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Following is a sample itinerary for Dragons' "Morocco: Crossroads of Mountains and Faith"summer program. Our sample itineraries are based on past courses; in order to meet instructor team goals, as well as the goals and interests of particular student groups, itineraries are subject to change. Please keep an eye on the course's Yak board for additional itinerary-related postings and updates.

Week One:
Fly into Marrakesh and head immediately to the heart of the arid south of Morocco; Qelaat M'Gouna and the Valley of the Roses. Begin language study, introduction to Moroccan culture, and exploration of Islamic tradition in this small but bustling market town. Day-hike up the M'Goun River valley to visit the breathtaking natural gorges near the town of Boutaghrar.

Week Two:
Enjoy a 5-day home-stay in a small village near Qelaat M'Gouna. Experience traditional Amazigh (indigenous people of North Africa) life, the unforgettable bathing experience in a local hamman, explore the essence of rural Moroccan life, visit a local artisan cooperative, explore Islam in daily life and volunteer with a local development association.

Week Three:
Travel northeast to Imilchil, home of the Ait Hadidu tribe, situated in the Eastern High Atlas National Park. Spend 8 days trekking through the raw beauty of sandstone plateaus and numerous canyons. Search for, find, and live with nomadic families who have come to this region with their few possessions and flocks to find respite from the Saharan heat. Loop back towards Imilchil and visit the legendary natural lakes Tislit (bride) and Isli (groom).

Weeks Four:
Wind out of the Grand Altas and head towards the self-proclaimed artistic and intellectual capital of Morocco: Fes. Experience an entirely different side of Morocco as you spend several days in a home-stay in the medina (ancient city). Explore the dizzying labyrinth of alleyways as you spend your days visit artisans, work on independent study projects, study language, and work with a local youth association.

Week Five:
Come out of the medina and travel south through the rolling hills so characteristic of the Middle Atlas and into Azrou; the dominant Amazigh town of this region. Explore the simple countryside with visits to the cedar forest known for its Barbary apes and friendly shepherds. Possible trip to the capital of Rabat to meet with human rights and development organizations or Casablanca to visit the 2nd largest place of Muslim worship in the world, the 25,000 person capacity Hassan II Mosque.

Week Six:
Unwind with a few days amid the crystal blue waters in a small town in the Essouaira region along the Atlantic coast. Present independent study projects and reflect on experiences. Head to Marrakesh for a last exploration of exciting souq (markets) and to fly home.

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Morocco, Summer 2008

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Morocco: Sample Itinerary

Dragons Administration,Morocco, Summer 2008

Description

Following is a sample itinerary for Dragons’ "Morocco: Crossroads of Mountains and Faith"summer program. Our sample itineraries are based on past courses; in order to meet instructor team goals, as well as the goals and interests of particular student groups, itineraries are subject to change. Please keep an eye on the course’s Yak board for […]

Posted On

10/13/08

Author

Dragons Administration

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What a pleasure to have read the reports from the field - Quel plaisir !

And now, Judy and I arrive in Casablanca the morning of Thursday, August 7th, staying at the Royal Mansour hotel. We expect to collect Natasha the very early morning of the 8th and take her with us for a week, as she shows us the inner Morocco, as we journey to Fez, Marakesh and Esauoria. How fortunate to have a local guide !

I can be reached on my US cell - 001 646 732 3935. Please give us a local contact number so we can co-ordinate the pick-up .

Have a fun last few days and an easy trip home.

Nick

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Morocco, Summer 2008

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Nick Bunzl,Morocco, Summer 2008

Description

What a pleasure to have read the reports from the field – Quel plaisir ! And now, Judy and I arrive in Casablanca the morning of Thursday, August 7th, staying at the Royal Mansour hotel. We expect to collect Natasha the very early morning of the 8th and take her with us for a week, […]

Posted On

08/5/08

Author

Nick Bunzl

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Nearly 6 weeks ago, 12 highly educated and unique students and 2 stoked instructors arrived at JFK airport. We nervously introduce ourselves and wonder what the adventures of the coming 42 days of our lives would bring. It takes us two days to arrive on the dirty streets of Casablanca and meet up with our thrid instructor. We immediately headto the foot of the Hassan II Mosque- the second largest place of Muslim worship in the world, perhaps the most decadent artwork in the region, and definitely a symbol of the new chapter these 15 people are about to write.


