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(reverse) culture shock

As part of the Projects Abroad program, I have been offered accommodation with a lovely and humble host family who lives the lifestyle in true Moroccan fashion. Personally, I think this is such a fantastic way of immersing yourself in a new culture and learn more about this unknown land and its ways. I have been interacting with my host mum the most, where we speak in a combination of languages – Arabic, French, and English. There is also the inclusion of sign language and gestures, which further aids the conversation to keep going.

I feel like arriving in Morocco just before the weekend has been a great way to interact with my host family and get to know them a bit better, in addition to settling in and feeling refreshed to face the internship with a relatively relaxed state of mind.

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I have been quite humbled by the nature of my host family! The dad is very friendly and full of happy vibes, the mother is undyingly caring and makes sure that I’m comfortable at all times, and the brother works long hours but still manages to say “hello” to me as we pass each other’s paths at different points during the day / evening.

The past 4 days have made me realize that I am currently going through a reverse culture shock. It’s where I’ve adapted to a Western culture for the past 6 years so well, that coming back to a culture close to my origins has thrown me into a spiral of adaptation to a more simple lifestyle. There are so many things that I have (very quickly) learned to have taken for granted all this time. The transition to a space where most things are available in limited quantities is giving me all the feels!

Internet

Oh boy, I cannot even begin to explain how much I’ve become reliant on the Internet – for banking, networking with potential employees and employers, keeping in touch with friends and family, entertainment, media, and much much more. I have so many social media accounts at the moment, that I struggle to update them and keep them in check as is. So, upon arriving in Morocco, I’ve had to accept the fact that not all these tasks will be able to be achieved in the time frame that I’m stationed here. One of the major tasks includes being able to chat with friends and family over Skype – it ain’t happening. All VoIP-based apps here have either been banned or disabled, so it’s become quite frustrating to have to go days on end without seeing the faces of those I love and keep close to my heart. But that is the reality of life. Don’t get me wrong – the internet here is fantastic (I wasn’t expecting great internet in a developing country), but it just does the job. The WIFI is free and fast, but it can’t withstand much and often drops out at the worst of times. I feel so disconnected from the world the moment I leave the house, because the internet doesn’t tend to work on my phone. However, there are obvious pros and cons to this. I find myself being more social and observant – I look around more, instead of having my face glued to a tiny LCD screen (as usual). I notice people who walk around / past me and am able to find my bearings a lot easier – I mean, I have to. There’s no GPS that can save me in case I lose my way. I listen to my iPod only to have the courage to walk through the many crowded streets, because I’m not overly self-conscious of any and all people around me, while still maintaining a subtle vigilance about my surroundings. I’m also thankful for apps such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat – all of which work in a country where one would think it’d be banned – as all these apps help me engage with my friends and family and allow me to share my travel experiences via visual and audio media.

Traveling solo

This one’s pretty big for me as well. I often commute to and from locations back in Adelaide alone – I mean, I have lived there for 6 years, so I’m very comfortable with doin’ my own thing and going to places known and unknown to me. It’s a small enough town and I feel like I mix well with the people there. But, it took a while to get to this level of a sense of security and safety. Similarly, I am finding myself growing in confidence as every day passes, walking through the busy medina to head to the meeting point with my Projects Abroad advisors. The real challenge starts tomorrow, when I’ll have to make my way to my placement by myself, without anyone guiding me, getting me a cab, or escorting me to the placement. I have three options – walking, tramming + walking, walking + cabbing. All of these are giving me a great deal of anxiety, but also an adventurous streak. I’m hoping to trial all options during the week and see how I go.

Hot Water

Unsurprising to most, hot water is one of the most essential necessities that we all in the Western world take for granted. More than you can imagine! The deal here is to use the gas system, where you turn on the gas that’s connected to the stove, followed by using a match and lighting the heating system up, which takes the water about 2-3 minutes to absorb and produce hot water that can be used to have a shower. It sounds complicated, but it’s literally a 30-second task. However, being a vertically challenged person, I have to ask my host mum to do this task, and honestly – it breaks my heart to have to ask to do something like this, especially when it’s pretty early in the morning and she’s asleep. Tomorrow will be my first time trying to do this myself using a chair, so wish me luck and here’s hoping that I don’t burn down the house in the process!

Communicating in 2 languages – neither of which you’re fluent in!

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So, I grossly underestimated the need to brush up on my Arabic and French language skills! Just when you think that a basic level of English can be understood by the folk here, you are met with a blank stare, followed by a jargon-like speech (which is only jargon to me because I’m extremely rusty in both languages and can barely catch the keywords enough to make sense of the conversation). My host mum and I have shared a number of brekkie and lunch meals, where she mainly speaks in French; sometimes in Arabic, and I try to make the best sense of what she says by substituting Arabic and English words, accompanied with gestures, sign language, and Google images (yup)! Having just had my first day of placement today, I had a minor panic attack when I found out that less than 2 people speak *broken* English and all the kids with language / learning disabilities can only understand Arabic. BUT luckily, there are two teachers there who speak basic English, so hopefully that’ll make the placement a bit more manageable. Plus, everyone seemed so lovely and friendly! The director was so cute and said that if nothing else, we could talk about how much she loves Shahrukh Khan!! ^_^ BLESS!

Eating traditional food

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This is actually something that I’m thoroughly enjoying to the max! I’ve realized that there’s a routine at my host family, where there’s brekkie, lunch, tea, and dinner. For brekkie, I often spend at least 30 minutes with my host mum, sipping on 2-3 cups of coffee and having khubz (bread) with apricot / fig jam. I learn more and more about her family, the lifestyle here, personal details about her beautiful family – her husband, daughter, son, and nephew – and it’s our time to bond and talk about each other’s lives. For lunch, there’s normally rice, lentil-based curry, pulled meat, and salad. The similar type of cuisine applies for dinner as well. It often feels like a feast, because I never leave hungry and always have a happy tummy! 🙂 Tea is literally tea – mint tea that is oh so sweet but oh so refreshing!

So yeah, this is all that I’ve been experiencing the past 4-5 days so far! More to follow 🙂

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