week 8: farewell and be well.

Leaving Morocco is bitter sweet.

Looking back at all the obstacles I went through made me depart today with pride. I was so eager to want to leave Morocco because of all the cultural differences I was not use to. From buying all my miscellaneous items down in the medina to sharing one bowl of food with the whole family, I realized that even though I was not use to this life style, I will be able to adapt as new circumstances arise. Now, I can easily say that adjusting to a new environment is both a challenge and a learning experience. Once I accepted my current situation, I began to appreciate the Moroccan culture. There were, of course, many things that I did not agree with, but none the less, I respected it since I was in their territory. It was my decision to be surrounded by a world unlike my own for the summer. I was in Morocco for a purpose.

My last week at the orphanage was like any other. Except, I knew it would be difficult to say goodbye to the babies I have been taking care of for over a month. I know the babies will be in good hands but knowing I was able to provide them love and care is what I will miss the most.

As I wrapped up on my Capstone project research, I was able to interview an attorney who was able to further give me insight on international adoption laws. With the help of my coordinator, Ali, who translated the entire conversation for me. Much to my surprise, much of the information gathered and witnessed was parallel to that of my online research.

On my return flight home, I had a layover of 15 hours in Barcelona. I took advantage of my time and visited main sights and attractions. All of which was breathtaking. Once I landed in Miami, I was so happy to see my Mom who picked me up with pizza in hand. Sometimes, it is the little things that can easily remind me that I am home.

Morocco was definitely an experience. I am beyond grateful that I was able to provide my assistant and knowledge, however, Morocco has given me more than I ever asked for. I have gained so much respect for other people in the world who struggle everyday to make a living under certain conditions, may it be lack of food, no change of clothes, or no transportation. Life is never what it seems, unless you have seen it all.


Week 7: destination: sahara desert

I have been waiting for this week since the first day I arrived in Morocco.
I woke up at 7 in the morning. Put my bag on my back and was ready for the trip of a lifetime. I met with four other volunteers around 7:20 and was already on the train to the Sahara desert by 7:45 am.
First train ride left from Rabat to Marrakesh. After hour and a half hours, we arrived to Marrakesh where we took a 5 hour bus ride to Ouarzazate, “the door of the desert.” Located south of the High Atlas Mountains, it is also a noted film making location welcoming many international companies. The bus ride was a trip! Moving at fast speeds on curvy mountains, passengers were bound to get motion sickness. Luckily, none of the volunteers or my got sick, but others were not so lucky. Some even threw up on the floor of the bus in which slide down to the front and was stopped by our bags (ICK!)
Once we arrived, we were picked up by our tour guides who took us to our campsite. The campsite was breathtaking. It was located deep within the city, so it was silent; when I would look up, the stars where bright and clear. We had dinner surrounded by a small fountain, stray animals, and good company. Shortly after, we went to our rooms because we had to wake up early for tomorrow’s adventures.
Woken up by rooster calls, we had breakfast on the terrace and got into our taxi, where we would sit for the next 5 hours. The taxi ride would take us directly to where our camel ride would be. Yes, CAMEL ride! Driving through the mountains and the desert was beautiful and so unreal, not to mention super hot. Miles apart from each other, little villages lied within the mountains. It was something I have never seen before and was very intrigued on how people could make a living so far away from everything.
We had to arrive around 5pm to be able to ride the camels. So to kill time, our tour guides took us to what seemed like a hotel where we refreshed ourselves in the pool. This was not a typical pool with chlorine and other chemicals. It was a small rectangle “pool” with fresh water. After a hour dip, we were finally on our way to the camels. Shortly after, we stopped at a local shop to buy our turbans to protect us from the sun and sand while riding the camels.
Five camels where waiting for us when we arrived. We each chose our favorite camel, depending on size and color, and hoped right on. Our tour guides held the camels by a rope and each rope was tied to each camel. The craziest part about the tour guides walking the whole way to the desert in the scorching heat is that they are fasting due to Ramadan.
Riding through the desert was unbelievable. It was amazing that such creations exist in this world. We stopped at a village in the desert in which they just recently got electricity a year ago. All the little kids would come around us to say hello. Afterwards, we went to our camp site in which we would sleep in tents. We were greeted with dinner and music entertainment by our tour guides. In which a sand storm hit us in the middle of a song! We all ran into a closed hut nearby, closed the doors, and waited for the storm to settle down. Hours passed and the storm was only getting worse. Dying of the heat, we all decided to make a run for it to our tents. I have no idea how our tour guide was able to see through the storm because I tried to open my eyes and every time I was greeted with a blotch of sand in my eyes. Once we got to the tents, we were covered with sand from head to toes. Even places I did not know had access to the sand.
Early the next morning, we retraced all our steps and got back to Rabat safely. The trip was truly an experience of a lifetime.
week 7 blog

week 6: i got this in the bag

This week was smooth sailing.

