Press 1 for French

Our first outing in Morocco consisted of dragging our jetlagged selves to Maroc Telecom to acquire new phones. Or, in my case, a Moroccan SIM card, since I bought my American phone unlocked. (Thanks, K.!) I bought a card with a “rechargement” of 100 “credits” for about 12 dollars. I’m not entirely sure what “100 credits” means or how long this will last me, but it’s been a week and I’ve made a few international calls and my phone is still kicking!

They told me adding the credits to my phone would be easy. Just dial 555, listen to the menu options from Maroc Telecom, select the correct option, and enter the code on the back of my “rechargement” card. So, shortly after getting my phone, I dialed 555. I heard a woman’s voice speaking Arabic. Inward panic. What is she saying??? Then another voice, in a language I could understand: “For French, please press 1.” I pressed 1. Sigh of relief.

I spent my first week here getting by with my French, metaphorically pressing 1 in every situation, restaurants, cabs, you name it. But it’s time to start giving Darija a try. If not now, then when? A couple of the girls in my program are awesome at launching into conversations in Darija with anyone and everyone, no shame, no hesitation, and asking them for help with the words they don’t know. I think that’s the way to do it!

My lunch break today provided the perfect opportunity. Two colleagues and I walked down the block to an electronics store in search of an adapter. (Pro-tip for travelers: Everyone reminds you to buy your adapters and converters, but don’t forget to check what kinds of plugs your chargers and appliances have! My laptop charger’s three-pronged plug wouldn’t fit into my adapter.) I didn’t know the Darija for “adapter,” but I did know the Darija for “do you have.” So I asked the guy behind the counter, “Wesh 3ndk (و١ش عندك) une prise americaine?” He understood my mix of languages and brought out an adapter. I asked him how much in Darija: “BshHal?” He answered “18 dirhams.” He’d understood me! I switched to French for the rest of the conversation. “This adapter has two holes; do you have one with three? Oh, you do? Excellent. And can I get a surge protector? Do you have a smaller one? Yes, that one. How much is it?” I walked out of that store with an adapter and a surge protector for a grand total of about eight bucks. Morocco is wonderful.

So I’ve used three words of Darija in a real-life situation! I’m looking forward to learning more and being able to use it, but for now, I’m happy to be able to “press 1” when I need to and fall back on my French.

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