March 21, 2012 § 3 Comments
Another conference! On Friday, I will be heading to Portland for the annual Western Political Science Association’s symposium. I will not be presenting a formal paper, but I will be standing around with other undergrads in proper science-fair style to display my research as outlined on a poster.
Conference schedule: http://wpsa.research.pdx.edu/meet/meetingscheduleandevents.php
Last week, I heard some distressing news about a 16-yr-old Moroccan girl who killed herself after being forced to marry her rapist. I hope to honor her memory by continuing to speak about and research women’s agency, as this tragedy reveals the regrettable truth that . Rest in peace, Amina.
November 17, 2011 § Leave a comment
It’s going to be yet another Thanksgiving spent overseas. I’m going back to Morocco to attend and present at this conference:
July 3, 2011 § 1 Comment
Ten months, 173 posts, 783 photos, and much too many adjectives later, I am nonetheless inept when it comes to this final post.
When faced with a daunting essay topic, many a haggard student employs the age-old introduction cop-out: the definition. Though usually too proud to sink to a “the Merriam-Webster’s definition of Morocco is…” opening sentence, the challenge of adequately encompassing my experience may get the better of me.
Morocco is a riddle I’ve barely begun to unravel. As my friend Ahmed says, the world has watches, but Morocco has time. If you understand that, you’ve doubtless realized that seeing is not just a verb for the eyes. The imperfections slowly fall into place and you step back and see how each strand is inextricably laced. What on its own would have been a frayed, discolored thread is made perfect when it joins the other pieces. And before I knew it, I, the most faulty and most inexperienced of all, was getting woven right into this new world.
I’ll never know if I was more of an outsider or an insider. It’s true that I learned to navigate the souk by smell, adopted certain phrases, marched in the streets for justice, jaywalked with stupid indifference, and was called a sister. But it’s also true that at times I felt like an overexposed photograph, a marionette cut loose on two wobbly legs, unbalanced, and homesick. It was often during these moments that I wrote. For you, dear reader, this travel blog may have been little more than an entertaining paragraph every few days, or a way to put anxious parents at ease. The truth is, I needed it the way lightning needs a sky canvas. I needed the therapy of organized, though usually incoherent, thoughts. I surely did not recount every experience and contemplation, but if nothing else these words have inched me a little closer to placing myself in the world and they’ve become as near as the blood in my veins.
In this finale I can’t possibly hope to include everything I’ve learned in what was truly a terribly short period of time. Among the floating impressions I would have like to include are: unspoken solidarity, resourcefulness and relentless durability, impossible beauty, and everlasting contradictions.
Instead I will focus on one. By far the most enduring, most dynamic, paragon of humanity is friendship. Before you go rolling your eyes, I’m not talking about your standard friendship; I don’t mean the kind declared on social network sites, the kind where you really just want someone to remember your birthday, or you get one more person to talk to at parties. What I mean to praise here, is a selfless friendship. As though a part of some ancient code of honor, the friends I’ve made on my jaunt around Morocco have proven that chivalry is not dead.
The type of friendships I’ve made here can be easily overlooked as hospitality, especially when one considers the short period of time in which they were developed. In our society, many friendships are slow-brewed, tested, and gained through favors or similar tastes in music. However, in Morocco, all it takes is one encounter to become the lifelong friend (or sister!) of a new acquaintance. By the second encounter, you are surely greeted in with the warmest of salutations and pledges of loyalty. I admit, at times I was skeptical, wondering if there were private motivations behind the openness, and immediate claims to my amity. With time, the sincerity melted my unbelieving heart.
I am flattened looking back to pick out the moments; they have been too numerous to count. I will miss my friends desperately, as the same wander lusting that brought us together is the force that moves us apart. In a few short weeks I will be back on the side of the world where I was born, reintegrating into the society I spent months missing. And I will be missing the one I’ve left. Even the miraculous world of instant communication and cyber bridges to loved ones oceans away, can’t sooth the sting of missing friends.
The one solution I’ve found, and perhaps my whole journey led up to this realization, is that from now on, I will make a greater effort to be a selfless friend. In this way, maybe I can immortalize the time spent with my friends in the Maghreb, be a credit to their memory, and with a little incha’allah, hold a piece of Morocco in me for the rest of my days.
And so ends my story, set in the land whose intrigue produced One Thousand and One Nights, whose culture is as rich as the night sky, and whose beauty is as mysteriously ensnaring as the desert.
