Une Année de Bonheur

A few weeks ago, my husband and I celebrated one year of marriage.  It has been a good year, and to me it felt like it flew by.  Despite all of the good moments, we hope that the years will only keep getting better!  Here are some things we learned and some things we enjoyed in one year.

  • We learned that we have to communicate.  Anyone can tell you how important it is to communicate in a relationship, but it is not easy.  Generally when we resolve a conflict, we realize that the problem was that we had not effectively communicated when we raised the issue.
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We love to communicate!

  • We don’t always have to like the same things.  At the beginning of the year, we could never agree on what to do on a Sunday afternoon.  Maybe he wanted to watch a movie, but I wanted to read.  Finally we realized that we can hang out together even if we are doing different things.  It seems so obvious now that I write it down, but it is just an example of the fact that we can enjoy our differences instead of trying to cover them up.
  • Along with the last point, something I’ve enjoyed is that we come to like more and more of the same things.  It’s a good day when one of us thinks to bring home some bananas, and a free Saturday morning now almost always means a walk to the beach.
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He’s a bird and I’m a ballerina, but we both like to fly.

  • We have to be aware that we don’t always understand things in the same way.  Of course, we’re coming from two different cultures, and don’t always have the same idea of how things should be.  But sometimes it’s just a different way of seeing the world, unrelated to culture.  For example, when I asked my husband if he was nervous about our upcoming move, he said that he thought we’d struggle to make ends meet at first, but after a few months we would be fine.  He was only nervous about our physical and financial situation, whereas I had meant to ask if he was nervous about making new friends, adjusting to a new country, or dealing with culture shock.  Generally my reactions are more emotional and his are more logical, which is something we have to take into account when we discuss big decisions.
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We were not going for the same angle in this picture….

  • One of the best parts of being married is just hanging out at home.  My favorite things to do are to eat dinner sitting on our carpet, dance around the house, or brush our teeth together.

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  • We (mostly) learned to forgive.  I have a habit of forgiving my husband for something and then getting mad at him again later when I’m worried about something completely different.  Sometimes you just have to let it go.
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And then enjoy some ice cream!

Wedding Bloopers

Thankfully our photographers took hundreds of pictures, because some ended up a little silly.  Here are the highlights.

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How many people does it take to pick up a pair of newlyweds?

When I asked the photographer if he could take a picture of our rings, this classic pose is what he came up with:

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Please notice how the rings are not visible.

After all of those photos, I started to get tired.  My sister helped me out by taking this fish-face photo, which allowed me to stretch my smiling muscles.  But it didn’t give me quite enough energy to jump for the next photo!

My husband must have stronger face muscles than I do, but his feet were really starting to hurt.  Luckily, the fact of taking his shoes off provided new photo opportunities.

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This photo is actually a very accurate representation of our relationship.

After the embassy wedding, we took some photos by the mausoleum in Rabat.  The unfinished pillars seem to be made for wedding photos.

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My sister had clearly been practicing for this.  And on the left is my Mom.  Isn’t she pretty?  She’s smart and funny too.

But the main reason why are photos came out so well is that we practiced a lot beforehand, anywhere we could.

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Are we going to kiss, or are we pigeons?

 

The Wedding Post

After all those posts about my fiancé and about wedding preparations, it looks like I completely abandoned my blog during the actual wedding.  Better late than never!

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“Kiss me on the cheek so you don’t mess up my lipstick!”

We got legally married first, at the Central African Embassy.  This step was very informative because Chancellor read all of the laws concerning marriage in the Central African Republic at the beginning of the ceremony.  We learned that if my husband and I want to move, he must choose the house.  If he is unable choose the house, I may do so.  If neither of us can, our children may choose.  And if even the children are unable to choose a house, the dog may be permitted to do so.  Luckily, the “livret de famille” includes space for the names of ten children, so probably at least one of our ten future kids will be decisive enough to choose where we should live.

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This is a like game of tug-of-war, men vs. women.

The next day, we got married in our church.

Prayer

For this part, we wore traditional wedding clothes.  The pastor who had first introduced us was the one who married us, and she gave a wonderful sermon about how our relationship had grown.  Afterward, we went home to change into our party outfits for the soirée.

We vowed to always match our outfits, among other things.

We then rode our motorcycle off into the night, finding ourselves in sunny Oualidia the next day (just kidding, we took the bus).

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“This photo was supposed to be of me!”

The benefit of writing this post almost a year late is that I can confirm that we still love each other!  And if you could see what I was wearing in the above photo, it did in fact match what my husband was wearing.  We were serious about those vows.

C’est l’heure de Maman

After the two weeks of winter vacation, a few of my students are having trouble adjusting to being away from their moms all day.  My mom was here visiting me for the whole break, so I also have to adjust to life away from my mom.

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My dad was here too, and is also photogenic.

I mentioned in my post about my sister’s visit that having family come and see what my life is like gives me new perspective on my situation.  My mom is especially helpful for the obvious reason that she knows everything.  How to clean marble floors (vinegar), what to do with exhausted yet excited three-year-olds (duck duck goose), why my yeast bread didn’t rise in 45 minutes (my apartment is too cold), and what a galette is (whatever you want it to be).  She also shares my interest in cooking mystery vegetables, drinking Nescafé Gold, walking everywhere, and watching movies in French that were not made in France.  It was a lot of fun to have my mom stay with me, but just because she’s gone doesn’t mean I’m back to the old routine.

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We also both like looking at jewelry.

