Wednesday, September 28, 2011

s-salamu 3alaykum mn l-mgrib

s-salamu 3alaykum mn l-mgrib. I’m learning how to write Arabic script as well, but I only know 7 letters so far, which limits my written vocabulary to delicious turkey, grow, girl, door and room, so a proper greeting written in Arabic will have to wait. swiya b swiya.

I’ve been in Morocco for two weeks as of today, but it feels like I’ve been here forever. We spent the first eight days at Hub (a government owned youth center, like the dar chabab will I’ll eventually work) in Fes, where we got to know our staj (the staging group of 40 I came with) and learned some very simple Darija and basic life skills, such as how to poop on a Turkish toilet. (For some reason, the Turkish toilet session was on day three instead of the VERY SECOND WE ARRIVED IN COUNTRY, which lead to some foul smelling bathrooms while we tried to figure out how the hell to flush the things.) (I took photos of the Turkish toilet lesson.) (Of course I did.)

Then, seven days ago, our staj was broken into small CBT groups (I’m in a group of four) and we moved to small villages and towns around Fes, where we live with host families and study Darija, Arabic script and Moroccan culture. I really like my CBT group (three other girls and Dave, the imaginary guy we invented to we could practice the masculine pronouns and conjugation) and I adore Fatima, our teacher. My family has been great about letting me practice my pidgin Darija on them, although I end up getting laughed at a lot. Yesterday night, my host mama was trying to tell me something about eggs (l-bid), but I heard room (l-bit) and couldn’t understand her. Finally, she flapped her arms like a bird, squawked a few times and pretended to lay an egg so I would understand. Everyone, including me, got a good laugh out of that and my host siblings kept imitating her all evening.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how well language training has been going. While real world application can be a bit shaky, two weeks ago all I knew was half of hello and now I can say whole paragraphs, especially if the listener is willing to be generous with my pronunciation. There aren’t nearly enough vowels in Arabic for my English conditioned throat and that 3 in s-salamu 3alaykum at the beginning of the post is actually a letter. (It’s properly written like a swoopy backwards three, although I’m told it looks different in script. I refer to it as a backwards 3 and it sounds something akin to an /a/.) Inshaallah, my pronunciation will improve, because half the time when I say something in Darija, I’m met with blank stares.

Two weeks into my service, I already have a reduced standard of hygiene. My family doesn’t bath with American regularity, probably because they perform ablutions before prayer, and I feel like a bother asking them to move everything they store in the shower area every night, so I’ve started washing my hair every few days instead of daily. I’ve also mastered the Turkish toilet, even with a bout of mild gastrointestinal distress, so I’m feeling pretty good. (Feeling good about my Turkish toilet skills, not in general, due to the aforementioned gastrointestinal distress.) (Also gone, any compunction I previous felt about talking about bodily functions. Poop was pretty much the main topic of conversation at Hub.)

I’m super busy with lessons and studying and getting to know my family, but I’m happy. The application was such an arduous process, and when things get uncomfortable or hard or I simply miss home, I remind myself how hard I worked to get here and that things only get better from here.

I am so lucky I'm getting to do this.

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