First things first– for those of you who don’t know… we are OFFICIALLY volunteers!!! We arrived in Larache on Thursday and have spent the time with our new host family and catching up on things.
Previously, volunteers in Morocco were required to stay about a month with their host family. Within that month-they would get acquainted with their Dar Chabab (youth center) or wherever they were working, find a house, get a post office box, and become integrated in their community. What our first month looks like, however, is a little different. The Peace Corps has given us only* two weeks with our new host family– which means 14 days to find an apartment/house. This process of finding an apartment/house, as you can imagine, is VERY different than that in the US.
Here are the differences that I have noticed:
1) We don’t speak the same language— although I have been able to use quite a bit of Spanish (a small hooray for me), we still have a barrier because we are speaking to each other in a second language. And I am generalizing a bit here– I know that there can be language barriers anywhere in the world.
2) There is no forum for listing all of the apartments that are available… like Craigslist or classifieds, anything like that. And even if there were– it would be written in standard Arabic– which we can’t read anyway. Also, there is very* little even on the internet… so who do we talk to?
3) local store owners… people on the street, the Peace Corps has advised us that once you build relationships with people or even when you first meet them– they will be happy to help you find something.
4) the price of an apartment is negotiable… depending on your relationship with someone. For example, because we are Americans– people will assume we can pay a lot, maybe 2000 dirhams for a place that is normally 800 or 900 dirhams (note: that 1 dollar is about 8.7 dirhams). So if we can convince them that we are volunteers and working for free– that will help. Also, if the landlord has a good relationship with someone you know.
So…. knowing all of this- Tyler and I accepted the challenge. We are absolutely determined to find a place to live in two weeks, so in order to keep ourselves motivated… I am going to blog about our experience in finding an apartment!!
Note: there are quite a few volunteers in our group that either have volunteers near them to help with this process or have a volunteer in their site that may have scoped out some places. But* because we have a new site and a relatively new area for the Peace Corps to be in… we don’t have either. So that adds another dimension.
Our progress thus far:
Thursday-May 24: Our host dad asked us how long we would be in Larache– when we told him two years, he looked a little overwhelmed, like maybe we would be living with him for two years. Although we had decided beforehand to mention our needing an apartment later– we thought this would be the optimal time to tell him so that he didn’t freak out.
Friday-May 25: We mentioned to our boss (also known as a mudir –pronounced MOO-DEER) and supervisor that we were looking for a place to live. In broken Darija, I accidentally said that we needed to find it after* two weeks, rather than during these two weeks. Hopefully… that can be changed.
Sunday-May 27: We were lost trying to find our way to the Dar Chabab (which is about an hour and a half walk from our host family’s house) and we stopped to ask a store owner where it was. A really nice and jolly man offered to take us there. Since he was so nice and jolly… we decided to try our luck and asked him if he knew of any places that were for rent. In French, Spanish and Darija– he told us that he knew of some places. AND* that he is friends with our mudir at the Dar Chabab AND* our host dad! Who knew that in a city this big– we would randomly meet someone like this!!! Very* exciting! So after we were done at the Dar Chabab– our mudir took us on a walk and said that Mito (pronounced Me-toe), the nice,jolly man, would help us and that we would try to talk to people as well. So we went to a baker and then another store own, and hopefully tomorrow we can see an apartment!
That is all for now– hopefully we have a positive update for you tomorrow!!
Days until we should have our own apartment: 10