When I came upon The Cantaloupe Tales a few weeks ago, I was reading through study abroad posts on WordPress. It’s my favorite tag as I do love me a good ole study abroad blog – one that has pictures of the Eiffel Tour or the experience of a student eating her first Italian gelato. But what I enjoy the most is when I find ones that are unique, filled with character, and so funny that I almost wet my pants. Well, Cantaloupe Tales is one of those blogs. The blogger, Katie, is witty. She can tell a great story and has made me laugh to the point that Hubby has come in our office to see what is going on. If you’re having a bad day, read this post from Katie. I promise you’ll be tearing up from laughter by the end. Katie’s humor doesn’t end there. I have had the wonderful privilege of emailing with her and she answered a few questions about her blog and experience in Morocco. I hope you will enjoy her writing as much as I do.
Why did you name your blog The Cantaloupe Tales?
You know, I don’t really have a good reason, except that it was the first thing that popped into my head when I sat down to create it in January. Maybe I got confused between which snack I wanted to eat and what I wanted to name this new blog; I do that sort of thing when I’m hungry. It also sort of sounds like the Canterbury Tales, which makes me sound educated and clever. The first post is called “A Melancholy Tale,” (get it?) and it’s a very short, very dumb story full of puns about two star-crossed lovers who also happen to be melons. The last line is: “‘I love my melon lover,’ sobbed the melon, “but now we cantaloupe!” I know, I know. I can’t believe I have readers either.
What surprised you most about Morocco?
Healthcare. Is. So. Cheap. (For US-ians, anyway). When I came down with intestinal parasites (avoid those), I dragged myself out of bed to a private practice Moroccan doctor, who made us wait forever but only cost 200 dirhams (approximately exactly $22.7110). Then I went to the pharmacy and got my meds. Long story short, you just walk in and tell them what’s wrong with you. For Moroccans, I know that this isn’t exactly chump change, but as someone whose paycheck (when employed) comes in dollars, it was a bit of a relief. Also: don’t eat unwashed salads. Parasites suck (ugh, literally. Ugh, get me off the Internet).
Also, when inside a Moroccan family’s house, everyone wears their pajamas all the time. One gets dressed to go out. Brilliant! It was fantastic. Bring your jammies.
Did you pick up any local habits/customs while living abroad?
I read this question to my mother, who laughingly replied, “Well, look at what you’re wearing!” She was right: I’m wearing a Moroccan gandora, which is a traditional garment that my host family gave me the day before I left Morocco. I also wear harem pants now. Other than my increasingly dubious wardrobe, though, it’s hard to say: when living in Morocco, I picked up plenty. I ate with my hands, mastered the squat toilet and bucket operation, and grew accustomed to haggling in the souk. Lots of small things come to mind, tiny and huge lifestyle changes that add up to making a new home as the months pass.
What have I brought back to the U.S., of all these customs and habits? I’m still not sure. People use forks and toilet paper, and it’d be crazy to try to haggle at Target. I like to think I’ve brought back something, though. A puffy Hello Kitty bathrobe? That little purple rug? I’ll let you know when I figure it out.
From your experience, was it harder to go to Morocco or to come back home?
BOTH. I know that’s sort of a weenie answer, but let me explain. I struggled with adjusting to Morocco: I missed my friends, culture shock, the works. Yet adjust I did, and as my airplane departed Casablanca, the last thing I wanted to do was completely change my way of life—again. I love Morocco and its rich culture, history, politics, and mostly, its people. Slipping into all of my old U.S. habits was easier than forming new Morocco habits had been, but once home, I realized that nobody (except for a select few) knew or really cared about Morocco. That’s been weird.
So both were challenging in different ways. No matter which way the cookie crumbles, though, you’ll forget where your comfort zone was and replace it with some good, wholesome awkwardness. I’d do it all again, and not change a thing. Well, except for waiting so long to see a doctor about those parasites. Seriously.
What three pieces of advice would you give someone who was planning to live/study in Morocco?
1. Travel as much as you can, Morocco has pretty great public transit. Go to Chefchaouen and Asilah! Climb Mount Toubkal! Run around on beaches! Play soccer with Moroccan kids!
2. Don’t be too paranoid about people ripping you off in the souk. Get some ballpark prices from Moroccans for certain items, and haggle away! Don’t be shy! But honestly, you’ll end up paying a bit more for some things because you’re foreign anyway. When it’s a difference of 10 dirhams, what’s one more dollar to you? You’re boosting their economy. Smile. Make friends with the shopkeepers. Have a ball.
3. Learn Darija and talk to people. All the time. Never stop talking to people! Ladies, just ignore the catcallers, but talk to people! That’s the point, right? Crossing cultural and linguistic boundaries. Seriously, learn Darija. It’s fun. Chat ‘em up! Good luck! Have fun!
4. I know you said three, but I just thought of an important one. Bring hand sanitizer. There’s never soap, and when you’re using a bucket and water, you’ll want to wash your hands thoroughly. Oh, yeah, and eat lots of couscous. Go to a wedding. Beware of leben. Okay, I’m done. Thanks for reading!