs and rhythms-it combines dancing, in all its traditional forms, with a whole lot of head swinging and jumping about…sort of like acrobatics. The beats are strong and steady, and SO fun to dance to! We had a grand ol’ time! (Feel free to YouTube Gnawa music and you’ll get more of a feel for what I’m talking about, I took some video s that I’d love to post soon…but my computer and I are having a little bit of a tiff right now about uploading videos..So not sure when they’ll make it out to the world wide web.)

And then, last week, one of the students from our program, Eric, had to leave and return back to the states a couple weeks early. THIS meant, of course, that we had to have a HUGE going away-fancy-dress-up Thai dinner. So we did. The food was AMAZING, but the company was even better…and it was sad to see one of us go so soon, and it made even more apparent how difficult it’s going to be when the rest of us need to say our goodbyes.

Our gang at Eric’s (back row, white shirt, black tie) going-away dinner! Don’t we all clean up nice?!

Eric and I!

And then the very next day, my friend Liz and I were off to LONDON! (Yes, that’s right, I flew to London for the weekend…still completely astonishing how that’s possible). And after only a slight mishap with our tickets, we made it.  Our first encounter after leaving the airport was with this wonderful Panamanian? Panamese? What ARE people from Panama called anyway? Either way, he was an Opera singer, and absolutely FASCINATING. It was such a random meeting, and quite late (our flight didn’t get in until almost midnight), and so refreshing. I’ve missed being completely comfortable in my language abilities. All the signs were in ENGLISH. All the menus were in ENGLISH. And everyone tried to speak to us in ENGLISH. It was kind of a nice little breath of not-so-clean, but familiar air.

One of my favorite signs we found on the University of London campus. 🙂

But anywho, after chatting up the Opera star from Panama, and, consequentially, learning he would be performing on British national television next month, we made it to our hostel. Let me just go ahead and give a shout out to No. 8 Hostel in London. If you do decide to visit, you MUST stay there. They were so great, and I can’t give a high enough review. But more on that later.

For now, let me just say that our time in London was splendid, a perfect little vacation, and made me realize that I’ll HAVE to be going back. We did all the “touristy” things-..although finding Big Ben did take us longer than it should have…he can be quite the sneaky fellow. But, mainly, I just got really over-excited whenever I recognized something from the Harry Potter books and/or movies. (I went all the way to Kings Cross station JUST because of Harry Potter) Ha-ha, what can I say? I was loving the idea of being the same city that acts as the setting for bits and pieces of my favorite fantasy world.

The very same station, as seen in Harry Potter! (!!!!)

ALSO seen in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Movie!!! (I know I know, these are a bit much…)

Cliché? Yes…but SO worth it!

Me! In front of St. Paul’s Cathedral!

I had “London Bridges” stuck in my head ALL weekend..the nursery rhyme and the Fergie song.

The “Towers Bridge” and the Thames…breathtaking much?

Liz and I! We found him!

Liz and I, and small boy, in front of Buckingham Palace!

I get really excited about jumping pictures...so, naturally, I had to take one in front of the royal palace.

The weather was as to be expected, cold rainy, generally very grey. And, while this was upsetting to me at first, I realized that that’s exactly how London is SUPPOSED to be, and therefore I should be grateful that I get to experience it for what it truly is. And it certainly didn’t stop us from having a fantastic time. My ONLY complaint from the weekend was not getting a picture with those wonderfully colorful beefeater guards and their furry hats. Alas..next time. But, I stuck to my budget, had some perfectly-chilled (oh, how I miss ice…) pints, and met some quite fascinating people. (That would be why hostels are my fav way to travel!) There were the three French men that lived in the hostel full-time, whose accents were completely irresistible, and we had the best of conversations, about everything from musicians to economics, to Obama, to Napoleon. Then of course we met a, usually always in a slight state of drunkenness, red-haired Scottish man, who had a thick English accent and kept referring to me as “lassie.” And one of my favorite new friends, Tony, the very old, yet somehow very, very-hip Malaysian man, who seemed to be one of the wisest people I’ve ever known. We got to know this little crowd, and leaving them after our short, four-day stay was a little bit sad. They really helped to make our weekend.

But, ultimately, as I guess is the morale of this post’s story, all good things must come to an end. And, returning to Fes, in all its humidity and lack-of-traffic-rules glory did feel good. But now, it’s off to finish the homework I desperately tried to neglect all weekend, and this week is our LAST FULL WEEK OF CLASSES!!!!!  Which, unfortunately, means all of my finals are next week already? And…I’m not anticipating them to be in any way easy. L Wish me luck??

Until next time…