Saturday, December 8, 2012

Wait... You went in... *GASP*

Well I've finally found time to write in my blog. If you all remember my last post, I promised that I would write more details about my trip. I could talk about countless experiences but I decided to talk about the one I found the most interesting: the public hammam

for mentions of partial nudity
Basically a public hammam is the Turkish equivalent of a steam bath or a sauna. In Morocco there are two types of hammam: public and private. The whole group had the wonderful opportunity to go into one of the public hammams of Moulay Yacoub which are famous for their sulfur springs (apparently it's good for your skin). The experience was quite... interesting.

I was quite overwhelmed at all the women wearing nothing but their underwear (some of them  with children clinging at their legs) swarming around like a pack of bees in a hive. After regaining my senses I stripped down and handed all my bags to what I conveniently call the bag-keeper. Slowly but surely, the whole group ventured into the hammams core a.k.a. the sulfur pool... and that's when I knew what "overwhelmed" REALLY meant. There was now barely any space left to walk much less sit and I was starting to sweat profusely. It as clear upon observation that the women were definetly NOT there to relax. They were srubbing their skin with soap and brushing their children's hair with unmatched ferocity.

By the way, this is the soap they used. Neat huh?

On occasion, a woman would dive into the sulfur pool with one or more knee-high buckets and fill them with sulfur water to the whoots and cheers of the other women. They would then give the buckets to their owners who would use the sulfur water in the bucket to wash themselves. The best thing about the public hammam is the women's utter willingness to help each other. Thoroughly shaken the other girls really wanted to get out but I was determined to get the full experience and as such I leaped into the sulfur pool and HOLY MOTHER OF- IT WAS SCALDING!!! DX

NO WONDER THOSE WOMEN WERE CHEERING!!! Despite the heat, my ever-stubborn self kept swimming in the pool to get the legendary skin-treating properties of sulfur. When I finally got out- to the immense joy of my peers- I dashed towards the exit and before you could say "beet red face" I was out of there. If given the choice I wouldn't go in again but it was a new experience and as such it was totally worth it.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Oh. It's YOU ALL.

It's been a long time. How have you all been? I've been really busy...

Above: My pathetic attempt at apologising for the lack of posts

Most of you have probably abandoned this blog but here I am. So about 1-2 weeks ago the whole YES group went on a trip to Fes. We stopped at Meknes and Volubilis on the way there.

Volubilis Mosaic
Most of you have probably abandoned this blog but here I am. So about 1-2 weeks ago the whole YES group went on a trip to Fes. We stopped at Meknes and Volubilis on the way there.

Gates of Meknes Medina
Fes Tannery

Fes Tannery
Stables at Meknes

It is really late so I only had time to quickly post some pictures. I will write more details later.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Mega Mall and Equestria

Hey Everyone! I've been busy lately with school so sorry I haven't been updating frequently. Not much of note has happened in the past week. However, my host family and I visited the Equestrian Club yesterday where I got to see some people training for a horse tournament. Apparently, members of the royal family often visit there (which was why there were a couple of beautiful cars parked there) so that was kinda cool.

After that, we went to the Mega Mall which is a giant shopping mall (obviously from the name). The second floor is where all the clothing is found while the first floor is where all the food is. I was surprised to hear from my host mother that there was a bowling alley and an ice skating rink in the middle. I have never gone ice skating, so I'm quite excited to try it out the next time I come. All in all, a pretty good day.

I would have taken a better picture but the giant glass door was blocking my way :(

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Hey everyone! Sorry for not writing in the last 12 days which have been quite hectic.

Why is that? Because I have been attending l'Institut d'Agdal (french school) since Wednesday. I have already described what the school looked like in a previous post so I am going to write about the classes I'm taking, the education system, and the students.

The six classes I'm definitely taking are: French, History-Geography, Biology, Physics-Chemistry, Math, and P.E.

*I'm not taking Arabic since the classes they offer at the school are way too advanced (although I'm taking beginner courses at AMIDEAST). It's unclear whether I am going to take Spanish since I haven't been to the class yet. It's also unclear whether I'm continuing English class since it's so easy.

