There’s not much new happening this week – we’re still just anxiously waiting for the 18th to come around so we can find out our final site placement. With that in mind we figured we’d write up a few quick stories for you this week to illustrate a little bit of what homestay is like on a day-to-day basis.
Moroccans looove to compare people to each other. We hear a lot about how Anass is crazy, but his older brother is way crazier, or about how Naima’s youngest daughter is the best student of the family. It took only about a week until we were also included in these comparisons. Here’s a sample of the comparisons we’ve gotten to be a part of:
On our Darija –
“Ahmed has good Darija! Layla, yours is just ok.” Naima said this until one of her kids pointed out it was actually the opposite, and then it changed to…
“Layla has good Darija! Ahmed, yours is just ok.” Which eventually morphed into…
“Layla has good Darija and Ahmed dances well.” Our best guess is that this reflects the fact that Matt communicates well with his face and with acting things out, so Darija’s not really that big of a deal.
On food –
“Kul!! (eat!!)” *pats hips and shoulders* Naima’s way of saying ‘eat more so you can be fat like me!’
“When you first got here you were skinny, but now you’ve gained some weight.” Naima said this to Cori yesterday (approvingly) to express how glad she is that we’re happy here (Cori’s pretty sure she hasn’t gained any visible weight, but if it makes Naima happy to think she has, then that’s no problem).
“Whose food is better?” When Naima’s daughter was in town, she cooked for us a bunch and we got this question from both her and Naima. We quickly learned that the answer is whoever is asking the question, of course, unless they are both in the room in which case the answer is Naima. Matt was unlucky enough to be asked this question about a dish that Cori, Naima AND her daughter had all cooked on separate occasions, and when he answered “Naima” she threatened to beat him with a sandal (a normal joke of hers) because of course he should praise his wife’s cooking above all else.
A couple of weeks ago we realized that the Darija command to eat (kul!) sounds exactly like the English word “cool!” We noticed this because Naima was wrapping up different cuts of meat she had bought to put in the freezer, and she held up a pair of cow testicles to see if we knew what they were. Matt’s reaction was to laugh and say “cool!”… at which point he immediately made the connection between the two words and regretted what he’d said. Naima didn’t seem to notice (although I’m sure she would have just laughed) but ever since we’ve been a bit more careful about using the word “cool”, so we don’t end up telling people to constantly eat the things that we think are interesting.
One of our fellow trainees wrote a cartoon recently about how we’re basically “Pet Americans” to our host families since they feed us, take us on walks, etc. Ever since reading that, Matt and I have noticed that our family has definitely taught us a few tricks that they can show off to their friends.
Naima’s favorite trick is that Matt’s name is not “Ahmed”, but actually “Si Ahmed” (the English equivalent would be something like “Sir Ahmed”), and everyone in the family, Cori included, has to call him this. Whenever she takes us to meet someone new, she’ll explain this to the new person and tell them to get his attention by saying “Ahmed”. Matt’s responsibility is then to ask “Who? Who is Ahmed?” until the new person says “Si Ahmed”, at which point Matt is supposed to make his “Sir” face and acknowledge the new person. This is sometimes accompanied by Matt asking people to do menial tasks for him because he’s too important to do them himself, depending on how well Naima knows the new person. She thinks this is pretty much the funniest thing ever, and it gets a pretty good reaction from everyone else as well.
We miss you all! We’re looking forward to next week when we hope to post some positive information about our site placement!
– Cori and Matt