Hello friends, family, and mystery readers,
Sorry it’s been a little bit. I’ve been a bit bogged down by all the work for school, trips, the need for sleep, etc. etc. I decided not to translate this post because honestly, the reason I have procrastinated on writing for so long was because I didn’t want to write the Arabic first and I knew this was going to be a long one. But it’s been a while and I want to keep my friends and family updated on what I have been doing. This may or may not be a long post, but I’ll break it down into parts for you:
After the first week of classes, I had three days off of school for Eid Al-Adha. If you are unfamiliar, Eid Al-Adha is the Muslim holiday that celebrates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac to God. Muslims around the world celebrate this holiday with the sacrifice of the cow, or the sheep, or the chicken, etc. In Morocco, it’s the sheep. Leading up to the holiday, there were several loud “BAAA’s” from the street below my window throughout the day and night. While this was really annoying, I, perhaps sinisterly, was comforted by the fact that in a few days time this would no longer be a problem…
The day of we went to the roof, which is where most people in the city seem to go to sacrifice their sheep. I was expecting to be a total wimp about it since I’m not the biggest fan of blood or things that are usually contained inside the body being outside the body, but I was completely fine. I actually have several fairly gross hi-def photos of a sheep sacrifice and the aftermath. It was a very delicious sheep. I ate liver, heart, meat, etc. etc. And took lots of naps after eating. Eid Al-Adha wasn’t a huge deal to my host family outside of the sacrifice so I basically got a nice mini vacation and was able to vedge around a lot.
Hahah….. How did I ever think a class in English was hard??
Our Darija professor told us how to say drug dealer, “I’m sniffing cocaine,” and other fun extracurricular activities, but he wouldn’t tell us any curse words. He also told us with a completely straight face that our homework was to find a “hakouma” – literally “government,” but the DL word for drug-dealer. He also said he’s childhood dream was to become a hakouma, but it’s too late for him now since he is a teacher. He’s a colorful guy.
So I’m 20 now. Weird, right? Anyway, my birthday sort of came and went without too much fuss. Molly, the other Wellesley student in the group, surprised me during class with sweets and other party-like stuff including really loud and obnoxious whistle things. Overall, the day ended up being very busy since we had normal classes, supplementary class through lunch, and then our monthly cultural activity after. The activity was henna tattoos which was a fun way to cap off a looong day. Also my host mom sang happy birthday to me in the morning and then in the evening, I heard her and my host dad shuffling around and speaking in hushed voices after dinner until my host dad peeked in my door and went “Emily?” and shut off my light. Then they came in with a cake and a candle and sang happy birthday. They’re super sweet. I really like them.
Marrakesh and Essaouira
Last weekend, we had an excursion to Marrakesh and Essaouira. Marrakesh is super-touristy and very, very crowded, but I really loved it. I felt like the city itself had a sort of crazy, rushed vibe that I really liked (though I did not love the fact that there were tourists everywhere.) The Jemma Al-Fnaa, which is probably the first picture on Google you’ll see in Marrakesh, completely transforms at night. We walked around the square and the labyrinth of souqs surrounding the square during the day and then returned in the evening for dinner. It’s completely insane at night. Since there are so many tourists, vendors are shouting at you to sit down at their restaurant in about every language. During the day it’s a little more quiet, but there’s still things like snake charmers (which I stayed a very comfortable distance away from), monkeys on leashes ready to jump on your shoulders (which I also stayed a comfortable distance away from,) and the normal sort of stuff you’d find in a Moroccan souq. At night, the place is absolutely packed. But it was a really fun experience, nonetheless.
Between the square in the afternoon and the square in the evening, we also stopped by the Majorelle Gardens, which was built by the artist Jacques Majorelle and then bought and renovated by Yves Saint Laurent. The gardens were also beautiful, though they did feel like they were clearly not “native” to Marrakesh (as in they were built and restored by two French guys…)
The next day, we went around to see Marrakesh’s top-hits, aka the Menara Gardens, the Bahia Palace, Koutoubia Mosque, and the Ben Youssef Madrasa. Everything was beautiful. I don’t really have any exciting stories to regale about these locations beyond the fantastic architecture, art, and overall “cool-ness” of being in places filled with such a long history.
