An introduction and a countdown

August 30, 2010 § 2 Comments

Three years ago I bought a pair of shoes with Mahatma Gandhi’s “you must be the change that you wish to see in the world” checkered across them. I’ve found inspiration in that quote, as affirmed by the tattered holes and worn soles in that pair of shoes.  But the feet within those shoes -my feet- have never stepped outside North America. Accordingly, before I claim the mantra to “be the change I wish to see in the world”, I must first see the world.

Shortly after purchasing those shoes, I was accepted into Humboldt State University, where I am currently an International Studies and French double major.  My formal emphasis is in Post-Colonial African Studies, though I also have a strong interest in Islamic studies and women’s issues.

Through a random set of acquaintances known by my major advisor, I have been considered for an internship with la Chaire UNESCO in Rabat, Morocco. The UNESCO branch in Rabat is focused on “Women and her Rights.” My plans to travel abroad for this internship have developed to also include possible studies at a university and a language school, though since the initial email conversation between my major advisor and the Chair Director I have heard very little about what to expect.  I plan on relying mainly on French but would love to pick up as much derija Arabic as possible. I’ve penciled out my speculations in an “Independent Study Abroad Proposal” and yet I still know next to nothing about what I will actually being doing there.

Two or three things I know for sure: I have a one-way plane ticket, a place to stay, and with this blog, I’ll have the means to record what happens next.

Morocco is an Islamic country in Northwest Africa. Morocco’s king, Mohammed VI, is both the religious and political leader for the country of thirty million.  In 2003 he helped reform the family penal code known as the Moudawana that among other items, gave women (theoretically) equal rights to that of men. The Moudawana is a set of laws to govern families as according to the Qur’an. In Morocco, this set of rules is continually changing with the efforts of many groups, women’s rights organizations and otherwise, who seek a balance between tradition and equality.

In a week’s time, I will be in bilad al-maghreb, (Arabic for “the land where the sun sets”). I’m leaving at a time of resurged islamophobia in the West. Switzerland has banned the construction of minarets, France’s exclusionary law and so-called laïcité implodes over headscarves for schoolgirls, and my own country embarrasses itself with protests over the construction of mosques.  Before gagging on our retrogression, I need to take a deep breath.  Yes, there is much to change, but first I have much to see.


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