A lot has happened since I last posted and I have a lot to tell. This probably should be made into several blog posts, but because of how fast everything has happened it will just be one. Before going over that all though I should probably do some sort of introduction for the odd person out there reading this who isn’t my family. My name is Eric Feudner and I am spending the summer learning Arabic while living with a host family in Fez, Morocco. Now that the formalities are out of the way we can get down to the real interesting stuff, what has happened in the week since I’ve been here, and boy is there a lot.
Pro tips on flying to Morocco from someone who isn’t a pro:
- Sit in an aisle seat, 90% of the flight is the Atlantic Ocean, and while there are a few cool sights, in my humble opinion not having to climb over several people to pee is worth losing the view.
- If you have a layover in Paris, you will have to go back through security. I’d recommend not filling up your water bottle before this because they’ll make you drink it all or throw it out.
- Remember Gum!
Observations on a the Drive to Fes
I signed up for the group flight offered by my program, which meant that I landed in Rabat and everyone on the group flight met a driver to take us to Fes. The first thing that hit me when steping out of the airport is the heat. I sort of got used to it after the first week, but that first time is definitely a shock. Soon after leaving Rabat our driver stopped for gas at a rest stop. He invited us all to stop in and buy snacks, but we didn’t have any Moroccan money (Dirham) so we all declined. If you ever find yourself in this same situation though, definitely get out of the car. While the driver was inside paying it became very hot in the car, and there was this interesting water spritzer that I definitely wish I had stood under, instead of waiting in the car. There were many interesting things that I noticed while going to Fez. Fez is often described as a city where old and new meet, and the whole country shows some features of this. On the drive there you can see beautiful rest stops, roundabouts with beautiful fountains or other features at the center. That was one thing that I thought was very interesting. The highways and the medians are lined with tons of beautiful flowers and trees. If you look just past these new things you’ll see old farms, and even older villages, and shepherds herding goats. If you look closely you’ll see that while some of the people are wearing more traditional styles of clothes, half of them are dressed like the average American youth.
First Days in Fez
The first days in Fez are probably the strangest. We got to the hotel where we all stay for the first couple days, and no one speaks English. Which of course was expected, but it is still a bit shocking. What is more frustrating though is everyone speaks a different Arabic from what you’ve spent two years learning, and if you try to speak with your Arabic they just respond in French. If I had spent the whole program living in the hotel instead of with a host family, I probably would have learned more French than Arabic.
Meeting the host family is probably the scariest part of the whole experience. It’s also the easiest, and you have no reason to worry. It’s a lot like when you first start learning the Arabic alphabet. You feel super apprehensive, everything is strange and new, and then you finish the alphabet and realize that you worried way too much. My family is extremely nice, and speaks Modern Standard Arabic (which I’m learning), in addition to Moroccan Arabic and a nice bit of English too. The walk to the house is a bit awkward, but we quickly warmed up to each other, and now after a week it feels like I’ve been here for ages.
I’ll also include a few pictures from the tour of Fez on the second day. Unfortunately there weren’t a lot of opportunities to take pictures, but there are a few of the skyline and the tannery. Stay tuned in the next couple days for some pictures and a bit of history that I learned when we toured the ruins of Volubilis and the city of Meknes as part of the program.