Salaam! Okay, now that the greeting-in-language-of-your-country is out of the way, let me try to give a rundown of everything that’s been happening (quite a lot) over the course of the past week. Last Friday, I spent about twenty hours traveling in order to airport hop from Fort Lauderdale, to JFK, to Paris, and finally to Rabat. I was the only student from my program on the flight from Fort Lauderdale to JFK, but when I got to the latter I felt sure I recognized someone in the terminal from the facebook group for my program. Being one of the four guys in a group of 35 (and having the added distinction of being pretty cute) he was fairly easy to recognize, but I was shy and wanted to be absolutely sure. Thinking myself pretty brilliant, I took out one of the required readings and pointedly angled the cover in his direction. He took the bait and came over, and thus my first friend was made. More fellow travelers were discovered thereafter. The pattern got pretty obvious… kids with huge internal frame backpacks, knit beanies, and pierced noses are apparently the prototype Human Rights themed study abroad student. And I thought my gold nose ring was so radical and unique -__- So by the time we all finally made it to rabat there was a veritable tribe of us, looking for all the world like the cast of Hair.
Upon arriving to Rabat we checked into a hotel in the colonial part of the city, outside the walls of the Medina Qadima, or Old City. I guess the same laws we have about wheelchair accessibility don’t exist in Morocco, because after having been awake for thirty hours, I was in no mood to lug 70 lbs. of luggage up four flights of stairs. First world problems. The following day we began our orientation at the Center for Cross Cultural Learning, the main building of our school located inside the Medina Qadima. It’s a three story, 19th century house in the Andalusian style, lots of intricate geometric mosaics and arched doorways. After a few days of emergency Darija (the Moroccan dialect of Arabic, for which two years of studying the Modern Standard have prepared me not at all) and question and answers on the local culture, we had enough of a crash-course to be ready to move in with our host families.
On Thursday, the families came to the school to be united with their new sons and daughters. I’m not sure why but I was incredibly nervous as I sat waiting for my “family” to find me. Probably something as simple as hoping I’d like them and wanting them to like me. My “sister” Iman finally found my face out of the crowd. She’s wonderful and so is the rest of the family, but I have to go buy myself a phone now so I can be more connected to everyone. More on the host family and my new digs later! Also, pictures to come.