Category Archives: Alex Ennes

Missing Moroccanisms

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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!

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Saharan Existentialism

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Saharan Existentialism

This past weekend, some of the students in my program took a trip out to the Sahara Desert. This trip was the singular thing I was most looking forward to during my time in Morocco, and it completely surpassed my expectations. I have never seen anything so strange and so beautiful.

I could write for hours about the beauty of the Sahara, but I’m more interested in the impressions it gave me about my role (and the human race’s role) in this world. I know I’m getting into some lofty philosophy, but spending time in the desert really caused me to reflect.

After we had dismounted our camels, our guides led us up one of the taller dunes so that we had a nice view for the oncoming sunset. As we were walking up, one guide suggested that we write our names in the sand and take a picture. We did, then continued walking and sat down at the peak, settling in for the sunset.

As we sat on the peak, we took pictures and enjoyed the gorgeous landscape around us, but I constantly found myself returning to look for my name in the distance – was it still there? Once it had completely disappeared, I started monitoring our footprints up the dune. How long would it take the wind to wipe them away?

Most people know this, but the desert is vast. From our little dune, we could see hundreds more, and hundreds exist beyond the ones that we could see. I felt so small on that peak, and I felt so frustrated that I couldn’t view the desert from every other dune I saw – there’s not enough time to climb them all. And the Sahara isn’t even the only desert. There’s hundreds more like the Gobi, Namib, and Mojave. There’s even deserts on Mars. No singular person could ever explore every desert so thoroughly.

And this brings me to the existentialism I encountered during my time in the desert. I have always been someone who wants to do big things, see all there is to see, and go down in the history books. Although I still retain these desires, I realized their futility in the grand scheme of things while sitting on that peak. Chasing my goals is something I love, but the usual crushing pressure of achieving success slipped away.

I want to do what I can do and see what I can see while I’m here, but I think it’s healthy to remember that success is not the end-all-be-all. Ultimately, whatever we do on this planet will gradually wear away, just like my name in the sand and our footsteps up the dune. In the scheme of the universe, the human race will likely do very little to affect change on a scale past ourselves. We are all sitting together on one tiny dune in a vast desert.

Sometimes, this kind of meaninglessness can be crushing, but I see it as freeing. Some people live their whole lives trying to make a mark that the winds will blow away not long after it’s made. So forget the mark. Forget your legacy. Instead, spend your time doing things that you love. Help others. Explore what interests you. Don’t spend your time trying to carve your name so deeply into the sand that it won’t disappear – spend your time enjoying the view, laughing with friends, and exploring your world.

Head-First and Hands-On

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Head-First and Hands-On

I have a lot to say in favor of trying new things. When I was little, I often succumbed to the “If I haven’t tried it, I don’t like it” mentality, which is totally bananas and doesn’t make any sense. Luckily, I’ve grown a lot since then, and trying new things is my favorite thing. My program organizes a lot of excursions and programs in which we have the opportunity to explore Moroccan culture through participation, and I’m usually one of the first to volunteer when it comes time to try it ourselves. I always get this dumb, slack-jawed grin on my face when trying a new activity, and my classmates think it’s absolutely hilarious, but it’s truly just because I’m having a great time.

Let’s start with a good old fashioned flashback: I mentioned that when I was little, I didn’t try a lot. What I didn’t mention is that when it came to manners, I was polite to a fault. My best friend lived next door, and I would go over her house constantly. Her parents would often offer me food that I would typically refuse at my house – but this wasn’t my house. These weren’t my parents! I couldn’t just say no! I vividly remember my most adventurous moment as trying sushi and regretting it later when I felt sick, but no matter what, I always tried new things next door.

A lot of things in my life have changed since, but this is by no means one of them. If you offer me food and you’re not blood-related, odds are that I’ll eat that food no matter what. This has been especially true in Morocco, where my host mom sometimes serves dishes with names I can’t pronounce, never mind ingredients that I can’t recognize. But true to form, I’ll never say no. So this summer, I’ve eaten some new things like fish roe patties, shark, and snails. Among the tamer things I’ve tried have been figs, apricots, dates, olives, and tomatoes. I mention tomatoes in particular because I’ve hated them all my life – they’re just evil, seedy juice machines waiting to ruin my burger. But because my politeness has translated into adventurousness, I’ve actually found that they’re pretty good!

