The Election

Last night, I went to bed at around 1 AM, leaving my phone ringer on so that I would hear it buzz when the New York Times alerts that Hillary was winning came in. I figured it was a pretty safe bet considering every major news source had the probability of Hillary winning at around 75 to 80%. I was confident that I would wake up in several hours to good news.

About an hour later, it buzzed. “Donald Trump has won Ohio.”

A bit later, “Donald Trump has won North Carolina. This could pave the way for him to win the election.”

Panic began to settle in but I tried to reassure myself, trying to think of maybe 2012 or 2008 when the early victories belonged to the Republicans. I attempted to go back to sleep but ended up more or less just laying in bed.

A few minutes later, “Hillary Clinton has won Virginia.” A bit of relief, but I was still on edge. I tried pushing it out of my mind so that I could get some sleep but I just kept moving around uncomfortably and going in and out of restless sleep. I must have finally fallen asleep around 3 AM but woke up with a start at around 4 AM after having one of those anxiety dreams where your heart beats really hard and you feel like you have to pull yourself out of the dream. I looked at my phone, more alerts and more messages from friends. I started to realize the brevity of the situation and that there was a real possibility that Trump could win this election. I altogether gave up on sleep and opened my laptop to follow various live updates.

Over the next two hours, it went from just a scary thought I tried to push aside to actual reality. I was and still am in complete and utter disbelief that this is the future of our country now. President Donald Trump. I loathe to say that. It disgusts me.

It disgusts me and worries me and angers me and makes me sad. I am genuinely concerned not only for what this means for myself, but for the countless number of people Trump has attacked during his vitriolic campaign from POC, women, LGBTQA, immigrants, Muslims and sadly, more. His words have incensed an entire group of people (read: white males) who have felt the progress we have made over the last few years has somehow shoved them to the margins, a group of people who don’t want to hear they have are privileged and living at the top of the totem pole. Neo-Nazis and the KKK have endorsed Trump. And that’s terrifying.

The reality of the situation is that these people are not new to our country. They have been there from the start and make up an essential part of its foundation. But Trump has brought them out of the woodwork and emboldened them. And now he is our next president. America took one step forward 8 years ago when we elected Barack Obama and now we just backwards flipped into the ocean.

I can’t stop thinking about what this means for our future. I know that for many people, the foreseeable future is one in a hostile environment. I never wanted to be in a country where Muslims didn’t feel safe going to their place of worship, where children worry that they and their parents could get deported, where women don’t have access to basic healthcare, where LGBTQ youth are forced into conversion therapy. But here we have been and here we will continue to be, at least for now.

I am angry. I am angry not only at these people and at how hard they have pushed against progress, but also at the institutions that go us here. I truly believe that if the media had not given Trump the time of day and turned him into a sensation at the beginning of his campaign, we wouldn’t be here right now. The way the various media outlets treated Trump was nothing short of unprofessional in my opinion. It was akin to the sensationalist journalism that does not do anything except work people into an uniformed frenzy.

And let’s talk about those emails, shall we? Let’s talk about about how those stupid emails got more coverage than the women that came forward and accused Donald Trump of sexual assault. Where was the coverage about the allegation of child rape against Donald Trump? Or basically anything else terrible Donald Trump has done over the last several months? And let’s just make something clear: politics are dirty. Of course there were sketchy things in those emails. Did you really think that they were going to reveal everything was sunshine and rainbows? And let’s be real, I’m sure there are other politicians who have done far worse than what was in those emails.

And on that note, I am angry that apparently America still can’t stand the idea of woman president so much that we’d rather elect a bigoted buffoon than a woman who was a senator, First Lady, and Secretary of State. Apparently our institutions hate the idea so much that those emails were given more airtime than women who said they were sexually assaulted. So much that the director of the FBI just happened to come out with a new investigation a week before the election. And I think you’re naive to think that Hillary being a woman has nothing to do with the outcome of the election. It has 100% to do with it. Hillary’s loss today is what happens to women everyday on a grand scale. Women who are far more qualified, better suited for the job, and with more experience losing out to idiot men who have no right to be there.

