Category Archives: Blogger – Summer 2017

Streets of Sad Art


(please forgive any oversimplifications or generalizations of stuff and things due to space constraints)


The “Last Days of Shoreditch” have arrived, according to street artist Ben Eine (pronounced like benign).  Shoreditch and the famous road Brick Lane have been homes to Jewish and South Asian communities, most prominently the Bangladeshi community, since the 1950’s, and, moreover, they also boast the richest collection of street art anywhere in London.  Unfortunately, these areas are dying due to the arrival of entrepreneurs who take advantage of the cheap property value to open unique independent businesses such as cat cafes, cereal stores, and expensive chocolate stores.  They clean up a bit, attract upper-middle class consumers to help their businesses grow, and, when they succeed, the area is more promising for other entrepreneurs who want to open up new businesses.  One section of Shoreditch has developed such promising  businesses that it is even proclaimed to be London’s Silicon Valley.  Soon rows of chic modern stores line the newly renovated streets, and tourists flock to clog the sidewalks and streets with their clueless and careless standing around.

Except for the tourists, it might not sound so bad, but hence arises the controversy surrounding gentrification.  What many people either ignore or don’t understand is that this renovation and commercialization of poorer areas, particularly those that house immigrant communities, comes with a severe tradeoff:  you end up shoving these communities out of their homes and closing their own businesses by making it too expensive for them to live.  Where are they supposed to go?

Gentrification is the cause of the “Last Days of Shoreditch,” and it is evident all throughout Shoreditch and Brick Lane.  Where once stood Jewish and Bangladeshi homes and businesses, now fancy stores rear their flat, black-painted fronts (the black paint is to deter street art, because it’s easier to clean off).  Immigrant families who can still afford to own businesses in the area are forced to live in the far outskirts of London (like Zone 6, if you look at a TFL map and find it means anything to you) because the residential rooms on the floors above their businesses are now too expensive for them to rent, and food is no longer so affordable (unless you’re a fool and consider a £5.50, or $7+, bowl of cereal cheap—for real, ‘Cereal Killer Cafe’ is a tourist-attracting cereal cafe, and, although it’s cool and prosperous, such an expensive bowl of cereal really messes with the economy).  Along one stretch of Brick Lane, the only evidence of its former Bangladeshi community is a single Muslim trust company.  It was closed.


new businesses all along the right, and one remaining Muslim store on the left

The street artists, however, fight against the rush of entrepreneurs and ensuing gentrification.  They paint murals on the sides of buildings (not unlike the murals in Philadelphia) whether they’re appreciated or not, they place little mushrooms on top of buildings, and, along walls beside the streets, they reflect the culture and opinions of the South Asian communities.  If opposed by the black-painted buildings of newer businesses, they find other surfaces to paint on, such as little pieces of flattened gum on the sidewalk.  Via their art, they ensure that, despite the growing presence of wealthy businesses, the South Asian presence in Shoreditch and Brick Lane will not be forgotten to capitalism and gentrification.


the mushroom on the left is some dude’s street art






Ciao, Artena!


As our final days in Artena came to a close, we had been finding ourselves speeding through time. What used to feel like days upon days, suddenly felt like mere minutes. Five and a half hours at the site felt like barely one. It almost seemed fitting that we also found many more artifacts in those last few days than we had any other time during the month.

The ferocious heat that had been causing the forest fires only seemed to be increasing in intensity, with multiple fires springing up daily. The fire that prevented us from our dinner in the caves also burned the northern-most right corner of our site, which happened to be where we have been working the most. Thankfully, it didn’t come close enough to cause any damage; the fire only burned away pesky thistles and weeds. The lingering smell of smoke had us all on edge however, as a constant reminder of the heat and the importance of and need for water.

As we wrapped up Thursday, we ran out of things to do and to dig around, as we didn’t want to start anything new only to be cut off in a day’s time. Because of this, we ended up making small talk with some of the locals who have been helping us these last few weeks, laying in the sun, and attempting to not get heat stroke. Learning that it was the last day volunteers could come was a bit disheartening, because even though most of us can’t really communicate very well with them, they brightened our days and made them fun.

