Places I never thought I’d be by the age of 20:
– Milwaukee… the land of cheese and beer.
– NORTH AFRICA. WHAT. I still can’t believe I’m in Morocco.
– Sitting in a taxi with a man screaming at me in a language that I barely understand in a city that I’ve only been in for a couple of days… and loving every minute of it.
Sidi Mohamed, my host Father, picked me and my roommate, Hayley, up on Monday and I immediately felt 100% comfortable with him… despite the fact that we really didn’t know what each other were saying. Naturally, when we met his wife and son I felt completely welcome and safe. I was really surprised by how easy the transition into this lifestyle was for me. Well, of course, if you know me, the lack of showering hasn’t exactly phased me very much, but there are interesting differences in day-to-day life that take adjusting to but it came very easy to me. For instance, the late dinner, the LAWLESS traffic – I mean straight up lawless… Islamic culture in general, cafes for men only, among many others. However, Rabat represents a very different experience and culture than many other places in Morocco of which I am excited to explore as well.
My host family is awesome. Everyone will tell you that theirs is the best, but seriously… Mine is the best. They are very modern in the way the live on a day-to-day basis. We haven’t really had traditional Moroccan food, although we have had tea time. They don’t really dress conservatively or pray nor do they have a big family that forces food on us (I am aware that all of these are stereotypical definitions, but this is what we were told to expect by our professor and AMIDEAST). My host Mother wears a Guns n’ Roses shirt to bed every night and she has no idea how much that ROCKS. Life here is very similar to my family life at home actually and perhaps that has made the transition easier for me.
In terms of public health issues, the biggest challenge that has stood out to me is lack of infrastructure for taking care of trash. There aren’t any trash cans, but there is trash everywhere. On the streets, at the beach, etc. The juxtaposition of the beautiful beach that we went to yesterday near l’Ocean and the amount of trash that was strewn on the rocks right next to it really captured the prevalence and centrality of the issue in Rabat. Like many other big cities, Rabat is a crowded, packed space in which buildings just get taller and taller to accomodate the population. For instance, the apartment I’m is 3 stories high, but it is extremely narrow. The infrastructure of collecting trash and keeping the streets clean is just not there. My host mother told me it is because of the “low wages” that people receive who are in charge of doing this. But, I could only understand her a little bit and I haven’t seen one person in charge of clearing the trash.
In summation, I’m not sure why Rabat has such an issue with trash, but I’m interested in talking to more people and finding out.