When I talked to other people who had previously studied abroad, the one thing everyone told me was that staying with a host family was one of the best experiences of their whole time. After hearing this, I was so eager to meet my host family! Last week, my roommate Mary and I moved in with the Boussedra Family in Hassan, a neighborhood in the northeast of Rabat. Moving in was easy enough, but it was funny watching our host dad, Mohamed, strap Mary’s gigantic suitcase to the back of his mo-ped with bungee cords and drive off. We took the tram with the rest of our bags and met him at the house.
The house itself is a pretty big apartment in a building in Hassan. After Mohamed, Mary, and I lugged all our bags up the stairs, we walked through the door and were met by Karima, our host mom. She was so sweet and welcoming and immediately invited us to sit down for cookies and mint tea, which is insanely delicious. We were sitting on the big purple couches that lined three of the four walls of the living room, which also functions as the eating room and general hangout place. Later in the day, we also met our younger host sister who is in middle school, our older host sister who is a few years older than us, and our host brother, who is right around our age.
Living with a Moroccan family for a week has given me more insight into the culture than I ever would have gotten otherwise. For example, they share everything- if one person has a piece of fruit or some other food, they will offer a bit to everyone else. Once I politely declined a bite of a muffin that my host sister was offering me. I normally think that people do that just to be nice and that they don’t actually want you to take some, but when I said no, she was really confused why I didn’t want any and kept telling me that I must have a bite. In the US, there is a certain mindset of a distinct line between individual property and shared property, but in Morocco, if it can be shared, it will be. We share house slippers, the girls and mom are always trading clothes, and everyone eats from communal plates on the table at mealtimes.
Speaking of mealtimes, I had a brain-bending experience at dinner a few nights ago. Everyone was gathered around the table eating like normal, but the crazy thing was that there were so many languages going on at once. The news was playing on TV in Modern Standard Arabic, our host dad and mom were talking to each other and their kids in Darija (Moroccan Arabic), Mary and I were talking to each other in English and to our host family in French, there were two girls from the Netherlands who were visiting because they had previously stayed at the house speaking Dutch to each other, English to Mary and me, and a mixture of Darija and French to the family. And to top it all off, a cousin was over for dinner practicing his German with the younger sister and his English with Mary and me. Phew! It was awesome, but at the same time pretty crazy, to hear all those languages going on at once. I am really looking forward to getting to know the family more and getting used to living a Moroccan lifestyle, because what I have experienced so far has been great.