Celebratory Christmas Couscous

So, things around here have been fairly quiet. For more than a year, I have struggled to find my path – trying for months to get something, anything, with an international NGO. Then – in desperation – I decided to enroll into a 10-month postgraduate program at Humber College in Toronto. I moved to the big city, worked back at my old agency for the summer, but ultimately decided that the back-to-school plan still wasn’t actually the right fit. Toronto wasn’t for me, and neither was the idea of spending $10k on something that really had no guarantees – there is nothing that says it would be the ticket into the development world.

But still, I needed out. I needed a plan to make this happen – I need out of this Western lifestyle, and I can’t afford to keep jaunting around on my own dime. I need this to be sustainable. And believe it or not, part of me does crave some stability.

Enter: TEFL. Teaching English as a Foreign Language.

Brilliant. Why haven’t I thought of this sooner? Teaching English doesn’t have to be just a way for young kids to fund their SE Asian party-tour. It can also be a way to get somewhere I want to be, afford to live there, learn new skills, and maybe actually contribute something! And immediately, I knew I wanted to go to Morocco; the climate, the culture, the language, the food, the beaches, and the hammam – oh god, the hammam.

So I bought an online package, and started studying.

It took me about 2 months to complete (longer than anticipated) and honestly (& ironically), it didn’t teach me all that much about how to teach. Really, I learned more about how not to teach, but I suppose that’s nearly just as good.

Then I found a job posting that I really wanted. A well known institution with a good reputation in a great little coastal town that I’ve heard only amazing things about.

On December 9, I applied.
On Dec. 10, I heard back.
Dec. 11, I had my first interview.
Dec. 13, a request to submit references and a sample lesson plan.
Dec. 16, second interview.
Dec. 17, contract in hand.
Jan. 3, I fly to Casablanca.

8 days. Just 8 little days to go from “Oh man, I hope this works out. I really want this to work out. I need this to work out. I can’t spend another 7 months stuck here.” to “Holy sh*t, it’s happening. It’s actually happening. It worked out. I’m really going!”

And 15 days later, I’ll be off.

So in the meantime, not only is it Christmas, when everyone and everywhere is hectic and busy, but now I’m scrambling to see everyone and get everything I might need (which oddly includes a set of sheets. Why I can’t get them there, I’m not sure, but it’s been suggested to me twice by my director, so I’ll be damned if I’m not bringing them with me.) Criminal record checks, translations of my degree into French, booking flights, stocking up on my favourite products, baking treats for my dad – all things I’m getting done in the days before and after Christmas. Feeling a bit frantic.

And also, my heart is heavy with these goodbyes. I’m hopping around, trying to see everyone I can in this ultra-busy time. I welcome anyone and everyone to come visit, but I know that it’ll be a while until I see some of these faces again. I’m obviously thrilled about this next step, but it does always come at a cost.

So for now, as I put that aside, it does call for some celebratory couscous. My favourite. And soon to be my staple. I can’t wait.

photo by: Khonsali (wikicommons)
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At the table: Couscous Fridays

Yesterday was a sad day. Not because I was crammed onto a minibus to drive for 8 hours across the desert, still exhausted from the epic border-crossing journey the day before. Not because I was flying solo on the cursed Valentine’s day (in fact I had very little reminder of this, despite there being elaborate celebrations in its honour here). But no, yesterday was a sad day because I was missing out on Couscous Friday.

If there’s one thing I will miss about Maroc, it’s Couscous Fridays.

That, and the legacy of French colonization, left in the form of beautiful pastries..

But, back to Couscous Fridays. You see, it’s a lengthy process, the making of the couscous. Over here, it’s not a 20 minutes in a pot kind of deal. It’s a rinsed, soaked, and steamed in a special kind of pot, over the course of a couple of hours, kind of deal. And my god, the results can be incredible.

So while you can get couscous in say, marrakech, on any given day, it’s not the real deal. The real deal is made once, on Fridays. And as such, it had become my favourite day of the week. In Merzouga, the lady next door would bring us a dish of her couscous every Friday afternoon, bless her heart.

When I’m on my own, I could usually find some back-alley hole in the wall, where couscous was made for the working class. Yes ma’am, I will give you $2 for your magnificent couscous. Don’t mind if I do.

But now, I’m in the land of… pizza and chicken? I’m really not sure what the deal is with all the pizza joints in southern Maroc and Mauritania, but it’s a huge thing. And I can’t say I’m really a fan.

I miss Couscous Fridays.