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: