After finishing one more session of language tutoring in Fez, I finally moved to Ifrane at the beginning of this month to start the bulk of my research. I live on my own in an apartment about a 30 minute walk from Al Akhawayn University (AUI) in a large, family-filled building complex.
The furnished apartment is a steal and fairly big: a main living room with TV and many, many free channels thanks to the satellite dish, a kitchen with lots of counter space but no oven, a second salon with a balcony that overlooks the building’s central courtyard and a bedroom with a balcony that looks into the neighbor’s house. I cleaned it from top to bottom when I moved in, and am now quite pleased with it, with the exception of one glaring detail: No heating. I do, though, have a small and not-very-efficient attachement to a gas bottle, and a small electric space heater. Lately I’ve been wearing a lot of layers and carry around hot water bottles. Pictures to come.
AUI takes its security very, very seriously and before I was in possesion of my visiting researcher’s card, I would get stopped daily at the front gate, asked what my business was, and only after confirming my statements with a phone call to the offices was I allowed on campus. Despite the fact that I turned in the required paperwork months ago, it still took about two weeks of daily office visits to get this card. Now, though, I breeze through the front gates and have full access to the English language library, beautiful gym and full service laundry. (Dryers? What opulence!) Of course, luxury like this comes at a price, but oh, the centrally heated reading rooms are worth it.
I have a desk and computer at the Center for IT Innovation on campus and the professor that headed the project I am interested in is nearly always available for questions. I marvel at the amount of freedom I have now, not constrained by class times, to read up on a number of topics important to the foundation of my research project, like different learning theories and the theoretical frameworks under which they fall and the various methodologies and methods I can adopt to accomplish my research goal. I also have time to get in some daily Arabic practice and hopefully soon I’ll get permission to spend time in Al Arz Middle School here in Ifrane, much like I did at Kacem Amine in Fez.
Despite the fact that I now live in Ifrane, I still am able to travel back to Fez easily and frequently. I have a legitimate reason to return to Fez too: I’ve started interviewing teachers and having guided conversations with students at Kacem Amine and I’d like to keep that ball rolling. Also, though, I miss my close-knit group of friends, the housemates that felt like family members, and a couple Fessis that were becoming real friends.
Honestly, though, this transition has been fairly easy and I’ve been quite productive so far. I think I’ll really like Ifrane, once the snow stops. Beautiful, sure. Miserable, absolutely.