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Final Reflection

Hello,

I am writing this from JFK airport. The group has just left, some with parents and some on the bus back to Lawrenceville. I am waiting for my own ride and feeling a wash of gratitude for the two weeks I just got to share with this amazing group. I so appreciate the determination and engagement these students brought to this experience. Even as we were deplaning, I heard students say goodbye to our Moroccan flight attendants in Arabic, having clearly been using their new language skills during the flight. I enjoyed getting to see these students come into their own, taking on leadership roles and allowing themselves to be vulnerable together as they took on the challenges of cultural learning. I am so grateful to have gotten a glimpse into Lawrencian life and to have been able to share Morocco with this group. I look forward to visiting Lawrenceville soon, inshallah, and staying in touch. I know I speak for both myself and Badr when I say thank you to this group – for diving so deeply into this adventure with us, even with just two weeks.

One of the reflections we did during our transference portion at the end of the program was to reflect on what we saw, experienced, and learned, in these two weeks. Below is a compilation of all the things students say they saw, experienced and learned. We all agree this is a wonderful glimpse into their time in Morocco. We hope you enjoy joining our journey, through these words.

-Shino

 

I SAW:

·       More cats and donkeys than I can count

·       Stunning and colorful tiles and artwork in unexpected places

·       Crumpling ruins that have remained here for hundreds of years and Latin lines engraved into stones that I can finally (kind of) read

·       Chaotic, vibrant medinas, packed with people and infinite items to buy and sell

·       Some of my favorite views that I will never forget such as:

o   A full moon rising over the ridge of the mountains surrounding Moulay Idriss Zerhoun illuminating the twisted allyways below our rooftop

o   A glowing sunset seen from the beautiful white mosque overlooking Chefchoaouen, the warm gold and pinks in the sky brightening the endless blue of the city

o   Every single view on our all day hike in the Atlas mountains from the crystal blue pools along the river to the awe-inspiring bridge of the gods

o   The vast expanse of the atlantic ocean stretching out from the crowded beach in Rabat, viewed from our perch high above the shore on the edge of the medina

·       Different people stepping out of their comfort zones, no matter how difficult it was

·       Glimpses of the diversity the country has to offer

·       The tradition and age permeating the medinas, but the new fast paced life in the new cities too

·       Moulay Idriss Zerhoun, Meknes, Azrou, Fes, Chefchaouen, and Rabat

·       Friendships being created

·       Different (and very good) food

·       How narrow streets are in old medinas

·       How Moroccan people dress

·       The Moroccan souks and many fake products

·       The big rock in Azrou

·       Volubilis

·       Many old and beautiful gates and walls

·       Islam in every day life; call to prayer, dressing etc

·       Pillars, stone slabs, storks, oversized pineapple leaves, and mutant cacti

·       Dogs, music festivals and slimy eels

·       Nut stands, blue walls, petit taxis, grand taxis, horses, donkeys and mules

·       Goats, sheep, cows, chebakia, milwi, cakes and avocado juice

·       Medina walls, babs, mountains, waterfalls, fiats, fake watches and Turkish toilets

·       God’s bridge as we hiked through the mountains in Chefchaouen

·       Women and men dressed in jalebas

·       Moroccans who spoke English, Arabic, Spanish, French and the native Berber language

·       The king’s palace in Fes

·       A synagogue in Fes started by Spanish refugees from the Spanish inquisition

·       Madrasas where scholars across Africa gathered to study Islam and the Quran

·       Mosques and minarets

·       7anuts

·       Street food

·       The sick and the weak

·       The elderly

·       The young children and their freedom

·       Hijabs

·       Motorbikes

·       Dacia, Renaut, Hyundai, Toyota, Honda, Ford, Nissan cars

·       Donkeys, chickens, horses and cows

·       Riads

·       Tons of alleyways

·       Tajines

·       Mountains

·       Waterfalls

·       Vibrant colors and beautiful patterns throughout the country

·       Beaches covered with people playing in the clear water

·       Kids of all ages playing in the street

·       People walking to mosque for daily prayer

·       Marketplaces filled with people going about their day

·       Remnants of old cities and beginnings of new ones

·       Street vendors competing for customers attention even though they shared the same products

·       Mosques and synagogues and the neighborhoods near them bubbling over with religion and how that factors into the strong sense of community

·       Connections and friendships forming right before my eyes, and all of the students coming together as one group over the course of these two weeks

·       People becoming an extension of my friend group and even family!!