Friday we spent doing last minute cleaning, brushing dirt off of more dirt, and honestly feeling pretty useless. Rock piles were moved to form other, further away rock piles, and dirt piles were attempted to be flattened. However, covering our few basins and important walls with new plastic gave us a sense of purpose and a goal for the last day. Covered in plastic tarp and volcanic rocks, the walls, basins, and dolium have hopefully been sufficiently preserved for next summer’s program of students.

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(We celebrated Sofi’s birthday our last night in Artena, and it was very sweet.)

Flying home on a grueling ten-hour flight the following morning proved to be a restless time for me, personally. I thought about everything that I would miss, the sites and architecture, the wonderful food and the friendly people. But mostly, I spent my time thinking about how lucky I am to have had this opportunity to experience something that most Americans never can; I immersed myself in a new culture, in their histories, and I effectively became part of the living, breathing history of the Roman Empire.

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(Saying goodbye to Nonda’s food – especially the desserts – was the hardest part about leaving!)

A Fairyhunter’s Hunger


I like the taste of fairies.  It’s like fruit and honey with a little bite of hot pepper on the tip of the tongue, and it pleases my tummy.  You put a fairy in your mouth, and it just dissolves, melts like European chocolate—not any of that chalky American garbage—and it buzzes the brain with the electric of a thousand cups of coffee, without the crash.  You’d think because fairies are these little humanoid creatures, there’d be a certain crunch when you bite into them, but no, they’re perfect little humanoid creatures of fudge.  I’ve developed a distaste for the wings, though.  The wings are like lettuce.  I don’t eat vegetables.  I like the taste of fairies.

I carry my fairy-catching net around London with me all the time.  I figured that, because this is the United Kingdom with all its Celtic and Arthurian myths and legends of magical beings, I’d basically be walking into an all-you-can-eat fairy buffet, but little did I know, imperialism and industrialization and urbanization (and tourism) seem to have scared the fairies into hiding.  I’ve looked up where to find them:  way up north in England and in Scotland, or over in remote regions of Ireland and Wales—they’re all inaccessible on my limited budget with limited means of transportation.  Being a fairyhunter for a living, I could make some big bucks selling my catches on the black market, but unfortunately, I eat everything I catch.

Until I can summon the willpower to sell a fairy instead of eating it, London’s parks are my only hopes for finding fairies.  Not the big parks like Hyde Park, whose fairy potential have been torn to shreds by commercialization, but rather smaller, lesser known parks, out of the way of Central London.  With my fairy-catching net slung over my shoulder, I ventured on an hour-long bus ride to Battersea, where I got some Chinese food in case I didn’t catch any fairies to eat, and went on a hunt in Battersea Park.

There were buttloads of ducks and geese floating in the huge pond that greeted me upon entering the park, but, as far as I could see, there were no fairies.  The only sign of fairy activity I found was a floofy little white puppy running and jumping everywhere at nothing in particular, which made me wonder if the fairies were all vibrating at a frequency invisible to my eye.  Upon walking deeper into the park, humankind’s shaping of the natural landscape became apparent—the park was confused.  It seemed the only pure nature was around the pond by the south entrance; deeper in, the park became a weird hodgepodge of attractions.  In addition to the forested pond, there was a garden, a lawn, a pool, a zoo, and a pagoda, among other things.  Nothing made sense.  It was like someone dumped together twenty-three different puzzles, removed seven-ninths of the pieces, and blindly put them together.  It was interesting, but there were no fairies.  I did, however, find what was presumably the vomit of an ogre or a troll.  It was green and chunky, but not nearly as tasty as a fairy.

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ogre and/or troll vomit served on a platter of water

My other excursion for fairies was to Kew Gardens in Richmond, but the only tiny edible critters I found there were mosquitoes and tons and tons of bees.  They don’t taste like fairies.  I didn’t want to waste the adventure, though, so I frolicked through the park like a gleeful moose, swinging my fairy-catching net at whatever I felt like, and admiring the largest collection of plants and trees in the world.  I almost ate a peacock, but I decided against it.  I didn’t exactly realize before I went to Kew, but the Gardens themselves are symbolic of the bane of fairies in England—imperialism.  Kew features gajillions of plants from all around the world, representing the imperial prowess of Great Britain, so basically, Kew, next to museums of stolen artifacts (such as the British Museum), is one of England’s many ways of bragging about itself.

