Week 1 under the Moroccan Sun

I have been full-out exploring this new country for a little over a week now. And STILL my program has yet to start. It feels kind of strange, it being nearly the end of February, and me still not having any classes. But I’m sure after things start up and get going, I’ll remember that actually, college classes are HARD and I’ll want my life of no responsibilities back. We’ll see?

The rest of the students on my program were SUPPOSED to fly in later today, but, it seems that a few snow storms stateside have postponed their arrivals. When will I meet my fellow study abroad participants? Hopefully soon. I can’t wait to meet them all actually. From my study abroad experience last semester, in Israel, I learned that a large part of the experience is the fellow students you meet along the way. Sure, I made a lot of Israeli friends, and I’m hoping to make many Moroccan friends here as well, but it’s the other international students that give an added aspect to a study abroad experience. At the outset, you become great friends, because you’re all being thrust in to the unknown with one another. So I’m excited to meet my fellow students, as we’re all going to be in this adventure together for the next three months, and, this might be a bit silly but…I’d really like to hear stories from home. It’s been so long since I’ve set foot in the states, in Wisconsin, in MADISON, and reminiscing about everything Badger-related is one of my favorite pastimes. So, I hope they make it here and survive the continuous blizzard that is the Midwest in winter.

I for one will still be meeting up with our program representatives tonight. I can’t wait! After spending the last week in this beautiful country, I’m so excited to learn more about it, and to really get started on becoming a Fassi princess. (Side note: “Fassi” is a term referring to anyone from Fes, the city I’ll be living in.) I spent 5 days in Fes with my mother when she was here visiting. (She left yesterday, and it was a sad, dreary day-it even rained all day in Rabat, which is where I am now. I had the time of my life with her, and it was the fastest week I can ever remember living through. But, seeing her face and hearing her stories of home gave me the strength I know I’ll need to have the BEST time here.) Anyway, I’m glad I got that first little introduction to Fes, and I’m excited to go back tonight, and to start my orientation tomorrow. And THANKFULLY as part of my orientation-we will be having a crash-course in Colloquial Moroccan Arabic. With three years of Arabic under my belt, I feel like I have a pretty good foundation. Of course, I’ve only ever formally studied Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), which, of course, no one actually speaks. So, I’ve had my fair share of confusions over the last week in trying to understand those I’ve interacted with. I have come across a few friendly souls who have struck up conversations in MSA with me, and those were beyond rewarding. I did feel a bit guilty though. One day my mother and I took a day trip from Fes to Meknes, and I spent the entire hour-long drive each way conversing with our driver in Arabic…while my mom took a nap. Oops? I didn’t mean to leave her out; I was just so excited to be speaking Arabic again. Another note on the proposed language difficulties I’m sure I’ll run in to: Moroccans speak mainly French. Which, as luck would have it, I don’t speak a word of…or at least I didn’t. I’m learning fast though, and I think that by the time I return home, I’ll have quite the basic French skills, in addition to furthering my Arabic.

Me, standing in front of the Hassan II Mosque, the third largest mosque in the world, in Casablanca.
Me, at the Roman ruins of Volubilis, just outside of Meknes-please notice the giant bird top left.

It’s always a toss-up for what language you might hear on the street every day here. And the people, the streets, the buildings, are all so colorful and alive. I had so much fun showing my mother how different and wonderful the world can be outside of the states. Rabat and Casablanca are beautiful, and Fes really is the “Imperial City” everyone describes it as. The Moroccan sunshine shines just a little bit brighter, and it makes evident the beauty in every single aspect of my daily surroundings. Moroccans are known for their fountains, their beautiful zellij or tile work, their intricate wood and ceramic skills, and their leather industry. I’ve seen so many examples of it all already, and I can’t wait to see more.

The fountain and tile-work found in the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail, Meknes, Morocco

For all of my experience traveling in the Arab world, Morocco is both familiar and completely foreign. It definitely has some similarities with its Arab counterparts in the Middle East, and, I’ve loved being back in a place where I can hear the call to prayer five times a day. But, there is also something about Morocco that is so entirely different, and, as of yet, I can’t quite put my finger on it, but you can bet I’ll keep trying over the course of this semester. Maybe it’s the French influence? Maybe the African? Hmmm, I’ll keep working on it and let you know! Morocco has, though, joined in the ring of protests happening across the Arab world as a result of recent events in Tunisia and Egypt. For now, all is peaceful, and no worries, I’m certainly not in any danger, but, it does add a new and different level of excitement to life in an Arab country! I do know that the many differences and similarities I’m going to see and experience are going to keep me on my toes, and keep giving me more and more to write about!

As mentioned, tomorrow, my orientation starts, and then, Wednesday, we move in with our host families! I’m sure there will be so much more to share and experience and I’m looking forward to it all with a giant smile on my face.

Here’s to all things Morocco! Until next time y’all….

1 thought on “Week 1 under the Moroccan Sun”

  1. Awesome post, honey, except the part about me napping! Loved every minute of my time there, and yes it went by way too fast. I am sure your 3 months will also, then we get to have you back home, at least for a little while!!
    Love you!

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