Tuesday, May 1, 2012


I went to my Dar Shabab for class on Saturday, only to find the door to the building closed.

“The door’s locked,” one of my students told me.  “The mudir (director) isn’t there.”

We waited for a while, hoping the director and the keys would show up.  It was only my third day back following spring break, plus Tuesday is a holiday, and I didn’t want to have to cancel class anymore than I have to.  More students arrived, and suggested I call the mudir.

“I don’t have his phone number,” I told them.

“Don’t you have keys,” they asked.

“Nope, I don’t have keys.”

Then they suggested that maybe if I try the door, it would be unlocked.  I tried the door, but it remained firmly locked.  A couple of the boys came over and tried to pick the lock.  (Their idea of picking a lock was to try their house keys.  They wouldn’t make very good thieves.  They did, however, point out that there were no cameras to catch them.)  I held a mini-English lesson, detailing all the different ways we could try to open the door.

“We could kick the door.”

“Kick,” the boys parroted back.

“We could shove the door.”


“We could body-slam the door.”

“Body-slam,” they repeated, laughing.

None of my idea worked on the heavy metal door, so instead we stood around, chatting in Arabic.  I usually use English with my students, since I am their English teacher, but we weren’t in class and I need practice too.  Plus, Saturday is my advance class, and my students’ English is better than my Arabic.  After several minutes of talking about what they did on their spring break and listening to them complain about their teachers, Ahmed turned to me and said, “You speak Arabic?!”

“I’m learning Arabic,” I told him.

There’s was a quiet chorus of she’s learning Arabic.  “Do you study in school?” he asked.

“No,” I told them.  “I have an Arabic teacher and I go to her house for lessons.”

“Who is your teacher?”

“Do you know the English teacher at Lycee Moulay Ismail (the high school next to my Dar Shabab)?  She’s my Arabic teacher.”

“She’s my English teacher!” Ahmed told me.

We eventually gave up on the mudir, and I headed home.  On the way, I stopped by my host family’s house for tea and was invited to tag along with my host mother and two of my host sisters as they went fabric shopping.  We went to half a dozen shops, looking for fabric and brocade for a jellaba.  It was surprisingly chilly, and my host mother was worried that I would be cold.

“You need a scarf,” she told me.

“No, I’m okay.  I’m Moroccan.  I’m wearing three shirts!” I reassured her.

“I’m wearing four shirts,” she told me.

“Well, you are more Moroccan than me,” I told her.

I learned the words for fabric (tub) and pitcher (gula), and the proper pronunciation for the Moroccan (as opposed to classical Arabic) phrase for good night.  I also learned bride and groom, but promptly forgot them.

Today is the end of a three-day weekend this week.  I had lunch with my host family on Sunday and today a friend is coming over and we’re making Thai or Indian, or something involving coconut milk. 

Coming back from spring camp and a couple of weeks away from site was weird, and I spent a few days feeling off kilter, but I feel like I’ve found my rhythm again.  I really enjoy teaching.  I love making lesson plans (dork!) and watching my kids get excited over games (and therefore, learning!).  One of my boys brought me a love poem to approve before writing in a holiday card covered in snowmen.  (I think I know who it’s for, and if I’m right, I hardily approve.)

I’m just really happy here.


  1. HI Cait! I love your posts about everyday life in Morocco. It's the little moments that make up the big ones isn't it? I was wondering, I saw in your bio your degree was in anthropology and now you're teaching English. Did you take any sort of training to prepare you for that? If so do you have any recommendations? Good wishes from USA!

  2. Hey Zafira,

    I'm trying to get better about writing about the little moments, because they're the ones I'm most likely to forget. I do have some training for teaching English, although it's been pretty piecemeal. A year or so after I graduated university, I moved to South Korea to teach English for two years. I had no qualifications other than speaking English. I went to a few haphazard government trainings and taught with an actual teacher who taught me a lot about how to be a good teacher. In between year one and two in Korea, I took an online TEFL course, which also taught me a lot, especially in terms of how to write a lesson plan/organize a lesson. So by the time I got to Morocco, I already had a couple of years of teaching experience. Plus, I'm in the Peace Corps, and they do provide some (not a lot, and not very good) training before we swear-in as volunteers. A lot of my training has just been years of experience, but I definitely recommend taking some sort of TEFL course if you're thinking about teaching English.