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bumpy tree from China

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totally-not-anticlimactic treetop view of London’s skyline

I just wish I could have munched on some fairies, but instead I had to settle on eating Cadbury chocolate, which, fortunately, tastes and feels similarly enough to a mouthful of fairies that I’m convinced it has some fairy chunks in it.  It makes Hershey taste like chalky rubber.

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either a greenhouse, or a high-security fairy prison. I like to think it’s the latter


“The Hive.” It buzzes with the deep rumble of a ginormous beehive

Fire Hazard


Something I really didn’t think that I had to contend with on this program abroad was forest fires. However, there have been large forest fires across the mountain every day for the last two days. Even though we could see them from Hotel Chiocchio, everything was safe and the fires were quickly subdued by the fire crews and helicopters full of water. The most unfortunate aspect of the whole fire ordeal was that the Piano della Civita was lit on fire, which is the area where our site is. The site is completely unharmed, but our fun cave night was put on a bit of a hold.

There is a cave near the site that is technically open to the public, but there’s no upkeep or anything similar to the public caves in the United States. Our last Wednesday night dinner in Artena was planned to be spent in this cave, eating pizza and having a good time with all the locals who volunteered to help us at our site this past month. We were all dressed in our dig clothes and steel-toed boots, sitting and waiting for the OK to head up to the cave. Unfortunately, because of the fire, we had to wait for Cecile to check out the cave to make sure it was safe to enter (and safe to even enter the area). So we ended up eating pizza and wine sitting in the fountain in the plaza of the town!

fire hazardOther than that small hiccup, our last week has been going decently enough. It’s the hottest consecutive days that we’ve had this entire month (reaching 105 degrees Fahrenheit), with blistering sun, no cloud cover, and the occasional wind gust that blew dirt in every direction and every orifice of our faces. Unfortunately as well, we had another sick day for a third member of our ever-growing group. On the bright side, we have found so many new things that we were not expecting, cle aned massive areas in such a short amount of time, documented everything, and are almost ready to cover up and conserve what we have found.

The Real Indiana Jones


This past week has been an wild ride of new things for all of us on this trip. Two of us got sick and missed the dig for a few days, which put a lot of strain on those that remained. Luckily, we had a new pair of hands this week as well! This past weekend we welcomed an alum to our dig, who participated in this exact program two years ago. Ryan has been a quiet yet helpful member of the team this past week, and hopefully will continue to assist us this last week as well! The three of us American students went on another day trip to explore this area of Italy, which added yet another new experience to the week. We visited the archaeological site in Ostia (Ostia Antica), and boy, what a site it is! It feels like you’re walking through miles and miles of twisting, turning columns, brick and stone walls, mosaics – with dead ends at every other turn.

Unsurprisingly, I managed to get myself lost. Separated from the other girls for but a moment, I found myself in an actual maze of stone. I couldn’t find the others on the path we had taken, but figured they’d just gone a little off the path and would come back; they did not. I continued wandering, figuring I would text them and we would find a way to meet up. Hot, tired, and more than a little bit anxious, I made it to a kind of museum at one end of the site. This beautiful building is full of statues, tributes, and frescoes found from differing areas all over the site. All of the pieces are relatively in-tact, which is incredibly rare for this phase of the Roman Empire. I spent a while chatting with the lady who was in charge of the small space, and found out that many of the pieces housed there have actually been recovered from the black market! The illegal buying, selling and trading of archaeological artifacts has been a problem for centuries, but is finally being addressed and the perpetrators are being reprimanded and prosecuted for their crimes against heritage and history conservation. This museum takes part by housing the found pieces, putting parts together of the same piece that had been stolen separately, and helping the government and committees in charge of the archaeological artifact protection (specifically those that were located in and around the Ostia area).

This lonesome traveler story has a happy ending, no worries about that! I managed to find my way to the cafe and giftshop at the very end of the site, and waited in air-conditioned bliss until Tina and Sofi found their way to the end as well. Tired but satisfied, we took the train, metro, and another train that it takes to get from Ostia to Valmontone, and then yet another bus back to Artena. The walk up the mountain from the bus stop was more grueling than it would have been had we not spent the entire day wandering around the ruins of a once-prosperous ancient port city, but the adventure was well worth the hike.


