On Saturday we met out host families here in Fez. I didn’t realize how nervous I was until our names were being called and the group was dissipating quickly. Carrie Schlabach and I met our host brother, who miraculously spoke some English, and headed off to hail a taxi. Our bags were put on the roof of the taxi and we were off through windy streets to our new home for the next five weeks.
That night we had dinner with our host parents and our three host siblings; Yasser, Hanae, and Ayoub. Eating here is completely different than in the States. Nobody has their own plate or set of silverware, but instead there is a main dish with many small dishes surrounding it full of food that we grab with our fingers or with a small bite of bread. Another difference is that you do not use your left hand to eat, so tearing pieces of food can be somewhat challenging. Our family always makes sure that we get enough food and that we enjoy what we have been served.
Spending time with our family thus far has included watching American movies with Arabic subtitles and laughing together over our difficulties with communication. I have been told multiple times that I am one of the family. “I have five children,” my mother will say, “Yasser, Hanae, Ayoub, Carrie and Alyssa. You are all the same to me.” I feel completely comfortable with all of my family members after only this short period of time with them. Their hospitality is much to be thankful for.
Now on to our weekly schedule. On Tuesday we started Arabic class, which we will have four days a week for two hours every day. I can already tell that we are going to learn so many helpful words and phrases, and this makes me excited for future conversations with my family. Once a week we have an internship of sorts, some of the options being going to an orphanage, learning how to write Arabic calligraphy, and preparing and cooking a typical Moroccan meal. Each week we will sign up for one of the activities that we are interested in, knowing that in the weeks to come we will have the ability to experience each of the options if we so desire. This week I will be going to a nearby orphanage to play soccer with the children, and I couldn’t be more excited to bond with these people from a completely different culture and language than my own over a good game of soccer (despite the fact that I can’t wear my athletic shorts!).
Though there are many differences and possible struggles that I will face, I am so incredibly thankful for the opportunity to study abroad in Morocco. I have always been intrigued by the culture and the language, and now that I am here I’m trying my best to absorb everything that I can. As I write this, I am sitting on my bed in a house that I’ve only known for a few days. The sounds of the television and my Moroccan family speaking in Arabic are in the background, and all of this brings a huge grin to my face, I can only imagine what these next five weeks will bring.