Friday, October 14, 2011

Lots o Learning

Before coming to Morocco, I read a book called “Culture Shock” which is geared towards Americans coming to Morocco and some of the many adjustments to expect in daily life. Almost every aspect of Justin and my lives have changed, from the type of place in which we are living (4,000 people total is a big change from 8 million!), to our 6 meals a day (if you missed it, you can read all about our MANY meals in my last post), to even the process of showering and using the restroom (public baths called hammams and squatting toilets have taken some getting used to but have quickly become a routine part of our lives). But the most significant, and definitely the most interesting adjustments for me, have been learning about cultural norms and values for Moroccans. Some I have been fortunate to learn from our “Language and Cultural Facilitator” Malika (or LCF as we call it – Peace Corps has a LOT of acronyms); others have been discovered through a faux pas or two on my end… but all have been an important part of learning and respecting all the aspects of our home for the next 2 years. There are many, many cultural lessons that I have learned and I hope to pass them all along in time! For now, just a few…

Greetings
One of our first language lessons upon arriving in the country focused on Moroccan greetings, and it was a very long lesson! I was absolutely amazed at how many different ways we learned to say “How are you?” but once we got into our training community and began to have conversations with family and friends, it made much more sense. Here’s an example of a typical greeting and the translations – and I am seriously talking about just a walk-by hello with our local shopkeeper (abbreviated SK):

Me: Salaam Ealykum! (translation: Peace be upon you, i.e. Hello)
SK: Wa Ealykum Salaam! Kif dayra? (translation: Peace be upon you too! How are you?)
Me: Labas, Hmdullah. Labas? (translation: Good, thanks be to God. Are you good?)
SK: Labas, Hmdullah. Bixir? (translation: Good, thanks be to God. Are you fine?) *Here’s where the conversation gets funny. They start to ask about 15 ways if you are SURE that you are fine, and if everything is fine, and if you are absolutely certain that everything is great.
Me: Bixir, shuqran! Cinq cinq? (translation: Fine, thank you! Are you all good?)
SK: Cinq cinq, Hmdullah. Swiya ulla mizyan? (translation: All good, thanks be to God. A little or very good?)
Me: Mizyan, Hmdullah. Unta? (translation: Very good, thanks be to God. And you?)
SK: Mizyan, Hmdullah. Kulsi mizyan? (translation: Very good, thanks be to God. Is everything very good?)
Me: Kulsi mizyan, shuqran, kulsi bixir? (translation: Everything is very good, thank you, is everything fine for you?)
SK: Kulsi bixir, Hmdullah. (translation: Everything is fine, thanks be to God.)
Sometimes they will even repeat the same word over and over just to be absolutely certain that everything is okay... such as (him) Labas? (me) Labas. (him) Labas? (me) Labas. (him) Labas? (me) Labas, I promise!!!! (I don’t actually say the last part but I definitely think it!)

That’s before asking anything else – And once you ask about their family, it starts ALL over again! This is a very standard way of greeting people and I find that I need to leave extra time to get somewhere to allow for long greetings along the way. There are many other cultural norms with greetings – For example, when coming upon a group of people, even if you know only 1 person in the group, you greet each person with the same level of friendliness and enthusiasm, and you greet from right to left. Women typically kiss, sometimes 1 on each side, sometimes 1 on the left and 2 on the right, sometimes 3 on the left and none on the right. Once I even got 5 on the left side. All of this as you can imagine is a BIG change coming from New York, but I’m happy to say that we have adjusted well and have embraced 20 minutes of saying hello :)

Hospitality
Similar to the warm greetings is the amazing hospitality that the Moroccans we have come across have shown us. I read in my “Culture Shock” book that you should be careful about complimenting something of a Moroccan or he/she will try to give it to you. Well, I am reporting that this is very true and has already happened to me! I complimented a small sculpture hanging on the wall in one of my host brothers’ rooms, and he immediately took it off the wall and tried to give it to me! Justin and I pleaded for a while and finally got him to put it back on the wall, and now I try to restrain my urges to give too many compliments out!

I have a long list of other cultural lessons that I have begun to pick up on here and I’m sure you will be learning along with me as the adventure continues! I’ll end with a few unrelated pictures so you can see what we’ve been up to.
A place called "Lalla Shafia" on top of the mountain near us; I will tell the whole story about it another time!
Our town is well-known for their mineral water, so lots of cool looking bath products are sold here
The Blue Gate, the entrance to the Old City in Fes
There was a lot of love for the food pictures so I will keep including them!
Beautiful tile design on the wall in the home that we use for training
The "Dar Chabab" (House of Youth) where we work
A sheep being brought through town on top of a donkey

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