As of yesterday, we’ve officially been living and studying in Morocco for 60 days and are more than halfway through our time studying abroad this fall. Realizing how fast the time is going by for me feels very bittersweet, but I think it makes for a great time to reflect on the ways in which Rabat has often come to feel like a home away from home for me.
Looking back on my first weeks in the country, I remember how difficult it was to know that I could never really blend in in Morocco. I looked and sounded different, and it was apparent to me that as much as I was enjoying exploring my new stomping grounds and as welcoming as everyone was to me, I couldn’t imagine feeling like I ever really belonged.
Now when the man at our favorite café guesses we want banana juice before we order, or when our landlord greets us on the sidewalk when he sees us heading home, or when students from our English class at a local organization run to kiss us on the cheek when they see us again after a week, things feel more settled.
But more than anything else, my experience living with a host family is what has given me a sense of belonging and made my stay in Morocco feel like a home away from home. My roommate Hanna and I live in an apartment building in a neighborhood called L’Ocean with our host mother and father, and three host siblings — a 23 year-old sister, a 19 year-old brother, and a 13 year-old sister.
Family is a central part of life in Morocco, and we witness the importance of family everyday in the way that all of our host siblings and parents gather to eat meals together and in the frequency with which our family hosts guests who sleep on the living room couches — whether they are cousins, uncles, aunts, or even more distant relatives.
On Fridays, Moroccans celebrate the holy day by wearing their best clothes to Friday prayer at the mosque and then eating a beautiful couscous lunch at home with their families. Our family members scoop couscous out of the shared dish with their hands, and in a few graceful movements, can ball up the couscous perfectly into a small sphere using just the palm of their right hand before popping it into their mouths.
After our first attempt at eating couscous without silverware, Hanna and I had barely succeeded in forming our handfuls of couscous into anything that resembled a ball, and we had couscous stuck all over our hands and faces. Besides all the amazing places I’m exploring in Morocco, it’s joking and laughing with our family over couscous, the Moroccan songs our little sister teaches us, and the immense love and hospitality we receive from our host family every day that I know I’ll look back on when I go.