Homestay

October 7, 2013

in Africa, Fall 2013, Morocco, Sierra Buehlman Barbeau

For the time that I’ve been here in Morocco, I’ve been living with a homestay family.  There are five of us in the family: a brother, sister, mother and father, as well as an old, deaf man and an old woman, an aunt and 2 cousins who occasionally stay with us.  I rarely see the father because I’m asleep before he comes home and he’s not awake when I leave.  The mom is very sweet and friendly.  When I was sick, she made me spaghetti and gave me a hug.  I helped her make a Facebook account and an email . . . but the weird thing is that every time the dad comes home and she’s on Facebook, she slams the computer shut and tells me to take it to my room.  That makes me wonder about lots of things about the dad’s role in the family life, but I’ve never been up late enough to find out more.

It is a crazy, chaotic household, nothing like I’m used to, and definitely nothing like me!  At first, I thought that there was no way this would work:  I would avoid coming home sometimes because I knew that when I would get home, I’d be welcomed by a screaming little girl, 2 older boys screaming at her to stop screaming (even though they usually provoked it in the first place) and the oldest sister screaming at all of them to quit screaming.  Soon, this would attract the attention of my host mom and aunt, who would come in and scream at everyone to stop screaming.  And, well, let’s just say that they have . . . different . . . ways of making the children stay quiet.  Life was beginning to drive me crazy.  On top of all this, I felt bad about coming home and hiding in my room all the time.  If I’m going to live with a family, I need to be able to stand being around them!

This weekend, something different happened.  My host parents went away to Casablanca for the weekend, so my aunt and her two kids are staying with us and looking after the house.  (The deaf man is too, but he’s been around for about a week now.  His story will come later.)  I came home from school Friday night to the usual headache-provoking screams and after I couldn’t stand it anymore, I went and hid in my room.  Selma, the little girl snuck in behind me and looked at me all innocently.  Even though she’s the loudest screamer of them all, I know that the reason for her screams was because the older boys torment her constantly.  Plus, she’s really cute and sweet when she’s not having a temper tantrum, so I thought I’d let her stay.  She was quiet, and before I knew it, my sister had wandered in as well.  She sat down at my computer and looked at my pictures.  Then the two boys came in and sat next to her, and somehow I had achieved peace and quiet with the children in my room.  Nobody was beating up on little Selma, the older girl didn’t have to yell at the boys, and I had a little peace and quiet.  After I sent them out of my room so I could go to bed, they all started screaming again.

The next morning, I woke up and quickly child proofed my room.  I admit, it had become a mess over the past few weeks of hectic school and traveling and I could only imagine what kinds of things Selma might get into if I let her into my room today, which I was sure I wanted to do.  Only her and her mom were home with me, and I could tell that she was already starting to be annoying.  Her mom was cleaning and yelling, and she was screaming.  I hid the medicine, floss, the shaving cream, my iPod and computer, any breakable souvenirs, and my purse. (all of these things were not hidden well enough, of course!)  After everything was clean, Selma came in and immediately found the medicine, of course.  And thanks to whichever geniuses who thought to child-proof the lid, it was very amusing to watch the five-year-old try and open the bottle of aspirin.  She just sat there, twisting it, asking me over and over in Arabic why it didn’t open, and I would just sit there telling her that I didn’t know!  Ma narifsh! I have no idea.  After we got bored with that, she found the floss and the shaving cream.  By this time, I had realized that I had not created a child-proof room, only a scavenger hunt.  She thinks that floss is good to eat . . . so I put that in my pocket and threw the shaving cream up on a high shelf to avoid a mess.  Then, we went through my purse and made fake phone calls on my phone.  After that, she did my hair and applied Chap Stick on me and after I was very beautiful and zouina bezaaf we went and showed her mom.  It had been a good hour and we hadn’t experienced a temper tantrum!  In fact, we were having fun. Then, we spent a long, long time drawing my family on my whiteboard, and after that we played store with my Euros and Swiss Francs, and then she put on my shower cap and walked around telling me over and over that she was a doctor.  The cutest thing was when she pretended to read my English book and she ran her finger under the words from right to left, like the Arabic language is read.  After that, we danced, she sang, and we were zouina bezaaf again when we tried on my sunglasses.  Her mom kept coming in and asking if we were ok, but I think that it was pretty obvious that we were having an amazing time playing together.  For two hours!!!

I decided that I’m going to buy her a sticker book this week:  I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason she bothers the adults and her cousins is because she doesn’t have any thing to do!  Her family seems to be among the lower class of people in the medina.  Their house consists of two small rooms with a bed and two couches and an outdoor courtyard with a small oven and squat toilet.  They have an old, tiny television, and now that I’ve thought about it, I’ve never seen any toys at their house.  To be honest, as annoying as she can be, I’ve come to love Selma best and I want to make her life a little less tearful.  It’s so sad when the older boys, the deaf man, and her mom beat up on her, but if she didn’t have a reason to bug them in the first place, things would be a lot better for her.

I hope that things here become less hectic.  Sometimes I wonder if I can take this all semester, but other times, I wonder if I would be able to leave them.  I kinda miss my host mom even though she’s only been gone a few days!

On Saturday, I’ll have been away from home for two months and I’ll be halfway done.  I’m terribly homesick for non-Moroccan food and I miss being able to go on a run wherever and whenever I want, but other than that I think I’m doing well.  Things have gone incredibly fast: sometimes I worry that the greatest adventure of my life is just racing before my eyes and I don’t have time to stop and breath, and other times I’m so grateful that I’ll be able to eat well again so soon!  (It is getting hard to find vegetarian, Moroccan food that I’m not sick of.)  I’ve officially lived in Africa for a month of my life!

 

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