Crying In The Supermarket

It has been two weeks since the end of my internship, and I spent one of those weeks traveling around the south of Morocco—Marrakech, Essouira, Casablanca— with my parents and their friends who live in Casablanca.  After that, I left from Casablanca to Portugal for my first ever solo trip.  I spent the week staying in hostels in Lisbon and Porto and it was absolutely incredible. I met many interesting people from all over the globe, and felt incredibly independent and free spending the days roaming the cities.  Right now, I’m sitting on the plane on the way back to SLC, and I’m feeling all sorts of emotions.  I can’t believe that this summer is coming to an end.  I have seen so much and learned even more in three short months. I’m excited to see friends and family but in the last few days I have found myself missing all sorts of things about Morocco. The readjustment process has also felt rather odd. I’ve been jotting down some stuff that already makes me feel nostalgic...

I’m not in Ifrane anymore?!?

-Supermarkets. When my parents came to pick me up at Al-Akhawayn, we went straight to Essaouira where we stopped at a Carrefour supermarket.  In walking through large glass doors to find organized rows of food with set prices and grocery carts, I started to cry. It all felt incredibly foreign after spending the last two months getting food at souks or at the different stands in the marché. 

-Toilet Paper.  Every time I would walk into a bathroom I expected that there would be no toilet paper or that it would be a squatty potty.  Finding toilet paper in almost all of the bathroom stalls keeps throwing me off.  

-People actually drive in the lanes? I forgot that road rules existed….

-Salt and Pepper? Nope, it is all about the cumin and salt.  I haven’t seen salt with pepper on a table once in Morocco. I miss putting cumin on my hard boiled eggs. I’m definitely going to adopt the Moroccan way of having cumin and salt with every meal, trust me it is tasty. 

-I keep waiting to hear Jabar Fan on the radio. In the car, at work, and in the dorms this song was on repeat for two months.  

Enjoy this catchy song and killer dance moves

-Where is the mint tea?

The Moroccan hospitality made my experience over the last two months. From gracious dinner invitations, to chatting with the women in Tarmilaat about the co-op, mint tea was always served before any conversation. Although at this point, I don’t think I could stomach any more mint tea of meloui (the traditional fry bread that is served with the tea), I’m going to miss the hospitality and open invitations that come with it. 

Mint tea we enjoyed at Ito's in Tarmilaat. 

Mint tea we enjoyed at Ito's in Tarmilaat. 

What I already miss about Morocco: 

-The kids. I can’t believe I’m saying this seeing as after eight weeks of trying to keep 3-12 year olds from strangling each other (and sometimes us), I was writing thank you notes to my elementary school teachers for their patience. I was pretty worn out from lesson planning, behavioral problems, and the language barrier to the point of being convinced that parenthood wasn’t for me.  But now, after two weeks of not seeing them, I can’t get their smiling faces out of my head.  I miss Muhammad and his round belly that extends when he starts to giggle.  I miss Malak with her soft skin, purple pajama shirt, and big brown eyes.  Her endless kisses and soft smile supports my conclusion that she is the sweetest little girl in the world. I miss Youssif and his crazy dance moves.  I miss them all, even the ones that gave me grey hair at the age of 19.  Their quirks and smiles made all of the craziness and hard work well worth it. 

My love Muhammad and his smirk. 

My love Muhammad and his smirk. 

-Grand Taxis. I have to say I miss the adrenaline rush of cramming six people into a 1970's Mercedes sedan, closing my eyes, and hoping that we would make it to work safely as the driver went double the speed limit around blind corners.

-Markets and Souks The colorful piles of vegetables and fruits, the sticky stands of dried dates covered in flies, and the dangling animal heads made grocery shopping way more exciting.  I can still smell raw meat mixed with cumin, turmeric, and pastries. 

My favorite vendor in the market. I LOVE dates. 

My favorite vendor in the market. I LOVE dates. 

-Iftars and friends Shukrun Bizzaf (thank you bunches) to all the Moroccans that fed me, danced with me, and laughed with me late into the night. Thank you to all the other AUA volunteers that survived the last two months with me.

-Inshallah With a combination of Darija, French, and English being spoken at all times, I could always find the right word to express how I was feeling.  I find myself continually slipping in Darija phrases when I speak, although almost no one understands what I am talking about.  When I checked into the hotel last night in Paris, I said shukrun instead of merci.  Out of the little Arabic that I learned, Inshallah (meaning if god wills it) is by far my favorite.  Inshallah is so much more than just a religious phrase. Inshallah is often said after referencing anything in the future.  For example, “see you tomorrow”, plans of travel, and business deals are often followed by inshallah. 

Inshallah Morocco.  Thanks for all that your welcoming people and beautiful country has given me this summer. 

