Sometimes I try to think of stories that kind of "sum up" a larger experience that I am having here. They say a picture is worth a thousand words but sometimes I think a short anecdote can do the same thing. People often ask me what teaching in Morocco is like. I usually make a face that I can only imagine portrays the inner struggle that ignites at this question. How can I answer adequately and fully? Well, to put it simply, I can’t. I usually think for a few seconds and reply with something along the lines of Umm… It’s confusing. I’m always confused. It’s crazy. Err, I think I’m going crazy. It’s chaotic but also strangely relaxed. This leaves me feeling just as distressed about my answer as the question-er, who now regrets having asked me.
Well last week I had a brief interaction that might serve as just the anecdote I was looking for. So, as most of you know I gave my final exams on December 22nd and 23rd so that I could go home in time for Christmas. Last week, February 10th and 11th I gave make up exams for those students who had taken my exam and failed. Yes, that’s right - make up exams for an exam that my students had taken almost two months earlier. Yes, that’s right – make up exams mean that the next semester has not yet started. This caused me to think hmm, I really do wonder when classes will start and led to the following exchange between me and, for the sake of anonymity, an “important person” at the University:
I was wondering if you could tell me when the next semester begins. Sure, well I think that we will, yes, insha’allah, we will begin the semester next week. Oh really? I thought that next week was Mohammed’s birthday? Well yes, it is! Have you been in Meknes yet for Mohammed’s birthday? It is a very crazy day. No, not yet but insha’allah I will be this year. So, will classes start next week if it is Mohammed’s birthday? No, of course not. Okay, so maybe the following week? Yes, I think so. Probably. Insha’allah. Will the students attend the first week of classes? No, no. You shouldn’t come the first week, of course. So when do you think I should plan to have my first class of the next semester? Hmm probably in two weeks. Do you know what you are teaching yet? No, I haven’t been told yet but I have turned in my “wish form.” Right, well we will meet next week to decide the classes. Next week? What about Mohammed’s birthday? Oh yes, that’s right. Well the next week then. Okay so in two weeks we will decide the classes so maybe in three weeks classes will start. But the students won’t come the first week so in four weeks I will have to go class. Is that right? Yes, insha’allah.
Who knows, really. But if he’s right and I don’t start for four weeks that means I will begin my next semester the first week of March or about two and a half months after I gave my final exams of the previous semester.