November was the month my long-awaited visitors came: my mom, my brother, and my friend. Of course, before that there was time to creatively celebrate roommate birthdays (all within 12 days of each other) and do a little traveling. The second half of the month, my visitors came and engaged in my North African life. Then we all traveled to Spain together and I finished the month there.
December ended while I was still in Spain. When I returned to North Africa, much of the month included finding ways to celebrate Jesus’ birth in a country that didn’t publicly recognize Christmas. The highlight of the month was visiting a friend in a desert city in the deep south. There, I became even more aware of the variety of culture in North Africa.
January was a month of traveling. When I wasn’t traveling, I was planning the next trip. At least that’s what it felt like. My goal was to continue sampling the country’s varied regions and sub-cultures. Over the course of the month, I began to understand the value of language in building relationships. That realization provided motivation for continued language study.
February was a hard month for me. “My language was struggling, I was burning out relating to the culture, and my heart felt shredded by the blindness around me.” I continued studying Arabic in a mixture of classroom and self-study. My relationships with friends weathered some of the hardest days of my time in North Africa. I struggled with almost constant sickness on top of spiritual and emotional struggles. “But in the midst of that, God was faithful and sent me parcels of hope…”
March was another hard month, “but God was faithful through the emotional, mental, and spiritual struggles.” I enjoyed Arabic class and learned to ask questions that probed beneath the surface of the language. Some of the highlights of the month included entertaining visitors, having a tailor make me a traditional dress, a North African circumcision party, and quality conversations with local friends.
April was a month of bittersweet transition. I found part of myself already living in the future while the other part was “still clinging to today.” Melancholy goodbyes shrouded the weeks preceding my departure on April 13, 2017. Then I left my sense of belonging and set out, feeling a little homeless. After 11 days in Spain, I traveled from Almería to Madrid to Chicago where I found my waiting family.