Tuesday, April 22, 2014

the Perfect Outfit for a Moroccan Wedding

In February, I wrote a post about traditional Moroccan clothing for women. In the months since then, I've been searching for the perfect tukshita (a dress worn to special events) to wear to the two weddings I'm going to in the coming weeks! There are several ways to find the ideal garment for a wedding or fancy party.

First of all--the buyer must decide if she wants a tukshita or a caftan. A tukshita is two pieces of fabric.

In contrast, the caftan is one piece of fabric. 

From there, the woman can decide whether she want to buy, create, or rent the garment. 

Buy: I bought the tukshita I'll be wearing to the upcoming weddings. Tukshitas can range in price from about $60 all the way to hundreds of dollars. A nice tukshita from a store in the Medina would probably cost between $80 and $100, not including the belt that is worn along with it. Both the tukshita and the caftan are meant to be long on the bottom and on the sleeves, and are often covered in jewels! Bargaining is expected, and I shopped around for a few weeks before finally settling on a royal blue one! 

Create: One of my friends went to a fabric market, picked out fabric and then worked with a tailor. The tailor will ensure a perfect fit, but the process can take awhile. Price depends on how much sfifa (embroidery) the buyer wants, as well as the style of belt. 

Rent: I think this option is pretty ingenious--for women who have a limited income but don't want to wear the same dress to two events, stores will rent out caftans and tukshitas at low prices. I don't know why I haven't heard of stores like this in the U.S. for prom dresses--after all, it's unlikely that you'll wear the outfit more than once or twice. The renter leaves her national identity card at the store as collateral and rents out the outfit for a few days (Moroccan weddings often last several days, and at the very least, overnight). 

After a woman buys her tukshita or caftan, she still has to pick out shoes, jewelry, and handbags. Hair and makeup is also an event in itself--the expression "less is more" doesn't really apply in Morocco! I'm really, really excited for the upcoming weddings and I'll be sure to take lots of pictures to share! 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Enti Maghribia Fakat

"Enti Maghribia Fakat" translates from Darija to English as "you are completely Moroccan." In the past few weeks, my host mom has repeated this phrase to me, usually after I return from the hammam or the souk. "You are completely Moroccan."

While both my host mom and I know that I'm not completely Moroccan (and never will be), I can't deny that the past eight months have left a Morocco shaped imprint on me. I also can't deny that my time here is coming to a close far too soon--on June 11.

Thinking about going back is a funny thing. My family from the United States came to Morocco last week. It was so wonderful to see them again and to introduce them to my favorite places and people. Having them made me ponder just how much I will miss the home I've been creating here. As excited I am to see everyone and do everything I did pre Morocco, I wouldn't mind a few more months in my second home. My journey as an exchange student did not begin on September 1, when I left the United States, and likewise, June 11 is not the end of that adventure. But undoubtedly, the active part of my exchange will be over. Just as simply as I became consumed in my life here, I will be re-consumed by the rhythms life in the U.S. I will never be completely separated from my experience here, but I know that once my plane takes off, I will be distanced from it. No longer will I speak three languages (Darija, French, and English on a daily basis). No more cous cous Fridays and hammam Wednesdays. Like it or not, the era of Medina wandering and cafe sitting and playing with my host neighbors is coming to an end.

Ten months is a long time to do anything. In some ways, as much as I would love to stay in Morocco for a longer time, I'm at peace with going back. The future is exciting, and I came into this experience knowing that it would end. I don't think I knew how quickly it would fly by, but I also couldn't have predicted all the incredible people and places I would encounter along the way. I feel very at home in Morocco, and I have come a long way this year. But, in my opinion, living in a country that is not one's own will always be accompanied by some discomfort or confusion. That's not a bad thing--it is this element of challenge that makes living abroad such a transformative experience. As exchange students, we choose to come abroad--we were not forced to leave our home lands because of war or unrest. Instead we were lucky enough to make the active choice leave in search of something--even if we did/do not exactly know what.

Almost 10 months ago, I wrote this blog post, reflecting on why I wanted to live in Morocco for a year. I wondered: "Will this year fundamentally change me? What will my mindset be like, twelve months from today? Was it worth it?" I don't know this year has "fundamentally" changed me, but I do think I have changed. (I guess I'll find out for sure when I go home) As for what my mindset is like today? I would like to think the way I look at the world has been opened, for the better--that I'm more curious and aware person. And in response to the question "Was it worth it?" the obvious and honest answer is YES. What I have put into this experience (the difficult things--time, persistence, frustration) have given me the most beautiful things (family, friends, language skills, confidence).

In that same blog post, I theorized: "When I can walk down the street in Morocco and feel as at home as I do here, when I can point out my favorite cafe and give directions to a tourist, when the words of Moroccan Arabic roll off my tongue, when I have a family to hug and friends to laugh with, maybe then I will know why I came to Morocco." Well, I feel pretty at home when I walk down the street here--sometimes I get annoyed, sometimes I see something new that excites me, sometimes I'm just plain bored. The words of Moroccan Arabic don't exactly "roll off my tongue," but they make it out of my mouth, and I'm proud of that. I have a wonderful host family and great groups of friends, and I know why I came to Morocco--I came to Morocco to create another place to call home, and to know and love myself in the context of that place.

My journey is not over yet, I have just under two months left. Just as my thoughts two months before this experience began were mainly about Morocco, as my year winds down, I'm starting to think more about going home, about scary things like readjustment and reverse culture shock, and awesome things like eating Thai food and seeing my friends. My head is somewhat in the United States, though I'm definitely trying to keep it in Morocco.

And in terms of "calling Morocco home"--I hope I will call Morocco my home for many, many years to come. I'm trying to find a way to come back here as soon as possible--maybe to study abroad in college or to continue the work I've started in my YES Abroad Capstone project. To adventures to come and adventures gone past, I lift my glass of Hawaii, my favorite Moroccan soda. May these two months be a celebration and a continuation of this wonderful, wonderful year!

P.S. Next year's YES Abroad finalists have been chosen! You all have so much to look forward to, and if I can be part of your year in any way (by answering questions/sharing your excitement), please reach out to me! Congratulations!

on the train to Fez with my Dad and Bro