Complete submersion in a world far different from your own can be overwhelming. But when met with a cup of mint tea, it can be a life changing adventure.
Living with a new family is crazy. Living with a family who speaks little to no English is out of this world. To put it simply, my Moroccan family is amazing. They take every chance they can to teach me a new word, and do everything in their power to make me feel welcome not only in their home, but also in Morocco. “Satarah ey satarah, es zwina es zwina,” (which means Tarah is beautiful) is the song FatiHa, my host mother, sings throughout the day. Yes I know, Satarah is not my name but it does flow better than Tarah, and so the song remains the same. This song helps me get through the struggles of learning the language, almost as if she is reassuring me that everything will turn out fine.
FatiHa has a way of getting me to do things that I usually would be hesitant about. For example, going to the Hammam, or the public bathhouse. I knew this would be an experience during my time here, but I never expected it to come so soon in the process of immersion. I mentioned to FatiHa that I wanted to go at some point and before I knew it I was standing in a room with many other woman getting almost completely undressed. Glancing around put my nerves at ease because everyone was stripping down and getting ready. My host sisters, Fatimzehra and Asmae reassured me with smiles and giggles that everything that was about to happen would be exciting.
Next thing I know I’m standing in a sauna like room with women and very small children everywhere. I glanced down and saw toddlers sitting in buckets staring up at me as if to say, “Yes, I’m scared out of my pants too, literally out of my pants.” Fatimzehra directed me and I took my seat, soon buckets of water surrounded me and the dumping began. As the water cleared from my eyes squishy brown goo was placed in my hand and again Fatimzehra directed me. Soon my whole body became brown as I smeared the henna all over, followed soon after by more water.
After we rinsed, we went into another room where we did more rinsing, however, while I was rinsing, my host sister Asmae came over and shoved a piece of cake in my mouth. I am assuming this was meant to replenish me and keep me hydrated. After I swallowed the massive piece of cake we went back to the hotter room. Next came the loofa, which was used on my whole body, and I mean my WHOLE body. Never in my life have I lost so much dead skin, but the feeling was incredible. Finally we rinsed and finished our general washing of body and hair. The Hammam lasted about one hour and I loved every second of it.
Moroccan culture has taken me over. Times have been hard but the experience has been incredible thus far and I look forward to the journey ahead. Roads less traveled can be scary and often times overwhelming but if you keep your heart and head open then your life can be changed forever.
Tarah finds her roots in Colorado. She has lived in South Africa, studied in Rhode Island, and now lives in Morocco. Itto, as some call her, is a soul-searching world traveler, photographer, writer, and Peace Corps volunteer based in Boumalne Dades, Morocco. As for the future, she has no idea who she will be, maybe a published author, maybe a coffee house owner, or maybe a forever vagabond.