Salam alaykum, my friends!
In English, this greeting translates to “peace be with you”. I use it interchangeably with a hearty bonjour on a daily basis, but I must admit that the Arabic feels more genuine both to give and receive. I am continually intrigued by the linguistic identity of this country, where nearly everywhere I go I see French and Arabic side by side. That being said, my studies in French have proven to be my most valuable asset as I continue to build relationships with my fellow volunteers, the local staff, and my dear students.
I was fortunate to have an incredibly smooth arrival into Rabat, having befriended the man seated next to me on my flight from Paris. He was a young father excitedly returning to his wife and young child after two months of working abroad. In a display of what I’ve found to be classic Moroccan hospitality, my friend insisted on remaining with me until I had safely found my Country Director, Mohamed. It didn’t take long, and within a few minutes I was on my way back to Hay-Riad, the quiet yet bustling neighborhood where the home base is located.
Determined to defeat the jet lag, I persevered through my exhaustion and stayed awake until 10:00 P.M. that day. I was terribly excited to finally meet Mohamed, a former PeaceCorps employee who happens to know quite a few of my friends and colleagues from my office at State in DC last summer. I also got to meet Hassan and Abdou, our security guard and bus driver. These three, as well as our incredible cook Fatiha and house manager Khadija, are all native Moroccans which creates such an authentic feeling in the home base. I speak French with all of them except for Mohamed, who usually speaks English because the other volunteers currently living in the home base, Kenzie and Kelly, speak neither French or Arabic. Throughout my three months here, there will be many volunteers coming and going through the house. Kelly left us on Friday and Kenzie will be on her way next weekend. All sorts of people come through CCS, though according to Mohamed its mostly older women who choose Morocco. Of course, there are always exceptions, such as myself! Nonetheless, I am excited to cross paths with so many different kinds of people throughout my time here!
I have decided that since I will be living in Morocco for the entirety of Ramadan, I am going to fast alongside my students and the local staff. Mohamed gave a particularly scintillating lecture on Islam this week, discussing the fast as a test of willpower and perseverance to remind us of all we have to be grateful for. By fasting, I hope my perspective will be challenged to feel and understand what it truly feels like to be hungry and thirsty, like so many throughout this country, my home country, and around the world. I am nervous of course, but I strongly believe that this is a challenge that coincides perfectly with the Lumos mission to culturally immerse and seek understanding. Not to mention that in Arabic, the verb “sam” means to fast, so perhaps that will work in my favor!
This weekend, Kenzie and I ventured out to Marrakech where we went quad biking (ATVs) in the dunes surrounding the breathtaking Atlas Mountains, explored the famous Marrakech Plaza/surrounding medina, (aka market) and relaxed in our peaceful riad. A riad is a word used to describe a house with a courtyard, and if you want to see why I’m quickly falling in love with this country, I encourage you to Google some images of Moroccan riads. People don’t really stay in hotels here... Instead they rent rooms in these beautiful courtyard houses with amazing rooftop terraces. You meet and often interact with your host, who is there to help you navigate the new place as much as you need. It’s a much more personal experience than a hotel, and Kenzie and I had an easy time getting around this intimidating city largely due to the kindness of our hosts. Needless to say, this was a wonderful weekend trip, only made better by the good company I shared!
Tune in next Monday to learn about what I’ve got going on in the classroom at the Empowerment Center, photos from my trip to the Chellah ruins, and a review of the famous Mawazine Music Festival!