By Jan Thibaut
HAF Intern, Graduate Student in International Development
So, there it was, the big day has finally arrived! On May 19th I bade Marrakech adieu and made the big move to the little village, Tassa Ouirgane, to be immersed in the Tashelhit language and culture. Together with the ever-so-helpful Amina, we had managed to find me a family willing to open their doors and arms to me during my assignment in the vallée d’Azzaden. Armed with some intensive Darija-courses fresh in the back of my mind, and accompanied by Si Larbi and Si Hassan, I arrived at Dar A Zrge.
Up until that point, I had only been given two pieces of information about the place I will be calling home for the next two months. Number one: the father of the household would be named Ahmed, and number two: they would have a son that could speak some French and that would be there occasionally. This son turned out to be Mustafa, who was still working in a restaurant in Marrakech and who would be arriving the next day. The rest of the family was present when we arrived around noon, and gave us a traditional Moroccan welcome: sweet mint tea, olives and olive oil, tenurt (bread baked in a traditional clay oven), and a chicken and lemon tajine. Following tradition, the women and children ate separately from the men, as we were outsiders from the family household. My introduction to the rest of the family would have to wait until later, while the three of us had dinner with Si Ahmed and talked about the house, the village, and his farm.
After lunch it was time for Si Hassan and Si Larbi to continue their journey to another community which HAF is working with, so I began my new life in Tassa by meeting my new family. Fatima was by far the one that stood out the most by her infectious laughter and twinkling eyes. She’s the mother of the family, always dressed in bright colours and seemingly balancing twenty tasks simultaneously, the true master of the household. Next up, here two children who were there that day: Abdeltif and Hadidjah. Abdelfin is the family’s youngest, an eleven-year-old boy with a bright mind and youthful energy blazing through him. Hadidjah is a quieter, more held back member of the family, charged with cooking amazing tajines and helping her mother run the household. Lastly, there is the elderly mother of Ahmed. Age has played its part on her, dulling her reactions and causing her to move, eat and speak with great effort. Although our interactions remain very limited, we give each other kind smiles and friendly words of greeting and small talk.
At the end of that first day I went for an evening stroll to explore my surroundings, when I stumbled upon a group of little girls from the village. Even though they were already running around, giggling and grabbing each other to start with, all of this multiplied tenfold when they saw me arriving. They joined me on my walk, which became dominated by them yelling their names, waving, whispering in their friend’s ear, and us changing the few words I knew in Darija for the few words in French they had learned at school. A little bit later it became clear to me where the boys of the community were hanging out: they were playing a football game down the road, on a dusty field surrounded by beautiful mountains bathing in the last light of a breath taking sunset. I don’t know what this experience will bring me yet, but I do know that I will live it to the fullest!
BIO: Blog entry documenting my arrival in my new home in the High Atlas village of Tassa Ouirgane, and meeting my Moroccan family.