We quickly leave Casa and head into the High Atlas Mountains to the welcoming town of Ouarouizaght. In Hakima's brightly decorated home, we dive into cultural norms, group expectations, itinerary highlights, Morocco specific development issues, and Where There Be Dragons philosophy. Our group sits in conservative clothes in a brightly lit room listening to the young and well-spoken local Imamn, or religious leader. With this remarkably calming figure, we begin what will be a long road to understanding Islam. Piling into a collective van several days later we travel to Tilloguite and the 'catedral' to sit under this large rock formation, learn language, play in the river, and discover the culinary delight which is kashir (fake meat).
After our brief foray into the 'bled' or rural Morocco, we embark in taxis and buses to enter the infamous souqs and markets of Marrakesh; the ancient city from which Morocco derives its modern name. After a few days we leave behind story tellers, snake charmers, and orange juice stands to dive deep into the Central High Atlas Mountains. Sitting on the brightly painted balcony of our gite in Tabants, we admired the remarkable beauty of the people and landscapes of the Ait Bougamex Valley (literally the Happy Valley). There is a saying in this part of the country: "The sheep go in, the sheep go out, nothing ever happens." But for our group, anxiety and nervousness happen as we stare apprehensively at the gigantic mountain pass of Tzi n 'Ait Imi that we must begin to climb at 4:30 the next morning. With our Moroccan support, led the the wonderful drummer Bin M'Barek, our group spends the next six days traversing the mountains' massif, gorges, and rivers in this remote home of the M'Goun Berbers--more preferable refered to as the Amazigh or the free people. Through untouched villages and homes clinging to rocky cliffs, our group passes and eventually arrives in the bustling market town of Kelaat M'Gouna.
Weighed down with an extra group member, a stubborn goat that insists on being carried to any new location, we make final preparations for an entry into the village of Ait Reidi and individual home stays. The students pass five days with families-some in extravagant homes decorated with the best rugs of the region, and others with modest families who keep their livestock inside their houses. We try to help with and experience the local TAMMASTE Association Festival which was designed to celebrate and educate the village on local Amazigh culture and struggles.
With newly hennaed hands and gifts of traditional clothing, our group sets off for the dunes of the Sahara desert. Through 125 degree head and the rocky landscape we travel by bus, taxi, camel, and our own feet to the top of the largest dune in Merzouga. We run, leap and roll down the majestic sands and camp in traditional nomadic tents before setting off on a long windy travel to the unique home of the Ait Hadidu; Imilchil, situated high in the Eastern High Atlas National Park. Our group divides- some for a short northerly hike to the legendary lake named Tislit (bride) and some to the south to search, find, and live with nomadic families. Those who have brought their few worldly possessions and flocks to this area to find respite from the Saharan heat. Coming together as a group, we wind out of Imilchil and wind down the last month of rural experiences to head towards the 12 centuries of history which pervades daily life in the world renouned city of Fes.


We arrive in time for the 9th anniversary of King Mohamed VI's ascension to the throne. This last king of Africa celebrated his decade of rule in Fes at one of his many Royal Palaces. Although we have few illusions of seeing him, we see a city transformed to greet him. During the celebrations, the students spend three nights in the homes hidden among the tidy alleyways of the old-city (medina). Leather tanneries, culinary delights, and modern women provide a strong contrast to the Morocco we had been experiencing.


Into the capital we roll, coming to see ancient forts turned tourist attractions and Parliament buildings with groups of educated Moroccans demonstrating for improvements in the unemployment crisis. And finally, we travel futher along the Atlantic coast to Oualidia and our home for the final four days of our course. Here we try to bring our last 6 weeks full circle; what are the implications of all of these expereinces, how will we bring lesson learned home, and how can we leave our amazing friends (Moroccan and American behind)?


We have gone MIN L-TIARA L L-HAMARA, from the airplane to the donkey. And in just a few short days we will be doing vice versa!