Serenity In The Sahara via The 6th Passenger

On Tuesday afternoon, we started asking taxi drivers, restaurant workers, and our Moroccan friends when Eid, the holiday celebrating the end of Ramadan, was going to take place.  Since Islam revolves around the lunar calendar, the date was up in the air.  To myself and the other volunteers, the uncertainty of not knowing when one of the largest holidays in the Muslim culture was going to fall was parallel to not knowing if Christmas was going to be on the 24th, 25th, or 26th.  Much like a lot of timely matters in this culture, the exact date wasn't a concern.  School was let out on Tuesday, and families began gathering to celebrate not only the day of Eid, but the entire week together.  The week long celebration, and uncertainty of the date, is indicative of my experience here.  Unlike in the United States--where we are often wrapped up in schedules and timing--relationships, family, friends, and conversations with strangers hold more importance than schedules and work. 

As all the students left campus for the week, and we said goodbye to four of the other AUA volunteers, the vacancy as well as the end of Ramadan felt like complete closure.  With only two weeks left at a new placement, the end of Ramadan provided a much needed restart.  Life flooded back into the streets.  Seeing people in the town enjoying a cafe and croissant during daylight hours was shocking after a month of everything being closed. Ramadan, iftars, and fastening provided invaluable insight into the the culture, and I'm very glad that I was able to be a part of it.  However, the late nights, hanger, and guilt when eating at work will not be missed. 

On the Friday after Eid we left for Merzouga.  Merzouga is a small village located in the Sahara Desert near the boarder of Algeria (I was HYPED that I was going to be able to stare at Algeria).  At 6am, five of us met our grand taxi at the bus shelter, ready to see the infamous rust colored dunes.  

Let me take a minute to describe these so called "grand" taxis, or "crazy cows" as the locals call them.  Grand taxis are the mode of transportation if you have to go anywhere farther than 5km.  Basically, they are 1970s Mercedes-Benz four door sedans.  Most of them have some groovy velvet interior, stick-on gemstones on the review mirrors, and quotes from the Quran on the dashboard.  For some completely unknown reason the occupation of these taxis is six people;  two people in the passenger seat and four people crammed in the back seat.  Seat belts are not allowed, and they like to drive double the speed limit.  I keep trying to explain to my family members--who are still concerned about me being in a Muslim country--that BY FAR the most danger that I am ever in is when I am riding in one of these taxis. 

The road to Merzouga. 

The road to Merzouga. 

Transportation.  Note the reflection of the Mercedes logo in the window... 

Transportation.  Note the reflection of the Mercedes logo in the window... 

Our driver stopping for a herd of sheep. 

Our driver stopping for a herd of sheep. 

After 7 hours of windy roads, passing four cars at once on two lane highways, stopping to roll down the window by fusing two frayed wires, bouncing around on a washboard dirt roads, and braving a few squatty potty stops, we made it to the Sahara. 

The man who greeted us at the hotel, and the view from the hotel patio. 

The man who greeted us at the hotel, and the view from the hotel patio. 

The curvature of The Sahara. 

The curvature of The Sahara. 

Our ride into the dunes. 

Our ride into the dunes. 

Flashing the U on my camel named Suzanna. 

Flashing the U on my camel named Suzanna. 

Our hotel for the night. 

Our hotel for the night. 

Despite the strenuous journey, when I saw the miles and miles of rolling red sand I was overcome with relief.  Undoubtedly, these last two months have been chaotic.  Living in a developing world surrounded by foreign languages and customs is bound to be chaotic.  Yet, I'm amazed at how habitual my life here feels.  Riding in "crazy cows," walking through souks of slaughtered goat heads, having donkeys walk through the door at work, and hearing the Athan (call to prayer) five times daily, now all feel somewhat normal.  It is amazing how quickly we adapt to our surroundings and settle into a routine. 

However, in being completely surrounded by the lifeless mounds of sand, I felt very far away.  Staring up at the fading navy sky, I realized for the first time that my friends and family were on the other side of the world.  In complete silence--with great company and a breathtaking view--I finally had a moment to reflect on the significance of where I was sitting.   I have grown used to the daily rhythms of life here in Morocco.  Between working with kids all day, lesson planning,  and trying to engage in the social aspect at the university, I have been incredibly busy and exhausted.  As my favorite John Muir quote goes, "Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul." The Sahara was exactly what I needed to prepare for my last two weeks in Morocco.  

 

Talking about Islam....

After having many conversations in Morocco with people of all ages and backgrounds, my perspective of Islam changed.  In talking with those around me, I realized that the media influenced my perception of Islam more than I ever knew.  Although I liked to believe that I had a well-rounded and unbiased view of the Muslim world, I still carried preconceptions that were formed from hatred, fear, and distrust.  From just casual conversation, I learned how misrepresented Islam is in our daily lives.  I wrote about the conversations I was lucky enough to have during my time here.  My piece was published by World Religion News if you would like to give it a read: http://www.worldreligionnews.com/religion-news/islam/an-american-students-encounters-with-islam-in-morocco

It is empowering to know that we have the tools to abolish the hatred, fear, and distrust that is far too prevalent in our world.  Although what is unfamiliar is often uncomfortable, exposing yourself to the diversity that makes this world so beautiful will allow for more acceptance, tolerance, and love.  I encourage everyone to approach those who you perceive to have "different" views or beliefs with a willingness to learn from what they have to offer.  From the Muslim women in Morocco, to the stranger in the elevator, to the quiet kid in the library, EVERYONE has something to share.  