At the beginning of this election cycle, I said that I was afraid that if Hillary wasn’t the nominee we would lose all the momentum we’ve gained thus far. That it would be several more years before a woman would get to that position and win. (I also want to make it clear that I did not vote for Hillary for the mere fact that she is a woman. The fact that she is a woman, and that she is a Wellesley woman at that, makes me extremely proud but in no way affected how I voted.) And now that Hillary has lost, I’m worried it will take years to rebuild what we have just lost, in the same way that I think it will be a long time before we elect another president of color. There is no progress without backlash, I suppose, but the backlash against all of the progress we have made so far truly disgusts me.

And if you voted for Trump, a third party, or did not vote at all, I hope that decision weighs heavily on you for the rest of your life. Because there are going to be very real consequences and there are people across the country genuinely scared for the what the future holds for them.

And to my host brother who yelled “TRUMP! I told you so!!” when I got home tonight, you can kiss my ass.

—-

Today is a sad day. We were so close to a euphoric and historic decision and sadly, hate had a brief moment of victory. And we should all take today to feel what we are feeling. Feel sad, feel angry. Panic a bit or a lot. Cry a bit or a lot. But tomorrow we should get up knowing that even though this terrible thing has happened to us, we have the ability to continue moving forward and make a change. There are so many things we can do to work against the everything that won last night (although there were some pretty great things that won last night.) We can donate to organizations that now have a potential to be defunded, like Planned Parenthood. We can write letters to our local representatives urging them to support measures that will make our communities better. We can lobby or protest or lend words of support and stand in solidarity with our friends and peers when they need it. Most importantly, though, do not let today discourage you. This will be a stain on our history but we cannot stand idly by. We would not be any better than Trump and everything he stands for if we didn’t take today as an impetus to create change. I’m still figuring out how best to do that and I know I’ll make mistakes along the way, but I cannot stand the idea of not doing anything. And while the idea of moving to a small town in Canada sounds tempting, I can’t stand the idea of fleeing the US and leaving behind those who can’t. We really are stronger together. Take care.

And oh yeah – fuck you, Trump. You are not my president.

أين إميلي؟

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:

Eid Al-Adha

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.

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From the roof of my apartment building on Eid Al-Adha

Classes

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.

My Birthday

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.

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The square at night

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…)

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The gardens

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.

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Look Ma, it’s me and I’m not making a silly face! (At the Ben Youssef Madrasa)

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.

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On the way down

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.

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That time the wind in Essaouria got a little too friendly with me…

*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.

ملاحظة عن أكل

A Quick Note on Food

كل الأكل هنا لذيذ جداََ. أنا الأكل وزن الجسمي في خبز كل اليوم، و لكن كل الشيء جيد جدا جدا جدا. و لكن جعلتُ الخطأ القول الذي أحب هذه النسيج الكرنب مع العسل الدافئ (البغرير.) و الآن، هم كل المكان. أنا لزم أن يدخل نادي رياضي.

قبل العشاء، هناك خبز، كيكة، حلوايت، و بغرير و شاي بالنعناع مع سكر الكثير. هذا صعب أن يقاوم. الشيء التي نأكل العشاء القبل حول ساعة السادس و أنا جوعن. و ثم حول ساعة الثامينة و نصف أو ساعة التاسية، نأكل العشاء. مع خبز أكثر. ممكن بعص الشاي. أظن لزم طريق الكون ليس جوعن و أيضا، لا سأعود بيت مع الخمسين المغربي.

So all the food here is delicious. But I made the mistake of saying that these little crepe/pancake things with warm honey drizzled over it, called Baghrir in Arabic, were really good/my favorite and now they are EVERYWHERE (as in my host mom has made sure they are everywhere.) While I’m not necessarily complaining, I do need a gym membership stat.