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Morocco, Summer 2008

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From the Airplane to the Donkey–6 weeks summed up

Cara Lane,Morocco, Summer 2008

Description

Nearly 6 weeks ago, 12 highly educated and unique students and 2 stoked instructors arrived at JFK airport. We nervously introduce ourselves and wonder what the adventures of the coming 42 days of our lives would bring. It takes us two days to arrive on the dirty streets of Casablanca and meet up with our […]

Posted On

08/4/08

Author

Cara Lane

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Well, here we are.

Our group set out just five and a half weeks ago from the JFK airport in New York, and our first week was spent orientating ourselves to this trip and life in Morocco with each other for6 weeks. Since we stayed in Hakima!s house and got to know one another and sat through important nuts and bolts dragons meetings, we have done so much. It is odd to thnk that in the past month and change just how much we have accomplished. And now we are once more living in our own space, yesterday we arrived in Oualidia and found a set of appartments for the site of our final deorientation. We have already heard from 3 different people about their ISPs and have begun discussing experiential education and transference.

>This morning we did some journaling activities to start us off on our Ramadan fast day = no food or water (or even speech, for somle of us) until we break the fast tonight with some traditional Ramadam break fast foods.

Here are some answers we compiled as a group to the first question we were asked this morning:

Before I came to Morocco I had never....

-met a Beber

-been to Africa

-seen a camel outside of a zoo

-done a solo

-spoken or bargained in Arabic

-been content with such basic amenities

-been to a hammam or had a non-western style massage

-spoken tamazighrt

-lived out of a pack for 6 weeks

-seen an animal killed and skinned

-seen a drum made

-missed eating berries

-appreciated being alone

-met an Imam

-had this much henna on my body

-been responsible for feeding/planning/leading/housing a group this bg/in a foreign language

-been able to arrive somewhere without preconceptions

-been treated with such universal hospitality

-been this open about my bodily functions/using the poop scale daily

-gotten used to a Turkish toilet

-eaten tajine

-handled Dirhams

-been to a concert in a foreign langage

-had diahorrea for over a week

-been this fully clothed in such heat (girls covered from the neck don in 130° in Merzouga!)

-been so aware of the impact of tourists clothing choices on society

-gone so long wearing dirty clothes/without washing

Now, however long and or comical you find that list, wait until you read through our second activity:

You know you're in Morocco when..........

-all u need to be happy is your own full roll of clean toilet paper (from here on known as TP)

-the menu offers tajine, tajine, tajine

-10 people fit in a taxi meant for *maybe* 7 people and the guy flagging it down on the road is pissed cos it wont stop to pick him up

-women dance to hiphop while wearing jellabaas

-when you find a western toilet WITH toilet paper and it is the most beatiful sight you have seenon the trip

-when 80° in the morning is too cold to leave your sleeping bag during the trekk

-no one knows what a vegetarian is or what it means to be alerigic to nuts so they offer chicken or lamb instead of goat and almonds or cashews instead of peanuts or pistachios

-when supposedly the cause of all illness is *the weather*

-when you never want to eat bread again. ever. your whole life long.

-when you get so used to the call to prayer that you dont even notice it anymore

-when you eat for 5 people and you homestay mother seriously chides you for *you are eating absolutley nothing; eat more!*

-seeing your friend changing and a glimpse of her knee feels absolutley hashuma, or scandalous/shameful

-when you stand outside and cant tell if its raining or you are just sweating because you have sweat so much on your head

-your Fes host family explains you weeklong diahorrea as *bad food from when you stayed in kelaat MGouna*

-you spend every night singing *hacawa* one week

-when candybars cost nearly 2 dollars

-when you begin forming thoughts in broken French/Darija/tamazighrt

-when you are clutching your knees for support over a Turkish toilet, sans TP, and you look up to see a picture of the king hanging on the wall, framed

-when you carry a goat through town and the reason alll the locals stare is either cos you are white or cos you are carrying it *wrong*

-when it rains in the saharah or hails in the atlas

-when a flat, rocky surface and a chewed up, deflated soccer ball equals hours of unparalled fun

-when you are overwhelmed with frustration that you CANT wah your clothes/selves in the river over there...

-when EVERYONE wants your email address/msn/skype

-when the national defintion of *American music* is bob marley, eminem, akon, gwen stefani, and everyone is OBSESSEd with Bryan Adams but they have never heard of Britney Spears or Bruce Springsteen

-when it feels like Titatnic is the national *favorite movie*

-when people go home daily and watch soap operas in languages they dont understand, ie the ever popular turkish drama of Noor, Mohanned and their doomed marriage as a result of their trust issues. riveting, really!

