Week one was a blur. It’s hard to separate the days, and each day has something new and exciting about it. I’ve had the chance to get to know Rabat a little better, and get a few things. I’m now with my host family, we’ve started learning Arabic for real, and I got a new name.
Smiti Jaouad. (I’m Jaouad). In Morocco, you won’t find many Jacks. Or Genevieves, Rubbys, and Laurels. They sound strange here, and are difficult for Moroccans to say, just like at home how we find foreign names difficult to pronounce. So one of our program coordinators has given us all new names. Mine has to do with horses, which I’m told is appropriate because of how much I run.
We have around four hours of language lesson a day in Modern Standard Arabic. This is the formal Arabic, used in writing and educational settings. Most Moroccans actually speak Darija, which is like the local dialect, derived from MSA. It’s just a little faster and stripped down. If you know MSA, you can go to any Arabic speaking country and they’ll be able to understand you, even though they’ll also have their own version of Darija.
The school we’re at is called Qalam, and it’s amazing. The people who come here to learn Arabic are from all over the world. Walking from room to room you could hear Italian, German, Spanish, Japanese, English, French and Arabic (of course), and a whole host of others. There’s a large camel-hair tent in the garden where you can nap or study, and the food is fantastic. My group also has cultural excursions a couple times a week and on the weekends. We’re actually heading out towards the Sahara today.
The food in general here is great. Even the most regular meals, like chicken, are more delicious here. My favorite meals are tagines. They’re meals cooked in this:
You can cook nearly anything you want in them. Another Moroccan specialty is mint tea. You have it with breakfast, dinner, snack, and anytime in between. A true Moroccan will also pour it as high as they can. The tea is served in small little glasses, so it takes a lot of practice not to get it all over the table.
We also had a calligraphy lesson yesterday. At the end, the instructor gave us all a gift:
Our English names written in fancy Arabic!