Reflections on life in Morocco

Spain/Morocco 2010-10I am thankful for opportunity—a nicer way of saying I am thankful for wealth. I guess it is not such a bad thing. Without it, this cross-cultural experience would not happen. Morocco is 126th out of 177 countries on the list of the Human Development Index which is based on life expectancy, literacy, and income. I wish I could say this low mark is not correlated with the level of happiness, but the number of homeless beggars and street fights I have seen would suggest otherwise. That being said, Morocco is richer in some aspects—such as hospitality and spirituality—than what I am used to. Money is a strange thing; we use it to go places to learn from people who don’t have much of it. In one of our classes on gender roles in Morocco our professor said to have a voice one needs education and money; it also helps if you are male.

I am thankful I am a man. I am aware of the disparities between men and women in western societies, but they really seem minute when compared to most of the Islamic world. Only within the last ten years have Moroccan women been given the right to divorce their husbands, have custody of their own children, and share ownership of property. I am glad I do not, like the girls in our group, have to wear long djellabas, long dresses, to try and disappear for fear of being harassed. I am able to walk by myself at night if I want to. Women in Morocco, according to our professor Fatima Sadiqi, have power but not authority. Authority is sanctioned power. Another professor of ours Dr. Fatima Amrani, made the case the Koran has been misinterpreted, or even fabricated, by male religious authority figures over the years to control and silence women. Many improvements have begun recently, for the rights of women in Morocco. No matter how many rights are gained, I’ve always thought myself lucky that I will never have to give birth.

I am thankful for a loving host family. My host mom laughs like my real mom. My thirteen year old brother Akram can be a handful (he is in our room now, playing with Jesse’s camera) but life would be dull without him. I am thankful for ignorance, probably in more ways than I want to know. The specific case that made me think of this was LAeed, a Muslim holiday when every family sacrifices a sheep. Our sheep went from breathing to on the dinner table in a matter of a few hours. If I had to watch the animals I eat die every time, I think I would eat fewer animals.

I am thankful Coca-Cola is sold worldwide.

-Jordan Shetler

So far I have had a great experience living in Fez. At first I felt a little uncomfortable and overwhelmed living with a Moroccan family. It took some time getting used to eating without utensils, community showers, and living with twelve people in a tiny apartment. Throughout our stay here I have learned about the generosity of Moroccan families. Our host family gave us the only bedroom in their house and have accommodated to our needs in many other ways. Over the past five weeks we have all grown closer and we feel like part of their family. Daily our mother reminds us that she no longer has four children but six. Also, they have included us in their family gatherings and we have met most of their family friends. We are even part of their family shopping trips in the Medina. With our limited Arabic vocabulary it is hard to communicate, and we often feel like helpless children. We have learned to communicate with our hand and have gotten good at playing charades.

Not only have we grown more comfortable with our host family, but we have adjusted to living in the Medina. No longer do we wake up to the 5am call to prayer and we are used to quickly getting out of the way when a horse comes up behind us in the narrow streets. Even though our stay in Fez is coming to an end, we are still keeping busy on the weekends. This past weekend we took a day trip to a lake and a forest outside the town of Ifrane. First, we enjoyed the beautiful fall scenery of Morocco while walking around a small lake. Then we went on a hike through a forest looking for wild monkeys. Near the end of our hike we saw the monkeys swinging from tree to tree and sitting on the branches.

After we saw the monkeys we had a picnic lunch in the cold and rain. Last we drove to a forest where many tourists go to see monkeys. At this forest we got to hand feed them bread and peanuts. They were not shy at all and one monkey even clung to my leg until I fed him. It was interesting to see some of the wildlife that exists in Morocco. Now we all look forward to our Moroccan style Thanksgiving meal and our trip back to Spain.

-Valerie Landis