This is the fourth day in Rabat. Unlike most of my adventures, I have remained relatively “chill” these past few days. We have been completing an orientation, which has consisted of photo ops, security briefings, explanations of the grant expectations, chats with former and current Fublrighters, a security briefing, meetings with embassy workers, and crash courses in Darija, the Moroccan dialect. Much like a conference, the first two days of orientation were rather tiresome. It is difficult to sit inside from 9am-4pm knowing that there is an entire city to discover.
Perhaps due to the quick turnaround from my experience in Jordan, I have been a bit nervous about moving to Morocco for 10 months. It is an abrupt change to my normal life, my friendships, my family relationships, even my dietary habits. One of my greatest worries about living in Morocco is the sexual harassment and petty crime that I know occurs daily, but when speaking to other females who have lived in Morocco for several years as “Westerners,” I have grown more confident that these negative experiences will not shape my overall experience and impressions of Morocco.
Thankfully, as they should, the first few days of general orientation have left me feeling more prepared. Believe it or not, it seems like being an ETA comes with a great deal of freedom. Some ETA’s have even reported only teaching 2 days every week (I don’t think I will get that lucky). I have already imagined how I can schedule French and Darija language classes, become involved with the American cultural center in Tangier, develop a wholesome workout routine, and perhaps even take some time to develop my culinary skills as a hobby. It seems like these next 10 months will be the perfect reset from the stress that my final years in college presented me with and a nice precursor for the intense life I am sure to be entering in Washington DC next Fall.
I have been pleasantly surprised with how well my Arabic has held up in Morocco. The last time I was in this country was 2019, before I had studied any Arabic at a practical level. I am now able to converse with taxi drivers, hotel staff, and shop owners in Arabic. I can already feel that knowing Arabic gains me more respect amongst Moroccans, even if I am speaking the Arabic equivalent of Shakespearean English. Luckily, having studied the Jordanian dialect for 2 months has helped me begin to learn how to “switch my mind” into “dialect mode.” Darija is vastly different from Fausa (Modern Standard Arabic), but I am already learning fun and meaningful phrases that I can use with locals to demonstrate that I am at least trying to learn Darija. “Matsharefee” means “nice to meet you” in Darija.
While I haven’t really explored Rabat, yesterday I did have a lovely walk to the oceanfront. Briefly, I walked through the medina and felt a wave of nostalgia once I heard the yelling, saw the beautifully painted Moroccan woodwork, and saw $.3 juice stands. If I had to describe Morocco in one word, I would call it “vivid.” The fruits, people, clothes, colors, paintings, buildings, architecture, food…it is all vivid in color, flavor, and design. Around each corner is a window, door, or even a fruit stand that I’m sure a creative poet could write several pieces about in one sitting.
It’s my hope that I do not become “numb” or “desensitized” to the “vivid” nature of Morocco and what it has to offer. I noticed when in Spain, seeing old churches did eventually start to become mundane, but the “Giralda” still retained its awesome nature throughout my entire stay.
As I sit on the balcony of my hotel, looking out at the Atlantic ocean over a variety of white-painted houses with several Moroccan flags waving in the distance, a breeze blowing my hair and the faint sound of Spanish samba in the background, I feel blessed. I have again earned the opportunity to live, study, and grow in an Arabic-speaking country whose beauty is multi-dimensional. I know that this opportunity will be one I will reflect upon for the rest of my life, and am trying to prepare myself to absorb as much of the culture and overall experience as I can. Often, I have found myself looking back at past international experiences as “the good times,” and am determined to fully appreciate the moment I am in while it is occurring. (Perhaps I should use “Headspace” more @Ken Sherwood!)
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