Friday, October 30, 2009

You're Body is a Wonderland...

I have met some baller (and some not so baller) people here. It's really hard to decipher what is me not understanding Moroccan culture and what is someone just being plain old awkward. Because of this I have been giving a lot of thought into this concept of body language. It is so useful and yet can be very confusing. If I simply talk to a guy it could be taken the wrong way. Yet Morocco is a very embracive and touchy (supposedly) culture and so someone could grab your hand and it not mean anything. On top of this there are a lot of hand indications or signals (wtf, you’re crazy, repeat, etc.) that mean the complete opposite in the U.S. and it throws me, daily. It's ok to feel sorry for me :) We took a petit taxi yesterday and I understood perfectly (although he was only speaking French…I don't speak French) that he was telling us that the mosque was on the other side of the street. I asked him [in English] "oh on the other side?" He laughed in my face. But he understood my hand signals as well. We had a conversation not knowing any of the other's language. It was awesome.

I met this guy named Osama. He is an American-Pakistani student from Berkley who just finished a semester at a university in Ghana. He decided that he would bike up the coast of West Africa stopping in Mali and Senegal. He is in Morocco because he just decided to be. He is actually the one that opened my eyes to the power of body language. He does not know any languages spoken in any of the countries that he has visited, yet with the use of his body language and with the small gifts of mangos and water he has managed to never have to stay in a hotel. People always just open up their doors to him. This is just such a bizarre concept to me being from the U.S. Opening your home to someone you do not know and cannot communicate verbally with. I have heard only bit of the adventure that he has had…and it's amazing. He belongs in the group of baller people.

I'm going to make the following statement sound as diplomatic as I can: the driving in Morocco is wack! People honk non-stop. Everyone passes everyone. That whole "slowing down for pedestrians" doesn't exist here. I have almost died numerous times just crossing the street. Not to mention that there are just so many damn vehicles!!! Saturday I went to the Caspa with my friend Fouad. We spent some tiresome hours working on my Arabic homework fixing the many mistakes I had made. Afterwards Fouad, Dodge, Laura and I were standing in the middle of this narrow street getting ready to say our goodbyes. In the past when I have tried to move out of the way of moving cars I tend to put myself into further danger, so from this I have developed this habit of moving slightly to the left and just letting the car go around me. Worst idea I have ever had. The four of us (and some 50 American students visiting from Spain) heard a large crash. I tensed and the next thing I know Fouad is pushing me out of the way. This car comes zooming right through where we were standing, by a hair misses the American students and slams into this wall. I am pretty sure I stopped breathing for a full minute. The driver was new and couldn’t work the brakes. If he doesn’t slam into the initial car we never would have known he was coming. And you can imagine where I'm going with this…I tend not to dwell on things like this. But not gonna lie…I was scared sh*tless. It is not till later did I realize the situation. I owe Fouad at least three boxes of cookies and a yellow melon for saving my life and all.

When you sign up for IES you are given booklets that all have this statement "students will experience being a minority for the first time...". But the thing is for the first time I don't stick out. I'm not the only one. No I'm not Moroccan, but if I use minimal Darija Arabic I blend in and am often mistaken for a Moroccan. It's awesome. At dinner yesterday this concept of minority came up. The boys said they quite enjoyed the intrigue that occurred from being white in an Arab country, they said this was a great conversation starter and that it made them attractive. (I would debate this…but we won't get into that, lol). The girls were saying they didn't like the extra attention. The heckling, the starring, the grabbing, and the assumption that all American girls are easy was rough. It attracts the creepiest of guys being American, even being Mexican doesn't prevent this. All of a sudden all the heads turned and looked at me and my friend Ally (who is African, Italian, Irish-American). They asked us what we thought. Not that they meant it in this way at all but at that very moment it took me back to primary school. I remember being the only non-black student at one point and then the drastic turn around of being the only non-white student. It's like "who wants to sing the solo in Feliz Navidad?" or who wants to play the "Mexican President?" "Selina?" Yeah that sounds like a good idea. Random? I think not. I say all this as this as I am sitting in the study room and I am 95 percent sure that they all think I'm Moroccan. Badly dressed and lonerish, but Moroccan none the less. So minority in a racial sense is not something that I am exposed to here. However, for the first time I am seeing what it feels like to be a minority religion. Most of the time it isn't a big deal. The young girls at my internship always try to get me to say the shahadah (declaration that one must say in order to be Muslim). And usually I can get out of it and we call it a day. Wednesday they asked me "WHY?" I wasn't Muslim. I told them it was because I was Christian. They drew a cross on the board and I nodded yes. They scratched it out and said "bad". Then they drew Jesus on the board and said "fake". I don't know why this bothered me so much. These 15 year old girls were putting down my religion and it really hurt my feelings. I ended class early, but of course I won't hold it against them. I really felt for the first time that I was in a Muslim nation. I am the minority.

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