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Communicating Through Shared Memories

Students having tea in the countryside

By Huiying M., YES Abroad 2023-2024 Morocco

In the US, I had always connected with people through chatting about anything and everything that came to mind. However, when faced with the obstacle of just beginning my journey with Darija, this proved a little harder than anticipated. In spite of that, through my lack of Darija knowledge, I learned that there are other ways to show love and spend quality time together.

This past week, my cohort had the opportunity to visit “bled” (The countryside in Darija). Although I had looked at photos of what the countryside of Morocco looked like, the reality completely surpassed anything I could imagine. Throughout the eight hour car ride from Rabat through Marrakech, Tiznit, and Agadir to our final destination of Bled I stared out the window in awe of the changing landscape. From sandy beaches, to scaling mountainsides, then barren hills with only argan trees shading the ground. The only thing that I was concerned about was the language barrier. Just as I had gotten a slight grasp of Darija, we traveled to a town where the majority of people speak Tamazight: an official language of Morocco and the Amazigh people of the area.

Huiying and Josiah on a hike

After arriving at our home for the next two days, we unpacked and had dinner on the “sta” (Roof) overlooking the mountains. Malika, our program coordinator, did the majority of translating between us and the family. After eating, the consequences of a long and tiresome car ride and food coma hit, resulting in everyone except me heading down to their rooms to get ready for bed.

It was pitch black out and I was captivated by the stars when I realized the only people left on the roof were the women of the family: the cousins, aunts, and myself. Without Malika to translate for me I was unsure of what to do. There was a silence that I wanted desperately to break. A million topics ran through my head, but when it came to expressing them, I drew a blank.

Morocco students help in the countryside

I was only staying with them for a few nights but I didn’t want to be just a random girl staying in their house who they fed and house. I realized in order to start this connection I couldn’t just rely on someone else to translate my words. So, I gestured to the stars and the sky and said “Wow! Zwein! Mashallah!” Smiling and giggling everyone enthusiastically agreed and one of the cousins pointed up and said “ittrane” attempting to teach me how to say stars in Tamazight.

Breaking the ice, we continued attempting to teach each other Tamazight and English words. I began trying sentences or words in Darija and they would try to piece it together through lots of hand motions which would result in a burst of laughter. Though simple, this shared moment just admiring the stars and communicating through a game of charades was the highlight of my trip. It showed me that speaking a language perfectly isn't what makes connections but instead laughter and shared experiences.