A large part of our homecoming has involved catching up with friends and family, which is a beloved task indeed. Many dinners, lunches, coffees, drinks, and afternoon strolls have occurred in the past three weeks, and every reunion has naturally involved us telling tales about our year abroad. As we’ve done so, I’ve seen some themes emerging, connections being forged through the natural evolution of conversation.

I made one such connection on Friday night over drinks at our friends’ house. During the course of the evening, we told them in turn about our trip to Venice at the beginning of our year abroad, and later on, about our trip to Fez in the spring. It was Gabe who made the comparison between the two, which I found to be particularly astute.

Both are worlds unto their own, microcosms that remain utterly incomprehensible in theory until you witness how they work in real life. A city built on water, passable only by boat? Sounds bizarre and almost impossible — that is, until you go there. By the time you leave, it’s the most natural thing in the world to see a concrete truck riding on a barge, or people lining up to receive their grocery delivery by boat.

In hindsight, this alternate world was very similar to the Fez medina, a city built of tiny streets, wide enough only to hold heavily laden donkeys and a never-ending, fast-running current of humanity. Until we went there, it was hard to imagine the sheer scale of the medina, much less the fact that none of it was actually accessible by car. I can’t say we knew our way around by the time we left, but we definitely had the full experience.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the medina did indeed have a very similar feel to the tiny streets and canals of Venice that we’d explored six months before. Despite their logic-defying nature, both cities had been getting along just fine for centuries longer than California has been a state.

In the weeks to come, I’m sure I’ll be thinking further about the similarities between the places we visited this year: Israel and Sweden? Portugal and the UK? Hmm. Stay tuned.

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