-when people spend over a minute on greeting one another yet talk at the same time so you cant actually hear what the other is saying

-when someone mentions cheese to you and its inconcievable that they are discussing anything other than *la vache qui rit*

-when taxi drivers play *chicken* more often than they apply their brakes

So there are a few of our first round of reflections, with obviously huge load more coming soon.

Now im off to enjoy the beaches of Oualidia, and try to ignore my rumbling stomach and to overcome the urge to talk today.

Peace, Becca

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Morocco, Summer 2008

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Deorientation:DAY 1

becca,Morocco, Summer 2008

Description

Well, here we are. Our group set out just five and a half weeks ago from the JFK airport in New York, and our first week was spent orientating ourselves to this trip and life in Morocco with each other for6 weeks. Since we stayed in Hakima!s house and got to know one another and […]

Posted On

08/4/08

Author

becca

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Dear Family and Friends,

After many long months filled with planning and preparations for the summer programs, Ryan Koupal and I cut loose from the office life and set sail for a whirlwindadventure to Morocco and Senegal to catch up with the groups at their approximate half-way points. It being for both of us our first time to this land, we were thrilled beyond words for such an extraordinary journey!

Three plane rides, one train, a bus and a few grand taxis later, we stumbled out into the cool desert night in Ait Reidi, where the group was integrating into the life of their home stay families.

Our first morning in Ait Reidi reflected so many things about the place: that the emanating desert heatmatches the warmth and kindness ofthe localpeople; that guests are oftentimes given unbelievably gracious portions of local delicasies (and expected to finish!); and that our hosts offered such genuine interest, concern, and hospitableness during our stay. A few of the students and instructors were feeling a bit under the weather, and we couldn’t imagine a better place to be unwell!

A typical day in the village seemed to whisper of centuries of practice in scratching a bountiful living from the desert by following the endless cycle of working in the fields, tending the family garden, caring for the animals, and fulfilling the household chores. We were amazed at the camel-colored, seeminlgy desolate and barren landscape thatsupports the livelihood ofso many families. Each day, we dined on a multitude of dishes prepared fromour families’ tiny farms and gardens: melons, apples, squash, greens, local olive oil, ‘meshmash’ (apricot jam that grandma made), butter from the cows downstairs, fresh chicken or goat, mint tea from herbs just picked out the back door; everything was used, and nothing wasted or forgotten.

Walking through the dry, dusty streets - where bundles of alfalfalay dryingagainst the walls in the sun and a goat or two nibbled on rocks - wenoticed students scattered about with their families: a brother or sister leading them to class in the morning, accompanying them on a quick errand, or attending the Tamaste Festival held over the weekend.

The rich culture and quotidian life were all part of the intrigue of this land that our students were (and still are!) tapping into. The Tamaste Festival was THE event of the region, bringing together the local Berber communities in order to promote and preserve their culture, language, and heritage. It was such a special time for our students, and ourselves, to glimpse the history of this region - through the reenactment of a traditional, multi-day wedding (squished into a few hours), a guided walking tour of all the local ‘kasbahs,’ music, henna, art, lectures, and socializing - impressing upon us all the importance of preservation, communication, and sharing.

Our brief visit quickly came to a close, with the bittersweet sadness and gratitude that we felt amplified by each person to whom we said “Shukran, salaam ‘aleikum” (Thank you, peace be upon you).

And just like that we left the group to continue their journey as we bounced and sweated our way back to Casablanca, with a befitting bumper sticker pasted to a car in front of us:

“Life is lived forward and understood backwards.”

We are so excited for all of YOU to share in the understanding of this marvelous country when, in just a few days time, your sons and daughters return home!

