Friday, October 23, 2009

My Last Days in Fes…

So apparently internet is not something over here. I am now settled into my dorm in Rabat. It’s been a very different experience here compared to Fes. Here is a recap of my experience of my last week of orientation. I have various posts that I have written so I will just start posting them one by one. Enjoy :)

Walking the medina while fasting not a good idea… The medina is very compact, crowded and has an assortment of smells (most of which are not good). Walking through the fish market part I just about passed out. A sign should hang outside the doors saying “WARNING: do not enter if you can’t stand germs, people, and harassment!” But that’s enough of me being dramatic.
After breaking the fast we went out to qahawa for my roomie’s birthday. After which she helped me haggle my first purchase of a sheesha (hooka) pipe for the price of 100 dirhams (roughly $12). Bartering is an art form and most hanoots (store keepers) are quite proud. My favorite quote from Armaan during my leather shoe purchase was “We’re students. We’re poor. It’s raining. WE NEED SHOES.” That got the price taken down another 15 d’s.

Every day kind of feels like I’m in a reality tv show. The most ridiculous things just happen to occur. Everyone is taking their turn being sick. Food poisoning, diarrhea, bug bites…you name it we get it. A girl did get mugged at knife point (they don’t have guns here). It’s hard for me to describe the situation seeing as how it wasn’t me but it shakes you up.

I’ve pretty much concluded that I suck at everything. I have fallen down the stairs (twice), our home stay parents gave us keys to the doors…that we can’t use. Armaan and I spent a significant amount of time trying to open the front door. Then we broke the door and popped in the necessary part that opens the door. We had to resort to yelling for our brother. I am pretty sure he thinks we’re incompetent. Plus I’m sure the whole family thinks we’re crazy. This family eats a very modest and mild dinner. And I mean MODEST. Fasting and not eating just isn’t mixing well…so we end up eating crackers, laughing cow, and soda in our rooms immediately after dinner. There is no doubt that we are giving the best American impression that we can.
Armaan and I do everything together. We hold hands when we cross the street. We sleep side by side. Same class, same everything. People always ask us even if we’re sisters.

This man came into our home stay who I had assumed was their family friend so I said “salam” and proceeded to my room. Next thing I know there is a deep translating party going on and Armaan is involved. I come and sit. Something is said to me and I just do the usual smile-n-nod and all I know is the professor thinks I’m Armaan’s sister. Next thing I know is I have a date with the professor and his family (and by date I mean ALL DAY event) for Sunday. The thing about the professor is he does not speak English. NADA. However, he is fluent in Spanish. So the next day is spent with me having to use some mean Spanish translating/thinking. I was a little afraid that we were going to be chopped up and placed strategically throughout the walls, but in the end I ended having a really great conversation with him. Most of what he said made sense. For most of the evening I thought he was calling me “Sunni” which I did not know if I should take offense to that or not and then I realized he was just saying “Missouri” which made a lot more sense. He talked about the western influence on Moroccan identity and how it leaves such an impression, yet there is no Moroccan influence on America. He described how a lot of their traditions seem primitive to Westerners, but to an Arab makes sense and encourages hospitality and togetherness. He used the internet as a reference to something that is good yet slowly removing their customs and invading their identity. He also did say that the man is the king of the house and gets to lounge around all day and that Ramadan was good thing for women, because they get to lose weight. The feminist in me really wish I knew all the Spanish words to tell him where to put that comment. But I decided against it.

During our conversation with the professor he told us that 5 percent of the country held 95 percent of the wealth. Which for a 3rd world country that’s pretty accurate. In America it’s not uncommon for people to own two or three houses…and here that concept is so alien and unreal.

Most times, in America, a person works hard for their money to do that, but here working hard means you’re middle class and can feed your family. There are a lot of things that we forget to think about, being Americans and having the luxuries that we do. Next door to my home-stay is a really large house (three of my houses in one). My home-stay brother Mouad was telling me that the house made him very sad. He said that an American millionaire owned the house and has only been there to visit one time. He said it made him sad because people were sleeping on the streets and yet no one was staying in this luxurious home.

At the end of the day…at least we have clean underwear. Folded and all.


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