In my program, we’ve tried a lot of new activities so far: throwing pottery, playing a gimbrie (a rectangular bass lute) in traditional Gnawa music, bellydancing, calligraphy, and more. Everything has been a blast, and I’m so glad that I have the opportunity to embrace these experiences. I’ve jumped head-first into Moroccan culture and am exploring it in a very hands-on way, which has been incredible. I could tell you about the history of Gnawa music, the composition of a gimbrie, or how long it takes to make a tajine all because I’ve had the chance to participate in this culture.

That being said, there’s a lot to consider about comfort. It’s taken me over a month to learn that study abroad, particularly in a non-Western country, is not a non-stop rainbow fun joy ride. There are some really hard days where I would kill for any of the following:

  • not to wear shoes in the bathroom
  • to see one sign in English
  • a burger
  • to wear shorts and a tank top
  • air conditioning
  • a hug from my mom

If you’re studying abroad, no one’s going to tell you about missing the familiarity of home. Everyone will just be excited for you and tell you that you’ll have a great time, and you’ll believe it. You might be like me, and believe that every single moment of studying abroad will be perfect. It won’t be. Sometimes I feel like I’ll be sick if I see another olive. There will be days when pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone isn’t fun, but exhausting. There will be days when nothing is familiar. There will be days where you feel guilty because isn’t everything about studying abroad supposed to be perfect?

Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is hard, for sure, but it’s definitely worth it. By doing so, I have learned so much. On a hard day, a good friend reminded me: growth doesn’t come from comfort. So push yourself. Explore more, do more. You’ll never grow if you’re never uncomfortable.

Below are some pictures of me and the students in my program learning about the Moroccan culture and trying new things like cooking classes, calligraphy, and throwing pottery!

 

Body Positivity in Rabat: Part II

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Body Positivity in Rabat: Part II

Same disclaimer as Part I! I use a lot of gender binary terms in this post, but I can’t stress enough: body positivity is for everyone!

Hello and welcome! I am back on my body positivity soapbox and ready to rock and roll!

Back home, in the hot summer months, I often notice young women wearing a lot of crop tops, short shorts, etc. This is great! If you love your body and want to show it off and wear that cute crop top, go for it! I will support you! But there seems to be some kind of unspoken rule that only “skinny” girls can wear these clothes. Although this “rule” is completely untrue, it has made the conservative dress in Morocco an interesting change in summer life. Don’t get me wrong – there have been a couple of brutal 100 degree days where all I wanted was to ditch my long sleeves and throw on a tank top. Despite this, dressing conservatively has forced me to focus less on my body when I would otherwise be stressing about it all the time.

One of the biggest reasons that summer is my least favorite season is because it’s a time when I feel the most self conscious, when I am most acutely aware that my body is not the standard – I’m constantly bombarded with images of thin bodies in bikinis, at music festivals, living their lives, etc. There’s nothing wrong with people who have “perfect” bodies and celebrate them in a bikini, it just always reminds me that my body doesn’t look like that. It’s for this reason that my body confidence has skyrocketed since coming to Morocco. I don’t have to think about body standards as often because they’re not as visible. Of course, I would love to see women celebrate their bodies here by dressing however they want (some do!), but I also respect the cultural and religious significance of conservative dress. Even though its purpose is mainly religious, dressing norms here have been an interesting component of my exploration into body positivity.

Take it back now, y’all! Let’s talk about swimsuits! Even though conservative dress is the norm here, women are welcome to wear whatever swimsuits they want on the beach. A few of my friends and I went to Skhirat, a nearby beach town, this weekend to celebrate being done with midterms. Normally, the beach is a big old barrel of body shame for me, but my experience in Skhirat was completely different. When I went out in my bathing suit, I couldn’t stop thinking about the beautiful weather. It was so breezy and cool compared to Rabat! Because of my bathing suit, I could feel that breeze on my entire body! My shoulders hadn’t seen the sun in ages! On the beach, I was so grateful that I could feel the weather on my entire body that I didn’t care one bit what I looked like. I was so happy to be there, experiencing everything fully. Who cared what I look like? I wasn’t sweating for the first time in a month! It’s this kind of experiential feeling that I’m always striving for with body positivity, and it was nice to get there for once.

