In the summer of 1989, I lived in Morocco as an exchange student. I was an AFS student and truly believed that my life would be changed by immersing myself in another culture. And it was. Living in Casablanca with my host family — three brothers and eight sisters ranging in age from 33 to 6 — completely opened my eyes to the fact that the United States was just a speck in the universe and that life could be lived in so many different ways. I learned how to speak French and Arabic. I learned how to eat couscous with one hand. I learned how to sit back and enjoy the stillness of life and the beauty of just being with the ones you love. Yes, Morocco taught me so much about life and myself.
But I won’t lie. Living in Morocco as a 17-year-old who had never before left the country, also came with challenges. I’d studied Spanish in school so communication was tres difficult. I lived with a family who lived far away from the center of town where all of the other American exchange students were living. I didn’t like lamb. The culture shock was mind numbing.
But then came Lucy.
I met Lucy during AFS orientation before we left for Morocco. She seemed really nice, but we didn’t have too much time to bond before we were shipped off to our respective families in Casablanca. Finally, we had a chance to get together about two weeks into our stay. Our host mothers arranged the date and one of my host sisters put me a city bus and off I went. I was terrified (*note a city bus in Casablanca was much like the bus scene in the movie Romancing the Stone. Lots of bodies pressed up against you and some random livestock clucking at your feet.) but I really wanted to talk to another American. When I got off the bus and saw Lucy, dressed in a traditional djellaba, red hair flying behind her, I almost sobbed with relief.
We spent the next three hours sharing stories about our experiences so far, sipping on cold Cokes and munching on delicious raisin pastries. And here’s what Lucy told me. Yes, she was scared too, and her host family situation was crazier than mine, but she wasn’t going to let that stop her from enjoying every moment of our summer in Morocco. “This is all going to be over so fast,” she told me. “And you don’t want to regret anything.” She was so right. And because of her advice, I went back to my host family and told my fears to take the night off. I threw myself into my Moroccan adventure and had the most glorious time (see first paragraph for details.) as a result.
When we got back to the States, Lucy went home to New York and then off to college in Connecticut. I went home to Wisconsin for my last year of high school. Lucy and I stayed in touch and tried to figure out how we could ever spend more time together. I almost went to her college, but in the end, I chose Smith College. When she graduated, Lucy moved to Thailand. Whenever she’d come home for a visit, we’d try to meet up. But then, Lucy married an Israeli, and moved to Israel. And now she lives in England. It seems we were never meant to be in the same place at the same time. But our bond, permanently forged in Morocco, has never been stronger. I love Lucy like a piece of my own heart.
Yesterday, my heart soared because Lucy and her family were in the United States. El esposo, the kids and I drove almost 200 miles to spend the day with them. Lucy has two daughters almost the exact same age as my two sons. Her husband only speaks to them in Hebrew. Just like el esposo (but in Spanish). Our kids broke the ice with one another playing Clue and I felt all sparkly and warm. It feels like our bond is just growing stronger. And I marvel at that, considering we hardly ever see each other and never speak on the phone. We just email each other. A lot.
I think it just goes back to Morocco. That was such a magical time in my life. I kid you not, living in Morocco fundamentally altered my perspective on life. And Lucy was a crucial part of that experience, so I guess she’ll always be a part of me.
Tell me dear readers. Do you have a Lucy in your life? A friend that you may not frequently see, but one that will always be your BFF? I’m curious how you met and what keeps you close. Was travel part of the story? Do you feel like sharing?