ramadan kareem- that’s what the neighbor just wished me as i was walking home from the market. it means ramadan greetings.
what an experience this holiday has been for me here in morocco. beginning with the basics, ramadan is a islamic holiday where muslims fast for 30 days from sunrise until sunset to humble themselves to the daily strugles of the homeless or hungry. it’s a time of community where neighbors come together to iktar (the meal that breaks the fast), to feed the homeless, or to simply spread the holiday cheer.
A typical ramadan day at my homestay includes waking up at 3:30 am to eat toast, jam, and dates for breakfast. by 4am, the sun rises, thus inaugurating the day’s fast. until the sirens of the mosque sound at sunset ( 7:43pm here), there is no eating, drinking, smoking, and so on. during the day, stores are closed and work hours are shortened. it’s extremely challenging, both physically and mentally, but these guys are so diligent in their resilience to fast. around sunset, families bring food out by the platter until virtually the entire tablecloth is covered. when the siren sounds, food disappears from the table faster than you can imagine.
after dinner, the streets come to life with vendors, food stands, fruit carts, and people walking briskly to their local mosque to pray. the sweet smell of bread wafts from street to street, and little kids dart through the busy streets in their simple game of tag. men selling bubble machines line the archways to the medina, providing an entryway of youthful bliss to all who enter. it feels like a movie most of the time, the way the world swirls around me at 10,000 miles per hour here. it’s chaos, but it’s certainly fun.
a lot has happened since my first day in rabat, ramadan obviously being one of the bigger occurrences. for me, making the conscious decision to volunteer during ramadan was intimidating because i didn’t quite know what to expect. i think going in without any expectations was a huge blessing because i was able to completely saturate myself in the month-long holiday.
my homestay family is so incredible about helping me walk the fine line between respecting both religious tradition and my values. Unlike the rest of the household, i sleep through the breakfast meal at 3am and instead eat the bread and jam they graciously leave out for me at 8am. my momma even has warm mint tea waiting for me. during the day, i don’t eat much, simply because there really isn’t food available at home or in the streets. there is fruit that is ‘conveniently’ purchased and left out for me, which is incredibly kind of the family. we operate under this unspoken understanding of mutual respect, and i couldn’t be more thankful for the homestay family I have. in a way, i do feel like i’m participating in ramadan- which is very cool- just an amended version.
aside from ramadan, i’ve made two crazy wonderful friends with my roomates, sada and dino. they’re both foreign and i’m the only one who uses english as my first language. we’re an absolute mess, but every moment of it is hilarious.
our afternoons are spent wandering the colorful medina streets, sampling different varieties of dates, or shopping for kaftans. often we wander around without purpose other than to explore the beautiful city we call home. at night, we walk to a nearby tea parlor to get the best mint tea in town. our day isn’t complete without it.
my placement at the childcare consumes my mornings. there’s a few of the children who just might go missing precisely when i leave. sada and i work with the cutest kiddos, although it's very challenging. learning to adapt in an environment where neither you nor the screaming three year old speaks the same language is extremely difficult.
it’s extraordinarily hard having a language barrier where one usually does not exist. more than anything, i want to have a response to my precious amond when he wobbles up to me and brings me his favorite toy. i crave the answer i’ll never have for fatima zahara when she looks up at me through her thick lashes and asks a gentle question.
on some afternoons when we’re feeling particularly adventurous, we take the train and venture into nearby cities. yesterday, we took an hour train ride into casablanca. the city was magnificent with its breezy ocean backdrop. modern-style houses and cars dominate the ground, and the locals proudly remind you of the town’s rich hollywood history. the three of us got to see the third largest mosque in the world (oh. my. gosh.) and i even got to go to a real live mall to satisfy my shopping fix.
and so our days go, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. today was special because we celebrated dino’s birthday. sada and i went into town and purchased him a cake from the local french bakery. we even coaxed the baker into freehanding a “happy birthday dino” message on top. the legibility was questionable, but the effort was all there. his suprise after the dinner when we brought the cake out was priceless- his cute lil stab at an english response even more so.
it’s crazy to think that this beautiful country is my home for the next three weeks. i’ve already warned my mom that she shouldn’t expect me to come home. i think she thinks i’m kidding, so fingers crossed the situation doesn’t get too awkward ha;)
i condensed so much into one blog post, and i’ve still got a lot of catching up to do. keep your eyes peeled for that. until the next post, my friends...