Tuesday, November 4, 2008

My life in Rabat

Seven o’clock each day, my strapless watch alarm goes off, I cringe, reset it, then realize I can’t go back to bed after I wake up.

I open my eyes to an archway above my head, and my 30 ft long room I share with another American. We both wake at the same time, and grumble hello. He walks to the kitchen; I turn on my phone, walk out of my room, and hug the wall through the common area, as to avoid the elements that enter the house through the open-air roof. After brushing my teeth and utilizing the facilities outside of the house, I return to my room, smile brightly at Caroline’s morning text, and stretch my back. After a smell check of what clothes are deemed clean, I make it to the kitchen pour une tranche de pain avec confiture. By this time its 7:45 or later, and I’m out the door.

The burgundy behemoth resides in the bathroom outside the house, so I carry her up the bathroom stairs, pull her through three doors, knocking the pedals on every wall, and walk out of the medina. The ride to school is about fifteen minutes, but is enough to give even the most caffeine-addicted person adrenaline to make it through the day. Moroccans are by far some of the worst drivers I’ve seen, so each day is like working in New York as a bike mail carrier, weaving in and out of cars, hoping they see you with enough time to slam on the breaks while they continuously run red lights and stop signs. Waiting for the light to turn green isn’t based on sight, because Moroccans are physic, and begin honking almost before the light turns green…that is if they stop at it.

I arrive at ESDG normally with a few extra minutes or a few minutes in the hole, but either way, class hasn’t started, and all the American students are congregated near the computer lab, scheming.

Class is held on the top floor, and as our teacher barks at us in Arabic, as the sound of horns, tires screeching, metal crashing, and sirens blaring float through the window. About half way through the class, our teacher’s cell phone rings, and each day she looks at it, puts it back in her bag, and lets it ring. Two hours pass, our brains are fried, and we leave class.

Between my morning and afternoon class I have a four-hour gap. Sometimes the first two hours are spent running, showering, and eating at home, but as of late, it has been spent slowing easing our way in with the Moroccan students. At first, when we would attempt conversation, the girls would congregate and giggle at us, as if we were all in 8th grade again. But now, we’ve broken the language barrier, and started to actually assimilate. Lunches are shared, conversations are had, and lots of tea and coffee dates are made.

From 12-2 I find a corner to hide, in hopes of getting a tiny bit of privacy to talk with Caroline. My computer turns on, rings like an old time phone, and as if I were eating lunch in Colorado, Caroline appears on my screen. I’m awake and wide-eyed at this point, but due to a massive time difference, Caroline’s eyes are still filled with sleep, although smiling because I’m her wake up call. We talk undisturbed for about 45 minutes, then my corner is discovered, and our conversation is broken into segments by different students coming to see what she looks like, or in the case of the Moroccans, giving me shit because “I must be home sick, [I’m] always on skype.” Two o’clock hits, I run to the bathroom to save my kidneys, and then its off to another class.

I stay attentive for the first hour and a half, but from 3:30 till five, I battle with my attention span, trying hard not to drift into thoughts outside of the classroom. By 4:30 the sun is starting to fall, and when we get out of class, night is almost upon us.

By the end of the day a new fight is brewing. Maybe it is an unexpected, unannounced schedule change, or an added class, but the students feel blindsided, and the staff is upset. I hear both sides of the argument, and am truly torn. The students have every right to be pissed, but on the other hand the staff is dragged like a rag doll by CIEE. All of us are affected. Our daily schedules have been the recent casualty, and although some of the changes make since, it’s difficult to not take the side of the students, and want to take out all my anxiety on the program director. Stupid devil’s advocate upbringing, and being able to see the bigger picture!

The ride home is much calmer, because the majority of Moroccan’s are already home from work, and I coast down hill back to Bab alhead. The sun sets while I ride home, and as I reach the Medina entrance, the sky is black, The medina streets are lined with lights, and its so bright I feel like I’m walking down the Vegas strip. Street vendors are yelling, full chickens and lamb heads are roasting, and the sights and sounds mix into an intoxicating concoction that dissolves all the distaste I’ve built up that day. The troubles at the school become minuscule, and Rabat looses its pompous edge, once again becoming beautiful by my eyes.

My host Dad is always home to greet me, and we exchange small talk until dinner. He’s a very happy guy, and very funny, but the language barrier makes it a bit difficult to bring this side out in him. My American roommate is normally locked in our room, engulfed in the computer, head phones on, watching one of the many bootleg American movies in my host brother’s collection. My roommate, our host parents, and the four-year-old problem child all eat dinner together, speaking a little bit of French, English, and Arabic, but mostly making silly faces. My roommate eats quickly, and returns to his room. I sit and speak a little more, sometimes help with dishes if they let me, then begin my homework.

The four-year-old problem child follows us into the room, and punches us in the arm or pulls our hair, while we try and ignore her and learn a foreign language. She finally leaves, and periodically over the next hour or so, I her hear screaming bloody murder, as if she was getting tortured, but knowing full well she is just a monster.

As eleven o’clock rolls around, I’m ready for bed. My roommate is already asleep, and I read via headlamp, while my host brother sneaks in and whispers a question about borrowing my bike or my headphones, that he doesn’t want his Dad to hear. I then turn off my light, close my eyes, and pray to the God who becomes more clear to me day I've been abroad, then I fall to sleep, awaiting another identical day, that is anything but the same as the day before.

“She would consider each day a miracle, which it is, when you consider the number of unexpected things that could happen in each second of our unexpected existence.” Paulo Coelho
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