I also had a great body positive experience recently with – you guessed it! Bellydancing! My center hosted an “Oriental Dance” class for students and we all went to learn how to bellydance. I can’t even begin to describe how fun it was. We were all having a blast shaking our booties! We wore garments that jingled when we danced – they made it feel like every move was a celebration of our bodies. During the class, I completely let go of how I looked. It was a hot day, we were all sweaty and tired, but most of us had smiles plastered on our faces. It was such a delight to partake in an activity in which we could really use our bodies (remember: bodies are an instrument, not an ornament). In a situation where I would normally feel self conscious about how I looked, I was able to let go of my own body image, which was incredibly freeing. I felt just like I did when I was little, running around and playing games and not caring if I had a wedgie or if my belly was showing (both of which probably were). My takeaway from bellydancing is this: If you can find an activity where you use and celebrate your body so much that you forget what it looks like – do that! I loved bellydancing because of this, and I just might sign up for more classes!

I could go on forever about how many of my experiences here have impacted my self image. I’ve grown a lot in many ways since coming here, but growth in body positivity was not something I expected. I’m very grateful to have studied in Morocco for many reasons, but I might be most grateful to take my newfound confidence back home.

Body Positivity in Rabat: Part I

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Disclaimer: I use a lot of gender binary terms in this post, but it applies to everyone! Body positivity is for everyone whether you are male, female, trans, male/female dressing, gender fluid, etc! Everyone should just love their body!

So, what is body positivity? Body positivity is relatively new to me, so I’m going to put it in simple terms. Body positivity is the wild idea that our bodies were made for function and not for displaying (“Your body is an instrument, not an ornament”). Body positive happiness is like that feeling when you were a little kid, running around and playing, not really caring what you looked like, but just having fun. Body positivity has become increasingly important because body standards around the world are widely unattainable. Ideally, everyone would just love their body and not care what it looks like. Ideally, everyone would accept each other’s bodies as well as their own. Ideally, the world would be a body positive place. And before I begin, I want to give a quick thanks to my dear friend Libby Reiner – she taught me everything I know about body positivity, and before I met her, it never occurred to me that my body was something I could love.

Let’s start with the idea of representation. The images you see frequently become (a) the images you expect and (b) the images that society deems acceptable. Side note: Apart from bodies, this is why representation of all races, genders, sexual orientations, abilities, religions, and so on is incredibly important. The more we see representation in media increasing on all fronts, the more accustomed we become to seeing a wider array of the human race and the more support we give to those who don’t always see their identities represented in mainstream media. This being said, the representation of all bodies is just as important. From a young age, we immediately understand body standards because of what we’re fed by media. As adults, imagine a world in which we saw all sorts of bodies in advertisements, TV shows, and movies. Imagine if those roles weren’t reduced to the “fat girl, but she’s funny!” trope. Just like all identities, if we’re going to make different body sizes seen as a good and important thing, we need to have better representation in the media and our everyday lives, and that’s where Morocco comes in.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall – mirror, mirror, not there at all! My body positivity journey in Morocco has begun with mirrors. In my experience thus far, there are very few mirrors in Morocco compared to the United States. In fact, there’s one mirror in my house, and it’s the one above the sink, meaning that you can’t see below chest level. The only time I’ve really seen my entire body reflected back at me is when I cross one specific building on my walk to school every morning. So even though I have gotten a full-body reflection, it’s not even a conventional mirror. The absence of mirrors was completely jarring at first. I immediately made a makeshift mirror by propping my phone against my desk, stepping back a few feet, and squinting to see my reflection. That’s how desperate I was to make sure that I looked okay. How I look had become so implicitly important to me that I couldn’t fathom the idea of leaving my room before I had seen what my whole body looked like in that outfit.

