Monday, May 9, 2011

This little bungalow with some strange new friends

I have met many people since coming to Meknes and I will never forget them. Many of the fantastic people I have met are the other ISA students, there were 22 of us and I have fond memories of everyone. There are also the people who are from here who have become almost my support system. The little things they do, that I can depend on and they really brighten my day. I don't even know all their names.

Fatima is one the most amazing cooks I have ever met, and I come from a family of pretty amazing cooks. She comes to our apartment everyday, cooks our lunch, which is usually on the table and waiting for us when we get back from class. She also leaves us something small to heat up for dinner. She orders all our groceries and once a week she cleans up the apartment. She is super nice and friendly. I love coming home at lunch and having our language limited conversation everyday.

 Iman is one of the ISA Morocco directors. She is from Meknes and is a great help when we have questions about where to go or who to talk to. She is also a very good listener. She has this amazing quality, all she has to do is walk in the room and I feel comforted. She is like the mother of the group, she cares about us, she checks up on us, and genuinely wants to know how we are doing. I love getting a hug from Iman.

I call him "my Coca Cola guy." He runs this little news stand and at least once a week, I buy a coke from him. At some point, he started saving them for me in his special fridge behind the counter. Our conversations generally go like this:

Coca Cola guy: Coka? (derija for Coca Cola)
Me: Nam, shukran! (yes, thank you!)
Coca Cola guy: ala wajib (short form of no thanks necessary)
me: b'slama! (see you later!)

The simple fact that he already knows what I want when I walk up and has one waiting for me in the fridge makes me happy beyond belief.

Professor Bouzekri is one of the most powerful and inspiring women I have ever met. She is currently fighting in the beginning of Morocco's women's lib movement. She teaches my Three Religions, Three Peoples class about Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. She helped organized the women's poetry slam( Moroccan Feminist Poetry Slam) and the Amerocco event that I recently stage-managed. I would love to have the opportunity to get to know her on a more personal level. I want to know her life story, how she became this woman in a society that represses anything that doesn't conform.

Professor Zakaryae Arsalane is the best language instructor I have ever had and I have taken alot of language classes. He is an expert in applied linguistics, modern standard Arabic, French, and Derija( Moroccan dialect). He wrote a dictionary in Arabic for Arab medicine students who wish to learn medicine in Arabic instead of French of English. He recently visited the United States to speak at three different universities about his method of teaching Arabic. Two of them offered him jobs after hearing him speak. Qualifications aside, he is also very fatherly and protective of us. He really cares about how much we are learning and answers any question in complete detail until we fully understand. We all leave class with our heads swimming with Arabic knowledge. He's had us to his house for dinner and he frequently drives us home at lunch time. He's gotten to know all of us by asking us about our families, what do our parents do for a living, how many siblings do you have, where in the US do you live.

Zineb is on the left in the light pink shirt, Maroua is on the far right in all black
Along with Zakaryae, I have to talk about Maroua and Zineb. Maroua is Zakaryae's daughter and she is hilarious. She is maybe 13 years old and I met her when Zakaryae had us over to his house for dinner along with her best friend Zineb. They have both, since, friended me on Facebook and we chat frequently. Maroua found out that I had studied abroad in Germany in highschool and is now determined to visit me in the United States (hint hint Mom and Dad). She wants to go to highschool for a semester or a year, but so far we have been unsuccessful in finding an organization that offers programs to Moroccan students so she may just come for a summer vacation.

This is Mohammed, the guy who runs the teacher's cafe on campus. He chats with us all in Derija, French, or Arabic, making sure that we don't resort to English when we order coffee, orange juice, or snacks. He also generally knows what we each want when we walk in. He is also the reason behind my recent hard boiled egg addiction. He makes them every morning and they only cost one dirham each. One day, he made Meredith and I this sandwich that consisted of hard boiled eggs, laughing cow cheese, salt and cumin. It was amazing and I have repeated it at home several times now.

Professor Hamid is our adorable Derija Professor. He can remember exact days and dates when he met people over thirty years ago. He keeps every letter that has ever been sent to him. His wife is Russian, he met her when he was in college studying in the USSR. He has three sons, one of which is currently living in Germany. He recently had us over to his apartment for dinner and his wife made us a fantastic Russian/Moroccan meal. Hamid is also a very big germaphobe. Way back when we first got here, he warned me about drinking the fresh squeezed orange juice because it may not be clean. He also asked us not to sit on the ground because people often spit on the ground. He is constantly giving us compliments and telling us how much we mean to him. I am determined to write him a letter as soon as I get home.

This is our waiter at the Marilyn Cafe. Tiffany and I would go here, whenever our internet was down, to use the free wifi. After we came in every night for three nights, he knew us and what we each ordered. After about two weeks we had a friendly little routine. We don't go in as often now that we have bought wifi sticks, but when we do, he is still happy to see us.

Alaina Schultz is one of my three housemate. She lives on an island in Washington. She has this amazing head of long blond hair and a huge smile. She is fully entertained by nature and animals, especially owls. She writes a fantastically touching blog (Alaina's Blog). We have had a great many wonderful conversations and I look forward to keeping in touch with her. We have already established that we will be invited to each others' weddings in the distant future and gone further to decide what we each will be wearing.

Tiffany is my roommate whom you have all already heard a lot about(check out her blog too! Tiffany's Blog). We were friends almost instantly way back in Granada when we first arrived. She is from a farm in South Dakota, one of the few Midwesterners on the trip. From our long list of conversations, it is clear that we have had very similar upbringings(midwestern values don't ya know) and that our parents would get along smashingly well. She has two brothers, who both want her to bring them monkeys and camels home. We went to Ireland together for Spring break and it was a hilarious time. This summer she has an internship in DC and I hope to see her on her way home to South Dakota at the end. Both Alaina and Tiffany have made this trip. I do not think it would have been the same without them and I do not think I would have enjoyed it as much.


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