Wednesday, June 12, 2013

الحياة الرخيصة

A sense of the cost of living in Morocco: yesterday I bought two knives for $1.07.  Now, the knives are far from professional grade, but they're functional.  A loaf of bread?  $0.24.  Vegetable tajine at an excellent restaurant, bread, olives, hummus, and beverage included?  $2.74.

Tonight two friends and I cooked a Moroccan dish (poached eggs in tomato sauce with bread - $0.79 per person) in our tiny little kitchen, listening to the call of muezzin and coaxing our old gas stove along with halting Arabic.  Although some students play it loose, we all signed a language pledge last Friday promising to speak Arabic and only Arabic within the walls of our little compound.  (A wall runs around the whole school and there are guards at the gates - a very strange feeling.)  Anytime I sit down to write in English the first few sentences come out feeling strange and I want desperately to begin one with الان or لانني.

Most of my life, however, outside of cooking and a few short trips to the nearby souq, consists of studying.  My level of Arabic falls somewhere between the second and third classes, so while I attend and complete the homework for the second class, I'm studying some of the material for the third class on my own.  The lesson I just started has a whopping 73 new vocabulary words, ranging from "Christmas" to "industry."  Occasionally I feel like my brain is on the verge of explosion.  (In other news, a few days ago I learned the word for bomb.  I'll be sure not to have that particular flash card with me when I board the plane home.)

In Morocco Arabic is really a secondary and, in many ways, subordinate language.  I met with my language partner (a native of Tangier studying for her masters in geology) for the first time Monday and she informed me that the classes in her university, and most of the universities in the country, are conducted only in French.  Educated people also tend to speak with a strange, twisted French accent.  Never has understanding been harder.

Today we enjoyed the first of our cultural activities: a one and a half hour calligraphy workshop.  I would like to claim the following as my own, but alas it is not.  This is the work of our lovely professor - my name in the Diwani style.
My attempts, I assure you, were not nearly so pretty.

Now, I suppose, to bed.  After a long day of case endings all my brain wants is a solid eight hours of rest.  We'll see if I can afford to give it that.


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