Some Wizards Went to Oxford


(Disclaimer:  I am all the wizards.  Also, on a side note, a bunch of iconic Harry Potter scenes were filmed here.)

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The wizards were dummies. They just called themselves wizards because they were a bunch of goonballs. They went to Oxford and immediately got lost amongst the beige medieval spires and the beige stone walkways—it was actually quite marvelous once they were able to discern the beige buildings from the beige everything else.  There were tons of other dummies, too, wandering around and making it difficult to traverse the streets—tourists, of course; Oxford, for a city built by smarties, sure caters itself to dummies nowadays.  The wizards didn’t like being grouped in with the tourists, especially since they were on a class trip and not actually tourists, but, dwarfed by such great smartness and advanced magics, they didn’t really live up to Oxford’s non-dummy standards.


beige, beige, and more beige

A quasi-arch-mage (a.k.a., tour guide, whom the wizards, slightly jealous of all the smartness, kind of doubted to be a true Oxford man, because I don’t think you can specialize in tour-guide-ism at Oxford—but maybe he is actually super duper smart and just spends his time bragging about Oxford to tourists as a side gig, because, admit it, if you had an Oxford degree, wouldn’t you want to spend your free time bragging about it, too?) met them after they stopped being lost, but he almost lost them again as soon as he started the tour.  His shoulders were hunched due to either years of slouching or years of prolific magicking (depends whether he was an actual Oxford man-wizard or not), but, despite his age and his wizardly long grey hair, he had long legs, and he moved way too fast and never looked back to check if the dummy wizards were still following him.  They were, but only barely.  It was very difficult to keep up with his fast pace and shove through static gaping tourists blocking the streets at the same time.

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Oscar Wilde specialized in making fun of people at this college

As the mage-of-questionable-merit sped along, he pointed out all kinds of intricately crafted beige blurs along the way—the wizards, hustling behind him, could see his hands pointing and his mouth moving in the distance, but they couldn’t really tell what he was saying because he was so far ahead of them.  Whenever he paused a sufficient amount of time for the wizards to catch up, he would mention some historic Oxford-mage or some great piece of magic conceived at Oxford, and he would be all like, “You know this man/spell, yes?” and the wizards would nod and be all like, “uh sure?” and the tour-mage would be all like, “of course you do, everyone who’s anyone knows this man/spell” and the wizards would smile and continue not knowing what the heck man/spell he was talking about.

The last thing the mage bragged about was how all the academic buildings in Oxford are themselves so smart and magical that they each, in their design and architecture, symbolize some transcendent moral value or whatnot.  Then the wizards were let free to roam the city, so they went to a book store and looked at all the legendary books of magic that were beyond both their magical abilities and their wallets’/purses’ abilities.

At the end of the day, the wizards went to an old tavern where Bill Clinton reportedly “did not inhale” any illicit greens in the 60’s.  They snagged an empty table with someone’s abandoned, but barely touched pint on it (don’t worry, it was definitely abandoned and not awaiting the return of whomever had been drinking it; the wizards waited to make sure nobody came back), and, after purchasing their own drinks to wind down from all the sprinting, they felt bold enough to push the limits of stupidity.

The universe must have balance, and the scales of Oxford lean too far in favor of genius.  It was a valiant sacrifice for the greater good that the wizards, driven by sorcerous intoxication and, once again, a lack of cash in the wallet/purse, decided to finish off the abandoned pint on the table.  Their ghosts haunt the tavern to this day, daring natural dummies, who might feel pressured by Oxford’s smarties, to give in to their nature and be dumb.  For the universe’s sake, be dumb sometimes.  But also, still be respectful.  The dummy wizards were respectful.  The end.


where little boys sell their souls to be in the famous boys choir until their voices crack


where smart people go to lather themselves in butter when they’re bored

Nero’s Villa at the beach


27th July 2017

Instead of spending our second weekend in Rome, the four of us took a day trip to the beach. Professor Gadeyne’s colleague, Cecile, has a daughter who we invited to come along with us, so it was actually the five of us! She doesn’t speak English, however, so Mathilde was once again put into the role of translator. This was incredibly necessary, because we had to figure out how, when, and which bus to catch to take from Artena to the beach we had chosen. After figuring this out, and spending the absurdly-low round trip fare (compared to Philly!), we caught a bus around 9am and traveled in sleep-deprived but excited silence for the hour-and-a-half trip.

