Cultural Misunderstandings & Moroccan Integration

English: Extension of Moroccan Arabic (Darija).

English: Extension of Moroccan Arabic (Darija). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I need to talk about yesterday. Out of nowhere, yesterday became my biggest step forward with regards to integration.  At the same time, I made a mistake that will likely come back to bite me.  All in all, the day was busy and worthwhile.  I went to sleep unsure of how to interpret everything…but that is happening more and more here in Morocco.

The day started normal.  I woke up late.  I walked around town.  I read at the park.  That part of my routine is set.  It’s perfect for what I want to accomplish here.  I need to integrate, so walking around daily is a must.  I meet at least one new person a day.  The reading in the park is something that came out of nowhere.  After being told that “I’ve never seen a person in Bhalil read in public,” I decided to do it every day.

When I got back, my family whisked me off to lunch at my mother’s parents’ house.  I’m starting to get to know everyone in the family.  More importantly, my Host Uncle has taken a liking to me.  He tries harder to communicate with me than anyone I have met here in Morocco.  After lunch, he took me to his barbershop.  At first, I thought I was going to be forced to get my hair cut.

Turns out I was wrong.  The barbershop is kind of a local hangout.  A dozen people came and went throughout my three hours there.  I met several friends of the family.  We had conversations about language, indoor heating, money, and clean energy.  It was fantastic.  Later, the English teacher at the local high school dropped by.  We had a long conversation and suddenly I have another counterpart in my work here.  Those three hours at the barbershop integrated me as much as a week’s worth of walking around town.

I headed back to my family’s house.  As we ate, the conversations somehow turned to how long I’m spending in Morocco (two years).  That quickly turned into whether or not I would marry while in Morocco.  This isn’t the first time a conversation has started about me being single.  Back in Bouderham, it was an ongoing joke between the postman and I.  So when the topic came up, I gave an overenthusiastic, “No, no, no, no.”

This is the first time the subject came up with my host family.  They were confused why I was so adamant.  It’s not that I’m adamant against it…it’s more that I can’t see it.  Back in America, I really wanted to have a house and a good job and be more like 30 when I started a family.  If my ideals play into it—religion, writing, etc..—I just don’t see marriage anywhere in the picture during my two years here.

Problem: How do you translate that into a language you’ve been studying for two months?

I missed my opportunity to explain myself.  Instead, my host mother asked me if there was a girl back home.  I said no.   My mother decided my “no” was a little sheepish and interrupted it as a “YES I DO!”  Before I could do anything about it, the conversation flew by me.  I was only asked one more question, “Is she still studying at University in America?”  Unsure of what else to say, I just said yes.

So my host family things I’m halfway to engaged.  This being on the heels of me suddenly feeling single again.  I want to set the record straight with my family…but bringing it up would be inappropriate.  The best I can do is set the record straight if they bring the subject again.  But what am I supposed to say?

Back in America I would explain it eloquently, “We never officially dated, but we were defiantly together.  We never officially broke up, but we are definitely not together anymore.”  In Darija, I will inevitably sound like a bubbling idiot.  I live in a culture where dating is considered inappropriate.  I quickly discovered that it’s not as much of a big deal as I was led to believe.  Still, it is quite a strange situation.

Every day here is unexpected.

I love that.

But it’s exhausting.

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