 

I EXPERIENCED

·       The ins and outs of daily Moroccan life during our homestay in Azrou, including grocery shopping at the souk every Tuesday, going to the Hammam and sipping mint tea with your family

·       The distinctions between old and new cities in Morocco, particularly in Fes where the maze-like medina meets the new city

·       A few 4:30 am wakeups due to the early call to prayer, which I have grown to enjoy over the course of the trip

·       Total immersion into a unique culture and language, totally unlike my own, which made every moment an exciting opportunity to get out of my comfort zone and try something new.

·       Countless adventures, laughs, mishaps and memories with the incredible people I’ve been lucky enough to spend the last two weeks with

·       The kindness and intense hospitality Moroccans show to their guests

·       Being in my comfort, learning and panic zones – growing as I learned how to react to different situations

·       Some of the greatest laughs of my life – the hilarious jokes we created on this trip are ones I will never forget

·       The Hammam – it was most definitely not for me, but it was quite an adventure

·       Speaking Arabic and French in real life situations; it was scary and difficult but so so fun

·       The challenges many women or people of color experience in certain countries

·       The Moroccan diet

·       Fun moments while living with the host family

·       Islam in everyday life

·       Life in Morocco

·       A Moroccan meal in the mountains

·       The hot weather

·       Food that I did not like but still ate a lot of it

·       How busy the souks are

·       The real Morocco and the Morocco for tourists

·       One of the best times of my life

·       My first trip to Africa

·       Stepping out of my comfort zone

·       Bargaining in a different language

·       A new home

·       Endless “nihai’s” and “konichiwa’s”

·       Menus being shoved in my face

·       Ordering in Darija

·       Hospitality of my homestay

·       Couscous comma

·       Stress of traveling

·       Comfort of familiarity

·       Very steep stairs

·       Hearing the call to prayer 5 times a day

·       Fasting for a day

·       Taking petit taxis around Azrou

·       Living with a Moroccan family for a week and eating four meals a day with dinner at 12 am

·       Staying out late with my host sister and meeting all the kids in her neighborhood

·       Buying water and pringles in Arabic at 7annuts in the ally

·       Disappointing pizza but amazing food like kefta and tajine

·       A scavenger hunt across the medina in Fes

·       New friendships that I’m excited to take back to Lawrenceville

·       Having avocado juice three times a day

·       Singing along to Adele, Justin Bieber, and Ariana Grande with my host family

·       Difficulty communicating to locals

·       Difficulty remembering the ways to places

·       Flying on an international flight for the first time

·       Long plane, bus and train rides

·       Less comfort than I’m accustomed to

·       Interesting meals I would have never had the opportunity to have otherwise

·       Bonding with my host parents, siblings, and their friends

·       Doing a lot more walking than normal

·       Waking up early in the summer

·       Being in a group of people I largely didn’t know and leaving as friends

·       Strengthening pre-existing relationships

·       Being completely taken away from my phone for two weeks and learning to live without it

·       Different sounds, not just the language itself but cars, call to prayer, and more later in the night in the US

·       Using French outside the classroom in a way conversationally that allowed me to communicate with lots of natives

·       Communal meals that lead to great conversations

·       Eating couscous on Friday with my host family

·       The sense of community that lies at the heart of the neighborhood I stayed in in Azrou

·       Long hikes that paid off in the end by beautiful mountain top views

·       Immense kindness, generosity, and hospitality from everyone I met

·       Homestays – which added so much to my experience. It was in those times that we really saw how Moroccans live in the raw

·       Hammams, Moroccan dishes, and what it is like to be part of a Moroccan family

·       Bargaining on the streets. We talked down prices in the mix of it all.