La Cascade

Going to the cascade on Fridays has grown to be tradition at Zaouia Sidi Abdessalam. Each week, the anticipation builds for our mile long journey to the waterfall.  The kids come prepared with picnics of warm yogurt and cookies, card games, and a competitive edge for soccer and swimming.  I have also grown to look forward to Fridays. There is something enchanting about the cascade; the large, vibrant, green trees provide cool shade where we watch the kids splash about in the turquoise pool for hours. 

To celebrate the end of our month at Zaouia,  we packed a bag of candy, several boxes of juice, and left early in the morning to enjoy our last cascade adventure.  Our time spent at this special place--the laughter echoing through the trees, the sparking water being thrown in the air, and the dusty games of soccer--will hold a special place in my heart. 

 

Leaving the center, dodging sheep poop on the way to the trail.  The building straight ahead is the school, where children up to 6th grade attend.  The students learn Tamazight, the native Berber dialect, as well as Arabic and French.  

Leaving the center, dodging sheep poop on the way to the trail.  The building straight ahead is the school, where children up to 6th grade attend.  The students learn Tamazight, the native Berber dialect, as well as Arabic and French.  

Wael and Oussama climbing on a decaying building that was constructed during French occupation. The students like to claim that there are monsters and snakes in the basement. 

Wael and Oussama climbing on a decaying building that was constructed during French occupation. The students like to claim that there are monsters and snakes in the basement. 

Typical Wael mounting a random donkey. 

Typical Wael mounting a random donkey. 

Wael has one of the most dominant personalities out of the group.  We call him our little actor because he is a drama king.  He loves to sing and dance (especially to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33OQmHXCB3A), he always has to be the center of attention. Wael is always the first one to meet us at our car in the morning and the last one to leave.  

Wael has one of the most dominant personalities out of the group.  We call him our little actor because he is a drama king.  He loves to sing and dance (especially to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33OQmHXCB3A), he always has to be the center of attention. Wael is always the first one to meet us at our car in the morning and the last one to leave.  

The greenery never ceases to amaze me.  After frying in the heat and treeless landscape of Zaouia, the kids love to run through the shade, crossing the rivers, and leaping over the moss covered roots. 

The greenery never ceases to amaze me.  After frying in the heat and treeless landscape of Zaouia, the kids love to run through the shade, crossing the rivers, and leaping over the moss covered roots. 

Asmae, a beautiful 10 year old girl with a large heart, let her brother tag along on our last trek to the waterfall.  He was very shy, and loved to run ahead of the group. 

Asmae, a beautiful 10 year old girl with a large heart, let her brother tag along on our last trek to the waterfall.  He was very shy, and loved to run ahead of the group. 

The kids eagerly stripped down to their little underwear and ran into the crisp swimming hole. This time, a young boy with a horse decided to join.  Horses--with beautiful leather saddles--are commonly seen parading around the falls.  They wait around all day for tourists to come and ride through the forest. 

The kids eagerly stripped down to their little underwear and ran into the crisp swimming hole. This time, a young boy with a horse decided to join.  Horses--with beautiful leather saddles--are commonly seen parading around the falls.  They wait around all day for tourists to come and ride through the forest. 

Haitam, our youngest camper, always impatiently waiting to play soccer. 

Haitam, our youngest camper, always impatiently waiting to play soccer. 

The boys drying off in the sun. 

The boys drying off in the sun. 

The kids, both the boys and girls, are always eager to play soccer.   The game gets real competitive real quickly, and usually ends in us having to break up a fight. 

The kids, both the boys and girls, are always eager to play soccer.   The game gets real competitive real quickly, and usually ends in us having to break up a fight. 

Little Haitam is adorable but so sassy. 

Little Haitam is adorable but so sassy. 

I am sad to say farewell to the kids of Zaouia. The six weeks went by quickly, and I have grown to adore them.  It is amazing how well we got to know them--their personalities, quirks, and differences--in such a short time and without speaking the same language.  I'm incredibly proud of all they have accomplished.  They were eager to learn English, and they are now eager to show off all the vocabulary they know.  

For a lot of the kids, we were the first Americans that they have ever met.  In sharing our language, games, and photos of our families and homes,  I can only hope that we taught them as much about our culture as they taught us about theirs. Working with the children at Zaouia allowed me to gain invaluable insight into the daily rhythms of a small Amazigh community.  Through conversation with the other women at the center, and just simple observation, I learned a lot about family life, Islam, and traditions.  The students--through their games, humor, and interactions with each other -- allowed me to witness the differences between growing up in a community like Zaouia and growing up in the Western world.  From all of their favorite songs being about Islam, coming to camp in their djellabas, and reading parts of the Quran for show and tell.  To them chasing their crush, fighting with each other over everything, and being able to entertain themselves with some rocks and chalk for hours.  I was able to immerse myself in the daily life of a kid living in small town in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. 

