Baby steps into Casa


Today I stepped outside into Casablanca by myself for the first time. Nhar kabir hada!

I can’t stress enough how grateful I am to have landed right in the home of some wonderful people who take excellent care of me. I’m graduating from being 100% a guest. Now I’ve started clearing dishes, even attempting to wash them. Which apparently I can’t do without breaking a glass. Ugh!

Up until today I’ve gone on really brief errands, arm in arm with Ibtissam or with her family. This morning, for instance, we paid a visit to l’école Le Cedre, mere blocks away! I was struck with an exhilarating feeling: I have been here before!

I reacquainted myself with the director, who does remember me and who announced, freshly home from vacation and wearing a Hawaiian shirt, that he’d only just received my email and will get back to me as soon as he can. His office is still decked out in pictures of Chicago–Garfield Park fountain, my old principals, Lincoln Elementary, etc.

After that Ibtissam and I went out for a little shopping in the adjacent neighborhood, Maarif. (Which is pretty swanky, actually. Zahra, Mango, Adidas, you get the idea) I got myself a phone at last, and then we went back home so that I could have a little breakfast. This was around 1PM. I hadn’t eaten yet and I felt pretty faint and sympathetic towards those who’ve been fasting for three weeks now.

I have fasted in the past, when I was in Rabat in 2005. But when I think about what might be the worst way for me to fend off culture shock and homesickness, not eating comes to mind…

This afternoon I stepped out into the street, walked for a bit and asked for directions before hailing a cab to take me to the center of town. I can’t say this any better than my friend Mona, so I’ll quote an email she sent me earlier today: “I think sometimes having a chaperone who keeps all the intensity at arm’s length also keeps you from realizing that yes, you can actually deal with it!”

Yes, I can actually finding my way, asking directions when I have to. I appreciate now more than ever the wisdom of my old study abroad program directors in Rabat. They drove us around town in a bus and dropped us off to force us to find our way back home. Sounds crazy bananas until you do it and realize “you can actually deal with it!”

I feel good. I feel great. I feel wonderful.

Anyway, I was going to finally meet the larger than life Boubker Mazoz. I also saw a professor I’ve been trying to get in touch with for…seven months now? And another American I’ve heard a lot about, who’s been living in Morocco for four years. I am in awe.

Not much news to report on the Sister Cities/Sidi Moumen front. The plan is for me to intern on a volunteer basis at the office downtown and possibly the Sidi Moumen cultural center, but all that will depend on my schedule.

Which depends on my studies. Which in turn depends on what I will hear from the Rotary Foundation about auditing courses, instead of enrolling in a Masters program. The official reason for my stay here is to go to school, so that will be my priority.

Here is the problem: The Moroccan-American studies program I have wanted to attend is mid-cycle. I would be coming in for only the second year. Therefore I can’t officially enroll, though I can probably audit courses and even TA for the department. I’m very excited about this prospect, but cautious. I expect some protest from the Foundation… Of course I should have know about this mid-cycle business, but here you can’t always count on getting even basic information when you make your plans.

I’ve gotten many wonderful emails from friends and family. Keep ’em coming! I’m impressed with how well you put into words all that I’ve been experiencing these past few days. I can feel your support and sincere joy for me, and I’m reminded that I’m right where I should be.

(P.S. Pictures are forthcoming.)

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Filed under Ambassadorial Scholarship, Casablanca, cultural shock, getting things done, Rotary, Sister Cities

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