Letter Home from Morocco

Three letters home from students on the IHP Climate Change: The Politics of Food, Water, and Energy Spring 2014 program:

Letter Home: Abby Cheskis

Morocco photo 1It’s incredibly hard to believe, but we’re already finishing up with Morocco. It flew by even faster than our time in Vietnam. It’s been a blast, and that’s definitely owed in part to my homestay experience.

The two aspects which have been the toughest to adjust to, but from which I’ve learned the most, are the Moroccan idea of privacy and the difficulty of Darija, the local dialect of Arabic. In Vietnam, I shared a bedroom with a fellow IHPer at my homestay, but in Morocco, personal bedrooms are not a common occurrence. Furthermore, most rooms do not have doors, and where you eat is often where you and many others sleep. The shower may even be next to the kitchen sink (as it nearly is in my homestay). Although this outlook on personal space is quite different from that of many Americans, I’ve grown to really like it. I’ve learned to have a more go with the flow attitude and to think less about personal ownership and space. While I can still get time alone outside of the house, I’ve grown to appreciate this slightly new definition of a home.

Just as adjusting to this definition of home has helped me have a more go with the flow personality, so too has dealing with the language barrier. My homestay mom speaks only Darija, and Meg, my homestay buddy, and I often had hilarious and confusing conversations with her, trying to act out different words and pronounce new words that we learned. I’ve become accustomed to not knowing what’s going on around me and being okay with that, which I think is an important skill to have in life.

Overall, I loved my homestay experience and I’m so grateful for everything I’ve learned from it. I can’t imagine what this past month would’ve been like without it, and I wouldn’t change anything even if I could!

P.S. My homestay mom and I are standing in the street of the Medina outside our home in this photo.

Letter Home: Ashley Vandehey

I was nervous. The description of my homestay said it was a big family with two children. Not being one much for children –I wasn’t too excited. I held my breath and hoped that I would at least have a western toilet. I was already planning ways in which I could spend as little time in the home as possible—camping out at the nearest Wi-Fi café was the best option.

Morocco 2These feelings shifted as I walked through their door. A large woman with an enormous smile who insisted we call her Mama warmly greeted us. She told us this was our home now, and to make ourselves comfortable. As we met each family member, neighbor, and friend we became more and more woven into their lives. My homestay life became a vibrant fabric of languages, laughter, food, and above all a sense of belonging and security that wrapped my entire experience in Morocco together.

When I was ill they expressed concern and took care of me. As vegetarians (my homestay cohort and I) they catered to our restricted and sometimes-bizarre dietary needs. Always “Kuli, Kuli, Kuli” (eat, eat, eat), we were certain we ate the best. Though they used our names interchangeably, it all became a part of our familial routine. As for the children, Riad and Ziad, we became extremely attached. Whether it was building pillow forts, playing with the turtle that roamed the third floor, or dancing the night of our farewell party; those boys will always have a place in my heart.

I will always remember surprise training on the beach with our homestay dad, being herded with plates of cookies to watch the FCB/Real Madrid match, our host brother-in-law taking us to tea and sites in Rabat, and the tears shed when we said our goodbyes. I have a strong reluctance to open up, especially with family. That’s changing now, and I have the Idrissi family to thank for it. I look forward to seeing my family again.

Letter Home: Tsering Lama

In Morocco, we had wide and diverse site visits. The program started with us visiting the ONEE: National Office for Electricity and Water Supply and the National Dispatching center. ONEE provide us with a solid foundation of Morocco’s water supply, sanitation and electricity situation. The National Dispatching center allowed us to stand in the room where the electricity for 32 million people was controlled. A truly amazing experience and definitely a highlight of the program.

While in the Ben Smim Village, up in the Atlas Mountains, we had the opportunity to tour the Ain Ifran water bottling plant. It was the first time most of the students had ever stepped foot inside a mass-producing factory. We were all amazed at the precision and speed at which the factory operated. Also in the Ben Smim village, the students had the fortune of visiting a fish culture station and Alakhawayn University. We finished our weeklong stay in the Atlas Mountains by visiting the Allal Al Fassi Dam and the controlled landfill of Fes.

Our stay in Morocco ended with the students visiting the Port of Casablanca and the Mohammedia Thermal Power Plant. The port of Casablanca is considered one of Morocco’s and one of the largest artificial ports in the world. The thermal power plant tour gave the students a glimpse of a site not possible at all to visit in the US.

Thanks to our country coordinator, Jawad, for allowing us to visit such amazing sites; they would have been impossible to enter without your help and connections!

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