How fast the time has flown and yet it seems as if we’ve been in Morocco far longer than just two weeks. Spain was fantastic. Between wandering the city of Granada, getting to know the people in the program, and going between bars and clubs for tapas and dancing until the early morning, I was rather exhausted by the end of the excursion. It was definitely worth it though, the Alhambra was beautiful, the people fun-loving, and the overall experience was great. After several days with the group in Granada we left for Tangier, via ferry across the Straight of Gibraltar.
The busy port city was our first real exposure to Morocco and I should probably say more about it but in all honesty the food was what left the biggest impression on me. For lunch our first day, a group of about six of us went to a restaurant recommended by Daniel, our resident director. Though we were followed and accosted by a faux guide, my first real Moroccan lamb tajine was worth far more to my tastebuds than a few dirhams and a little bit of hustling.
The next morning we got a tour of some as the city, as well as some free time to explore before hopping on the bus to Meknes. Everyone was excited to fully unpack and move in to what would be our home for the next several months. After a five hour bus ride, we finally reached Meknes around sunset.
First impressions of our apartment were amazing. They are huge and have anything one could possibly need, from a fully-stocked kitchen to school supplies, medicine, and notes of advice left from past ISA students. The tile floors will probably freeze our toes off in winter but for now they offer blessed relief from the heat.
Thursday (8 Sept 2011) was our first full day in Meknes. We all got our first tour of the university, which is especially cool because it’s in a fort. Then, after a ceremony in which the professors welcomed us with speeches, Moroccan sweets, and mint tea, we took the language placement exams. I ended up placing into Beginning Arabic II, right were I should be according to the number of chapters I completed at UCSD before I left. However, this meant that I would not have Arabic classes at all until halfway through the semester. You can guess how excited I was about that.
Sure enough, I lasted one day of classes without Arabic before starting to audit the Intermediate Arabic class. Knowing I was in a class that should by all rights be above my head, I was surprised when the professor complemented me on my Arabic and insisted I should be enrolled in the Intermediate level. There are whole tenses the rest of the class knows that I haven’t seen before, but I am learning so much. The class is demanding and I need to study a lot more than I ever have before, but it is an excellent challenge and I feel like I have already learned as much in two weeks as I did in two quarters back home. It’s hard, it’s crazy, it’s slightly insane, but I love it.