Pre-dinner dinner is usually bread, cake, sweets, these delicious crepe things, and lot of very sugary mint tea. It’s so hard to resist. The thing is we eat this pre-dinner dinner at around 6 PM aka when I would usually eat dinner so I’m hungry. And then at 8:30 or 9PM, we eat actual dinner. With more bread. Possibly some tea. I think I need a strategy for enjoying meal times/politely turning down my host mom/literally everyone when they tell me to keep eating while also not returning home with the Moroccan 50. This could potentially be more difficult than my classes. Stay tuned.

 

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Here are the yummy little crepes/what will be the death of me

تغيرات

See below for the English “translation.” By “translation” I mean that I wrote as much as I could in Arabic, but there are certain nuances and feelings that I cannot yet express in Arabic and thus, has to simplify for the purpose of translation. All the same, I’ve included my full thoughts below in English because at a certain point, if I am unable to express myself through writing/talking, etc., I will most likely go insane. #LanguagePledgeProbs

*If you are an Arabic-speaker, I apologize in advance for my atrocious Arabic below. I wrote this quickly and did not proofread (what kind of daughter-of-English-teachers am I?). If you do not speak Arabic, I do not suggest Google Translate. Just scroll below to the English. Also, the English is a little word vomit-y. I have a lot of feelings, what can I say.

الأسبوع الأول من الصفوف كان صعب جداََ منذ لا أفهم كثير. مرة الأخر، عندي صفين في العربي و صفين في مواضيع الأخر. كنتُ تفكير عن الصعوبات الصفوف مع مواضيع المقعد في حين ليس عندي المهارات اللغوية القوية. قرأتُ مقالة عن رجل جديد لأمريكا و في حين عنده المهارات اللغوية أن تلكن عن عنصرية أو التحسين في أمريكا، لم يعرف ما “زيبلوك” كان. في طريقات أشعر النفس و أفهم ما هو القول. عرفتُ كيف صعب هذا برنامج و في نفس الوقت، هو ما يزال صعب. و لكن أنا لا يفل.

كبعض الأنتم تعرفون، أنا في أسرة الجديدة الآن. بعد عدد المشكلات، أنتقلت. أسترة الأولة لم يكن في منزلهم و كان هناك رجال الغريب حين كنتُ في المنزل الوحدة. في غضون ساعيان الكلام مع المدير عن هذا، كنتُ نتقلت.

في ملاحظة السعيدة، سافرتُ الدار البيضاء أمس مع أصدقاء من جامعتي. المدينة تشعر فرنسية جداََ. أمضينا وقت الكثير في المركز التسوق الذي كبير جداََ. بعض المدينة مثل روديو أو هوليوود. أسعار كان نفس أيضاََ.

عيد الأضحى يبدأ هذا المساء. هناك خروف الكثير تحت شباكي في الشارع و لكن، بعد غداََ… ليس بعد الآن.

(The amount of Arabic you write looks like a lot more when you use size 18 font… Oops, I guess.)

The first week of classes were very difficult since I do not understand much. Again, I have two Arabic language courses and two content courses, all of which are taught completely in Arabic. I cannot even ask how to say a word in Arabic by saying the English word. You get around this with sign language and lots of crazy-looking pantomiming. I was thinking about the difficulties of having elementary-level language skills and taking courses in complicated subjects such as the Arab Spring (it’s hard.) I read an article in the New York Times written by a man new to America, who had the language skills to talk about racism and gentrification in America, but didn’t know what “Ziploc” was. I feel the same in many ways and understand the sentiment. I seem to know vocabulary to identify more complicated subjects, but not the vocabulary to talk about these subjects in a conversational manner. I knew this program would be very difficult but at the same time, that knowledge does not change the fact that it is difficult. However, I am not discouraged. I chose this program for its challenge and this is the tough transitional period from “intermediate” to “advanced.”

