Why is there a chicken in this man’s laundry room?
So, apparently some people are spending their summer in ways that *don’t* involve sitting in front of their computers, scouring the internet for whatever site is streaming the latest episode of The Newsroom. Some people have even gone to OTHER COUNTRIES.
We’ve been checking in with them to find out what they’re up to. This week: Spectator online editor Jake Davidson, CC ’14, who is in Morocco.
1. Where are you right now and what are you doing there?
I am currently in Fez, Morocco studying Arabic at the American Language Institute in Fez. I live in the “Old Medina,” which is beautiful and oozes history, but does not have such amenities as clean water. I study in the “New Medina” where the water is clean, but the buildings are boring and everything looks post-soviet in a dilapidated sort of way.
2. What is the craziest thing that’s happened during your time there?
It’s hard to pick just one thing because the mundane becomes fascinating in Morocco since everything is done completely differently. I think the craziest thing that’s happened is that one day I came back to my host family and there was a chicken in the laundry room. I asked my host father if I could take a picture and he said yes but that she was sleeping. Later, I asked if we were going to eat the chicken and he indifferently said a word can mean either “maybe” or “probably” so I’m pretty confused. It’s been a week and the chicken is still there. I don’t know if we’re keeping it as a pet or what.
There are also cats everywhere. As in, you will never go anywhere and not see a cat. One night I was walking home and stepped into an alley with over 15 of them just lying around. It’s like Hitchock’s The Birds except way more cute and fuzzy. At night you can hear them fighting if you stand on the roof.
3. What do you miss most about being home?
Air conditioning. The temperature at times can get up to 114 degrees, and it radiates off the sidewalk making you feel like you’re in a stove you can’t escape from. Going inside actually makes it worse because there’s not even a breeze anymore. I asked about sleeping on the roof to escape the heat, but my host father says that I’ll get eaten alive by bugs.
4. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned during your time there?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that someone society can exist with virtually zero regulation or law enforcement presence. For example, the people in Fez don’t need your precious “traffic laws”, “street lights” or “safe places to cross the street”. Here, the responsibility for not being taken out by a taxi is placed directly on the pedestrian. Crossing the road usually involves me carefully calculating when a break in traffic is coming, and then sprinting to the other side while Moroccans point and laugh.
The Old Medina is even worse in this regard because there is no distinction between streets and sidewalks. Scooters, often with an entire family riding on a single one, race through busy markets at breakneck speeds. Walking while doing anything other than vigilantly listening for the sound of a motor behind you virtually guarantees you will end up decorating the front of whichever 1950s era moped you didn’t hear coming. Street racing is also tacitly legal since police can usually only be seen around the royal palace, and my friend’s host brother takes him racing every day.
At any given moment, we are one flat tire, distracted driver, or runaway livestock (there was an article in the local paper bemoaning the recent prevalence of cow-car collisions) away from total carnage, but somehow, that never seems to happen.
5. What’s most different about home and where you are now?
The biggest different between Fez and New York is that here, I stand out. And don’t mean this in a good way. To be white in Morocco is to be instantly labelled a tourist, and therefore, a sucker who should be cheated out of something at the nearest opportunity. I am approached at least once per day by someone wanting to “guide” me to a store, cafe, or other attraction so the owner can overcharge me and they can receive a commission.
Vendors in markets will follow you down the street trying to get you to enter their store and children will follow you for blocks begging for money. Taxi drivers will claim to not have a working meter and then vastly overcharge you. It’s gotten to the point where my friends and I instinctively mistrust anyone who speaks to us in English. These negative experiences represent a tiny fraction of my time here, but it’s impossible not to sometimes wish that you blended in as well as everyone else. That you could enter a store, or even walk down the street, and have it not be a big deal.
6. Any last words?
Check back next week, when we’ll be talking to…someone else who is also abroad!
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