None of us had ever been to this beach before (even those of us who have been to this area of Italy before), so we had a hard time trying to figure out our stop. Fortunately for us, another lady had seen us get on at Artena and told us that she was going to the same beach front as we were. Luckily, she knew where she was going and told us we could walk with her and that she would help us out – even though she ended up getting turned around and made a five-minute walk from the bus stop to the waterfront into a fifteen-minute, sweaty trek.

The reason why we chose this particular beach was two-fold: first, it was free and finding free-to-enter beaches in Europe is surprisingly difficult; second, this beach lies in the ruins of Emperor Nero’s villa. Anzio is not the best beach in Italy, per say, but it is definitely beautiful and interesting. If only the shores in Jersey had ancient ruins surrounding them! It was quite a sight, to swim out a little ways, turn around and see windows and columns carved into the mountainside centuries upon centuries ago. And turning towards the sea, there are multiple rings of large, ship-wrecking rocks that were covered in brave souls who had made the swim out that far with the waves and the strong current.

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(The view towards the sea on the shore of Anzio.)

A little while before this trip, there had apparently been a death of a young man at this particular beach, as well as a shark sighting that morning, according to Nonda. Already having a fear of the ocean, I was understandably nervous about going anywhere near the water; I fully planned on staying on the shore, working on evening out my awful glove and sock tans from the dig, and reading my book. However, I was convinced to go into the water – up to my neck, no less! There were no sharks, no deaths, and everything went absolutely as smoothly as it could have gone. A little more-so, I would even say, given that our tan lines were slightly evened-out and we got some of the best pizza we’ve had yet here in Italy! Not to mention, the two euro gelato that was definitely worth much more.

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(The view from the docks at Anzio.)

On-Site Learning & Class Field Trips

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Class trip to the Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari led by Diane Bodart, Assistant Professor of Italian Renaissance Art History at Columbia University

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Performers of the 2017 Biennale’s German Pavilion, located in Giardini (

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The 2017 Biennale primarily takes place in two locations: Giardini, and Arsenal (a complex of former shipyards). This exhibit satirically displays man’s ancient and modern tools.

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Panorama image of 2017 Venice Biennale Israel Pavillion artist Gal Weinstein’s site-specific installation El Al, depicting a rocket launch frozen in time.

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Our essential travel guide! Our island’s boat leaves around every 30 minutes seven days a week.

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Students walking back from a productive day of classes in Università Iuav Di Venezia towards dinner on the island of Guidecca!

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Panorama image of the Arena (Scrovegni Chapel) in Padua, Italy.

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Graduate assistant Megan Reddicks, Justin Asaraf (TFMA), Ryan Hupps (TFMA), & Avery Mendel (Art) don’t need to worry about sun screen in Venice because our island is full of Aloe Vera! (Photo Credit: Mohammad Ibrahim)

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Tyler School of Art Associate Professor of Critical Studies and Aesthetics, Professor Philip Glahn, ponders in front of the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, Italy

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Study Abroad students Megan Hope (Visual Studies), Autumn Wallace (Tyler School of Art), Gabby Lopez (TFMA), Mohammad Ibrahim (TFMA), Justin Asaraf (TFMA), Ryan Hupp (Tyler School of Art), & Emilia Richman (Tyler School of Art) all make their way to enjoy an evening dinner via the San Servolo #20 Vaporetto.

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Art, politics, and pop culture German critic, Diedrich Diedrichsen, sharing his thoughts on “labor as art” at Olafur Eliasson’s “Green Light – An Artistic Workshop”, where groups of immigrants and asylum seekers assemble lamps that are later sold to fund the exhibition/workshop.

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A preview of the sculpture “The Fate of a Banished Man” from Damien Hirst’s exhibition “Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable”.

