In summary, these last 15 days have been some of the most difficult, most profound, and most amazing days. They have stretched my emotional capabilities, my patience and my empathy. They have caused me to question my values, my practices as a teacher and re-evaluate how I interact with those around me.
Daily life was a challenge. In Tourirt, our rural placement in eastern Morocco, we felt the gender differences amplified. We were told we could not sit outside at a cafe, and we were chided for sitting on a park bench; all due to our gender. But, at the same time, I discovered the true beauty of the culture. Compassion, empathy and hospitality are likely the three words that best describe the families, the communities and the schools that I worked in. At school, students brought us gifts, served us food, sang us songs and created art-work. They openly invited us to have dinner in their homes. With each home we entered, we were served incredible meals, given gifts and were treated with the utmost care and love. Everyone would drop everything simply to spend time with us and host us. I made the mistake on multiple occasions to compliment someone on something. Once, I complimented a teacher on her dress. Another time, I complimented a host on her salt and pepper shakers. In both cases, I left with the item in which I complimented in my possession. I wonder what might have happened if I had complimented someone on their refrigerator?! But the point is, in the US we don’t share this value of hospitality and genuine care for one-another. Many would say that we cannot because we are too busy. But Moroccans are busy too! Everyone works, does sports, has homework, watches TV and have social media. But they make time. Why can’t we? Why is it that we can’t value each other more? Would it enhance our culture? Would it make a difference? Would it perhaps decrease the violence we see in our society?
And, at the end of it all, I have a message from Moroccan students to American Students. They want you to know that they are just like you. They enjoy music, sports, friends, fashion and food. They love their families, and they like to earn good grades. They have big dreams. Where they differ is that they won’t have the same global opportunities as you. For a Moroccan to travel to the US, they have to save an incredible amount of money. For example, a teacher in Morocco makes $500 (USD) monthly. A flight to the US is $1300. So, how can they travel? Visas are expensive, their bank-cards don’t work in other countries so everything has to be paid before-hand, and then when they get there, they will pay a ton of money on food and lodging. They want me to express to you that you need to take opportunities to travel. They are absolutely correct. I can write in my blog about how life-changing living another’s culture is, or how moving it is to be embraced by people across the world, but the truth is, you won’t know until you have the experience…authentically. So my message, and the message of my Moroccan students to you: take advantage of your privileges. You are American and therefore have the ability and means to travel, to explore and to expand your mind. Do it. See you on Thursday! I’ve missed you!!