Casablanca

Sleeping straight through 12 hours of airtime has never felt so good. I woke twice during the NYC-Casablanca leg of the flight, once when they served dinner [which was really good] and again for breakfast [not as good]. Every instruction on the second leg was given in French first, and then in English, and all of the stewardesses spoke French primarily when asking if you wanted food, drinks, or headphones. Also when yelling at you to put your seatback up for landing, unfortunately.

Landing in Casablanca at 6:00 local time wasn’t too bad because I had just slept quite a bit, so I was very awake. My “ride” from the airport to the homestay, however, was an 18-year old high school student. He was most certainly not awake at 6:00 on a week-long vacation from school. This homestay was organized by a family friend from Seattle who happened to grow up in Casablanca, and whose family still resides there. His little brother was supposed to pick me up from the airport, but apparently there was a communication error and he did not know what time I was to arrive. So after three hours and too many fruitless phone calls to his cell number, I gave in and got an incredibly overpriced taxi from the Casablanca airport to the suburb of Ain Diab. Some things I learned while staying with this family:

1. High school kids like to party in Morocco. A lot.
2. Moroccan mothers will push delicious homemade food at you until you burst.
3. Moroccans speak French and Darija, or Moroccan Arabic, and very few speak good English. Darija is used on the streets, and I was told that French is used often when talking to tourists, rich Moroccans, or members of “high society”.
4. Everything is cheaper in Morocco, but as always, foreign money can seem like play money, so I have spent more than I should…
5. Casablanca is like many large metropolises. Big, crowded, dirty, and loud. It is not without its charms, but I was only able to find those with the help of my homestay family.

I just arrived in Ifrane last night after three days in Casablanca. My favorite memory of Casablanca was sitting in a plaza in the ancient Medina neighborhood and drinking Moroccan mint tea with three high schoolers and a much older, wizened man in a black cap and robe, who spoke remarkably good English. Anyway, today was orientation at the university; similar to orientations in the US, I think, in that we learned about registration, student clubs, conduct and regulations, etc. Classes start Monday, and I have quite a full schedule, so we’ll see what week one is like here in the mountains.

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