Since I am attending a french school I can only tell you about the french education system. First of all, students adhering to the french education system rarely have a choice when it comes to the classes their taking which is why I take classes with the same group of students (some classes however combine two groups). It's also worth noting that classes are much longer than the ones in the U.S., lasting up to two hours (However, I don't attend all my classes each day). In addition, there is school on Saturday.

So far, the students have been very friendly and frankly I don't find them much different from the variety of American high school students. The have also been very helpful when it comes to letting me borrow their textbooks (the lack thereof significantly factoring into the hecticness). Despite the help, homework has its highs and lows. I get moody whenever I get stuck on a problem which only increases the sense of elation I get from correctly solving one. I'm slowly but steadily adjusting to this.

I'm sorry I can't add more details but it's getting late and I need to get to bed. To those who are still sticking by after my period of inactivity. Thanks!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Medal-Worthy Saturday

For those of you following this blog, you are all well aware that I haven't written anything about my activities since Friday. Since I am incapable of coherently writing down my experiences of the past six days in this post, I decided to only write about Saturday, September 1st (which is the most interesting of the six).

The first interesting experience of that day started when my host mother handed me a white envelope and told me that it was filled with pictures of my host sister's birth. Curious, I opened the envelope and gingerly took out the first photo. It was a picture of a a sheep with a cut throat. I also saw my host father standing over the sheep with a bloody knife clutched in his hand. After recovering from the shock, I turned to my host mother and asked her if it was customary for people "to kill a sheep" after a successful birth. Before answering my question with an affirmative, she lectured me about the difference between "killing" and "throat-slitting". "Killing" was crass and ruthless as opposed to "throat-slitting", which was only done after the word "bismillah" (praise be to god) was uttered. She also assured me that all sheep that undergo this process definitely go to heaven. I am glad we had that conversation for it was very insightful.

At around 6:00 p.m., my host mother brought me to the family reunion which was in her mother's house. After introducing myself to all my family members the french way (which is called "faire la bise"), I sat down next to my host mother's fifteen-year old niece, Najua, and struck up a conversation. After having eaten some delicious almond paste-filled pasteries and sipped some overly-sweetened mint tea (Moroccans love sugar), Najua brought me to her nearby house and gave me a bracelet as a gift which was quite sweet of her. As she showed me around the house, I noticed that there were onrnate carvings on the sides and corners of the ceiling (which made me realize how dull most American ceilings are) and that the living room was lavishly decorated (the pictures I took were pretty bad so I'll post pictures later on). I have only seen two Moroccan houses since most Moroccans don't own any houses (which is made apparent by the apartments lining the streets as far as the eye can see) so I can't confirm whether these traits are common in them.

I haven't mentioned that Najua showed me what a hamam was since she wasn't profficient enough in French to explain to me what it was. It's basically a public Turkish bath house (more details in later post). I heard that they were really relaxing and I look forward to trying one out.

Although this may not seem to be a particularly exciting day to most people, I think it is (so far) the most rewarding day I had in Morocco.

Going to bed now. Bye!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


I finally have internet at home! I'm sorry I wasn't able to wrrite for the last three days. As promised, I am posting pictures of Chellah (Sala Colonia), the Kasbah of the Udayas, the Mausoleum of Mohammed V, and the Hassan Tower.

Streets of the Kasbah of the Udayas which ws orginaly built in 1140 A.D. by the Almoravids to defend themselves against the Almohads.
Beach near the Kasbah.
These are the gates to Chellah which used to be the Roman town of Sala Colonia.
It was later abandoned in 1554 and used as a necropolis by the Almohad Dynasty.
In the 14th century, the sultan Abu Al-Hassan built many monuments such as this minaret.

This is the Mausoleum of Mohammed V

As you can see, a lot of work went into it.

It is as intricately designed outside as it is on the inside (this picture of the ceiling doesn't do it justice).
This is Mohammed V's coffin.
This is the Hassan Tower which is the minaret of an incomplete mosque which was intended to be the world's largest. The minaret only reaches 140 ft (44 m) which was onlyy half of its intended height.

