Ceri Evans - French in Morocco
I spent July 2007 in Rabat, Morocco doing a French language course with Projects Abroad, and it was one of the best things I’ve ever done. There is so much more I could tell you than what I’ve written here, but hopefully it will be enough to show you what a wonderful place Morocco is and to tempt you into going.
Touching down after a very long day of traveling, and incredibly nervous, it was a relief to see the smiling face of Saad, the Projects Abroad director in Morocco, waiting to take us to meet our host families. Luckily I had nothing to worry about, I was made to feel at home by my family straight away and we got on really well, they were so friendly, funny and just generally lovely. Living in the Medina (the old, walled part of the city) is such a strange but great experience, I never thought I’d be living off a street where there’s a stall selling watermelons in between one that sells live chickens and one that sells DVDs! Although it seems like a bit of a maze at first it’s amazing how quickly you find your way around, especially when every street has so many distinguishing features, whether it be the road where the bottom halves of the houses are painted green, or the one that has all the fish stalls. Wandering through the souk (market) which was just minutes from home was one of my favorite things to do when I wasn’t in class, there is so much to see (and buy) that its impossible to take everything in.
The language lessons were really interesting, I had two different teachers, and I really liked them both. Our lessons varied from day to day which was great because it meant that there was always something different to look forward to. We also went on trips, visiting museums (this may sound dull but the museum we went to was full of traditional Moroccan clothes, furniture, jewelry etc, you just didn’t know where to look first), ancient ruins and pottery yards, usually having tours in French so that we were still learning. Other lessons included discussing ethical issues, debating with each other, working through different topics, and even the odd game of French scrabble. As much as I enjoyed my lessons though, a part of me wishes I’d spent at least one day a week doing some form of project work with the other volunteers, as everyone we met was so friendly, I would have liked to have been able to give more back.
With everyone living so close within the Medina it was really easy to be able to meet up with other volunteers, we spent lots of time on Rabat beach, which is a short walk away, and exploring the rest of the city, such as the Kasbah (where we saw some gorgeous sunsets), the Hassan tower and the more westernized areas. There are some great parts of Rabat outside of the Medina, some more modern than others, and the variety is brilliant. Spending time with other volunteers is good because it means you get to talk in your own language, and get to meet some great people, however I spent a lot of time with my family as well, talking about what we’d done that day over mint tea, and trying to decipher Arabic soaps! Even though there were so many restaurants we barely ate out, the food was too good at home. There are countless delicious dishes; I couldn’t possibly pick a favorite, although I always looked forward to cous cous Fridays. In most host families everyone eats from the same bowl at meal times which although I was taken aback by at first, I came to love doing it and found it really strange having my own plate when I came home.
I didn’t travel as much as I wish I had done whilst I was in Morocco, I was enjoying my weekends in Rabat too much. There is so much opportunity to travel though; there are trains and coaches to lots of places, and to be honest train travel is pretty much the same as British public transport. The one weekend I ventured out of the city was to go to Fez for a weekend with some other volunteers. Booking hotels etc gives you a real sense of achievement and it was great to see another part of the country. The male attention was not as bad as I thought it would be, although did get a bit wearing at times, it was never malicious.
One month was nowhere near enough, I really didn’t want to leave. Still I’ve got loads of fantastic memories, and one day I’ll definitely go back to see all the things I didn’t manage to fit in.