That Time We Waited Two Hours in Line for Lumpia

One of the best things about being back in the US of A is the sheer amount of ‘stuff’ there is to do here.

This last week alone I harvested kale for 3 hours on an organic farm whose produce goes to supply food banks throughout the county with local freshness. I had lunch on the waterfront in downtown Olympia, went to two outdoor concerts, mozied at the farmers market, celebrated a wedding, ended Friday night at a country western bar, and grazed at the Tacoma Food Truck Fest.

These are pretty much all of the things I dreamed about doing while wilting away during Moroccan summers. Especially that first and worst summer. Do you know what it’s like to stare at your fan for two hours?

And in case you’re wondering, yes. I really did wait two hours in line for lumpia.

Allow the photo tour to commence.

Mom and I show up. I take pictures of silly people waiting in ridiculous long lines. I silently mock them.




Then I spot the Lumpia World signs.


And Mom and I become those sad fellows waiting in line. Back in the trees.


So we wait.


And wait some more. I make a comment to Mom about how Morocco taught me patience and zen and gracefulness in difficult situations.


And oh look! Live music!


We edge closer. (The little girl hiding underneath the Lumpia World sign and her Dad were so cute. Two hours provided ample time for creeping.)


We’re so close I can see it! I rescind former comment about newfound patience hard earned in Morocco. I’m ready to fight someone.


At last! Success.


Hangry-ness oblitereted.


But wait! We’re not finished.

Desert calls.

And is found at Shake Shake Shake while walking back to our car.





All’s well that ends well in Tacoma.



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Filed under Pacific Northwest, Photography, Stories, Summer


A couple days ago someone asked me what the scariest part of being back is.

The usual suspects like grocery stores and having ears privy to all matters of conversation in English, didn’t cross my mind.

Instead as I paused to think, I realized that the scariest thing is how un-scary it’s all been. Which is not to say that it’s been easy. Readjustment has been frustrating at times. Sometimes I feel like I took a couple steps backwards in choosing to go to Morocco.

But on the whole, I find that while so much has seemed to change in the 2 years and 3 months that I was gone, in reality not that much has changed.

Which leads me to think about how I’ve changed and how I haven’t.

For whatever reason, Morocco instilled in me a kind of brazenness and confidence that I don’t think I’ve known since I was a toddler. (Ask my parents about my rough and tumble days)

As I said half jokingly to my friend last month, I’m much more charming in Arabic. Maybe it was the guise of speaking a foreign language or how gracefully I resigned myself to dressing like a sister wife, but my time in Morocco could summarily be described by the popular adage ‘Long hair, don’t care.’ And it seemed like the less I seemed to care, the happier I was.

(Clarification note: I cared deeply about my work and reputation, critical tenets of success in Morocco. What I’m referring to above is more on a superficial level.)

I had hoped this attitude would carry over to America, but it’s with disturbing lucidity that I recognize patterns and habits of the pre-Morocco Melanie. Over analyzing conversations I had hoping I sounded smart or witty, over analyzing recent photos of myself hoping I look okay.’ That kind of thing.

How do I reconcile?

I don’t really know. I guess that’s why they call it readjustment.

Now excuse me while I continue to freak out over the cereal aisle.

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Colonel Bob’s Peak

How I’ve been reintegrating into America.












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Soundtracks and Other Things

Since high school, I’ve liked to imagine what it’d be like if we could actually walk around, live really, with the soundtrack of our lives blaring out loud, in public, for others to hear. Maybe not even the soundtrack of our lives, maybe just the soundtrack of the moment. That song. That perfect song which seems to encapsulate so much of what we’re feeling and want to say, but cannot for whatever reason. I used to imagine roaming the hallways in slow motion, catching snippets of other people’s soundtracks. How did what they were listening to capture how they were feeling?

My soundtrack has been all over the place lately.

While riding the souk bus for one of the last times in Morocco, I played “Free Bird” on repeat.

Lord knows I can’t change. 
Lord, help me, I can’t change.
Lord, I can’t change.
Won’t you fly high, free bird, yeah?

Cue epic guitar solo.

On my first trip to the commissary last week I heard “New Soul” by Yael Naim. Reminding me that:

I’m a new soul
I came to this strange world
Hoping I could learn a bit bout how to give and take.
But since I came here,
Felt the joy and the fear
Finding myself making every possible mistake


There’s also been a little “Graduation (Friends Forever)” by Vitamin C and “Whatever You Like” by T.I., the latter chosen yesterday as I ran around the park in a tank top and shorts basking in the sunshine.

My first week+some back at home has been good. And weird.

I’m enjoying beer and the ease of cooking in my mother’s kitchen and hot water and not having to pay for every text message I send and hi speed internet and wearing cute clothes. I’m adjusting to the weather…and germs. I’m enjoying spending copious amounts of time with my family. Editing my little sister’s papers, hiking with my Dad, helping out in my Mom’s preschool classroom. I’m letting my defenses down. Realizing that kids in America aren’t going to ‘Bon Jour’ me or cuss me out or throw rocks at me. I haven’t been sexually harassed or otherwise bothered once in America.

But I’m also dealing with a bit of awkward social anxiety. I’ve mostly been a hermit since coming home. Restricting myself to preschool hours and family time. Dare I say that I’m kind of afraid to talk to people? As I jokingly said to a friend the other day, I’m nowhere near as charming in English as I was in Arabic.

I’m exhausted. Having finally gotten over my jet lag, the pace of American life is catching up with me. The days feel so long. In Morocco I used to feel accomplished if I did 2-3 things a day. Makes me a little worried about job life.

And I haven’t really had a quiet moment to process things. To declutter my thoughts and organize them into neat little lists. Not for about a month. I hope to do that soon. Probably here on the blog.

To everyone who wrote, called, texted, or otherwise thought of me in this past month I say ‘thank you.’ It’s meant a lot. I promise to start functioning as a real life, 20-something adult soon. I hope.

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Filed under Life, Morocco, Musings, Peace Corps