My city is small, and people are starting to recognize me and realize that I live here. I’m that American girl. I’m not a tourist. I’m here to stay. And I now have a growing collection of unofficial Darija tutors holding me accountable for my progress, in the form of Maroc Telecom employees and vegetable vendors.
I walked into Maroc Telecom to pay my first internet bill. I didn’t think the man behind the counter recognized me, but he did. (Not the Bob Marley fan who drilled a hole through my wall. A different Maroc Telecom man.) I handled the whole transaction in French, because when it comes to money I don’t want to take any chances. And because, let’s be real, French is easy and I’m lazy.
“Elizabeth,” he said, giving me my change, and using my middle name as- for some reason- people here often do. Maybe because my first name means “me” in Arabic and that’s confusing. “How’s your Arabic? Are you learning Arabic? Are you learning the Moroccan language?”
It may have just been small talk, but I interpreted that as a “Use Arabic next month, when I see you again.” Homework assignment duly accepted.
I was buying beets in the vegetable market a couple days later. “Cinco dirham,” said the young man behind the counter.
The guy at the next vegetable stand shouted over, “She speaks Arabic!” And the conversation switched to Darija.
“You speak Arabic?”
Me (in Arabic): “No, I don’t speak any Arabic at all. At all.”
They thought this was hilarious.
“Yes, you do! Are you Spanish?”
“No, I’m American.”
“American?!?” (There are not many Americans here.) “Bravo, America!”
“But I live here now.”
“You’re studying here?”
“Yes, I’m studying Arabic and Spanish. And I’m teaching English.”