Home Away from Home

 I awaited news of my host family with great anticipation. Would they be conservative or liberal? Where would they live? Would I have any host siblings? Fortunately, during my stay in the hotel before I moved in with my host family, I was busy with orientation and exploring the city that I didn’t have much time to dwell on the possibilities. Before long, my many questions were answered when I met my family. We live in a small but very comfortable apartment in L’Ocean, a neighborhood not far from the beach. My host father is a teacher of Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) for young Moroccan students and my host mother teaches as well. I have a host brother, Rachid, who is 18 years old and will begin his first year at Mohammed V University. I also have a roommate, Tom, who is another student in the program and goes to Colorado College.
                The short time I have lived with my host family has already been an awesome experience. My knowledge of MSA is a bit better than of Darija, the Moroccan colloquial dialect, which seems drastically different, so it’s very helpful that my host father knows MSA so well. I can learn both MSA and Darija from him, and I’ll practice my Darija with my host mother also. When we’re trying to communicate something more complex and we can’t quite make it, my host brother, Rachid, whose English is very good, will often explain. I am confident that my understanding and communication skills will quickly improve once classes start.
                My host father jokingly referred to his wife as a professional cook, but I’m not convinced she actually isn’t-the food is amazing. Today we had couscous, which was every bit as delicious as it is well-known as a staple of Moroccan diets. The couscous was served in a large, ornate, round platter heaped with squash, carrots, chickpeas, peppers, and chicken. While today we ate with spoons, some families use their hands to scoop up couscous and toss it into small balls to pop into their mouths. Even after I felt like I ate more than was wise, I received the classic sign of Moroccan hospitality from my host mother: “Kul, kul!” (Eat, eat!). I quickly used the few words I had picked up to indicate that I was happily stuffed.
                Quite contrary to my expectations, I have been listening to more classic rock here in Morocco than I do in America. American music is very popular: the older generations enjoy classic rock and the newer generations listen to pop and modern rock as well. Rachid, Tom, and I had a great time listening to Rachid’s collection of American music. I have quickly come to realize that music is an important method for connecting when there are language barriers. Despite the amount of American music here, I hope to nurture an appreciation for authentic Moroccan music. Perhaps there are some songs that are slow enough to help me learn Arabic. Some Moroccan kids pointed out the American songs they liked because they were slow enough to sing along to. Tom explained that he had started listening to a Moroccan band even before he came here, which Rachid was very excited to hear – until they played the music and Rachid indignantly told him it was actually Berber music.  Maybe we’ll stick to other music. Besides, I’m sure that we will all discover many more ways to connect and strengthen our relationships.
                I’m very fortunate to be with this family full of hospitality and warmth. I know that my stay here in Morocco will be comfortable and that my family will be the best way of augmenting the learning that takes place in the classrooms. And if nothing else, it sure is nice to have your mom packing your school lunches again.



Filed under Area & Arabic Language Studies, Douglas Tatz, Morocco, Rabat

2 responses to “Home Away from Home

  1. Love this post! As a former exchange student, I know it’s a challenge sometimes to fit into someone else’s culture. But it sounds like you’re handling it very well.

  2. The Wehl of life.

    I am still dreaming of once having an experience like this. I will make sure my children will be able to have this opportunity! You’re living my dream.

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