As some people already know, I have moved to a new family. There were some issues with the previous family, including them not being at the apartment most of the time and the fact that they told men I did not know to come into the apartment while I was there alone without notifying me. That evening (Tuesday) was a bit of saga, from coming home and discovering they weren’t there after I spent a good 5 minutes trying to get the key to work, to there being no food in the apartment, to the man who knocked on the door (which I wouldn’t have answered expect for the fact that the door locks from within and my host family would need me to open the door,) and told me my host mother was on the phone who literally just told me to keep the door open.

Within a couple of hours of speaking to the residential coordinator about the men-in-the-apartment incident, arrangements were made for me to move. I honestly did not think much about this beyond my annoyance and slight anger at my family for the way they were treating me, and hadn’t intended my conversation with the res coordinator to go beyond asking him to speak to my family about leaving me a note or something when they were gone. But apparently this was a huge issue and I was promptly moved. Even though dealing with moving just after I settled in was a bit tough, I feel so much better at this family, and it’s good to know that some of my feelings of isolation largely had to do with the fact that I was not with the right family.

But my new family is great and they still feed me after I tried to help do the dishes, broke a plate and sliced my finger, so that’s a good sign. (The still feed me thing is a joke, the broken plate… not so much.) At some point in the near future, I will need to communicate to them that when I go to my room and close the door, it is not because I do not like them, but rather that in order to preserve my sanity, there are times where I need to retreat from social situations and be alone to scroll through Buzzfeed. I was warned beforehand that Moroccans might not understand “alone time,” as Moroccans are culturally very social. I’ve definitely noticed that in both families, everyone does always tend to hangout in the same room together most of the time, even if everyone is kind of doing their own thing. I guess I’m just a little too American to completely fit into a Moroccan family.

On a happy note, I went to Casablanca yesterday. The city felt very distinctly French and very different from Rabat. There were several parts of Casablanca that reminded me of Rodeo Drive or Hollywood Blvd (minus the street performers.) Lorenzo, Abdel, Adiza, and I spent most of the day at Morocco Mall, which is huuuuuuge. If it wasn’t for everything being in Arabic and French, I’d think I was at the Topanga Mall; between the fact that there were many of the same stores as any high-end mall in the US (for example, we shopped at Zara and H&M) and the fact that prices were the same as any high-end mall in the US, I could have made a quick trip back to the Valley.

On another note, Eid Al-Adha starts this evening. There have been several sheep on the street below my window going “baaaa” very loudly for the last couple of days. But after tomorrow… that won’t be a problem.

Side note, as I mentioned before when I was sick, Moroccans (or at least my last family) seem to think that the only reason for sickness is the weather, but I’ve assured them many times that where I’m from, the weather is almost the same or even hotter. Curious about whether I was right or not (thinking about relative distance to the sun or whatever,) I looked up Rabat’s coordinates and Los Angeles’ coordinates. As it turns out, Los Angeles is less than 0.1° north of Rabat.

Also, I know I’ve said several times that I would post photos, but WordPress just doesn’t seem to want to upload them, so I’ll be posting some photos to my Flickr and/or most everyone who reads this is probably friends with me on Facebook and has already seen them all.

فقط العربية!

أيريد أن كرس هذا مشاكة أن الصعوبات الكلام بلغة العربية كل الوقت. بسبب هو سعب جدا. كل الطلاب عندهم مهارات تحدث أحسن من أنا. مهارات تحدثي ليس جيد. أستخدم جوجل المترجم كل الوقت (مثل الآن.) ليس عندي المفردات على كل اليوم. أستطيع أن تكلم عن الأدب أو التريخ أو الأمم المتحدة و لكن لا أستطيع عن ذاهب إلى السوق.

 

Disclaimer: Sorry Achraf and Samir, I know you said short blog posts in English to tell our families that you are alive and well are fine but this is going to be a bit long. But I promise, since classes start tomorrow this will be the only English-rant post.

