Catchin’ Up on blogging… maybe.

I will be posting these subjects (see below) over the next couple of days. It is time to get back into this blog. Dedication. Yes. Also, I posted some photos on facebook to make up for not providing thoughts.

All that has happened:

– Southern Excursion

– My host sister’s wedding

– Life in Rabat

– Honors Thesis Approval – will be adapted based on funding

– Love

– Village Stay outside of Boujaad

Southern Excursion:

The Southern Excursion was a weeklong excursion all over the South of Morocco… and well, this was an amazing week….. and I defiantly saw a great deal of the south of Morocco. Of course, like many of our excursions, we were treated like tourists over and over. In retrospect I suppose it was nice to sleep in the nicer places and have our meals provided…. But during the time… it felt very strange and a little frustrating. Still does. During this time, my status as a white, American, female was impressed upon me over and over which was a bit emotionally draining and difficult. My good friend in Rabat had also gotten me sick…. So that was a fun week for that reason as well…. ; )

My favorite part of this excursion was our visit to the Sahara desert. I loved the desert just as much as I thought I might. I bought a scarf in the desert, which I wore as turban for the majority of my time there. During this time is also the time that I got to ride a camel!! When we got to the desert we were supposed to ride camels in the afternoon and then get up early and climb to the top of the dunes to watch the sunrise. But when we got to the desert there was a sand storm that kept us from the camels. Instead we went to visit an NGO that focuses on female empowerment there in the desert communities, many of which are Amazigh. So we spent the afternoon learning how this NGO operates and some of their projects. Then we went (in land rovers… woo hoo) to the crazy place we stayed in the middle of the desert. We hung out and later that night had a Gnawa band perform for us. I was feeling ill so I wanted to go to bed early…. But instead was seduced by nature and the moon and ended up sleeping on the roof. Which of course, around 3am I was freezing so I went into my room and bed. Then at 5am we all got up in the dark, got on camels, and rode into the desert. We went to this one huge sand dune, sat on top, and watched the sun rise. It was truly a great moment. Highlight of my stay so far in Morocco. I will most assuredly never forget it. Afterwards we rode our camels back to our crazy place to eat breakfast. I met some Amazigh there, one who actually spoke some Japanese. It was very funny, quite a crazy moment in my life to be in the middle of a desert, speaking to someone who was never educated, and never left the desert (nor wants to) who knows Japanese. Apparently there is a Japanese woman who lives in his village and teaches him Japanese as he teaches her Arabic and Tamazight.

One day we stayed at a girl’s dormitory and this was one of my greatest experiences, but also one of my lowest. This dormitory exists because village girls who live far away have no access education because the school is either far away or their fathers will not allow them to walk to the school. So these girls stay in these dorms in order to go to school in the city, or school in general.

Here is my journal entry on the day we left this place:

March 2nd 2010


Ouzzazate, Morocco Dar Taalabah (House of the Student) – Girl’s Dormitory

So this morning has been quite the privileged morning. I woke up early to shower. I thought last night the water was cold because so many people in our group showered, so I decided I would shower early in the morning. It turns out that this facility just doesn’t have truly warm water. I think my biggest pet peeve is a cold shower. High maintenance I know, but its one of my only things like that. Of course, like anything I’ll do it if I have to. But then I stopped myself from complaining because you know what, today or tomorrow I’ll have my warm or hot shower. The girls that live in this dorm will use this water to shower day after day. We stayed at a girls dormitory last night. Its different than the “dormitory” we think of in the states. This facility exists for girls from High School to College age from rural villages to live here and have a chance at a good education. And here I was upset over my cold shower, a daily thing for these girls who are here to go to school and improve the quality of their lives. Trust me, I know form years of experience, cold showers (unless you like them) are not something you get used to. But like I said tomorrow, or today, or sometime in the future I know I’ll be getting a hot shower, and on a regular basis… even if I travel through Morocco. Student, tourist, privileged. But of course as I was up so early I went down to breakfast early. I went into the room we last night with the girls that live here. I thought we were eating breakfast with them like we ate dinner. So I sat down and had a little Moroccan tea and a small piece of bread with olive oil like the other girls. Then I looked into the other room, the central room and I saw the ladies setting up what was actually our breakfast. It had bread and cheese and pastries and orange juice, coffee, tea, water. All you can imagine, instead of simple olive oil, we of course had jam. I felt so…. Its hard to describe but horrible is close, uncomfortable, ashamed? Yes, maybe ashamed is the closest. Even their Moroccan tea had only a little sugar compared to what I’m sure was in ours, or I would get at home or in the Café. All the other students were asleep from the group and the girls from the dormitory were long finished with breakfast before they came down. This glaringly obvious imbalance of wealth, privilege, and power was really only seen by the girls that live here and me. But isn’t that how it always it? Power imbalances are glaringly obvious to those less privileged and hidden from view from those who refuse to see? Well, I don’t refuse to see. I am sad and sickened but I am glad that was made obvious. I do not want my privilege to go on unacknowledged, hidden while I am sleeping. Some would say, no your breakfast is better because you are guest, its Moroccan hospitality. But that just seems like what the privileged say to excuse themselves, to help themselves sleep better at night. To keep sleeping through and turning a blind eye to the power differentials and the wake we leave. The thing is, I am glad and fortunate to be privileged. I value the comforts that I have… but I just wish it wasn’t so… obvious, that I could do what is in my power to lessen the divide… why couldn’t we all have the same breakfast? Either we should have had bread, olive oil, and tea. We could understand the experience of the girls in the dormitory better, and symbolically show we are all the same. Because access to resources aside, WE ARE. Or, the incredibly nice breakfast provided to us could have been shared. This way the girls benefit from our already intrusive presence. I just wish my privilege didn’t make me feel like I do more harm than good or feel like I am always taking, whether this taking is only in the form of knowledge or exposure to cultural difference. As I sat writing this, clearly not eating what I now consider tainted food, not to mention the sick feeling in my stomache, one of the SIT girls accidentally broke a lot of glasses. Accidents happen. Not blaming, I get it. But those glasses, I’m assuming were some of the best they had. Once again for me, its just another example of the harm I feel we are easily capable of. Often the harm is unintentional, I would never want to harm people that give me so much, or anything in general… or hurt anyone for any reason really… But I realize I do by my very presence in a place, I don’t know. All I know is I am upset and can only begin to articulate the reasons why. It’s not my study abroad program’s fault. Its… I don’t know. But it has me thinking and nauseous. Good thing I only had a small piece of bread with olive oil for breakfast I guess.

Like I said, this point was my low of the trip… but this theme was quite pervasive to be honest.

A lot of the trip was also spent determinedly trying to find internet because my honors thesis proposal was due… I’ll talk more about that later… but geez… that was for sure difficult.

I am sure there is much more to be said about the South of Morocco…. Essouria. I love this city…. It was by far the most touristy city, but because of this all the people were all very very friendly. It is also a port town… and lord knows I love me a good port town. I had a great time shopping and having fun… and well, all that jazz : )… basically just touristy things… and going out that night too was a ton of fun.

I couldn’t wait to get back to Rabat, but am very happy I had that experience. I wouldn’t mind going back to Essouria one day.

Peace and Love, world.