3rd of 3 entries posted by Elisa. Sharon wrote this on Sept 28th & 29th.
I have an Arabic name now with my family – Shereen. Sharon proved too hard to say – I suggested Roon, which is easier, but it didn’t stick. Shereen is easier, and there’s apparently a beautiful (Zweena) TV announcer with that name. Other volunteers got Arabic names too from their families.
“Be careful what you wish for." I’ve heard it a number of times from current volunteers – regarding site, interaction with trainees, travel around Morocco, whatever Well… I had this version of playing cards with the kids in my host family. My sister is 30 and too busy helping in the kitchen… My brother is 18 and off at school in Azrou. No card-players. Tonight the older sister, who is hosting one of my teammates, dropped her kids off with me while she went to the mosque and my teammate was at the hamman. At their house, my teammates studies and sleeps and the kids watch TV. Here, the older sister did the dishes and I asked 7-year-old Si-Mohammed if he wanted to play cards. He suggested snap, which as far as I could tell is like War – I play that with Sabrina too. Then he suggested a game where the person with the higher card slaps the person with the lower card. He kept telling me to slap him harder but I wasn’t about to. He then slapped me so hard that my hand still smarts! Ok, no more cards. We looked at my travelers’ point-it book for a while and he identified things in Arabic. We chased each other around the room with my flashlight. He then opened my bag and zeroed in on the La Vache Qui Ret cheese that I was holding into for a Ramadan stash if needed. He asked for some and I said I didn’t want to open it right now. Some time later I went to the bathroom and when I came back he had opened it and taken one! Later, the whole family came back and we were watching TV. Si-Mohammed left the room and he was gone a little bit too long for my suspicious brain. I went out and sure enough, he was outside my room eating cheese! He pointed hind the couch, where I found two wrappers. But in all, seven wedges were gone. I don’t want to tattle, but I also don’t want them to find four wrappers next year and think – oh, that Shereen! The other four could still be in his pocket… but what to do? I’ll tell the LCF tomorrow and see what she suggests. Good to have this happen now and not when I’m alone at my site. And good that he took cheese and not something more valuable or sentimental! Moroccans have a different sense of yours and mine, I’ve been told. They borrow at will and don’t always bring back. If you admire something they might just give it to you – so you have to be careful about that – and you might have to give away something you may not be prepared to part with as part of cultural integration!
A word about veiling – most women that I’ve seen – in Rabat, Azrou and TimHdit - do wear something on their head. I’ve seen one person with a veil on her face – and when I saw her again she wasn’t wearing it. I’ve also seen people in all three places without veils and with more Western gear. Morocco had been quite a secular country and it’s kind of a fashion statement as well as a religious statement that swept through only a few years ago. Sometimes the people who wear veils are less strict and the people who don’t are more strict about their religion – you can’t judge a book by its (head) covering. There’s no expectation that I wear one (other than to keep my wet head covered coming out of the hamman) and in fact it would send the wrong message if I did wear one (as opposed to fasting – or appearing to fast – in Ramadan – but part of that is courtesy, not eating in front of people – the rest is trying to get into local customs). There may be volunteers who wear head coverings in extremely conservative places, but I haven’t heard about them yet. We were told – the day we left for homestay – that the families wear sweats or the like around the house and to bring some. Well, I didn’t expect that and I didn’t bring anything like that and I’m not sure I’d lounge around someone else’s house in sweats anyway! But that was unexpected. Maybe I’ll buy a qftan (like jellaba but for indoor wear) but for now I’m happy wearing my top and skirt all day and evening.
The picture is from the party in Azrou - my host mom (in blue) and her sister-in-law doing a traditional dance which at first mimed stuffing a pillow with wool - and then there's hand movement back and forth and up and down - and then they "shook what their mama gave them," as the LCF here said- hips and shoulders. I tried to follow the steps and them my host mom wanted to see what an American dance was like. I told her it was exactly the same - I have one dance move!