The Approximate Latte

I have recently noticed a disturbing trend in my behavior: I’ve been dreading my morning Arabic class. I spend ten hours per week in Modern Standard Arabic class. These classes are conveniently scheduled at 8 am five days per week. Now you must understand that I am not one to complain about early classes. Indeed, I rather like them.

Disclaimer: I am neither insane nor sarcastic.

Disclaimer the Second: The previous statement should be qualified by “at this particular moment.”

Given my penchant for Arabic, classes and early mornings, I was surprised when I realized that, about half-way through each 2-hour class, I have suddenly been gripped by the absolute conviction that my studies are worthless, I am stupid, and the true destiny of all beings in the universe consists of absolute and gloomy aimlessness.

This outlook had, shall I say, some small effect on my behavior during the remainder of class…

But why this daily plunge into glumness? I attributed it to many things, including but not limited to personal failing, the effect of Morocco on my sanity, and the phases of the moon. But especially Morocco. Was the place making me stupid or something?

Then, this very morning, I discovered the true cause:

I sat down and waited eagerly for my host mama to pour the morning coffee (first hot milk with sugar and Nescafe followed by 1-2 cups of black coffee, also with sugar). As I sipped my approximate latté, I watched mama taste the black coffee. She frowned and grabbed the jar of Nescafe. In awe, I watched her plop two additional teaspoons of instant coffee into her own cup, then mine.

“Huwa khafiifa shwiya,” she explained (it’s a little light), as she pushed the coffee toward me.

Me, 20 minutes later: Life is so good. Look—I dropped my toothbrush in the sink. Hilarious. It’s so cold, I need a jacket. No I don’t—I have unlimited internal warmth!

8 minutes after that: There’s my classmate waiting to walk to school. No, I’m not shaking. I’m just so happy!

20 minutes later: Yes, professor, please tell me more verbs that mean “to finish or complete.” Six isn’t enough. I want more!!!

1 hour later: …What dust is this life?… What hope can be found amongst this convoluted grammar?… What is joy? I have never felt it…

Conclusion: I need to ease off the coffee.

Conclusion the Second: I began dreading my Arabic class because I associated it with the inexplicable depression that came from my daily caffeine-crash. Likewise, I have a tendency to project my feelings of homesickness onto the culture in which I live. As the semester draws to a close and I adjust myself to the fact that I will be here for another six months, I’ll have to disentangle what I miss about home from what I feel about Morocco. Judging the host country with respect to its “non-home-ness” has been a sort of metaphysical coffee addiction for me… Now for caffeine withdrawal…