Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Dinner with a Moroccan

Semester at Sea blog post

The bus pulled up. The street was crowded with Moroccans shopping, selling, on their way to dinner or meeting up with friends. It was nighttime and the city of Casablanca had transformed. There wasn’t a tourist in sight and 18 Semester at Sea students and staff stepped out of our safe confides of the George Washington Academy bus and into the scene. Fatima, our host for the night, led us to her apartment across the street, up two floors, and welcomed us into her home for the evening.

Fifty-seven students were place into small groups and invited to join eight families for an “Evening with a Moroccan Family,” a semester at sea organized field program. This included being invited to the family’s home, conversation and dinner.

“It is a glimpse that you wouldn’t be able to get otherwise,” SAS Professor Linda Kobert said.

Kobert and eight other SAS voyagers spent an evening with two families in one house.

“We had great conversations,” Kobert said. “We talked about everything from arranged marriages, the school where this guy teaches, children and how they were behaving.”

In Fatima’s house SAS voyagers crowded into her one bedroom apartment and enjoyed a traditional Moroccan dinner, which consisted of a few courses: a salad course, a meat dish, desert and traditional Moroccan mint tea.

For some students, this was their first opportunity to interact with a Moroccan one-on-one.

“The other trips show the touristy part of Morocco and I think this trip was one of the few trips that allows you to go one-on-one personally with a person from another country and ask them what their life is like in the country and you probably cant do that in a Market place or a restaurant,” Howard Li, SAS student, said.

Krystal Everett, SAS student, said there is a strong contrast from walking around tourist sites and observing places to participating in the culture.

“They are letting their guard down, being hospitably, feeding you and I felt like that is more of a personal experience than other trips offer,” Everett said.

During the trip many students learned Moroccan woman aren’t allowed to be addressed or have their photos taken without their husband’s or a man’s consent. Kobert said for her the trip provided an opportunity to learn what it is like to be a Moroccan woman.

“The wife of the host didn’t even join us for dinner,” Kobert said. “It gave me the chance to see the dynamics between men and women, between the father and the little girl and the kids.”

Kobert said this intimate experience created an atmosphere of trust and friendship.
“By the end of the night, we were doing three kisses, which means very good friends,” Kobert said. “Something happened there.”

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