I love my mother dearly and bless her everyday for teaching me a very quirky sense of humor. In cases like today’s it comes in handy. Of course, if not for also giving me her sense of direction (or lack thereof) situations like today’s wouldn’t happen nearly so often. But I can’t just blame my mom. Partly it was my fault for second guessing myself. But wait! I haven’t even told you what happened yet! You’ve probably guessed it by now though. I made some new friends. Yup, friends. Oh and I got lost – no worries though.
It all started when I made plans to meet up with some other students from SIT after class to go buy some cell phones for use in Morocco. See a problem there? With no phones there was no way for me to find out that their class ended at 2:45 while mine ran late until 3:15. Of course, there was also no way to figure out if they were still at the meeting place. And off I went to check. I arrived at the meeting place and waited for a while but didn’t see them anywhere. I thought, ah well, I’ve still got at least two hours before I’m expected at home so I may as well go and try to get a phone hoping that I might run into my American friends on the way. I didn’t see my friends, but I successfully got a pay-as-you-go phone. On my way back up the street, I saw a group of my classmates and fell in with them to go to a café for some tea.
So far, so good! I finished my tea, exchanged phone numbers with a couple of the others, and decided that I could find my way home. We were close to the Marassa annex building where my Arabic classes are every morning and I was confident that if I went there, I could retrace the route. And off I go again. In fact, I found out later on that I retraced the route perfectly! But that’s getting ahead of myself. I reached a house that looked familiar and as I don’t have a key, I rang the doorbell to be let in. Three minutes later, no one came to the door. I began to doubt myself… big mistake. Then I saw a lady walking past me in the street and I remembered that I had a piece of paper with my family’s names and address on it. I pulled it out and prepared to practice the new phrase we learned in our Darija Arabic class today: fin cayn (pointing at address)? Where is (insert place)?
And I must have said it correctly because next thing that I knew I heard the words for straight ahead and turn right! So up and right I went until I realized that I recognized the hamam, Turkish bath, that my host sister Hamida took me to this past weekend, which was in the opposite direction of Marassa – the wrong way. Again, I tried out my new vocabulary to ask another person where to go and this time the person pinned me as a foreigner and responded in English, telling me that I needed to backtrack and take the first right turn. By this point, the hilarity of the situation started sinking in. I walked the same street three times already in ten minutes going back and forth. I recognized all the buildings I’ve been in except the one that I’ve been sleeping in for the past three days.
But I dutifully trundled off on yet another trip up the street. Still did not see the right house. I decided to try one last time and approached two women walking by. They seemed to know exactly where to go and I heard the word taliba… female student… several times! Maybe they are also host parents? They pulled over a third person, a young woman who speaks a little English and asked me to clarify my host family. Suddenly, one of the women took off gesturing me to follow her. Finally! I found someone who knows my host family! Or not… as she turned into a little alcove and knocks on a door that I’ve never seen.
Remember the new friends I mentioned earlier? This is where then enter. An older gentleman who shortly introduced himself as Ali answered the door and the woman I’d followed explained the situation as I tried to sink into the cement behind her. Fortunately, he spoke English so my lack of Darija vocabulary wasn’t an issue. As it turned out, he was also hosting a foreign student. Malik is from Senegal and he’s studying at the university where Ali teaches.
Ali himself is a professor and has published a book in English that he gave a lecture on at a university in South Carolina. He is fluent in French and was overjoyed to meet someone who he could practice English with. I now have a standing invitation to drop by whenever to join him, his three lovely daughters, and Malik for tea or supper or anything I might need. All in all, I am very fortunate that everything went well with my little adventure. After chatting for a bit, I headed to Marassa and used my nice new phone to make a phone call. My host mom came to meet me and bring me home, which is how I discovered that I’d been right in the first place. I also learned a valuable lesson about Moroccan hospitality: it is generous and gregarious.