The Residency Battle

A few weeks ago, Obama made a huge step in immigration policy in the U.S.  He allowed some of those who have been “living in the shadows” to gain proper documentation, and plans to do so for 5 million immigrants.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I don’t think that the U.S. is necessarily the land of opportunity.  But for those who are trying to make a life there, proper documentation is the first step to moving toward their dreams.

After having worked with refugees in the U.S., I am so thankful to to have certain privileges.  I have a strong passport that allows me to travel easily, I am a native English speaker and can find work teaching English despite not necessarily having all of the qualifications, and I come from a supportive and loving family who is there for me if I am in need.  I am lucky enough not to understand how challenging it is to not have these privileges.

This month, I’ve been struggling to apply for my Moroccan work visa.  First, my employers didn’t give me my work attestation, then when they gave it to me it was in the wrong language and took longer to legalize.  I spent weeks reminding my employers that I need those forms, that my old visa was about to expire, and that if I got any closer to the deadline, I’d have to leave the country.  When I finally did get all the forms I needed, it took me hours to turn them in because I needed an extra form from the police station to pardon how late I was.  They did not care at all that it was not my fault!  I finally managed to leave my documents and am now waiting three weeks to pick up the receipt that allows me to travel in and out of Morocco.  Thankfully, I had no immediate plans to leave the country, because I can’t until I get that paper.

Despite all the worry this caused me, I had the option of leaving the country to renew my visa, and I have a fiancé and a family ready to help me when I’m in need.  Despite how negligent Amideast was, I always had a safety net.  So even though Thanksgiving is over, I’m thankful for everything I have that allows me to remain safe, both physically and emotionally.  I’m also (sort of) thankful to have a better understanding of what it is like to be a migrant in Morocco (meaning, a migrant who is not taken care of by an American school), because I hope to make some difference in the lives of those who struggle the most in this country.  But really Amideast, get it together!

At least the weather here is beautiful!

At least the weather here is beautiful!

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Happy Thanksgiving

Yesterday was my third Thanksgiving in Morocco.  I didn’t eat turkey, and spent most of the day trying to legalize the legalized copies of my work documents so that I can get residency, but it was still quite a good day.

In my morning class, I asked each student to say what they were thankful for.  The third student I asked said that she was thankful for her family, her friends, and for Teacher (that’s my name, apparently), because I am nice.  I thought it was really sweet and thanked her for saying that.  I continued on to the rest of my students, and every single one after her also claimed to be thankful for me…but I’m pretty sure it was just because they didn’t know how to say anything else.  Well, I’m thankful for their thankfulness, regardless of how genuine it might have been.

I invited a couple people over at the last minute for a (turkey-less) Thanksgiving dinner, and of course also made them say what they are thankful for.  Since I’ve been making so many people answer that question, here is my list:

-I am thankful for technology that lets us communicate with those near and far

-I am thankful for my church and for all of the support it provides; the aid it gives to migrants, the volunteer opportunities, and for the pastor who agreed to do the work of organizing our wedding

-I am of course thankful for my family, friends, and all of the opportunities and support I have in both my professional and personal life

-I am thankful for the fact that I can now start listening to Christmas music!

This is the only Christmas decoration I've got.

This is the only Christmas decoration I’ve got.

An Ordinary American

“The thought of becoming an ordinary American again scares me. We expatriates don’t like to admit it, but being foreign makes us feel special.”

Pamela Druckerman, An American Neurotic in Paris: The New York Times, 27 Nov. 2013. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/28/opinion/druckerman-an-american-neurotic-in-paris.html?_r=1&

One of the things I really like about living in Morocco is that I feel that I like myself better when I’m here.  I like that I am more thoughtful about my surroundings, my relationships, and my place in society.  I like having frequent opportunities to speak other languages, and I like meeting people who have backgrounds different from my own.  I like hearing about other peoples’ experiences and explaining my own path to where I am now.  I like that I can meet other Americans and realize that we have things in common, but also that we have a lot of differences.
America.