Working with young kids also left me with a new found respect for my teachers.  Children are hard to manage, and teaching a second language is not an easy task.  In a resource scarce environment like Zaouia, with access to only on classroom and a few supplies, creativity is necessary.  Additionally, work culture in the Arab world (see my post on polychronic time) teaches you to be flexible, adaptable, and patient. Although there were many hard days at Zaouia Sidi Abdessalam, there were never any bad days. The kids will hold a special place in my heart, and I am now excited to begin working in the smaller sheep herding village of Tarmilat. 

Adhan In The Blue Pearl

Chefchaouen, a small artistic hub smelling of hashish, is nestled in the green valleys of the Rif Mountains.  The tightly packed white and blue buildings make the town a picturesque destination.  When I used to think of Morocco, the only image that came to mind were the bright cobblestone streets of Chaouen. 

The reality that I was in Morocco shined brightly in my perma-grin.  Morocco has been my desired destination for years, and to be able to live in this country, and experience the fairytale blue city, filled me with gratitude. 

The history of Chaouen is just as captivating as the architecture.  The city was built in 1471 by Mulay Alí Ben Rachid as a way to dominate the trade route between Tetuan and Fez, and to prevent Portuguese invasion.  The town was closed off to Christians until the Spanish invaded in 1920, although three Europeans managed to sneak into the city borders during that time.  Muslims and Jews, expelled from Spain during the 15th and 17th centuries, established themselves in Chefchaouen.  Originally, the Jewish community painted the fronts of their houses the iconic shades of blue, while the Muslim houses were painted the traditional shades of mauve or green.  When the Spanish ceased the city in 1920, there were many Sephardic Jews living in Chefchaouen that still spoke a medieval Spanish dialect that had been extinct in Spain for almost four centuries. 

Today, the city feels like a bohemian oasis.  Time slows as you wonder through the vibrant streets and the tight medina.  Colorful rugs line the blue walls and shop vendors try to lure you in to buy their homemade hemp clothing.  Since it is Ramadan, we stayed away from the tourist trap cafes in the main square (although we do get the said "tourist pass," after being here for the entirety of Ramadan, eating in public feels out of place). Instead, we opted for enjoying a meal in the isolation of our hotel. The stunning bed and breakfast (a suite totaled around $20 a night per person with breakfast) located at the base of the mountain had the best views in town.  

View of the "Blue City"  from our hotel.

View of the "Blue City"  from our hotel.

Aside from sipping fresh orange juice and eating goat yogurt at the pool, the Adhan that echoed through the valley of Chefchaouen five times a day was phenomenal. I enjoy hearing the call to prayer in any city.  The diversity between the voices of the Muadhan, the person who calls the prayer, from mosque to mosque makes the reading sound like a practiced chorus.  With the natural acoustics and striking view of the city, the Adhan that rang through the valley of Chefchaouen will remain one of my fondest memories from my time in Morocco. 

I heard one Adhan called as I was walking up the steps of the Kasbah that was built in the early 18th century.  The second Adhan that I captured was to signal the Salat of Al-Maghrib, or the prayer performed at sunset. During Ramadan, this prayer is especially important seeing as it signals the break-fast. 

Being in a Muslim country is foreign.  The culture, especially during Ramadan, is strikingly different than my own.  However, there is so much beauty to be found in the people, traditions, language, and religion.  

Trash and Pride

When we first arrived in Zaouia Sidi Abdessalam, my inner environmentalist cringed at the  excessive amounts of trash blowing in the wind.  Ifrane, the neighboring town where we are living, was voted the second cleanest city in the world in 2015.  Seeing as juxtapositions are a common theme in Morocco, a quick 15 minute drive to the rural community of Zaouia Sidi Abdessalam removes you from the bubble that is Ifrane.  When the car veers around the last windy corner of the forested canyon, a stark contrast between not only cleanliness, but infrastructure and wealth is striking. 

The campus in Ifrane.  The lawns and gardens are so manicured that they charge you if you step on the grass. 

The campus in Ifrane.  The lawns and gardens are so manicured that they charge you if you step on the grass. 

The clean streets of Ifrane.  Ifrane is not Morocco, rather it is a town that resembles a village in the Swiss Alps. This makes sense seeing as the French established the city in 1928.  We like to refer to the city as our "sheltered" version of Morocco.  All the restaurants serve mostly American food, and the town is ran by the university and tourism.  I am very pleased that a 15 minute drive to work allows me to escape into a place that better captures the culture.  The one great thing about Ifrane are the cooler temperatures. 

The clean streets of Ifrane.  Ifrane is not Morocco, rather it is a town that resembles a village in the Swiss Alps. This makes sense seeing as the French established the city in 1928.  We like to refer to the city as our "sheltered" version of Morocco.  All the restaurants serve mostly American food, and the town is ran by the university and tourism.  I am very pleased that a 15 minute drive to work allows me to escape into a place that better captures the culture.  The one great thing about Ifrane are the cooler temperatures. 