I visited Spain during the 4th of July weekend. It was a nice getaway from all the chaos in Morocco. I mentioned last week how I have not noticed much of a difference in the people’s behavior due to Ramadan, but I was wrong. Coming into the 2nd week of Ramadan, I have seen more fights and less patience. It was not as apparent during the first week, but I can easily see it now.

Going to the orphanage has been more enjoyable than ever. With volunteers coming in and out every other week, I automatically feel more in charge. Since I have caught on to the daily routines and preferences of the babies, I quickly get to work. I have gotten closer to the teachers as well, even though the language barrier is still there.

A few weeks ago when I was going to the beach with my host family, a man approached me by name and asked how I was. I did not reply to him because I have never seen this man in my life. I told my coordinator and brushed it off afterwards. Recently, I was walking to work and I noticed a man strolling behind me for awhile. At a light, he approached me and asked me something in Arabic. Trying not to be rude, I said “no thank you” and kept on walking. As I turned the corner the orphanage was on, the man was still behind me. Feeling unsafe, I retraced my steps and went a different way. The man was still behind me. So I turned another corner to try and lose him but he kept at a steady pace behind me. My last move was to walk quicker, then jog to work. I knew I would be safe there since the orphanage was secured with an officer and a gate. I told my coordinator afterwards, in which he gave me a little insight on the man. Apparently, I am not the first. After that day, I have not seen the man again.

Overall, my experience in Morocco has become easier as each day goes by. I do miss home and the activities that I participated in such as the gym. I have two more weeks and I plan to make the best of it.

week 5: scorching heat

Ramadan has officially started! Muslims worldwide observe this as a month of fasting from food, water, and sexual activities which lasts about 29 days. According to Islam, it is the best way of devotion of Muslims towards God. It is believed that if one is over the age of 12, they should fast. However, those who are physically and mentally challenged should not, as well as woman during their menstruation.

During Ramadan, Muslims visit the mosque for prayers (apart from their 5 daily prayers). It is said the rewards of fasting are multiplied during Ramadan, which includes an increase in salat (prayers). Once the sun sets, they may have the first of two meals: one before the sunrise and one after the sunsets.

Even though I am not participating in Ramadan, I respect their culture. I can easily see the changes throughout the city. The streets that where once crowded on my way to the Orphanage every morning, is now deserted and quiet. It is not until I return from volunteering that local shops are just starting to open up. I have heard that people tend to have less of a temper, but I have yet to witness any “out of the ordinary” arguments. When I ride the train at night, I see the passengers constantly asking for the time to et the “O.K.” to eat. Once it is confirmed, they reach into their bags and pull out snacks or sweets prepared to eat. The dedication of the Muslims during Ramadan is exceedingly honorable.

I do not eat or drink when I am out and about. I wait till I am in the comfort of my home to do so. Since I am still on a regular eating schedule, my host mom still makes me lunch (which I feel guilty for) and dinner. However, dinner these days has been grand and a mixture of different pastries, Moroccan soup, and flat bread to name a few. My dinner has more of a breakfast selection because it is the family’s first meal of the day. Around 3-3:30 a.m., I hear the host mom preparing the second meal of the day. She whispers to her husband that food is ready. Afterwards, the host dad goes down to the mosque to pray.

week 5 blog

“i’m a woman, hear me roar!”

The travel bug has officially bit my tuchie! My roommate, Emily, and I traveled to Tanger this weekend. It was my first time staying in a hostel and was impressed by the idea of it. I met many students from around the world: Quebec, France, Argentina, Germany, and Spain, to name a few. I found everyone’s dialect to be unique because even though we all spoke English, our accents and culture has changed the pronunciations of the words and sometimes difficult to understand. During the day, I toured the city with Emily. Sitting on the north coast of Morocco, Tanger has a European vibe to it with their choice in Architecture and Spanish influence. I was able to exercise my Spanish speaking skills to get meet new people, ask for directions, and call a taxi driver. The food was colorful and delicious. The typical Moroccan meal had about 4 entries, starting with an appetizer, small dessert, entrée, and fruits. The city was beautiful and so far, one of my favorite in Morocco.

The orphanage just received another new born boy this following Monday who was born on June 17th. Not too far into the week, another new born girl was placed at the orphanage. Her information has yet to be written on the board so I know very little about her. One morning, I was giving a baby arousal to help her breath in which the medicine that was being used made me feel woozy and light headed. A teacher was able to catch me before I hit the floor. The teacher gave me a cup of water with sugar as I rested for a few minutes. After, I continued to help out with the babies.

