Sunday May 8th, 2016
Following our warm welcome and introductory information session at AmidEast, we broke for a quick lunch before returning to meet our host families. As we all nervously chatted about what to expect, the main question on my mind was, “how should we greet them?” We were instructed to let our host mom/dad initiate the greeting, which could be one of the following:
a. les bises, one on each cheek, maybe a third bise on the second cheek.
b. Hand Shake
c. BIG HUG!
One of the AmidEast administrators called out the last name of our family, and had paired Kelly and I together as roommates. A small, stern-looking woman appeared in the doorway. She had her hands clasped together on her stomach, holding what looked like an address book. She had black hair peppered with grey, thin rectangular glasses, and wore a traditional black Moroccan dress. Kelly was closest to the door, so the onus fell on her to accept the greeting from our host mom as I hurriedly made my way over from the other side of the room. The woman did not unclasp her hands or make any move to “fait la base,” but rather politely nodded and Kelly and I.
“Vous parlez français?” she hesitantly asked.
Kelly said, “Un peu…” and I said “Oui, je parle français!”
At this she seemed to relax her shoulders and a smile spread across her face, one which I gladly returned. I think we were both relieved that we’d be able to have some sort of communication other than the painful broken Darija (Moroccan colloquial Arabic) of two unknowing Canadians.
On the cab ride over to Hassan, the neighbourhood we would be living in for our stay, our host mom introduced herself as Haname. She lives in a spacious apartment along with her husband and two children, Salim (17 years old) and Fatine (16 years old). Haname showed us to our room, which we realized we would be sharing with Fatine as she was sleeping on the third single bed. We quietly placed out suitcases in our room before joining Haname on the terrace. She served Kelly and I sweetened mint tea, a delicious Moroccan specialty, with fresh mint taken from her garden. Haname and her husband told us to make ourselves at home before leaving Kelly and I to settle in. As Kelly and I were chatting on the terrace, a chanting voice seemed to fill the air as if it was being broadcasted on the apartment’s PA system. We soon realized that this sound was the call to prayer that was being projected from the speakers of the mosque around the corner. Upon this realization, I felt myself becoming increasingly excited for the adventure that was to come, immersed in the unexpected and unfamiliar Moroccan culture.