Moroccan Survival Skills 101

  1. In order to avoid having to put on pantsicles and shirtsicles in the morning, make sure to lay your outfit out for the next day under the covers the night before so that they are nice and warm when you put them on in the morning.
  2. As a general rule during meals, do not save the best for last. Always eat the best part of the meal first so that you can take your time with the stuff you don’t like. In this way, they won’t have the opportunity to refill your portion by the time the meal ends.
  3. Brush your teeth every opportunity you get. Seize the moment and rid your mouth of all the residual sugar that may be left behind after consuming a shovel-full of it in your last meal or tea—Two times is sufficient, but three or four is better.
  4. If there is anything in particular you don’t want to do or if you are going to be late coming home and you are not entirely sure of what time you’ll be back. Give a generic response and follow it with a definitive, “Inshallah” to cover your basis. After all, if you are leaving it up to Allah, it is completely out of your control what your lot may be. You may or may not show up or you may or may not be an hour late. Who knows? Allah does.
  5. “Playing dead” pretty much works in all aspects of life in Morroco. It is a tried and true method when it comes to pushy shop keepers in the big medinas in Fes and/or annoying guys who hiss and holler BUT my host mom is somehow immune to it. Basically you just pretend you don’t see, hear, or even know what’s going on and those people generally leave you alone after a while. However, playing dead during tea time hasn’t excused me from partaking at all. I’ve straight up crawled under the covers, eyes closed, in a fetal position and she still makes me go have tea. Telling her I don’t feel well means she brings me the bread, cookies, jam, tea, and whatever else she served everybody else on a silver tray and into my room and makes me eat it in bed, which then makes me feel like an asshole. Once I find a way out of kaskrut (teatime) I will make sure to share it with you all.***
  6. Before using the Turkish toilet, empty your pockets and roll up your pant legs…just trust me.
  7. If you’re going to be in Morocco for an extended period of time (longer than a regular vacation) and you anticipate meeting or being introduced to Moroccan friends then it’s probably a good idea to have a standard list of greetings in your repertoire should the occasion ever arise. Let me explain. When people meet each other, whether it be in passing on the street, or at someone’s house it’s never just a simple “Hello.” And a handshake. It goes something like this: “Sbah Elixir. Salam alaykum. Bixir? Ki Dayr? Labas. Labas ellic? L-Hamdullah. Kulshi Bixir? L-Hamdullah. Mezyan.” (Translation: “Good morning. Peace be upon you. Good? How are you? I’m good. Are you fine? Thank God. Everything fine? Thank God. Good.”) It’s almost like they’re firing greetings at each other with a shotgun…neither one actually waits for the other person’s response because they are shooting back their own greetings. If you’re a girl it takes longer because you have to do the cheek to cheek kiss. The standard is two, one on each side starting from the left. Sometimes, and I’m not sure when or why, they do three kisses. One on the right and two simultaneous ones on the left. However, I think it depends on how excited they are to meet/see you, it can be anywhere up to 4-5 kisses total. I say you have to have your own standard greeting is because it can be a little overwhelming at first. The first couple of times it happened to me, I just stood there kind of frozen, searching for words and proper responses. It wasn’t until later that I found out that it doesn’t really matter what you say back as long as it’s along the same lines as what I gave as an example earlier…keep it standard.

***So I actually was able to skip LUNCH the other day (I know, LUNCH!)…for 4 hours. I stood my ground and won the stare down against Mama Boukhabza. Here’s what happened: she walks into my room and I’m under the covers. “Nathalie, ltaggda.”(Nathalie, lunch). “Lla sukran…Eiti.” (No thank you. I’m tired—I wasn’t even that tired. I was just in a mood and it turned into a pride thing. I was telling myself “I’ll eat when I want and I do what I want! HMP!!!”) “Kuli shwiya!” (Eat a little!) “Lla sukran.” (No thank you). “Kuli!” (Eat!) “Lla”…I don’t know how to say it but she said something to the effect of, You want to eat it in your bed? And I said Lla. She said something else  and just kept saying “Lla”…with a smile of course so as to seem like I’m not being an asshole. And then she actually left me alone after 5 minutes of me just saying “Lla” over and over and over again. I went back to class and wished that I didn’t say no to lunch coz now I’m starving but it was all about pride dammit and I had won that battle! I kept thinking of what they possibly had for lunch. I hoped it wasn’t cous cous. Then I wondered if that eggplant and tomato thing made an appearance or not…I got hungrier and hungrier. I get home at 5:30 and there she is standing by the door and said “Tgdda?” with a smile. At first I pretended not to understand what she was saying then I could tell that she knew I was hungry…my pride lost out and so I said “Sure.”. And the silver tray appeared complete with meatballs, zucchini stuffed with rice and olives, the tomato thing I love, a piece of honey dew, and of course some bread. AMAZING. I was so thankful she didn’t make me eat it out in the living room or else I would have been totally embarassed, instead brought it to my room. Lessons learned: NEVER say no to lunch. After all, it’s the best meal of the day…and Mama Boukhabza wins every time (or else you go hungry). 

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One thought on “Moroccan Survival Skills 101

  1. J.J. says:

    Yes Nat–good about the teeth brushing. Remember, the most tooth decay occurs within 20 minutes of eating, and if you’re dealing with refined sugar, the brushing right after meals is an excellent precaution. Eye of the tiger Nat… Mama Boukhabza loves you! hehe!

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