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Kadie: Welcome to my Moroccan life

March 11, 2011

So I lived through the first week of classes! (This is quite the triumph, because somewhere around Wednesday afternoon/Thursday morning, I really wasn’t sure I would). So, I am now one week in to my first six-week term here at the Arabic Language Institute of Fes, and I’ve been living with my family now for about a week and a half. I’ve learned SO MUCH so far, both in terms of Arabic language, and the Moroccan culture… so that gives me a lot of hope for the level I might be at when we get to the end of this semester.

Everything with my host family is still going splendidly! Forgive me, in advance, but I NEED to rant about the FOOD!! The meals are AMAZING… breakfast is usually pretty simple—just some fresh bread with various spreads to put on it. (Butter, apricot jam, chocolate spread, etc.) And lunch is usually huge and hearty, and traditionally the biggest meal of the day. I come home almost every day for lunch in between classes, and on the days where my break isn’t really long enough to warrant the commute, my host mom packs me a sandwich! And dinner is usually eaten really late…my family eats around 9pm, and it’s generally pretty light. Anyway…some of my favorite dishes so far? EVERY kind of soup my host mother has made so far. I’ve had more soup in the last week than I think I’ve had in the last year…it’s a fairly common dinner…and I’ve also had some of the most amazing couscous in the world. OH and one night for dinner, we had this sweet pasta dish…like egg noodles with almonds and sprinkled with cinnamon and powdered sugar. I KNOW it sounds weird…but it was good. Oh and we’ve had this little side dish with lunch a few times…it’s like chopped/pureed carrots in orange juice with cinnamon. Again…sounds kind of strange, but soooooo good. I love how veggie-friendly my diet has become here—definitely a good thing! We also eat chicken quite a bit…and its always absolutely delicious…I just have to remind myself not to think about the souq we bought it from.

SIDENOTE: I went to the souq (traditional market) with my host mom and another girl on the program today (who is staying with my host-aunt and uncle…we’re cousins!) We went to the one little corner store to get our weekly stock of chicken, and I watched my host mom pick out which one she wanted (it was alive and kicking and squawking) and when we returned about an hour later to pick it up, it was all wrapped up and cleaned, packaged and ready to go. Ummmm yea. I guess it’s a good thing I know its fresh??

My host family has also realized that I don’t eat fish. They tried serving it one day last week, and I tried eating it, I really did…but to no avail. So now they know, and I guess things are better that way. They haven’t yet tried to make me eat beef…for which I’m grateful…I’m not very good at pretending to like certain things…

Sorry for the ranting on food…but meals are a huge family deal here, and so they’ve come to be quite the event in my household, especially as so many of the meals are so different than anything I’m used to. I can tell you one thing though, after being on my own for so long, and cooking for myself all of last semester (PS: I cannot cook…ask anyone), it is wonderful to have home-cooked meals every day again. I know this will be one of the things I miss most when I’m gone…

But besides the food in my life…everything else is going well too! Classes, as you might have assumed from my description of my last week above, are hard. My brain is constantly swimming with Arabic, Arabic and MORE Arabic. Most of my day is gone about in Arabic…and it’s hard, but rewarding at the same time. It’s a lot more class hours per week than I’m used to, and a lot more homework than I’ve had in a long time, but I’m adjusting. I’m being challenged again, which, in my opinion, is never a bad thing. I just hope I can keep up with it all. When we were walking through the souq this morning, and I was looking around, I realized for the umpteenth time how lucky I am to be living this life. I became conscious of just how crazy this ride has been. Sometimes, I can’t believe I’ve made it this far…I can’t believe I’ve been able to do it all…and then sometimes, I don’t think I’ve done nearly enough. It’s an interesting feeling…and one that seems to hit me at the strangest of times…like when I’m weaving my way through a crowded souq street, dodging yells of “Andik!” (Watch out!) And trying to avoid the heavy-laden carts, and occasionally donkeys, and giant vans and trucks that think they can squeeze their way through the throngs of people going about their weekly shopping. It all keeps reminding me of something my mother said to me numerous times while she was here…it feels like a movie. My life…sometimes…feels like a movie, like there’s no possible way it can be real.

Another small side note-yesterday we did a girls day at the hamman, (the local public bathhouse) and my host mother took us. I’m grateful she was there to show us what all to do, and to explain to us how much it should cost, so next time, when we brave it on our own, we’ll be pros! I think we might turn it in to a weekly event? Something about sitting there in the hot, steamy room just chatting for however long we please, as we go about getting really squeaky clean is just so much FUN. What a wonderful part of ancient Arab life…even if it is a bit awkward to our American-cultural senses at first.

For the rest of the weekend, I believe some serious shopping (I am so in love with the scarves and the traditional dresses here…I must have them!) and some serious tudying are in order. And next weekend I think we might try to organize a group trip somewhere? Get away for the weekend? Not sure yet…oh and I’m still taking suggestions for where to go for our spring break!!! SO if anyone has any, let me know!

And here are some more random samples of pictures….

The girls in front of the Royal Palace in Fes el-Jdid


Donkey love.


Shoooooeeeeessss!


This is our nice little study center in the Medina..and where I sit to upload all my blog posts!


The garden at said study center…

I prepared a presentation for one of my classes last week on the protests going on in Madison (we needed to use new vocabulary, which, coincidentally, includes such words one would use concerning a protest)…anyway, hope that democracy is still alive and well back home. It’s been so great being able to talk about it with some fellow badgers who are here (there’s five of us!). After an entire semester of being the ONLY Midwesterner around, it’s nice to no longer be the odd one out?

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