I want to take a break from my regularly scheduled Language Pledge (©) to briefly talk about all the things I’ve been feeling since arriving in Morocco and committing to speaking Arabic all the time, in all situations and aspects of my life, until December. Basically put, it’s really hard. The past week has just been a reminder of how behind I feel, despite the two years of hard work I’ve put into learning Arabic. All of the good grades I’ve received, hours I’ve studied, flashcards I’ve made, essays I’ve written, etc. didn’t seem to mean much the second I stepped off the airplane at the Rabat-Sale Airport.

I am fully aware that with time and with the work I know I will put in, my language skills will improve; but at this moment, it is very isolating. The other students in my program (shout out to you guys for being great and also impressing me everyday with your skills) are far ahead of me and can carry on a conversation much better than I can at this point. I am still in the “stare and smile and hope it wasn’t a question” phase. All of the vocabulary I have in my repertoire, even if I had memorized every single word ever given me, still might not have been enough right now. I am not a huge fan of the way Al-Kitaab is organized and so I really need to take the initiative to learn the everyday vocabulary I’ve come to realize I am missing.

Since I do not have the basic conversation skills to socialize in the way I want to and the way I am used (i.e. basic conversation,) I’ve begun to get very frustrated. One of the things that frustrates me the most is knowing that if something someone said to me were written down on paper I would probably know what is, or at least figure it out from context. But when something is spoken to me – and this is a problem I had even when studying Spanish – my brain just shuts off and does a sort of “I know this word but I don’t think I want to let that process so let’s just not try” thing. Not only do I find this frustrating amongst my classmates, but also with my host family. As I’ve said before, I know my host family is talking about me in front of me (this seems to be a shared experience amongst a few other students as well.) Sometimes I have no clue what they are saying, but sometimes I catch on and when I do, I get a bit angry and start saying “I understand you! I understand you!” So I’m making a great impression with my family. My host mom keeps saying that she is my mother and I am her little preschooler, which I know is meant as a gesture of affection, but everytime I hear it I’m really annoyed. I know my host family must think I’m just a dumb American stumbling my way through Arabic so I guess all I can do is work hard and prove them wrong.

I always kind of laughed at those charts they give you about studying abroad (posted below for your convenience) but I have already experienced the ups and downs several people have warned me about. I seem to be in the honeymoon and The Plunge at the same time or maybe in arrival confusion? As in, I love being here, I love my program, but I am struggling and feel frustrated and at times resentful (of my decision to come here? Of everyone around me? I don’t even know.) Like yesterday, I went out to dinner with a big group of people, including all the students from my program and a few Moroccans. One of the Moroccans told me “You do not speak Arabic,” and after spending all day trying to figure out what he was trying to say to me when he mumbled and spoke very softly, I just got super annoyed and said “Okay,” and walked away.

reentry
The Chart, which I’ve pretty much ignored until now.

The feelings I’ve had in just my first week here (first week!!) remind me of how difficult/important it is to study abroad, especially when in a non-western, non-English speaking country. I doubt I would be feeling all of this if I were sitting in a flat in London right now. I go on and on about “breaking out of your bubble” often and the reasons for doing so have solidified for me since arriving and committing myself to this program. Again, this is HARD and it would be so easy to just say “I can’t do this, I’m going home.” But what would I get out of that? It takes a lot to not only learn a new language – and a very difficult, very different language at that – but also to learn that language “in context,” i.e. not from the comfort of a classroom in the States but actually in an Arabic-speaking country.

Well, classes start tomorrow and they are all in Arabic!! so right now I am in denial. Also, I will post again after this with pictures that prove that even though I am a bumbling idiot as an Arabic-speaker, I am still having a great time here.

Last night of freedom!! (i.e. English)

First off I guess I should let everyone know that I am feeling much better today and luckily my illness (or whatever it was) was confined to just 1.5 crappy days. So Mom, I am fine and doing well. There were several people doting over me yesterday and you have nothing to worry about.

So tomorrow morning I sign the language pledge! Aldjfalsdfjalsdfjlasdfjsladfkjad (I’m just trying to get in my last bit of English before I say no more until December.)

