Teacher Experience: Living in Morocco
The following is a personal account from Kylie Balogh, on her experience teaching and living in Morocco.
My partner of 4 years, Jeff, and I went on a yearlong teaching and travelling adventure in Marrakech, Morocco in 2009-2010. We had been there previously and bought woolly beanies in Taghazout whilst travelling there for Christmas in a year earlier. The beanies were warm, thick, snug and made of wool straight off a sheep’s back. Literally. Jeff’s woolen hat even got a little wet and smelt exactly the same way I imagine a wet smelly sheep would.
Anyway, while swapping the mayhem of Marrakech for laidback Essaouira, with my visiting mum and aunt, we stumbled across a smiling young man, Otman. He was perched comfortably on a goatskin, knitting thick colourful cotton beanies or bonnets, welcoming us with a warm smile and friendly eyes. I had heard about Otman from other teaching colleagues who make the escape to Essaouira once in a while. He and his father knit the beanies and sell them along Derb Laalouj near the rampart walls for 50 dirhams each. Not a bad deal at all. If you like, he will even knit you a customised beanie in an hour and a half. While my mum and aunt looked for their favourite coloured beanies as great gifts for family and friends back in Australia, I had a chat with Otman.
Jellaba wearing Otman began making beanies at just 12 years old, alongside his father, as part of the family business. He used to make them from sheep’s wool, but found that customers were complaining of the intense heat, itchiness and smell that the wool produced. As well as fabricating bonnets Otman also studies French. Many Moroccans speak French very well, but are limited when it comes to reading and writing the grammar intense language. Otman is currently 22 years old and he told me he would really like to study English, but at the moment there are no English language centres in Essaouira. Not a bad business idea I thought…
My mum and aunt had selected their beanies and Otman helped to finish them off, adding extra tightness around the edge and stretching some where necessary.With his friendly, calm and inviting manner Otman is sure to delight more tourists with his colourful and practical wares. With emails and business cards swapped, we were on our way with a bagful of beanies, snugly warm heads and a cross cultural friendship to boot.