A Fortnight Before Freedom

We move into our apartment in two weeks. TWO WEEKS. It feels like forever away. We are desperately craving freedom. Although we adore our host family, there are constant trials when you live with other people in such close quarters. It will be so sweet to be able to read alone without a concerned mama demanding to know whether or not I’m sick, without hyper kiddos bouncing around me while screaming “Look! Look! Play with me!”

For now, we are just enjoying our last few weeks as “drari” before we are allowed to bloom into adulthood, hah. As glorious as that horizon looks, we will definitely miss the delicious homemade food, the challenging Darija practice, and the wonderful individuals of this household. If you’d like to e-meet the lovely family hosting us, here are some portraits of them:

Mama Rqyyia


A very honest, no-nonsense, straight-to-the-point lady. Unless she’s making a joke. Her favorite joke is to mess with Robert. Sometimes by pretending that she didn’t understand his Arabic when she actually did. Sometimes with comparisons to me.  “Zaina zwina, wilakin Yassine muskin” is her favorite rhyme. (“zwin/zwina” = beautiful, “muskin/muskina” = poor thing/an expression of sympathy.) One time, we were showing them pictures of our wedding in Agourai, and Mama Ryqqia kept going on and on about how zwina I looked (this lady does not help regulate my ego, heh heh heh). After about fifty photos of this, Robert jumps in between us and sarcastically shouts “HEY I’M RIGHT HERE, THANKS.” Mama Ryqqia winks and shrugs, “I guess you’re zwin too.” Much laughter from everyone. They are hilarious when they go back and forth.



Our 23-year-old host sister. She is generally very quiet and reserved. Her favorite activity, much like Mama Rqyyia’s, is to make fun of Robert. Anything we say in Arabic is bound to be repeated (aka mocked) by Kareema with much laughter. I definitely don’t blame her—we probably do sound ridiculous, hahahaha.



Our 34-year-old host sister. She technically lives in another neighborhood with her husband and her three kids, but she and the kids are at Mama Ryqqia’s almost every day. Amal is a spitfire. She’s passionate, assertive, loud, and sometimes even kind of inappropriate (in a funny way). She does a lot of winking and lewd gesturing at us as a joke (…hopefully as a joke).



Amal’s 15-year-old daughter. Smart and responsible, but still a kid at heart. When she told us that she wants to learn lots of languages and travel the world, her mom turned to us and said, “She wants to be a flight attendant when she grows up.” Fatine disagreed: “I want to be a pilot!”



Amal’s 9-year-old daughter. The sweetest. Suffers swiya from Middle Child Syndrome. She’s also a dynamo dancer! All Moroccan kids I’ve encountered know how to dance like pros from a very young age—but Kawtar is definitely the best I’ve seen. One time, we had an argument about whether or not butterflies are bugs (I was on Team Yes They Are Bugs and she was on Team No They Aren’t), so now my nickname for her is “Farasha” (butterfly in Arabic).



Amal’s 5-year-old son. Seriously the cutest being to ever live. He’s such a sensitive soul, which means he’s kind of a crybaby, but also the most loving person ever. He’s one of those people who just feel too much emotion that they can’t contain it. It’s not a five-year-old thing either (I’ve known a lot of five-year-olds), it’s a Youssef thing.  I just about died when he told me that I am dear to his heart. He has two little pet birds and watching him take care of them is just the best. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything cuter than Youssef lovingly changing the water for his little birds while talking baby talk at them.



Their generosity in opening their home and hearts to us is inspiriting. For the next two years, no matter how tough things get, it is amazing to know that we will have a place to go where people will greet us with delight, a place where people are not afraid to correct our Arabic, a place to go on Fridays to fill our stomachs with cous cous!


Julie & Robert


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