The village of Zaouia Sidi Abdessalam, which is just up the road from Ifrane.  This is our view from the center where we teach. 

The village of Zaouia Sidi Abdessalam, which is just up the road from Ifrane.  This is our view from the center where we teach. 

The center where we teach. 

The center where we teach. 

Following the trend of juxtapositions in Morocco, the landscape that surrounds Zaouia is diverse.  Above the center, sheepherders are seen grazing their herds on barren hillsides.  The sun is brutally hot, and the wind blows the dust as if you are wandering through the Sahara.  Below the center, a river flourishes, and a forested path leads to a waterfall that resembles a temperate rainforest in the Northwest. 

The trail below Zaouia that leads to the waterfall. 

The trail below Zaouia that leads to the waterfall. 

Monia, a student, posing next to our weekly adventure to the waterfall. 

Monia, a student, posing next to our weekly adventure to the waterfall. 

The waterfalls serve as a destination for tourists and locals.  You can often find men napping under trees, families enjoying the swimming hole, or the old white couple stumbling upon the site from a guidebook recommendation.  With the continuous traffic in this oasis, the trash that has accumulated takes away from the enchantment.  The few garbage cans that are located on site are overflowing, plastic cups float down the river, and the stench of old food is overbearing.  I caught many of our students throwing away their wrappers and containers in the bushes after a picnic, as if the world is their garbage can.  

Environmental sustainability is a privileged problem.  I am lucky to live a life where my carbon footprint is one of my "worries." Carbon emissions from industry, cutting back on a meat intense diet, and alternative fuel sources are not significant (nor pertinent) to the kids of Zaouia.  They lead simple lives. Most of their families don't have cars, heat comes from burning wood, and their consumption is not at all gluttonous like the Western culture. 

However, the tendency to throw trash wherever they please bewildered me.  There were several garbage cans in the area and the town.  I'm not positive if trash pick is a frequent occurrence, from what I have noted it isn't.  But with garbage cans or not, the kids still tossed their waste over their shoulders when they were finished. 

Since they live in a beautiful place, that is worth preserving and keeping clean, we decided to initiate a conversation with our students about the environment to try and alter their dirty little tendencies to litter. 

Our blackboard that usually consists of a mixture of Arabic, French, and English. We spent the day teaching them environmentally oriented vocabulary in French. 

Our blackboard that usually consists of a mixture of Arabic, French, and English. We spent the day teaching them environmentally oriented vocabulary in French. 

After some vocabulary lessons, we asked them what they can do to help the environment.  Through the translation from Arabic to French, we were pleased to hear that all the students were aware of what it meant to be "sustainable."  Surprisingly, the most popular answer was not throwing trash on the ground or in the river. 

To really get the idea to stick, we decided to release the inner competitiveness of our students and hold trash collecting competition.  With the teams being boys against girls, the stakes were high. 

With trash bags full, and the winning team beaming with excitement, I had a proud teacher moment.  There have been many days at Zaouia where I am frustrated and I feel like my time is useless.  There is little organization, students don't show, and the language barrier makes explaining activities difficult.  Yet, these days contrast the days where I successfully teach the kids colors, body parts, or food.  When their smiling faces tell me that my shirt is "purple," I feel like I am leaving an impression on the youth of Zaouia Sidi Abdessalam. Today, I can leave knowing that our example, and our sense of pride when there was no longer trash blowing around in front of the center, will hopefully make the kids think twice about throwing their waste wherever they please. 

Ramadan

To the right of the river, before we climb the rocky hill to the cascade where trees with gleaming cherries tempt the kids and my tastebuds.  They jump towards the upper branches, jostling the entire tree as they reach for handfuls of ripe goodness.  I follow their lead, mindlessly putting one in my mouth. Suddenly, a chorus of “Tu manges Ramadan?!” surrounds me. 

Running towards the cascades, and the cherry trees. 

Running towards the cascades, and the cherry trees. 

It is now ten days into Ramadan, and the kids haven’t seen me eat or drink.  Out of respect for my coworkers, I have been attempting to not eat during the work day and silently sip water out of view.  Now, caught with a cherry in my mouth, their confused faces demand an answer.  More of them gather at my feet, “Sawm?” they ask, staring at my full mouth.  With three language barriers between us (broken French, Amazigh, and Darija), the single cherry requires me to explain to them—after two weeks of spending everyday together—that I am not Muslim. 

In response, I was expecting them to question my beliefs.  I anxiously began formulating a justification, but before anymore words were exchanged their sticky hands reached for mine as they pulled me in the direction of the cascade. To the children of Zaouia Sidi Abdessalam, the answer was as simple as if I was eating or not during the holy month of Ramadan. 

