Salem! (hello!). This is an update on where I am and what I’m doing for those of you who are interested. It’s Tuesday now but here’s a recap of Friday and Saturday anyway since I’m behind on writing.
On Friday afternoon, I arrived in a town an hour outside of Casablanca to volunteer at an English and French school. I took the train from Rabat to the bus station in town, caught a cab, and called the school’s owner, Harim, to instruct the driver where to go. After 5-10 minutes, I see the sign for the school and get out of the cab (the ride cost 8 dirham – less than one euro). I ring the bell and the man who opens the door plays a trick on me by pretending not to know who I am. After causing me a moment of panic, he laughs and welcomes me inside.
The school is nice – the downstairs level is where I will live. It has one bedroom for “guest speakers” (aka, me), a bedroom for Adnane (one of the teachers), and the kitchen and bathroom. The next two levels are classrooms and then there is a roof on top. When it is sunny and you are not teaching or sleeping or eating, the roof is the best place to be. The bedroom is cold right now because it is half underground and doesn’t get much sun. It’s also a mess filled with our things and blankets and mattresses on the ground.
When I arrived, Adnane and the other three volunteers (one French girl and two from the UK) were out to eat for “Free Couscous Friday.” I was all sad it missed it so when they got back, Adnane took me out on my own for mine. We eat and then go out for tea at a cafe. The whole time I fire questions at him about my job and about Moroccan culture. At night, a bunch of us (Adnane and his friends, the director of the school, the British girls, and me) walk to the opposite edge of town to go play pool. The tables are outside in the back of what looks like a whole “fun zone.” There were bumper cars behind the fence in the back and was a swimming pool in front of us. It was basically empty so we almost had the whole place to ourselves. There’s zero nightlife here so I’m pretty sure that playing pool the most exciting thing we could have done with our night.
Saturday, classes were in session and I spoke with five different groups of students. My job is just to come into the classroom for generally the last half hour of the lesson and speak with the students, ranging from 9 years old to career, in English to let them practice what they have learned. The first class was the youngest so we just chatted about basic things such as family and likes and dislikes. The topics of the other four were descriptions of people, kindness, risk-taking, and the future. The “future” class was full of older, “career,” students. In my group, one of the men starts to talk about the difference between English accents. He ends up being unintentionally incredibly racist and the teacher and I find it hilarious as he goes on and on so innocently. In the kindness class, we got into very deep discussions starting from questions like, “What does kindness mean to you?” and “Are you kind?”
I think it’ll be fun to be to stay at the school for awhile. The students are great and I love the little mess-ups and miscommunication that keep us laughing. The town itself is small and traditional. There are fruit and veggie stands, streets vendors with carts pulled by donkeys, butcher’s stalls, and many many cafes filled mostly with men. The whole town is relatively new so there is no old medina to explore. Regardless, it’s an interesting place to spend a couple of weeks. Zero tourists come here so I am getting full cultural immersion and learning many Arabic words from Adnane and his friends.
My impression of life here so far is hanging out around town during the day, “working” in the school during the evening, and then going to sit after-hours at the cafe owned by Adnane’s friend at night. There’s also a fantastic hammam in town that I visited on Saturday night and know I’ll frequent during my time here. Sunday, I left to spend the day in Casablanca and now I’m back at school getting used to the townie life.
More on the hamman and Casablanca in my next posts. For now, I’m going to continue enjoying my afternoon sunbathing on the roof. If you made it this far, thanks (chokran!) for reading!