The Land of Opportunities

When I was about to land in Chicago, the TV screens on the airplane showed a video welcoming passengers to the U.S.  It showed green lawns, kids chasing golden retrievers, and people of every skin color.  Despite having lived the majority of my life in America and already knowing exactly what it looks like, the video made me pretty excited about arriving in the land of opportunity.

The photos in this post are of bread I've made.  This is yogurt bread and date-sesame bread.

The photos in this post are of bread I’ve made. This is yogurt bread and date-sesame bread.

America isn’t really as perfect as it looks on that video, although that’s not much of a surprise.  However, after being away for a year, there are several things that have surprised me.  First would be the no guns allowed sign all over Chicago (thanks to the conceal and carry law being passed), which is on a lot of public buildings; it’s odd to think that people need to be told that weapons do not belong in public buildings.  Not that I wanted to take a gun into the library, anyway.  Men wearing their pants so low that their butts hang out is not new, but it is still kind of surprising to see after not seeing it for so long (maybe some of them could use a djellaba).  Occasionally getting catcalls when I’m walking to my internship on the South Side is also not new, but is pretty disappointing – I thought I was going to have a break from that!  It is much easier to go for runs or walks here without worrying about what I’m wearing, but it’s not as different from Morocco as I was imagining it to be all of last year.

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Oatmeal bread

Another surprise came to me at Walmart.  I made my first ever trip to the all-American store last weekend, and only now do I really understand the purpose of giving up sugar.  Walmart is full of packaged foods, nearly all of which have sugar or High Fructose Corn Syrup.  It’s in cereals, peanut butter, bread, yogurt, and pre-prepared meals.  Someone shopping only at Walmart would truly be challenged to totally give up sugar.  And what’s more, the food doesn’t taste the same here, even if bought at fancier stores than Walmart.  The carrots aren’t as sweet, the eggs aren’t as rich, the olive oil doesn’t taste like olives, and the Philadelphia cream cheese has ten ingredients instead of the four in Morocco’s (or Spain’s) version of the exact same brand.  These were difficult discoveries for me when I arrived; I love cooking and baking so much, so I want the ingredients to taste good!

Challah (egg bread)

Challah (egg bread)

I know from working with refugees that new immigrants (and even those who have been abroad for quite a while) have trouble adjusting, unfavorably comparing everything to equivalents in their home country.  It takes a long time to get used to little differences and to both appreciate what is better in the new country and to stop comparing it to the old.  It’s oddly not that much easier when the new country is also where you are from.  I guess I’ve got six more weeks to work on it.  Well, at least my bread loaves are pretty!

This isn't bread!  It's South African Bobotie, a dish made with lentils (or meat), bread crumbs, and egg/milk/banana topping.

This isn’t bread! It’s South African Bobotie, a dish made with lentils (or meat), bread crumbs, and egg/milk/banana topping.

A Good Day

Now that it is winter, the days have become short and the nights are getting colder.  Sometimes if I teach an extra class after the normal school day ends, I see the sun rise on the bus on my way to work and then see it set over the ocean on my way home.  It’s always beautiful, but sometimes a little depressing; it means I have no daylight hours away from work!  It certainly does make me appreciate the weekends, though.
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Sunsets are most beautiful on Fridays and on weekends.
Last weekend, I stayed in Casablanca and didn’t really do anything special.  But just being here, seeing friends, enjoying what is around me, and taking the chance to rest made it a great weekend.  It’s the little things that make all the difference!  Here are some of the highlights.
  • I drank avocado juice for lunch.  Who knew that would be so good?  It’s smooth, a little tangy, and sweet because of the orange juice it’s mixed with.  My boyfriend had dried fruit and nut juice, which you sip but then chew.
  • I went for two good runs in my neighborhood, and saw some nice things along my way.  For example, it seems that strawberry season is beginning.
  • I went to the top floor of a restaurant in the old medina, and could sit and watch everything going on down below.

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  • A member of the church choir encouraged me to go to Wednesday bible study, where there is always Indian food, and said that since it is over late he will give me a ride home on his motorbike.
  • I twice had to get off the tram at a random stop because the rest of the line wasn’t working, but then I realized that I could just walk home anyway. Casablanca isn’t so big if you’re willing to walk a bit!

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    Some of the streets in the centreville are very pretty, in a falling apart sort of way.

  • I got my ears pierced after about a decade of wanting to do so.  The man who did it told me the starter earrings were really good quality, made in USA.  I told him, so am I!  This weekend my plan is to go shopping for earrings, though I would actually kind of like some made in Morocco.

Today is the first day of my winter break, and my mom just arrived on Wednesday.  We are planning on drinking avocado juice but not on seeing many sunrises.

My Own Report Card

I just gave out report cards to my students to track their progress in their first semester of school.  I don’t think anyone is going to give me a grade on what I’ve learned this fall and on my adjustment to post-college life, but I wrote notes for a final essay anyway.  Here is what I have learned in the first semester of my freshman year of life.

  • Everything costs money (except walking).  This is a lot less of a problem if you are getting a regular paycheck.
  • Working 40+ hours a week is really tiring – but it makes you truly appreciate the weekends.
  • Staying healthy takes time (time to exercise, rest, form positive social groups, and buy, chop, wash, and cook vegetables)
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    These flowers are healthy.

  • I looooove to cook.  I like using seasonal vegetables, I like making up recipes, and I like baking bread.  I don’t, however, like following recipes or instructions.
  • I am Christian.  I was a bit confused about what I believed throughout college, so it’s nice to have figured this out.
  • It is really nice to have Christian coworkers because you never have to defend your beliefs.  However, I think it is also nice to have friends of other religions.
  • I love learning languages.  I think Standard Arabic is one of the most beautiful languages, and I also really like speaking French.
  • My sister is really cool.  I also knew that already, but in this past year we’ve had really good trips to visit each other abroad.
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We also take super cool pictures of ourselves.

    • I’m really thankful to have a roommate.  I like being alone sometimes, but I much prefer to be alone together.
    • I really like to run, and feel a lot better about everything after running.  I already knew this, but the fact that I’ve been able to continue to run regularly has been wonderful.
    • I need to complain more.  My roommate complained to anyone who would listen about how cold our apartment is, and someone anonymously gave her a huge comforter.  I, however, continued to suffer silently.
    • I’m never going to be an amazing singer, even though I do enjoy singing.  That’s okay, I guess.
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    Who wouldn’t want to be able to sing like these guys? They’re certainly enjoying it.

  • I like listening to stories from my students, whether they are adults or kindergarteners.  I don’t really like disciplining them though, so I think I am best suited to working with small groups.
  • I really like Morocco.  I like my friends here, I like the tram, I like my church, I like the ocean, I like the stores on my street, I like the architecture, and I like avocado juice.  I am very happy living here and do not want to leave, at least for a while.
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    Waiting for the tram isn’t so bad when it’s this sunny.

In three more days I’ll be on winter break, and in only one my mom will arrive!  I’ve got to rest up so that I’m ready for the second semester of my freshman year of life.