Before sunrise on June 7th, the fact that I was in a country that was 99% Muslim never really occurred to me.  But as the sun crept over the Atlas Mountains and into the sky, that fact slowly revealed itself.  Suddenly, the pace of life unanimously slowed. Shops and restaurants closed, and the school cafeteria became deserted.   After iftar (the first meal had at sunset) the streets started to refill with life.  Students began hanging out at the cafe late into the night, and my roommate started cooking dinner at 3am. Not having thought much about whether or not I was going to fast during the month of Ramadan, this sudden unanimous reversal of daily rhythms left me feeling adrift.  In the beginning, Ramadan made an already foreign culture feel even more foreign.  

Yet, in no way have I felt ostracized during Ramadan.  Much like it doesn’t matter to my students, my personal beliefs don’t matter to my peers. The Moroccan hospitality, that already made me feel graciously welcomed, has tripled during Ramadan. Everyone is eager to share their traditions and beliefs with us, and we have been encouraged to partake in the fasting even if we don’t practice Islam. 

The first night of Ramadan, I enjoyed iftar with three Moroccan students that I met the day before.  Stuffed with food they prepared, we discussed their reasons for fasting.  To them, and many Muslims, this month is not solely about spiritual reflection.  Ramadan is about having empathy towards the poor.  It is about knowing what it feels like to be hungry and thirsty and about living conservatively. 

My very first ifar, made by some lovely students at the university.

My very first ifar, made by some lovely students at the university.

What makes Ramadan feel so foreign to the outsider is the unity that it creates.  Knowing that around 7:30pm every night, we are sitting down for iftar with not only majority of Morocco, but the entire Muslim world, is powerful.  We can feel the relief in the air as everyone bites into a soft, carmely date that satisfies the hunger they have been battling to suppress all day.  Ramadan evokes a period of moral harmony between diverse individuals globally.  For me, observing Ramadan has allowed for a better understanding of not only the Muslim world, but of humanity.

Some typical dishes served for iftar 

Some typical dishes served for iftar 

More food pics.  This was an iftar we enjoyed at a rihad in Fes. 

More food pics.  This was an iftar we enjoyed at a rihad in Fes. 

In Response To The Orlando Attack, An Article By AUA Founder

"For months, it seemed like Trump’s xenophobic, misogynistic and Islamophobic candidacy would flame out of its own accord. It has become clear that we need to do more at the community level to counter his inflammatory speech."

This powerful article (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/benjamin-orbach/cleaning-up-trumps-mess-a_b_10433780.html) is written by America's Unofficial Ambassadors(AUA) founder Ben Orbach. I'm currently in Morocco with AUA, a country where the vast majority (99%) of the population practices Islam.  In immersing myself in the culture by living with Moroccans my age, and working in the community, this summer is more for educating myself about the "other" than it is about service. Through casual conversation with Moroccans of all ages, many of the ignorant stereotypes of Muslims that are continually blasted throughout our media and political sphere have already been disproven.  With a willingness to share from both parties, I have learned a lot about the Moroccan culture, as well as my own. 

I admit that I knew little about Islam and the Muslim world before this trip. It is easy to fall victim to the information that we are spoon fed. Yet, it is empowering to know that individuals can initiate change. With a willingness to learn about “the other”, the realization that you have more commonalities than differences can unite us in a world that too often seems full of violence and hatred. I encourage you all to actively learn about those who you perceive as being "different" than yourself daily. Every individual has something to share, and if we want a brighter future it is time that we start listening. 

Sending love from Morocco

Sending love from Morocco

The Polychronic Time Crisis

*This is a response to an article titled Monochronic and Polychronic Time by Edward T. Hall.  I encourage you to read the article (I can email it to you @jlundstrom1117@gmail.com), but I will attempt to briefly define monochronic and polychronic time as it relates to my experience.  

Polychronic Time (P-time) is known as the Mediterranean model of doing many things at once.  P-time is more people than it is about the completion of tasks.  Appointments are essentially nonexistent and schedules are rarely concrete.  There is a great focus on people and relationships. 

Monochronic time (M-time) the Northern European model of doing one thing at a time.  This means that appointments are prevalent, and are timely.  Days are often scheduled, and there is a large focus on time management.  With scheduling, prioritization of tasks is inevitable.  In M-time cultures, time is thought of as being tangible (it can be wasted, saved, spent, lost, etc.).

I just completed the first full week of my internship, and I am feeling homesick.  I have been alone abroad before, so at first I was unsure as to why I was already planning my return after a week.  I was appalled at myself for being so down, but I have now discovered the source of my issue; it is polychronic time. 

Edward T. Hall in his article titled, Monochronic and Polychronic Time, states that monochronic (M-time) is not innate; however,  M-time is so engrained into Western culture that it dictates our lives.  Essentially, I’m the M-time poster-child.  I like to plan, schedule, and cram as much into a single day as possible.  During school, my routine is timed to the minute, which is an obsessive and unrealistic habit, but it is what I am accustomed and comfortable with.  That has completely been shattered in Morocco.  The Arab world is the definition of polychronic time, and it is has made everything feel foreign.