After that, we went up to Siti Fatma and I had the scariest hike ever. So, I don’t like heights. This hike was somewhat physically tough but really what got me was the fact that at multiple points during this hike, the guide had to pull us up over slippery rocks, lest we fall down a cliff. There were a few points where I wasn’t sure if I was breathing heavily from the climb or because I was freaking out. At one point, a ladder was brought out. This ladder led to a steep rock face that was wet and very slippery. It took two guides to pull us up this. I was not pleased. I wish I had pictures of this rock to prove what I have endured but I secured my camera in my backpack because I needed both hands at the ready for the majority of this hike. The views were beautiful, but I would not do it again.
And then after thaat, we had a looong bus ride to Essaouira. I spent several hours sleeping in awkward positions and between that and perhaps from getting pulled up rocks, I pulled my shoulder. Although it does provide a very convenient excuse to not do side planks with Molly at the gym (side note: joined a gym with Molly. All of this bread is going to catch up with my at some point.)
We didn’t get to Essaouira until about 10 PM. The next day we only had about two and a half hours to walk around the city, but the city is super small and was just about the right amount of time to see everything. The weather there was beautiful but very windy. Also on our way to the mellah (walled Jewish quarters) we got sort of lost in the maze of the city and when we asked a man standing outside his store the way to the mellah, he asked us if we were American and if we could help him write a letter to some of his friends in England (we asked him in Arabic might I add, but I’d assume my very pale skin is a bit of a giveaway that I am, in fact, not from Morocco.) We were invited into this man’s store and we spent about 30 minutes chatting with him and helping him write a quick letter. He owned a jewerly store and had a lot of jewelry with symbols from the Amazigh language. After that, we took off to Rabat around 1 with a few stops along the way and got into Rabat around 8 PM.
*So my Arabic professor from Wellesley is from Morocco and he introduced us to a few popular musicians from Morocco and the rest of the MENA. One of these musicians is Saad Lamjarred whom I suppose could best be compared to Justin Timberlake. His music is super pop-y but to be honest, I listen to it all the time. Rachid showed us this music video, which was filmed in Marrakesh. The beginning is great since there are motorcycles everywhere. I mean there are motorcycles everyone in Rabat as well, but nothing like Marrakesh. This song is called “M3allem,” or “The Boss.”
And finally, in Emily’s continuing emotional roller coaster…
In talking with friends here as well as with other friends abroad (let’s all say it together now, “My friend, Emily…”) I’m beginning to narrow down where exactly some of my feelings of displacement, isolation, or overall “alfjasldfjsdadlsf;jas” are coming from. I’m used to talking to my parents very frequently, even at school, but here, I’ve only been able to speak to them over email, save for one mostly unsuccessful Skype call about a month ago. I also miss my friends a lot and being able to talk to them more regularly. For better or for worse when I am at school, I am around people all of the time. While at times I am like woah, I need to retreat from society and be by myself right now, I’m still used hanging out with my friends often. Even when I don’t go out on weekends, I might be watching a movie with friends, or just around other people. Here, that is a little more difficult since we don’t have our own place to do that given we live with host families. I’ve also realized that nightlife – if you could call it that – is very singular here in Rabat and to be honest, not very exciting. Plus, most of the places are really for western tourists and pretty expensive. I like my time to myself but I also want a balance. With the stress of school, a balance of time socializing and time alone is really important and right now I’d say the scales are broken and the pieces are probably scattered around the room. I’ve figured out my routine and have gotten comfortable with my host family, so now I need to figure out the other end of the equation.
Plus, if I can’t go out on weekends, I want to do some quality binge-watching. But the internet in my room does not work very well at all, and Netflix is not really an option…… 😦 What else am I supposed to do – study? Or heaven forbid, READ?
Until next time.