Morocco – by Alyssa Farrell
During my sophomore year social studies class a guest speaker, from The Experiment in International Living, came in to talk about their program. I was handed a book full of trips planned for the upcoming year. Instantly the Morocco page caught my eye. I remember bringing up my interest in going that night at dinner. The first few months after my parents were still hesitant on the idea of me being in Africa for a month with 16 other students I had never met. Next thing I knew I was in JFK with a suitcase watching my parents wave goodbye. Two teachers from the program, 16 students from places such as New Orleans, New York, California, Chicago, Costa Rica, etc, and I all boarded on the plane “Next Stop Morocco, Africa”.
Walking out of the airport there had been two men, one trying to take my luggage for me, and the other whistling and aggressively speaking moroccan arabic. My group leader ran over and tugged me to keep walking and just look forward. Apparently those men were not apart of the airport staff like they had seemed, and actually were just cat calling me and trying to steal my belongings. That hadn’t been the “Welcome!” I was expecting, but it had been the first introduction to a new culture that I had came for. I knew I was putting myself in an uncomfortable position. I came here to grow as a person, mentally, and to broaden my knowledge culturally. The first two weeks we were tourists walking around cities, students in Moroccan Arabic classes once a day, and getting to know each other. This trip wasn’t just to learn about the lives of the people in Africa, but also to get an understanding of how different life can be just within the states. The following two weeks were crucial to this program. The 17 of us students were all separated within a village, each in a different homestay family that did not speak english. This was the toughest part of the trip. I spent all day and night with a family of 10 who I couldn’t communicate with. All my friends were 5 miles away or more and I didn’t have my cell phone to communicate with either. Communication was not the most difficult part though. I struggled learning their daily routines. By the end of the two weeks I made a journal log and it went something like this. Eat, feed the horses and chickens, eat, water the dirt, eat, organize the hay barrels, eat (AGAIN), play with the children, finally eat one last time around 2am, and then head to bed. The house had no running water, no electricity, no furniture, and no bathroom. This may sound bizarre as if it isn’t even capable to live in, but thats where youre wrong. This household was in perfect living conditions. We in the United States take what we have for granted as if it is all a necessity. Spending that month in Africa taught me more than I could have ever imagined.
I learned what it means to open your eyes. Society makes us think materialistic items are mandatory. That the newest Iphone is a MUST. In Morocco a child’s face lit up when they laid on the ground and watched the stars. Families actually sat together at every meal (and yes, every meal, all 5 meals a day..) talked, laughed, and showed interest in what everyone was saying. My host family tried to listen and understand what I was saying more than anyone id sit and eat with here. The difference between a rural country like Morocco, and an advanced country like The United States, is that we have different values. Moroccans value the here and now and they value the little things. Everyone deserves to have a life changing opportunity like I did. Put yourself in an uncomfortable situation and watch yourself grow. You wont regret it!