Peace be upon you,

Liza and Ryan

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Morocco, Summer 2008

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A Glimpse of Ait Reidi

Liza Wiig,Morocco, Summer 2008

Description

Dear Family and Friends, After many long months filled with planning and preparations for the summer programs, Ryan Koupal and I cut loose from the office life and set sail for a whirlwindadventure to Morocco and Senegal to catch up with the groups at their approximate half-way points. It being for both of us our […]

Posted On

08/3/08

Author

Liza Wiig

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    [post_author] => 39
    [post_date] => 2008-07-31 00:00:00
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Cara and Morocco Travellers,

As I await each and every posting, I reread the previous posting and scour the evocative images looking for more hints of the experiences you are having. It is hard to get a handle on so much of what you are delving into. I guess that's the point of Dragons: give the kids an experience unlike any other. But Cara, thank you for your last posting. It has gone a long way in bringing home just what kinds of moments you are having. As I count the days til Nick and I travel to Moorcco and pick up Natasha, I already feel the coming end of the voyage for your whole group and the mixed emotions of the final weeks. Thank you thank you

Judy Bernstein Bunzl

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Morocco, Summer 2008

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Ms.

Judy Bernstein Bunzl,Morocco, Summer 2008

Description

Cara and Morocco Travellers, As I await each and every posting, I reread the previous posting and scour the evocative images looking for more hints of the experiences you are having. It is hard to get a handle on so much of what you are delving into. I guess that’s the point of Dragons: give […]

Posted On

07/31/08

Author

Judy Bernstein Bunzl

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Last week I and seven students left the small, mountain of village of Imichil with 1 guide named Saiid, 8 kilos of vegetables, 3 tents, some bread and cheese, extra clothes and things to keep us warm at night, and large senses of wonder and excitement. We set off for a 3-day backpacking trek into the High Atlas Mountains to try to find and live with the nomadic people who return to this area every summer to escape the oppressive Moroccan heat and enjoy the consistent and daily rain showers.

Our walk not only successfully brought us to Nomadic people, it also showed us another incredibly beautiful and diverse Moroccan landscape. It is difficult to decide which impressed me more, the people or the environment.

The people were warm and welcoming, rugged and prepared, happy and hard working. For two nights, families welcomed us into there "homes" and made us dinner with the potatos and carrots and onions that we had carried on our backs. Spending time with the families, we observed small children smiling and easily creating their own enjoyment. We gained a better understanding of how a nomadic culture live. We watched and experienced daily sheep herding life.

The environment was full of beauty and potential adventure. Hundreds of side canyons broke away from one main dry river valley. As we walked, I wanted to go further to see what was behind the next corner. Our trek afforded us a variety of landscapes - mountains, desert, river beds, canyons. The weather was equally varied - hot during the day, cold at night, and wet in the afternoon (consistent thunder showers every afternoon and one fun and exciting hail storm that we weathered out in our tents).

For 6 of the 7 students on this trip it was their first time on an overnight backpacking trip. For all 8 of us, it was our first time experiencing a nomadic culture. On the second evening of our trek, our group sat together on a high plateau surrounded by nomadic Berber structures. From our camp we could see two river valleys, high mountain ridges,the few sparkling lights of Imichil in the distance (thsi town only got electricity about a year and a half ago). We sat together. I happily saw health on the faces of the students and proudly listened to their thoughts and learnings from this latest adventure.

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Morocco, Summer 2008

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Traveling with Nomads

Paul Dreyer,Morocco, Summer 2008

Description

Last week I and seven students left the small, mountain of village of Imichil with 1 guide named Saiid, 8 kilos of vegetables, 3 tents, some bread and cheese, extra clothes and things to keep us warm at night, and large senses of wonder and excitement. We set off for a 3-day backpacking trek into […]

