If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.
-Mother Teresa

October 15, 2007


Thank you all so much for sending such great questions. Life is so packed with new experiences and different languages and new people that when I sit down to summarize it all (which I think might in fact be impossible) I find it hard to remember to talk about some of the most obvious things.

Below you'll find the questions I've gotten so far, however I'm happy to do this any time so please keep sending questions and I'll answer them whenever I get the chance. Also, for those of you in the classes that I'm in correspondence with, I have not yet received the letters (the post can be slow), but I'm really looking forward to your questions as well!

Are you eating meat?

Some of you might not be aware that I was a vegetarian in the states, however I have been eating meat here because I felt it would be too complicated to explain this with all the other challenges that go along with full emmersion. However, I've been having a bit of difficulty with that particular dietary issue and am also quite pleased to find that being a vegetarian is very possible and pratical here in Morocco. In fact, it will be much cheaper and I'm on a tight budget! For now, though, while I'm with a host family it's lamb, beef and chicken...mmm, mmm, good!

How is your wardrobe doing?

My wardrobe is fine and she sends her thanks for asking (although my cosmetics are a tiny bit peeved that nobody asked how they are doing). Seriously, though, it's hard to tell this early on if I brought the right clothes. For now it's very easy to use what I brought, but I fear that as it gets colder I will become accustomed to wearing ALL of the clothes I brought at the same time to keep warm. Either that or I will have to learn how to knit something other than a scarf or a hat (perhaps pajamas or a tutu?).

What's a typical day like?

Now that Ramadan is over our schedule will change a bit. When we get back to CBT for our 12 day stay we will be attending school from 8 in the morning until 6 in the evening, and during that day we will have a morning and afternoon snack and lunch cooked for us (no nap though, what's up with that?). This is a very exciting turn of events because we have been living off avocados, crackers and Laughing Cow "cheese" for the last month. Anyhow, I get up when the crow starts crowing and the donkey starts braying and I walk myself up the road to school, which by my own estimation is about a 1/2 mile. At school we focus on language, Arabic script and cross-cultural sessions. We are also working with the artisan in the kasbah as our project and so every so often we trek on over there in the afternoon braving wind and sand and comments like "I like you very much! I like one of you very much!" (we don't know which one of us that is yet) After school we head home to our host families; I like to spend some time playing with my little host sister and then I help my host mother in the kitchen (mostly dishes b/c I'm not very good with cooking) for dinner. After dinner we'll sometimes go out in the courtyard and look at the stars, but mostly my host mom and I like to watch the Egyptian soap operas. Then around 10pm or so I head up to my bedroom to read a bit, write in my journal, or play Snake Xenia (rockin' game on my cell phone) before I go to sleep!

Where did September go?

I couldn't tell you, but when you find it please let me know if my sunglasses are with it...

Is it really hot there?

It was REALLY hot when we first got here, but now that fall has arrived and the rainy season has started it is slowly becoming more tolerable. There's a reason they call this "The cold country with the hot sun". It's seems so strange, but I've finally started sleeping in my cozy sleeping bag at night to keep warm, but then during the day I sweat up a storm and find myself ducking in and out of the shade. In the last week like clockwork every afternoon we have gotten pretty serious thunder storms coming off the High Atlas, which also meant the arrival of the river! It's not the Susquehanna, but it's nice to hear water now -- it has broken the silence and birds have finally showed up!

What is a kasbah?

A kasbah or ksar is a fortified city and you can find them in many different places in Morocco. However, the kasbah in our town in one of the most well-preserved kasbahs in the world and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. The house that I live in looks directly across the river at it (prime realestate), and I love to sneak up to the terrace at night and look at it in the light of the moon and the stars. Most families, including my host family, moved out of the kasbah to live in the town below because there is no electricity or running water. There are still six families living there, though, and at night you can see their candles flickering through the windows. It really is truly beautiful and we try to climb to the top of it every chance we get. Here is the Wikipedia webpage about kasbahs -- the picture is of ours! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kasbah

Will it snow there?

