November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving Abroad

So first, today marks my 21st birthday! It’s tough to be away from home, but my roommates and friends have been great here, and I’m really enjoying myself. This weekend also marks the end of the first work week of my Independent Study Project. Although this week went by much too quickly for me to feel comfortable with completing my project by Dec. 9, I have about ten pages and a fair amount of research found and read on sub-Saharan migration to and through Morocco to Southern Europe, on the history of Christianity in Morocco, and on the current status of Christians in Morocco.

Next week I will hopefully start interviews with sub-Saharan Christians living in Rabat, and then I can begin to explore what their experiences have been in relation to the host culture. Honestly, I’m really excited, and I’m fascinated by each aspect of my topic that I’ve touched so far. Now, I’m just nervous to start the interviews–because we haven’t talked about this topic at all in our classes, I have to go to a campus and to a neighborhood and just start introducing myself and asking around. Once again, I’m going to take this as a challenge, accept it, and try to tackle it. Wish me luck.

But we didn’t only study this week.

Our kitchen and terrace

On Sunday, I moved out of my host family’s house and into an apartment outside of the medina with four of my classmates. Our apartment is great–it’s still pretty close to the medina, open, with plenty of space. Of course, there are some small setbacks that I, having passed along all responsibility of apartment-searching to my friends while my parents were here, did not find out until I moved in. Namely, that we have no fridge and no hot water. We didn’t have a door to the bathroom either, but I managed to pull a sheet over a big metal screen and drag that in front of the bathroom the second morning we were there. Honestly, the hot water is not too much of a problem to me. After three months of cold showers, bucket showers, public showers, and, the best yet, no showers, I kind of feel like a pro at not stressing over the shower deal.

The fridge is a little harder to get around, but we have a little corner shop right downstairs, and we can buy Ultra High Temp milk and a cheese that requires no refrigeration, and then eat all leftovers at our next meals. It’s actually worked surprisingly well so far, and to be honest, I kind of like figuring out how to live differently for a little while longer. In three weeks I’ll be back in the States with hot water and a fridge and my family, and although I’m thrilled (secretly counting down the days), I do plan on making the most out of this while I can. And if that includes juggling eating habits and washing my hair under the tap, then by all means so be it.

But what is great about our apartment is the size of it. It’s actually huge. And so when Thanksgiving started to roll about, and upwards of 40 American college students, away from home and getting a little homesick for their families, started looking for a way to celebrate the holiday, we opened up our door for a potluck dinner.

My roommates cooking Thanksgiving in our kitchen

Now, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday–I love having my family together, and we eat massive amounts of food (we take naps between courses), and to top it off, it’s always right around my birthday. I once skipped a band trip to Hawaii in high school because I would have had to miss Thanksgiving. So I’ll admit I was very hesitant to have another Thanksgiving at first. But wow. I think everyone had a phenomenal time. With a ton of food, we had most Thanksgiving classics (substituting turkey for rotisserie chicken), and then all sorts of “we’re in Morocco and what can I make here?” add-ons, like mac & cheese, lasagna (actually a staple in my household), and tiramisu. When everyone had their plates, we packed ourselves into our living room and went around to say what we were grateful for.

Corniness aside, there was something sweetly powerful about hearing forty students express their thanks. Mostly, we all said the same thing—that we were thankful for our families at home, and to be together, to be in Morocco with such amazing experiences behind and before us, to have met each other.

About half our guests for Thanksgiving dinner

I am thankful for all of this–for my friends here, for this funny little apartment, for the challenges and successes, for the opportunity my parents and school have given me. I missed my family Thanksgiving so much it hurt at times on Thursday. But I’m thankful to have had this one, with forty Americans and Moroccans packed into an apartment with no refrigerator, sharing one of my favorite experiences this semester.

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