·       Some of the best food (and tea!) that I ever had

·       Laughter wherever I went, but also more serious moments when the group leaders would have us take 5 minutes of silence or reflect on ourselves. I feel like everything we did was so powerful and experiencing it without technology makes it much more enriching because you are not seeing everything through a screen but with your own eyes.

·       Friendships being formed throughout everyone in the group.

 

I LEARNED

·       That Arabic is hard!! But I also learned that Moroccans are excited to help us out and share Darija with us in the form of friendly conversations

·       That no orange juice will ever top Hakima’s homemade batch

·       That the Romans suck for not using punctuation when they wrote, because commas and periods would be really helpful when attempting to translate

·       That even when I mess up and make mistakes, such as falling off of my chair and making a mess in a restaurant or accidentally laughing too loud, my friends are there to balance me out, lift me up, and laugh along with me (quietly)

·       That Moroccans make great parodies of American songs

·       That the random group of people that came together on this trip are now some of the kindest, funniest, and most genuine people I know. To all my new friends – thank you, I love you guys. <3

·       How to be a better leader with the different responsibilities we were tasked with each day

·       Some Arabic! Badr was an amazing teacher and taught the group lots of useful vocabulary

·       To be more patient – from our homestay experience. There were moments in which I really struggled, but overall, I came out as a stronger person.

·       How some aspects of Moroccan culture works – from eating to greetings

·       The importance of being attentive and playing your part in a group through the crowded places we navigated

·       How to take an experience and attempt to make it a “traveler” rather than a “tourist” trip

·       How to communicate and create relationships without knowing the appropriate language

·       How to use the Turkish toilet

·       How to make Moroccan tea

·       That the culture here is very similar to some parts of Brazil: the food, the people, the sets of community, and the family structures

·       The impact I might have on another culture

·       That to really connect with people in a foreign culture you must embrace the country’s culture and make an effort to learn the language

·       That Moroccan food is very good, and the Moroccans eat a lot of bread

·       Morocco’s hospitality and friendliness

·       A taste of Moroccan culture

·       Moroccan table manners / eating culture

·       How cheap things can be

·       Navigating Morocco like a local

·       How to order at a Moroccan restaurant

·       Shweeya Arabic (Darija)

·       A lot about roman culture by visiting ruins throughout Morocco

·       A lot about Islam and the variety of ways it is practiced throughout Morocco

·       A lot about women and gender in Islam

·       How artisanal crafts are practiced in Morocco, particularly by women

·       How to cook couscous and Moroccan chicken tajine over a fire in the woods

·       Moroccan songs and games from Badr

·       How Moroccan life varies as you move across the country

·       That the world is a much bigger place than I thought

·       About the government of another country and how that affects day to day life

·       About Islam as a whole, such as the five pillars, core concepts, and beliefs in comparison to Christianity and Judaism and how unity is a huge and visible concept in society

·       About the diets of Moroccans and how they spend their days

·       About the impact of tourists on a society and how natives interact with foreigners

·       About how diverse and rich the history of a country can be

·       How to step out of my comfort zone on lots of different things

·       How to be more vigilant with my belongs and staying with the group or just crossing the street

·       How to see something and digest it, rather than just run my eyes past it

·       About different styles of music and entertainment

·       About myself and who I really am

·       The ways people carry themselves across the world

·       How America influences other countries

·       About the influence of outside cultures on aspects of Morocco, especially language and architecture

·       That you don’t need to speak the same language to bond with someone

·       That stepping out of my comfort zone can pay off in amazing ways

·       That embracing the local culture can lead to more meaningful interactions

·       That beauty is sometimes hidden, and you have to look inside to see the true beauty of something

·       That love and kindness is universal

·       So much about Moroccans way of life, and how much their culture differs from that of ourselves. This was communicated through the homestays and also through walking down the streets every day.

·       That people can become my best friends and sources of comfort in my life, even if I have only known them for two weeks!

·       That in order to get a feel for a place, sometimes it’s necessary to be a “traveler”. I plan to employ traveler behavior in the future.