TCK children often follow in the wake of their parent’s career, experiencing and living in new cultures as their parent’s job demands.
This is not so with Amanda Ponzio-Mouttaki’s children. Mouttaki is a curious mom whose love of travel and food sparked a sudden move to Morocco. Her children, who were six and eight at the time, were catapulted into a far from normal TCK childhood.
Mouttaki’s story begins with a flourishing, fairy-tale romance. In 2004, on a vacation in Morocco, Mouttaki made eye contact with an incredible man. Her immediate thought was “this is him, you’re going to marry this guy!”
As crazy as it sounds, the two were hooked on each other after just one day of adventuring together. Youssef didn’t speak a lick of English, and Mouttaki didn’t speak any Arabic. It was through stuttering and broken French that they fell in love.
It was only email communication after that first day, but Mouttaki knew that she had to see Youssef again, and quickly booked a flight back to Morocco. In Youssef’s culture “you simply don’t spend time with someone you don’t intend to marry,” Mouttaki said in an interview with Brittany Jones-Cooper for Yahoo Lifestyle. A proposal quickly followed.
The happy couple married in the United States, as Youssef was allowed a 90 day fiancé visa. Amanda had just converted to Islam, so the love birds made sure that the ceremony combined their two cultures to create an inclusive union.
After marriage, they began their life in Wisconsin and Washington D.C. and started their family. They had two boys, and as their sons grew up, the couple began to wish that they had a connection to their Moroccan family.
Initially, Mouttaki’s plan was to move to Marrakesh for one year to immerse her children in her husband’s culture and allow them the chance to learn Moroccan Arabic and French. Unlike many TCK children, the primary reason for the move was not based on Mouttaki’s job. She and her husband were simply determined to ensure that their boys new both sides of their cultural background.
“Knowing more than one language can’t be understated. I truly believe people that are bilingual or multilingual are at a huge advantage compared to those that are monolingual.”
Amanda’s successful blogs and travel guides are what funded her family’s move across the world. She started out with MarocMama, a resource guide for visiting, living in and cooking from Morocco. This blog details recipes, descriptions of life in Morocco and destination guides.
She and Youssef now run Marrakech Food Tours, and have become wildly successful in sharing the true Moroccan experience to tourists as they pass through. The travel and food based business has been featured in National Geographic and Travel Africa Magazine.
Their life in Morocco is beautiful and unique, but it has come with challenges.
“Just about everything was different; from how we buy groceries to rules for driving and so much more,” said Mouttaki.
“It was a hard experience for my kids. When they knew it was one year they just were counting down until the one year was over. They constantly felt like they didn’t fit in and were just waiting to leave. When we decided that it would be longer, they were angry but I also think in a way it helped them to settle in a little more.”
“Even though they are Moroccan by heritage, they would never say they are Moroccan, they’ll always answer they are American,” Mouttaki said. “They have seen and had a variety of life experiences that they wouldn’t have had if we had stayed in the U.S.”
The two boys now speak French fluently, as well as English and Moroccan Arabic. After five years, they have begun to settle in and try harder in school, as well as make some friends.
The family has defied many cultural norms, from falling in love quickly, to dealing with immigration, to moving across the world to learn a new language.
Mouttaki and her family are a part of the Third Culture, but they bring an incredible new meaning to the term as well.