It definitely snows in the mountains during the winter (there's skiing!) but we don't know yet where we'll be stationed so not everyone will have to deal with snow. Apparently it snows in our village every few years or so, but even if there's no snow it still gets to be bitter cold!

How does your host family make a living?

My host family owns a tahanout (shop) with cd's and some cosmetics, a food store with soda and candy, and a cyber cafe. My host father and his male relatives run these shops. Each shop caters to the tourists, so you might not be able to find any fruits and veggies, but you sure can buy a Snickers! yummy

Who are you referring to when you talk about your host parents?

My official host parents are Abdnasser and Jamila, who are the young couple with the 1 year old. Yes, my host mother is 6 years younger than I am -- we're more like sisters. We have great fun and I think we both like the compaionship.

Do their parents live with them?

My host father's parents live with us. They are fantastic grandparents and they certainly make life interesting!

How do you communicate with your host family & friends?

I would be lying ("scadoubt" in Tashlheet -- I love that one) if I said we only speak Tashlheet. In fact, my host father and I converse in both English and Tashlheet (he is a great teacher! I even had a test yesterday that he wrote for me!), but my host mother and grandparents and I must converse in Tashlheet because that is the only language we have in common. I oftentimes find myself speaking English anyhow and I really have to catch myself -- it's quite hard to speak a language you don't know. The baby and I converse in noises and hand gestures.

Who is the veiled woman in the pictures with your group?

She is our LCF (Language and Cultural Facilitator a.k.a. teacher) Amina. She's the best! We ladies really like to talk a whole lot and she is very patient with us. While she is from Morocco and a native Tashlheet speaker (also knows French, Darija, FusHa, German, English, Spanish) Amina is not from Ait Benhaddou so this is an experience for her as well.

How often do you rock the kasbah?

As often as I can and not often enough (the shareef don't like it...).

What do the women in your town do for entertainment?

Life in our town is so different than what I'm used to back home, but it's also quite different from the big cities in Morocco and the smallest villages as well. Normally the women visit each other and catch up on local news and stories while they're busy preparing meals -- the kitchen is the social hub of any house because that's where the women spend a great deal of their time. However, my family often sits around and sings Berber songs and drum on the tabletops in lovely and complicated rhythyms that get the baby up and dancing, and that is a whole lot of fun for everyone. The TV aslo seems to be a really important source of entertainment. No movie theaters, no going to Starbucks, no hikes in the mountains, but there is also no lack of fun and laughter for the women of our village.

Do you feel more comfortable now that you're there?

Definitely, and especially after L'Eid a few days ago. L'Eid Amzzan is the small feast day that marks the end of Ramadan and fasting. On that day everyone gets all dressed up and they visit each other at their houses (family and friends), and there are a lot of cookies and a lot of mint tea consummed to celebrate the occasion. Because we were lucky enough to be in our villages on this holiday, we were able to meet many of the people that we had only passed on the streets before then (and I'm sure we went confused for tourists). Now more people seem to know us and automatically speak Tashlheet instead of French to us! Also, I've become much more comfortable around my host family and truly feel like I'm a part of their lives -- I will be very sad to leave them next month.

Have you given any camels a noogie?

Not yet, but I definitely stood on the street yesterday and stared for a long time at a camel that was itching his neck on a wall. In retrospect, he would have been the perfect dromedarian candidate to sneak attack a noogie -- hindsite is 20/20.

Please to describe the Turkish toilet.

Hmmm. There is a hole on the ground and little foot prints to place your feet in. You have a bucket of water which you use to wash, and then after that you use it to pour down the hole in the ground to flush. It took some getting used to (and also building some essential leg muscles), but I seem to be a pro at it now. Like western toilets, some are really lovely and some not so much, some can handle toilet paper and others can't -- but when nature calls...

On that note, I'll finish this for now. Please send any other questions you have, though! It's fun to answer them!