It’s been 4 months

since I last posted. Too long, I know! I’ve recently gotten internet at my house, though, so hopefully I’ll increase the frequency of my entries.

Where to begin?

I spent just over two months with my host family, May through July. They taught me a ton – Tashelheit, working in the fields, cultural dos and don’ts, and they helped me make a lot of good community contacts. When it came time to move into my own place, I was really sad to be leaving them. This was exacerbated by the fact that, unlike most volunteers,  I moved to a whole different neighborhood which is both physically and socially seperated from my host family’s. It took me a while to get settled into my new place – in truth, I’m still working on it – but I’m really happy with living in my new neighborhood now. It doesn’t hurt that I have a really nice rental house with some tiled floors (some cement), my own roof for laundry and sleeping, and I don’t have to go far to get my water or do laundry – the spring is less than 100m away. Beyond that, though, my new community has been very welcoming, with enough families inviting me over to tea or to meals that prior to Ramadan, it was hard to have a free moment.

Of course, now it is Ramadan, which means that everyone in Morocco is fasting from roughly 4am to 7pm. When Ramadan started it was 4am to 7:30pm, but as the days grow shorter, so too does the fast. L’hemdullah (thanks be to God)! I’m fasting, which in turn means I don’t get much done – most of the time I’ll got to a house between 6 and 6:30pm, eat luftor (iftar, as you’ll find it on internet searches), socialize for a while, fall asleep at the host’s house, wake up for s’hor (which I think is actually the time rather than the meal, but I’m not sure) around 3 or 3:30, then fall back asleep until I wake up around 7ish and head back to my house for a day of reading, and now internet. To expound a little on that:

Luftor: This is the best meal of the day; possibly my favorite Moroccan meal. It’s changed a little over the course of ramadan due to fruit availability. My town is too cold for dates to grow, but as Mohammed was said to have broken fast with a date everyone wants them. They’re grown in mass quantities down the mountain from my site, so the richer families almost always have some dates to break fast with. August was fig month in my town – we were covered in them. Sadly, they’re gone now, but when they were here we all stuffed ourselves silly, rich and poor alike. I’ve also had peaches (not quite peach season, though, so unripe), apples, bananas, and quince during s’hor. Some people even make smoothies, which is my favorite Ramadan extravagance. After fruit, everyone eats some variation of Aghrom n Uginsu – the best literal translation I can do is the bread of inside, or inside bread. It means that there’s two layers of bread with some sort of oily/buttery concoction inside – this can be a really wide variety of things, including meat or fat bits, but most popular in my town is hot peppers: onion, peppers, and sometimes tomato,  spices like cumin or cilantro, or really whatever else people feel like adding. This is almost always tasty, although sometimes too spicy for me to eat much of.  For the sugar/calorie hit, sometimes families will have purchased shebekia (sugar glazed cookie, instant diabetes) from a tahanut (small general store) or will have made z’mita (a sweet crumbly mixture of quite a few things, including but not limited to nuts, sesame seeds, sugar, and oil). Both of those are rare in my town, generally limited to the rich. If a family has chickens, there will be boiled eggs. If a family has a cow, there will be hot milk/coffee (the coffee is always served a little coffee in a lot of hot milk). After everyone has stuffed themselves silly, ahirir(soup) is served. Like the Aghrom n Uginsu, Ahirir has as many variations as, well, soup. It’s often made with a base of ibrin (chunky pieces of wheat) and contains some sort of dried bean – lentils, chickpeas, or fava beans. There’s often a tomato base, but sometimes the base is oodi – which is more or less homemade salted butter. Sometimes it’s spicy from hot peppers, sometimes it has zeezow leaves in it (think dark green leafy veg), and sometimes it has meat – and sometimes a combination of all three. Then everyone collectively slips into a food coma (which I have taught to my host uncle. As he already knows coma from the French, this is at the height of hilarity for him.)

That was far more than I thought I was going to write about luftor. Afterwards, some people wander around and visit neighbors (or even go to different neighborhoods for visits!), some people just chill out at home, and nearly everyone in my neighborhood has someone going to the spring for water, for which I’ll steal a description from an e-mail I wrote.

“I don’t know how it is in towns with running water, but after breakfast everyone in my town has to go to the spring to get water. The trip should take no more than 15 minutes from the farthest reaches of [my nieghborhood], but I’ve yet to go on a water gathering trip that takes less than an hour – most of the time it’s two. When people get to the ditch, especially when it’s the teenage girls, all the jugs turn into drums and there’s a bit of a party – everyone singing call and response songs, both traditional and impromtu. There’s also always a six year old or two around to dance for us – which is great, because by the time they’re six both genders know how to shake their  booties better than I’ll ever be able to (the men here, by the way, can all isolate their hips and shimmy). My favorite part about these gatherings is that the songs are all upbeat and festive – the same songs in the fields, or even at weddings, often end up sounding a bit dreary to my western ear. I think part of it has to do with the fact that none of the men are around, so the ladies get to let their hair down a bit (both literally and figuratively – people that dress all conservative during the day will go to the ditch without a scarf and sometimes even in short sleeves! doesn’t sound crazy, but it shocks the hell out of me).”

That’s not every night here, like it seemed to be at the beginning, but it’s still always a good time to head to the spring.

Then it’s sleeping, then s’hor – which is generally just a tajine or douez, normal lunch/dinner dishes around here.

I’ve heard in some towns people always eat iminsi, the dinner meal, at the normal time of 10:30 or 11 – but I only went to one house that served iminsi, and they were all very confused that I couldn’t eat any after stuffing myself 3 hours before at luftor!

And that’s all for now.  Stay tuned, as later this month I’ll be talking about L3id Amzant and the Imilchil Wedding Festival!

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