s-soq, yoga, host family

Posted in Uncategorized by Diana on March 27, 2010

…White people mean business.

– PCT (identity withheld)*

*In reference to the typical experience a foreigner (in particular PCTs and PCVs) can expect at souq.

Everyday contains its own surprises. Today was no exception.

Quick note: I remember dreams more often after I wake up. I’ve also had a few déjà vu’s since arriving in country. What’s the significance?

Saturdays are s-soq (farmers’ market) days. Although married women and some young girls generally don’t go to souq, I consider it a social event, especially for PCTs (and PCVs). You see town officials (i.e., L-Mqaddem and Gendarmes), family members, and townspeople. It’s also a good place to be seen, especially if you’re trying to integrate into the community.

Today, after one-on-one language check-ins with the LCF, my CBT group went without him. We were responsible for buying the week’s groceries (and not getting ripped off while at it). When we got there, we split into two groups and took a divide-and-conquer approach with our list.

In the beginning, the three of us definitely attracted an audience: the douar’s mentally unstable person and adolescent boys. Despite these distractions, we successfully purchased everything on our list. One tactic we used to gauge the price locals pay was to ask the locals – other shoppers – what the price was for an item. We all regrouped and headed back to our lmdrasa (school) together.

On the way back to school, a few of us discussed the souq experience. One PCT commented on some vendors’ tendencies to triple the price for foreigners. Another PCT followed up with “….White people mean business.”

Yes, that’s what the second PCT said, word for word sans a few words before that. Even if I remembered the words that came before that, they’d do nothing to extricate this PCT from this racial comment. Clearly, I was really surprised and (even more) shocked by this PCT’s choice of words. (“Really?? Did I just hear that correctly??” was what rang through my head.)

I caught that comment and quickly responded with “Or volunteers in general” in reference to PCVs not wanting (and refusing) to get ripped off when shopping at s-soq. There was no verbal acknowledgment of this error from the person who said it. Then again, silence ensued for most of the walk back to lmdrasa and as the saying goes, “sometimes silence is louder than words.”

  • For the record, I am Asian American (and not Caucasian).
  • Instead of retorting with “I’m not white,” I carefully chose my words before responding with, “volunteers in general” because PC is comprised of so many ethnicities (vs. more/less of my own).
  • Irony in this situation: during the first few days of PST, current PCVs discussed how instrumental Caucasian/non-ethnic-Americans voices can be in explaining diversity in America.
  • As it turns out, part of the PC experience is to educate other Americans about the people of/in America. There aren’t only Caucasians in America and Caucasian-Americans aren’t the only Americans who volunteer (or perform other duties) outside of the US. Also, I think America would benefit from being on the receiving end of other countries’ volunteers. America is not as comfortable with diversity and equality as it prides itself to be. Some people and places still suffer from an “us vs. them” (or worse yet, “me vs. them”) mindset.
  • Japan has an equivalent volunteer corps to the US PC. Some of their volunteers are posted in Morocco. As such, and in a similar vein to the point above, not all volunteers serving in Morocco are from the US.
  • I am proud, but not arrogant, about being an American-Born-Chinese (ABC). I don’t consider myself better or worse off than others because of this. Rather, I try to use my knowledge, experience, and skills as an ethnic-American to relate and sympathize with others.
  • Finally, I’m really happy with the network of friends I’ve cast for myself thus far. In some ways, they’re different than the friends I have back home. In other ways, they complement the type of people I keep as friends back home. They are open-minded, hardworking, thoughtful, and considerate. They are spiritual but don’t try to impose their religion or worldviews upon me (although they often overlap). We realized we don’t have all the answers so we teach, learn from, and share with one another. We respect, support, and look out for each other. No one’s better than another; each person brings a different set of knowledge, skills, and experiences to these next two years.

I’m not bitter, I’m just more aware. More importantly, I’m not going to let this person’s comment negatively affect my (thus far positive) experience. Rather, this was a teaching and learning opportunity during CBT. Moving on to the rest of my day…

I helped prepare the ingredients for lunch – fajitas! Absolutely delicious! Who said you can’t bring other cultures to Morocco during PC service? 🙂 While the food was cooking, a fellow PCT described my outlook on life by asking questions on four different categories: animal (personality), color (how people see you), white room (death), and sea (sex).

After lunch, a few of us studied on the roof of the lmdrasa. The weather in Agouim is warming up – woohoo! I stayed for yoga, too. This marks my first time working out since I arrived. I like yoga and its calming effects but I tend to laugh and chat during class. We’ll see whether I stay with it for the rest of CBT. Not to worry – I have P90X waiting for me. I’ll start that once I have my own place (and more room to move around) at my final site.

I’m really happy with my host family. My language is improving (imik s imik, swiya b siwya) so I can communicate with them in broken Tashglish sentences now. This is a really exciting development for me. J Not only do they remind me of my family back home – by the way, my host mom is the disciplinarian and reminds me of my grandmother – but they treat me as an actual member of their family too!

Take this evening: Myself and three other PCTs went over to another PCT’s house for a movie. I told them I’d be home at 9:30pm but arrived closer to 10:00pm because my PCT-neighbor and I walked the other two girls home so they wouldn’t have to walk alone. I hoped/thought they would’ve eaten dinner while I was out but they completely waited for me!

As mentioned above, today was s-soq day. While the host mom prepared dinner, she unpacked some of the bags from the shopping my host father did there this morning. When she brought out a honeydew, I asked how much a kilo cost. She didn’t know (since her host father does the shopping) so off went one of my host sisters to ask the father. Little did I expect, this would segue into an interactive conversation at the dinner table.

First, I told them my friends and I went to s-soq. We bought vegetables and fruits; the ustad (teacher) bought the chicken. Back at school, we cooked chicken and veggies for lunch. I listed the ingredients. Then I started to ask how much a kilo of certain items normally cost. Next thing I know, I’m pulling out the shopping list to review with the family. This marks the first extended conversation I’ve had with host father, who is a good, hardworking family man. It was a fun and interactive experience. I would state the item, tell him and the family the amount I bought and the price and paid, and verify whether it was a mzyan (good) or ur myzan (not good) price. (I’ve yet to learn the word for bad).  “Mzyan,” he’d reply and smile after each line item. I think he and my host mother were happy that I didn’t pay an extravagant amount while shopping at s-soq. Me too!

To be fair, ustad did tell us how much each item usually costs before we embarked to s-soq on our own, but I’m really happy that I got to share this experience with the family. Host mother and sisters got to see how much veggies and fruits cost at the s-soq (and that a woman can shop there!).

What else…oh yes. Methinks I agreed to help wash the house and do field work on Sunday (technically today since it’s 1:22am). This will be the first full day I spend with the family (assuming I don’t meet up with the other PCTs) since I don’t have school on Sundays and I won’t be traveling. Host mother asked me if I’d make lunch for them tomorrow (half jokingly, I think). “Inshallah,” I replied and quickly added, “maybe next week.” Hahaha. We ate lots of fruit after dinner, too – honeydew, banana, apple, and orange. Yummy!

Question of the day: What does one American cook for a Moroccan family of two parents, four children (age 10 and under), and possibly a 20-something year old cousin?

Suggestions welcome!

PC: I’m finally caught up to where I want my life to be. I’m in Morocco. I’m living abroad. I’m learning a new language and living in a different culture. I’m so happy to have my dream and goal come true. No need to pinch me, I’m fully awake. I love my life. 🙂


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