It took three weeks before we finally tried Muk’s spaghetti. Every time I passed him on the way to class, or when I was headed to the gym he would yell, “Mary, when are you going to try my spaghetti?” “Not tonight, Muk I have soccer, maybe next week.” Finally he was fed up with my lame excuses and on a random Tuesday night he yelled from the living room that he had made his spaghetti and just like that, six college students suddenly appeared with spoons. He poured the steamy turmeric-filled spaghetti into a flat glass circular bowl and after my 12th spoonful I was hooked on “Muk’s spaghetti.”
Almoktar is from Libya and he was my first friend in South Africa. I had not been in my room for more than 10 minutes when he greeted me asking if I wanted to play volleyball. Muk arrived in South Africa six months before me and didn’t speak a single word of English. He told me getting an Uber from the Cape Town airport to our apartment was his first experience with a massive language barrier. Muk has been studying English for the last six months and can nearly speak it fluently. He has six sisters and four brothers in Libya and last week he flew to Johannesburg with his brother to look at aviation schools and he picked one!
One of my favorite parts about studying abroad has been the friends that I’ve made. Before coming to South Africa I didn’t have a single close friend that wasn’t from the United States. This fact is saddening and now I live with people from all over the globe. It’s going to be extremely hard to go home and not hear accents everywhere I go, or smell turmeric and paprika from the kitchen.
My time here has made me realize how much I can learn from people. Living with roommates from Lesotho, Germany, Austria, France, and Libya has been the best experience I could ever ask for and our conversations have made influential impacts on me. Discussing the refugee crisis in Germany, life tenure of supreme court justices in the U.S., Mahali (bride price) in Lesotho, tourism and inflation in Italy, colonialism and the Apartheid in South Africa, all of these incredibly powerful conversations have given me knowledge and perspectives I’ll never forget.
Food has an incredible way of bringing people together and starting conversations. Muk’s spaghetti is a dish I’ll remember forever.
Mary Haas is a University of Nevada, Reno student. She studied abroad in Stellenbosch, South Africa and served as a digital communications intern for USAC during her time abroad.