Luckily, I’ve progressed. Body positivity is a journey, and learning to live without mirrors has been part of mine. Now, before leaving the house, I really don’t know exactly how I look. And you know what? It doesn’t matter, because I probably look fine. Living without mirrors has given me a Popeye-ish outlook on my body image: I look how I look and that’s just how I look. I’m way more interested about how my day in MOROCCO is going to be than how I look.

There is definitely more to come about body positivity during my stay in Rabat. Expect a second post about body positivity coming soon to a blog near you! To continue the theme of relaxing my own standards and focusing more on my body’s function than its appearance, please enjoy some pictures of me below where I was having too much fun to care what my body looked like.

 

Morocco: Unplugged

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Morocco: Unplugged

Living in Morocco means living with less technology. At first, this transition was difficult, but I’ve learned that living a simpler life with less technology has been fairly rewarding. For example, I don’t watch a lot of TV while I’m here because all the channels are in Darija (Moroccan Arabic) and I can barely understand them. As someone who is typically glued to Netflix, I can actually say that I haven’t minded being separated from TV this summer.

There’s also not a ton of air conditioning here. The only place I’ve been to that has it is my school. For the most part, houses and cafes don’t have air conditioning. My house definitely doesn’t, but this makes the breeze mean more – I really take a moment to appreciate wind and sounds coming through my window, a window which I wouldn’t even have opened in the United States. Additionally, because air conditioning is limited but staying cool is a priority, the riyads (old houses) here are built with a huge open-air courtyard in the center of the home. This courtyard doesn’t have a roof so that the air can get in. Living in a house like this is a really cool experience, and it’s one that I wouldn’t have had if air conditioning was available!

For laundry, my house doesn’t have a dryer, but we sun-dry our clothes by a clothesline on the roof. Even though it’s a pain when my laundry takes two days instead of two hours, my host mom said that laundering in this way is actually better for your clothes and better for your skin!

The most radical change in unplugging myself and living simpler this summer has been detaching myself from my phone. I don’t have an international data plan and wifi here isn’t great, and it’s not available everywhere, so sometimes my phone doesn’t even function. All the students have Moroccan cell phones in case of emergency or for communicating while we’re not near wifi, but for the most part, cell phones are out of the question while away from our homes or school.

Sometimes unplugging makes my life a little harder than I’d like. It’s sometimes tough to adapt to a lifestyle where so many amenities are limited, and not having constant wifi/data makes communication with my friends and family hard.

Even though there are some hardships that accompany unplugging while abroad, I think they’re definitely worth it. I’ve learned a lot by separating myself from technology. Dinners with my friends are more meaningful because no one is sitting on their phone – we’re all engaged in conversation and our experience becomes more meaningful because of it. I’ve also had time to reflect on non-electronics activities that I love to do like writing and reading.

Unplugging is also nice because I can become more integrated within Moroccan life. Instead of hanging out on my phone or watching Netflix on my laptop, I can just go downstairs and chat with my host mom while she makes dinner or play with my host brother. With the time that I might have spent online, I can also free up time to explore Morocco! We spent the weekend in Fes, and the wifi at the hotel wasn’t great, so we headed into the city to explore the medina! This isn’t to say that we would have just sat there online if the wifi was great, but I think the fact that we didn’t have that option made the decision to explore Fes a little easier.

Overall, transitioning to a life with less technology has been a little tough, but I think it’s a good change to make. By unplugging, I’ve had more opportunities to build relationships, become familiar with my new surroundings, and immerse myself completely in the culture here.

Postscript: If you study abroad and you feel like technology makes your experience better, please use it! Technology is great and if you love it, then embrace it during your experience – it’s just that the absence of technology has enriched mine.

Lost in Translation: Barriers and Breakthroughs

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I’ve mentioned this before, but I pretty much decided to study Arabic because, like any nerd, I love a good academic challenge. And boy, did I get one. I’m sure everyone knows this already, but Arabic is hard. Like, really hard.

At Temple, the Arabic program centers around “FusHa” or “Modern Standard Arabic” (MSA for short). MSA is the best way to learn Arabic because it’s relatively universal (it’s the style used in the Quran and in Arab media like newspapers and broadcasts) but it’s also the hardest version to learn. Although MSA is understood by most Arabic speakers, it sounds a little strange when spoken. My IES professor put it like this: Speaking MSA instead of a dialect is a little like if someone walked up to a modern American speaking like Shakespeare. It’s very formal and rarely spoken in lieu of dialects.

