I am growing to appreciate my host family more and more. They’ve adapted to the constant presence of this weird-looking foreign guy quickly and easily. My host father is an army vet who served in the southern desert, and both older children have shown me pictures (the same picture actually) of their father with a rocket launcher someplace sandy. He works now all day at some sort of factory or something, it’s entirely unclear. In fact, I only realized he has a job about a week or two ago. He’s gone all the time though, and on the nights he gets back during dinner he usually just has tea. As for the mother, it took me almost three weeks to understand anything that she says because she has some accent from the countryside. But I’m doing better now. I thought I almost understood her this morning. She’s getting better at the whole ‘this guy’s only been her a few weeks so he can’t speak country-side darija perfectly’ deal. In general, however, her strategy when I don’t understand is to try and cram more words into the same space of time.
And the kids are awesome. My host sister took a few weeks to open up but now she talks with me all the time. Nourdine, the three year old, is cute but really likes to play with knives and spit at his sister. The natural response to this is hitting him with her shoe. Surprisingly (and a bit disturbing as well) I’ve sort of gotten used to this. I’m not sure where the US child psychology thing is but hitting kids seems commonplace here. I very rarely see the mother discipline Nourdine- it’s more the job of the older two.
My host brother, Hussein, is 15 years old. He has been to Rabat once in his life, and he’s been to Fes once in his life. Fes is only about 20 minutes away by car. So this is a guy who, one would think, should not be particularly open-minded or aware of the cultural differences between us. But he is both aware and intelligent.
Case in point: yesterday I tried to use one of the 50 ‘allah” expressions. Layxllik means ‘please’, but by accident I said Layxrrik. So I switched up the “l” and the “r”. While the first means “god keep you/ please”, the second means “god make you poop”, or “god be made poop on you”. So that’s a mistake. Keep in mind Hussein prays five times a day. I would think that a visiting middle eastern student making a similar mistake in a backwater bible-belt community where the people are similarly isolated would not be treated kindly. Instead, my brother just said, don’t worry about it, you’re learning, don’t worry, it’s okay. You want to say this, not this. Really good guy.
I sometimes forget the little one is a disgusting 2 year old. Sometimes I’ll pick him up by the ankle because it’s one of his favorite games and I realize his legs are all wet. He’s learning to use the toilet, which requires a whole lot more balance and coordination than a western one. (Speaking of which, it’s been more than two weeks since the last time I accidently pooped on my socks!) And a few days ago he ran after me as I was leaving even though he was in the middle of his toilet lesson and missing his pants. Disgusting. But, they’ve told me that they’re used to me as an older brother and they’ll miss me. Despite the fact that I wander around constantly doing mildly inappropriate things and my room is a significant portion of their entire house.