September 19, 2010 § Leave a comment
After hassling an annoyed train station clerk for the correct fair, I tried to blend in with the other commuters on le voie no 2. After boarding the train, I discovered that station names are generally displayed on ant –sized boards located on one end going one direction. After stepping into downtown Kenitra, I accidentally let a man asking for directions segue into a marriage proposal. After 7 minutes of hailing cabs from a “no-stop” zone, my taxi driver deposited me on the wrong side of campus. But even after all that, I made it to my appointment at l’universite Ibn Tofail with Prof Ghouati.
Walking around a campus instantly put me in a studious spirit. But I had made a regretful mistake: an empty stomach. Having foregone breakfast and coffee that morning to make the train, I struggled to divert my attention from food and caffeine as the details of my situation at Ibn Tofail were explained, all in French. From what hunger allowed me to decipher, I am allowed relative free-range in classes taught through the French, Arabic, and English departments. I settled on two French courses and an Arabic-English translation course for this first semester. Since I am not technically enrolled at the university, attendance is not mandatory. However, to receive credit (for the French classes at least), I will be sending in assignments and such to my professor at Humboldt, through the direction of the professors in Morocco.
So much for the easy part. The real stress came the next day. There’s no eloquent way of phrasing it, so I’ll just sum up my first encounter with Mme F.R., the director of the UNESCO chair on women and women’s rights. She radiates sophistication and intellect. After briefing me on her organization’s history and latest projects, we got to the subject of, me. My letter of introduction never quite made it to her. In other words, she knew I was planning on coming, but knew nothing of my qualifications or abilities. So before any discussion of a schedule and duties, she has asked that I submit a “letter of motivation” explaining my interest in la Chaire UNESCO, a resume of my academic background and applicable activities, and sample research papers. And I needed to have a copy of my Humboldt advisor’s “letter of introduction” re-sent. And she wanted it by 2pm the next day.
I hurried home to scour my transcript for every French, African studies, and women’s studies class I have ever taken. I added that list to my resume, which I altered to a UNESCO objective. I spent 2 hours debating what research papers to send in. I decided on two that focused on al-Moudawana (the Moroccan family code), one on political unrest in Guinea, and one on homophobic hate crimes in South Africa. Finally, I struggled to write a brief letter explaining my interest in UNESCO without sounding like a suck-up. All this and a “thanks so much for meeting with me!” message were in my outbox by 8pm that night.
Nearly my entire stay here so far has revolved around the slow “Moroccan pace” of life. By now I shouldn’t expect instant gratification, but it’s tortuous to wait for Mme F.R. and her colleagues to assess my qualifications.
Found a good distraction: Les jardins exotiques just outside town.