Nothing new to report in the one day since I last wrote, but Achraf, the residential coordinator (who I know is reading this and specifically requested this story,) said to write about something I did yesterday which was this:

So “shwaya” in Arabic means “a little” or it could mean slow down or anything in between I guess. Combined with a specific hand gesture it would communicate to the person you are conversing with to slow down. So yesterday I was talking with Najah and she was going really quickly so I said “shwaya” and used the hand gesture, but she didn’t understand what I meant. So instead I said لا أريد blbalblalbalblblalbl (I do not want *blah blah blah very quickly*), أريد blaaah blaaaah blaaaah (I want “blah blah blah very slowly*). (This worked and she slowed down.) This may only be funny because everyone I told this to is very tired and also understand the difficulties of communicating what you want to a native speaker.

And on understanding things – and the difficulties – I’m beginning (at least I think) to understand more of what my host family is saying. Namely, what they’re saying about me. Today, my host mom was speaking on the phone with a director of my program (@Achraf — who is Lofti??) and I’m 97% sure she said that she keeps having to ask me if I understand what she is saying and that I need an Arabic dictionary, etc. etc. There is a strong chance I was completely wrong, so forgive me if I have incorrectly translated. I don’t mean to talk badly about my host family given their hospitality, generosity, and kindness; but it can be a little frustrating since this is only my first week here — and I am here to learn. It’s been difficult to communicate when they speak to me in a mixture of formal Arabic, darija (Moroccan Arabic), and French but I am trying my best and eventually, this shouldn’t be a problem once I know some darija. Some of the other students have talked about how great they get along with their families, but since they speak French they’ve had a chance to get to know them in French first before switching to Arabic tomorrow. During orientation, we spoke about our concerns with our ability to express ourselves, etc., and I said what I dislike the most about learning a new language is the rather high potential to seem like a bumbling idiot. But as always, I know to take this as a learning experience and not to focus on the negative aspects of study abroad.

In terms of my classes, in addition to Modern Standard Arabic and Moroccan Arabic (Darija), I will be taking two content courses: Contemporary Political Issues in Morocco and North Africa, and Media Culture. We met our professors today and had dinner with them and on the bright side, I don’t think I made too big of a fool of myself. I definitely did not understand their introductions to their courses word for word, but I got the general ideas and some specifics. At least I think.

Side note: Rabat is a beautiful city. The ocean at sunset is spectacular. But I do not dig the cats everywhere. Most especially the cat in my apartment alley that makes worrisome noises and occasionally causes me to close my window just enough so even the thinnest cat could not slip through. You know, just in case a cat somehow makes it up to my window.
Also, سعيد يوم مليلاد، أب! Happy birthday, Dad!

Adjustments

As is perhaps expected when you travel to a new country, I am sick. I came down with a fever yesterday afternoon and have felt pretty rotten ever since. Even with going to bed at 9 last night, I struggled all day to keep my eyes open, which was a bit embarrassing when the dean of the university came to speak to us and my eyes kept involuntarily closing.

Even though I explained to my host family that I’m not feeling well because I am in a new environment with new food, water, etc., they are convinced I have a fever because it is too sunny for me here… While yes, I am as white as they get, I will hedge my bets that that isn’t the case. Regardless, they are being very caring and nurturing and are trying their best to make me feel better. Since I’ve barely eaten yesterday and today, they asked what I want to eat so I told them rice and chicken would be best. In true fashion, Kaoutar came out with a tray filled with rice, meat, french fries, a peach, and a disk of bread. I ate about 4 bites before feeling nauseas. Again, this is just par for the course when you enter a new environment, plus I came prepared with enough types of medications I could fight off the plague.

