Today is my second day waking up in my homestay in Rabat: the place I will call home until I leave for the States at the end of May. Now that I’m officially settled in my permanent place residence, I want to take some time to reflect on all of my experiences and observations thus far along with my hopes and expectations for the future.
First, the highlights:
- The hospitality of every Moroccan I’ve stayed with. My host mothers both in Meknes and Rabat so far have been so warm and kind. My only complaint is that they feed me WAY too much food (no matter how delicious it may be.) Like to the point where I think I could actually combust. Shbbt, “I’m full,” is not in their vocabulary here.
- My program. IES Abroad has done a great job helping us transition, planning activities, and providing resources for all of us. And I love getting to know everyone in my small program—here’s to hoping we all aren’t sick of each other by the end of this!
- Couscous on Fridays. Or as they say in Darija, kesksou. Especially with chicken and sweet sauce. Yummmm!
- The sheer quality of the produce, namely the fruits. I rarely eat oranges at home, especially this time of year, because they’re virtually tasteless. Before coming here I had never tasted such a sweet, flavorful, fresh orange. Bottom line: American produce sucks.
- The weather. I can’t get enough of these palm trees and sunshine. Is it bad if I mention that one of the selling points for me to go abroad this semester was to skip the Chicago winter this year? I laugh every time my host mom nags me to throw on a coat because it’s “freezing” out. It’s 65. It’s currently 16 in Chicago, which is arguably warm for winter.
- THE EXCHANGE RATE. Everything is so insanely cheap. I can grab a full lunch here for the equivalent of about 2 to 3 USD. A taxi ride? $1. New scarf from the medina? $4 (or less if I’m with a Moroccan who can haggle).
- Being able to rely on my French. For the most part. My Arabic skills leave much to be desired. I can throw in phrase or two in conversation, but it'll be a while before I can carry a proficient conversation beyond "Hi, how are you? I'm good. My name is Camille. I like chicken. Where's the bathroom? Goodbye" The majority of people here speak French, and most signs, restaurants, etc. have both French and Arabic words listed. Otherwise I think I'd be completely lost. With French, I'm only partially lost, and I occasionally get to appear like I know what I'm doing.
Now for the lowlights:
- Being woken up by the call to prayer every morning at 5 AM. It’s beautiful during the day, but not so beautiful when I’ve been exhausted and need a good night’s rest.
- Men on the streets. It’s a cultural thing I just have to get used to. Not to say I don’t experience this back in Chicago, but here is a bit of a different dynamic for me. I can only speak from my perspective as a foreigner (specifically a Caucasian, blonde, American woman) because I really stand out here. Not only do I get a lot of stares for standing out, but also it’s not uncommon to be catcalled or followed multiple times while running a single errand. Some of the more interesting names I’ve been called so far include Spice Girl and Obama (on like half a dozen occasions actually?) Interesting psychology there on how men choose to associate what they know about America with the girls they’re trying to pick up on the street. This has yet to make me swoon. I can’t really walk around at night alone, and even in groups it’s a bit uncomfortable. There are only men in the streets and in the cafes most of the day and pretty much entirely past dark. You get the feeling that as a woman you aren’t exactly welcome. With all of that said, though, the bond between girls looking out for each other is universal and empowering and I appreciate all of the women I’ve met, Moroccan or American, friend or stranger, who have had my back so far.
- And lastly: Slow wi-fi. Sorry, I’m such a millennial. To be fair, I primarily use to it to keep in touch with loved ones back home and it’s frustrating when you can’t get a Skype call through.
The good and the bad: that’s what I’m here for. As fun as orientation and free time have been, I’m excited to finally start classes and get a solid routine going this week. I’m really hoping to meet more Moroccan friends and become a part of my host family as I start to settle in to my daily life. Also hoping to figure out how to navigate from my home in the middle of the medina, which is literally a maze, without getting lost. Baby steps, though. I’ll get there eventually, and I’m sure you’ll all get the update and stories along the way. Thanks for staying tuned to my journey! À la prochaine fois!
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<p>Assalamu Alaikum, Bonjour, Hello! I'm Camille and I'm currently in my second year studying Political Science and International Studies at Loyola University Chicago. I'm thrilled to be spending my semester in Rabat, Morocco and hope you all enjoy hearing about my journey! Expect bad puns and lots of pictures of food.</p>