The one thing I have notably noticed is the amount of men at any location, which seem like they travel in packs. During the day as I pass through the Medina, all I see is men working or sitting around sharing conversations among each other. Women have no social centers, such as bars and cafes, like men do. When I attend a concert at night (which seems to be a popular event) I am completely surrounded by men. If women are present, they are usually with a man. At the beach, the men overpopulate the women, who are covered head to toe, sitting under an umbrella. So, I decided to do some research and found the following:

Women tend to spend their time indoors cooking, raising the children, and talking among neighbors. Many women do not have an education, therefore, usually own no business or engage themselves in social outings. This is apparent in my host family because the host dad is always out with his friends, day or night, and comes home in the wee hours of the morning. Within the Arab culture this is acceptable because men are the “rulers of the house” while women do the house work. Women tend to spend their evenings catering to their husbands. In many occasions I have noticed my host dad come from a day of being outdoors, lay down on the couch, and ask for a drink or food from his wife.

Born and raised in an equal household, I had a difficult time accepting this. I usually offer my assistance when I can tell the host mom is overwhelmed with responsibilities. I offered help not because I should be doing it, but because she should not be doing it all. For instance, if my dad needed a drink or food when he comes home, my dad would retrieve it himself, even if my mom was present. Back home, “catering” to a loved one is seen as a sweet gesture, not a command. Both an opinion I have created.

A recent event that blew my mind was when I saw a woman running across the street not stopping for traffic. Behind her came a man who yanked her hair, making her sling shot backwards, stumbling from the sting of his hand across her face. Right there, in the middle of the street. Other men started to what seemed stop them. However, by then, I was swiftly walking from the drama, unable to watch. The last I saw was the women, still be held by her hair by a man, walking back to the medina.

Two different worlds, I tell you.

week 4 blog

all around the world*

And the traveling has begun! This weekend Emily and I took a 4 hour long train ride to Marrakech (which was extremely hot) in which we got a connecting 2 hour bus ride to Essaouira. We were picked up at the bus station by Sandra, who is the manager at the hotel we stayed at. Essaouira was holding their annual Gnaoua music festival. Morocco’s gnaoua tradition is the music where Arab and sub-Saharan Africa meet. With its special mix of African magic and Islamic rituals: a combination of music and acrobatic dancing to create a feeling of trance. The city was a lot smaller than Rabat, yet still as crowded. I engaged myself in tourist responsibilities such as shopping in the medina, eating out, and, taking photos. We also met some new friends at the festival who welcomed us into their circle. It was an experience in itself.

Port of Essaouria

Port of Essaouria

Traveling has made me realize how cautious I act when I am out of my territory. Still trying to adjust to a different lifestyle, I realize I am denying people and events because I am hesitant and uncertain of their intentions. I am sure everyone who greets me is humble and means no harm, but being unable to understand the language has put me at ease.
As I previously mentioned, working at the orphanage with handicapped students has been difficult for me. So, I spoke to my coordinator and I was transferred to working with the babies. Needless to say, the babies are adorable! I feed them milk from a bottle and burp them. If any start to cry, I carry them around and nurture to their needs. When it is a lucky day and most are silent, I help out the teachers cleaning or folding clothes. I am really relieved for this transfer and I now look forward to attending my placement every morning.

take it easy~

I am slowly but surely easing into the Moroccan culture. It has not been easy for me. However, I am trying my hardest to embrace these changes.

I have officially started my volunteer work. Once I arrive, I immediately walk into the bathroom area. Here, I find other volunteers and teachers already bathing and dressing the students. I am still have a hard time bathing them because I feel uncomfortable doing so. However, I do help clothing them.
Due to the language barriers, it is difficult to communicate with the student’s one on one. Some I have picked up on what they like, for instance, Jamal likes to play “patty cake,” clap, and laugh, Ali likes to be pushed around in his wheel chair and is picky about his route, and Nadia loves to eat! Sadly, all of the students I am currently working with are either blind, mentally challenged, autistic, or both. All have been found in either trash cans, forests, or in abandon homes. I am still trying to find my place in the orphanage.

My host family was able to take me and Emily to a private beach. It was breath taking! The waves where huge and the water was freezing cold. I quickly noticed that it was infested with men. If there happened to be a woman, she would be covered head to toe or wearing jeans and a long sleeve, sitting under an umbrella. This was unusual for me because back home there would be a good balance of men and women, not to mention that less clothes at the beach is encouraged. However, because it was a private beach, I was able to wear my bathing suit with little to no problem.

week 2 blog