America.

It’s true, though, that when we are abroad we are in many ways extraordinary, which definitely does lend a feeling of being a little bit special.  Here are some things that make the life of an expat feel remarkable.
  • Nearly every day, at least one man tells me that I am beautiful/a princess/the love of his life/a spice girl.
  • Going shopping is much more exciting.  The foods are slightly different, and it’s fun to use new brands or even just to have packaging of American brands that are written partly in Arabic.  When I find something that I have missed, even if it’s something small (like decaf black tea) it’s really exciting.
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  • Nobody forgets who I am.  A neighbor of mine whom I had never seen before helped me replace my gas, and he knew exactly which apartment I live in.  I’m easy to remember when I’m the only foreigner.
  • If you don’t fit in, you can just chalk it up to culture.  If you don’t fit in to your neighborhood, it’s because you’re the only foreigners.  Unlike in America, where we would rarely claim to not fit in based on where we are from since everyone is from a different place anyway.
  • Most people back in the US think of Morocco as an exotic and mystical land.  I don’t think there is much awareness of Morocco among Americans, so whenever I said I was going to live in Casablanca, I could tell people were imagining me having cocktails with Humphrey Bogart every Saturday night.

    The Rick's Café in Casablanca is actually just a restaurant for tourists - the movie was filmed in a studio in the US!

    The Rick’s Café in Casablanca is actually just a restaurant for tourists – the movie was filmed in a studio in the US!

  • You have to think more about what it means to be you.  For example, being American means eating turkey on Thanksgiving.  But I’ve only ever eaten Thanksgiving turkey twice, both times in Morocco and so now associate that tradition with Morocco.  So I am like other Americans in celebrating Thanksgiving, but that doesn’t mean that I have had exactly the same experience as everyone else.
My first American thanksgiving

My first American thanksgiving

I’m not sure when I’ll be okay with being an ordinary American again.  There are a lot of things I’d miss about Morocco, but I’ll admit that I would also miss that feeling of being a little bit special!

‘Tis the Season

Now that Thanksgiving is over, my roommate and I have been able to shamelessly deck out our apartment with Christmas decorations.  We play Christmas music constantly, put cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger in everything we eat (or drink) and turn on our flashing Christmas lights in the evening.  Last night when just the Christmas lights were on and I was drinking tea by the window, I felt the same Christmas rush I used to feel for weeks leading up to the holiday when I was little.

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The only snowman you’ll see in Casablanca

Last year, I really missed the US after being gone for several months, partly because I missed my favorite foods.  However, this morning I went running by a sushi restaurant and a Mexican restaurant, and did not feel any (or very much) longing for those familiar cuisines (there are a lot of Asian restaurants in my neighborhood in Chicago!).  My secret, you ask?  Seasonal foods.  I mentioned that I’ve really been enjoying pomegranates.  Well, I’ve also been enjoying pumpkin, first in jack-o-lantern form, then in soup, and most recently in bread.  Bread!  And this morning, as I was listening to Michael Bublé’s All I Want for Christmas is You and chopping vegetables, I thought, why not put more vegetables in bread?  So now I’ve got zucchini bread and carrot bread.  And I’m feeling generous, so I’m even going to share my recipe with you.

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Zucchini on top, carrot underneath, deliciousness everywhere.

1 cup mashed pumpkin/grated zucchini/grated carrot (choose one)

1 cup flour (I used white flour because that’s all I had, and I actually substituted 1 cup of semolina in the carrot bread, which gives it a nice nutty flavor and some more texture)

1/2 cup plain yogurt

Baking powder

1 tsp salt

3/4 cups sugar

2 eggs

1/4 cup oil

1/4 cup water (I used lemon-ginger juice instead)

1 big spoonful of ginger and of cinnamon (I like it with more spice!)

Mix together and bake for about 45 minutes, and then eat your vegetables!  I guess now you know why I’m not a food blogger…my recipes change each time I make them depending on what I have, what sounds good, and what my mood is.  Have fun experimenting!