The beautiful John Lennon inspired me to write a blog post describing things that I love about Morocco. If you asked me a few months ago what I love about Morocco I would have told you quite simply, “Nothing.” Alhamdulilah things have significantly changed and I have fallen in love with this country and these people. My adjustment period took a lot longer than I had anticipated and therefore caused me a lot of frustration and feelings of defeat, but I now feel at home. So without further ramblings, here are some things I really adore about living in Morocco:
- Greetings. “Peace Be Upon You,” is such a lovely way to say hello. I feel like Americans don’t take enough time to greet each other. Its usually a quick “hey” or a wave, but here in Morocco if I simply waved at somebody I knew instead of making an effort to talk to them, it would be rude. Also included in every Moroccan greeting exchange are the words “labas?” “Bikhir?” “Kulchi Mzyan?” — all of which are different ways of asking “how are you?” And it doesn’t stop there; Moroccans also always ask about your family, friends, pets, and whoever/whatever else. “LiEla mn Ifrane labas?” “LiEla mn Amerikan labas?” (Is your family in Ifrane fine? Is your family in America fine?”) Also when entering a hanute (corner store) one must greet everybody in that store, or it is considered pretty rude. For me, greetings here in Morocco are more meaningful.
- Family Interaction. The relationships between the younger generations and the older generations are amazing. The children here listen to everything their parents tell them. Most children kiss their parents hands or foreheads upon waking up and before going to sleep as a sign of respect. Elders are highly respected in Moroccan culture, as well as the family unit. Children stay with their families until they are married and continue to financially support their aging parents even after marriage. I think young Americans could learn a lot from the respect shown to elders by the youth here in Morocco.
- Generosity. On any given day while participating in any kind of activity, it is not uncommon to receive meal invitations from complete strangers. Moroccans think that us Peace Corps Volunteers have no idea how to take care of ourselves– how can we being that most of us are so young, unmarried, and out of our parents homes? Moroccans want to feed us. They want to feed us A LOT! I’m so thankful for this. Sharing food is just an important part of this culture– whether it be with your neighbors, family, those less fortunate, or complete strangers! Would those of you in America invite complete strangers (from another country) into your home for a meal?
- Concept of Time. This can be both a blessing and a curse, but lately I have been looking at it as more of a blessing. In Morocco, everything is on God’s time. There is nothing that is so urgent here that it must get done on a very tight schedule. The key phrase here is “Inch’Allah,” or If God Wills It. ”Will you come over tomorrow for lunch?” “If God wills it.” “Will the Dar Chebab be open for work next week?” “If God wills it.” “Are you going to the market right now?” “If God wills it.” Nothing is ever concrete here. Ever. Plans constantly change, depending on the will of God. As I said, this can be frustrating when I want to plan an event or a class, but it also leaves room for a TON of flexibility.
- Negotiation. EVERYTHING here can be negotiated for. The cost of rides, cost of clothes, kitchen appliances, you name it. Rent can even be negotiated (although the internet, electricity, and water bills can’t!) Negotiating often leads to drinking tea and talking about politics. Its more than an exchange of money, its a conversation.
- Diversity. There is a ton of diversity here in Morocco– geographical, political, racial, etc. Any one part of Morocco is not like any other. We have huge mountains, beautiful beaches, vast desert, oasis’s, big industrial cities, and small villages. Some parts of Morocco get a ton of snow while others will never fall below 70 degrees. Morocco is made up of Arabs and Berbers, and while the majority of people follow Islam, there are also Christians and Jews here. Languages spoken include standard Arabic, Moroccan Arabic (Darija,) French, Spanish, and English. Some Moroccans support Shia law, while others do not. The diversity here is lovely!
and finally (for now,)
- the other Peace Corps Volunteers (and the Coblentz family in Ifrane!) here with me. Without the support of these other volunteers, Morocco would not seem anything like home. Thank you to all the PCVs here in Morocco for everything– the poop and parasite talks, the overnight bus rides, the movie marathons, the non-Moroccan cooking, the youth development ideas, the skits and songs and dances, and for being the only people in the entire world who knows exactly how I feel on any given day.