OK, so I haven’t made a “blog” yet & I’ve been in Morocco for 3 weeks now…..Granted, I’ve written in my journal several times, I simply did not know where to start with posting my thoughts/experiences publicly. hmmm…. where to start….. I suppose the beginning with Orientation week, jam-packed with activities, “Survival Moroccan Arabic” classes, and tours around Rabat. We also stayed at Hotel Oumlil during orientation before we moved in with our host-families one week later. My room-mate was Sarah Ullman, a former child-actress apparently. She was very kind and the sound of her laugh always made me laugh..she actually reminded me of a friend back in Johnstown who I had ballet with named Jenna:) I did feel bad though as I am a self-proclaimed “morning person” and she is not. I’m certain I woke her up every morning when I got up (even though I often woke up Before my alarm went off….it’s like she could sense my eyes had opened & then she would stir in her bed. I guess not everyone is a heavy sleeper like me)….
Again, I felt bad, but I like to enjoy my “me time” each morning before the day begins. haha I think i take after my Dad with waking up early because he never sleeps in much either…. I met some great people/friends during Orientation. 2 girls in particular share a great love of coffee with me. Their names are Hannah & Katie. Hannah is Persian, is from Miami, and has the same exact voice as Autumn Apsey (a nice reminder of my dear friends at SU); Katie goes to NC State, is from Ohio, and has a voice/personality of someone I know but I still have yet to figure out who it is that she reminds me of! Either way, we hung out one of the 1st days in a cafe & i know who to call upon should I want to go to a cafe & b.s. &/or do homework.
it’s raining today…pretty dreary outside actually. I hate the rain. The weather here’s been OK, chilly outside some days…sunny others….& raining the rest. The difference though is that the houses/apartments here do not have central heating; so while in the states, one can stay warm inside, here that is not the case. In fact, it often is cooler Inside my host-family’s apartment than it is outside! Layering up at night with thermals, sweats, & 2 pairs of socks clearly has become the norm (underneath 3 blankets) ha. Speaking of my host-family….i LOVE them! They are so sweet and probably would do anything for me (or anyone for that matter). Apparently Rose (another SU student) stayed with the same family when she was studying here at AMIDEAST last semester…talk about ironic! Anyway, my host-sister, Lilia (15 yrs old) speaks English (as well as Arabic, Darija-the spoken Moroccan Arabic, and French), so that has helped bridge the language barrier between me & the other family members. My host-brother Nadir (12, soon-to-be 13 yrs old) only knows a handful of words in English, most of which he picked up from me…I intentionally speak English to him as a way for him to learn haha not that that helps me any with my Arabic, Darija, or French, but it does help with various hand signals & “body language”…for instance, he now knows how to say, “I. will. kill. you.” quite well. HAHA seriously though, we really do exchange words/phrases a lot…I’ll say something in English & he’ll give me the equivalent in either Darija, Arabic, or French…the French-English dictionary of my host-sister has become quite helpful to say the least. haha Then there are my host-parents: My host-mother Siham, and my host-father Saiid. Siham is a French teacher for 3-4 year olds (who probably know more French than me) and Saiid is a bank teller at BMCI bank here in Morocco. Saiid knows some English here and there; Siham not-so-much….but it’s fun trying to bridge that language barrier once again with my host parents as we exchange various translations in our respective native languages. I always know when my host-mother wants to address me, because she pauses, smiles at me, & says, “uh…La-gr-an!”…a friendly pronunciation of my name with a clear French R. Back to my host-Dad… he loves watching National Geographic because he likes animals…especially crocodiles, snakes, and lions as it seems. 🙂 I always hear him say “wowww” when he watches all the exotic animals move/attack on tv…it makes me stop to question why i do not watch the same thing with such curiosity and wonder anymore…like i’ve somewhat lost that sense of awe when witnessing acts of nature and life…
Other things: We all have been assigned language-partners to assist us with our Arabic/Darija and likewise, to assist them with their English. Mine is named Manal, she’s 22, and from Marrakech. So far, we’ve met up for coffee a few times at the cafe next to AMIDEAST. We’ve also gone bowling at the “MegaMall,” and I’ve gotten to meet her cousin and some other friends as well. She’s studied English for 5 years and I’m truly impressed with how well she speaks. That’s the thing about here…it seems as though students/people are truly passionate (or perhaps interested) in learning other languages. I mean, I studied 4 years of French in high school (all honors classes & including independent study my senior year), 5 years of Spanish (including a semester in Argentina), and 3 more years of Latin in grade school….yet, am I fluent in any of those languages?? No. The cool thing about here is that you can go outside from the classroom & “practice” whichever language you’re studying at the time. Needless to say, it’s difficult to leave class & speak French on the streets in Winchester, VA….But here, people at least know Arabic, Darija, and French…Next comes English, and even Spanish &/or Italian for some. I can’t imagine such fluency in the States….It almost makes me jealous that the people here were raised to speak so many languages….then again, the irony is that it seems as though “everyone” is studying my language of English. So the argument of course is, ‘why bother learning another language when they’re all turning to mine??’ My answer is because 1) i enjoy learning new languages 2) by learning a new language, one can “pick up” a piece (small as it might be) of the language’s culture, and 3) various languages expand one’s thoughts, knowledge, and (clearly) can lead to new experiences. Or of course I could say that I’d like to learn other languages simply because.. I already know English 🙂
