Morocco Week 3: Trial by Fire

I’d never lived with a host family before. I know people who have and families who have hosted, but I had no personal experience. There’s really no way to prepare for it.

Up until this point, I felt the transition to Morocco was fast paced, but pretty smooth overall. I’d been warned of culture shock but had no personal concept of it. I got to my CBT site, and it hit me like a train. We’d had training on the Turkish toilet, the communal eating, and limited personal space, but learning it and living it are two very different things.

That first weekend was tough. I reevaluated everything I took for granted: being able to communicate with everyone around me, not immediately standing out in a crowd, reliable water and electricity, hot water, heat/AC, even insulation and window screens. I can only think of one other time in my life when I had felt as isolated as I did that first weekend on that mountaintop.

But my host family was wonderful from the start. They did everything they could to make me feel welcomed and comfortable. They forgave all my cultural mistakes with grace and showed me all the patience in the world when it took forever for me to pronounce one word in Darija (Moroccan Arabic). My host parents always ensured that I wanted for nothing. My host brother, Youssef, took it upon himself to give me daily language quizzes. It’s pretty adorable when he scolds me for not remembering how to say “nose,” but he’s also the first one to clap for me when I’m able to count all the way to ten or name all the days of the week. It’s been a long time since I’ve lived with a 9-year-old, and I’d forgotten how fun it can be.

I’m also looking forward to getting better at my Darija so that I can have conversations with my mom while we are cleaning up the kitchen, baking bread, or doing laundry. She leads such a different life from me, and I’d really like to hear more of her stories, what her childhood was like, and what her hopes are for the future. She’s also a wonderful cook, something I’m hoping to pick up by the end of my three months with her.

One of my favorite parts of this week was getting to meet some of my host dad’s family. We went over to his parents’ house, and I got to meet a sister and her husband and some aunts, as well as his parents. They were all so wonderful! I couldn’t communicate much with them, but just being there made me feel so warm and connected. They were talking excitedly and crying they were laughing so hard. The feeling was infectious, almost like I was back home with my own extended family at a Sunday night dinner. It was the perfect end to a rollercoaster of a week.