When abroad, I seem to develop a lot of surrogate family members, who inevitably become the richest part of my travel experiences. Yes I enjoy beautiful vistas and the thrill of the Travel-Unknown (also known as Customs) and sampling new foods and racking up the stamps in my passport. However, my most memorable experiences usually have to do with the friendships I’ve made.
Part of my Moroccan family includes Anas and Jihane, my little brother and sister. I began tutoring Anas in English a few months ago…but mostly our language sessions just end up with him schooling me in Arabic. He’s so patient and kind, even if his Arabic is way over my head sometimes. He is 19, studying Business Management in a private school, and his English is already amazing. It’s so interesting to have to be conscious of my own language and to try to explain its function. For example, how do you explain the phrase: “The proof of the pudding is in the eating”? There is not even a French word for “pudding”, so I ended up making some connection between “trial and error” and “goat yogurt”. The poor kid.
I’ve also been integrated into his own family, and his mom has become like a cool aunt to me. Caitlyn and I have been over there to eat some fabulous meals, and his mom has promised to teach me to make pastilla- a traditional Fessi dish made with phyllo dough and pigeon meat. That’s right.
I have to say, one of my favorite Moroccans is Anas’ 15-year-old sister Jihane. She reminds me of a cross between myself and my (real) sister at her age: ambitious, spunky, smart, overachiever, bookish. Such a cute girl I want to take under my wing. Also in the family is their 4-year-old brother, Islam, who prefers to be called "Spiderman".
Caitlyn and I decided to have an “American Dinner Party” for Anas and Jihane, complete with Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, tomato soup, chocolate milkshakes, and of course, Jazz. Anas was polite, but not thrilled with the food. Maybe because the soup tasted like watery pizza sauce. The things I put this kid through… It was fun to talk in American accents and to see that the shebab (youth) across cultures are similar in so many ways: idealistic and disenchanted, with a deep love for Facebook and Twilight, and a penchant for rock n’ roll.
Also, nothing like a chocolate milkshake a la Americaine to warm you up on a cold winter's day in Fes. Sorry Anas...