This is the eel pool in Chellah. Women come here and throw eggs in the pool with their names written on it. Apparently, if an eel eats the egg, the woman will be fertile
Royal Tombs were later added to Chellah. 

Friday, August 31, 2012

Jumeaa (Friday)

Guess what?

Kalyn, Cheila, and I went to meet the principal of our school (Institut de l'Agdal "Gustave Flaubert") and chose which branch we're taking! Our choices were: the Science Branch (physics, chemistry, biology, etc.), the Economics Branch (economy, math, etc.), and the Management Branch (marketing, etc.). I chose the Science Branch, Kalyn chose the Economics Branch, and Cheila chose the Management Branch. Upon taking a quick tour of the school, we noticed that the small classrooms (each holding approximately fifteen students) aren't all connected by a hallway. Instead, they are connected by a courtyard (you have to walk outside the building in which a classroom is located to get to another classroom).We were told that we had to be driven somewhere else when it was time for P.E. or sports and althoough we aren't required to take any language classes (Spanish, Arabic, or English) we are free to do so. I'm really interested in taking Arabic classes and considering assisting in an English class. I can't wait for school to start September 12th!

Comparing myself now to my first three days in Morocco, it's difficult to believe that I've only been here for six days. I feel very much at ease with my host family and noticed that I'm walking at a slower pace during my trips from my home to AMIDEAST and back. I am also able to cross the street without having to stick closely to another person. To me, this is quite an accomplishment since crossing the streets in Rabat is like playing "Frogger" (the only difference is that you can put a little faith in the drivers). Overall, I have had a pretty good week! I'll write more information later. Bye!

I also went on facebook and found out that Jonathan posted some pictures of Chellah, the Kasbah of the Udayas, and the Mausoleum of Mohammed V. He has given me permission to post his pictures until I get internet access so look forward to that in the next post!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Dashing to the Finish Line

For those of you who were wondering what the "Rabat City Challenge" (mentioned in last post) was, it was basically a scavenger hunt. All the YES scholars were split into two teams. Team #1 was Manal, Jonathan, Kalyn, and I while team #2 was Noa, Caleb, and Cheila. Each team was given 150 dirhams (About 17 dollars) and a sheet of paper with a list of things to do. The first team to complete the list and make it back to AMIDEAST headquarters wins a prize. One of the places we had to go was the Medina which is a section of the city where commerce takes place. Lucky for my team, Manal speaks Arabic (although she doesn't speak the Moroccan dialect, Darija), allowing her to quickly navigate through the narrow, maze-like streets which were crowded with people. You can find just about anything in the Medina and what really astounds me is that most of the merchants know where everything is. You can ask a jewelry seller where you can find some pasteries and he/she will be able to tell you. We also walked past the Parliament of Morocco and saw some protesters in front of it (lying down, playing chess, and smoking). Our teams kept meeting at different points in the city which increased the competition. However, both teams decided to split up in order to finish the last few things on the list quickly. Jonathan, Kalyn, and I were at AMIDEAST waiting for Manal to arrive (we couldn't call her since Kalyn had her phone) while Noa was clutching her telephone to her ear and yelling at Caleb and Cheila: "RUN! RUN!". They were the first ones to arrive which meant team #2 won 100 dirhams for a cafe outing. Manal later came and told us that she was waiting for us at the tram stop. Yesterday afternoon was really fun. Today, I took my french class in the morning, walked back home for lunch, and walked right back to AMIDEAST for a class on culture shock and what to do if someone starts catcalling. I have to go back home for dinner, so later!

Caleb was able to post pictures of YES scholars at the Hassan Tower and the Mausoleum of Mohammed V on facebook. Here they are:

Kalyn in front of Mausoleum of Mohammed V

Noa in front of Hassan Tower

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Crossing of the Threshold

Hey Everyone!