Polychronic time means that commitments are loose ended.  We have asked several times for supplies for our students, and we continually are told that we will receive supplies soon.  In my monochronic timed mind, soon means within the day.  It has now been five days and we just received half of the supplies.  Being late is normal, our students arrive when they please, and appointments take longer than expected.   These are just small annoyances, seeing as I was warned of “Moroccan time.”  P-time defines the culture, and adds to the beauty, chaos, and diversity that make up Morocco and much of the Arab world. 

Without a doubt, many aspects of the Arab world appear chaotic to a Westerner. The “psychological stress” that Hall says occurs in souks in Arab countries could not be more parallel to my experience at the souk this last Saturday.  All I wanted was to buy some tomatoes and cucumbers—which would have been the first vegetables that I would have ingested in a week.  With only one vendor trying to help twenty people who had several kilos of produce each, as well as the language barrier making everyone sound extremely hostile (Darija is a harsh sounding language), I put my produce back and accepted my loss.  To me, the market seemed disorganized, and daunting.  Yet, the chaotic mélange of random brandname knock-offs, crying chickens, and colorful vegetables sprawled over tarps are the heart of Moroccan culture.  If you embrace the chaos, and play the roll of an observer, souks are the best place to immerse yourself in the daily rhythms of Moroccan life.  

The perfect nap spot.  The following photos were taken by my friend Sami in a local Souk. 

The perfect nap spot.  The following photos were taken by my friend Sami in a local Souk. 

Spices on spices. 

Spices on spices. 

The colorful arrangement of vegetables. 

The colorful arrangement of vegetables. 

Not only do these large outdoor markets serve as shopping centers, they are also social gatherings.  Shopkeepers, families, and regulars mingle for hours.  It isn’t uncommon for a shopkeeper to invite you in for mint tea and conversation—which is a great marketing technique.  From the first day that we arrived, we were all bewildered at this “Moroccan hospitality.”  Everyone we meet, from shopkeepers to parents of our students, are eager to invite us into their homes to share a meal.

Yesterday, we visited a village where I will be working the last few weeks of my internship, and the “Moroccan hospitality" left me feeling embarrassed.  The village is composed of nearly invisible, single roomed, huts scattered throughout a rocky field.  As we approached one of the homes, a woman came outside and insisted that we stay for tea.  She rolled out blankets for us on the floor of her home, and graciously served all 12 of us freshly made bread and warm mint tea for over an hour.  After I was stuffed with bread and honey,  I became antsy to leave.  

The mint tea that was prepared for us. 

The mint tea that was prepared for us. 

I was embarrassed at my attitude.  I was undeniably extremely grateful for the opportunity to be sitting where I was, but my mentality is so task oriented that I was thinking about what was next on my “list” for the day.   From being immersed in a M-time culture for so long, I have lost my ability to sit still.  In retrospect, it is completely foolish that I couldn’t live in the present moment and enjoy myself.   Although spending two hours sipping tea, waiting for taxi cabs, and never knowing what the day will bring pushes me out of my comfort zone, I was seeking stillness this summer and that is what I have received.  Polychronic will allow me to slow-down, cease control, and take time to embrace everything that working in Morocco will offer. 

 

England To Casablanca to Ifrane

I had a long layover in London, well a three day long layover.  Luckily, a friend of my ex-aunt lives in England, and she invited me to stay at her house for a few nights.  Turns out that she lived about two hours out of London in a town called Bedford.  Bedford is a bit sleepy, much like a lot of the English countryside, and was far from what I had in mind—which was exploring the streets of London and seeing a few underground punk bands.  The English countryside is stunning, and I am grateful for having the opportunity to explore with great company.  

I grew up in Utah so anytime that I am surrounded by greenery, I'm absolutely enchanted.  

Walking through Deer Park near Wimbledon 

Walking through Deer Park near Wimbledon 

I was able to train into the city for a day, and explore London.  I felt rather independent using the train system.  I was entertained from just listening to British accents, checking out the London fashion scene, and navigating the tube.  London is lovely.  The architecture is grasping, presenting a stark contrast between the old and new.  But WOW SO MANY TOURISTS. You would think that the Queen was standing outside her knickers from the swarms of people at Buckingham Palace. 

The London Tower with The Shard in the background. 

The London Tower with The Shard in the background. 

On Friday morning, I ran (literally) around London for some last minute sightseeing, then shot the tube to Heathrow to catch my plane to Casablanca.  After a really long flight, with everyone standing in the aisle way (why does this seem to be common practice on certain airlines?), I arrived to have first encounter with Moroccan culture in customs.  I exited the plane after a two hour nap, and got very lost in the airport from the sudden Arabic/French immersion.  The signs made zero sense, and after waiting in the wrong line, I asked a man for directions.  He immediately picked up my luggage and escorted me to customs, showcasing the Moroccan hospitality.  The customs line gave me my first taste of "Moroccan time," which was essentially me waiting in line while everyone else walked to the front and had 20 minute conversations with the border patrol.  

