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3 posts from February 2013


Things I Miss

  • Initiating conversations comfortably
    I wish I could initiate conversations in any situation with any person without having to rehearse my first sentence over and over again.
  • Finishing my own sentences. Moroccans are super friendly and are so helpful when I'm struggling to communicate. However, once they catch the gist of what I'm trying to say, they finish my sentences for me. I'm excited to be able to finish my own sentences, sometimes.
  •  Asking meaningful follow-up questions.
    Sometimes, my host family explains something to me and I can understand the big picture. But I struggle immensely to ask meaningful followup questions in order to understand better or have them expand on certain topics.
  • Asking meaningful questions. Period.
    I miss being able to ask people questions that don't start with "Who," "How," "What," and "Where." I want to be able to get to know people's and their hearts not just all the "whats."
  • Feeling more adventurous in wandering around the city.
    I'd be much more willing to hop on a bus and figure out the public transportation if I was certain I knew how to ask for directions to where I wanted to be and I was confident I could understand their response.
  • Explaining games to children.
    I just want to play games with so many kids, but I can't think of enough games that I know can explain well.
  • Teasing people.
    There have been so many times I could tease my family, but I know that I don't have the necessary vocabulary to do so. So I end up laughing and trying to gesture out some sort of tease, but it never has the same effect. Never.
While this list is in no way exhaustive, these are just a couple of things I miss about being able to proficiently communicate in the same language.



So I was surprised by several things last Sunday:

  1. How much these Moroccan ladies can eat. Oh my goodness! "Viviana, just one banana!" No, I could not eat "just" one more banana after having eaten chicken and beef and (of course!) bread only three hours after I had eaten lunch. One more banana would make me pop. I was certain of it.
  2. How these Moroccan women can shake those hips!! Colombian women can certainly move their hips, flowing perfectly with the music. But Moroccan women? The quick drums and the ultra-fast rhythms made for some incredibly fast hip movements. I was simply amazed. When it was my turn to try, I wasn't even sure how to move in that way. What was I trying to move to? There was no way I could move to the speed of those drums.
  3.  There is always room for one more woman on the couch. Oh, yes there is. I'm not sure how many women fit on the divans, but there always seemed to be room to squeeze one more on. I thought I'd feel less squished when one would stand up to dance, but alas, no, somehow, we were constantly squished on the couches.
  4.  I was told I might be cold. I might be cold... so I should wear leggings and a tank top and two sweaters under my caftan in case I was cold in the house with dozens upon dozens of dancing women in it. Maybe. At one point I was wondering if I should brave the bathroom with the light that didn't work to try and take off one of the sweaters.

So I went to a typical Moroccan subha today, celebrating the birth of a beautiful baby girl. Subha comes from the number seven; the celebration generally is held seven days after the baby's birth. We arrived around 3:30, though the celebration had been going on for at least an hour by then. At least 40 women were in the two living rooms; many sat on the divans lining the walls, a few danced in the open space.

I was pulled into the "dance floor" a couple of times and the Moroccans loved seeing this white girl try to move her hips. "Just move your HIPS," they'd tell me. Yes, I know what my hips are. I just don't have the same kind of control over mine like you do over yours. I can see their confusion, though. I'm positive my hips weren't moving when they told me to move them, so it made sense for them to conclude that I didn't know what my hips were.

After a while they took us downstairs to eat. Oumaima told me to get ready to eat a lot of food. I breathed in sharply; lunch couldn't have been more than four hours ago. I still had plenty of tajine and bread in my stomach. But more bread was brought out and then a huge silver platter of chicken was served. I ate sparingly, but still found myself quite full. She leaned over and told me that more food was coming. The chicken was cleared and a silver platter of beef was brought out. I ate a bit, but didn't think I should out of fear of the food coma. But then an entire platter of fruits was brought out. I was urged to eat more. I had two small slices of pineapple, then scolded for not eating more fruit. I found a small strawberry and ate that. Oumaima's aunt asked my why I didn't eat just one more banana. Ma'am, one more banana would be the death of me.

We returned upstairs for more dancing, more food (yes, cookies and tea, of course) and more laughing.

Wowza. What a way to celebrate new life!



I had my first "culture-shock" moment last week. No, not the kind of culture shock that makes me want to leave Morocco. Not even the kind of culture shock that makes me miss home intensely. It was the kind of situation where no matter how long I was in it, I couldn't quite get used to it. It was that kind of culture shock. I went to a hammam with a sweet Moroccan friend, Oumaima. A hammam, is a public bathhouse. I knew that they were very popular here in Morocco and that it was imperative that I visit one while I was here. But I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I guess it doesn't matter. I don't think any amount of information would have totally prepared me for the nakedness and the beautiful lack of shame displayed in the hammam. Women bathed without any thought of covering themselves, and I kept thinking I'd get used to it, until my eyes shifted from the ceiling or a wall to a person. And then I realized I still wasn't used to it. Oumaima was wonderful and talked me through the elaborate bathing steps. I was shocked by all of the dead skin that came off of me. Spaghetti, she called it. She curiously asked me, "What do you do with your dead skin in America?" Honestly? "I don't do anything with it," I replied. Her mouth dropped and I just laughed. I couldn't imagine how soft my skin would be if I went to the hammam every week, as was customary for many Moroccan women. Afterwards, Oumaima made sure I was fully wrapped up and warm so that the change of temperatures wouldn't mess with me (I guess Colombians would get along just fine here). We headed back to her house, napped on the divans (like couches) a bit and then had a wonderful cous cous lunch. After all, it was Cous Cous Friday.