Please accept my sincere gratitude for reading along, for persisting through my blundering to share in the wonderful tradition of storytelling. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.
July 3, 2011 § 1 Comment
Before I left Rabat for a 2-week Euro tour ending with a flight home to the Pacific Northwest, there were several people who wanted to pass along a hello to Lisa when I see her, and a few I made the assumption for. Anyway, that gave me the idea…
This list is definitely not exhaustive, but is nonetheless a pretty good representation.
July 1, 2011 § 1 Comment
I’m leaving Morocco tonight. This was intended to be my last post, but I think I’ll wait for the 10pm bus ride out to write something. At the moment I have that jumbled mess of thoughts that float between the head and the heart trying to surge out my throat in a guttural asphyxia. And it’s happening at the exact moment when everyone expects you to say something deeply reflective of my 10 months here. I’m not ready to put it in writing, for now I’m a nullity.
June 28, 2011 § Leave a comment
An invitation to bake traditional Moroccan cookies with the mom of a friend of the brother of a friend is a florescent-glowing lure in my murky search for ways to pass time. By now, I’ve fallen down enough friend-of-a-friend rabbit holes to know that one should be prepared for everything, and nothing. Nonetheless, last Friday I was ratted out of both a baking lesson ( which turned into taking a nap at a toothless woman’s one room apartment then allowing her to give me a tour of the Rabat beach) and a dance lesson. Breathing in a whiff of what will possibly be my last spontaneous getaway, I threw my towel, passport, and toothbrush in a bag and headed South. I mean, Saskia and I headed to the train station. By the time we found seats I knew that a persisting stomach ache wasn’t happy about such an unpremeditated trip- nor was it too happy about the 3-day-old Indian chili I had eaten for lunch. It’s one thing when movies show people dangle their bodies out a moving train’s door, briefcase raised in a credits-rolling farewell. It’s quite another to perform the same concept, but spawned by the need to vomit. I emptied my guts as 4 Moroccan men kept me from tumbling out. Once safely inside the overly-crowded space between cars, I urged that I was “not done! not done!” a bit too late. The door had been sealed, and a man held my head with an astonishing grip as another burst of stomach acid curled up and made itself at home on the floor. I would have loved to hear what the onlookers were saying, but I spent the rest of the 4-hour train ride wringing the truth out of a plastic bag and pretending not to be the girl that barfed in front of everyone. Long story short, being sick to my stomach made for an uncomfortable night in Marrakech, and an uncomfortable bus ride to and few days in Essaouira. I completely missed the Gnawa music festival, the primary motivation for the voyage. The next day I cautioned myself but was able to enjoy some of the city. The following day I grew cocky and decided I didn’t want to miss out on the country’s best seafood. My stomach rebelled all the way back to Marrakech. Even in the 6pm shade in Marrakech, I felt utterly dismissive of the fact that my ancestors came from a tropical island in the Pacific. With the exception of a short window of acceptable health, my travel partners had to put up with a cranky, smelly, unsightly, sickly, nauseous version of myself. Saskia and Ahmed were kind enough to be talked into catching the last train into Rabat. Somewhere on the train, I awoke and remembered the painting I bought that a quadriplegic man created with his mouth. Then I remembered an artisan box with my name in arabic calligraphy, a gift from Ahmed. Then I remembered that though I was still feeling sick, I’m with friends, going towards more friends. And with these thoughts I remembered, there’s no place like now.
June 23, 2011 § Leave a comment
Here’s one of the first accurate timelines I’ve read:
“Despite all the Moroccan regime has done to hold itself out as unique, its tactics are beginning to appear jarringly familiar. First, it tried denial (Morocco, officials told us, was immune to volatility). Then it tried belittlement (the king first called the protests “demagoguery“). It even tried reform (the official results of a constitutional commission are due out this month). And now, as rationale for a bloody crackdown in May (which injured dozens and killed one), the government has reverted to a favorite authoritarian pretext: the specter of Islamist manipulation.”
So exactly who is this scapegoat?
“The JSO is illegal but nonviolent, repressed but thriving. Its members boycott elections, but are also politically engaged. And while nonviolence is one of the group’s three core precepts, it has not shied away from calling for the overthrow of the Moroccan regime and for an entirely new constitutional system. Such sentiments were, until this year, almost unheard of in Morocco.”