The longer I live here, the more I appreciate the little things, such as when I say something in Darija and people know what I’m trying to say, or when I learn more French and Arabic vocabulary from my host mom at mealtimes. (learning words without knowing their spellings! is interesting, because I make up spellings for myself to remember the word…)
But during this past month, there’s also been larger, more-concrete things that I remember. Here’s nine of them:
Three weeks into our exchange, we took a day trip to the beach! It was a forty-five minute train ride from Gare de Rabat (the Rabat train station).
The beach was calm. My host mom said that after school starts in the first few weeks of September, people stop going to the beach. OH! The weather here is beautiful, too. I’m used to 90 degree days + humidity with late North Carolinian summers. Here, though, sans the first week, it’s been hovering around 70-80 with around a 60 degree low. We’re actually at about the same latitude as NC, but we’re a lot closer to the ocean here.
We also visited Anou. Read about them here! They’re a nonprofit that allows Moroccan artisans to sell directly to customers instead of to an intermediary.
Unfortunately, most people, Moroccans included, buy artisan-made items in the medina (the old city). Here are some pictures of the Rabat Medina:
Items bought from the medina, however, are highly discounted. Medina vendors often take advantage of illiterate artisans by not telling them what the product is really worth before purchasing it for sale. For example, medina vendors may buy a handmade rug for even less than the cost of the material to make the rug, so they can make more of a profit when they resell it.
Anou, though, works directly with the vendors to put their products online, and then sells and ship them. They describe their process really well on their website. The artisans use a language-free and culturally responsive interface to post their products.
Anyway, that was a tangent, but if you live in the US and are interested in authentic products from Moroccan artisans (and supporting them!!!), visit Anou, and buy from them!
Other beach stuff
Card games with little host cousin
The whole host family convened at my host grandma’s house for Eid. I spent much of that time playing cards with my little host cousins. We played a game called bonjour monsieur, bonjour madame (a version of ERS, I think), and also something else where you exchange cards with the middle stack until you have four of the same number.
Talking to my host relatives is pretty great. They ask me a lot about the United States and China. They’ve also asked me multiple times to repeat all the Darija (Moroccan Arabic) words that I know, and they laugh at my pronunciation and correct me 🙂 One of these words was h’shouma, which kind-of-but-not-really means “shame.” It’s something that you say when little kids do something that you don’t want them to do (and you also put a finger on your cheek when you say it). We learned h’shouma during our first few hours of Survival Darija, and I coupled that with the finger-on-cheek thing to my host family. They laughed so hard omg
School is a net positive. The cafeteria food is delicious. I’m definitely lucky that I go to the school that I do—it’s a good school, and the students are patient and inclusive with us Americans. School is intense for all the 2ème année bac students (equivalent to senior year), because they have to take the Moroccan baccalaureat at the end of the year.
During our four straight hours of physics on Fridays, my mind sometimes wanders about school at home vs. here, and efficiency in general. School in the US, or at least how I viewed it, was self guided. I did whatever I wanted (going to the bathroom too)! Here, though, I am learning what is necessary, I write everything down word for word because it’s mandatory… and class is intense because it’s so long (four-hour classes, anyone?)
I haven’t grown up in this school system, and I think that’s why I’m just not used to it. It’s not good, it’s not bad—it’s just different.
I struggle with staying alert for hours at a time, so I’ve come up with my own strategies for keeping myself focused. I’ve started indulging in nice, brightly colored pens for my notes (!!). There are two things here that I’m willing to spend lots of money on: a gym membership, and nice pens.
I have found two happy places in Morocco: the bookstore and the gym. I haven’t yet taken any pictures of the gym I go to here, so here’s the bookstore!
This bookstore is in Centre Ville. Half of the store is in French and half is in Arabic.
This bookstore in Centre Ville is one of the only ones where the inside is open to the public. For the majority of the other bookstores, you tell the people at the front desk what you want, and then they get it for you.
My host sister showed me that you can get a really good beignet in Agdal for 1.5 dirhams (10:1 dirham/dollar ratio). I’m a huge fan.
For Science Maths, we have school on Friday from 8:15 AM to 5 PM. Math in the morning, physics in the afternoon. Our physics teacher extended the school day by 45 minutes, so we have to take taxis home after class every Friday.
So, since we’re mentally drained by the end of the day—and also because we can tell the taxi driver to directly stop at the beignet stand—we go and get fresh beignets.
Today, when Elizabeth and I went to the beignet stand, he gave us jouj b skar (two with sugar): exactly what we wanted. Without our asking! These are the small things that make me love being here.
We were in Morocco during an election year. I’m not living in the swing-state-ness that applies to North Carolina during an election, but I got to learn about how parliamentary elections work in Morocco!
It was hard to tell that an election is going on until the week before, when the streets were finally littered with flyers. Definitely a big change from not seeing Hagan/Tillis signs everywhere (and TV ads every few seconds!) in 2014.
Voter turnout is low. None of my classmates who are old enough voted. Neither did any of my host family.
Achoura (the French spelling of Ashura) is the tenth day of the first month of the Islamic calendar.
It wasn’t a big holiday in Morocco, and most of my classmates didn’t do anything special at all. My host family, though, fasted—and we broke the fast at 7:30 at my host grandma’s house.
We celebrated at school, though! The older kids just had regular class, but the little kids dressed up, had henna done, made some nut mixes, and painted little tagines and exchanged gifts.
We American students also got dressed up.
Zoo trip with some American (NSLI-Y + YES Abroad) and Moroccan students at the Salé Association of Sustainable Development
My roommate interns there. An interesting day.
Finally… making a pancake breakfast for the host family
I love cooking and I just want to make all the food. Also I didn’t know pancakes made with cake flour had such a nice texture? + maple syrup that I ordered on Amazon with one-day Prime shipping the day right before I left.. they were A++
Every day, I’m so thankful that I’m here: my host family, school, and AMIDEAST have all worked to make my year here great.
I’ll blog about school soon, in a later post. Thanks for reading!