Today marks the halfway point of my experience as a Fulbright English Professor in Morocco. I'm writing to update friends and families on the adventures I've been having because I finally feel stable enough to reflect and share.
Adjusting to a new country, a new work environment, and new friends is a challenge I welcome; however, this time was extra challenging. I have not used Arabic in a professional setting since I was working in Jordan, 5 years ago, so my brain needed some adjustment time. In my first newsletter, of many more to come, I want to highlight Moroccan hospitality.
Fridays are for Couscous. Saturdays and Sundays are for family. Gathering with family is at the center of Moroccan culture and many of my friends have welcomed me into their home to share a meal, to pour tea, and to practice English with me. The biggest difference between this experience in Morocco and previous ones is that I live alone. Previously, I always stayed with a Moroccan family in a homestay or with a friend, and you are NEVER alone. You have no privacy, you are always with family, and while this may bother some people, as an only child who craves time in big groups, I was happy!
In contrast, now at the end of a long day teaching or studying Arabic, I come home and cook myself, catch on some work, and go to sleep. I'm less often surrounded by people at home than I was before but that just motivated me to seek out opportunities to connect with more people. One of my dear friends lives in Rabat, and I visit him, his wife, and his kids often to feel that sense of home. His mom prepares the most incredible Moroccan food I've ever tasted from goat meat to kefta (Moroccan meatballs) to cous cous and it's always amazing. I've also gone to Rabat to visit my former Arabic teacher from 2016 and her kids, who are now 8 years old and they were only 6 months old when I first met them! Now I get why LMU alumni say I make them feel old. Even the woman who works at the university cafeteria invited me to come to her home after work for a delicious baked chicken with lemon.
The Moroccan hospitality and generosity extends beyond the household. In the street, people protect you. For example, three of my friends lost a phone or a wallet in Casablanca, and all three of them retrieved their lost item because the taxi driver turned it in or someone brought it to the police headquarters. I feel cared for and protected because if I need something, people are generous enough to help always. One small example is when I'm walking with a Moroccan friend to cross the street, they tightly grab my arm to make sure I don't get hit by a car. Crossing the streets is treacherous especially when there are 6 lanes and no crosswalk.
Halfway into this experience, I have a moment to see what I've gained and what I've learned. In another post, I'll talk more about the adjustment to Moroccan higher education!