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Eric: Regular routine & television

July 14, 2010

After living here for almost a month, I should provide some updates on my daily routine. Everyday around 7 am, my roommate and I wake up, get dressed, and head to ALIF by taxi. We usually wake up earlier than the rest of the family so we don’t usually get to eat breakfast at home. The taxi ride costs exactly 7.60 Dh for both of us. Depending on how early we get to school and how much homework we need to finish (procrastination doesn’t happen only in the US), we may or may not get breakfast at a nearby cafe.

Our first class is from 8 to 10 am. My break from 10 am to 2 pm is usually spent updating my blog, doing homework, checking email, having lunch, and maybe a little nap if I feel like it. This week the weather has been a lot more comfortable than the past two weeks. Walking out of the house in the morning is even a little chilly. Class again from 2 to 4 pm (in the awesome-looking classroom pictured below). Depending on whether we feel like going home or using the Internet, my roommate and I either stay at ALIF to use the computer lab, go to the ALIF Riad in the medina, or go back home. The Sun doesn’t really set until 8 or 9 pm, so sometimes we don’t even go home until 9 or 10 pm (dinner’s at 11 pm anyway). I didn’t really realize how much time I spent on the Internet in the past when it’s readily available until I get here. It’s kind of scary.

Going home, there isn’t that much to do, as my ability to have a conversation with my host-family is pretty much still zero (although I actually managed to teach 3 of my brothers what duct tape is called in English using Arabic), even though I am starting to understand some stuff they are saying. For people who wonder whether I ever took a shower since that time I went to the hamman, the answer is actually yes. It turns out that the family does shower at home without using an actual shower. I have been “showering” using a bucket and a water scoop. With the weather being extremely hot the past two weeks, I didn’t really mind showering with cold water. I did find out that one of the taps near the floor produces warm water, so it’s pretty nice.

As for laundry, so far I have only done laundry twice, and by I have done I mean my host-mom did it for me. The turnaround time is about 8 or more days, and I don’t have enough shirts to last through the period. So I have been trying to sweat as little as possible, and re-wearing some of my t-shirts. I also went out to buy my first Moroccan shirt, which looks kind of like a robe with short sleeves and is extremely comfortable to wear in the hot weather. I was pretty proud of myself for bargaining it down to 70 Dh from 110 Dh. Then I went home and had my host-family tell me that they have a relative that owns a shop and can sell me the same thing for 50 Dh. Oh well, lesson learned.

Dinner is at 11 pm, and consists of bread, small plates of salad and olives, and a main dish in the center of the table (sometimes vegetarian and sometimes with meat). Recently the family has also been giving us a kind of pudding thing (different colors ranging from white-ish, purple, to pink) at dinner. I really have no idea what it’s made of. All I know is that it’s sweet and probably is a kind of dessert. Fruit is also a must after the meal. So far I have eaten peaches, a kind of melon that looks a lot like a honeydew but has yellow skin on the outside, watermelon, and small apples. After dinner, the family either stays up a little to watch TV, or just goes to bed. My roommate and I usually go to bed earlier than the family.

After staying with a Moroccan family for almost a month now (wow time flies) and hearing similar things from other people, I have to say that television may be the greatest importation into the Kingdom of Morocco. Television is a very important part of Moroccan family life. For the times that I am with my host-family, I have only seen the TV being turned off a couple of times, only to be turned on again 5 minutes later. The TV is on during lunch and dinner (we eat in front of it). Sometimes it’s on even when no one is watching it, and quite often the 4 brothers fight for what show to watch. I understand that TV can be addicting, but what prompt such devotion to the machine?

On a Moroccan TV, there are multiple channels you can tune into. From what I observed, religious channels (people talking about Islam, live broadcast of what Mecca looks like, singing of the Qur’an) take up about 10 channels. Our host-mom usually switches to these when she feels that there needs to be some peaceful sounds in the house. There are a few European/American channels, including BBC Arabic, France 24 (in Arabic), and National Geographic (with Arabic voice over). The Moroccan national media company operates several TV stations, with contents ranging from news, Moroccan soap operas (most likely produced in Egypt), entertainment shows, movies, education, and sports. Several channels operated by other Arab countries can also be found, including Aljazeera (Qatar), KTV and KTV2 (Kuwait), and more. More recently there are also shows in the Berber language, in addition to Arabic, French, and English.

With this many choices, it’s hard to not to watch TV (even though I don’t understand how they could watch TV the entire day). Many American movies are played on TV (one channel was playing a Jet Li movie marathon today), and quite a few shows for kids are taken from Disney Channel, Cartoon Network or other American channels (my little host-brother loves Tom and Jerry and Ben 10). It’s interesting to see which channel each family member switches to. My host-dad loves entertainment shows with Moroccan singers singing traditional songs with modern instruments and the news channel. My host-mom usually watches the soap opera or whatever other people are watching. The 4 brothers watch the Western channels a little bit more in addition to what their parents watch.

Here’s what I conclude: Moroccans have a very different attitude on life. They enjoy the time being with the family, and TV is a great accompaniment. While we may think that they spend way too much time watching TV and will probably turn into vegetables, a lot of family bonding does happen, and Moroccans really value that.

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