Friday, April 24, 2015

Please Vote!!!

One of the exchange students and her host family entered in an AFS contest to win a trip to San Francisco or New York. Please help them win! Melisa has been a great student this year and definitely deserves this!

Follow the link and vote:

Friday, April 10, 2015

Going Back

      After three and a half years I finally made it back to Paraguay. Now keep in mind I only spent a summer in Paraguay, so my return experience there was significantly different from what it will be like when I return to Morocco, since I stayed there for nearly a year. The funny thing is that my experience in Paraguay was only the beginning of my amazing relationship with my host family and love for the country. After leaving Paraguay I've maintained nearly daily contact with my host family, and during my departure It had promised to come back. My return was something that had always been part of the plan. Going back was amazing and I am extremely happy and thankful that I have such a great relationship with my host family, and I truly feel that they are a second family.
     Speaking of returning, I recently found out that I received the SALAM scholarship. It is a five week scholarship to Oman. It looks like the time to revisit my host countries has begun, so Oman is the next one. I will be there for five weeks in the summer. Inshallah I will be updating my blog as I continue my Arabic studies!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Marrakech is my City

From the beginning I was told my exchange year would go by quickly. I believed it because the summer programs I went on passed in a blink of an eye and eight months wouldn't be that much difference. I didn't realize it would be this fast though. I also didn't realize that Marrakech would truly become home. Walking to the medina I realized how frequently I ended up walking to Jemma al Fna from Gueliz and  how I knew every shop and area on the way, I tried to remember things from home and nothing would come up. The thing about exchange is that even though it is a short time if you really want to you can absorb quite a bit and adapt in ways you wouldn't expect.

In eight months I made incredible friendships, defined myself, improved my Arabic skills, and discovered countless things. There is a saying in darija that translates to "in Morocco don't be surprised" even knowing this I remained surprised every day by the new things I was discovering every day. Morocco is one of those countries you never stop getting to know. It is incredibly complex, dynamic, and full of a rich culture and history that is captivating to say the least. Being home now in the States I miss it. I miss it so much and my Friday feels empty without couscous. I keep reaching for my little nokia to realize that now my friends are scattered all over the globe. It feels odd to actually completely understand what the people around me are saying. However, I do know I will be back in Morocco whether it be this year or in four I will be back.

Friday, April 18, 2014

More Endings?

Today was my last day of teaching. At the beginning of the year I started taking TEFL classes at the center I am studying Arabic at and began teaching in the second semester. I have been considering teaching for quite some time, but have never had the opportunity to do so. Before coming to Morocco I had no idea whether it was just something for me to consider and then realize I didn't like later. Teaching my own class in a structured setting felt incredibly right. I have never been more satisfied with what I am doing and being able to see the amount my students have changed by becoming more comfortable within the class and with the language they were studying was incredible. At times figuring out how to explain certain grammatical points only in English took time, but every moment of planning and teaching my students was absolutely enjoyable. I can only hope that my students only learned and discovered from me as much as I did from them. I am so lucky to have been given this opportunity through the CLC and NSLI-Y. Although it is said for my first class to be ending I can only hope that many doors have been opened to my students for learning English or at least they will have the key to do so now. As for myself, I am looking forward to the new things I will be able to do with my TEFL certificate, and I sincerely hope that there will be many more teaching experiences for me to come.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Being Grateful

I'll be honest, the whole Arabic every day for eight months is hard. I knew coming into this program that Arabic was a difficult language and that if I wanted to succeed in my time here I would have to remain focused. At times I am a 100% focused and at other times it feels like any motivation I had is completely lost. However, each time that motivation disappears it all comes back because I realize that I have been given an incredible opportunity that I need to make the most of. I am living in an amazing and beautiful country. I am surrounded by great friends, even though we do the same things all the time I still always enjoy our routines of going to a cafe or just walking around Marrakech without purpose. Honestly, just about everyone in this country is amazing. The welcoming strangers and the Moroccans that have invited myself and friends to tea and dinner are some of the people I will remember most from my experience here and these stranger manage to help outweigh the street harassment that is ever so present in Morocco. I have the best host family ever. Really I do. I couldn't be happier where I am and they have been incredibly gracious in welcoming me and making me feel like a part of the family. I also seem to have gained three mothers while I've been here. When a Moroccan women calls you bintee "daughter" you better believe that you have a new mama and be happy because they will treat you like their actual daughters, and Moroccan mothers are fantastic. A Mother is one of the best people on Earth and being able to have multiple is even better. I also have teachers and mentors that are incredibly patient. Not only are the people here fantastic, but to my family and friends that have kept in touch with me from abroad you have no idea the impact you have made, and that a simple message just always seems to make things even better than they already are.

One of the things I constantly told myself through high school was that the only thing constant in life is change. Arriving in Morocco was a huge change, but then I got settled in and made what felt to be a pretty good and comfortable life in Morocco. However, being here has taught me that the moment you think you have everything figured out you realize that in reality you don't have anything figured out. Life is a process of continual learning and rediscovering of yourself and the world around you.

To all my friends, family, those that aren't biologically related but practically are related, teachers, mentors, etc. At this moment I am just so incredibly grateful for everything you have done, for the amazing times we have spent together, and through all the things you have helped me learn.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Best Nights are the Nights Spent at a Wedding

Before coming to Morocco I had only been to two weddings in the span of eighteen years. After being in Morocco for only six months I have been to three weddings. Going to a Moroccan wedding permits you to witness an amazing display of culture.

Most men at weddings wear formal dress suits and ties, but at more traditional weddings you will find men wearing formal jelabas. A wedding is an occasion for women to get as dressed up as they possibly can. Many women go to salons and get both their hair and make-up done. Women will either wear a dress called a taksheta or a gandora. The taksheta is the traditional Moroccan dress. There will be a simple dress and then on top of the dress a more intricately designed dress. In addition a large decorated belt is worn. The gandora is a large flowing dress that is beautifully decorated and somewhat resembles a butterfly when the arms are fully stretched out. The bride and groom will generally go through several outfit changes. The bride generally changes at least three times, but the dress changes could go past six times.

The thing that all people look forward to in weddings is the food. Fish and chicken are ancient symbols of fertility. A fish pastilla is generally served as well as a sheep tagine with almonds, apricots, boiled eggs, onions, and spices. A variety of small appetizers are served before the main dishes and after the main dishes of course a large plate of fruit is served. Following this several small cakes and sweets are served along with the traditional Moroccan soup ‘harira’ and some tea or coffee.  

Before the wedding the family of the groom and his friends will meet at his house for a celebration and the family of the bride and her friends will meet at her house for a celebration. Everyone meets together either at a home or at an event hall. Most weddings are held in large reception halls. The bride’s family will arrive first and the groom and his family will arrive carrying gifts as part of the dowry given to the bride and her family. The dowry consists of money, jewelry, clothes, and perfume. Moroccan weddings are an event that take up the entire night. The starting time could be stated as eight or nine, but usually not everyone  will be at the reception hall until around ten. Weddings that finish early are the weddings that finish at five. Most weddings do not finish until at least six or seven in the morning. The night is spent watching the bride and groom get carried in by a group of men on thrones. This is generally led by the ‘neggafa’ who play as helpers for the bride and lead songs and chants. They also do henna for the bride on the day of her wedding and help in arranging her dresses. In addition to watching the bride and groom and eating delicious food there is a great deal of dancing. Traditional chaabi music will be played and a group of Ganowa music performers are also hired.

At the end of the wedding the bride and groom will be brought in carried on thrones one final time and then leave for their honeymoon and the guests will leave happily exhausted from spending the night dancing and eating.