Until recently, it has been hot. It’s the kind of hot, though, that when you complain about it to any Moroccan they laugh and say just you wait. If ninety-six degrees is something to laugh at, I can only imagine the sweaty horror that is the Moroccan summer.
Rain, though, cooled the surrounding dusty city to a low seventies for the past few days. Inshallah, it continues to get cooler until I start to complain about how cold it is in Morocco.
The rain and the intense language training have kept my fellow trainees and me inside for the most part. Each day we wake up and meet at our Language and Culture Facilitator’s house at 8:30am. For most of the day, six Americans struggle and gurgle and hack their way through learning Darija. This training, in an unfamiliar city living with people who stare and gawk at you for being one of the few Americans, exhausts the body and the mind. The takeaway? I have never slept better.
To talk about my day in Peace Corps training fast becomes boring and repetitive. Rather, it is in the small things that I find myself slowly growing accustomed to life here. It is in the goat foot and beans stew that I learn my limits. The almost never ending supply of sugary treats once surprised and delighted me, but now I humbly accept the reality that will be my inevitable weight gain (my host mama wants me to grow up big and strong as well as fat). Another thing I learned in the month that I’ve lived here is that bread in Morocco is both an art and in surplus. There are a variety of breads that are served at breakfast, lunch, kaskrut, and dinner. There is always bread. No matter how hard you attempt to avoid it, you still end up eating at least half a loaf at every meal.
Food is essential to Moroccan hospitality, but life here isn’t complete without the greetings and head nods and the attempts at getting kids to smile back at the poofy-haired white guy that mispronounces “salamu 3alaykum.” It’s funny, but I look forward to the evening when I can sit in my host family’s salon and watch the latest episode of the Turkish soap opera, SamHini. I’ve committed to seeing it through to the end even if I can’t understand a single thing. More importantly, my life here is defined by my refusal to bathe at the local hammam. Instead, I take a bucket bath in a tiny wash closet that has room enough for myself, a toilet, and two spiders I named Tony and Oscar. This is to the chagrin of my host mama, who likes to use this fact as a conversation starter with everyone she introduces me to.
All of this said, these moments of being uncomfortable or force fed or bewildered by the cacophony of Darija everywhere have become special to me. They are the moments where I feel challenged, funnily enough. At dinner, when I am stuffed and my host mama keeps insisting I eat more is when I find myself using Darija extensively in my attempt to explain my state of “stuffedness.” In the toilet/washroom I come one step closer to breaking down and going to the hammam because Tony is a corner hog. And sitting in a room full of women, listening to them gossip in Darija, is where I discover I know more than I did a week ago.
As I write this, I am lying in bed, thankful that I have this moment to reflect. Today, I had breakfast (one baguette, two slices of cheese, ten olives, and a cup of coffee). After an hour or two of reading on the roof of my host house, I had lunch (fried stuffed fish, rice with tomato, bread, and stewed vegetables). This first lunch was unplanned since I was supposed to go to my LFC’s for lunch, but my host mama insisted I eat before I left. I ended up eating two lunches and then going out to the café for coffee to only go on from there to my host grandma’s house for kaskrut (bread, shredded bread, more coffee, and cookies). Finally, thinking the day was coming to an end, we went to our neighbor’s house for dinner (soup, churros, and a side of bread).
I am happy, I am full, and I am eager to see what the next couple weeks have in store for me here in Morocco. Here is to adventure and new things and gaining a few pounds.
Keep on keeping on,