My mom came to work with me for four days during the three weeks she was here, and was excited about every one of them.  It helped me realize that if she’s excited about my job, I can be too.  Sometimes it drives me crazy, but sometimes three-year-olds are hilarious.  It’s also pretty nice to have a job where I get to run around on the playground and color every day, not to mention the world-class pastries the school chef delivers right to my room.  I also found a new appreciation for other aspects of my situation; just last weekend Chicago had dangerously cold weather while my mom and I were enjoying drinking avocado juice outside in sunny Casablanca.  My mom also met some of my friends, so it was wonderful to have her perspective on my social life (if you’re wondering, my friends are “varied,” some are “adorable,” and some know where to get really amazing birthday cakes).

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Sorry, we already ate them both.

My students occasionally cry during class because they want their mothers.  I’m not going to cry, because I’m 23 and not 3, and also because I don’t think my eyeliner is waterproof.  But if I did want to cry, I would remind myself that my mommy will come back, and there are plenty of fun things to do before then.

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My dad takes cool pictures of my mom taking pictures.

Moms certainly are capable of fixing everything, even when their kids are older than three.  I’m taking a lesson from my students and remembering that you don’t miss your mom if you are having fun.  But, there’s plenty of space for her in my apartment for when she does want to come back!

Homesickness

Last week, I was looking through the photos on my computer in order to find one to use for my last blog entry.  I stumbled upon a series of photos from my second year of college of my friends, beautiful fall weather, and us smiling big smiles.  A wave of homesickness washed over me.  But when I thought about it, I realized that what I missed when I saw that photo wasn’t “home,” but just one situation I have really fond memories of.  I do love fall weather, the smell of the wind in the pine trees in the Midwest, and leaves changing colors.  I did have really good friends that year, though I haven’t kept in touch with all of them.  I also really liked the life of the student, where I could mostly make my own schedule.  But I wouldn’t say I really miss any of those things (except for maybe not having to wake up at 5:30am), and even if I were looking at that same photo in Chicago, I would still have felt that longing for the time that it was taken.
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The majestic halls and skyscrapers of Chicago, from above and below
Living in Casablanca just feels like life to me, not life away from home.  I have good friends here, I have a good job, I exercise regularly, and I cook the foods that I like to cook.  I have something to do every weekend, and have people to talk to about anything I’m worried about.  So when I feel sad, its not necessarily homesickness; rather, it’s just sadness with the idea that everything could be perfect somewhere else, particularly somewhere where my mom would cook me dinner.
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This is my mom.  Isn’t she pretty?  She’s smart, too.
Last week when I was sick I called my mom and told her, “I’m home sick!”  Which she heard as “I’m homesick!”  But I know that even when I have problems here, going home wouldn’t solve them, it would just be an escape.  I’ve thought about this a lot lately because some of my colleagues have mentioned being homesick.  They express a desire to be elsewhere, not always home (although trips back home for the holidays are drawing near for some).  It’s too bad that not everyone loves living in the country that I chose to live in (twice!), and that they haven’t discovered things to love about this place yet.  But living abroad is hard, and sometimes the things that might have been clear at our “home” might not be clear elsewhere.  Some day, we’ll look back on photos of sunny Morocco and feel a wave of “homesickness,” longing for the days we spent here!
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Awwww.

Sisters

Last weekend my sister came to visit from London, and we spent three days together in Casablanca and Rabat.  My sister is pretty cool if you don’t know her; she studies infectious diseases, she worked in India for two years, she speaks an impressive array of languages (and their Pig Latin variations), and she has pretty amazing self-timer camera skills.ImageOur outfits kind of match because we’re sisters.  Also, our mom made the sweater I’m wearing.  Aren’t we a cool family?  My dad is also cool, if you were wondering.

I visited my sister last fall around this same time, when she had just moved to London and I had been in Morocco (but not yet in Casa) for only a few months.  I think I visited her for a total of four days, but it seemed like forever because it was so challenging to get there from Ifrane, which is up in the Atlas Mountains and does not have a train station.  It also seemed like a long trip because everything was so different; the weather, the people, the scenery, the language, etc.  I also remember it giving me a lot of perspective on my own situation, which was certainly the case again with this visit, even though I didn’t go anywhere.

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We tried to match our outfits, but our eyes already matched.

Sometimes I get totally caught up in my own life, my job, my friends, and my concerns, and a quick sister-visit reminds me of who I was before I came here and the values I grew up with.  I realize how my opinions are shaped by my family, and how others might have strong opinions based on what they were taught.  I also had a really good time bargain shopping, eating ice cream in November, going on long walks and on runs, watching Hindi movies with dubious messages, and matching our outfits to maximize our photo-taking opportunities.ImageI’d re-gift her flowers any day!

I hope my sister visits me again soon!  London is not so far away, and we are really so good at being sisters.

A Little More Tea in my Sugar, Please

As a foreigner in North Africa, it has often struck me how strong traditions are.  For example, Moroccans are very fond of their sugary mint tea, and all of the Sfaxiens I have met married and had children at a young age without ever moving far from their families.  One of the Tunisian English teachers at the school where I work introduced himself to me by saying, “I am 47 years old and am married, of course.”  Family life is important, and family gatherings usually mean drinking sweetened tea or coffee, eating sweets and fruits, and having large meals with plenty of meat.  The men sit around and smoke their cigarettes all evening, and even the youngest children stay up until midnight.  These traditions seem to be strong in Morocco and Tunisia, and help hold families together.

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My family is perhaps the complete opposite in many ways.  First of all, we would never put so much sugar in our tea, and none of us smoke.  We eat a lot less and get plenty of exercise, and are generally much more focused on health.  Our family is very small and spread out across the U.S., and we rarely have gatherings of the entire family.  Our approach to family life involves less traditions, and perhaps focuses more on individual relationships than on the collective family.  I’d say it’s also probably better for dental hygiene and reducing the chances of diabetes.  I think I’ll keep my family’s style of bonding, but I’m definitely happy to enjoy sugary tea with another family when given the chance.