April 10, 2014, by Guest blog
Wiping the slate clean
Post written by Jack Revell.
Wiping the slate clean (either a liberating or terrifying process, depending on how much comfort one finds in the guiding hand of daily routine back home) upon my arrival in Melilla was a daunting task, as it meant that I could no longer rely on the friends I had in England to give me the feeling of peace of mind and comfort which was normally contingent on their presence. The burden was now on me to go out and fill this unfamiliar new environment with new ones.
If your goal is to make as many new friends as possible, it’s incredibly beneficial to see others as modular, as springboards to meeting new people, and not parts of small self-contained puzzles that cease to be when you aren’t around. Meeting up with the other assistants, developing close ties with my colleagues, and hanging out with my flatmates led to getting introduced to even more people, who would then invite me to meet their friends and families, and so on. Melilla has the disadvantage of being an ‘island’ (for lack of a better word) by virtue of being a European enclave in Africa (this becomes especially apparent as your social network widens and the number of not-so new faces and mutual friends with actual new faces grows), but why stay on my side of the border? The fleeting friendships forged with locals I met while on trips to the Moroccan heartland ended the moment our goodbyes were said, but they gave me a glimpse into the way people live in that part of the world and lodged themselves in the mosaic of sights, sounds and memories that spring to my mind whenever I hear the word ‘Morocco’.
The connection I have with Melilla will be different to the one I have with Morocco when I leave. Thanks to social networking sites and Skype, I’ll be able to maintain a much stronger rapport with the friends I have made in the former (as well as the city itself) and let me live vicariously through the photos and videos they upload to Facebook. This won’t ever be a substitute for being there in the flesh, but at the very least, should I ever feel anxious at the prospect of having to ‘wipe the slate clean’ for another long trip into unfamiliar territory, dozens of different reminders as to why I should be excited rather than afraid will never be more than a click or a Skype call away.
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