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The 2017 Padiglione Italia (Italian Pavillion) exhibition, titled Il Mondo Magico (The Magic World), invited us to use our imaginations to see beyond visible phenomena and experience the world in all its richness and multiplicity (see example installation below). (Photo Credit: Emilia Richman)

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Giorgio Andreotta Calò’s installation “Senza Titolo – La Fine Del Mondo” (“Untitled – The End Of The World) mirrors the timber truss ceiling using a think layer of dark still water. At first glance, many of us were disoriented, unsure of reality for a moment.

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Located in Saint Mark’s Square, Museo Correr is 1 of 11 “civic museums” run by the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia. This organization manages and develops the cultural and artistic heritage of Venice and islands.

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TFMA Student Sam Heth using her “Temple-Made” skills to photograph a renaissance painting. Will she write her 10-paged final paper on this work?

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Program Director, Dr. Nora Alter, distributing Venice Biennale passes. A regular ticket costs €25 and allows one entrance to Giardini and one to Arsenale but our €80 passes are permanent!

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The mighty crew excitedly waiting for Damien Hirst’s exhibition at Punta Della Dogana, an art museum in Venice’s old customs building, and the triangular area of Venice where the Grand Canal meets the Giudecca Canal! (Photo Credit: Mohammad Ibrahim)


Missing Moroccanisms

Missing Moroccanisms

Naturally, language was a big part of my experience studying abroad in Morocco. In Morocco, people usually learn Darija (colloquial Arabic), FusHa (classical Arabic), and French before they consider learning English. It’s for this reason that not a lot of Moroccans speak English – many have caught onto little words and phrases in English, but for the most part, my interactions with the Moroccan people were in Arabic.

Going home to an English-speaking country has been relieving in ways I cannot describe. I love the English language (obviously, as an English major), but I have never appreciated it in the way I do now. Sure, it’s tedious and its grammar rules are shoddy at best, but it’s my mother tongue, and I’ve never loved it more than I do now.

However, I also love Arabic. It’s another tough language, and there were moments in Morocco when I was too mentally exhausted to even get the words بغيت النعاس “Beghiit ann3as” (“I want to sleep”) out to my host mom. That being said, the moments where I had truly successful exchanges with Moroccans in Arabic brought me joy that would overpower this exhaustion every time. Even though I still struggle with Darija, my speaking skills in any Arabic have increased drastically since Morocco, and I’m forever grateful for the opportunity to practice those skills in a real-life context.

Learning Darija was a difficult transition from FusHa, but there are a lot of expressions which I know I’ll miss using as I re-acclimate to an English-speaking country. Some of the words and expressions below exist in other dialects, but here’s some of the Arabic I’ll miss the most:

  • ساهل ماهل بحل ماء” (sahil mahil bahl maa’): This is the Moroccan equivalent of “easy peasy lemon squeezy,” but translates directly to “easy measy like water.” My host mom and I loved using these phrases with each other every day, and she often accidentally said “easy peasy lemon crazy,” which I actually prefer and plan to integrate into my English vocabulary.
  • زانزان” (zanzan): This word just means “crazy.” It’s not particularly important to Moroccan culture or language, but it’s a really fun word to say, and my classmates and I have definitely become accustomed to pointing at each other and saying “zanzan!”
  • “!يلا” (yalla!): Anyone who has studied or grown up with Arabic knows “Yalla!” It’s a pretty versatile word, but its main meaning is “let’s go!” – The connotation can vary, though. Sometimes it’s out of frustration, like when my host mom is prodding my host brother to hurry up and eat. Sometimes it’s out of camaraderie, like when someone asks the students in my program to go somewhere together.
  • لابس؟ لابس” (labess? labess.): This by far my favorite Moroccan expression. “Labess?” means “Are you fine?” and the response, “Labess,” means “I’m fine.” I like this a lot because it’s a good way to check in with people, but I like it even more because it forces me to give myself a reality check. On rough days, when someone asks me “Labess?” I check myself and realize that ultimately, I’m fine. Even if I’m not feeling 100%, I’m still fine. It’s a reminder that even when I’m not feeling my best, everything is okay.

I’m so happy that I had the opportunity to learn Arabic, stay with a host family, and explore Morocco this summer – and I’m even happier that you all followed me along by reading this blog. Next time you see me, feel free to ask me: Labess?

!شكراً بزاف وبسلامة (Shukran bzaaf lqra’a wabslaama!) Thanks for reading and goodbye!