This post will be a lot longer because I want to post in detail about the past week. So we left for our program excursion on Saturday morning and we came back to Rabat today. On Saturday we went to Fes, which I wrote a little bit about earlier, and we stayed at a hotel for two nights where we were lucky to have air conditioning there the whole time, since even at night it was very warm. On Monday we left for Ouazzane, where after taking a tour of the city, we had lunch and then our presentations about our community service work and the research papers we did. I talked about the increasing importance of English language learning within the Moroccan education system, as well as the initiatives and challenges around access to English education. By the way, as I was getting close to finishing my work with the NGO, two of the students drew me some pictures, and the next person to take my position is also from Washington State! Anyway, after the presentations, we left for our village homestay in the outskirts of Ouazzane. Each student was paired up with a family in the village of Bni Kolla and I was paired with a family that was made of a mother, father, 16-year-old girl and a 7-year-old boy. I was dreading the homestay because I knew there wouldn’t be any air conditioning and it would have only Turkish toilets, and even though I was right, I would stay longer if I was given the option because the family was so lovely. As soon as I met the mother and son to head to their house, the son took my hand and lead me around the farm and olive trees and kept speaking to me in Darija, to which I said in French that I didn’t understand anything and he understood me, but he would continue talking. When I finally got to the house, I was greeted in the Moroccan way by the daughter (hug and a kiss on each cheek) and then in the evening I met the father with a handshake. Although the family didn’t speak English, they could speak French at the basic level (besides Arabic), so that was all I needed. I used maybe 10 words in Arabic with them, and the rest was in pretty bad French, because I couldn’t remember or I didn’t learn enough Arabic words to use with them. It was actually my first time that I used this much French since taking classes for it back in middle and high school.
The family in Rabat is pretty nice, and I especially like my host mother, but the whole family back in the village seemed to really want me there, and I felt very welcomed. I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining about my host family in Rabat, it’s only that I felt a lot more embraced in the village, both by the family and by all the kids there. There was also another boy who was 13 who was with the family for most of the time, but we were never formally introduced, so I don’t know if he was a member of the family, or a neighbor. He tried to speak to me in French and he showed me pictures that the family had of the daughter’s engagement ceremony. Child marriage is illegal in Morocco, but it still happens, especially in rural areas, but she’s supposed to get married soon. The boy also showed me a picture book of Pennsylvania that a previous student had gifted the family, as well as a scrapbook from another student from LA. All the kids were very friendly, so we played with them outside and in the homes. My 7-year-old host brother really enjoyed playing on my phone too. I didn’t have reception there, but he was able to look through the pictures and videos I had on my phone, and the ones he repeatedly watched the most was of my brother and me. I showed him how to use the Snapchat filters, and he thought those were really fun. I also showed him and his brother or neighbor how to use my hand soap sheets, and they were really fascinated with it and the little boy kept wanting to use them, so I gave him one of my packets before I left on Wednesday. The day before we left, we had a group discussion with the villagers by having our program directors be the translators. We talked about different topics and then I asked them about the attitude towards divorce in the village, so we had a long conversation about that and how it compares with the attitude in America. Anyway, after leaving the village homestay, we finally went to Chefchaouen! It’s a touristy city famously known for being “the blue city.” It was the place that I was most excited about and it was really beautiful. There was of course still a lot of street harassment as in the other cities, and though I’m getting more and more irritated with it, I did enjoy my time there. Unfortunately, we only stayed there for one night, but I got what I wanted from there: beautiful pictures and a dress. I actually got 2 dresses, but one dress is coming apart at the seams, so I will probably only wear it here and get rid of it. It was definitely worth the many hours of going into the shops to find the specific kind of dress that I wanted, and when I finally did, I was so happy and so in love with it. The assistant director went with me after dinner to help me find a dress, so when I found the one I liked, she bargained hard for it. I was very impressed with her because she was very adamant with the shop keeper about how much I should buy it for, so I was able to save a good amount on it (he asked for 140 dirhams, but paid 100, which is roughly 10 USD). After we returned to the hotel, I went to see the rest of the group and I danced in my dress with them and later headed back out for a walk and returned around midnight. In the morning we had breakfast there and then drove back to Rabat. We may decide to leave for Marrakesh tomorrow, and though I’m looking forward to it, I don’t know how I’m supposed to get through the heat. During the excursion I got a bloody nose twice because of the heat, so I hope it won’t happen again. I also developed big blisters on some of my toes from my flats, but of course that won’t stop me from visiting the city and enjoying my time with the group.