Learning to live with a new family has been one of the most educational aspects of my trip so far, causing moments of incredible awkwardness, hilarity, and bonding all at once. My roommate Alana and I live in a very nice apartment in Agdal, Rabat not far from our school at AMIDEAST. Our two host brothers, nine and twelve, and our host mother and father speak a collection of Darija, French, and enough English to get by when we get lost in translation. We have been welcomed in to the home with open arms as the family Abdas has had many host children before, but it is still wonderfully strange to wake up to voices yelling in Arabic while getting ready for school and to hear calls to prayer blair through our open windows.
Most of the challenges so far have been small changes in living habits, such as a lack of shower curtain, lack of trash cans, and having to wear longer pants and shirts whenever we enter in to the community living space or run to the bathroom. Our family also has a housemaid named Habiba who seems to take care of all cleaning and most cooking in the household. We are not to clean up our dishes, to do our own laundry, or to rearrange our rooms….Habiba will do it. I wonder if this is a cultural practice showing the status of the family – they work hard during the the day and have made a successful life for themselves, so all household worries are taken care of and left for Habiba. I will never forget watching little Habiba haul our suitcases up five flights of stairs, vehementley refusing our help, all the while laughing and welcoming us to Morocco.
The home stay is also where we are witness to more unique aspects of Moroccan culture – food, pre-Ramadan fasting, prayer, daily schedule differences, and language immersion. I am intrigued to learn more from my family about daily life in Morocco, to get more practice speaking Darija and French, as well as to try new dishes and local delicacies. So far so good in Rabat; I cannot wait for what’s to come!