clarity and confusion – الوضوح والحيرة

Yesterday I washed my clothes, dirty from a weekend trip to the Sahara, on the rooftop under a blissfully overcast sky. After letting it soak in a large bucket with some Tide knock-off detergent and scrubbing the dirtier bits with a hard-bristled brush, the afternoon call to prayer was my soundtrack as I hung each item on the line. Though I have no qualms about giving my laundry to my host mom in a pinch, I’ve found that hand washing my own dirty laundry provides an excellent time for introspection.


The sun was out in full force again today.


Scrubbing my laundry, I let myself think that I am slowly, but relatively painlessly, adjusting to life here in Fez. Every day my language becomes less Modern Standard Arabic, and more Darija (though the ratio is still about 85% : 15%). I am getting to know my family and other people in my neighborhood. I am establishing a routine and finding ways to become involved in the community. In the beginning, it seemed as though I felt confounded at least a few times a day: buying a shirt at a reasonable price, finding my way home through the medina, shoving my way onto a packed bus, passing a decaying donkey on the path home from school, navigating the mechanics of a squat toilet. I’ve totally got those down, and this city was really starting to making sense.

Then today it is back to me completely puzzled:

I went to an women-only aerobics class and tried to pay for a month’s membership (equivalent to $12) but have to give them two small pictures of myself first.

A woman stopped by to say “hi” to my host mom, Nadia, when she wasn’t home and stayed to chat with me for a bit. “You speak Arabic very well”, she said. I’ve been told that before, sometimes after I’ve hardly spoken a sentence, but always encouragingly, or in surprise. Her tone, though, was curt and suspicious, and asked me the question I’ve never really been able to answer: “Why are you studying Arabic?” It was my first clear-cut opportunity to try to follow the Fulbright mission statement: to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of Morocco, and was floored by that one question.

I noticed that Mustapha’s (my 17-year-old host brother) cell phone display is of his (male) friend kissing a kitten in a grassy field.

And we had brain for lunch.

About Laura McAdams

Laura McAdams is a Master’s student at University of Pennsylvania studying International Educational Development. Her experience in the MENA region includes 15 months as a Fulbright student researcher to Fez and Ifrane, Morocco in 2010 and 2011. Her project was interested in understanding the disconnect between the policies of technology usage in education and the reality of how these policies unfold in the classroom. Summer 2012 she returned to the Middle Atlas mountains of Morocco to work with a women’s weaving cooperative. She is excited to learn more about other countries in the MENA region and issues involving education policy and reform, technology usage in curriculums and gender equality in education. One of Laura’s lifelong goals is to one day be able to sit down and leisurely read a newspaper in Arabic.
This entry was posted in Fulbright Student Research in Morocco, 2010-2011, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to clarity and confusion – الوضوح والحيرة

  1. Dear Precious Laura, I enjoy very much reading what you write and seeing the pictures. I commend you for all of the time and work you put into that so others of us can share in what you are experiencing. I would like to be present when you are back home and making B”stilla. Thankyou for sharing the recipe and procedure as you did. It is fun that your good friend, Lillie, spells her name the same as I do mine.

    Good Night, Your Great Aunt Lillie

  2. Lillie says:

    I love how casually you mention that you ate brain for lunch.

  3. haha I like the phone display part.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s