We watched the Presidential Inauguration last week, and the other adjective I can use to describe the experience is SURREAL. Seriously, imagine about 28 of us crammed into our tiny Study-Abroad Room on the 4th floor of AMIDEAST watching CNN on TV while Barack Obama was sworn in as the next President of the United States. We all had to stand/sit/lie on the floor so everyone could see the TV all right. Some of us ordered pizza & brought snacks to enjoy while watching..making it a sort of “un-official” Inauguration Party. The cool part was that we E-mailed CNN.com to let the network know where we were “during the moment.” To our surprise, our message was posted on the site (along with a picture) and friends/family/universities at home got to see a glimpse of us watching.. the whole way from Rabat, Morocco. Needless to say, I’ll always remember where I was at, who I was with, and how I felt during that day. Even local Moroccans were excited for us, it seemed. Many of them, after finding out we’re Americans, say “Obama!” …I suppose as a way to relate to us and our country, which is cool.
What else? I think it is safe to say that no blog would be complete without mentioning the food here… Breakfast- Breakfast is quite simple here. No heavy omelettes with hash browns/home fries, sausage, and the like…instead, breakfast consists of bread (basically a baguette-type roll) with Nutella, kiri cheese, or jam, and coffee (most homes stir instant coffee into hot milk, but luckily for me, my family has an actual coffee maker). The bread might also be dipped into Argan oil- from trees found Only in Morocco, this oil I find to be much tastier than Olive Oil (although that often is the accompanying oil for bread). I of course have managed my own breakfast “recipe” by substituting my favorite peanut butter & banana sandwiches with Nutella and banana sandwiches! Peanut butter is not easily found here (if I had known that, I would have brought a 5-month supply of JIF), & when it is, only in small jars. Luckily again for me, our neighbors exchange student is from the States and was here last semester too- She gave my host family 2 family-sized jars of JIF creamy peanut butter! SOO my latest breakfast craze now include peanut butter, Nutella, and banana sandwiches. 🙂 hehehe Gotta make waking up worthwhile somehow! Onto Lunch- this is a variable meal for me since I have class. Typically, it’s supposed to be the largest meal of the day here. But instead of going home, I usually go to the Hanut (or corner-store) next to AMIDEAST & get a piece of bread, a yogurt, and fruit (an orange, apple, or banana usually). Some days we go to a cafe and I might get an omelette (with Ketchup of course!), a panini, or even a small pizza. One thing I’ve learned is to STAY AWAY FROM THE SALADS!!! Sure, the Moroccan salads that consist of chopped up potatoes, beets, avocados, and carrots are fine…but the ones that seem to resemble American salads (bed of lettuce topped with chicken, shrimp, corn, tomatoes, etc..), Beware!!! Granted, AMIDEAST told us this the 1st day we arrived; they also told us not to drink the tap water for at least a week….I did both. Last week (week # 3), however, I seemed to have my 1st bout with food poisoning, which I’m certain is a result from the American-esque salad as I felt sick shortly after eating it. I threw up violently for about 3 days before the various meds I got from the pharmacy kicked in & the “poison” left my system. I now have a strong salad aversion, understandably so. Lastly, dinner. This meal typically is not eaten until about 10PM here. However, I’m convinced I’m not living with a Moroccan family as they eat at a “normal” time for us American folk- we’re talking 5:30/6/6:30. Meals vary from couscous with vegetables & chicken (one of my favorites probably), to beef and potatoes, “tortillas” (omelettes, essentially), a spicy type of meatballs, Moroccan crepes with jam and honey, spicy chicken and rice, even spaghetti/pasta. Of course, silverware is hardly used (except for pasta/salads) and the meal is “scooped up” with bread as everyone shares from one large platter. Yes, bread. So if one is on some type of low-carb diet, he/she automatically fails within 1 meal in Morocco. In between lunch and dinner, in a “typical” family setting (again, my family is the opposite, so this is rare for us), is “tea time.” This is around 5 or 6 since dinner is not until later. So, you guessed it, tea is served with various breads/pastries/cookies. The traditional tea is a green mint tea that is Overly-sweetened (at least for my liking) with sugar. My host-mom sometimes makes homemade hot chocolate on the stove (with 1 milk chocolate bar and 1 dark chocolate bar), and that is equally as good as the tea if not better. 🙂