Other adjustments that I need to make: Nothing will ever be completely quiet, dark, or smelling rosy at night. Moroccans apparently go to bed late, especially when they are on vacation, and since I live in a house with several family members including two little boys, all of whom don’t seem to go to bed until about 1 AM, things can get loud at night. I am a zombie if I don’t get something like 10 hours of sleep a night so I’m going to bed a lot earlier than everyone else, but that doesn’t mean the apartment gets quiet (like at all.) Abdullah, the youngest of the boys, has taken to banging on my door at night, for example. Plus, the apartment building is in an alley off a main street which echoes a lot and there are people talking, playing music, and dumping their garbage in the dumpster (hence the not smelling rosy) in the little courtyard right below my window until the early hours of the morning. So what I’m trying to say is that in addition to perhaps a fan and an eyemask, I need some earplugs.

Another adjustment I need to make is figuring out exactly how much time I can spend in my room when I am at home vs. out in the living room in the family. I was told Moroccans are very social and don’t really understand “alone” time, but really if this whole situation is going to work out for me (i.e. I won’t go insane,) I’m going to need “alone time.” Even today when I got back from school and basically walked in and said “Hello, I really need a nap right now,” I sat and drank tea for a while. But I figured over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be able to test the waters and figure out how to get in “alone time” without seeming anti-social or rude.

On a good note, I’m finding it easier and easier to communicate with Najah, my host sister. She’s very patient with me and I think she is just as eager as I am to get to know each other. She wants to take me to Casablanca for a soccer game and to show me her favorite restaurants. I also told her I want to learn how to cook and she said we could exchange recipes. Though she did think I was 29, turning 30 in September.
I know I said I’d post photos but also I really want to go to bed right now, so next time I suppose. Also I’m signing the Language Pledge on Friday so this may be the last Emily-Speaking-English for the time being.

A few updates and such

This will be a quick(ish) update since I need to go to bed soon so that I can actually get up tomorrow morning. I also have a lot of photos to post, but I am being lazy/tired right now, and will also do that later.

I thought the best way to do a quick rundown of the updates I have (which I actually have a fair amount, even though I’ve only been here 3 days so far) is with a bulleted list:

  • I have decided that how far my baby curls stick straight up will serve as a personal barometer.
  • I have realized that when I speak Arabic 1) I speak with a lot of “ahhhs,” “ehhhs,” and “oohs,” which I think I’ve probably picked up from my host family
  • Also, I speak very loudly when I talk in Arabic. Like today when I told my host mom that TOMORROW I WILL GET A MOROCCAN PHONE.
  • I think I am tiring my host family with my poor Arabic. Yesterday, Najah, the youngest sister, just put her head in her hands after a while of trying to converse with me. Can’t say that I blame her. But today Najah helped me with Arabic and I helped her with English. Also she taught me how to say “I’m full,” which will definitely be useful.
  • Speaking of which, I have figured out the Moroccan eating schedule: breakfast, lunch, pre-dinner dinner at around 6 or 7 (usually sweets and tea,) and then dinner-dinner at around 10 or 11.
  • I had my first day of orientation for Middlebury in Morocco. It turns out there are only 6 people in the program, 2 Wellesley students (including myself) and 4 Middlebury students.
  • My host mom took me on the tram this morning to show me how to get to the university. She kept saying that she was my mama and I was a preschooler. Not an untrue statement.
  • Regardless, I know the way now and successfully managed to get back on my own. The trams here are super nice, super clean, and always on time. American public transportation should take note.
  • In addition to language skills and cultural fluency, another skill I need to acquire is crossing the street. Because the cars will not stop for you.

Here is one photo from last night:

IMG_4640.jpg

My host cousin/nephew (??) is the green blur in the remote controlled car. Several little kids in these electric kiddie cars zipping around and frequently crashing into each other was one of the most entertaining scenes I have ever seen. There was also a kid on roller blades that occasionally latched onto the back of one of these cars, just for good measure.

Arrival and First Impressions (Read:Freakouts) (Don’t worry Mom, I’m perfectly fine)

So I started to write this post while I was waiting for the second out of my three flights in Seattle and I was going on and on about how the sheer size of my backpack and how far it stuck out behind me should classify it as a blunt weapon but now that I’m in Rabat and settled in (as much as you can be within 12 hours of arriving) there are other things to talk about.

