Thursday, September 4, 2008

Thank god for fire fox! here are all the posts... in one day, hope you enjoy!

Program d’exchange, Rabat, broing out


I began to get a bit nervous as I walked to the hotel, but when I talked to the man at the counter, and he gave me my room key, I felt pretty good. I went up the stairs to my room to find my roommate for the hotel passed out on the bed. I tried to be quiet, but he quickly jumped awake, and we began chatting. His name is Yoseph (actually spelled with a J, but using this spelling for pronunciation), but he goes by Joe, and he is of Eritrean descent. I knew I would like Joe from the start, and both of us hung out, watching the news until our program’s seven o’clock meeting time.
First impressions are always rough, and as the jeg lagged kids struggled to remember names, we all packed in two large vans to eat, before heading to bed. The program is made up of 5 guys and 20 plus girls, and at dinner I sat at a table with Zach, and a few girls from all around the states. Dinner was nice, but to my dismay, the first decent restaurant I ate in, compared to the shacks and hole in the walls I’ve been dining at the past three weeks, actually gave me my first bout with “stomach problems.” It didn’t hit until right before bed, so the entire dinner and our late night walk where very enjoyable.
Thursday was the real start of the orientation, and we stayed in one big group in the hotel until Saturday when we moved in with our host families. Until now, I had been traveling alone, with no agenda, inconspicuously, only revealing I was American through speech. Now, all of Thursday, we walked in a group of nearly thirty, through crowded streets, being gawked at, as we did tours of banks and cell phone stores trying to get each kid ready for the program. It was really stressful for me, and though I tried to enjoy the company, the heat, mixed with the stares and asinine errands was a bit much. But after making it through the morning, Thursday ended up shaping into a pretty nice day, with a visit to the King’s palace, as well as the unfinished Mosque of Mohammed V and his mausoleum.
After a ten o clock dinner, and about 4 or 5 hours of sleep, CIEE planned Friday to be our first day with three-hour Moroccan Arabic courses, followed by a very long-winded, virtually worthless, culture course. The Arabic class was interesting, but having slept for a very short time, mixed with the heat of the classroom, it was very hard to stay attentive. We ate a nice lunch afterwards, and were told we had a 45-minute “discussion,” before we had free time at the hotel. The discussion ended up being a two-hour monologue given be the program’s director, where he asked questions about what we have seen since we have been in Morocco. Seeing as only two kids had seen anything outside the hotel and lunch, and that the culture we were supposed to be discussing was unfolding right outside our window, I felt pretty frustrated. Everyone was tired and hot, but before the end of the discussion, we were told to formulate questions, that we would not revisit after seeing some of Morocco. After this, Professor Zaki asked the class for honest feedback about the lecture and if it was worth the time. I raised my hand, and told him in all honesty, that if we had no intentions of revisiting the questions, and only two kids had seen anything outside of the school and the hotel, that we probably could have spent our time in another way. There was a silence, and a load of agreeing eyes shot towards mine. Professor Zaki thanked me for my honesty, and after a few more moments of silence, a brave soul took the responsibility of feeding his ego, and talking about how interesting the lecture was. Maybe it was the heat talking, but I felt that if he asked for honesty, that moment was a good time to be truthful.
That night we had a lovely dinner in a traditional Moroccan home, which consisted of an open-air courtyard living room, four or more floors, beautiful tiles lining the walls, and chandlers hanging from the second and third floor walk ways. The main floor is the only floor with a living room, and all the other floors are basically a square walkway the looks down on the first floor. Since it was Friday, which is a holy day in Islam, we ate cous cous. The dinner was long, with four courses, and tea and cookies for an aperitif. There was live music, and many guests where dispearsed through out the four tables of students. I was lucky enough to sit next to Michael, a man who worked for the US embassy, who gave me a lot of good incite into how to get a job with the foreign services, the job the duties, and positive Moroccan rappers. All together, the dinner more then made up for the arduous day, and that night I slept well, dreaming of meeting my host family.
When the day arrived, and I traveled to the Anncienne Medina to meet them, I wasn’t disappointed. I’m staying with a family of five, 2 daughters, one sun, on the first floor of a four floor traditional house. We have internet and two TV’s, a toilet (with no running water), and a shower. I feel like I really lucked out, and even though my French is pretty shotty, my family has been very nice.
Our place, and the medina, is a five-minute walk away from the beach, so I spent the weekend lounging, as well as buying a bike for the commute to school.
The fun has just begun in Rabat, and with talks of the upcoming trips, I can just hope to do them justice on this page. Sorry for the delay, but in the end, I think it will be worth it!

