While we lived in a dorm for our month in Turkey, in Morocco we get the opportunity to live with families in the old quarter of Fez. These home stays were thoughtfully set up by ALIF according to a questionnaire of preferences we filled out in the spring. Although it was a bit of a transition to go from living in the same dorm as our entire group to being with just one fellow student in a Moroccan household with little to no English, most of us live very close to each other in the neighborhood of Ziat – some even in the same apartment building.
Living in the Medina has provided us all with an experience MUCH different than any of us are used to. The surreality for me will never wear off; do I really live in a place where people have lived and shopped since the 9th century? Where donkeys and hoards of children rather than cars rule the winding streets? The street outside my bedroom window is much noisier than the suburban Des Moines street I grew up on. As I sit on my bed writing this, I can hear a toddler crying, a group of boisterous young kids walking, and a lively argument between a man and a woman. As Jess already wrote about, living with a family saves us from aimlessly wandering the streets in search of food for every meal and instead provides us with three delicious meals to look forward to each day. Additionally, we are able to experience firsthand Moroccan family values and dynamics, which we have discussed at length in our sociology class at ALIF.
Despite the immense differences, living with a host family has and will continue to provide us with amazing, unique experiences that we never could have had living in a dorm. Meg and I may be biased, but we think we have the best host family in all of Morocco. Here are our favorite things about each member of our family:
-His silliness and humor despite the language barrier
-When he teaches us random Arabic words, although we rarely remember them for more than a few minutes
-His clarification of the food we eat – I guess that “mushroom” was actually a chicken heart!
-When we bonded over watching The Notebook
Our host mom, Rajae:
-Her WONDERFUL cooking! And providing foods that are “good for the stomach.” …Like chocolate? I’ll take it.
-Her immense effort in explaining things in English and her patience with our Arabic
-Being a great caretaker when we’re sick
-When she does girly things with us like french braid our hair and let us use her nail polish
Our 13 year old host brother, Ayoub:
-His assistance in navigating the Medina
-Introducing us to Middle Eastern pop music
Our 21 year old host sister whom we’ve never met:
-Her six hour wedding DVD (that we watched every minute of) was gorgeous
-Christina and Meg