I. Love. My. Host. Family.
Hayley and I live with Lalla Jamila (the mom) who is a teacher at a local university, Sidi Mohammad (the dad), who is also a retired teacher, and our host brother Ziad (16 years old) who is hilarious. He is one of the hardest working 16 year old’s I’ve ever met and he thankfully speaks a little bit of English – but he always helps us with our Arabic. This family has hosted many students in the past, over 15 at least, and I asked Ziad how we were doing in comparison and he said that we took 2nd place in terms of our language skills and how much the family enjoyed having us around. (1st place was a guy who was basically fluent in arabic who stayed for 6 months..) Of course its not about the competition, but it really showed how they feel about us – its always really hard to tell and it was extremely exciting to hear. I’m surprised that he thinks our language skills are advanced because I surely do not feel like it. Most of the time I can understand about 60-70% of what my parents are saying, but the 30-40 I’m missing will usually be extremely crucial parts haha. It was still exciting to hear because it made me feel less like a foreigner and more as part of the family. Ziad kept saying how sad he was that we were leaving so soon – and so am I! It’s hard to believe that this adventure is almost halfway over.
Our daily routine isn’t all that different from what happens when I’m at my parents house. Hayley and I will come home from class/anything we end up doing after class and do homework in our rooms while Ziad studies, Sidi Mohammad cooks, and Lalla Jamila works. The only time we are all together is at dinner where we (now) talk about so many things – the Arab Spring, the Moudawanna (the family code in Morocco), customs in America and Morocco, where Ziad wants to go to school, etc. Food is basically the fuel of the family, bringing everyone together, just like it does for my family at home. Because food is sacred and the preparation takes so long – for EVERY dinner we have – it is extremely important that Hayley and I respect the food, eat ALL of it, and enjoy it. Unfortunately, we have both been getting sick from the fish they’ve been feeding us… and they’ve served it 3 times. Hayley wisely rejected the third dish while I choked it down (along with many small bones). So far, no sickness this time, thankfully.
After dinner we have tea – which is the BEST tea I’ve ever had. Our food is always extremely fresh – I feel like since I’ve been here my body has been totally cleansed of processed food… but then refilled with SO MUCH BREAD. Bread is all there is to eat at breakfast and is served with every single meal. Comparatively with the other families that people on this trip are staying with, ours is very modern and liberal.
We discussed American politics and they were very pro-Obama (as to be expected), and knew way more about the American government and even geography than a lot of average Americans do. (Again… not surprising).
Rabat is a very “educated, modern bubble,” as our professor has called it and it is a very diverse and busy city but because we are women we have to be extremely cautious and not put ourselves out there too much – which means our options are limited for things to do. In Rabat there are specifically MEN ONLY coffee shops… women will get harassed until they are forced to leave if they go in. The bars are pretty sketchy and its extremely looked down upon for women to be drinking (not that I would be doing that here anyway). Because of this, a lot of our time in between class has been spent eating and talking at women-friendly restaurants… But today, I wanted to be outside. We went to the Chellah, which was a beautiful place where there are roman ruins right next to another 12th century mosque amidst beautiful gardens and we met really nice people from Libya. Tomorrow we are going out to dinner to celebrate peoples’ birthdays and do kareoke which I am totally pumped for.
Another thing I can’t get used to is all the stray cats… I want to take all of them home and save them. 😦 Oh and the CONSTANT looks and harassment from men on the street I will never get used to in this city either.. but still overall an incredible experience.