So here I am, in an Arabic-speaking country, knowing MSA and not the Moroccan dialect. I can have conversations with Moroccans, but they are definitely a little strange because I’m not speaking Darija (the Moroccan dialect) yet. I’m taking a class on the dialect while I’m here, but as of right now I can only string together a couple of words and phrases in Darija, which makes day-to-day interactions a little difficult. I’m learning more everyday, though.

Arabic is pretty tough. I encounter a lot of barriers throughout my day, but I can overcome most of them with my knowledge of MSA (side note: if there was a country that only spoke MSA, I think I’d be more than fine right now, but unfortunately this is not the case). Moroccans learn Darija first, then study MSA in school, and then learn French – most of them don’t get around to learning English. Sometimes my struggles are when the 4-year old I live with is rattling off sentence after sentence at the speed of light, and he just ends up yelling “La! La! La!” (“No! No! No!”) at me. Other times, it’s when I realize my vocabulary just isn’t extensive enough to express a particular thought, which can be frustrating because I have such good ones! (:

However, for every difficulty I encounter, there’s some sort of equal reward. They’re often small, but they encourage me to persist in the language. I like playing with the babies in my house because I can speak to them in very simple sentences and not worry about them judging me. Similarly, my host parents speak to the four year old with a lot of commonly-used commands and phrases (“Give me that,” “Bring me…,” “Come here,” etc) that I can now pick up on and use for myself. Today I had maybe the most successful lingual accomplishment yet – I bought water from a vendor and spoke only Darija! It sounds so small, but being able to converse with him and make a little small talk while he counted change really made me feel like I belong here and that all my hard work with Arabic is starting to pay off.

As my mind has been wrapping around Arabic for the past week or so, I’ve been thinking a lot about second languages. This morning, it occurred to me that I will be incredibly relieved to go back home and not worry about how to communicate during my next interaction, or even to just understand every sign I see. At the same exact time, it occurred to me that many people (namely immigrants and refugees) are unable to experience such relief because they are unable to return to their home country. At home, I’m privileged in many ways, but having English as my first language is not a privilege I often thought about, and my study abroad experience is deeply impacting my views on language in the U.S. In Morocco, I can’t describe how relieving it is to see English, whether written on a sign, menu, advertisement, or other (although I don’t see it often). I don’t see why we shouldn’t do the same for lingual minorities in the U.S. It wouldn’t kill us to add Spanish to maps or signs, and it would certainly make life easier for those who are ESL (English Second Language) speakers. When I return to Temple in the fall, I’ll be interning for Nationalities Service Center’s English as a Second Language Team, so hopefully I can make a real impact on this issue by helping immigrants and refugees learn English. I’m glad that, for now, I’m getting a taste of what their language experience will be like.

This weekend, my program is taking us on a field trip to the cities of Fez and Meknes, so hopefully I’ll return with some good stories from my visit! Maa Salaama! (Goodbye!)

My First Days in Rabat: Impressions

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My First Days in Rabat: Impressions

Here I am! After a spring and summer of preparation, I have finally made it to Rabat. My last two days here have been filled with excitement and exhaustion alike, but before I get into the nitty-gritty, here are some of my smaller observations thus far:

  • Cats are everywhere, and 99% of them are sleeping.
  • It’s hot as heck! The dress code for women here is particularly cumbersome when you have sweat running from head to toe.
  • Being here for Ramadan is really special because iftar (literally “break-fast,” when Muslims break their day-long fast) is a HUGE and DELICIOUS meal. A paradise for a food lover such as myself.
  • Can’t understand the 4-year-old you’re living with? No problem, high-fives are a universal language.
  • Apparently two-handed high-fives are also a universal language.

