It is the third morning of our rural homestay in Bougamez. I wake up on my sleeping area on the floor, comprised of a padded sheet over a folded blanket on top of a traditional rug. This arrangement was surprisingly soft and comfortable. I have an entire room to myself. It is a large room, and almost a mirror image of the family’s TV room, minus, of course, the TV. Some of the other Dragons, I know, are either sharing rooms with host siblings or sleeping in their house’s common areas.
I go out into the house and find it quiet. No one is awake yet. I continue out into the yard and find my host mother baking bread is a traditional outdoor oven. I stay and watch her until she is finished, and then we enter the house together. By now, more people have woken up. We sit down for a breakfast of fresh bread, olive oil, jam, and tea and are joined by Amina, my 22 year old homestay sister, her sister-in-law, and her two young nieces, who chatter excitedly in the local Amazigh dialect, of which I understand very little.
After breakfast, I go out and work in the fields with the sister-in-law and the mother. We walk about 20 minutes to a field of young apple tree seedlings. First, we carry water from a small canal to each of the seedlings. When that is done, we begin cutting the long grasses using small sickles and then load the cut grass onto the family donkey to be transported back to the farm.
We return to to house for a traditional tagine lunch, eaten with our hands and bread. Later, after the afternoon’s activities, I return home and my host sister is makeing Melwi, which happens to be one of my favorite foods that I’ve eaten in Morocco. She asks if I want to watch, and eventually she lets be shape the tin, layered dough squares myself.
After lunch, the Dragons group meets and the students all compared their experiences at the homestays. Many of them had had experiences similar to mine; one of being welcomed and treated as a part of the family with which they were living.
We left Bougamez this morning. Already, many of the students are missing their homestay families. In Bougamez, we experienced real kindness from people who welcomed us into their home and accepted us as some of their own. That isn’t always easy to find when you’re traveling, and we are really grateful to those families from the unforgettable experiences they gave us.