My program didn't start until Sunday, and I had made plans to stay with my mother's Moroccan friend, Sofia, who lives in Casa for the weekend.  Sofia and my mom hadn't talked in over 25 years.  They found each other on Facebook when I told my family that I wanted to travel to Morocco, and she invited me to stay in her house until the start of my program.  This was my first time meeting Sofia and her husband, and they were pleasantly waiting outside of the airport for me with a sign that read "Welcome Jayla." 

Disoriented, and exhausted, we drove from the airport to their apartment downtown.   Sofia and her husband were INCREDIBLY welcoming and we had many great conversations about politics, culture, and careers. 

Sofia took me everywhere, and was eager to show me the nicest parts of Casablanca.  After her worrying that I wouldn't want to walk from her apartment to the marché because it was dirty, I had to specify that the "dirt" is the reason I am here. She loves her country, and wanted to show me the development, and progress, which I would have done too if she was in my hometown. 

There is a lot of new development in Casa, and the new development creates a stark division between social classes.  Flashy apartment complexes are located on the edge of sheep grazing and herder's wearing the traditional djellaba.  My last night, we ate at an expensive and classy restaurant overlooking the ocean as well as a very large slum.  One of the first things Sofia told me about Morocco was to be conscious of juxtapositions like these.  The people, landscape, languages, and beliefs are incredibly diverse, making Morocco unique. 

On Sunday, Sofia drove me to the airport to meet up with the group.  I was apprehensive about meeting the other interns.  The group came from all over the U.S., and we had extremely diverse backgrounds.  Only knowing each other from Facebook, we crammed into a bus and buckled down for our 6 hour drive.  All it took was about an hour, a shared meal of lamb tajine, and our first squatty potty encounter to become friendly. We arrived to Al Akhawayn University late at night, and all went to sleep eager to see our surroundings in the daylight. 

This is where we woke up, near the mosque of Al Akhawayn 

This is where we woke up, near the mosque of Al Akhawayn 

It is now a week after my departure, and the adventures would have not been possible without the power of friendship. Janita in London, and Sofia in Casablanca both took me in with open arms.  Everyone in the AUA group approached each other with curiosity, and an eagerness to learn about each other.  AUA's motto is already proving true,  to form relationships that transcend stereotypes, all it takes is a willingness to approach people with love and acceptance 

A Little About Me and AUA

Salut et Bienvenue! 

As I'm sitting in a coffee shop staring at the budding aspen trees and cloud coated hills of Park City, I am a volcano of emotions.  I am nostalgic, staring at the small town where the summers are filled with family, friends, and the outdoors.  Part of me is hesitant to leave this town and the people that make it home. Venturing away from my comfortable life and into a place of unknown—one that is chaotic, complex, challenging, but deeply rewarding – is always daunting.

This venture is rapidly approaching.  My departure date is tomorrow, and I am feeling as though I have not spent nearly enough time contemplating what is coming my way.  After experiencing the whirlwind of my first college finals week, moving back home, and finishing up with a Hinckley internship at CHOICE Humanitarian, the excitement/panic has finally hit.

I just finished my freshman year in the University of Utah honors program which was challenging intellectually, socially, and emotionally.  Like many students I am having a hard time deciding on a major.  This year I realized that my interests span many areas which makes deciding on a single focus seem like an impossible feat.  Officially, I am studying French and international studies.  I am passionate about human rights, environmental conservation, and international development.  As far as deciding on a major, I am hoping my internship this summer will provide more clarity.

From the end of this week until the end of July, I will be interning with America’s Unofficial Ambassadors at Zaouia Sidi Abdessalam Youth Center and Tarmilaat Village School near Ifrane, Morocco.  What I like most about AUA is that their main goal is simple.  In working at a summer camp and teaching French, I will gain many invaluable skills that are resume worthy, however, what AUA wants me to gain most is friendship. Their goal is to generate a greater understanding between the Western and Muslim world through people-to-people connections.  When I read their mission statement, I immediately thought of my favorite Maya Angelou quote from Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now, “Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” Each day, we can work to abolish stereotypes, hatred, and distrust.  Through approaching relationships (both home and aboard) with the ambition to learn and grow from what the other has to offer makes everyone an Ambassador.

It is safe to say that the Muslim culture is wildly different than the Western culture. These differences result in assumptions, conflicts, and tensions between the U.S. and the Muslim world.  The media as well as some politicians (*cough* Trump) are partly to blame for stereotyping, hatred, and distrust.  Unfortunately, these presumptions are most often generated out of fear, and fear is often a result of lack of education.

That is why this summer I am taking on the roll of an Unofficial Ambassador.  It is my duty as a citizen of the world to educate myself about the entire world, not only about my country, culture, and community.  The conflicts between the U.S. and Muslim world are enormous, social problems, economic problems, environmental problems are ALL enormous; yet, it is satisfying and hopeful to know that friendship can initiate change.  Through getting to know others who are different than yourself, you can learn a great deal.

This blog will be a compilation of everything from photos, to stories, to breakthrough realizations, and spouts of homesickness.  

Cheers and thanks for reading!