The Alouis, my second family.
March 16, 2016
“Monji?” Saeeda would ask my roommate and I. “Monji” is a phrase in the Darija dialect described as food. Every morning Layla and Saeeda, who were our homestay housekeepers, prepared a tray of cookies and Malwi (a traditional Moroccan bread), along with honey, Nutella and jelly, orange juice and strong coffee on the breakfast table to start our day.
I would get up every day at 7 in the morning to go to school, expect on Fridays. It was so easy for me to get up in the mornings because I looked forward to the delicious Malwi and coffee Layla and Saeeda would prepare, and of course my classes.
I walked every day to school, which would take me about 10 minutes. In Morocco there are no rules that state pedestrians have the right of way to cross streets–cars would drive by without a care. I had to get used to crossing the streets without following the cross light rules. I was extremely hesitant every time I crossed, until it became the norm for me to follow this Moroccan system.
I returned to my home after a long day of classes, being in a classroom with no air conditioner in the summer for six hours was extremely exhausting. Saeeda always greeted us with a big smile and asked if we were hungry. I said yes every time. Layla and Saeeda took such pride in everything they cooked, and they cooked dishes that took hours to prepare–even the whole day– so I felt guilty saying no when they offered or even to leave any food on the plate.
Layla was a slim lady, probably in her late 20s. She was very to the point and blunt. She loved to dance and would always want me to dance with her, and would joke around with me and say I had the perfect body of a dancer. Layla had an attitude about her as well, and there were times when she would show her frustration if things didn’t go her way. She was also a curious person, she walked into my room one day when I was doing my makeup and wanted me to do her makeup as well. We created a friendship and she made the attempt to tell me about her family through pictures and videos of her wedding.
Saeeda was a short, curvy sweet individual, more like a motherly figure. She was also young, but carried herself very respectfully and shy. After dinner was done I made the effort to wash dishes for them, but Saeeda would always stop me from doing so. She was attentive to my roommates and my needs. She had never encountered people who were not from Morocco, so she was always curious about what I wore and looked at me with interest every time I spoke with my mother over the phone. She was great at complimenting me, and whenever I stepped out of the house she would say “Anti Jamila!,” which means you are beautiful, in Arabic.
Although they did not speak any English, we seemed to communicate just fine through charades, and through my dearest brother, Mamoun. He also lived in the house and was the son to my homestay parents. He’s extremely brilliant for a 16 year old; was fluent in three languages, Arabic, French and English, and he was learning Spanish.
Mamoun became a like a true sibling to me, he was always so happy about life, and he always had a group of friends over for dinner. He played the piano very well, and one day he played my favorite song by John Legend called, “All of Me.” He was the popular kid in school and always had a different story to tell about his adventures. He knew he was the perfect young boy.