Those are just some little things I’ve noted throughout my two days here. More will surely come, but now for some bigger picture stuff:

We did a Greatest Hits of Rabat-esque tour today and saw some really beautiful sights. We got to see the Moroccan equivalent of the Washington Mall and the White House (except it’s very private here – only tourists and employees are allowed on the grounds). We also visited the Hassan II Mosque, one of Rabat’s most famous landmarks. Apparently during Ramadan, the king visits the Mohammed V Mausoleum across from it every day, but we had to leave before he came. The views were still incredible without royalty. After that, we went to the Kasbah des Oudayas (has someone already made the “Morocck the Kasbah” joke?), which was probably my favorite part of the tour. Although it’s mainly residential, “Kasbah” means “fortress,” so we ended up standing over a powerful view of the ocean and Rabat’s neighboring city, Sale. I’ll definitely be back to the Kasbah soon with my DSLR camera to take some better photos!

After our tour, we all met and were sent off with our host families. I’m with a lovely couple which has a four-year-old son and two one-year-old twins. My host mother and father are both incredibly sweet and their rapport reminds me a lot of my own parents (Mom and Dad, if you’re reading this, don’t get jealous!). Their son is an absolute riot – although I don’t understand much of what he’s saying because Moroccan Arabic (Darija) is so different from the Modern Standard (FusHa) I’ve been learning, I do understand how to play with a little kid. We had some fun once his mom explained that he was asking me to pretend to be Godzilla and chase him around! I’m very lucky that both of my host parents know English pretty well because Darija is turning out to be a lot different than I had thought it would be. For now, it’s a little awkward when I don’t know how to ask for simple things or I’m blankly staring at one of my host parents, who has repeated the same word slowly five times, but once Darija classes start I should get the hang of things.

Even though I’m still fighting culture shock jitters, I think this is shaping up to be one of my best summers ever. I can’t wait to share the rest with you all – hopefully by the next time you tune in, I’ll have a couple of good stories! Maa Salaama! (Goodbye!)

 

Ready for Rabat!

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Ready for Rabat!

Marhaban (“Hello”)! My name is Alex Ennes and I’m a rising junior at Temple studying English with minors in Arabic and Criminal Justice – I’m also blogging for Temple during my summer in Morocco! I leave in just a week and I can’t wait to get on my plane. This summer, I’ll be living in a homestay in the city of Rabat and I’m itching to meet my host family. Although I’m excited, I’ve recently felt a little nervous about speaking Arabic on a regular basis. I’ve had great prep (four semesters worth!) but it’s intimidating to commit to living in a country where it’s spoken on the regular. I’m nervous about learning Darija, the colloquial dialect in Morocco, but I’m sure the transition from FusHa (modern standard Arabic) will be easy enough. All of my thinking about using Arabic this summer has led me to remembering why I chose the language in the first place…

If you’re a Liberal Arts student at Temple, you know the three-course language requirement for a liberal arts degree very well. I took Latin in high school and thought about continuing in college, but I figured I would start new. I didn’t really have a reason for choosing Arabic. I thought it looked and sounded pretty, and I figured it would be useful in a professional environment. I knew it would be hard, but I love learning languages and I figured that Arabic would present a good challenge – turns out, I was right!

Even though I didn’t have much of a reason for choosing Arabic, I absolutely fell in love with the language. I’m so grateful that I chose to learn this language, not only because of the incredible professors I’ve had, but also because it has opened my knowledge about Middle Eastern and North African culture. This last semester (Spring 2017), I took a class on the intersection of art and uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, particularly during the Arab Spring. I absolutely loved that class because it taught me so much about the art and culture associated with the region. If you had asked me in high school, I wouldn’t have cared much about Middle Eastern and North African affairs, but now I find myself researching them regularly and consuming as much literature, art, and film I can find on Arab culture!

Culture may be what I’m most excited for this summer. I’m an English major, so it would have been easy for me to study abroad in England, Scotland, or Ireland where I could have learned about British literature or done some work on my poetry concentration, but I wanted to push myself outside of my comfort zone and explore an entirely new culture. Because of how different American culture is from Moroccan culture, I expect that I’ll learn a lot and grow more as a person by stepping outside of the “Western” world. Even though immersing myself in an entirely different language and society is intimidating, I’m excited to start my journey. Hopefully I’ll return with a brand new understanding of the Arabic language and Moroccan culture.

My next post will be coming to you straight from Rabat, so get ready for a summer full of fun (and lots of hummus)! Until next time!