2019 Spring Amideast External Programs Gwen Jensen Morocco

The Shoes That Saw It All

I brought three pairs of shoes to Morocco. Three.

I wore one pair of shoes in Morocco. One.

Crisp grey canvas, outlined with clean white rubber: one of my favorite and most anticipated Christmas gifts. The leather heel rubbed and tore against my anxious tapping feet in line for boarding. Halfway to Morocco, I was wishing I had worn different shoes:  the newness of these ones left bright pink blotches on my already-tired feet when I finally got to my hotel in Rabat, that very first night.

Today, after making my familiar walk home from school, I flopped on my bed and kicked off the soft, worn-in canvas, noticing that these shoes felt more like socks after fourteen weeks of daily wear.

Fourteen weeks. Four countries. Fourteen couscous lunches. Nineteen cities. Two internships. Ten flights. Two oceans. Three pyramids. Two ancient wonders.

There are endless ways to quantify this semester abroad. But it all comes back to one pair of shoes, on one pair of feet, on one person. One me.

So when I look at my shoes at the foot of my bed, I see the dust and the holes and the rips and the tears and the creases in the faded canvas from fourteen weeks, four countries, fourteen couscous lunches, nineteen cities, two internships, ten flights, two oceans, three pyramids, and two ancient wonders.

It is easy to look at my shoes and see how they have changed this semester. Now, they are almost unrecognizable from how they appeared originally in the crisp cardboard box I opened on Christmas morning. But when I look in the mirror, at the person who wore them for so long, I don’t see any dust or holes or rips or tears or creases. I just see me.

My time in Morocco comes to an end after fourteen weeks, four countries, fourteen couscous lunches, nineteen cities, two internships, ten flights, two oceans, three pyramids, and two ancient wonders. Just like my shoes have changed and become more comfortable and worn in, I have changed and become more comfortable, retaining the dust from these journeys. The red blisters of pre-departure jitters have faded into the calloused experiences and lessons that will follow me home.

In a few weeks, my grey canvas Vans will be left behind in the box they came in, tucked away in a closet or attic, as just another reminder of the fourteen weeks, four countries, fourteen couscous lunches, nineteen cities, two internships, ten flights, two oceans, three pyramids and two ancient wonders. I will keep going and changing and seeing the world, fading and changing and creasing and staining the canvas of my life – this time, with a new pair of shoes to wear in.

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