Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Life in the Mountains- Bread, tea, sugar, repeat
After saying goodbye to some of my favourite trainees in Rabat, my bus twisted and turned towards Fes on Thursday morning. We climbed to an altitude comparable to Denver, CO before arriving in our final destination in a small tourist town roughly 45 minutes south of Fes. It was exactly what I expected Morocco to look like. Nestled in the mountains lies a small city with a population of 20,000 (but it feels like a few hundred). Everyone knows their neighbours, has lived here forever and attended the same high school- welcome to small town, Morocco! I was greeted by my lovely hosts, my Moroccan family for the next two months. While most of the other trainees have spent the first few days in silence, I have been able to communicate relatively easily with my teenage host sisters and Baba (father) in French. In this part of Morocco, French is seamlessly intertwined into their dialect of Darija, evidence of the colonial past and continued diplomatic ties. My past studies have allowed me to skip some of the initial confusion and focus on slowly replacing my French expressions with their Darija counterparts. Since my host mother (Maman) only speaks Darija, I am constantly challenged to improve both languages. Besides hitting the language jackpot, I have been blessed with a gracious, quirky and easy-going Host Family. I popped the heads off fresh fish with my host mother, danced with my 15 year-old host sister and ended my weekend with a relaxing conversation with the other sister as she decorated my hands, legs and fingernails with homemade henna. Moroccan hospitality is famous for a reason, I have found myself close to tears on multiple occasions for how accepted and loved I feel in less than a week; it can be overwhelming. As a guest in a Moroccan home, I am provided with the best of everything; food, drink, bed, water, etc. After a cold day, my host siblings take my wet clothes and hang them over the heater while serving me hot tea. Most of our interactions occur over the tea ritual (bread, tea, bread, sugar, bread, olives, bread, cheese, more tea?) When it’s too cold and rainy to go on an afternoon community walk with my language class, we sit in a cafe and discuss our host family experiences. I think I drank six glasses of tea or coffee today; my teeth may rot but I will love every minute of it. While I lack some of the conveniences of my American life (a western toilet, my own room, a car, bathing), I feel incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to know the intimacies of my Moroccan family and culture. Even my Moroccan tri-lingual Language communication facilitator is unable to travel to the USA or Europe because of the red tape and cost involved with a visa. He is in love with the English language and has dedicated his life to teaching it to other Moroccans without ever visiting a country where it is natively spoken. That conversation makes me forget that my hair feels oily, my clothes smell and it’s been raining for five days- I am the luckiest person in the world right now.