As we approach one of the biggest Islamic holidays of the year, we thought we’d take a minute to introduce the family with which we’ll be spending quite a lot of time (including in ways of which we are apprehensive – see sheep related posts). Despite all our anxieties about certain customs and about living with a family in another country generally, Lizzie and I cannot express how welcoming and friendly our family has been.
Our host mom’s name is Amal. Out of all the family members, we interact most with her. She speaks the most English of anyone in our family, which amounts to roughly “good morning”, “good night”, “hello”, and “good bye”. Her affection for us and her enthusiasm, however, by far outweigh any challenges we’ve had in communicating. Somehow, through French cognates, poorly pronounced Arabic on our part, and hand signals, we manage to communicate most of what we intend. In fact, we’ve gotten so used to flailing about to communicate that we’ve even caught ourselves using wild hand gestures rather than simple English to talk to the others on TIME.
Although at only 26 Amal is almost more like our host-sister than our host-mom, she has two young sons. Amine is 8 years old and is learning French and English in addition to his Arabic and loves to watch cartoons and do karate. Jelal is only 2 years old and his favorite past times include putting on my shoes, dancing to music on TV, and most recently, riding his new tricycle (or more accurately, being pushed on his new tricycle as his feet don’t quite reach the pedals yet). Amal’s husband, Rachid, makes the wood carvings typical of Moroccan design and sells them in a shop very near our home. His work is beautiful and displayed in our living room.
As if we needed any further confirmation, Amal again proved her extreme generosity in making both Lizzie and I kaftans, the traditional Islamic women’s dresses for special occasions. We learned she’d been secretly working on them whenever we left for school for nearly two weeks. Here’s us in our wonderful new robes, and Mama Amal, for whom we couldn’t be more thankful.