The TL;DR version of this is that I am exhausted, overwhelmed, slightly homesick for the first time in my college years, and a little unsure; but for all those seemingly bad feelings (which really I think are totally normal considering I just moved halfway across the world to live in a country I’ve never been to before and speaking a language still fairly new to me for the next 4 months,) I’m still excited for what’s to come. I know that once I get into the groove of things and classes start, I will feel much better and Rabat will start to feel like my second home, in the same way Wellesley feels to me.

I had a looong day and a half of travel and when I finally got to Rabat I was completely spent. I have been awake for over 36 hours now, save for the couple of half hour naps I got on the plane. So when I got here and met all these new people and was introduced to a new environment, I just kind of wanted to step back for a moment, maybe enter a personal cone of silence, maybe call my parents and tell them I’ve made a huge mistake, all of which I could not do (really what I wanted to do was send an email to my parents that I had made it but I just got wifi about an hour ago.) So getting here was a little hectic. But I am unpacked, I have showered, and was taken on a quick walk through the city, so I feel a little more settled than before. My host family’s apartment is in the  حي المحيط (Ocean neighborhood) in Rabat, near the old medina. This neighborhood seems really central to everything, with the beach in one direction, the سوق (market) in another direction, and the tram that will take me to the university is down the street.

My hosts do not speak much English nor much formal Arabic (which is what I sort-of speak) so I’m doing a lot of sign language, google translating, and/or just smiling and nodding when I just can’t figure out what someone is trying to say to me. I definitely feel a little bit like the idiot American abroad. I can tell my hosts are speaking about me in front of me because they keep nodding at me and saying something, but they know I’ll never be able to figure out what it is. At one point, my host mom/sister, Ilham, just turned to me and made a gesture that communicated “Don’t worry, it’ll all be okay,” which I suspect she did because the panic I was feeling was probably evident on my face. Moroccan Arabic has a lot of French in it so I can occasionally decipher words if they are similar to Spanish. So far, I’ve done a lot of sitting on the couch in silence while everyone converses around me and just hope I’m not making things too awkward. Later in the evening, I started speaking to Ilham’s sister and actually conversing, and then to her other sister and I felt it was starting to get easier and easier. Hopefully the rust will come off in a few weeks as I start classes and begin studying Moroccan Arabic and conversations will come easier. Earlier today, I had tried to communicate to Ilham that I wanted to help her in the kitchen, but I couldn’t tell if she thought I was an annoyance in her kitchen or a good guest because everything she said to me I returned with a blank stare. Either way, I now know how to properly pour tea (it’s with a flourish) and the key ingredient (bricks of sugar from a bucket they keep underneath the sink.) At one point, Ilham kept asking me شاي مع سكر أو بدون سكر؟ (tea with sugar or without sugar?) and I was so out of it I thought she was asking me something about the market (al-sooq — rather than sookr, or sugar).

And on that note – which I think is pretty funny – my host family keeps giving me more food. Since I was flying for two days I had several meals on the planes, plus snacks, so by the time I got here I wasn’t all that hungry. But being good hosts, I was immediately served with mint tea, salad, grapes, bread, potatoes, and meat. At a certain point, I had to say I just couldn’t eat anymore because I was so full; I had taken about 5 bites of the giant bowl of pasta and sauce placed in front of me after Ilham and I returned from a walk around the old medina (which I was surprised to see considering we had more tea and bread right before we left, which I just assumed was our dinner.) I was worried about insulting them since they kept asking me in Arabic “You don’t like it??” when I wasn’t eating so I kept saying “!الأكل ممتاز! شكرا!” (The food is excellent! Thank you!) and I asked them to keep it for tomorrow so they took away the giant bowl of pasta but came back with a banana and a yogurt. (At around 11 PM, Coke and cookies were put in my lap.) So no worries about not eating well.

Anyway, these are just some of the thoughts I’ve had in the last 48 hours. I think it is time for some sleep now.