Georgina Rea - General Teaching Projects in Morocco
From Casablanca to Rabat
Morocco was my last stop after a gap year of travelling and working abroad. Having lived in France for 6 months over Christmas I felt pretty confident that I would be able to get by in Morocco and communicate effectively with the local people.
As I had been advised not to visit Morocco unless my French was up to scratch I had armed myself with a French dictionary. I failed, however to bring an Arabic one – this turned out to me a massive mistake. Although French is widely spoken, Arabic is the most common tongue in the country and I realised this as soon as I greeted a flight attendant with a “bonjour” to which he replied “Salam Alaikum.”
It was Nordeen from Projects Abroad who met me at the airport and who, during our whole journey from Casablanca to Rabat, I pestered for details on the customs of Ramadan (as I had arrived on the second day of the fast) and for some basic Arabic phrases.
My Host Family in Morocco
When Nordeen told me that our first stop was the Medina and explained that this was the ancient part of the city, I asked if we would have to pay to get in, imagining it to be a conserved historic site which tourists would visit. I can now fully appreciate what a ridiculous comment this was as the Medina in Rabat (and the other towns which we visited) is the life and soul of any Moroccan city.
The narrow streets weave their way into an enormous maze once you enter at one of the impressive gateways into the Medina. Despite this part of town being the most conservative, the streets welcome everyone, from Sub-Saharan Africans to European ex-pats. The smell of fresh mint is ever present and as you get closer to the Kasbah the walls are painted in bright white and magnificent blues.
I was welcomed by my host mother’s warmth and the spectacular light coming into our apartment from the open roof. This, as well as the bright mosaic walls and multicoloured window panes, made me appreciate for the first time what a vibrant and dynamic country I had chosen to visit.
Mother Fouzer made a traditional Ramadan breakfast for us every evening, including harira soup and chebakia (Ramadan cookies). Everything was rich in almonds and honey and her elder daughter explained that this was to keep their energy levels up during the fasting. The tea was always sweet and always made with fresh mint. It is now my preferred way of drinking tea!
On the evening of my birthday everyone came to my house for the weekly meeting. Sometimes we would have henna parties and get a performance from Moroccan drummers - to which all the volunteers would dance energetically - however this evening we just chilled out in our living room and ate the cake which Fouzir has organised for me.
It was great to spend the evening with both of my families, my hosts and my Projects Abroad family of people from the office who supported me and the other volunteers during our entire stay. My host mother gave me a pendant for a gift and I have yet to spend a day without wearing it!
My students ranged in age and ability. In the mornings the students were usually aged between 9 and 14. It was this class that I found the most challenging as they spoke very little French and thus I could not provide them with translations for some things. This did however open up opportunities for lots of interactive learning and we played 2 or 3 games every lesson.
My afternoon students were aged 16 and above, some of them older than me; I even taught the head of the school on one afternoon! We tackled everything from comprehension and creative writing to oral and listening exercises. I really bonded with a lot of these students and was very privileged to have been invited to take tea at my student Niama’s house one evening. Her family was so welcoming and just as interested about where I came from as I was about their lives.
My Experience in Morocco
I was lucky to make some amazing friends during my trip - people who I spent my weekend travelling with, went surfing with on week days and tried to exchange languages with.
Projects Abroad gives you the opportunity to really feel like a member of a community whilst also giving you a few days to experience the country from a tourist perspective. My most memorable weekend experiences include sleeping in a tent in the Sahara, seeing the coast of Spain from Tangier, getting lost in the blue maze of Chefchaouen’s Medina and quad biking all the way from Marrakech to the foot of the Atlas Mountains.
Wherever we went we were met with new discoveries and thus bore in our hearts an expression which Sofiane from the Projects Abroad team had taught us. “In kunta fil maghrib fala tastaghrib” meaning “don't be surprised, you’re in Morocco”!