The differences between Morocco and Melilla became rapidly overwhelming. Outside there was the dark blue sea splashing against the sand, the wide paved streets, and the helicopters landing at the large military post up on a high mountaintop. Inside, it was the wall of toys and board games inside the children’s rooms, the crisp white toilet and bathtub in the bathroom, the large plate of white rice and meat slathered in ketchup and eaten with a fork.
I was so caught up in the familiarity of Morocco with Mexico, that I forgot my familiarity with large Western cities and its luxuries. I spent my first night playing Spongebob Monopoly and belting out Adele on the Karaoke with Emma and Leo. The following day, I stayed in the apartment for the most day and received a short tour of Melilla from Rodolfo in the afternoon after having a delicious chocolate cake for merienda. I was able to see part of the old area of town, where Rodolfo explained to me that Melilla was originally a prison, so there are tunnels and caves running beneath the entire city made by prisoners trying to escape. Unfortunately these were clothes in the evening, but I did see the Anthropology museum and walked around the beautiful fortress.
The first one turned out great, which gave me enough confidence to try a jump from a higher point. This was a mistake because my inexperienced feet weren’t ready for that. As soon as I landed and tried to take a step with my right foot, a sharp pain overtook my entire heel and prevented me from stepping down completely. Tour over.
On the way back we rode by downtown, pass pastel colored buildings, churro shops, and families lounging on benches or walking on side streets. “You can stay here while I watch the soccer game” said Rodolfo, and only then did I realize that in the two days I had been in Melilla, it had never occurred to me to walk around by myself and explore the city. It might seem odd, and it definitely was odd for me to realize this at the time too.
While I was in Fez, walking around by myself was quite emotionally draining because I had men’s eyes on me the entire time. And during my time in Nador and Aaroui, although not mentioned explicitly, it was clear that I wouldn’t wander around on my own without Abdel. As I saw Melilla unfold in front of me through the passenger window, I realized I could walk around on my own calmly and suddenly got a strong urge to do so. But my throbbing foot told me it was too late.
It’s a pity I wasn’t able to explore Melilla fully. On the other hand, I had two nice relaxing days cushioned by the familiar. I must admit that my body and my psyche needed recharging after my week in Morocco. I would say life has taught me resilience; I know how to quickly switch to autopilot during difficult times, numbing my emotional distress and even bodily needs, even perhaps too well. But once I arrived in Melilla, I couldn’t pretend that I had a challenging nomadic week full of sickness, tiring travel, uncomfortable harassment, and language barriers. I definitely went on autopilot until I arrived in Melilla.
The phrase inside my Watson booklet I like to read constantly says, “Try hard. Fail up.” I think I stayed true to this since I left Barcelona and quite proud of myself. Now I only hope I’ll continue to do so two, five, and eight months from now.