Sunday, September 30, 2012

Study Abroad: Part [Intro]

“To visit Morocco is still like turning the pages of some illuminated Persian manuscript all embroidered with bright shapes and subtle lines.”
-Edith Wharton

So, in reviewing my blog, I realized that I committed a mistake, not the usual spelling faux pas, but rather, a horrible social mistake.  I never bothered to introduce Rabat.  I don't refer to the Rabat, Morocco that Andrew Zimmern never visited, or just to the government center of a country that is supporting the USA against the anti-USA protests.  I want to introduce my Rabat, the city and medina that I've spent my last few weeks enjoying.

I live with a home stay family, made up of a very determined Mama Fatima, and her daughter, Fatima Zahira.  Fatima Zahira consistently will vanish, heading to the clinic where she works, while studying to be a nurse.  Additionally, a host cousin, Rashida, stays with us when Fatima Zahira is not around.  Rashida is a masters student, currently focused on her exams.  Most masters students have been busy trying to score high on the exams, which basically guarantee the top highest scores a government job.

The corner of my street...

The apartment is cozy, but more than enough.  Two rooms, with a kitchen, and a bathroom (which has a Western toilet! A first-world-problem that you are probably going to run into is whether or not you have a Western toilet or a Turkish toilet.  Trust me, there's a whole new set of etiquette when dealing with a Turkish toilet).  Not a lot of space, but it's perfect.  Moroccans also have a tendency to build a room so that it is shaped more like a rectangle.  The rectangular shape means that you can shove sofas against the cold tiles, creating some of the best sofa beds I've had the pleasure of sleeping on.

The neighborhood is made up of other family members and those who have lived in the medina for most of their life.  In fact, there's quite a game between me and another student in my program: we keep trying to figure out how our host families are related!  It's just one of those things that study abroad kids might do... I'm not sure why we just don't ask, but it is what it is.

The medina is beautiful, yet completely frustrating.  The streets wind and twist, ending and beginning with no rhyme or reason.  There are places with the street name written on a plaque, or corners that are white-washed bare.  Doors are different, yet similar enough that I've had to double-check myself.  Should you feel compelled to ask for a map, here's a small fact: the last map ATTEMPTED was over nine years ago.  In fact, here's the GoogleMap image of the medina.

And that huge blank, under the "Rabat Medina" label is where I live.

 Additionally, Rabat has a slight problem with trash.  It's not nearly as bad as Casablanca, where trash overflows on the street every single day, but it's still very bad.  There are few garbage bins in public, and those that do exist are usually already-overflowing dumpsters.  Due to all the trashbags on the corners, there's also an explosion of stray cats. And I do mean an explosion. In fact, there are a few cats that continuously meow. Right outside my window.  At 3am.  But still, the rest of the cats are quite cute.

The cats are pretty lazy, but with all that trash, who needs to chase rats?

There's a beach right near me, about a five or ten minute walk, depending on my mood.  It's beautiful to visit, even if the sand is filled with trash and broken glass.  There are times when the high tide means that waves come rushing up the pier, and I inevitably end up drenched in saltwater.  Still, it's so much fun to sit on the rocks and think.

 I'm taking classes at the Center for Cross-Cultural Learning (or the CCCL).  The building is beautiful: it used to be a home for a family (I think it was a VERY large EXTENDED family), but was reorganized into classrooms.

The outside of our center...

...And looking down from the second floor. 

My schedule usually starts with Beginning Arabic at 8:30am, going for two hours.  At 10:45am, I usually have some sort of class dealing with journalism, be it a summary of what has happened previously, a discussion about our independent projects, or something similar.  Lunch is at 12:15pm.  Around 1:00pm, we tend to have a class on ethics, or research methods. Frequently, at 2:00pm, we have a speaker, who comes in to discuss relevant issues about Morocco with us.  We've had a rapper (Soultana), the AP Bureau Chief (Paul Schemm), and others.  Each discussion has resulted in more and more questions, usually about the state of Morocco and the difference between public and private spheres (those personal, economic, etcetera). Our day usually ends between 4:00pm to 5:00pm.

The things that I love about this Rabat, apart from having fun with my fellow students, are so many: the fact that there's almost always sunshine, the little girl next door who is just full of sass, the cool breezes that whip through the winding medina streets.  I love the crazy little blue cabs that whip around corners, the rush of kids after school who are dead determined to buy candy from the corner store, the dizzying patterns of gorgeous slick tiled walls.

To be honest though, the thing that I love the most, has to be the genuinely kind people that I've met. Paul Bowles never said it better than when he said, "It was not the landscape I wanted to know, but the people."


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