Boot camp

I don’t know what studying abroad looks like to other kids, but I can’t remember a time where I’ve ever had a three-hour class, especially one that has an hour break followed by another two-hour class. Monday was our first full day of lessons, and between the nine o’clock start, and the verbal assault of Dearisha (Moroccan Arabic, sorry for the horrendous spelling) my day seemed a lot less like school, and a lot more like basic training. My professor’s name is Ben, and although he is nice, he speaks very fast, and believes that after hearing a word once, and not seeing it, we should have it completely memorized. I’ve always heard that college takes all the language you learn in one year of high school, and squeezes it into one semester, but on Ben’s plan, I should be toping Morocco’s bestseller’s list with a novel near thanksgiving.
The hour break was welcoming, and for 25Dhs, I got a cheeseburger with an egg on it, as well as fries and rice. Though it was delicious, class in a hot room, on a full stomach is not a good recipe for learning. The afternoon class was brutal, and as our new professor Norah expected us to read assignments in Arabic, I felt a little unprepared, along with the rest of the class. 4 o’ clock is a glorious hour here, and I think everyday at this time I’ll feel as if I just finished a triathlon.
What made school fun today was definitely the bike ride there. I live a few kilometers away from the school, and am currently the first student out here to buy a bike, so instead of sharing a cab, Zach and I decided we could both ride the burgundy behemoth to school. Though she is a looker, the twenty year old, rusted, not level bike is not fit for two people, and after a near death experience riding down a small hill in traffic, we decided to suck up our pride and call the program director, Media, to pick us up. But as I’ll quickly find out, the best way to be ready for school, as well as have some cheap fun, is to buy a bike in a city with no traffic laws, and ride to school.
The rest of the afternoon was spent on the beach playing paddleball and swimming. I’ve never lived near the cost, but I could really get used to running each morning on seaside cliffs, and taking a dip after school.

Ramadan started today, and I decided to participate, at least for one day. Right now its 6:17, and I actually don’t feel terrible, but I’m pretty sure I maybe learned about half a phrase in five hours of class today, so I don’t know if this habit will continue. We woke up a little before four this morning to eat breakfast that is supposed to last your stomach until 7:30 at night. To my dismay, it was all bread, and knowing how long carbs actually last, I figured today would be pretty awful. The routine is to wake up early, eat, fall back asleep, then wake up late for the day, take a long nap, binge eat from around 8 at night until midnight, wake up around four again, and do it all over.
Today in class my brain refused to function. I heard every phrase over and over, but I couldn’t retain a single word. Though I was there in body, my brain definitely was in another place, and after five hours of wasting my professors’ time, I figure that if I want to get anything out of this program, I should probably eat and sleep. Besides fasting, Muslims are not allowed to smoke, have contact with the opposite sex, or swim. I think I can do the fast, and since I don’t smoke and my girlfriend is half a world away, those two steps should be easy, but living by the beach for the first time in my life and not taking advantage of it seems like it’s a bit of a waste for me. So, if I’m gonna fail one, I might as well fail them all (or at least the two that pertain to me).
Ramadan was fun for a day, but I don’t think I have what it takes to be Muslim. I really do have a lot of respect for the religion, and especially for those Moroccans and Arabs who fast while continue to train for sport.
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