Posted On

07/31/08

Author

Paul Dreyer

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Our first morning in Fes, Marina, Sara, Jaisy, Dana, Becca, Ashley, Rosie, Chris, Vasco, Jacob, Quinn, Paul, and myself woke up early and left the old Medina (city). We headed to the outskirts of this urban environment and took taxis past a McDonald's and a new soccer stadium. We walked out to a local Juvenile Detention center to spend our day conducting activities with the residents of the center. Moroccan "juvie" is not quite what you may imagine. Most of the young men who end up in the center are there because they are homeless or their poverty stricken families cannot afford to keep them, whilesome are there for stealing, drugs, or other crimes.The center is brightly painted, with only a few facilities,but resembles more of a foster home than a prison.
Our group spent the morning and afternoon conducting activities with about 40 young Moroccan boys. We played soccer, birdie on a perch (the most amazing game i know), sang Moroccan and American songs, held a watermelon eating contest, played musical chairs, etc. I spoke with one boy; Soufiane, about his experience in the Juvenile facility. His was senthere from Taza, a city several hours away. He was accused of doing drugs, and although found innocent, was sentenced to spend several months in the facility because of his family situation. His father passed away while he was in the detention center and he is worried about his mother. Multiple times throughout the day he said "shokran madame wa kul drari. Hadu inshitat frsa saida" "Thank you ma'am and all the students, these activities are a wonderful opportunity for us."
For myself, and our students, it was also a unique opportunity to interact in a safe environment with youth who come from such different backgrounds. These young men who don't have the opportunity to travel, go to school, or even live with their families were (like so many Moroccans) were eager to know about us, to welcome us to their home,and show us their many skills and talents.
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Morocco, Summer 2008

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Photos from Service Project in Fes

Cara Lane,Morocco, Summer 2008

Description

Our first morning in Fes, Marina, Sara, Jaisy, Dana, Becca, Ashley, Rosie, Chris, Vasco, Jacob, Quinn, Paul, and myself woke up early and left the old Medina (city). We headed to the outskirts of this urban environment and took taxis past a McDonald’s and a new soccer stadium. We walked out to a local Juvenile […]

Posted On

07/31/08

Author

Cara Lane

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Morocco, Summer 2008

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Photos from Ait Ridi Homestay

Cara Lane,Morocco, Summer 2008

Description

Posted On

07/31/08

Author

Cara Lane

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It seems like ages ago that we were in Ait Reidi, kissing our host families goodbye, when in fact it has just been a week. Between my limited Tamazight and cheap American gifts, I could not possibly have expressed the extent of my gratitude for my family's hospitality and trust.

I was astrange American teenager, asubstantialadditionto their family of only mother and daughter, and yet they immediately gave me one ofonly two keys to their house. They took me to all of the neighbors' parties, presented me to their extended family, dressed me in their finest traditional clothes, and henna-ed my hands. Even the relatives tied their newborn children to my back and let me walk around town, insisting that it really was a good idea.

Although I spent hours of the afternoon alone with my mother, Aiisha, or my sister, Siham, I also became good friends with an 8 year old boy named Aassam, who was somehow connected to the family. The two of us played a lot of card games, where the only rule was that Aassam had to win. Should I point out an inconsistency, his eyes would grow big and he would put his head in his hands, shaking it at my naive ideas. Despite this, he would also mosey around the house saying my name over and over again, even if I was right next to him, to the point that I would have preferred the name "Bllack."

Bllack was an interesting addition to the family. He's perhaps the only pet dog in all of Morocco. Even so, he would wait outside my doorin the morning until I woke up, he knew, for the most part, to stay off the rugs, and could even (reluctantly) perform a few tricks. Siham demonstrated these, on one afternoon when it was unbearable to be outside. On other such afternoons, she, Aiisha, and I washed dishes, folded clothes, or watched Arabic-dubbed Egyptian soap operas that only Siham could understand because they were in Darija, not Tamazight.

We also talked a lot. We communicated very little this way.

Laughter is definitely universal though. I think even the dog understood that. But seriously, it's the solution to everything. You accidentally do something offensive for the 11th time that day? Laugh. You've just endured an hour of awkward silence because you've exhausted your language skills? Laugh. You've been gesturing wildly in a final attempt to explain yourself and are on the verge of a mental breakdown? Laugh.

I suppose that is also what I'll have to do on the phone. My sister Siham gave me her number and made it clear that I must call when I return to America. She didn't use the word "home," even though it's one of five English words she knows. I guess that's because, cliche as it sounds, I now have two homes, and that would just be too confusing.

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Morocco, Summer 2008

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Homestay in Ait Reidi

Marina Powers,Morocco, Summer 2008

Description

It seems like ages ago that we were in Ait Reidi, kissing our host families goodbye, when in fact it has just been a week. Between my limited Tamazight and cheap American gifts, I could not possibly have expressed the extent of my gratitude for my family’s hospitality and trust. I was astrange American teenager, […]

Posted On

07/31/08

Author

Marina Powers

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