I said in my last post that I would show pictures in this post but unfortunately I only have access to AMIDEAST (America-Mideast Educational and Training Services) computers right now whihc won't allow use USB ports. As soon as I get internet access at home I will post pictures (this will include picture of the Kasbah of the Udayas, the Hassan Tower, and the Mausoleum of Mohammed V). I met my host family before-yesterday which includes Mrs. Nadia (the host mother), Mr. Ralil (host father), Lina (14-month old baby host sister), and Fatima (the maid). They are very accommodating and open to conversation. Mrs. Nadia and I touched upon various subjects during our conversations (Mr. Ralil was out-of-town and arrived yesterday evening). She is much more knowledgable about United States pop culture than I initially thought. So far, I tasted everything the family has served me and it is delicious.

This is a Moroccan dish called tajine which is a slow-cooked stew with meat (usually lamb or chicken) and vegetables. [This picture is taken from the internet]
Sadly, I cannot communicate with Fatima since she doesn't speak any French. Every morning I walk from home to AMIDEAST headquarters (hoping during the 10-minute walk that I wouldn't get any obnoxious catcalls) to take extensive three-hour french lessons. I walk back home for lunch and I go to AMIDEAST at 3:00 for whatever activity they have planned for us. So far, this is what I noticed about Rabat (realized I forgot to write down which city I live in):

1: The sidewalks are really uneven (unlike New Orleans which have terrible streets but decent sidewalks).
2: Some Morccans dress like the majority of Americans (In case you are wondering, we do not have to wear a hijab or a burqa).
3. Morrocans have the TV on most of the time (although they are not really watching). There is also PG-13 rated material on TV.
4. There are cats EVERYWHERE.

I have to go now for the "Rabat City Challenge" (AMIDEAST was very vague about this). I'll write about that later. Bye!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Strangers in a Strange Land

I FINALLY MADE IT TO MOROCCO!!!!! I am currently staying in a hotel but I'm moving tomorrow with my host family! I am feeling both nervous and excited about this. It's pretty late now so I'm not going to go into any details in this post. The next post will be much longer and will include pictures. Later!

*I just realized that I misspelled the word "beetle" in my last post. Let's all just pretend that never happened...

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Hey Everyone! It's past midnight right now but I'm going to write about how I spent my last day in New Orleans. After spending some time with my parents at PJs, my dad and I dashed to the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium. Although some people (like my mom) are grossed out by insects but my dad and I find them fascinating. The variety of colors and sizes they come in is absolutely astounding! We also had some fun tasting some bug filled treats...
"ATTACK OF THE GIANT COCKROACHES!!!" starring my goofy dad.

Chocolate Chirp Cookies

I then spent some time with my siblings and a close friend of my parents' at Barnes and Noble. My parents then joined me for a great big meal at Applebee's.

And now I'm going off to bed after saying goodbye to my beloved video games... Big day tomorrow.
We gamer chicks are still alive.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Hey Everyone!

Here's a dorky pic of me eating beignets at Cafe du Monde.
My name is Milena and I am a fifteen-year old girl living in the (crazy) city of New Orleans with my family which consists of: my mom, my dad, my little brother, and my (very) little sister. All that is about to change in two days...

I have received a scholarship from the Kennedy-Lugar YES Abroad Program which sends a select number of American high school students (YES Abroad scholars) to live and study for an academic year in countries with a significant Muslim population so that they may educate other Americans about their country's culture.

I am absolutely ecstatic about spending a whole school year in Morocco (with six other YES Abroad scholars)! I am looking forward to learning about Moroccan culture which has an interesting mixture of Spanish, French, and Berber influence (I also look forward to improving my French).

I have been spending the last few days doing activities I wouldn't be able to do where I'm headed. I spent this afternoon eating beignets at Cafe du Monde and frozen yogurt at Pinkberry's with my dad. Tonight, I am helping my mom pack my suitcases (we should have done that a loooong time ago) and if time permits I am going to watch an episode of BBC's Sherlock with my family (might not be available in Morocco).

This is my first blog so please be easy on me. I hope this will be informative and engaging to all you readers. If you have any questions please comment below. Later!

Here is a link to the YES program's official website: